July 30, 2014

The Season of Huh: Your 2013-14 Cleveland Cavaliers

Mike BrownSometimes a professional sports team can have one of those dream seasons. A year where everything seems to go right. One of those seasons where seemingly minor acquisitions pay big dividends, where the Krenzel bootleg is inexplicably unstoppable or somehow Sandy Alomar Jr ends up batting in every clutch situation. Whatever the reason, all the little things break your way and the season becomes bigger than the sum of it’s parts.

We’ve all heard the terms; the season of dreams, a team of destiny.

The 2013-14 Cleveland Cavaliers are the exact opposite of that.

The Cavs are finishing up one of the most bizarre seasons I’ve ever witnessed. They re-hired their old coach. Tristan Thompson changed shooting hands. All three free agent acquisitions fell flat. Players fought with coaches. Players fought with other players. Players fought with reporters. Hell, players fought with Josh Gordon. They had two first round picks that couldn’t crack the rotation of a 30 win team. But the Cavs also had some nice moments. They went on their longest win streak in four years. Kyrie Irving was voted an All-Star starter and went on to win the All-Star game MVP. Dion Waiters hit some game winners and undrafted rookie Matthew Dellavedova proved to be a real NBA player. The Cavs improved at least eight wins from last year and Cavalier fans were able to scoreboard watch until the very end of the season.

It wasn’t all bad, it was just weird.

The season began with a press conference featuring Dan Gilbert calling Mike Brown’s firing a mistake and ended with the beat reporters resorting to UrbanDictionary.com to explain Kyrie Irving’s cryptic tweets.

The Cavs just went through what I’ve dubbed as “The Season of Huh.”

I can’t stress enough how weird this Cavalier season has been. On the court, off the court, in the owner’s box … everything has been a story. While I’d greatly prefer the Cavs to be winning, the Season of Huh was vastly more entertaining than any of these past two tanking seasons. I’ve tried to capture below all the craziness that went on during the 2013-14 campaign, but I guarantee I’ve missed some.

Offseason/Preseason: The Season of Huh kicked off with the Cavs Grover Clevelanding GM Chris Grant’s former college roommate. In the press conference, owner Dan Gilbert admitted firing Mike Brown was a mistake and sold us on Brown’s defensive principles and his playoff appearances. Gilbert then brought a big contingent to the NBA draft lottery, and, upon winning the lotteryhad the gall to celebrate. Rumors popped up immediately that the Cavs were open to trading the first overall pick, but GM Chris Grant surprised everyone by selecting UNLV forward, not to mention Canadian, Anthony Bennett (possibly at the behest of Coach Brown).
Bill Simmons Draft Cavs gif
The Cavs augmented their draft by adding another combo guard, a power forward who can’t play defense or dribble and a certified crazy person through free agency. Grantland named the Cavs eighth-most watchable (!!), the Cavs named Tyrone Corbin the best player to wear No. 23 in franchise history, ESPN named Irving the eighth-best player in the NBA and, in a survey of NBA GMs, Irving placed third, behind LeBron and Kevin Durant, as the player you’d start a franchise with today. Mike Brown may have accidentally broke the news that Bennett has sleep apnea, while I accidentally beat Dion Waiters at bowling. And to top off the summer, Tristan Thompson became the first player in NBA history to change shooting hands. 

Thoughts: Remember hope? Optimism? While no one knew what to predict going in,1 I was excited to finally watch a non-tanking season. Dion Waiters was a starting shooting guard. Anthony Bennett was a power forward. The Cavs had a pretty solid preseason and looked primed to have good year.

even the beat writers are phoning it in.

Hey Mary! Can you google stuff for me?

October/November (5-12, 5-12 overall): After not playing in the preseason, Bynum looked decent in the opening night victory over the Nets. The Cavs proceeded to lose their next two, but bounced back to .500 when Kevin Love missed a wide-open game-winner. Anthony Bennett started his off his career by going 0-15, fleeing social media in the process. Irving waived off Brown late in a game. The Cavs lost by 30 to the Timberwolves, then held a contentious early season players-only meeting. Did Dion punch Kyrie in that meeting? Or did he fight Tristan? Maybe he just called Kyrie a ball hog. Regardless, the Cavs were reportedly shopping Dion.

Thoughts: This … was not a good start to the season. The losses were bad (Milwaukee? Philly?) and even the wins weren’t that fun. The Cavs needed superhuman performances from Kyrie (not to mention overtime) to beat mediocre teams like the Sixers and Wizards. Bennett looked completely overwhelmed, Earl Clark looked awful and somehow Jarrett Jack was the most maddening of all. But there was still hope, we told ourselves. The Cavs were young! Bynum was rounding into form. It’s early! They’ve had a rough schedule and we gotta give Coach Mike some time to mesh with these guys.

