Coast To Coast is your bi-weekly (or really, as often as I have time to do it) look at the NBA outside of Cleveland through the perspective of the Cavaliers. Because rebuilding happens not just in Cleveland, but everywhere.
Long time readers of this site may remember the Coast To Coast feature I used to do. It’s long been a joy of mine to do this feature, but sometimes real life interferes. As it is, Coast To Coast takes a lot of time to put together and over the last year, I’ve been too busy with other projects in my life to do this. Now, things have quieted down and I’m going to give it another go.
For those of you who are new, this feature is a way to not only bring you news and headlines from around the NBA, but to also try to provide commentary that puts it into context from a Cavaliers’ perspective. So, without further ado, lets get started…
The Celtics Will Be Contenders In 2010-11 If They Stay Healthy. This was the mantra of the Boston Celtics for the 2009-10 season as well. Now, it appears they will press their luck one more season. CleticsBlog’s Jeff Clark discusses this matter:
Danny Ainge was on WEEI the other day talking about the offseason and explaining why he has made the moves he’s made so far and I picked up on a recurring theme. Injuries.
His reason for signing Jermaine O’Neal despite the horrible postseason he had was that O’Neal was playing through an ankle injury that limited him. So presumably he’d be a better player for us (he did have a very solid season for Miami last year). Along those same lines, he reminded us that Ray Allen was playing through a severe thigh bruise that happened early in the game following his record breaking performance in the Finals. So presumably we can hope for better performances in the future. Finally, he talked a bit about how both Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett both played much better when they weren’t hurt towards the end of the season and into the playoffs.
Those are the cards we’ve been dealt as fans and that’s not such a bad thing really. I’ll take that chance over another year of rebuilding in Minnesota or Milwaukee or Philadelphia. I mean, at least we’ve got a shot. Maybe it is just one more shot, and maybe its a longshot, but its a shot. And the worst case is that the team gets one last run together before fading off into the sunset. At least they got that one banner (at the expense of the Lakers no less).
That last paragraph is particularly poignant. As the Cavaliers enter into a rebuilding stage, I suddenly find myself looking at the Celtics with envy. I never felt that way last season, but I too would much rather be trying to cling to one last Championship run with the same team that fell short last year than to be looking at what the Cavs are about to go through.
Back to the injuries, though, it would be easy to scoff once more at the prospect of the Celtics staying healthy. All last year we routinely laughed at the Celtics and their decrees that when healthy they were still an elite team. We didn’t doubt the talent, but we doubted the health. Well, we saw how that all played out. The Celtics got healthy and they ran over both the Cavaliers and Magic in the playoffs. With their ability to defend LeBron James, if Garnett can be healthy in the playoffs and neutralize Bosh, I wouldn’t count the Celtics out in a 7 game series with the Heat.
[“The Injury Issue/Excuse” – CelticsBlog]
At least the Cavs didn’t wind up with Hedo Turkoglu. For a while there was some talk about the Cavaliers possibly offering to take Turkoglu if the Raptors were willing to trade Bosh. It made sense from the “Keep LeBron in Cleveland at all costs” mentality, but reading the Arsenalist’s article for the great Raptors Republic blog, I feel a little relieved:
I suppose I have to say a final word on Turkoglu. We didn’t like him, he didn’t like us. He wanted us to run our offense entirely though him, but we had two capable point guards. Clearly there was some massive miscommunication at the outset of this signing as management didn’t convey their expectations of Turkoglu and he came into training camp expecting a much different role than that which was offered. From training camp fatigue to questionable effort on the floor, to mouthing off to the coach, it just never worked. He disappointed at every turn and made the people who defended him look like idiots, he never made the effort to adapt to what the Raptors were doing and expected the team to revolve around him. His on-court demeanor was lackadaisical, his attitude towards the media was insulting, his relationship with the fans bordered on resentment, his tone of voice spoke of indifference, his body language was defeatist, his effort was never even marginally acceptable, his leadership non-existing, and his relationship with the coach was factious. He was the worst Raptor of all-time.
