My wife and I had company over for dinner and games during Tuesday night’s Cavaliers game, which meant the DVR was on duty and I would be watching later. (Had a great time by the way, FANTASTIC steak fajitas and then Ticket to Ride, if you are curious.)
After seeing the final score I wasn’t sure that I’d get around to watching this game. Seriously, did I really want to watch a game knowing we turned the ball over 25 times? And then I saw in the box score something that made me do a double take.
Semih Erden- 14 points. Wait, what? Erden with 6 field goals? That would be 6 more than his season total.
I have been watching intently, trying to figure out what exactly the Cavaliers’ front office sees in Erden that makes them think he has a future in this league, other than being tall. So far this season, I have seen nothing. So in the interest of getting some sort of positive perspective I had to go back and watch, at least his 15 minutes of playing time.
Erden checked in with 3:33 left in the first quarter replacing Andy Varejao. It is worth noting that Erden played nearly all of his minutes against Golden State’s back-ups. He did not face off with David Lee or Biedrens until his last 2 minutes in the fourth quarter. The majority of his time on the floor he was in the post against Ekpe Udoh. Udoh is 6’10”, and is in his second year with the Warriors averaging 16 minutes and 4 points a game.
2:29 1Q- Erden’s first shot of the game. The possession starts with a moving screen by Semih (which was apparently just not a violation in the Tuesday game) and then he got the ball on the block against Udoh. Erden backed him down a step with the dribble and then attempted a running hook across the lane which Udoh blocked.
I’m still not exactly sure how Erden had a hook shot blocked. It looked to me like it was possibly blocked from the weak side, but Udoh was the one they gave credit to for the block. On the ensuing Golden State possession, Erden plays a little matador defense in the lane and fouls a driving Nate Robinson. Fortunately for Semih, he is not the only one who fouled Nate and is not credited with the foul, despite raising his arm and admitting guilt. If nothing, he is honest. Not the best of starts for Semih, but things would improve.
1:20 1Q- Erden dunks! Well, sort of. Technically, it was a dunk. It looked like a kid that gets an adjustable rim and finds the tallest point at which he can actually throw the ball through the rim and then kind of grabs the rim on the way back down. That’s kind of how it looks like when Erden dunks. He doesn’t get off the ground much, and then he slams the rim on the way down. It looks much more violent than it really is. It sure made Austin Carr shout.
Give him credit for recognizing when his man had over-committed to the lane and moving to the basket. And to Sessions for setting the whole thing up with a drive and dish.
Following this possession Tristan Thompson bailed Erden out with a blocked shot after Erden was beat in the lane. Given Coach Scott’s desire for defense and the need the Cavaliers have for defensive rebounding, I wonder what Coach Scott thinks of Erden’s efforts on that end of the court.
11:21 2Q- Erden is fouled and makes both of his free throws. This of course leads to AC and Fred telling us how good Erden has been at drawing fouls. I will give them this, he has been much better at getting fouled than making baskets so far this season, there is no doubt about that.
*Warning: flurry of basketball activity to follow.*
9:56 2Q- An actual basketball move. Erden hits a floating jump hook. This is the type of shot that if a 7 foot center can hit with consistency, they are invaluable to a team. Impossible to stop this shot without pushing them out of the lane.
9:17 2Q- Erden scores on a lay-up off a pick and roll from Irving. It looked like the man guarding Erden was trying to help keep Irving out of the lane, almost ignoring Semih altogether. Credit Irving for seeing it and Erden for rolling to the basket.
*This ends the flurry of basketball activity.*
6:59 2Q- Another Irving assisted lay-up.
6:29 2Q- Erden replaced by Varejao.
You may be wondering why I am not mentioning any defensive rebounds or good defensive plays by Erden. Well, I am. Other than showing on high screens and running back through the lane waving his arms like one of those inflatable balloon men at a car dealership, there isn’t much to say.
2:30 3Q- Erden replaces Jamison.
There is a sequence where Erden fights with his man for position in the paint, trying 3 or 4 different moves to free himself, but there is no pass to him, and I’m not sure he was truly open.
1:24 3Q- Foul on Erden. Too much body check on a driving Nate Robinson.
1:10 3Q- Basketball sequence alert- Erden misses a shot, gets his own rebound and then is credited with another ‘dunk’.
The following possession he over-plays a driving Robinson, allowing Udoh to get an easy basket. Are you seeing a trend? Erden has difficulty getting back into good position on defense following a made basket. At least against a team like Golden State that likes to push the ball. It doesn’t help that Erden runs like a duck.
10:48 4Q- Another running hook. Again, this is a legit basketball move that if done on a consistent basis could be of some help.
10:25 4Q- A defensive rebound!
10:03 4Q- Shooting foul. Only the second called on Erden and his last of the night. Better than his 6 foul in 12 minute game from last week.
8:01 4Q- Replaced by Andy Varejao. David Lee and Biedrins had returned to the game. Lee was starting to heat up, but that really isn’t a knock on Erden as Varejao and Jamison had no luck stopping him either.
My final thoughts on Erden after this game? Well, he did look better than in all of his previous games this season. That wouldn’t be incredibly hard, but it was certainly true. Fred and AC were talking about Semih looking more comfortable in the offense, which can’t be denied, but I caution again that Erden was playing with a mismatch basically all of his minutes, and defensively was a non-factor at best. Going up against a forward 2 inches or so shorter than you should mean some defensive rebounds at the least.
The jury is very much still out on Semih. The hook shots through the lane are the first slight signs of basketball life from Erden.