April 21, 2014

Through the Looking-Glass, and What the Cavaliers Found There

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Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

There’s a degree of order in life. Certain things fit together in ways that make sense. There are laws of math, and physics, and biology. Unbreakable truths. Anyone who has been watching the recent reincarnation of the show Cosmos on FOX has been able to look on with awe at the sheer depth of scale to the universe and life on earth. From observable galaxies that are billions of light years away to the beautiful complexity of life at the sub-molecular level, there are rules and order. The same laws of physics that govern our world apply to those billions of light years away.

None of those unbreakable rules of consistency apply to the 2013-14 Cleveland Cavaliers. In a world of order, the Cavaliers are outlaws. They are agents of rebellion flying in the face of matters of consistency and basketball truths. Or, should I say, they “were” outlaws. The 2013-14 Cavaliers are no longer a fluid existence in the present, but instead are now frozen in time as a part of history. And when basketball scholars look back and study this team, what will they find? They won’t find answers, but more questions. That’s something everyone who lived through this season knows from personal experience. No matter where things go from here, this will always be remembered as one of the most confusing seasons in Cavalier history.

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Good riddance, Cavs season: While We’re Waiting

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Yet another uninspired crawl to the finish. We shouldn’t be surprised. This isn’t unique to the Cavaliers, necessarily. Teams in April playoff chases who get eliminated often coast to the end of the season. But just because it’s not surprising, it doesn’t make the end of this Cavaliers season any less disappointing. Above all else, that’s the word that defines this season more than any other. Disappointing. With a little frustration on the side.

This season couldn’t have been set up any better for the Cavaliers. For the first time in NBA history, the Lakers, Celtics, and Knicks all missed the playoffs. The Eastern Conference was historically bad. And yet even in this environment the Cavaliers couldn’t make the playoffs. They weren’t even all that close. With one game left to play the Cavaliers are 5.5 games out of the 8 seed. An 8 seed with a losing record. Six games under .500, to be exact. It demonstrates just how firmly entrenched at the kids’ table this team really is. [Read more...]

Cavs vs Pistons Behind the Box Score: Trees falling without making a sound

AP Photo/Mark Duncan

AP Photo/Mark Duncan

Don’t get me wrong…that was a fun game. The Cavaliers played some of the best team basketball we’ve seen this group play as they came out and just crushed the Pistons 122-100. But as fun as it was, it unfortunately didn’t matter. The Pistons quit a long time ago. They’re the same team who played a 76ers team on the verge of breaking the all time losing streak record. And the Pistons got killed by that Sixers team. So it wasn’t surprising that the Cavs were able to take care of business.

The fact is, the playoffs are gone, the Pistons are a team tanking as hard as can be, and so there’s just not much to take away from this game. Winning a game like this just doesn’t really mean much. You would like to think that the ball movement, spacing, and team scoring were all functions of a team developing and figuring things out. Unfortunately, it could just as easily be about playing a team that just doesn’t care anymore. And because I don’t want this to be coming across as too negative, I’ll point out that the Cavs legitimately deserve credit for caring. Or at least caring a lot more than the Pistons, anyway.

Now lets get into the numbers: [Read more...]

Kyrie and Dion love-fest and keeping the Wahoo narrative alive: While We’re Waiting

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The dumbest press conference ever? – Have you ever seen a press conference where teammates had to stand before the media to tell everyone how good of friends they are? I certainly hadn’t….prior to yesterday:

How would Irving describe his relationship with Waiters?

“Honestly, off the court and on the court, we’re the best of friends,” he said. “So when we come on the court, we’re just going to play basketball like we’ve been doing the past few games and our focus is on winning right now.”

Added Waiters, “On behalf of [Irving], myself, I just think we’ve been in so much media this year, and it’s not fair to either of us.

“I just think, man, throughout this whole year with us two not liking each other, it’s total BS. We’ve been friends before we even made the NBA, before any of this. I just think y’all saying we don’t like playing with one another …

“Yeah, we still need to learn certain things. But I think at the end of the day, we’re genuinely friends. I love him as a friend, teammate, everything. I just want everybody to know that. I don’t hate this guy. I’m pretty sure he don’t hate me. I know he don’t hate me. I hope he don’t hate me. Rome wasn’t built in one day. We’re still young. We’re still planning to stay together. We’re still working. As long as we’ve got great communication down, it’s fine.”

