Watched this morning's Cavs-Magic exhibition game in China with interest. Overall, I felt like it was the best the Cavs have played so far in the preseason, even though they are like 7,000 miles away from home. If you missed it, which I am sure many of you did, the Magic beat the Cavs, 90-86. The front line outplayed the Magic and Orlando came back when Dwayne Jones, Donyell Marshall and Anthony Tolliver were trying to guard Dwight Howard in the end. Sort of like how the Cavs beat the Pistons last week.
Here's some of what's going on...
--First off, Daniel Gibson missed the game with a right hamstring issue. I am told by the Cavs people there that it happened at shootaround on Wednesday morning (Tuesday night for those of us in the U.S.). I am also told it is not serious and that he is expected to play Saturday (12:30 a.m.) in the second game over there. He was on the bench in uniform.
--Just to get it out of the way, LeBron James again played pretty well, scoring 17 points on 5-of-8 shooting. He's acting like a superstar, no doubt. I must say, though, that LeBron's defense continues to be suspect at times. He's had his moments, as he did with Team USA over the summer, but he still gets beat often. No big deal in the grand scheme, but I think it deserves to be pointed out.
--Also, I'm sure it will please may of you that LeBron is now wearing an Indians cap everywhere in China. Here's the thing, LeBron is a shallow sports fan. His favorite teams were the best teams when he was growing up in the 1990s -- Yankees, Cowboys, Bulls, and Florida State football. Last year, he started cheering for Ohio State basketball all of a sudden. So don't get all wrapped up in it. He does care about Akron and his family and friends who are Akronites. Even if he leaves later in his career, that will always be true and that comes from knowing him for eight years. But when it comes to being shallow, he's got plenty of peers in Northeast Ohio considering the way the fans came down on him after capgate. Seriously, people.
--Shannon Brown played, in my opinion, his best game of the preseason. You may do whatever you want, but I caution you not to get obsessed with his stats. In the summer league he had seemingly good numbers and some people did some stories about how good he looked, but I thought he played out of his comfort zone and not all that well. Just as the other night, when he had 17 points, I thought he played out of control and somewhat selfishly because he kept driving into crowds and got a bunch of free throws in junk time. However, his athleticism is so impressive and he's showing more signs of learning how to use it at the NBA level. He really picked his spots well today and found driving lanes when they were there and passed when his path was blocked. He even made a jump shot or two, which is not yet his forte at all. He's got a lot of potential but also a lot to prove and, to his advantage, is now getting a lot of minutes. I am not sure you can count on him just yet, but without Sasha Pavlovic, he's getting the opportunity.
--Larry Hughes also played his best game of the preseason, both hitting open jumpers and getting to the basket. We'll have to see if it continues. All the coaches and players have been raving about his play in practice but it has yet to show on the court in games. So we'll see.
--Yesterday, Peter Vecsey wrote what I thought was an excellent viewpoint of the Pavlovic and Anderson Varejao contract issues. If you follow the Cavs, you will have read most of this already. But his perspective, in this case, I think is right on the money. Just how LeBron handles this if/when the Cavs get off to a slow start will be interesting. But while LeBron wants the team together, I find it hard to believe he could honestly look Anderson Varejao in the face and agree he's worth $10 million per season. One of the reasons Kevin Garnett got fed up in Minnesota was because the Wolves kept signing average players to contracts for more than they were worth. Even though that may be difficult to see when you are so embedded in trying to win right now.