July 31, 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...]

Chris Grant resisted front office push to trade for Thunder’s James Harden

James Harden, J.J. HicksonJames Harden seemed to be a fantasy trade target for many Cavaliers fans back when he was a lightning scoring guard off the Oklahoma City Thunder bench. Now, he’s a two-time All-Star for the Houston Rockets. And today, upon the firing of Cavs GM Chris Grant, we learn that such a deal actually could have occurred.

Grantland’s Zach Lowe, one of the best writers in the NBA, had a great final post on Grant’s tenure in Cleveland. You should go read the entirety of the post because it’s one of the best out anywhere on the topic. In running through the oft-criticized asset accumulation, Lowe then shared this tidbit:

A segment of the front office pushed Grant hard to make a run at James Harden before last season, using a combination of picks and any Cavalier other than Irving. Grant resisted, and he has generally been known around the league as a difficult sort to deal with. Executives on other teams lament that Grant overvalues his own players to the point of paralysis, and that could have prevented the Cavs from throwing their hat in the Harden ring.

Instead, on Oct. 28, 2012, just days before the 2012-13 season, Oklahoma City traded Harden to Houston. The final deal: Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks and a second-round pick for Harden and three relatively obscure scrubs.

The 24-year-old Harden has now emerged as one of the NBA’s elite scorers for the Rockets, who later added center Dwight Howard this past offseason. In Oklahoma City, the 2009 No. 3 overall pick controlled the team’s offense off the bench. In 120 games for Houston, he has averaged over 25 points per game.

As seen above, Harden once laid down a thunderous dunk on Cleveland’s J.J. Hickson on Dec. 12, 2010. Now, it seems, the thought of his name could  haunt Cavaliers fans’ dreams for a long time to come.

Related James Harden articles at WFNY:
Could Dion Waiters fill the James Harden role? — Oct. 2012
The reality of the James Harden deal in Cleveland — Nov. 2012
Waiters’ move to reserve is long overdue, but in a good way — Jan. 2013
NBA Draft: On Dion Waiters, Ben McLemore and starting — June 2013

Photo: AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

NBA News: Mike Miller clears waivers, wasn’t interested in Cavs

After initial speculation yesterday, Mike Miller has cleared amnesty waivers and was not interested in being claimed by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Miami Heat waived the 33-year-old shooter two days ago and the deadline for filing an amnesty waiver claim with the NBA was 5 p.m. Thursday. If no one placed a claim, Miller would become an unrestricted free agent, able to sign with any team besides Miami. The move saved the Heat a considerably amount of money because of added luxury tax, with Miller being owed two more years at the full mid-level exception. Teams could have placed claims up to that mid-level amount, with Miami then paying the rest.

Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal reported (here and here) that Miller was never interested in coming to play for Cleveland. The team had been contemplating placing a claim, but while deciding between back surgery and signing soon, Miller made it clear he wanted to play for a different team.

Shortly after becoming an unrestricted free agent, rumors circulated that Miller was leaning toward signing with one of the Western Conference contenders. ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst wrote that Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Houston and Memphis are expected to compete for his services. Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnaowski added that the Thunder have emerged as the frontrunner.

Also, in a factor that seemed to be quite related yesterday because of salary cap paperwork, the Cavs now have announced an official 11 a.m. Friday press conference to announce new free agent signing Andrew Bynum. The Plain Dealer first reported this news. The press conference had been rumored to occur on Thursday, then later was postponed amid the Miller speculation.

[Related: The Diff: Fun Cleveland Cavs facts fans keep forgetting]

2013 NBA Draft, 2013 NBA trade scenarios and more with Kirk – WFNY Podcast – 2013-05-29

WFNY Podcast LogoKirk wrote a fantastic article exploring the trade market available to the Cavs and I wanted to go over it and push him further on it since it has been out there a few days. Of course we also talked about some other stuff like Dwight Howard.

  • Kirk’s NBA Draft Rumors article
  • Being an eighth seed and the pains of it
  • The finishing of one three year plan and starting another to compete for a title
  • Oklahoma City trading Harden one season too early to Houston
  • Should OKC have played one more year and taken a CLE deal?
  • Did people expect Harden to be as good as he’s been this season in Houston?
  • Demarcus Cousins and how scared we all are of him
  • Luol Deng and why he might or might not work
  • Joe Johnson contract hell
  • Deron Williams and the Brooklyn cap space situation
  • Dwight Howard and whether or not you can gamble with him
  • Would you take a chance on Dwight Howard with the Cavs? (hypothetically)
  • The Dream scenario and how Kevin Love is not a possibility
  • What if the Cavs do nothing?
  • How coachable are the Cavs’ young guys like Kyrie Irving, Tyler Zeller and Tristan Thompson?
  • Missing Delonte West and loving his game
  • Ben McLemore and Nerlens Noel and who they can become [Read more...]

