April 24, 2014

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 []

Conley, Gasol, Third Quarter Woes Too Much For Recovering Cavaliers

conleykyrieThe Cavaliers have a virus that has infiltrated nearly the entire team. It has caused nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, diarrhea, a veritable Pepto-Bismol antagonist that has plagued the team for some time now.

No, I’m not talking about the flu that has stricken Tyler Zeller, Dion Waiters, Daniel Gibson, and trainer Max Benton among others. The sickness that I’m recalling is the third quarter basketball from the wine and gold.

For the third straight game, the young Cavaliers came out of the locker room at half utterly disinterested and nearly catatonic. The Grizzlies sprung a 10-0 run to open the half on the Cavs, and it gave them the lead for good in this game as a 3-point halftime lead was erased and replaced by a Memphis-controlled second half where the Cavs’ fourth quarter magic wasn’t enough this time to pardon their third quarter crimes.

[Read more...]

WFNY Stats & Info: Cavs stats since the Memphis trade

It’s now officially been 39 days since Chris Grant’s latest act of wizardry, rounding out an actually complete bench for the Cleveland Cavaliers thanks to the help of the Memphis Grizzlies.

Over these 39 days, the narrative has changed drastically for the 2012-13 Cavs season: Instead of a distraught and meaningless season ruined by Anderson Varejao’s injury, the youngins are playing their best basketball of the season. Optimism for the future is high and that is because of the significantly improved play of Dion Waiters/Tristan Thompson, the fan-friendly energy and success of the bench guys, and, of course, some occasional heroics from Kyrie Irving.

To gain a better understanding of what exactly the team has looked like during this 9-7 record and 16-game stretch, I present to you a table of statistics for the 13 players to log at least 1 minute in a Cavaliers uniform since Jan. 25:

Name GP MPG FGA/G efg% RPG APG PPG NetRTG
Kyrie Irving 13 34.0 17.5 52.0% 3.8 5.5 22.5 -3.8
Tristan Thompson 16 30.2 10.9 48.6% 9.0 1.6 13.2 -6.2
Dion Waiters 16 28.1 12.0 52.3% 2.3 3.4 15.4 -0.7
Alonzo Gee 16 27.7 6.7 49.5% 2.9 1.3 7.9 -4.5
Tyler Zeller 16 25.9 6.4 47.6% 5.6 1.8 7.8 1.7
Shaun Livingston 16 22.0 5.1 56.1% 2.2 4.1 7.2 4.6
Wayne Ellington 16 21.8 6.9 58.2% 2.4 1.3 9.6 11.9
Marreese Speights 16 21.3 10.0 44.1% 6.1 0.8 12.0 1.9
CJ Miles 14 18.5 8.4 59.3% 2.7 1.2 11.2 8.4
Luke Walton 12 17.8 2.8 45.5% 2.8 4.1 2.8 16.0
Daniel Gibson 4 10.4 2.8 40.9% 0.8 0.5 2.5 19.0
Kevin Jones 4 8.9 3.5 35.7% 2.8 0.3 2.8 18.5
Omri Casspi 3 4.4 1.3 0.0% 0.3 0.0 0.0 -23.2

 

And here are some quick-hit notes on what I see in that table and elsewhere:

Dion Waiters‘ efficiency has been the story of the stretch. In the 21-year-old rookie’s first 35 games of the season, he only had a 42.6% efficiency field goal percentage. So yeah, that’s a 10-percent jump. Is that enough proof yet? He could be really good.

– One of the knocks on Tristan Thompson‘s ceiling was that many doubted whether he could consistently average a double-double. Well, he’s at 14.9 points and 11.5 rebounds per 36 minutes overall since Andy has been out. He’s proving it too.

– As I mentioned before, one of the most notable aspects of the Cavs’ improvements when it comes to the noted Four Factors is their significant upgrade in turnover rate. Overall, here’s the A/TO breakdown: 1.33 before the trade (29th in the NBA), 1.85 since the trade (tied for best in the NBA).

– This shouldn’t be too surprising considering my stat about his Paul Millsap-esque splits prior to his arrival, but Marresse Speights has a very high usage rate in Cleveland. He only trails Irving with 16.9 FGA per 36 mins. He’s getting all the chances — and performing quite well.

