CLEVELAND: Fourteen thoughts tonight for 14 Anderson Varejao rebounds following a 91-83 overtime win against the Memphis Grizzlies…
1. When Dion Waiters missed the heave at the end of regulation, Kyrie Irving walked up behind him and rubbed the back of his head. The two young guards, struggling for so long to find any sort of rhythm, have looked the last two games like they can dance together after all.
2. Before we get carried away, they’ve played 1 ½ years together and haven’t figured it out yet. Now is not the time to overreact to two good games. But it’s hard to deny there has been a little chemistry developing between the two of them.
3. Irving had 28 points, six assists and five rebounds Sunday, while Waiters had 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Waiters shot only 7-for-21, but both guys were involved in the game. They shared the ball well, moved well and looked like they could coexist after all.
4. “We’re just being honest with each other out there, telling each other what we see,” Irving said. “Earlier in the season, we probably wouldn’t have said anything to one another.”
5. Then Irving called Waiters one of his good friends and everyone in the room stifled their laughter. Look, it’s obvious the chemistry between the two of them hasn’t been great. Part of that could be an age thing with both guys still trying to establish themselves. Mike Brown has talked about that on a couple occasions, that young guys are more interested in stats and getting their next contracts. Then after you’re established in the league, guys start to care more about winning.
6. “They had the best two players on the floor,” Grizzlies coach David Joerger said. “Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving are fantastic young players. They really took the game over from start to finish.”
7. Acting GM David Griffin spoke to reporters before the game and said one of his strengths is empowering others to get the best out of them. He also wants to get guys smiling again. We need to get more proof, but victories certainly help attitudes. And as I wrote following the Washington win on Friday, the laughter in the locker room had long since vanished.
8. Griffin did a nice job of walking a tough line Sunday. Chris Grant brought him to Cleveland and the two still live in the same neighborhood. The NBA is a small fraternity. Anything derogatory Griffin said Sunday would be a reflection on Grant and even himself, since he was part of the front office that built this team. But he has to somehow separate himself and find his own voice. It’s very, very tricky, but he handled it well.
9. “I won’t be different (than Grant), I am different,” Griffin said. “I’m a whole subset of different experiences. I’m 21 years in the NBA with a whole different group of mentors. … the spirit we’re bringing to this process is going to be different. It's just going to be a different energy. That doesn't mean a better energy. My energy is a little different.”
10. I tweeted it during the game Sunday and I’ll reiterate it here: If the Cavs played as hard all season and defended as well as they did Sunday against the Grizzlies, they’d be .500. This season hasn’t been a coaching problem or a GM problem, it has been an effort problem.
11. Former coach Byron Scott battled effort issues with these players, too. His stance was always that it was his job to prepare his players to play, it was his job to prepare a winning game plan and make sure they understand it. But the effort, the process of getting “up” to play falls on the players. And he’s a former player. This isn’t a high school team. These guys shouldn’t need a Norman Dale speech to get ready to play every night. That’s on them to figure out how to get ready and they’ve done a lousy job at it most of the season.
12. Final thought from the Grizzlies’ Joerger: “They have a bunch of guys who can really score the basketball. I definitely think they’re going to turn the corner in the last half of the season.”
13. Final thought from Griffin: “This is a culture of we. It’s not a culture of me. And somewhere along the way we lost that.”
14. Tuesday is a home game against Sacramento, followed by a road game Wednesday at Detroit prior to breaking for All-Star weekend. So the Cavs are in position to go on a little run. Talk to you Tuesday.