From Post-season Hopes to Ping-Pong Balls in Two Short Weeks

Kyrie Irving

The postseason possibilities are fading. The talent gap is widening.

With Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Byron Scott attempting to find the right combination of players and the schedule only getting increasingly more difficult in the coming weeks, what was once a dream is slowly becoming a delusion. On the tails of a reeling and aging Boston Celtics team prior to the All-Star break, the Wine and Gold have now dropped six straight games — a season-long losing streak — with the Denver Nuggets, Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets (a combined winning percentage of 63.4) looking to extend the skid even further.

Where fourth-quarter runs-turned-comeback wins have provided jubilant narrative and time-killing water cooler discussions, the recent trend of falling behind early and falling just short as the clock strikes all zeros is starting to draw the ire of Scott, who, for the first time this season, is starting to question his team’s desire to win games at all costs.

“We played really hard for about six to seven minutes,” said a still-suited Scott following the game. “I thought the beginning of the game, we were just so-so. The second quarter was even worse. The third quarter was okay. I thought the last five to six minutes of the game, we played with what I call a sense of urgency, which I talked to them about at halftime, but that’s not good enough.”

In Saturday’s loss to the woeful Washington Wizards, it was a product of unproductive — and somewhat detrimental — bench play. Two days later, it was all-around lethargy coupled with a physical opposition in the Utah Jazz. Multiple possessions by the otherwise terrible road team resulted in two, if not three, shot attempts. The Jazz reigned in 13 offensive rebounds on the night and destroyed the Anderson Varejaoless unit to the tune of 46-30. Recently replacing center Semih Erden with Ryan Hollins, Scott is running out of options while clinging to the hope that his team will start to feel the same sense of frustration-fueled anger as he.

Rookie point guard Kyrie Irving started slow, potentially still working his way back from a bout of influenza which snuck up on him like a ninja post-Rising Stars MVP, taking only six shots in the first half, making nary a one. He would later admit that he was a bit down on himself early after missing a lay-up in which teammate Alonzo Gee would set him up perfectly. Following a candid and likely animated halftime speech from Scott, Irving and the Cavaliers seemed to turn it on — the first-overall pick would finish with 22 points on 10-of-19 shooting — but it was just too little, too late. 

Irving and Thompson would later say that they were “pissed off” about the outcome. Veteran guard Daniel Gibson would say that he — along with veterans Anthony Parker and Antawn Jamison — need to “light a fire” under his teammates. Over the six-game losing streak, averaging 27 minutes as a reserve, Gibson is shooting 27 percent (10-for-37) from the floor.

 With the trade deadline nine days away, they are still in a position to contend for one of the final seeds in the Eastern Conference. Slotted tenth in the East, the Cavaliers (13-23) could also very well be tied with — or behind — the Toronto Raptors (12-26) when the two teams square off in seven days. The byproduct of lackadaisical, going-through-the-motion-type play coupled with the upcoming slate of opposing teams, the Cavs may soon wind up with the postseason rug pulled out from under their high-tops, landing shoulder-first into a sea of ping-pong balls.

(AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

  • B-bo

    As it should be. I respect the argument about the value of playoff experience to a young team and whatnot, but I don’t buy it. This team has so little starting-caliber talent, and getting swept in the first round isn’t going to change that. Here’s hoping the ping pong balls are good to us once again.

  • JoeMers

    Kyrie caught a bad case of the flu at the All-Star break…kid is a warrior!!!  They miss Andy V more by the week…

  • Vindictive_Pat

    This string of losses has done nothing but highlight how dire our situation is with regards to having depth in the paint.  I’ve been hoping the Cavs get to draft a good wing player like Kidd-Gilchrist or Jeremy Lamb, however I’m starting to think that our biggest need is at center.  We can’t be in position where we’re in the playoffs, Andy goes down with injury, and we’re using guys like Hollins, Samardo, or Erden at the 5.  That’s the easiest way to lose a series.  Also, if we drafted a center we could use Andy V as the starting 4 and backup 5 (or vice-versa), and we’d still be effective.  The way the Cavs are tanking, it looks like we will have a decent shot at either Davis or Drummond.

  • mgbode

    Not sure where we are going to get a decent backup big man that we desperately need.
    If we draft SG/SF as expected (deep wing draft), then we are still awfully thin in the frontcourt with the likely loss of Jamison.   The 2nd round usually has an intriguing big man or two, but this year it looks awfully putrid for bigs (unless you really like the unathletic Robert Sacre).

    Hopefully, we can find a young big man off someones scrap pile that underwhelmed on their rookie contract but might be better suited as one of our backups moving forward.

  • Steve

    If any team has an important starter go down with an injury, they’re likely to lose the series. Even the +60 win Lebron-led Cavs teams struggled in the playoffs with a banged up Varejao.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I agree in the sense that losing an important player hurts your chances at winning a series, but look at a team like the Bulls.  If Boozer goes down, they have Taj Gibson.  If Noah goes down, they have Asik.  Those backups aren’t as good as the starter, but it’s not going to completely destroy the Bulls’ title chances if one goes down.

