April 16, 2014

Cavs vs. Thunder Behind The Boxscore: HUH?!

kyriethunderOn the second night of a back-to-back against the best of the West following a tough loss to the Raptors, I gave the Cavaliers virtually no chance of competing tonight, let alone winning. But, they did exactly that, it was a star-studded effort for Kyrie Irving, who trumped the duo of Durant and Westbrook with plenty of help from the other four starters to pull off a fourth quarter stunner, capped by a 40-23 run in the fourth that turned a seven-point deficit into a 10-point lead on the way to a 114-104 victory in Oklahoma City.

There were so many highlights late in this one: Alonzo Gee’s steal and power thump on a breakaway, Kyrie’s out-of-state three point answer, Spencer Hawes’s pair of floating left-handed hooks through the lane, Tyler Zeller zipping through the lane on multiple dump-offs, and Tristan Thompson’s bounce pass feed on a backdoor to Kyrie that extended the lead from six to nine with under two minutes to play. But, the takeaway from this one is that the Cavaliers did not back down when Oklahoma City hit them in the mouth in the third quarter and looked to pull away. Let’s dig into some noteworthy numbers. [Read more...]

Another day, another reminder that the Cavs could trade Kyrie Irving

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In the midst of a two-game losing streak and a hellacious March knocking on Cleveland’s door, ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst comes strong with a piece laying out the potential for the Cavaliers to trade All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving if a contract is not signed this summer.

If Kyrie Irving truly wants to be on a different team next season he can probably make it happen.

The Cleveland Cavaliers will offer Irving a maximum contract extension once they’re allowed to on July 1, and if he hasn’t signed it by October, the team will likely be forced to trade him before the Oct. 31 deadline for third-year players to extend their contracts.

The Cavs aren’t without leverage. They can match any deal offered if Irving hits restricted free agency in the summer of 2015, and they control his rights through summer 2016. Waiting out that period would cost Irving millions, not to mention open himself up to losing it all should some unforeseen major injury occur. For these reasons, no player in Irving’s position has ever declined to a sign a maximum contract offer. [...]

And while Irving has said all the right things about staying put in public, it’s no secret that Irving’s camp has been making it known for years now the point guard would like to be elsewhere long term. No matter how much he denies it.

Windhorst naturally lays out all of the reasons why Irving should, with history being any indication, re-sign with the Cavaliers, including the public relations hit he would take. As the star of Pepsi MAX’s “Uncle Drew” series, damaged popularity could put a serious clamp on the spigot of endoresments.  The Cavaliers, as has been reported countless times, have the ability to match any deals Irving would receive, controlling his rights through 2016. Irving can certainly make the Cavs front office sweat a bit, allowing him to sign a mini-max extension similar to LeBron James in 2006—and we all know how this worked out long term.

“In his three seasons,” Windhorst writes, “the 21-year-old has spent a total of five days above .500, none of them coming after the second week of the season.” Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert is on record saying that he would not allow his team to be held hostage by a player who was entering free agency. That said, Gilbert has also said a lot of things on record, some of which have eventually proved untrue.

Fellow ESPN writer Amin Elhassan provides a bit of supporting work for Windhorst, laying out the options for Irving, complete with several quotes from league general managers and fellow players12. Like last summer, this coming summer is the “most important” of the point guard’s young career.

These sort of things never seem to creep up during six-game winning streaks, do they?

(Image via Scott Sargent/WFNY)

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Footnotes:

  1. “He’s never been the villain, been loved everywhere he’s gone,” the player said. “Could he come out and play with that sort of animosity from his home crowd, let alone the rest of the league?” []
  2. “Kyrie is in a rarefied air. He’s not on the same plane as a regular player who is forced to accept the work environment of the team that offers him the highest bid,” said one Western Conference assistant coach. “Coaching and management can always change; he has the stature to affect that change, to influence how the organization is run.” []

John Wall on Kyrie Irving: “I’m more of a point guard that likes to get his teammates involved”

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If you thought that Kyrie Irving would forever be compared to Detroit-turned-Milwaukee guard Brandon Knight, think again. The Cavaliers All-Star point guard has a new peer in fellow All-Star John Wall of the Washington Wizards who wishes to get in on this discussion. Wall and his team got the best of the Cavaliers on Sunday night with the Wizards guard tallying 21 points and nine assists in the win. Irving, the Eastern Conference’s All-Star starter and game’s eventual MVP (much to the chagrin of Wizards fans—RIVALRY!), provided a run-of-the-mill 15 points (on 6-of-17 shooting) with five assists.