There’s no mincing of words there. Turkoglu was an absolute parasite in Toronto sucking the life out of that team. He made demands there with Chris Bosh, so I see no reason why he wouldn’t have done the same in Cleveland with both LeBron and Bosh in that laughable hypothetical situation.
The Raptors overspent on Turkoglu because they had. They, much like the Cavaliers, were trying to do all they could to keep their franchise player happy. As we know now, none of it would make any difference, but the Raptors were fortunate that they were able to trade Turkoglu anyway. In return they got Leandro Barbosa, and while Barbosa isn’t much a difference maker, at least he won’t detract from the team like Hedo did last year. Credit Bryan Colangelo for quickly moving on from the Chris Bosh era and making a nice move to build forward from.
[“Hedo Turkoglu Was The Worst Raptor of All-Time” – Raptors Republic]
The only thing worse than being stuck in perpetual rebuilding is worrying about losing your franchise. That’s the nightmare that Indiana Pacers fans have been living. They’re a franchise that has never really recovered from losing Reggie Miller and having those great Pacers teams that went to all those Conference Finals and NBA Finals, and now the franchise claims to be bleeding money. For now, they have received a much needed bailout from the city of Indianapolis’ Capital Improvement Board, as ‘goodlucksaturday’ from Indy Cornrows writes:
With the lockout becoming more and more imminent for the 2011-12 season, considerable questions deserve to be raised regarding Indiana. They’ll be in Indianapolis, but will they benefit from lower player salaries? Can they be helped with a friendlier profit sharing system? Stern estimated a $400 million loss league wide, but Players Association Executive Director Billy Hunter claims the number is grossly exaggerated, with proof of the salary cap rising about $1 million instead of falling an estimated $7 million.
One thing is clear, however, the business side of professional sports is rearing its ugly head, and the Pacers couldn’t seemed to have timed it worse with gaining ample salary cap room to also help ease the losses. Schoettle also discusses the future of the team’s ownership, as Herb Simon doesn’t much care for losing $10 million a year on the team.
This is far from a final solution. It’s really just a measure to buy more time, but the Pacers are in trouble. They’ve underperformed on the floor the past handful of seasons despite having a mixture of some really good players and some solid players (Danny Granger, Troy Murphy, Jeff Foster, Jermaine O’Neal, TJ Ford, Al Harrington, Stephen Jackson, Roy Hibbert, Marquis Daniels, Mike Dunleavy, etc) and fan support seems to be dwindling.
Now, they might be in trouble of losing team President Larry Bird as well. Indy Cornrows’ Tom Lewis talks about Bird’s hints about the future of the team:
I think it’s quite plausible that Bird will be happy to let another executive finish the rebuilding job, especially if there’s a lockout next year. Speaking of which, the Pacers may be smart just to keep all of the cap space from their expiring contracts until after the lockout. If player salaries are reduced from the big numbers paid out this summer, that money will go much further on the other side of the lockout.
That last sentence might be the best point of all. If the Pacers aren’t able to improve under the current system, saving cap space for a post-lockout existence could be the smart way to go. With teams unable to circumvent the soft cap as freely as they do now, teams with cap space will be that much more valuable. It could be something for the Cavaliers to consider as well as they try to figure out their own plan for rebuilding.
[“CIB Approval Plugs Short Term Fix in a Long Term Problem” – Indy Cornrows]
[“Looming NBA Lockout Already Impacts Pacers” – Indy Cornrows]
Eric Bledsoe is a player I’ll be keeping an eye on as he develops. Heading into the draft, Bledsoe was a guy I was really hoping the Cavaliers would be able to buy into the draft to take. A tough, hard nosed (but very raw) point guard, some scouts have seen him as a Rajon Rondo type player who may blossom into one of the league’s elite PGs. Alas, the Clippers were able to acquire his draft rights instead. As you would expect, Bledsoe had his ups and downs in Summer League play, as ClipperBlog’s DJ Foster writes:
Bledsoe has racked up 17 turnovers in two games. The problem? He tends to go into a possession with a preprogrammed velocity, be it Monday’s sprint or Wednesday’s more controlled gait. If Bledsoe can modulate that speed moment to moment, reacting to the defense and the movement of his teammates, he should enjoy some success — but right now, it’s an exercise in frustration for the young point guard.
