Friday, March 7, 2008

Let's all just exhale . . .

So, just finished watching the Cavs game on Tivo. I think I ended up fast forwarding through the entire second half, out of disappointment. For a while, I considered my usual pound-the-couch-hit-the-remote routine, but then realized that there really is no point.

These are not the Cavs.

What do I mean? Well, I know the Cavs are a no-excuses team, which I like. I've always been impressed with Mike Brown and Danny Ferry and how they just do not blame or allow their players to blame back-to-backs or bad refereeing for losses. But, the fact of the matter is that the Cavs just are not the Cavs. What do I mean?

Well, the reason the Cavs made this trade was to increase their defensive presence by picking up a guy like Ben Wallace. A lot of people complain about him not being able to defend the rim, but that's not what Big Ben does. He's best when there's another big man near him protecting he post so that roam and defend players out on the perimeter and then get blocks from behind. Remember that play against Memphis, when he stopped Kyle Lowry from getting the entry pass? That's Big Ben's game. When you ask him to just patrol the paint, you end up disappointed (that's why he didn't work out in Chicago) because he's a bit too small and slow. So, right now, he's hurting because he misses Ilgauskas badly. When Z comes back, Wallace can roam a bit more, and he'll be ten times more effective (not to mention that we'll actually have a second offensive weapon in our starting lineup).

Another reason we made the trade was to pick up a shooter in Wally. His shot seems to be coming around, but he's best when he can operate with less pressure. Having Boobie around as another big shooter will help Wally calm down and stop pressing so much. Same is true for Delonte, who's still learning where he needs to be.

Plus, Andy is just hurting right now. He's clearly not where he should be health-wise. He's not getting to loose balls, he's not able to finish, and he's settling for jumpers. These aren't things that Andy should be struggling at, and the reason he is is just that his explosiveness is not back yet. Having Z back, letting Andy get a bit more rest, and letting him come off the bench (which is his skill set) will really help Andy come around. And as for another injured player, Sasha Pavlovic, people forget what a good defender he was in the playoffs. We really miss his size on the perimeter.

So let's all relax. There is some cause for concern -- LeBron getting a bit too MVP starry eyed and not getting any assists in the first half, for one. As Barkley accurately pointed out at the half, LeBron is at the best when he establishes his teammates as threats early (threes from Boobie and Wally, post play from Z, pick and pop J's from Z and Joe Smith, etc.) and then takes over later. He didn't do that last night, and it really hurt the team. But I think last night may have been a wake-up call for him, and I expect him to play better on Saturday.

Ultimately, the Cavs need to get healthy. I think when everyone comes back, people will see just how good this team can be (with a lot of shooters and low post threats, I think they will be quite good). But we need to get there first. So while it will be frustrating for the next few weeks until Z and Boobie come back, hopefully LeBron will use it as an opportunity to integrate his new teammates. And hopefully Mike Brown will stop starting a 2-on-5 offensive lineup and start Wally and/or Joe Smith, so that we have some semblance of an offense early. That would make it considerably easier for LeBron to not have to dominate from the get-go.

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