Wall, who was taken first overall in 2010, was asked about his game, the most recent round in what is bound to be a career-long duel.

“It’s always tough [facing Kyrie],” Wall said following the game. “Everybody wants to know who is the best young point guard and who’s the best guy in the Eastern Conference. We both do things great for our team. He’s probably a better offensive guy, skill-wise, and can basically take over games with his skills. I’m more of a point guard that likes to get his teammates involved and am blessed with the talents and abilities to get hot and able to score the ball. Guys look at every time we play as a marquee matchup, so everybody is going to be tuned in for the next couple of years.”

The Cavs kept it close with much of the second quarter being a back-and-forth, blow-for-blow contest, but the Wizards would pull away in the second half as the Wine and Gold managed to shoot just 26 percent from the floor. Cleveland was, once again, without Dion Waiters (who continues to nurse a hyperextended knee). Jarrett Jack, the team’s starting shooting guard, was just 3-for-11 from the floor, providing a minus-15 on the evening. Whatever “marquee” there was hoisted above this Sunday evening event, Jack ensured that the letters were dangling like a shoddy 7-Eleven by game’s end.

Irving, like his fellow backcourt mate, struggled through most of the contest. While Wall was banking in three-point buzzer-beaters, Irving (who previously averaged 30.7 points and 7.7 assists through the first three games against the Wizards) shot 0-for-5 in the fourth quarter with his only two points came at the free-throw line. He also didn’t have any assists.

“Time is of the essence right now, especially when we want to do something special,” said Irving. “We only have 26 games left to do it. There just needs to be a better sense of urgency, including from myself. I just have to raise my level, which I will do. We still have a goal in mind that we want to accomplish and we’re going to do everything in our power to do it.”

Cavs vs. Wizards Behind The Boxscore: Depleted backcourt rears its ugly head

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The warm and fuzzy feeling associated with the Cavaliers’ recent six-game win streak seems like a distant memory. After dropping a Friday night matchup in Toronto, the Cavaliers began a new losing streak tonight at the Q, dropping one to the Wizards 96-83. There were some good moments in the first half, including a sick throwdown by Anthony Bennett. However, the absences of Anderson Varejao, C.J. Miles, and above all, Dion Waiters are starting to take its toll.

2-for-18 – The Cavaliers were ice cold from outside the arc. Missing two of their best outside threats in Miles and Waiters, the wine and gold missed plenty of open looks, including a 0-for-7 combined for the small backcourt running mates of Kyrie (Jarrett Jack and Matthew Dellavedova). Delly is just 4-for-28 from three point range in the month of February after showing the capability to knockdown the open shot in the first half of the season. Jack meanwhile is shooting just 31% in the last 16 games, and while his insertion into the starting lineup has helped free up offensive movement a bit and increased his assist totals, his defense and shooting is just killing them. [Read more...]

Breaking down the arrival of Spencer Hawes to Cleveland

 David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

A detailed look at Cleveland’s newest headband-wearing big man

The Nitty Gritty

The Cavaliers acquired 25-year old Spencer Hawes from the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for a package of Earl Clark, Henry Sims, and two second-round picks in this year’s draft. Hawes is set to be a free agent at the end of the season and the rebuilding 76ers were in a position to either trade him at the deadline or lose him for nothing at season’s end. They obviously opted for the former. Earl Clark and Henry Sims can barely be registered as a loss for this Cavs team as neither was garnering consistent minutes within Mike Brown’s rotation. The second-round picks being sent out are the Cavaliers own second-rounder this year, along with the Grizzlies’ second-round pick that they acquired last season. They still own Orlando’s second-round pick this year which, due to the Magic’s awful season, is the most valuable of the bunch.

[Read more...]

Cavs Kicks by Crown Royal: Kyrie Irving All-Star Edition

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Our great friends at Crown Royal have decided that the Reign On Spotlight which ran every Sunday during the 2013 NFL season could use a counterpart on the hardwood. Thus, over the course of the second half of the NBA season, we, as a part of Crown Royal’s Center Court program, will be featuring another spotlight of sorts—this one, shining down on the footwear choices made by members of your Cleveland Cavaliers. There is no denying the emegence of “kicks” in the NBA community, be they player exclusives or retro versions some classics of yesteryear.