– Net Rating, the final statistic in the table above, might be the one that’s not clear. It is the estimated +/- per 100 possessions for each player on the team. Obviously, one can quickly tell the large numbers for the bench — notably Ellington, Miles, Walton and Livingston. Again to clarify, +/- is not a perfect tool at all. It’s not that meaningful. But, just for fun, here are some +/- stats I noted after Tuesday’s game at Chicago:

Ellington is a +64 in his last 9 games
Walton is a +50 in his last 11 games
Miles is a +49 in his last 12 games
Livingston is a +43 in his last 14 games

[Related: Cool, calm and collected, Luke Walton leads Cavaliers’ crafty reserves]

NBA Rumor: Injured Omri Casspi wants buyout from Cavaliers

More news on the Omri Casspi front broke yesterday afternoon.

Officially, from the Cavaliers, it was announced that the seldom-used forward from Israel would be checked into a hospital from Orlando and miss Saturday night’s game against the Magic.

Here was the release from the team: “Cavaliers forward Omri Casspi was taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center this afternoon for evaluation of acute abdominal pain. He was accompanied by Cavaliers Head Athletic Trainer Max Benton. Both Casspi and Benton remain at the medical center. Casspi is listed as OUT for tonight’s game in Orlando and his status will be updated as appropriate.”

Then, unofficially, Israeli outlet Walla Sport (which has interviewed several times Casspi previously) reported that Casspi would like a buyout from the team. This isn’t shocking news considering his reported trade request from last month, but there were more details in this news bit.

According to the entirely Hebrew article (aka don’t click the link unless you know Hebrew), Casspi would like a buyout from Cleveland within 2-3 days. He then would hope to sign with a playoff team, namely Houston or Memphis. However, he would only like the buyout once a deal is in place with the next team.

Oddly enough: These murmurs come just days before Jewish Community Night at the Q, which is scheduled for Wednesday. We’ll see if Casspi is granted his reported request before the planned night of events, which included a meet-and-greet with the 24-year-old player.

Update at 11:30 a.m. Sunday: Casspi was diagnosed with acute appendicitis last night in Orlando. His appendix was later removed by Dr. Michael L. Cheatham. He stayed the night at the Orlando hospital and will be reevaluated today.

Update at 2:30 p.m. Sunday: Casspi just posted to his Facebook page with nearly 82,000 likes the following status (translated from Hebrew via Google): “Dear Friends, thank you for your concern, I am recovering and feeling much better today.” I’m sure we’ll have more news from him by tomorrow.

[Related: Chris Grant and the Cavaliers sit this trade deadline out]

WFNY Stats & Info: Marreese Speights with extended minutes

New Cavalier F/C Marreese Speights made quite a splash in his debut on Friday night against Milwaukee. In the incredible comeback victory, the 25-year-old Florida Gator provided 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting with 6 rebounds and 2 steals in 18 minutes. He played the entirety of the fourth quarter and also had some big defensive plays.

To many, it was a huge surprise of what Speights could provide to a Cleveland squad desperate for front-court help in the wake of Anderson Varejao’s season-ending injuries. But in actuality, Speights has shown an odd propensity for succeeding when getting starter-level minutes. Let’s go to the stats.

Since 2008-09 with Memphis and Philadelphia: 305 career games
Memphis games with 23+ minutes: 28 out of 100
Philadelphia games with 23+ minutes: 33 out of 205

So you can see, he hadn’t consistently received those minutes. A bit more often, obviously, in Memphis where he picked up 54 starts in 60 games last season. But at times with both teams, he would waver in and out of the starting lineup, then struggle to receive any playing time at all for weeks on end.

Career stats per-36 minutes: 16.6 points, 9.6 rebounds and 47.4% shooting
Per-36 minutes in 61 games with 23+ minutes: 18.1 points, 10.0 rebounds and 53.8% shooting
Per-36 minutes in 244 games with 0-22 minutes: 15.8 points, 9.4 rebounds and 44.1% shooting

Rebounding rates don’t change much, but wow the shooting rates — +9.7% better when getting 23+ minutes. This peculiar trend of improved shooting percentage when playing 23+ minutes appeared both in his Memphis (+11.8% increase) and Philadelphia (+9.7% increase) days. Such an odd jump can clearly skew perceptions of his overall play.

Speights got off to a great start with the Cavaliers, but actually just barely missed this peculiar 23-minute threshold of the first 4.5 seasons of his career. But after getting his feet wet, there’s no reason why his minutes — and opportunities — won’t continue to increase, and he could follow this strangely productive career pattern.