December (5-9, 10-21 overall): The Cavs started the month 4-1 and we started to think that maybe their early season jitters passed. Nope. The Cavs end the month on an 1-8 skid, including a pathetic 115-92 loss to the Pistons at home on December 23rd2 which brought us this glorious vine:

Five days after this damning video, the Cavs suspend Bynum, for hilarious reasons. Also, the Andrew Bynum Fathead giveaway? Canceled.

Thoughts: The month started off fine: the Cavs had a stretch where they went 6-3 and beat teams like the Clippers, the Bulls and the Nuggets. They played the Heat tough in Miami and then lost a highly entertaining game to Portland on a Damian Lillard buzzer-beater. Then the Bynum experiment blew up in spectacular fashion and the Cavs went in a tailspin, ending 2013 on a six-game losing streak. Things looked bleak, but little did we know, The Season of Huh was just getting started.

January (6-9, 16-31 overall): The Cavs had a January 7th deadline for dealing Bynum. Bynum-for-Pau Gasol rumors popped up everywhere and the Lakers hilariously demanded Dion Waiters in any deal for Gasol (the Cavs refused). Bennett said he’d be open to a stint in the D-League and it seemed like his historically bad rookie season was affecting his effort. CJ Miles hit a franchise record 10 three-pointers against the Sixers. Earl Clark cut short a late rally against the Pacers by not knowing where he was on the court, Jarrett Jack was none too pleased.

I laugh every time.

still funny

The Cavs ended up trading Bynum - and the Kings pick - for Chicago forward Luol Deng (yet their defense somehow got worse). They went 3-2 on a West Coast trip, but one of those losses was a 44-point stinker to the Kings. They capitalized on their successful Western trip by going 1-4 on a home stand that featured a five-second violation late versus Dallas and a 27-point game by the recently cut DJ Augustin. Surprising no one, ESPN says Jack and Bennett are among the NBA’s “Least Valuable.” I wrote a midseason report on how everything sucked and things somehow got worse. During all of this, Kyrie was voted an All-Star starter. January also gives us our first “Kyrie wants out” rumor of the year and we have now have video evidence, courtesy of 92.3 The Fan’s Anthony Lima, that Kyrie hates Dion.

Thoughts: This is where the Season of Huh really went off the rails. The Deng trade followed by a 3-2 West Coast trip gave fans a sliver of hope. “The Cavs were figuring things out,” we lied to ourselves. They added a veteran leader, an honest-to-god NBA small forward and had a good road trip out West. The narrative says that this is when the plucky young team finds its legs and goes on a run. Instead, they went into a free fall, losing five of six to close out the month, culminating with the nationally televised 117-86 disaster against the Knicks. Things were so bad that the notoriously press averse Chris Grant held an impromptu press conference, lambasting the team.

Capture

Someone stole Austin Carr’s banner, here’s some ice cream. Happy February.

February (8-6. 24-36 overall): The Season of Huh rests for no one, even choir boy Luol Deng can’t escape its clutches. Someone close to Deng spoke to the New York Post and the picture they painted of our Cavs was not flattering. Deng wanted out, players talked back to Coach Brown and rumors of partying and general unprofessionalness abound.  The Cavs opened the month with a three-game losing streak, culminating with a loss to a Laker team that finished the game with just four eligible players. Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve officially hit rock bottom.

grab-2014-02-05-19h55m37s162

there’s a lot of room on the bench when you only have four eligible players

The Laker debacle was the final straw; after seeing how the players completely tuned out Mike Brown, Dan Gilbert finally showed some leadership and fired GM Chris Grant (which apparently caused some players to cry). David Griffin took over as acting GM while Gilbert spent the press conference praising all of Chris Grant’s trades and draft picks. Grant’s firing (or maybe porn star Ava Devine playoff proposition) lit a fire under their collective asses and the Cavs went into the All-Star break on a four-game win streak, their longest in the post-James era. Everyone was happy.

Dion Waiters Dance

feel the hate

WOJBOMB informed us that Grant took Tristan Thompson solely because he had the same agent as LeBron James. Meanwhile, Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher reported that Grant passed on center Jonas Valančiūnas for the exact same reason. The Season of Huh cares not for logic or internal consistency.

Kyrie specifically told TNT's intern to make sure he was the only one not wearing his normal uniform.

Kyrie specifically told TNT’s intern to make sure he was the only one not wearing his normal uniform.

All-Star Weekend was a perfect microcosm of this stupid season. Dion put on a show in the Rising Stars game, dueling Tim Hardaway Jr and wowing the crowd. Kyrie’s 3-Point Contest title defense fell short when he failed to even finish all five of his ball racks. Kyrie, of course, followed up his dismal three ball performance by winning the All-Star Game MVP with a monster 31=point, 14-assist performance.