This week, on a special Tuesday edition, we show you the shoes worn by Kyrie Irving throughout his incredibly successful All-Star weekend. Irving, as we intimated last week, was provided a special New Orleans-based version of his Hyperrev PE for the All-Star game, but that didn’t stop him from breaking out a few retro Jordans during the multi-day stretch.

Kyrie Irving NBA Cares Jordan III powder blue

Kyrie Irving NBA Jam Session Jordan X Steel

Kyrie Irving 3-point challenge Hyperrev PEs

Kyrie Irving All-Star MVP Hyperrev PEs

[Last Week's Cavs Kicks]

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Made for royalty, Crown Royal offers a fine array of blended whisky products such as Crown Royal Deluxe, Crown Royal Black, Crown Royal Maple, Crown Royal Reserve and Crown Royal XR. Fit for every occasion, the Crown Royal portfolio caters to those who choose to celebrate with a whisky they can incorporate into every memorable experience.

Pic: Kyrie Irving’s Eastern Conference letterman jacket

Kyrie Irving's All-Star letterman jacket

Similar to last season, the NBA unveiled Adidas letterman-style jackets for this year’s All-Stars, emblazoned in pins which represent the hardware obtained by their respective owners. Above is Kyrie Irving’s jacket, complete with his two-time NBA All-Star pin, his Rookie of the Year award, last year’s three-point challenge win and the 2014 NBA All-Star MVP award. Not bad for just three years.

(Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

Video: Best of Kyrie Irving’s All-Star performance

The NBA put out a Phantom cam video from All-Star game MVP Kyrie Irving’s performance on Sunday night.

Irving scored 31 points, missing only three shots, while amassing 14 assists. The video does not show any of his helpers.

[Related: Irving and Waiters can use All Star weekend as a springboard]

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 []

Kyrie Irving wins 2014 All-Star MVP Award

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Following a dazzling array of dribble drives, highlight reel assists and several huge three-pointers, Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving took home the 2014 Kia All-Star MVP award. Irving, helping lead a comeback win for the Eastern Conference, finished the game with 31 points (on 14-of-17 shooting), five rebounds and 14 assists. He led the East with a plus-14 point differential.

“It’s a great honor,” Irving said. “We had a few MVPs. Everyone out here today is an MVP.”

Following the game, Irving signed and tweeted the image above, dedicating his award to the city of Cleveland.

“I try not to get too high or too low,” Irving said. “It’s a great accomplishment, especially bringing this back to Cleveland. That’s the most important thing.”

Conflicted about Kyrie: A look at why Cleveland hasn’t completely embraced their latest superstar

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Kyrie Irving is about to speak to the huddled mass of media that surrounds him in the Cavaliers locker room. The Cavs just defeated the Sacramento Kings to earn their only three-game winning streak of the season. For the first time in my short tenure of covering the team with press credentials, the other media members seem to actually be in a jovial state. We’re all waiting on Irving to give us the okay to question him. He has this sort of informal ritual he does before speaking with the media in the locker room. On all the occasions I’ve seen him speak, he has been showered and in the process of getting dressed to go home before accepting questions. The media stands patiently around him. He buttons his shirt, shakes out his shoulders, and rubs his hands across his face. He’s ready to speak though I’m admittedly already not paying attention. I should feel somewhat irresponsible for this, but I don’t. I have plenty of questions I’d love to ask Irving. The problem is there’s almost no chance of him giving me an interesting response. [Read more...]

Pic: See Kyrie Irving’s All-Star Shoes

I’m the crotchety old man when it comes to posts like this, but I know there are a lot of you out there who love sports fashion. Kyrie Irving has his own special All-Star shoes for the second year in a row. They are a busy array of graffiti or notebook doodles in green on a black backdrop. It’s sure to have all you sneaker heads (shoe-dees?) drooling.

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[Related: Cavs Kicks by Crown Royal: February 7-13]

Animated: Dion Waiters celebrates Kyrie Irving’s dagger three-ball

On Wednesday night, Kyrie Irving found himself with the ball in his hands and the shot clock expiring, his Cavs up just one with less than a minute remaining. Being out of options, he launched a buzzer-beating three-pointer over the outstretched hand of Detroit’s Kyle Singler. The shot found nothing but net and put the Cavs up four points, giving them a multi-possession lead that they would hold on to through the final buzzer.