[Related: Speights and Company to see time as early as Friday]

The Diff: Franchise comparisons for the Cavaliers

Thanks to all for your really positive feedback about my first-ever edition of The Diff last week about Kyrie Irving’s potential. I’m back today with more talk about the Cavs. Hope you enjoy yet again.

The Diff

For weeks and weeks, one of my favorite NBA topics has been exploring and researching possible franchise comparisons for the Cavaliers and where they stand right now. I believe my mini-obsession with this topic started with Andrew’s excellent article last month titled “Is There Any Hope Beneath the Frustration for the Cavaliers?” This post really got my stats-focused brain a-churning. [Read more...]

Deal with Memphis is “pretty great for Cleveland”

While many want to parlay the recent trade between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Memphis Grizzlies into a cap play in exchange for depth, Grantland’s Zach Lowe chimes in with his (always educated) take:

“I was as guilty as anyone this morning in burying the lede on Twitter, in part because it makes sense to focus on the fringe title contender instead of the sad lottery team,” writes Lowe. “So here’s the lede: This is a pretty great deal for Cleveland, and the greatness is in the details of the future first-round pick Memphis is sending. The Cavaliers had about $10.35 million in cap space before this trade, and they stood as one of just three teams (Phoenix and Houston being the others) with enough cap space to take on significant Memphis salary. Cleveland, of course, has to pay a prorated portion of those salaries, and that kind of spending has a price: the draft pick.”

In exchange for cap relief in present day, Chris Grant and the Cavaliers are wagering that the Grizzlies — who are strapped for cash as it is — will not be able to keep their core together into the 2018 or 2019 season. If said core gets blown up, Memphis could potentially revert back to the team that traded Pau Gasol to the Lakers.

The pick Cleveland received today is actually a slightly lesser version of the one Toronto sent to Houston in the Kyle Lowry deal. And they received it for Jon Leuer, a player who has struggled mightily with confidence while bouncing between Cleveland and Canton. It’s a pick similar to the one that many wanted in a potential deal for Anderson Varejao, but one that may take a few seasons of cost-cutting in Memphis before it arrives in Cleveland.

“A lot of first-round picks that change hands work so that the team sending the pick doesn’t have to actually send it if it’s high in the draft (lottery protected, or top-10 protected), with another rule that if the pick isn’t sent after a few years, the team can just send a second-rounder instead.” writes Lowe. “Cleveland got a much better pick than that today.”

[Related: On the Cavaliers and the Prospects of a Failed Rebuilding Process]

NBA Rumor: Cavs Among Teams That Have Interviewed Bill Walker

Forward Bill Walker is the latest correspondent for HoopsHype, and he shares his experience in the first of his free agent blog posts:

This is Bill Walker, formerly of the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks. I’m a free agent now and will blog about my experiences this summer here at HoopsHype. Hope you find it interesting.

Recently I met with people from the Memphis Grizzlies in Las Vegas and previously with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Atlanta Hawks. It was not a personal type of interview, just business. They want to know how you are going react to certain things and see what your responses are. I think if you go in there with that type of attitude, willing to accept criticism, you’ll be fine.

Walker has averaged 5.8 points and 2.0 rebounds per game over his 157-game NBA career during the past four seasons. The 24-year-old Kansas State product is a solid scorer off the bunch who isn’t afraid to put up a lot of shots. Given the right environment, he could blossom as a premier bench scorer for a potential playoff team, such as the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Heck, I know I’d have a lot of fun seeing him as a scoring option in his precious few moments alongside Kyrie Irving on the court. That’d be plenty of fun. But given his current suitors, I don’t currently think he’ll sign with the Cavs. It seems he’s interested in returning to the New York Knicks, and that’s where I think he’ll land up eventually.

[Related: NBA Trade Rumor: Cavs Discussing Trade to Land Andrew Bynum in Magic-Lakers Deal]

Kyrie Irving Sits the Fourth as Cavs Cruise into Summer

With approximately eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter on a Monday night in Memphis, Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving cheered as his teammate Samardo Samuels dropped in a finger roll, bringing their team within one point of a back-and-forth contest against an opponent many feel could challenge for the Western Conference finals. Like clockwork, he then began to affix his body armor. Knee pads were properly positioned, shin guards raised from resting on his Nike high-tops to their location of utility.

But Irving waited. He then waiting some more.

[Read more...]

Report: Lester Hudson to sign with Memphis Grizzlies

According to the Memphis newspaper The Commercial Appeal, G Lester Hudson will sign with the Grizzlies and will be eligible for their playoff roster-

“Guard Lester Hudson, whose second 10-day contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers expired on Wednesday, is expected to sign with the Griz for the rest of the season. A source with knowledge of the situation confirmed that Hudson has a verbal agreement to return to his hometown of Memphis.

