Weekly Wine and Gold Observations
BY JUSTIN LADA
(CLEVELAND, OH) - In today’s frenzy of NBA ‘Superstars’ wanting to join forces and creating ‘Super Teams in big markets, the Cavaliers seem to stand little chance in competing in that type of league.
So when I sat down to watch the Cavaliers host the New York Knicks on Wednesday it was a case of a rebuilding team against a team with two ‘super stars’.
The Knicks have Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, guys with a combined eight All-Star appearances. The Cavs meanwhile, have 0, even their 3 time NBA championship winning coach has never been an All-Star.
Funny thing is, the Cavaliers won that game, and rather handily. And yes, these guys are all professionals and on any given night any team has a shot to win. But it was pretty clear which team worked better together. Anthony and Stoudemire are an awful mix of NBA players. Carmelo, while being one of the best offensive players in the league, hasn’t played a lick of defense since winning the NCAA Championship nine years ago. The only kind of passing he does is around the car driving in front of him.
The Cavaliers had a chance to get Stoudemire two seasons ago, for J.J. Hickson. At the time, I was admittedly against the deal. I thought that Hickson would end up turning into a player like Stoudemire. Obviously that doesn’t look like the case today. But at the time Stoudemire might have given the Cavaliers a chance to beat Orlando in 2009 at least. But now, he has two bad knees and would he fit on a team that is centered on defense, considering he has the same philosophy on defense as Anthony? Chances are he wouldn’t mesh very well with Coach Scott. Just as well he might have left the Cavaliers high and dry like LeBron.
Before I get back to the Cavs win over the Knicks, the other equation of that trade still affects the Cavaliers today. Instead of moving Hickson for Stoudemire, they moved him for Omri Casspi this past off-season. While Hickson had all the potential in the world, he only played well for Scott when Scott had to motivate him. Hickson was supposed to be a rebounder, and the best way to be a great rebounder is the motivation to do it, self-motivation, none of which Hickson had. However, the Cavs now have Casspi. And so far he has been extremely unimpressive. Either his knee is not 100% healed from the injury he had playing overseas during the lockout or the Cavs made a mistake judging his talent. He occasionally makes a few three pointers and sometimes he realizes he’s 6-9 and can make some plays at the rim. But he has no consistency to his game and looks like he plays with no energy. At 6-9 you would like to think he might force his way to the free throw line a few more times (2-4 at the line in the Cavs win over the Knicks Wednesday). And while no Cavalier had more than four free throw attempts in the win, most games the two worst offenders of not taking advantage of the free shots are Casspi and Anthony Parker. Despite being an 80% free throw shooter for his career, Parker is averaging less than one free throw per game. Hindsight is 20/20 but given how today looks I would have taken Stoudemire in 2009 rather than Casspi today. Casspi probably would be a 7th or 8th man on a good NBA team, but the Cavs have little talent on the wing, so he starts, mercifully in my opinion.
But one man who doesn’t get enough credit is Anderson Varejao. Many people over the years (including intelligent sports fans that I consider friends and family) thought that he ‘flopped around’ too much or that he played too out of control. Some people said that he was only good because of the open looks he got when James was here. But his effort on Wednesday proves that, besides Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson, he is untouchable in trade talks. 10 points, 16 rebounds (8 on the offensive glass), four steals, four assists and two blocked shots, all while only taking eight shots. His mid-range jump shot is actually reliable and he managed to piss off another quality opposing big man.
“That shouldn’t have been a technical,” Chandler said. “He was running up my back every play. On the free throw, I’m trying to get him off so he doesn’t get an offensive rebound. I get a technical. Hopefully, the league sees what really happens.
That comes from Knicks center Tyson Chandler. Varejao has been known to get under the skin of a lot of opposing player, mostly because of his hustle. It’s just another thing that Varejao provides on this team that doesn’t show up on any stat sheet, pissing off opposing bigs, getting in their head can provide more than you think.
So while the Knicks might have two of the best offensive players at their respective positions, they play almost nothing that resembles and AAU defense. The Knicks won on Tuesday night after losing six straight. The Cavs were coming in off of a loss Tuesday, their fourth straight, and flew in from Miami to play the game, and completely outhustled the Knicks.
The Knicks might make the playoffs this year and probably will continue to compete in the short term. But with two guys eating the entire payroll that don’t pass or play defense, long term they don’t’ resemble a championship contender.
The Cavaliers however, are on the right path and have a better chance to reach the NBA Finals in the next five years than the Knicks do.
Charging to Canton
The Cavaliers sent Luke Harangody to the Carton Charge of the NBADL. Harangody got his biggest minutes of the season when the Chicago Bulls blew out the Cavs last Friday. He wound up played 23 minutes and ended up with two points, two assists and three rebounds.
Interesting move with Thompson being injured, the Cavaliers could have used the 6-9 stretch power forward, but opted to get him some minutes. Christian Eyenga, un-impressive in his NBADL stint, remains on the Cavaliers roster since being recalled on January 23rd.
Return of the King Pt. II?
A friend of mine on Facebook was kind enough to post a great link about a story on NESN.com, Boston’s sports channel. The story happened to be about how LeBron James was “unhappy” with the Miami Heat’s management. According to the article, he might consider opting out of his contract in 2014 for another chance at free agency because he doesn’t like the “heavy handed and disciplined style” of Pat Riley.
You mean a guy who hasn’t heard the word no since he was 17, doesn’t like being told no? Wow, now this is a revelation.
But this story came from FSN Ohio’s Sam Amico. I’ve read Sam’s work before and I generally like some of the things he has to say on his Twitter account, but this is his ‘sources’ that made this story ‘publishable’, if you can even say that.
It’s believable James doesn’t like being told no and is clashing with a coach, because let’s face it, James is holier than thou and no one should disagree with him.
But what isn’t believable is Amico saying if James opts out in 2014, the Cavaliers would be one of the teams he would be ‘eye-balling’ if that comes.
Yeah, and Michelle Bachman is going to announce her endorsement for Newt Gingrich.
I would argue who says Dan Gilbert would want him back, but any argument against this would actually make someone thing that this ‘news’ is worth disputing. If my ‘sources’ got me fired for reporting something more than one journalist confirmed, then something like this should have Pat Riley pulling a Randy Lerner and have Ameen ‘re-assigned’.
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