CLEVELAND: Twenty-six thoughts on the night Kyrie Irving earned his first career triple-double in an easy 99-79 win over the Utah Jazz…
1. The re-enforcements are inching closer to returning, and just in time. With the Cavs entering their most difficult month of the season, the injured guys are beginning to heal.
2. Anderson Varejao told me after the game tonight he thinks he’ll be able to play in games next week. “I feel like I’m close,” he said. “I’m not going to be 100 percent, but if I wait for that, I’ll have to wait until summer. But if everything goes the way I think it will, I’ll be back next week.”
3. C.J. Miles told me before Friday’s game his goal is to be back in time for the West Coast trip that begins March 12, but he sounded as if he could be back even before then. He has to get the swelling out of his ankle first, however. He is shocked at how much swelling remains in the ankle. It’s still probably about twice the size of his right ankle and the injury occurred nine days ago. Kyrie Irving has documented the whole thing. Miles said Irving has taken pictures of the ankle every day and has shot video of Miles running in the therapy pool. What he’s going to do with all the pictures and videos, no one knows. But Miles playfully admitted he’s getting tired of Irving’s photography skills.
4. I saw Dion Waiters in the hallway briefly tonight, but didn’t get a chance to talk to him. Based on the timetable he gave last time we spoke to him last Sunday, Waiters could return next week, too.
5. As for Varejao, he has missed the last nine games, but he’s actually been hurting much longer. Remember, he missed a week at the end of January with a knee injury, and while he has no way of knowing for sure, he thinks trying to overcompensate for the knee injury may have led to the back problems.
6. Varejao’s last game was about three weeks ago when he played 43 minutes in an overtime win against the Grizzlies – and he almost didn’t play that night either. Varejao admitted he felt terrible before the game (his back and knee were both bothering him), but he sucked it up because it was the Grizzlies.
7. “It was a big game, that’s why I played,” Varejao said. “I was really feeling bad before the game, but we had Marc Gasol and Zach (Randolph). I needed to play.” Then Varejao wanted to pull himself out, but Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller both fell into foul trouble. And then the game went to overtime. So Varejao just kept playing. A couple of us tried waiting around to talk to him after the game, but he was still sitting on the trainer’s table an hour after the game getting treatment. “I was done,” Varejao said Friday.
8. For those wondering about next week’s schedule, the Cavs host the Spurs on Tuesday, then play at Charlotte on Friday and host the Knicks on Saturday.
9. As for Anthony Bennett, I didn’t talk to him tonight, so I have no idea how serious the knee injury is. But since he’s traveling with the team to Memphis, it’s likely not serious. Whether or not he’ll play against the Grizzlies won’t be determined until Saturday night.
10. Now onto Irving, who got his first career triple-double after coming close a couple of times earlier this season. Irving was stuck on nine rebounds for a while, but Brown left him in long enough to grab his 10th. It took him about 4 ½ minutes after his ninth before he grabbed his 10th, then Brown pulled him right after he got it. “That was big for the young guy to come up with his first triple-double in a game we needed,” Brown said. “I’m excited for Kyrie.”
11. Brown was excited with the way the Cavs played in the second half, likening it to the effort he saw in the win over the Thunder. The Cavs struggled at both ends during the first half Friday, but Brown thought the ball was moving better in the second half and so were the bodies. Brown believes the addition of Spencer Hawes makes the Cavs’ offense look different, when actually it’s the same stuff, but there’s more room to move.
12. “We’re scoring a little more and people say, ‘Mike Brown did something with his offense,’” Brown said. “The reality of it is Hawes is a space guy. Now when he’s on the floor with a rolling big, the paint is wide. Now if a guy is getting denied, when he cuts back door, he cuts hard because he knows he’s going to get it.”
13. Brown said if he added up all of the “hockey” assists from the game against the Thunder, Hawes would’ve led the team. The hockey assist, of course, is the pass that leads to the pass that gets the score. Brown loves the way Hawes can feed the ball to Irving, who then makes the right pass for the basket. But it all starts with Hawes’ ability to move the ball.