Hudson, 27, will be eligible for the postseason because he had not been waived. He’ll be added as insurance in the backcourt as veteran sharpshooter Gilbert Arenas recovers from an injury on his shooting hand.”

Apparently, because he was not waived by the Cavaliers, he is eligible for post-season play, provided the Grizzlies put him on the active roster.

Memphis Grizzlies Have No Interest In Trading Rudy Gay To Cleveland

We’ve heard plenty of rumors regarding the Cleveland Cavaliers recently, some of them legit, some of them downright laughable. The one that has seem to stuck the most, though, is the rumor that the Cavs were interested in trading for Memphis Grizzlies’ SF Rudy Gay.

Perhaps the Cavaliers did have some interest, but it was always questionable whether the Grizzlies would be interested in trading Gay. The common thought was that the Grizzlies’ playoff run without Gay made him expendable and that they would be open to shedding the giant contract they gave him last year. Dan Gilbert has proven he will spare no expense, so a deal actually kind of made sense.

But according to Grizzlies owner Mike Heisley, we can stop all that talk right now. In a phone interview with the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Heisley makes it clear that the Grizzlies are not trading Gay: [Read more...]

Cavaliers Give it Away in Memphis, Tie Losing Streak Record

The Cavaliers tied the NBA’s consecutive loss record last night in Memphis with their 23rd straight defeat.  It felt like this was the one to break the streak, but, as has been a trend, they squandered their opportunity with a horrendous fourth quarter to lose by 7.  Over the course of about a quarter, from the 9 minute mark in the third to midway through the fourth, the Cavaliers went from winning by 11 to losing by 12.  These Cavaliers have achieved a number of things never seen before but their mastery of the 20 point differential quarter this season is astounding.

The Cavaliers were competitive in this one due in large part to the contributions from J.J. Hickson. [Read more...]

Cavs’ Weekend Was About Shoddy Officiating and JJ Hickson’s Shoes

Getcha sunglasses ready.

Heading into a much-anticipated week where the Cavaliers play host to the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat, they have not only won two of their last three games, but they played hard and competed in their 11-point loss to the Orlando Magic.  And if there is a silver lining, or even a bright yellow lining, it is that fans will get to see a lot more of J.J. Hickson’s new shoes.

Discussed for what was the entirety of Saturday night’s 92-86 comeback win over the Memphis Grizzlies, Cavaliers forward J.J. Hickson wore what head coach Byron Scott called “some of the ugliest shoes he has seen in a long time.”  Big, bright and yellow would be the easiest way to describe Hickson’s new kicks, the ones he called “Cheetos” after the game.

[Read more...]

Shaquille O’Neal Starting to “Heat” Up

SPORTS BKN-CAVS-HEAT 8 MIGet the joke, everyone? The Cavaliers continue their home stand hosting the Miami Heat tonight at the Q. Shaq used to play for Miami and even won a title with that team several years ago. Their nickname is the Heat and has been so since they entered the league in 1988. Shaquille “The Big Shaqtus” O’Neal also happens to be playing his best basketball of the season as of late.

Entering this historic season for the Cleveland Cavaliers, the uncertainty following the acquisition for Shaq was definitely the biggest question mark. Many of the writers on this site openly criticized the trade when it happened, including this writer. On the surface, it was a desperate gamble for GM Danny Ferry to prove to LeBron James that he was serious about winning a championship immediately. Nobody knew how much of an impact Shaq would actually make on the court and it seems we are only starting to find out now.
[Read more...]

Cavs 105, Grizzlies 89: Nine Straight Wins for the Wine and Gold

lebronmemphisIt’s actually harder to write a recap after a game like this. They Cavs played so well, and the Grizzlies looked so out of it that there is hardly anything to discuss. It would be nit-picking to try and find negatives . Let’s look at a few numbers-

6- As in six wins in a row without Mo and Delonte both in the lineup. This was the game that I thought we might not extend the streak. Coming up the Cavs play the Heat, and even though the Cavs beat Miami just last week without Molonte, the Heat have a quick strike back court. The Cavs should still expect to win, and I’m sure that we’ll see Delonte continue to rest that hand. After the Heat we play the Knicks and Nets. This is a great opportunity for West to get healthy.

