A couple weeks ago I wrote about how the Browns just needed to hold my attention until the Cavs tipped off. Two weeks later and the narrative has made a complete 180. These midweek basketball games are becoming chore to watch. A pulling of weeds until we can let loose and watch the Browns challenge for the division on Sunday. It’s amazing how fast a narrative can change. After getting throttled by the 76ers a Friday ago panic in Cavalierland had set in. However, the following night as I sat in the Q, drinking beers beers with my dad (there’s no greater joy as a son than to provide the man who’s given you so much a cold one), and watched Kyrie blow by Michael Carter-Williams for a double OT game winner it seemed like everything was going to be all right. Then came a tough loss in Chicago, utter embarrassment in Minneapolis, and now I’m one loss to the Bobcats away from spending my Saturday morning looking at NBA mock drafts and watching highlights of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Julius Randle.
1. It’s not just the fact that the Cavs are losing, it’s that they look as if they’re out for a Sunday stroll instead of busting their asses trying to win a basketball game. After the loss to Minnesota, Mike Brown sounded off, “I saw some things that make me think that this team has some fight and some character, I saw it tonight. I saw some stuff on the court, some stuff on the bench, listening to guys talk and how they feel. We like some of the things that were being said, things that were said on the bench, some of the things done on the bench by most of the guys.”
Hearing that statement disgusts me because what I saw on Wednesday was Kevin Love beat every Cavalier down the floor on back to back possessions, catch the ball inside the restricted area, and have about as easy of baskets as you can find. I saw a team that was -23 in fast break points and let Ricky Rubio dance around the court like he was a teenager in the Spanish B League, including a nutmeg of Jarrett Jack. Playing defense largely consists of concentration and effort and judging by the 109 points per game they’ve given up over their last five I’d say we haven’t seen much of either.
2. Lance Stevenson, Kevin Martin, Gary Neal, Tony Wroten, and Corey Brewer. I can assure you that none of those names will be fresh on the minds of fans as they fill out their All-Star ballot this year, but that motley crew has managed to combine for an average of 22.6 points on 52% shooting against the Wine and Gold.1 All five operated primarily on the wings, coincidentally where the weakest group on the Cavaliers’ roster lies. CJ Miles has played well in spots this season and Dion has had a few nice scoring games, but however highly we’d like to think of them they’ve been outplayed by Stevenson, Martin, Neal, Wroten, and Brewer and that makes me sad.
3. Can we give Anthony Bennett the ball? Yeah he’s struggled, he’s missed shots, he’s looked lost. But can someone feed him the ball once when he’s rolling off a screen. Just once? Or how about running the offense through him for a couple possessions. The offense is 4th worst in the league at 92.8 PPG, take away the 127 scored in the double OT win against Philly and that drops their average to 88.5 which would be dead last in the league behind the winless Jazz who average 89.6 a game. What do you have to lose?
Bennett is 15th among rookies in usage percentage. It’s more important for the team to try and develop the number one pick than perfect Mike Brown’s offensive “system”. If four guys are going to stand around and watch Jarrett Jack chuck up an 18 footer, why not throw it in to Bennett at the high post and clear the floor. He may end up being a major bust, but let’s see what the kid’s got. I like to believe the talent he showed in high school at the basketball factory Findlay Prep, and at UNLV wasn’t a complete facade and that Chris Grant wasn’t completely dooped. Give the ball to Bennett and let’s see what he can do. Can the offense get any worse?
4. Kyrie has had a couple nice stretches this year. He played like a star in the 4th quarter of the failed comeback against Milwaukee, and once again with his 39 and 12 against Philly in double OT, including the game winner. Outside of that and he’s been bad. He’s 6th in the NBA in usage percentage which is no surprise, but thumbing down the list of the league leaders in Player Efficiency Rating and you won’t find Mr. Irving until you reach number 102.2 That’s right the guy who is using the 6th highest amount of his team’s possessions in the league is playing at the same level as names like Tony Allen, Marcin Gortat, Jordan Hamilton, and Greivas Vasquez.
Mike Brown deserves plenty of blame, no doubt about it. But as long as the guy we chanted “MVP” for on opening night keeps shooting 37% from the field, 73% from the line, and turning it over 3 times a night this team is going nowhere fast.
5. Rookie Update
The consolation in Anthony Bennett being non existent is that no other rookie is really lighting it up. Michael Carter-Williams is off to a good start, but he’s cooled of late. M-C-Dub has the 76ers at 5-4 thanks to his 17.4 points and 7.6 assists per game. The Sixers seems content with letting Carter-Williams run wild with the keys of the offense, however in his last five games the Syracuse product is shooting just 37% from the field and averaging almost 3 turnovers per contest.
Like Carter-Williams, Oladipo has been given all sorts of freedom. His 10.4 PPG in his last five aren’t anything to write home about when you consider his porous 35% field goal percentage. OKC’s Steven Adam’s, the 12th overall selection out of New Zealand, turned some heads with a 17 point, 10 rebound double double last week. The 7 footer is very raw, and looks a bit awkward, but with Kendrick Perkins decaying a rapid pace, Adams could work his way into meaningful minutes as the season progresses.
The Cavs’ Anthony Bennett is averaging 1.4 points and 2.9 rebounds a game, and ranks first among all rookies in making fans scratch their heads.
In case the Cavs do end up losing to Charlotte on Friday night, and you also are driven to consuming copious amounts of alcohol, here are some videos of Wiggins, Parker, and Randle to feast on for Saturday morning.
Photo: Rick Bowmer/Associated Press
Photo: Jim Mone/Associated Press