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WFNY Roundtable: The Kipnis Contract

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The Cleveland Indians announced that they have signed All-Star 2nd Baseman Jason Kipnis to a 6-year $52.5 million contract extension. While on the surface it looks like a good deal for the Indians, Jacob had some questions about it, which led to the inevitable WFNY Roundtable. Enjoy!

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Cavs vs Magic Behind the Box Score: Signs of a fun April?

AP Photo/John Raoux

AP Photo/John Raoux

Talk about a boring game. But boring in the best way ever.

The Cavaliers were ready to play from the start in this one, and they never let up as they absolutely crushed the Magic by a 119-98 score. This one had a little bit of everything and everyone. Kyrie Irving came back and played well, Dion Waiters just kept doing what he’s been doing, Spencer Hawes had his best game in a while, and Tristan Thompson had a double-double. So yeah, it was a good game.

With every win the Cavaliers continue to keep the playoff hunt interesting. The Knicks and Hawks are virtually tied for the 8 seed, with the Cavs lingering just two games back. The Cavs’ chances would be a lot better if they were only chasing one team instead of two of them, but still, with six games left to play, this thing isn’t over yet.

Now lets look at a few numbers… [Read more...]

Late Opening Night, Joe Banner’s Office, HIMYM, and Cloud Nothings: While We’re Waiting

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I had a dream last night that the Cavaliers got into the playoffs and beat the Pacers in the first round of the playoffs. It was one of those ultra-realistic dreams, too. Like, the kind where even when you wake up and you know it was a dream, you still think it might have been real and you check your phone to see if was actually reality. Well, it wasn’t reality……yet? I guess it depends on what time the dream took place. If it was before midnight, it was still March 31st and I think it was a prophecy. If it came after midnight, though, it would have been April 1st and thus just a cruel April Fool’s prank my body and mind played on me. I guess in a couple weeks we’ll find out if I am a prophet or a fool.

Oh, hey, there was Indians baseball on last night! Too bad I missed most of it….

It’s completely ridiculous for MLB to make an EST team open the season at 10:00 pm – I am absolutely furious about this. I can’t remember the last time I missed an Indians’ opening day game, but I had to miss last night’s opener. My alarm goes off at 5:00 am and there’s just no way I can stay up after 1:00 am on a Monday night. I realize some people can and do, but it just seems like an absolute slap in the face from MLB to make the Indians play their first game at 10:00 on the east coast. If you’re going to make an east coast team open the season on the west coast, at least have the game played at 1:00 or 4:00 local time so all fans can enjoy the game.

Now, having said all that, there’s really nothing like opening day in baseball. Yeah, I love opening night in the NBA, and the first NFL games are always fun. But there’s just something special about the start of the baseball season. It announces the arrival of spring with authority and the romanticized nature of the sport lends itself perfectly to the pomp and circumstance of the moment. [Read more...]

WFNY Roundtable – Preliminary thoughts on the NFL Draft

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The NFL Draft is (not so quickly) approaching, and today we decided to see where everyone’s head is currently at with respect to the Browns’ draft possibilities. Check out the conversation below: [Read more...]

Cavs vs Pistons Behind the Box Score: A game-winner for Dion

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The Cavaliers were on the road, playing the second night of a back-to-back. For the first three quarters the team more or less played like it. The Cavaliers fell down by 16 points and it looked like that would pretty much be it.

But the Cavaliers got a surprise offensive explosion from Matthew Dellavedova, Anderson Varejao was his old rebounding-machine self, and Jarrett Jack had an enormous fourth quarter to lead the Cavaliers back to within striking distance.

The Cavs got a couple huge stops in the final minutes setting up the finale. With the Cavs down four, Jack converted an and-one to bring the Cavs within one with 53 seconds left. After tough defense forced a bad Josh Smith shot, the ball went out of bounds off Delly’s hands, giving the Pistons the ball with 28.5 seconds left. Rather than fouling, Mike Brown chose to trust his defense and Brandon Jennings missed an off balance jumper. Luol Deng grabbed the rebound and the Cavs called a timeout with 3.2 seconds remaining. That set up the real fun stuff.