The win cemented the first four-game streak since March of 2010 but also provided fans with one of the better Dion Waiters moments of the season. High knees for everyone!

Dion Waiters Dance

What didn’t make the cut was the fact that Waiters turned his jig into a running hip-bump with Irving that may or may not have been executed four feet in to the air. Best friends, you guys.

(High five to Fear the Sword for the grab)

Video: Uncle Drew and the search for the big man

As All-Star weekend approaches, the folks at Pepsi MAX give us a new Uncle Drew video featuring Kyrie Irving. In this episode, Irving/Drew is searching for a big man to accompany his game. This is only Part I, so stay tuned as the story unfolds.

Game Preview: Cavs finish first half with pivotal road game in Detroit

Cavaliers vs PistonsAfter yet another surprising victory, the Cleveland Cavaliers have just one game left before the All-Star Break. And it’s against a familiar and troublesome opponent.

Tonight, the Cavs (19-33) will look to achieve their first four-game winning streak since LeBron James played in Cleveland. They’ll attempt to do so in Detroit against the Pistons, who have won seven straight contests against their Central Division rivals.

Not to be out-done by last week’s firing of Cavs GM Chris Grant, the Pistons factually fired their head coach Maurice Cheeks on Monday. They’ve actually been playing better ball of late, however, and beat the San Antonio Spurs later Monday night.

Can the Cavaliers somehow pull off another surprise? What have the Pistons been up to this year? How do the two franchises compare overall? Let’s explore all that in a game preview. [Read more...]

Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski writes about how the Cavs lost their way

Chris Grant Cavaliers RookiesLiterally minutes after the Cavaliers sealed a rare three-game winning streak on Tuesday night, Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski decided to rain on Cleveland’s parade and release an article about what he’d dug on a seemingly dysfunctional Chris Grant regime.

Wojnarowski is the most well connected NBA writer out there and he tends to be the one to break most of the major news that hits The Association. It’s not often though that he decides to expound further on NBA events beyond dropping #WojBombs on Twitter. So when such a well informed writer decides to go more in-depth about your favorite franchise, it’s hard not to pay close attention.

Some of the most interesting claims he makes in the article are:

  • Despite the league-wide acclaim for interim GM David Griffin, owner Dan Gilbert is going to search far and wide for a replacement this summer. That doesn’t mean Griffin is out of the running though.
  • There was belief among the Cavs organization that Grant had not scouted Jonas Valancinunas well enough before the 2011 draft. Though most of the Cavs personnel department wanted Valanciunas, Grant used the fact that the player’s agent, Leon Rose, would not negotiate a buyout agreement with his European club before they knew where he would be drafted. Thus, that was his justification to select the player he wanted in Tristan Thompson.
  • Grant passed on Andre Drummond in the 2012 draft over concerns that a Tristan Thompson-Andre Drummond frontcourt would not be offensively compatible.
  • Kyrie Irving pushed hard to have his “close friend” Harrison Barnes drafted by the Cavs in 2012.
  • Grant had been attempting to trade Dion Waiters before he was fired.
  • Klay Thompson was discussed for the No. 4 pick in the 2011 draft by the Cavs, but Grant believed he could move back into the lottery and snag him later.
  • The No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft was between Ben McLemore and Anthony Bennett.
  • If Bennett had not been selected by the Cavs, then he would have fallen somewhere around the No. 10 spot in the lottery.
  • Bennett loved making late-night pizza runs at UNLV which was a contributing factor to his weight problem.

I take qualms with some of the opinions expressed in the article such as Victor Oladipo being the “perfect two-way player to complement Kyrie” and that Anthony Bennett is a “colossal failure” considering no one in this draft class has colored themselves in glory. Plus, Bennett hasn’t been given a ton of opportunities. Nonetheless, the sourced information is fascinating and a must-read for any Cavs fan.

[Related: David Griffin: Next Man Up]

Photo: Joshua Gunter, The Plain Dealer

Cavs have another team meeting, preach “having fun”

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Following the Cavaliers’ win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday night, All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving provided one of his better post-game addresses in recent memory. Typical Irving interviews involve a slew of nervous ticks—face wiping, ear tugging—and are provided at a volume which can only be made out by those within a few feet. But on Sunday night, following a game-high 28-point outing that carried his team for the first two-game winning streak in quite some time, Irving was all smiles.

