My plan for the sports calendar is as follows. Get geared up for the Tribe once Spring Training rolls around in the end of winter and pray they can hold my attention until July when Browns’ training camp gets under way. Then it’s the Browns’ turn to hold serve, stay relevant, play meaningful games and just not fall completely apart until the Cavs tipoff on the hardwood. The Browns sure made things interesting last Sunday, nearly moving to .500 at the halfway point and knocking off the best team in the NFL, but we all know how that ended. Luckily I didn’t have to carry that bitter taste in my mouth for too long as Wednesday brought Kyrie and Andy, this new thing called defense, and a familiar milk dud looking friend roaming the sideline.
IT’S BASKETBALL TIME!
And with the season now underway it’s time for the first installment of the Cavs Friday Five.
1. The atmosphere at the Q on Wednesday reminded me that despite being a football town, Cleveland no doubt about it is also a basketball town. Once the Star Spangled Banner began, the excitement in the air was palpable. You felt as if you could reach out, grab the excitement and wrap it around your glow stick. With each pause between lines in the national anthem, the crowd cheered, and as it came down the home stretch the crowd couldn’t help but sing along. Following the anthem as the lights went out, glow sticks went up, and the light spectacle began it was already clear that there is no better game day presentation in Cleveland than the one Dan Gilbert and co. put forth.
Strip away the lights though, and the Cavs swung and missed big time with their choice of song for the much anticipated intro video. Past videos featured tracks with a pulsating beat that made it hard to stand still, the likes of MGK’s “ Invincible“, Diddy’s “Victory 2004 “, and my personal favorite Kanye’s “Stronger” all made it impossible not bounce up on your toes, and get ready to run through a wall as the Wine and Gold took the floor. This year’s attempt at capturing the current E.D.M trend in music was a flop.
Although there were some empty seats, the crowd still reached a fever pitch after plays such as Kyrie’s lob to Tristan, and cheered on in support when the team was sputtering. But it was the whole crowd rising to their feet to welcome Andrew Bynum as he entered the game and the chants of “M-V-P” for Kyrie as he stepped to the free throw line to ice the game that stood out. The fans extended their arms wide and gave this team a big hug on opening night to let them know, “Hey, we’re here for you. We’re with you all the way”.
2. Online oddsmaker Bovada.lv have set the Cavs’ over/under season win total at 40.5. Us here at WFNY seemed to think that was a little low as our pre season predictions averaged out just under 42 wins. 40.5 is the sixth highest over/under total in the East behind Miami, Indiana, Chicago, Brooklyn, and New York. The consensus among the media seems to be that either of the top four teams could end up representing the East in The Finals, the Knicks playoff spot is secure, and after that in the words of Ellie Goulding, “Anything Could Happen“.
While Vegas has the Cavs over/under at 40.5 wins the same is true for Washington and Detroit. All three teams are poised to make a leap this year. Detroit added Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings to with an emerging young core of Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond, and yes Kyle Singler. Washington finally has a healthy John Wall to go with last year’s sharp shooting top pick Bradley Beal and a front court led by Nene that was recently bolstered by the trade for Marcin Gortat. Atlanta is right behind that bunch with their over/under set at 39.5 wins.
3. I love Andy taking an open mid range jumper. As Varejao found himself with the game tied, just under 30 seconds to play and surprisingly open at about 17 feet he confidently buried the jumper and put the Cavs ahead on the night for good. Varejao shot at a 40% clip last year from mid range which is right at the league average. As Kyrie and Dion slice their way into lanes and opposing defenses dive down into the paint it’s going to leave Andy open to slide out into space and knock down that little jumper.
4. I hate the Kyrie and Earl Clark end of game pick and rolls. One of the biggest criticisms the last time Mike Brown was in town was how dead the offense went in late game situations. There was no creativity and no sets run. It was as if they were running the Zack Morris timeout offense, where all four other guys on the court freeze and LeBron did his thing.
Against Brooklyn in two crucial possessions late in the game, the Cavs spread the floor and ran pick and roll with Clark and Irving. While a pick and roll with Kyrie is probably your best offensive play, and the idea of running it with the 6’10″ Clark who can also fade off the screen for a jumper is appealing, this can’t be your go to play in late game situations. With Clark as the screener, it keeps a wing defender out on the perimeter and leaves the bigs near the paint ready to protect the rim. With all three other Cavaliers standing around it allows the rest of the Nets defense to easily keep an eye on both their man and the ball. The offense needs more movement, more fluidity, and more creativity in these situations. End of game offensive sets or lack their of is something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
5. Rookie Watch – The odds on favorite to win Rookie of the Year, Victor Oladipo, had two modest showings this week, averaging 13 points in just under 30 minutes of action in Orlando’s two losses to start the year. The second pick out of Indiana got his “welcome to the league” moment in the first quarter of his debut thanks to a Paul George LeBronesque chase down block.
Philly’s Michael Carter-Williams had one of the best rookie debuts in history, scoring 22 and stuffing the stat sheet with 12 assists, 7 rebounds, and an astounding 9 steals in a win over the defending champion Heat.
The Cavs’ Anthony Bennett confidently launched three 3-pointers in his debut, but couldn’t get one to fall, recording just 2 points to go with his 5 rebounds in 15 minutes of action off the bench. Bennett did lead the Cavs in +/- going +10 on the night while on the floor. This largely had to do with his pairing with Andrew Bynum in the front court. Bynum and Bennett should complement each other well with Bynum’s presence down low and Bennett’s ability to stretch the floor.
Sergey Karasev did not play Wednesday due to an injured ankle. He is day to day.
While Andrew Bynum saw real game action on Wednesday, Greg Oden has yet to take the floor for the Heat. After hearing Marv Albert and Steve Kerr describe Oden as someone who might be able to give the Heat rebounding and defense in certain match ups I felt relieved the Cavs didn’t waste a roster spot on him. Although the idea was initially intriguing, I imagined him at some point being 7th or 8th guy in a rotation and not just a mix between Morgan Freeman and Scott Pollard.