I’d like to thank the Cavs and the NBA for making the decision to televise all eight of the Cavaliers’ preseason games. The anticipation for the Cavs’ first non-tanking, post-LeBron season has been absolutely killing me and televising these meaningless exhibition games has really allowed me to quench my basketball thirst. I’m not sure why it took until 2013 for someone to decide that we needed preseason Austin Carr but I thank them for it.
I didn’t think it was possible, but somehow the Cavs’ two preseason victories have gotten me even more pumped for the 2013-14 campaign.
In the first game, the Cavs came out and blitzed the Bucks with something that looked like a lot like actual NBA defense. The Cavs controlled the whole game and it was a joy to watch. The Cavs didn’t fare quite as well against the Magic, getting themselves down by 18 early in the game. But their second half push and Anthony Bennett’s fourth quarter explosion was just as rewarding to watch as their first game blow out.
Basketball is back!
Of course, there’s some caveats. First of all, this is preseason. Preseason! None of this actually matters and teams are working through new personnel and new sets. Second, not only have the Cavs only played two preseason games, but they faced opponents who went a combined 58-106 last season.
So not only are the Cavs 2-0 after two meaningless preseason games. They’re 2-o after two meaningless preseason games against some fairly crappy competition.
But things could be worse, no? The Cavs could’ve come out flat against their crappy competition. They could’ve looked lost defensively. Hell, last year the Cavs barely got past Montepaschi Siena in their preseason opener and the Plain Dealer was writing things like “Samardo Samuels was the best Cavalier on the floor.”
Things have definitely improved.
These are my first impressions of the 2013-14 Cleveland Cavaliers.
I don’t miss Byron Scott. I’m fully aware it’s unfair to compare the rosters of Byron’s teams and Coach Mike’s current Cavs. Mike Brown doesn’t have a bench full of D-leaguers and Luke Walton. Mike Brown has non-terrible veterans like Jarrett Jack as a backup floor general. I get that. But Mike Brown also has a defensive plan and it was clear the Cavs were executing it. While I kind of miss the stoney faced, arms crossed Scott, Brown has been animated and active on the sideline. Coach Mike hasn’t been shy about calling time outs to address a defensive breakdown and it seems like he’s always in a conversation with one of the multitude of young players. Plus, his face when he put a clearly gassed Anthony Bennett back on the floor for the final minute against Orlando was priceless.
Anthony Bennett is gonna be fun. Bennett is clearly working himself back into shape, but I’m not super concerned at the moment (I’ll be Officially Concerned if he’s out of shape next year). Plus, I just like having a Fat Cavalier to root for1. And while I’m glad the Cavs bringing him along slowly, I cannot wait for Bennett to throw down a monster dunk and blow the lid off The Q. Defense is the primary concern with Bennett but I’ve been fairly impressed by his defensive activity thus far. He seems to be giving a crap and that’s basically 95% of NBA defense. Plus, he’s quick, he has freaky long arms and he’s a load to move on the block. I also love that he seems a little teensy bit dirty. If you watch Bennett without the ball, he’s always shoving or giving someone a forearm check or a shoulder bump. I love it. And offensively? Giggity giggity giggity.
Scratch that, the whole team is gonna be fun. I just *like* a lot of these players. They’re easy to root for. Kyrie is a stud, I’m all in on Dion and if you can’t get behind a guy like Tristan Thompson, who’s doing everything in his power to improve his game, then I don’t know what to tell you. My brother, who actually played high school ball and whatnot2, is really concerned that the Cavs have drafted a lot of undersized players. I can see where he’s coming from. Tristan is 6-9, Dion is 6-3 and Bennett is 6-8. But man, these guys work hard and are talented. Plus, they seem to like each other.
Earl Clark’s defense >>>> Earl Clark’s offense. Brown has started Clark at the small forward spot next to Tristan and Anderson Varejao and I can see why. Clark is 6-10 and combined with Tristan and Andy, could make for a pretty formidable defensive front long. Offensively… yikes. He’s just 2-12 in the preseason and a surprisingly large number of his shots have been long twos. I don’t care for it. I really don’t need to see Clark coming around curls and bricking 18 footers. Nor do I need to see him dribbling into the key and bricking 12 footers. Not with guys like Kyrie and Dion on the roster.
I’ve missed you, Cavs Twitter. It was so great having actual basketball to watch and discuss on the twitter machine. I can’t wait to get into arguments about Mike Brown’s rotations or Tristan Thompson’s ceiling.
The Dion Waiters-Anderson Varejao two man game could be interesting. By the time Dion had figured out NBA defenses last season, Anderson Varejao sitting with his annual season ending injury. They’ve had some nice chemistry over the course of two preseason games. Against the Bucks, Waiters found Andy on the pick and roll a couple times (I love Dion’s passing) and also used a Varejao pick to get to the hole for a powerful dunk. In game two, Andy found Dion on a backdoor cut.
Kyrie Irving is good at basketball. I don’t know what else to say, the dude can ball. He has a sick handle and a sicker shot. You give him space, he’ll dot your eye from the top of the key. You play up, he’ll blow by you and make an acrobatic layup. And if you’re not paying attention, he’ll simply splash a three in your grill. By all accounts, Irving has gotten himself in better conditioning so hopefully that can ease some of the injury concerns. I’d be shocked if Irving doesn’t appear in his second straight All-Star game.
Sergie Karasev doesn’t look overwhelmed. Yes yes, it’s only been two meaningless preseason games, but Karasev seems to fit in. The 6-9 sweet shooting lefty hasn’t shied away from playing defense, often trapping on help rotations and playing the passing lanes. And man, does his jumper look nice. Even when he misses, it’s a soft miss. The ball doesn’t fly off the rim when he misses. I expect Brown to bring him along slowly as well, but if Earl Clark keeps up his Alonzo Gee impression, I’ll be anxiously waiting for Karasev to stretch the floor for Dion and Kyrie.
Jarrett Jack >>> Donald Sloan. Dear lord, is nice to have a real back up point guard. Jack can get a little shot happy at times (he can get a jumper from the top of the key seemingly at will and isn’t shy about taking it) but it’s nice that wheels don’t fall off when Kyrie sits. A three guard rotation of Irving, Waiters and Jack should be more than solid and Jack should allow Coach Mike to bench either young guard for defensive miscues.
This super tough preseason schedule continues. The Cavs next game is against the Charlotte Bobcats this Tuesday, down in Canton. After that, they face a could-be-decent Detroit team, then the actually good Indiana Pacers, followed by games against the Sixers (in Columbus!), Wizards and finally the Bobcats. It’s entirely possible that the Cavs might not be that good but will look fantastic in the preseason.