Somewhere in the South Pacific -- I'm a long way from home, but still get ESPN and the Internet so I fully followed the NBA Draft yesterday (early in the afternoon where I am). Here's a couple of things to chew on:
--I'm getting feedback that a lot of fans are upset the Cavs did not get into the draft. Especially considering, as predicted on this blog and elsewhere over the last week, the Phoenix Suns and Philadelphia 76ers sold their picks when they couldn't package them to move up. Here's what you need to understand: The only pick the Cavs wanted was the Suns' No. 24, ironically their own pick. I still believe my source that Jared Dudley was their top target, but he was gone by 22. The only other guy it seems the Cavs had interest in was Tiago Splitter from Brazil, who was gone at 28.
Here's what you need to understand about why the Suns sold the pick to Portland and not the Cavs: The Trail Blazers had a bigger trade exception than the Cavs and that was part of the deal. Late after the draft, the Suns sent James Jones to the Blazers for that trade exception. So including the $3 million the Blazers sent to Phoenix, they saved $6 million more in salary owed to Jones over the next two years. That is a $9 million benefit for Phoenix, which is very, very tight with a buck on the fringes of the roster to avoid the luxury tax. It was out of the Cavs hands at that point, it was a pure business deal.
--When considering Cavs point guard options, keep an eye on Seattle. By picking up Delonte West in the Ray Allen deal, the Sonics have three point guards including Earl Watson and Luke Ridnour. They are also a franchise not crazy about spending money while their arena situation is in flux. The Cavs have liked West for several years and may make a call to Seattle to see how badly the Sonics want to keep him. Chances are the Sonics will move one of those guards. Perhaps Ridnour is the favorite because he makes the most money and will be a base-year compensation player, which means it's easier to make a dollar-saving deal with him.
--In what seemed like a harmless chat on ESPN.com, Chris Sheridan wrote he heard the Cavs were shopping Larry Hughes. This is true and this has been true since the trading deadline when Danny Ferry openly told the media that he had conversations about every player on his roster with the exception of LeBron James. Make no mistake, the Cavs could trade Hughes, he is not totally untradeable as many suggest. But at this point it would be doubtful they could get back equal value, which would defeat the purpose. Hughes helped the Cavs win a lot of games last season, he's just not a good fit with LeBron at this point. They do not complement each other and most times they do not have a great chemistry on the court. It is an issue but not the biggest issue on the team.
OK, folks I'm coming off the island vacation I am currently on for 15 minutes to give a brief update for tonight. I spoke with some Cavs officials yesterday and I am told they have about 15 guys they will be would be willing to draft if they can get in with cash and or taking back a player with their trade exception ($2.1 million). These guys would be available from picks 22-40, I am told. So when those picks arrive, start paying attention.
Another source has told me the one guy the Cavs covet in this draft might be Jared Dudley. He's an undersized power forward from Boston College. In some ways, he's a classic Danny Ferry pick, because he's sort of undervalued. The last ACC Player of the Year to get this little run was Josh Howard, by the way. I've never seen him play, so I can't really rate him. I understand he was impressed at the Pre-Draft Camp in Orlando.
I would say the chances of the Cavs getting into the draft at this point are about 50/50. It will depend on how the night develops, as usual.
I am also told the Cavs are not really close to any trades at this point. Earlier this week there was some buzz about the Cavs getting Beno Udith from the Spurs and perhaps their draft pick this year. I am told that is not happening right now.
I have been getting lots of e-mail asking me how the Cavs can get into the lottery, or at least the first round, of this week's draft. Here's what I can tell you. First, they're not getting in the lottery so cease with the Mike Conley Jr. e-mails. Second, the Cavs feel like their first-round pick this year is Shannon Brown. As I've written here before, Shannon worked just as hard at his game as Daniel Gibson this season and I expect him to get a chance to play next season. I look forward to watching him at summer league in Las Vegas in a few weeks and you can bet that I will be giving you a full report about it. Remember, as high as Danny Ferry was on Gibson, they still took a risk of losing Gibson to get his hands on Brown first. Sure they'd love to have a pick in this draft but even at No. 24, where they would've picked had the Jiri Welsch trade never happened, we're talking about a prospect pick and not an impact pick in all likelihood.To read more or comment...
--There is a report in today's Washington Post that says the Cavs are considering offering a contract to Wizards restricted free agent prospect Andray Blatche. Blatche is very young (20), 6-foot-11, and has lots of talent. He's spent most of his first two years in the league sitting and watching, but his future is pretty bright. What I'm sure the Cavs like about him, whether they truly intend to offer him or not, is that he appears to be offensively gifted, especially as a shooter. I wrote a story about Blatche and how his rookie season was marred by a shooting for ESPN.com last summer. You can read it here (I think you need Insider, though).To read more or comment...
For the last several weeks I have been collecting information on the Cavs' thought process and options for this summer. Of course, it is poor form to be writing about the offseason while in a playoff run. So I horded it all, piled it together and dumped most of it into this story, which has a bevy of information (despite what the headline implies). If you can't bear to go to the link, let me sum it up for you very quickly:To read more or comment...
The Finals are over and the Cavs never really got started. Their 83-82 loss in Game 4 was pretty much like the other three games. In fact, I predict looking back it will be hard to remember when individual moments occurred in the series. For the Cavs, it was mostly all "blah." The Spurs had more talent, which we all knew, but their poise showed from the first minute of Game 1 and carried all the way until tonight. In my mind, there is little use focusing on the little details, teams don't get swept by little details, they get swept by big ones.To read more or comment...
When this all over, and that time is soon, the Cavs may very well regret they never gave the San Antonio Spurs their best shot. Perhaps it would not have mattered, but it may be easier for them to rest in the off-season that way. It didn't matter Thursday when the Spurs wrestled the Cavs into submission in the 75-72 win.To read more or comment...