  • Ike Mbanefo

    When Varejao went down, it was only a matter of a time.  This team now consistently has to trot out lineups with multiple undrafted players; just can’t do that in the NBA.  They’re playing hard, but this team is really behind the eight ball.

    And I love Byron Scott, but can we please get some minutes for Samardo Samuels?

  • EyesAbove

    Varejao’s injury may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. I thought this team was on its way to 30 wins before he went down. I agree that an 8 seed playoff appearance might be fun, but wont do us a whole lotta good in the long run. 

  • Boomhauertjs

    This team needs wing players in the worst way. The SGs are killing them with their lack of scoring punch. Barnes, Kidd-Gilchrist, Beal, Lamb, etc. come on down…

  • Harv 21

    Guys playing with little effort and another loss, woo-hoo!! Counting ping pong balls and knowing that every loss definitely/probably/maybe means a better draft pick is sooo much more responsible than watching a bad team play hard. Cause I’m a big pic guy, marching into the future.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Yeah, there aren’t a lot of 2nd round picks at center to get excited about.  Festus Ezeli never stood out on his own team, and I think his ceiling is as a backup.  I actually do like Sacre… I think he’s got good toughness, can score in the post, and is a better rebounder than his averages predict.  He only averages playing 26.2 minutes per game (not sure why this is because he doesn’t tend to get into foul trouble and looks to be in exceptional shape… that could be a red flag), so if you project him to something more usual like 33 minutes per game, his 6.2 rebounds per game jumps up to 8.  I like Gorgui Dieng better, but I’m not sure if he would leave for the draft this year unless his stock goes up.

  • mgbode

    at the top of the draft, you pick the BPA regardless of position (and if that guy is a PG, then you find someone that needs a PG and trade down with them).

    I hate the idea of Drummond just because he is so friggin’ lacksadaisical in his play.  He SCREAMS big man bust to me.  And, I am not going to dream about Anthony Davis.  If that happens great, if not, then hopefully he can reinvigorate Charlotte (and not get put onto a team that can cause us issues).

    The problem is that this draft looks really weak at PG and C.  And really strong at the wing spots and PF.  That was one of the reasons I was banging the drum on Jonas-V last year at #4.  Get our PG/C and then use this draft to grab the best at the other spots.  Our FO thought Tristan was BPA though, then that is fine.  But, we are going to have to find some bigs in FA.

  • mgbode

    Sacre is old (for a prospect – he was born in the 80s!) and unathletic.  I don’t think the Cavs FO will draft him (not their SOP).  I do like that he can hit a FT and that he can hold his ground in the paint.

  • mgbode

    Some big man FAs this summer:
    Guys that we’ll never sign
    Dwight – you may have heard of him. 
    Garnett – don’t think he’s coming to town either.
    Camby – he’ll sign for a final title shot somewhere.
    Chris Kaman – he’ll be too expensive and just duplicate Andy.
    Brandon Bass – he has “getting overpaid” written all over him.
    Mehmet Okur – he’s mentioned wanting a shot at a ring over and over. He’ll ring-chase somewhere.

    Younger, somewhat busts that are intriguing
    1. Irsan Ilyasova – 24yo has looked really, really good for Bucks at times.  Definitely worth trying to steal from the Bucks, who have had financial issues in the past.
    2. Ian Mahinmi – 25yo backup with size to play C and good rebounding rates
    3. Kosta Koufos – 23yo Ohioan who Denver may not have $$$ to resign (restricted)
    4. Michael Beasley – restricted, but doubt Minny matches and is only 23yo.  he could at least be a bench scorer for us if we miss out on above (to replace Jamison)
    5. JJ Hickson – with the way he’s playing, the Kings aren’t matching.  If we really want him back, then he’s ours.
    6. Anthony Randolph – another Twolve that they don’t have enough $$ or minutes to re-sign.  somehow still only 22yo.  he’d be worth a shot, maybe.

    Bottom of the Barrel
    1. Jason Maxiell – 29yo, so not young.  But, best of this uninspiring bunch.
    2. Ronny Turiaf – yeah, it drops off quickly.
    3. Diop – old draft pick comes home?  he at least can play some D.
    4. Diaw – best days way, way behind him.

    There are a few other names but either very obvious to re-sign with their clubs (and most on restricted deal), way too old, or too ineffective.   That’s some slim pickings.   

    I’d love to get Ilyasova and Randolph.  With Andy and TT, we’d have an extremely versatile and athletic frontline.   But, that’s probably a pipe-dream.   Mahinmi isn’t a terrible fall-back plan though if we can get him.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Fair point, I will admit I’ve only really paid attention to him in 2 games versus St. Mary’s this season.  I think I give him too much credit because he really looks the part and he’s supposedly a real leader.  I would still be okay with a late second round flyer I think, but I like Dieng a lot more. 