After the break, the Cavs reportedly fielded offers for Luol Deng but ended up trading more picks to Philly for center Spencer Hawes (the guy Dion literally just posterized). Meanwhile, Windhorst informed us that Kyrie could try to force his way out this summer. The Cavs ended the month by beating the Thunder in Oklahoma City. Because of course.

Thoughts: A positive month! 8-6 baby! Only this Cavalier squad would respond to a GM’s firing by going on a six-game win streak. Did Chris Grant make them not play hard? Did they simply need some kind, any kind, of change? Whatever the dumb reason, the Cavs responded to Grant’s firing by playing their best ball of the season. And as far as the All-Star game goes, you’d think that a MVP performance by your 22-year-old All-Star would be pretty neat, but only in Cleveland can we turn that into a negative. Well done, everyone.

BkT75DuCEAAsSJn

Time for a playoff run!

March (6-9, 30-45 overall): The Cavs retired Zydrunas Ilgauskas’s No.11 against the Knicks, which totally wasn’t supposed to be a big sales pitch to LeBron. The Cavs got wins against Real Teams like Golden State, Indiana, and Phoenix to stay in the playoff race. LeBron set a Quicken Loans Arena record by scoring 25 points in the first quarter and then stopped shooting. Windhorst took a break from reporting depressing Kyrie rumors to tell us former Knicks GM Isiah Thomas is angling for the Cavs’ GM job. Browns WR Josh Gordon went on ESPN’s First Take and dished gossip on Kyrie and Dion. Dion hit a buzzer beater to sink Detroit and put the Cavs improbably within three games of a playoff berth.

Thoughts: Z’s retirement ceremony was pretty sweet and I wish they’d use those on-court graphics as their normal intros. It was quite impressive. And while you’d think that four straight losses to open March would take the Cavs out of the playoff race, fear not! The Hawks and Knicks refused to cooperate and the Cavs stumbled their way into a three-team race for the eighth seed. Kyrie was struck with annual late-season injury and the Cavs (and Dion) played just well enough (4-4 in eight games) that fans started day dreaming about trading their 22-year-old All-Star. Nevertheless, the Cavs end the month within three games of the playoffs and a big game with the Hawks looming.

April (2-4, 32-49 overall): The Cavs opened the month with a win against the Magic, setting up a monster game against the eighth-seeded Hawks. A win would have brought the Cavs within a game of the playoffs, a loss ends the season. In true Season of Huh fashion, the Cavs get spanked 117-98 in their biggest game of the year. Kyrie took to Twitter after the loss to apologize to fans for the dismal season-ending performance. Just kidding! Kyrie took to Twitter to refute Brian Windhorst’s interview with Cavs: The Blog. Kyrie sat down and spoke with Jason Lloyd and addressed the comments of both Windy and Josh Gordon. Kyrie then turned around and dropped a career-high 44 points against the Bobcats that night (in a loss, naturally). There were some Joe Dumars rumors that thankfully had no legs. Unfortunately, the “Kyrie and Dion hate each other” rumors did have legs, which forced the duo to hold a bizarre press conference where they admitted to being friends. Luol Deng won the NBA’s Citizenship Award. Phil Jackson and Knicks were rumored to be interested in current Cavs interim GM David Griffin for New York’s opening.

Thoughts: Did you think our young Cavs were growing up and learning to play hard every night? You poor fool. The Cavs are heading into Fan Appreciation Night tonight on a two-game losing streak, with depressing losses against the abysmal Milwaukee Bucks and tanking Boston Celtics. That the bottom immediately fell out once the Cavs were out of the playoff picture doesn’t bode well for Mike Brown. Did they quit on Coach Mike? Did they try to quit on Brown months ago and only played hard because they knew, post-Grant firing, Brown was going to survive the season? Any growth we thought we might’ve seen over the past two months is negated by these last two losses. Clearly nothing was learned. The wins against OKC and Golden State don’t mean squat if they’re gonna get blown out by a tanking Celtics team resting both Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger.

There’s a case to be made that the Cavs are currently in a Worst Case Scenario situation.  The Cavs won the lottery and guaranteed they wouldn’t be back. They had two first-round picks and neither is expected to play in the season finale (but one might!). They will be back. They traded future draft picks for free agents Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes in a Win Now playoff push. They will miss the playoffs by five games. They either have a talent problem, a chemistry problem or a coaching problem (or all three!).  They have a 22-year-old budding superstar who is constantly having to refute reports that he’s unhappy. And whatever LeBron 2014 dreams you might’ve had,  Windhorst dashed those pretty good. ..