It would be foolish for anyone to expect Bledsoe to step out from John Wall’s shadow and be a polished PG right away, but Foster makes a great point in that if Bledsoe can make the game slow down for him, he has a world of potential. He scored 17 points in his debut, showing an ability to score, but he also displayed an array of weaknesses he needs to work on. But I’ll be watching and playing ‘what if’ with Bledsoe for a long time.
[“Early Thoughts on Aminu and Bledsoe” – ClipperBlog]
It’s tough to put a price on the value of a GM who minimizes his misfires. Perhaps nobody in the NBA is better at maximizing value and minimizing loss when making moves than the Houston Rockets’ Daryl Morey. This fact isn’t lost on Rockets fans and, in particular, Rockets bloggers. The Dream Shake’s Tom Martin addressed this fact in an article over the weekend, but he points out that Morey’s adulation is well deserved:
Remember, the Grizzlies traded their first round pick to get Ronnie Brewer from Utah this past season. Brewer then became a restricted free agent this offseason. But the Grizz inexplicably declined to give Brewer a qualifying offer. Like, they didn’t do something that would cost them zero money. Instead, they signed Tony Allen, whose contract wound up being a whopping $1 million less per season than Brewer’s deal with Chicago. The fact that Utah eventually used the draft pick they got from Memphis to snag Al Jefferson from Minnesota makes me want to slap Chris Wallace silly. This is an example of something that Daryl Morey simply would not do.
I mean, if we’re talking about obsessing over somebody, do you really think a guy like Daryl Morey would top our list? Basketball aside, he comes off as quite the boring individual. And that’s to his credit. Morey may be a wild, entertaining guy, but he doesn’t show it – he keeps his public profile very business-like and keeps the focus of the media on the team and away from stupid off-field theatrics that have plagued other teams in the sporting world. This is a good thing.
In Cleveland sports, our teams are laced with front office officials who make mind numbing decisions that cost the franchises value. Just in recent history we’ve seen examples from Jim Paxson putting unnecessary risk on the Cavaliers by trying to sign Carlos Boozer to less to Phil Savage signing Derek Anderson to a needless 3 year contract when he could have just used a one year max tender to buy the Browns more time to make sure they knew what they had.
These are the kinds of mistakes that teams make time and time again throughout sports, and they’re the kind of mistakes Morey tries to avoid. Danny Ferry was another guy who maximized value and was careful to not take unnecessary risk. He was patient and never seemed to panic when making moves. Those are all traits that Morey shares and reason why I think Ferry would have done a great job rebuilding the Cavaliers. Chris Grant has spent a lot of time learning from Ferry and hopefully he can build on that knowledge and do an even better job than Ferry.
[“Finally, It’s Gotten Too Awkward To Ignore” – The Dream Shake]
Don’t count on OJ Mayo being the Grizzlies PG just yet. When Mike Conley’s name came up recently in rumors that the Cavaliers were looking into trying to acquire him, a common assumption was that the Grizzlies’ desire to have OJ Mayo play PG rather than SG was an impetus for the rumor. Chip Crain from 3 Shades of Blue does an excellent job pointing out Mayo’s flaws as a PG as well as what he can do to improve:
O.J. Mayo played Point Guard for the Memphis Grizzlies for a total of two Summer League games before deciding that he needs to focus on making the Team USA roster — presumably as a SG and not a PG — and many in Memphis seem to be breathing easier knowing he is doing so.
Of course, it is all on O.J.’s shoulders on what he wants to do. To become that kind of player, Mayo has to embrace that role, and so far, it is clear that he is either unwilling or unable to do so. He has been vocal about wanting to be a PG and not a playmaking SG to this point in his career. He wants the ball in his hands as much as possible. He doesn’t want to share it with Mike Conley — or anyone else for that matter. It’s not selfishness, per se, but rather a sincere belief that this is how he is best able to help the team win games that makes him do this. However, there has yet to be any evidence that this belief is grounded in fact.