The Boots: NBA Draft lottery, Byron Scott’s tenure, playoffs

nerlens noelIn my usual half-rapid fire, half-prose form, I’m here today with another edition of The Boots. Again, for those unfamiliar with this feature, I assign loosely defined “Boot Up” or “Boot Down” votes to trending topics in the sports world. Let’s talk basketball again today.

Boot Up: Slotting in at No. 3 – That’s not necessarily what Cavs fans were hoping from the 2012-13 season. Kirk, Scott and Andrew all have written way more eloquently than I possibly could about the franchise’s current situation post-Byron Scott. But for now, I’d like to focus on what it means for the draft. Obviously, slotting in at No. 3 lines up the stars for a possible better pick than later in the lottery, as fans hoped before the year and maybe even as late as the end of February. [Read more...]

Another Cavs blowout brings more ‘fire Byron Scott’ murmurs

Chris Grant, Kyrie Irving, Byron ScottAny time your team is having a 22-47 season, it’s certain to elicit negative reactions from fans about the organization’s head coach. But it’s a very nuanced type of negativity when it deals with Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Byron Scott.

Multiple times this year — notably, after the team started 5-23 — fans have questioned whether he’s the right coach to lead the Cavs into their hopeful playoff seasons down the road. Many have questioned his rotations. Others have questioned his overall toughness. Some have recalled how previous New Jersey and New Orleans teams started to ignore him by the end of his reign.

Whatever your Byron Scott-related point of view du jour, it’s likely that you displayed it on Twitter as the Cavaliers suffered their worst loss of the season, 118-76, on Friday in Houston. This of course followed Cleveland’s loss despite a 27-point lead against Miami on Wednesday. Placed within the context of Scott’s 186 games with the organization, it’s just been another tough week on the job. [Read more...]

While We’re Waiting… Already starting to doubt the Browns?

While We’re Waiting serves as the early morning gathering of WFNY-esque information for your viewing pleasure. Have something you think we should see? Send it to our tips email at tips@waitingfornextyear.com.

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Skepticism Sunday: “It’s happening already. There hasn’t been a practice or even an organized team activity, let alone a game that counts. The team can’t even officially meet as a whole, but already, it’s happening. It seems with each passing regime, many in the Cleveland Browns fan base and media become increasingly more skeptical and mistrusting of the next group that comes in. Their reasons are not unfounded.” [Ryan Alton/Draft Browns]

Is drafting a guard the undoubted best move? “The best way for the Cleveland Browns to improve is for them to use the sixth pick in the draft to take Chance Warmack, offensive guard from Alabama and begin to complete the best offensive line in the NFL. When that happens, with a healthy Trent Richardson running behind that line, Brandon Weeden can be great. Or Colt McCoy. Or your grandmother, if she has a decent arm and half a brain.” [Brian Tarcy/The OBR]

Looking for stars on defense: “As you know, the 2013 Ohio State Buckeyes have a lot of defensive starters to replace. With only four returning starters — including none on the defensive line — the defense this fall will have more question marks than Frank Gorshin’s Riddler suit. Among those queries will be the usual ruminations on which young players will step up, which freshmen are likely to see playing time, who among last year’s backups can make the leap, and whether or not the D can continue the evolution it began over the last quarter of 2012. But perhaps the biggest question of all is: where will the defensive leadership come from in 2013? The Buckeyes will be as green as the Ohio Stadium turf on the defensive side of the ball.” [Michael Citro/Eleven Warriors]

This sounds familiar, eh? “Impossible as it may be, there is currently one small-market NBA team that may have the opportunity to replicate the Oklahoma City model. In the two and a half seasons since the end of the LeBron James era, the Cleveland Cavaliers have limped to a total record of 60-146 and have amassed four first round draft picks and currently have two more selections in the upcoming 2013 NBA draft (a likely lottery pick of their own and another from either the Heat or the Lakers). Stockpiling draft picks, sound familiar?” [Eric Palutsis/Pro Basketball Draft]

Loved this back-and-forth roundtable over at CTB: “There have been some notable exceptions (there’s at least one nice drive and kick play a game, for example), but overall the on-court chemistry between Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving has been severely lacking. Dion hasn’t really figured out any off-ball moved or cuts yet, and combined with the fact that Kyrie is occasionally a reluctant passer, what often results is a stunted isolation for Kyrie at the end of the shot clock, while Dion sulks thirty feet from the hoop. I would love for Byron Scott to initiate a lot more movement for the Cavaliers in general, and a lot of that should involve the backcourt.” [Dani/Cavs: The Blog]