So I have no idea what to expect tonight against the Nets. This team lost to Milwaukee twice. It’s entirely within the realm of possibility that the Cavs lay a stinker on Fan Appreciation Night. Last year, Kyrie caused a mini uproar when he skipped out on Fan Appreciation Night, and his conduct heading into the 2014 finale leaves much to be desired. So I’m ready for anything. Kyrie could score 50. Dion could drop 40. Kyrie could go scoreless. Sergey Karasev could even see the court.

Well, let’s not go crazy. Even The Season of Huh has its limits.

___________________________________________________

Footnotes:

  1. “Due to his outside shooting, I think Sergey Karasev will make the biggest impact for the Cavs. Having Karasev to stretch the floor will make Kyrie’s life easier, to say nothing of the space he’d allow Andrew Bynum (assuming Bynum even plays)” – Ben Cox, WFNY []
  2. way to put on a show for the folks home on Christmas break! []
  • Big Z

    You mean re-hiring Mike Brown didn’t land the Cavs in the playoffs!? The team still sucks!? Go figure! Live and learn I guess…

  • Steve

    Well your argument against what’s actually happening on the court sure has convinced me.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Your not welcome!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Wow I better watch this Dellavadova more closely next year if he’s on the roster because he sounds a lot better then the guy I watched.

  • Tom Pestak

    Before tonight Irving and Jack had logged 1123 minutes together. The Cavs were -168 during those minutes. Waiters and Delly were +158 in 687 minutes. http://www.cavstheblog.com/?p=25516 The sample sizes aren’t huge, but the difference is big enough to note that something is wrong when Irving and Jack are on the court together.

  • Tom Pestak

    Before tonight Irving and Jack had logged 1123 minutes together. The Cavs were -168 during those minutes. Waiters and Delly were +158 in 687 minutes. http://www.cavstheblog.com/?p=25516 The sample sizes aren’t huge, but the difference is big enough to note that something is wrong when Irving and Jack are on the court together.

  • Harv 21

    fine, fine piece, Ben.

    Can’t tease out all the problems, but the worst symptom is pretty obvious: individuals won’t play hard or show sustained interest. Your young “effort” guy, 4th overall Tristan, ignores hard-playing teammate Andy as a perfect role model. Instead, he and the rest of the team seem to have chosen to emulate Alonzo Gee, the Player Formerly Interested in Defense and frequent owner of box scores where he plays 20+ minutes, gets 2 rebounds and scores 1 more point than a dead man. All with an effort and body language that fairly scream “I got my first guaranteed money – time to kick back yo.”

    Your best players lead. Our best are very young and apparently mature below their years considering how long they’ve played the game against elite competition. Andy doesn’t lead and never has. Deng is here for a cup of Joe and a quickie good deed in the community, and his teammates know it. Since he’s also playing like he’s starting his decline the young guys are as likely to emulate him as they did Anthony Parker and Jamison, meaning his impact on the psyche of teammates is more prominent in the cliche story lines of writers than anything found on the floor.

    Systems, mismatched parts, all this stuff may be problems. But the players mentally checked out of games as early as November and December, in horrible, embarrassing displays. Instead of being shown what he must do on this level, Anthony Bennett has been immersed in this fetid mess. Honestly, I cannot remember many teams as unlikeable as the Cavs were this year. And because of that I really don’t care who gets dumped or traded. Whoever, whatever comes next will have to initiate a culture change in the heads of a whole group of young guys.

  • Pat Leonard

    I’m fairly convinced that you didn’t actually watch him at all. No idea how you can’t see his value if you watched him play. The team almost always played better when he was in the game.

  • Pat Leonard

    I think I’ve reached this point as well. I can’t understand why the basketball talent doesn’t add up to more wins. If the Cavs wanted to blow it all up and start over again, I don’t even think I’d be too upset about it. Trade Kyrie? Trade Dion? Trade Tristan? Trade Jack? Trade Zeller or Bennett? I just don’t really care… neither does this team for periods longer than a couple of games. My only solace right now is hugging my favorite stuffed animal while continuously chanting, “they’re still young, they’re still young, they’re still young.” There were times this season when I really thought it had clicked for Kyrie, Dion, Jack, and the rest of the crew. They were sharing the ball and helping each other get open looks, and no one seemed to care about the stats. Then the very next game, it’d be all iso-ball and long twos again.

  • Hopwin

    It is not all Kyrie at all, but in the balance of things: Is he on the solution side of the equation or the problem side?

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Reads oh so much like the LeBron days and his absence has spoken for itself. The funny thing about all of the blame going on Irving is I’ve maintained that these one and done college kids have severely hurt the game of basketball and that the minimum age needed to be raised again.

  • BenRM

    Aaron Goldhammer is an idiot. He is everything that is wrong with sports media. I hope he doesn’t have friends.

  • The_Matt_Of_Akron