So, the real question becomes this: What is O.J. Mayo’s next step? Will he dedicate himself to becoming the PG he wants to be, or will he embrace the player that he is and strive to become better in that role? Until he makes up his mind and resolves himself to that pursuit, O.J. will likely never be more than what we’ve seen the past two years: a very talented player who is not altogether happy with himself or his role on the team.
If the Mayo experiment at PG is over, then the Grizzlies would be hard pressed to get rid of Conley, even with all his shortcomings. The Grizzlies have talent, but have been a mess at PG for years, switching between different guys and asking different players to take on different roles. Conley isn’t a player I really want on the Cavaliers, but regardless, the Grizzlies really need to figure out what they are going to do about the position long term.
[“Is The Mayo PG Experiment Already Over?” – 3 Shades of Blue]
Seriously, enough with the Shaq to Miami rumors. They’ve been ridiculous from the very beginning, but in case you needed more proof, the Sun Sentinel’s Ira Winderman destroys this rumor in its tracks in his weekend Ask Ira session:
Q: Shaq could be the one to clog the paint when need be. Anyways, all I have read about Shaq is rumors. Can you give me any leads and why do you think Shaq isn’t coming to Miami? Could it still be a possibility? — J.J.
A: I don’t think the Heat could have sent any clearer a message than by re-signing Joel Anthony, faxing a contract to Jamaal Magloire, signing Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and giving three years to second-round pick Dexter Pittman. At some point, if there was legitimate interest in Shaq, the Heat certainly would have paused before getting four centers under contract. As long as Shaq made money an issue, it was a non-issue with the Heat. I can’t tell you how ugly it got in Shaq’s final weeks in South Florida. You can’t un-burn those types of bridges. Now, if the Heat was desperate for a man in the middle, it might have been a different story. But, clearly, Pat Riley sees plenty of workable non-Shaq options.
For all the talk of how much trouble the Heat were going to have filling out their roster, they’ve actually done a really nice job of doing just that. With LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem, Dexter Pittman, Joel Anthony, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and Mike Miller already locked up, and Jamaal Magloire and Carlos Arroyo expected to re-sign there as well with Juwan Howard rumored to follow, the Heat are already about to have a league min roster size. With just 2 open roster spots, it’s hard to fathom the Heat being interested in bringing in yet another slow, aging center.
[“Ask Ira: Is Shaq-Heat Now Officially Dead?” – Sun Sentinel]
There seems to be a lot of talk about rebuilding out there. Not just in Cleveland, but all around the league. With the Heat grabbing up the 3 big free agents, it left a lot of teams scrambling. It also changed the competitive balance in the NBA and how teams need to go about building their teams. David Arnott from the Bobcats blog Rufus on Fire was asking some questions to his readers about following a rebuilding team. One of the questions was “If you knew the Bobcats would never win a title would you still root for them?” In breaking down his thoughts, he had one paragraph that hits close to home:
Following a team with title aspirations is a totally different animal from following a team that merely aspires to make the playoffs. There’s a certain nihilist quality to rooting for non-championship-caliber teams, because the whole point of going on the journey is to be there for the victory celebration, and if you know there definitely won’t be a championship in the foreseeable future, well… what’s the point?
Cavs fans are about to take that shift once again, going from following a Championship caliber team to following a rebuilding team with no Championship qualities. We did it once, following the Price-Daugherty era teams, and it was ugly. Fans tried to hang on for a few years, but the Cavs organization panicked and brought in Shawn Kemp to try to get a quick fix.
Hopefully Cavs fans can show some patience this time around and the organization will follow suit and make sure they build the right way rather than go for instant gratification. As Arnott goes on to explain, it’s important to have that franchise guy to build around. The Cavs no longer have that. Mo and Jamison aren’t that guy, and they’re too old anyway. JJ Hickson is the right age, but isn’t of that caliber either. Before the Cavs can get serious about winning a Championship again, they absolutely must find a player they can build around. It’s just too hard to do it any other way.
[“What Would You Give For a Championship?” – Rufus on Fire]