Looking at another LOOGY? “With the departures of relief pitchers Rafael Perez and Tony Sipp during the offseason, the Indians now have a huge opening in their bullpen for a lefty – preferably one who throws strikes and is not afraid of the later innings. Nick Hagadone would seem to fit the bill, for the most part. In parts of the last two seasons with the Tribe, the left-hander has shown the ability to strike people out and hold opposing bats at bay. The problem for Hagadone is that he has also shown the penchant for melting down.” [Craig Gifford/Did The Tribe Win Last Night?]

Baseball stats in the spring, what could be bad? “If a team has a really great spring training, it’s not like they can carry some of those wins over to the regular season. Ultimately, spring records don’t matter – players are rusty and getting in shape and pitchers may be trying some new pitches. Teams will occasionally come from behind to win at the end of games, when minor leaguers not expected to be on the 25-man roster are on the field. Is there ever any correlation between your record during spring training, and how you perform during the regular season? I figured I’d take a look at the Indians during the past 10 seasons when it comes to spring vs. the regular season, as well as teams that made the playoffs over the past 10 seasons.” [Stephanie Liscio/It's Pronounced "Lajaway"]

And finally, not Cleveland-related per se, but still related to stats. And maybe the opposite will occur to the Tribe in 2013? “There is a term used often in the sports analytic community called regression, or reversion to the mean, that contends that if a statistical phenomenon occurs, it is likely not to occur again and revert closer or back to the norm or average. In layman’s terms, it is a sophisticated way of saying things will even out. With this in mind, I took a look at MLB playoff teams since 2008 that improved their win totals by at least ten wins from one season to the next and then saw if they had a significant drop-off the next year, i.e. reverting back to the mean. What I found was of the 11 teams in this study, each one lost at least 5 more games the next season and 8 of the 11 failed to get back into the playoffs.” [Alex Burwasser/Bloomberg Sports' Stats Insights]

The Diff: Cavalier notes on Tristan, turnovers, trades, etc

Thanks so much to all of our WFNY readers (even my friend Terry Pluto) for sharing, liking and commenting on last week’s edition of The Diff about Michael Bourn. I’m heading back to basketball this week to share an assortment of thoughts as the team begins the second half tonight.

The Diff

Tristan Thompson’s progress

One of my favorite new Twitter friends is Ed Manly over at @laughingcavs. I only discovered his account and tremendous website after he responded to me about some Tristan Thompson stats-post Anderson Varejao’s injury. So it’s only fitting that the first time I reference him here at WFNY that it’s again about my favorite-ever Cavalier Canadian1. [Read more...]

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Footnotes:

  1. For the record, I checked: The only other Canadian Cavalier I could find is Stewart Granger, the 24th pick in the 1983 Draft who played one season in Cleveland. []

Irving’s disinterest piques that of Cavalier fans

20130123-102356.jpgA strange thing happened this past weekend: Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving, who previously could do no wrong, irked a few fans when he candidly admitted that he was agitated and became disinterested midway through a basketball game. A game wherein the All-Star was benched for the entire fourth quarter — alongside the rest of the team’s starting unit — while his team would ultimately reside on the embarrassing side of the win-loss ledger.

Using his considerably short career as a barometer, the night was nine kinds of bizarre. Irving had one field goal attempt in the second half. His typically assertive and kid-in-a-candy-store body language seemingly transformed into pouting. It was not quite Game 5, but Irving went from leader to lackey in the matter of 48 game minutes. He owned the loss, claiming responsibility, but his quote — “My energy wasn’t there; it was there in the first quarter, then the second and third I was disinterested …” — rang louder than any game-winning bell the second-year marvel has rung.

[Read more...]

Thunder, Lightning, and Kyrie: A Storm Of Epic Proportions At The Q

kyrieibakaWe all know how difficult the weather can be to predict. Who hasn’t been caught on a seemingly bright and sunny day without an umbrella when the skies suddenly open up? The Oklahoma City Thunder strolled into snowy Cleveland winners of 35 games in their 46 attempts this season. Meanwhile, the Cavs were less than 24 hours removed from the embarrassing and lackluster defensive effort against the middling Pistons. The weatherman, whether you take him or her in the form of Vegas, analysts, fans, or even this writer, failed to forecast this one correctly and was fooled yet again. It was the quick shower that was C.J. Miles’s bench production, followed by a wall of smothering, low-hanging clouds in the form of Marreese Speights, capped off by the lightning bolts coming off the kicks of Kyrie Irving that lit up Quicken Loans Arena and the surrounding stratosphere and propelled the Cavaliers to a 115-110 victory over an Oklahoma City squad poised for a deep playoff run. [Read more...]