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I’ve only seen Drummond play for about 10 minutes so I’ll take your word for it.  I will admit that I am very happy the Cavs didn’t get Jonas V.  In doing my own research last year, I thought he looked like a bust… I thought he played slow and had no strength in the paint.  But hey, I’ve been wrong before.  I guess we won’t actually know until he gets himself over here.  Any chance Macvan comes over?  That was such a weird pick… he’s kind of like the anti-JonasV… short and stocky, not much offense, pounds the glass and pushes people around with his size.

  • mgbode

    I’m terrible at projecting Euros as their youtube footage is really all to go on and they are usually from the Euro-equivalent of AAU allstar games.  I only liked him as a possibility because he’s a true center, but if our FO didn’t like him, then I’ll trust them on it.

    Macvan is playing well apparently, I have no idea what his contract status is though nor if he actually wants to come over:

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Apparently I don’t know much about Macvan either… his Euroleague stats indicate that he’s a good shooter with some range and a good rebounder, but he’s not very athletic and doesn’t block shots.  Sounds like our current version of Jamison actually.

  • 5KMD

    Do the Cavs still own the rights to Sasha Kahn? Are they ever going to give him a shot or is he more inclined to stay over in Russia for lifestyle/family reasons?

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Looks like his contract is over after the 2014-2015 season, so he can’t come over until the 2015-2016 season.  Wow.  He’ll be 26 then.

  • mgbode

    I wouldn’t mind him later in the 2nd round.  Just our pick in the early 30s would hopefully go to someone with more upside.

  • porkchpxprss

    If it means “Waiting for Next Year” one more season I would much rather bring guys in cheap on 1 year deals for next season, and go after 1 or two free agents next (2013) summer. 
    The list of unrestricted free agents at all positions are simply much better than this years class
    Tiago Splitter,
    Samuel Dalembert
    Nikola Pekovic
    Paul Milsap
    Al Jefferson
    Dejuan Blair
    Or even Josh McRoberts or Jon Leur for bench depth. 
    Along with the pretty impressive list of wing players, it doesn’t make sense to overpay this year.  Next year there will be enough guys that 1,2, or even 3 quality players can be picked up for a good price.

    Personally I really like Pekovic from Minne., as in I’d probably overpay by a mil or two to get him.  Young (26)  legitimate center with a decent shot, and a good free throw shooter, which is real important if you are putting him out there with TT.Not to mention he sets “Call your dentist in the morning” picks on pick and rolls.
    Just saying, Kyrie + TT + wing player to be named in June + 13-18th pick next year, plus Pekovic or Splitter, + upgrade depth guys and you have a real team.  Gotta be patient though and not blow a load reaching this summer.   

  • Steve

    The Cavs still were able to play Varejao, and had big man depth. Just Varejao not being at 100% really hurt the team.

  • mgbode

    just in time for his prime (is the optimistic way of looking at it).  he may just decide to stay where he is at though.

  • mgbode

    I like that plan.

  • floydrubino

    If we could get Nikola Pekovic and Dejuan Blair both this would give us some great strength inside. Pekovic is solid and if we could get him it would open up our draft pick to where they don’t have to pick up a big man if a wing player is there. Dejuan hopefully would come at a good price.  Maxiell and Milsap are really good but I don’t know if they would come so cheap. Also what type of player do you think Sullinger will be in the nba. I see him doing well and being a little like moses malone type player. I hope the cavs get him mostly because the Ohio State connection. I wish we would try to make a trade with the 76ers for evan turner because he doesn’t even play that much. If the cavs had some buckeyes players on it at least it would get us through the growing pains part. Does anyone know if Joe Alexander is signed by anyone.

  • porkchpxprss

    I saw Sullinger having Moses potential right up until he Jenny Craig’ed that magnificent wrecking ball of a butt away.  Now he’s short, with a short wingspan, little athleticism, and he threw away the gift God gave him to get separation.  I think he works to hard to ever be a disapointment but I probably wouldn’t take him before 15-16.  Then again, I’m a guy who would take a flyer on Perry Jones at 4-5 so take my opinion with a huge grain of salt.

  • crowsfoot

    This team needs basketball players ! Name me 3 players on this current team that can receive an inbounds pass, dribble the length of the floor with minimal defensive pressure, and then create a shot and make it. Besides Kyrie and Ramon ( and possibly Manny ), there are none ! Look at other teams in the league and each has numerous players with multiple talents – not the Cavs !

  • Dinglehopper

     I think they’re more inclined to let him stay in Russia because he’s terrible.

  • floydrubino

    I don’t think you are crazy for perry jones at #4. I like him and for how big he is he has good outside skills which would create match up problems for teams. This would allow Kyrie more room to drive bringing out the opponents big man to 15-20 feet. The rankings don’t mean that much to me because these people are wrong a lot. The only thing I worry about is if he is lazy.