15- As in LeBron’s assist total for the night. The Cavs have gone big due to the injuries and with LeBron playing the point we haven’t seen a team that can match. The Grizzlies are perhaps the biggest team in the league, but they were no match tonight.

66- LeBron’s assist total the last six games, eleven per contest. It would be even higher if not for a four-assist night against the Thunder. [Read more...]

Bring on Leon

sp_leonpowe_0233a_flDuring last night’s 111-109 overtime loss in Memphis, something was made abundantly clear to me: The Cavaliers under the radar signing of PF Leon Powe will pay big dividends later in the season and into the playoffs.

Late in the fourth quarter and into overtime, the Grizzlies and the Cavs were back and forth exchange leads. It seemed as though neither team could get the necessary stop they needed. That is a disturbing trend considering Mike Brown likes to hang his hat on the defensive end. While his team is going to be a work in progress while he sorts through the Delonte West situation, what to do with Shaquille O’Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and keeping the offense flowing, Brown has to be concerned abut what is happening on D.

During the 66-win, 08-09 campaign, it seemed that anytime the Cavs needed a big stop, they got it (minus the Magic series). So far this year, we have seen way too many average teams pick apart the Wine and Gold on the defensive end. Last night was no exception. [Read more...]

Cavs 109, Grizzlies 111 (OT): LeBron Comes Up Short

James on five“Every eight games or so the Cavaliers have one of these games.” Austin Carr

What kind of game are we talking about Austin? You are absolutely right by the way. I don’t know if you could put a number on it, but every couple of weeks the Cavaliers have an absolutely ugly game like this one. They have a game where LeBron feels like he has to do everything in order for the team to win, and nobody tells him he’s wrong.

Now, they often win these games. That might just be part of the problem. LeBron actually IS good enough to beat some teams by going to the one on five offense. Last night they committed too many turnovers and had too many defensive lapses to overcome. [Read more...]

NBA Free Agency: Hakim Warrick, Anyone?

poy06_warrick_600pxCaught in the whirlwind of Dolan Salary Dumping 2009 was the quiet front of the Cavaliers and their never-ending plan to make this team better.  Many thought that the additions of Shaquille O’Neal, Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon would be it until at least August when the team would then look to add another power forward or point guard.  Or both.

Thankfully, Brian Windhorst shed some light late last night: the Cavs are still not done adding pieces to the 2009-10 roster.  The latest comes on the forward front with a pretty solid name thrown in to the mix.

According to a league source, the Cavs have a contract offer out to a forward and are hoping to get an answer within the next few days. That forward is believed to be Hakim Warrick, a 6-9 athletic big man who has played the past four seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies.

The team is believed to be offering its biannual exception, which would be just under $2 million for this season, plus a player option for the 2010-11 season.

[Read more...]

Darius Miles Too Bad For a Feel-Good?

milesmugFormer Cavalier Darius Miles just can’t let himself be a feel-good story.  He undermines himself at every turn.  Miles had a big year in the news when you consider he only played in 34 games for the Grizzlies this season.  He was attempting a comeback from micro-fracture surgery and his career was considered to be over by some doctors.  He was subsequently released by the Blazers.  Then, as other teams were interested in signing Miles to play, the Blazers panicked because they were going to be responsible for a large portion of Miles’ 4-year $28 million deal if he played again.  And play he did for the Memphis Grizzlies.  He even was thought to be a sympathetic figure to our own TD in an article about how Darius Miles was an important part of the Cavs’ journey to LeBron-ville.

Now, Miles has finished the job of submarining and potential good will that he could have developed this season.  He was picked up for marijuana possession.  If that wasn’t enough, now the rumors are circulating that Miles won’t be back with the Grizzlies next year and not because of his basketball playing ability at all. [Read more...]

Delonte West Sits Out Cavaliers Victory

Cavaliers 94, Memphis 79 (Box)

The wrist was sore enough for Delonte West to miss his 17th game of the season. The Cavaliers say there is nothing to worry about and they were just being cautious. I have to imagine those 15 wins Memphis came into town with weren’t intimidating enough for the Cavs to allow Delonte to push himself. Hey, why are the numbers bold? Ah, it must be time to break down a Cavs win by the numbers

9- As in blocked shots. The Cavaliers were business like early in the game, especially on the defensive end contesting every shot and recording several blocks in the first few minutes of the game. Ben Wallace was getting off the floor to erase shots, and LeBron and Z combined on one play to block consecutive shots. The early defensive pressure set the tone for the game and got the Cavs a secure lead. [Read more...]