Video: Kyrie Irving puts on a display against the Oklahoma City Thunder

Kyrie Irving happened, once again. Another huge fourth quarter from the 20-year old. I’d recommend fast-forwarding to the one-minute mark to see the dagger-like damage Irving does to Russell Westbrook, but the bevy of lay-ins over outstretched arms coupled with his first dunk of the season are too good to miss. This kid is special.

[Related: Does Kyrie Irving have a second act up his sleeve?]

WFNY Stats & Info: Comparing Cavs’ momentum to the Thunder’s

Yesterday, we started off a new series in the WFNY Stats & Info column. Today, I follow up on some of the same themes.

After looking at breakdown of the Cavs relatively improved play in their last 15 games, I couldn’t resist looking into how it compared to the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2008-09. As I wrote at great length in The Diff on Wednesday, that was Kevin Durant’s second year and Russell Westbrook’s first. Let’s look at the numbers.

2012-13 Cleveland Cavaliers
Cavs efficiency in first 28 games (record: 5-23): 99.1-105.9 (-6.8)
Cavs efficiency in last 15 games (record: 6-9): 102.9-106.4 (-3.5)

2008-09 Oklahoma City Thunder
Thunder efficiency in first 32 games (record: 3-29): 97.6-107.1 (-9.5)
Thunder efficiency in last 50 games (record: 20-30): 103.7-108.1 (-4.4)

Obviously I don’t want to get ahead of myself. The sample size isn’t quite there yet. It’s impossible to truly say they’re similar situations, at all. And as comments and tweets replied back yesterday, the Cavs’ recent easy strength of schedule could certainly be a factor. But it’s just a neat comparison.

Digging deeper, the Thunder fired P.J. Carlesimo after starting 1-12 that season. They then kept sliding to 3-29 under Scott Brooks until eventually figuring it out. Their 20-30 run then led to a 50-win season the next year, and they’ve been great ever since.

Dare I say the Cavs are going to be that good that quickly? Absolutely not. But it’s undeniable they’ve looked and played more competitively recently, even without Anderson Varejao in the lineup. And they seem to be carrying a decent amount of momentum that should carry over to higher expectations in the 2013-14 season.

[Related: The Diff: Franchise comparisons for the Cavaliers]

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...]

Silver lining on the Varejao injury, the rebuild moves forward

Anderson VarejaoIt’s hard not to feel some pain for Anderson Varejao after hearing the news that his knee contusion was in fact a torn muscle in his leg. Memories of Andy winning the game with a buzzer beating 3-pointer against Atlanta, and giving Ray Allen the business during a national televised game against the Celtics are two of my favorite moments I’ve enjoyed at the Q. I’ve really never enjoyed watching basketball more than watching Andy and LeBron fly around the court together.

That being said, Andy’s injury increases the Cavs’ chances of completing a successful rebuild.

The longer Andy is off the court, the worse this team is.

The worse this team is, the more ping pong balls they have in the lottery.1

The more ping pong balls in the lottery, the better chance of landing a superstar.

[Read more...]

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Footnotes:

  1. The lottery is won with a winning four ball combination. For simplicity’s sake let’s use ping pong balls as the example instead of how many four ball combinations a team has. []

Varejao trade destinations…or lack there of

Anderson Varejao was everything I loved about basketball. He was hustle, he was emotion, he was heart. He was 36 minutes of controlled chaos, spinning a fury around opposing frontcourts.

But not anymore.

He’s now much, much more than that.

The Wild Thing is no longer a gimmicky role player, he’s the best center in the Eastern Conference and one of the best players in the NBA. He leads the NBA in every major rebounding category, and has been one of the ten best offensive players in the league. No that wasn’t a typo, Andy has molded himself into an offensive gem.

Andy has always created mayhem running the pick and roll, but his ability to play point forward, run dribble hand offs, and create his own shot in isolations have taken his offense to new levels.

Number 17 in Wine and Gold is no longer just an asset for Chris Grant and the Cavaliers, he’s the prize pig at the fair. Any team would happily take the Wild Thing’s services, especially a serious playoff contender, but there are few contenders with enough assets to offer the Cavaliers in return. [Read more...]