“(I) definitely had a lot of fun with my teammates out there,” said Irving following the game. “I feel that we had a great team meeting with all of us and coming out there, it was fun. Just being out there and competing at the highest level. At the end of the day, it’s just a game. Everybody is just putting too much pressure on themselves. We just need to go out there and just play basketball. That’s what we get paid to do and it’s a blessing to be out there.”

The meeting referenced by Irving came in the wake of Cavaliers majority owner Dan Gilbert firing general manager Chris Grant. The team has, to this point, significantly underperformed, leading Gilbert to make a change at the top. Irving stated that the meeting between he and his teammates focused on relaxing and having fun rather than pressing and letting the pressure of losses snowball into a toxic broth of dysfunction.

“Going out there, waking up every single day, coming to the gym to put the basketball in the hoop, that’s what you dream of, especially at the highest level,” said Irving. “It’s what you dream of. Going out there for the last two games, it’s just been fun. Whether the game is tight or it gets away from you, competing should be fun. I feel like everybody is saying the same message and is going out there and playing for one another.”

For a sizable portion of the contest, Irving was flanked by shooting guard (and season-long question mark) Dion Waiters, who finished with 18 points off of the bench. Following the final buzzer, Grizzlies head coach David Joerger referred to the two guards as the “two best players on the floor.”

“[Dion and I] just being honest with one another out there,” said Irving. “We’re telling each other what we see out there and he’s looking to me for advice, I’m looking for him for advice for just different things we see out there. Earlier in the season, we probably wouldn’t have said anything to one another. It’s just continuing to get better and feeding off one another.”

Just last week, Irving and Waiters were considered the two players who could no coexist if the Cavaliers were to ever succeed—Waiters was reportedly kicked out of a practice. Today, Irving and Waiters are two high-octane, communicating players who are playing off of one another in rhythmic fashion1.

It’s amazing what a win or two can do.

(Image via David Liam Kyle/NBAE Getty Images)

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Footnotes:

  1. “Every time I get the ball, I tell Kyrie to run behind me or go down and come off the pin down. We just have to play off one other. I think if we do that, continue to do that, we’ll be way better,” said Waiters []

Cavs Kicks by Crown Royal: January 30 – February 6

CR_logo_final_script_Gold[1]

Our great friends at Crown Royal have decided that the Reign On Spotlight which ran every Sunday during the 2013 NFL season could use a counterpart on the hardwood. Thus, over the course of the second half of the NBA season, we, as a part of Crown Royal’s Center Court program, will be featuring another spotlight of sorts—this one, shining down on the footwear choices made by members of your Cleveland Cavaliers. There is no denying the emegence of “kicks” in the NBA community, be they player exclusives or retro versions some classics of yesteryear. Check back to this spot every Friday where we recap the sneaker selections of the Wine and Gold. Who knows, there may even be something in it for you all.

Only three games this time around, but still plenty of heat on the feet of various members of the Cavaliers. Who brought it the best?

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[Related: Last week's Cavs Kicks]

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Made for royalty, Crown Royal offers a fine array of blended whisky products such as Crown Royal Deluxe, Crown Royal Black, Crown Royal Maple, Crown Royal Reserve and Crown Royal XR. Fit for every occasion, the Crown Royal portfolio caters to those who choose to celebrate with a whisky they can incorporate into every memorable experience.

Team-building exercises: The ultimate puzzle

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Amen, CJ.

Assets are a great thing to have. Look no further than Ryan’s piece  to show that the Cavaliers have plenty of them. The pantry isn’t barren. There are a number of quality ingredients in this organization, but good ingredients alone don’t bake a delicious cake or fix a good cocktail. Asset accumulation and talent acquisition were a big part of Chris Grant’s job description. It was  the portion that he performed to a satisfactory or even above-average degree. However, it’s the team-building aspect of how all those assets— how all those ingredients are measured, at what stage they’re added, and how long they’re allowed to mix together before going into the fiery oven of expectations, or the ice-filled glass of criticism—where Chris Grant failed.

[Read more...]

Scott Raab discusses Chris Grant’s firing – WFNY Podcast – 2014-02-07

WFNY Podcast LogoIt’s always great to have Scott Raab’s perspective when big things happen. We spent about an hour talking about all the different dynamics surrounding the Cavaliers and their decision to dismiss Chris Grant from the team.

As always, it was a discussion that went beyond what is normally covered in the rapid-fire sports talk settings we’re normally used to.

Check out this episode