Once again the Cavaliers found themselves in a critical inbound situation. After the initial Cavs timeout, the Pistons used two consecutive timeouts in a bit of gamesmanship. Then Luol Deng once again couldn’t find anyone open and had to use a timeout of his own to avoid the 5-second call. On their second try, Deng found Dion Waiters cutting to the corner. Dion took a quick dribble, stepped to his left and pulled up for a 19-foot jumper. And he drilled it. The Cavaliers erupted in joy and this team pulled off one of the more improbable victories of the season.

Now lets look at some numbers: [Read more...]

Cavs vs Raptors Behind the Box Score: One ugly way to win a game

AP Photo/Tony Dejak

AP Photo/Tony Dejak

The Cavaliers started out playing great basketball on both ends of the court. In the 3rd quarter they extended the lead to 18 points at 81-63. Then they turned the offense switch to the “Off” position, and with with just under 7 minutes remaining in the game, Greivis Vasquez hit a three point shot to put the Raptors up 95-94.

The Cavaliers would quickly take the lead back and would lead the rest of the way, but it took a little luck down the stretch. The Raptors missed a couple good looks and the Cavaliers held a three point lead with 12 seconds left. DeMar DeRozan then drove and was fouled by Alonzo Gee. DeRozan only made one of his two free throws and after a Cleveland timeout, the Cavaliers were inbounding at midcourt with 7 seconds left.

This is where the Cavaliers’ inbounding issues would strike yet again. First Luol Deng was handed inbounding duties, and when nobody was able to get open, he called a timeout. Then Varejao was given the job of inbounding, and once again with nothing really developing, he tried to throw it in to Deng along the baseline, but the ball sailed out of bounds. It looked like the refs missed a foul on the play, but regardless, its embarrassing that the Cavaliers still can’t operate an inbound play in late game situations.

Thankfully, though, the Raptors decided to return the favor with a bad turnover of their own on their last possession and the Cavaliers hung on for the 102-100 win over a playoff team in the East. The Cavaliers continue to play hard without Kyrie Irving, CJ Miles, or Anthony Bennett, it’s just a shame it’s happening now that the playoffs are but a minute possibility.

Now lets get into the numbers: [Read more...]

LaQuinton Ross going NBA, Sixers keep losing, and Community: While We’re Waiting

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I’m currently writing this while fighting a fever, so this will probably be a little shorter WWW than I normally write, so please bear with me….

LaQuinton Ross going pro? I heard whispers all season long that Ohio State junior forward LaQuinton Ross would be heading to the NBA after this season. I never really believed it. I believed he wanted to, but I didn’t he was good enough to actually do it.

Well, I don’t know if I was right or wrong on whether he’s an NBA player, but he evidently really is entering the draft. I don’t really get it. I understood why Deshaun Thomas went pro last year. He had probably peaked as a scorer and he was getting in a shallow draft while avoiding this year’s supposedly loaded draft. But Ross lacks the consistency that Thomas showed and he’s entering what some consider to be one of the better draft classes in recent memory. I hope it works out for him, but I really don’t get it at all. [Read more...]

Cavs vs Heat Behind the Box Score: So close

Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

The Cavaliers came into this game against the Heat without Kyrie Irving, Luol Deng, and CJ Miles (for the most part, anyway…CJ played just 2 minutes). A lackluster performance could have been expected. Instead, the Cavaliers played a great all around game and took the Heat, who were without Dwyane Wade, down to the wire.

The Cavaliers had their chances down the stretch, but a ridiculous no-call on a Dion Waiters drive, combined with LeBron James hitting all six of his free throws, proved too much to overcome. Waiters hurt his hip on the play as he landed squarely on it, which made things even tougher for the Cavs. Yet Jarrett Jack, who had a season high in scoring, hit a couple late threes to keep things interesting, but LeBron just wouldn’t miss any FTs and the Heat came away with the win.

But still, the Cavaliers deserve a lot of credit for the heart they showed in fighting right down to the wire against one of the NBA’s best teams.

Now lets get into the numbers. [Read more...]