Regardless of LeBron’s fortune, I already own the conclusion

One of the hardest lessons I learned from the LeBron James situation in Cleveland is that I can’t let anyone have that kind of control over me ever again. The power that LeBron James had over Cleveland was granted to him by people just like you and me. Sure, it was augmented by Phil Knight and Nike, as well as enablers that worked for both Gordon Gund and Dan Gilbert, but ultimately you can’t be sold anything if you aren’t willing to buy it. When it came to LeBron James, Cleveland bought in hard. In hindsight, too hard.

For all the stupidity that occurred during LeBron’s free agency, it was amplified by the fact that LeBron’s actions forced us to look in the mirror and question ourselves. For a lot of us we didn’t like what we saw. Andy Baskin penned a long piece about how he felt he and the media had failed in a lot of ways in covering James. Even the angriest of fans, including the few that burned their jerseys, were more than likely redirecting a lot of their own self-anger and self-hatred toward LeBron James whether they knew it or not. In hindsight, for me and I think for a lot of other fans out there, it was self-hatred fueling a large amount of the fire. It is important to know that. It doesn’t let James off the hook as catalyst and key figure in the situation, but it is a far more balanced and intellectually honest view and baseline to begin any conversation on the topic. [Read more...]

Seattle… We Feel Your Pain

There are very few cities that understand what the fine people of Seattle are feeling this morning. The anger. The bitterness. The anguish. The pure disgust and hatred for the carpet-bagging owner that ripped your heart out and stomped on it. We all know how that feels here in Cleveland. Watching the Oklahoma City Thunder win the NBA’s Western Conference last night is one last kick in the gut to the Pacific Northwest.

Back in 1995, Art Modell stood all smiles with the Governor of Maryland, Parris Glendening and told the world “I leave Cleveland, Ohio after 35 years, I leave a good part of my heart and soul there. I will never forget the kindness of the people, the fans that supported the Browns for years. But frankly, it came down to a simple proposition. I had no choice.” [Read more...]

A Cavalier Conversation: NBA Draft, Free Agency, Playoffs

The NBA is in full steam, and to celebrate the occasion, I brought along my brother Sam Rosen (@sjrosen18) to chat about some of the hot topics going on right now. Hope y’all enjoy our takes on topics ranging from the NBA Draft to the Cavs’ offseason and the playoffs.

1. Assuming that Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Bradley Beal are the first three picks in order, what should the Cleveland Cavaliers do with the No. 4 pick?

Sam: Harrison Barnes is the logical pick at 4 assuming these three are off the board. Touted as the next big thing coming out of high school, Barnes never lived up to the ridiculous hype he faced at North Carolina. Hype is one thing, but pure talent is another. His size (6-8, 220 lbs.), his age (19 as of this writing), and his overall raw talent warrant a selection in the top 5 of any draft class. Barnes has all the tools to become an elite SF at the NBA level, and with proper coaching and a few years of seasoning, he could end up being the best player in this draft.

[Read more...]

The 2012 NBA Draft, And A Ticking Clock

In Cleveland, the next draft always seems to be the most important event in franchise history. The Browns were at yet another precipice and holding three early picks this year, and the 2012 Draft was expected to define this regime. With their second quarterback selection in three years, this is likely the draft that will make or break the front office. They’re running out of time, and they’re all in.

The Cavaliers landed their franchise piece last season and are in a much more comfortable position, but that doesn’t make this draft any less important. Cavs’ fans are well aware that time is a valuable commodity in the NBA. In this era of player movement, a championship contender can become a lottery team overnight. Dan Gilbert says we’re now building “with” players instead of “around” them. Regardless of semantics, the clock still ticks on a build.

[Read more...]

Kyrie Does It Again, Cavs Shock Thunder, 96-90

This is getting pretty ridiculous.

With two and a half minutes to play and trailing 84-85, Byron Scott took a timeout to settle his young team. The Cavs had played hard the entire evening but the Western Conference leading Thunder had taken control and were looking to push their home winning streak to 15 games.

The next three plays looked something like this:

Kyrie Irving layup, Cavs up 86-85, 2:14 to play.

Kyrie Irving layup, Cavs up 88-85, 1:37 to play.

Antawn Jamison layup (Kyrie Irving assists), Cavs up 90-85, 1:07 to play.

Ballgame.

Irving’s final line was 9-12-6-3, Antawn Jamison led the team with 21, and Alonzo Gee finished with 12 points and 8 boards. Kevin Durant finished with 23-8-8 and Russell Westbrook added 19 points and 4 assists for the Thunder, who dropped to 17-2 at home.

Some random thoughts on what turned out to be a really satisfying win:

[Read more...]