San Antonio -- This was a whipping, nothing else. I've seen them before in the AT&T Center and I'll see them again probably. Not only are the Spurs the better-looking team after the 103-92 Game 2 win, they are playing at a very high level. If they continue to play like this, I don't think it will matter what the Cavs do in all honestly. We can talk about adjustments and intensity and coaching all night. That said, it, too, is just a single game. Obviously the Spurs look like the dominant team, but I am compelled by my realist nature and perspective-based style to say the series is not over.To read more or comment...
San Antonio -- Can't speak for all of you, but this series is already getting a little tiresome for me. Oh, there's only been one game played? Wow, you could've fooled me. Two days with this much attention makes the analysis and conjecture reach a saturation point pretty quickly. So the Cavs couldn't stop Tony Parker in Game 1, OK everybody knows. So Tim Duncan is good, everybody knows. LeBron James didn't play well, got it.To read more or comment...
San Antonio -- So the Spurs are pretty good. Here's the scary part Cavs followers: in the 85-76 loss in Game 1, the Spurs played about average. They played good defense, Tony Parker was the fastest guy on the court, Tim Duncan was dominant, and Manu Ginobili hit a few shots. Then they called it a night. The word you're looking for is: eek.To read more or comment...
San Antonio -- So are the Cavs just happy to be here in the NBA Finals? Well, let's see, when the Spurs finished practice today at the AT&T Center, they did their media interviews and left. When the Cavs were ushered onto the arena floor, Ira Newble and Donyell Marshall were shooting video, Damon Jones was walking around sporting a Li Ning hat to get on camera, Anderson Varejao was wearing sunglasses, and athletic trainer Max Benton was taking pictures of everybody taking pictures. So, in a word, yes.To read more or comment...
Say what you will about the Cavs and their offense, Lord knows I've said and written a lot about it, but they are a world class defensive team and have one of the most talented players the game has ever seen. Now they have themselves their first trophy after steamrolling the Pistons, and I stress first because tonight is a night to believe there will be many more.To read more or comment...
Things have changed quite a bit and quite fast in this series. Now, it must be said, the Cavs are the favorite. At the moment, they are indeed now the de facto No. 1 seed with homecourt advantage to advance to The Finals for the first time in history. But it is damn hard to close teams out and damn hard to beat the Detroit Pistons four straight, as was seen last season by the Cavs. So, in order to do so they must do the following tonight...To read more or comment...
Watch LeBron's 25 straight points and follow my breakdown along below (thanks to Henry at Truehoop for the link).
End of regulation
2:17 -- James nails a 3-pointer from top of key over a leaping Rasheed Wallace, cutting Pistons' lead that had been seven points down to 1.
31.4 seconds -- A switch puts Jason Maxiell on James, a mismatch. LeBron fakes left and executes a crossover dribble that shakes Maxiell. He drives right and streaks into an open lane. Tayshaun Prince is under the basket and in the no-charge zone, so instead of challenging he flinches and cowers as James dunks to put the Cavs up 1.
9.5 seconds -- Isolated with Prince on right wing, James used a quick first step to his right to lose defender. For some reason, Lindsey Hunter takes a step away from the play, creating more space in the lane. Meanwhile, Wallace leaves the lane to guard Donyell Marshall in the corner, allowing a easy dunk to tie the game and force overtime.
4:47 -- James makes two free throws after drawing foul on Prince.
3:31 -- James and Zydrunas Ilgauskas execute a give-and-go from the high post. James uses a back door cut to drop Prince, who was frozen, for another dunk.
2:54 -- LeBron splits free throws after drawing a shooting foul on Wallace.
1:17 -- After drawing a foul on Maxiell, James makes two free throws.
33.7 seconds -- Anderson Varejao sets a high pick for James as he moves right. Varejao's man, Maxiell, moves to try and cut off James while Chauncey Billups double teams him. But James is too quick and he beats both to the corner, turns and rises up to hit a 20-footer with two seconds left on the shot clock. It gives the Cavs a four-point lead they can't hold.
4:31 -- On left wing with Prince guarding him, James takes a dribble and one step left then steps back and hits fallaway from 19 feet.
1:51 -- Isolated with Billups at the top of the key, James starts left then bounces ball behind back and changes direction to create space. He then splashes a 22-foot pull-up jumper.
1:14 -- James runs another high pick-and-roll with Varejao, only this time he goes left. Chris Webber leaves Varejao and tries to cut off James' path. Billups goes under the pick and tries to swing around to stop a James drive. But James gets by Webber with a quick turn and pulls up for 3-pointer in front of Billups to tie the game at 107-107.
2.2 seconds -- Isolated with Billups at the top of the key again, James goes with left hand and gets by him with a quick drive. Prince and Maxiell collapse in the lane as James leaves his feet. He splits the pinch in mid-air and tosses in an underhanded layup even as Maxiell slaps his arm.
Auburn Hills, Mich. -- What can I say about Game 6? I pretty much used up all my adjectives in the paper. I tried my best to put it in perspective in everything LeBron James has done in his career in a piece for ESPN.com. What I can say is I've watched LeBron play roughly 500 games in person from places like Rehobeth Beach, Del., to Sapporo, Japan, to Bakersfield, Calif., to something like 17 times at the Palace of Auburn Hills now. Never have a seen a performance like that from him and never have I seen him be so calm. He wasn't demonstrative and making all those primal faces, he was just coldly killing the Pistons. It isn't often you know you are experiencing history at the moment it is happening. It doesn't matter which team you cover as a journalist or which team you root for as a fan, there was no way you could watch LeBron score 25 straight points and think you weren't being given a gift of an experience.To read more or comment...
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