Kyrie’s injury, Browns draft thoughts, and The War on Drugs: While We’re Waiting

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Kyrie Irving out at least two weeks. It’s that time of year. The season is down to the final month, the Cavaliers are slipping out of playoff position, and the injuries are piling up. The latest victim is Kyrie Irving, who left Sunday night’s game with an injured bicep. After an MRI revealed a strain in the long head tendon of his left bicep, Kyrie has been ruled out at least two weeks.

It could very well be more than that, though. The two week period is merely the rest period. After that, he will be “re-evaluated” and then the Cavaliers will decide how to proceed. Without Irving over these next two weeks, an already difficult schedule looks insurmountable. If the Cavaliers are out of the playoff hunt and chasing the bottom of the lottery, it makes you wonder if they would just hold him out for the rest of the season. We’ll see.

In the meantime, it will be interesting to see how the Cavaliers respond to Kyrie being out. Many Cavs fans have been anti-Kyrie all season long, placing the majority of the blame for this season on his shoulders. If there’s truth to that, will the Cavaliers play better without Kyrie? Will Dion Waiters step up to fill the scoring void that Kyrie is leaving behind? If nothing else, these next two weeks will be interesting from that standpoint, just to see what affect Kyrie’s absence has on the team and whether its a positive or a negative.  [Read more...]

Salazar’s debut, Playoffs?, and True Detective: While We’re Waiting

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Is Kyrie Irving overrated? #CavsRank is still going on, and number eight on the list is Kyrie Irving. Mallory Factor wrote an excellent piece on Kyrie for Cavs: the Blog, and it ignited quite a debate in the comments over there. Well, it wasn’t so much a debate as an outright revolt against the pick, with most of the comments feeling Kyrie in no way deserves to be ranked this high on the list.

On one hand, it does seem crazy that a guy who has yet to finish his 3rd season in the NBA would be considered the eight best player in team history. On the other hand, Kyrie has a list of individual accomplishments that few Cavaliers can match. Rookie of the Year, two time All-Star with one All-Star starter nod, All-Star Game MVP, three point shooting champion, Rising Stars MVP, three-time Rookie of the Month, two-time NBA player of the week. He’s 3rd in franchise history in career points per game, 8th in assists per game, and 2nd in player efficiency rating.

While he is still extremely young and his teams have not had much (any) success, the unfortunate reality is that the Cavaliers as a franchise simply don’t have a wealth of all time great players and Kyrie’s three seasons have been almost as good as anyone’s. The ranking system is a collaboration of a ton of Cavs writers that I really respect and, honestly, eight probably sounds about right to me for Kyrie. [Read more...]

#CavsRank: No. 9 Anderson Varejao, the Wild Thing

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The date was July 8, 2004. It was a Thursday night, and the Cleveland Cavaliers were reeling. It seemed impossible, yet the outcome was simultaneously probable. Some would argue even likely. The Cavaliers took a major risk, and they were burned in a big way.

It was that Thursday night when restricted free agent Carlos Boozer informed the Cavaliers that despite their wink-wink arrangement, he had verbally agreed to an offer sheet with the Utah Jazz. To this day there remains plenty of blame to go around to everyone involved, but the simple fact is that Cavaliers GM Jim Paxson didn’t have to let it come to this.

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Cavs vs Spurs Behind the Box Score: What defense?

(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Well, for 12 minutes this was a fun game. The Cavaliers had one of their better first quarters of the seasons, jumping out to a 23-13 lead in the quarter. Unfortunately, that would be about the extent of the fun this evening.

The Spurs roared back with a 37-17 edge over the Cavaliers in the 2nd quarter. The Spurs went from being unable to make anything to not being able to miss a thing. The Cavaliers’ offense was pretty good in this game, but the Spurs’ role players were simply too much for the Cavaliers to handle and the Spurs left the Q with a 122-101 win.

We knew March was going to be a brutal month, and nights like this show why. The Cavaliers really didn’t play all that poorly. The defense obviously wasn’t great fundamentally, but the Spurs just ran their offense to perfection and they overmatched the Cavs. The Cavs shot 48.1% from the field and 52.6% from three, but it just wasn’t enough to overcome San Antonio.