14. Very quietly, the Cavs’ defense is improving, too. They held the Jazz, admittedly a terrible offensive team, to 38 points in the second half. I got an e-mail tonight from Ryan Jensen, who is clearly trying to take my job. Here are the last 10 opponents with how many points they average and how many they scored against the Cavs: Memphis 95.2 (83); Sacramento 101.3 (99); Detroit 100.8 (89); Philly 100.2 (85); Orlando 96.7 (93); Toronto 100.1 (98 and then 99); Washington 100.2 (96); Oklahoma City 104.9 (104); Utah 94.8 (79). Jensen totaled it up. The Cavs are holding opponents to about 7 points below their average in their last 10 games. So the defense is improving, too, amid all the injuries.
15. Remember, the defense was the worst in the league last season. It’s not going to go from worst to top five in one year, but opponents were making 45.4 percent of their shots prior to Friday, good for 16th in the league. That figure will go down after the Jazz shot 35 percent. So the Cavs have gone from worst to middle of the pack. Brown said earlier this year a leap into the top five next season probably isn’t likely either, but top 10 probably is.
16. Know who has the worst scoring offense in the NBA? The Chicago Bulls, the same Bulls who are six games over .500 and sit fourth in the East. The Bulls have suffered huge personnel losses this season, but they keep winning because they keep defending. They’re allowing the second-fewest points in the league and the second-lowest field-goal percentage in the NBA.
17. If Brown can get the Cavs’ defense to that level, combined with their scorers like Irving, Waiters, etc… this team could be pretty good. It’s just not going to come together perfectly this season.
18. Now to the idiot. Another idiot ran on the court, the third in less than a year to make it onto the court at Quicken Loans Arena. Security personnel were buzzing after the game, knowing full well they were going to get skewered again for allowing this to happen yet again. The simple truth is if an idiot is determined to get onto the floor, it’s incredibly difficult to stop – one security source told me Friday's idiot knocked down an elderly handicapped woman in his haste to get on the court. The other reality is that this is happening in Cleveland more than anywhere else. That’s a real problem.
19. Irving had fun with it after the game, saying he wasn’t scared even though his teammates were teasing him that he looked scared. “He just told me that he loved me,” Irving said. “I told him I loved him back.”
20. One idiot on Twitter, whose picture looks just like the idiot who ran on the floor (I’m assuming it’s the same idiot) bragged about being an idiot. I’m not revealing his screen name because I’m not giving the idiot any more publicity, but to be clear, he’s an idiot.
21. “The greatest night of my life,” the idiot wrote on his Twitter account, which acutely summarizes how pathetic of a life he leads since getting arrested and banned from future games is his apex in life. “Got to meet my idol/favorite player @KyrieIrving but sadly I won’t be able to go to any more games. I love u”
23. Bob Finnan of the Lake County News-Herald reported that security personnel were handed flyers prior to the last home game of a guy who was bragging he was going to run onto the court. I can’t confirm that, but after Finnan wrote that, I remember when I was walking into the Q the other night security guards were talking about fans rushing the floor.
24. It’s a Catch-22. Of course the media is going to mention when idiots go wild, but I’m also fully aware that the more we talk about these idiots running on the court, the more the idiots of the world think it’s a great idea and want to do it as well. One female idiot even responded to Friday night’s idiot and said it’s on her bucket list to run onto a court. What a pathetic existence that must be.
25. For anyone who thinks it’s harmless fun, it’s not, particularly in light of how many public tragedies we’ve endured in shopping malls, movie theaters and schools over the last 10-15 years. All fans entering the Q go through metal detectors, but all it takes is one idiot to make it onto the court with malicious intentions before this whole court rushing thing is seen in a completely different light.
26. I’m putting my soapbox away now. I’m also not going to Memphis tomorrow because I’ll be attending the Life Saver’s Ball in Lorain County, which benefits the American Cancer Society. It’s an event near and dear to my family, so there won’t be any Final Thoughts tomorrow. I’ll catch you Tuesday after the Spurs game at the Q.