The Cavaliers already slim playoff odds are shrinking even more with every loss. So while the Cavs played decent basketball, there’s just no room for moral victories. At this point in the season, only actual wins and losses matter.

So lets get into the numbers: [Read more...]

While We’re Waiting: Welcome to the new WWW

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We’ve been going through some changes here at WFNY in recent weeks. The latest change is to the format of While We’re Waiting. First, you might notice that I’m not Rick Grayshock. Rick deserves a ton of credit for suffering through WWW for so many years. Some might think it was an easy post to do, just throwing some links together. But it was so much more involved than that—carefully curating tips sent to us, pouring through every last nook and cranny of Twitter for any and every last interesting bit of info to share.

[Read more...]

Cavs vs Magic Behind the Box Score: The wins keep rolling in

(Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)

It wasn’t as easy as it could have, and probably should have been, but the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Orlando Magic to extend their winning streak to six.

The Cavs came out in this game picking up right where they left off in Philly, jumping to a big lead early, and eventually extending the lead all the way to 21. But in the 3rd quarter the Cavs starters stumbled a bit on both ends and let the Magic crawl back into the game. Orlando would hang around the rest of the game, eventually getting within 2. But then Tyler Zeller grabbed a huge offensive rebound and converted an And-1 and the Cavaliers never looked back, coming away with a 101-93 win.

This was by no means a perfect game, but it was a game the Cavaliers needed to win and the bottom line is, they made the plays they needed to in order to get the job done.

Now lets get into some numbers… [Read more...]

Cavs vs 76ers Behind the Box Score: Five in a row

(AP Photo/Michael Perez)

(AP Photo/Michael Perez)

Cleveland took a four-game winning streak into the All-Star break, and in their first game back they picked up right where they left off. The Cavs got off to a fast start in Philadelphia Tuesday night and they never let up, winning one of their most complete games of the season by an easy 114-85 margin.

While the game was mostly an enjoyable affair, it wasn’t without drama. In the second quarter Dion Waiters threw down a monstrous dunk in traffic, but when he came down and tried to stop his momentum, his left leg locked up and he hyperextended his knee. It was a terrifying moment as Dion laid on the ground holding his knee. Thankfully, worst fears were never realized as Dion was shortly back up laughing with Kyrie. He was held out the rest of the game and for now his status is uncertain, but it seems as if the injury isn’t as bad as it initially looked like it could have been.

Other than that, this game was mostly a walk in the park against a severely struggling Sixers team. Offense, defense, transition…it was all clicking for the Cavs in this one and it’s a great way to keep building on the momentum as the Cavaliers hit the stretch run of the season. Before this game it would have been hard to believe that with Dion leaving the game in the second quarter with injury, Kyrie having a quiet but efficient 14 points and three assists in limited minutes, and Andy being out that the Cavaliers would coast to an easy 29-point victory, but that’s precisely what happened.

So lets get into the numbers… [Read more...]

Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters can use All Star Weekend as a springboard for second half

Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports

Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports

As Kyrie Irving held the All-Star Game MVP trophy above his head Sunday night in New Orleans, his confident smile seemed to give off a sense of relief. In what Kyrie himself has described as one of the toughest seasons of his career, going as far as to call it “a wake-up call,” you sort of got the sense that Kyrie needed this.

This season hasn’t been much fun for anyone associated with the Cleveland Cavaliers. In one of the worst seasons of basketball in the history of the Eastern Conference, the Cavaliers somehow find themselves in 11th place in the conference with a 20-33 record. And it took a four-game win streak1 just to make the record look that good. There’s been fighting, poor play, “pouting,” confusion, insecurity, and a complete void of fun in the Cavs’ world.

But something seems to have changed in the past couple weeks. From the moment GM Chris Grant was fired, the team seemed to flip the proverbial switch. Young SG Dion Waiters has spoken openly about how he took Grant’s dismissal personally, taking accountability for his inconsistent if not poor play. But in the wake of one man’s loss, the team did something remarkable. They came together, they started winning some games, and above all else they started having fun. [Read more...]

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Footnotes:

  1. the first four-game win streak of the post-LeBron era, nonetheless []