Pregame Starting lineups
Cavs: Larry Hughes, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas Hornets: Chris Paul, Morris Peterson, Peja Stojakovic, David West, Tyson Chandler
--The Cavs are catching another break, getting the Hornets on a back-to-back. Also, there are lots of Hawaii and Georgia fans at the game tonight, in town for the Sugar Bowl, plus maybe some early Ohio State arrivals. May give it more of a neutral court feel. Of course, the Cavs were all off and able to enjoy Bourbon Street on a wild Friday night so perhaps it is a disadvantage. --The biggest issue tonight is whether the Cavs will be able to keep Chris Paul out of the lane. He's one of the best point guards in the league, so he's going to do damage. But his ability to get free baskets for guys like Chandler and West will be key. The Cavs kept Devin Harris and Jason Terry out of the lane in Dallas, this will be a big task for Hughes. --Chandler is one of the best offensive rebounders in the league. There will be pressure on Ilgauskas and Gooden to handle him tonight. Also, I wouldn't be surprised to see Mike Brown use Dwayne Jones to battle out there. --Peja is a very streaky shooter, if he gets going it could be a long night for the Cavs. But if the Cavs contest his shots, it may work out well for them. --Hornets are good -- third best in the West so far -- and hot -- they've won four straight. It will be an excellent test to see how much the Cavs have their stuff together.
Halftime -- Hornets 46, Cavs 42
--Cavs are lucky to only be down four and they are because they played much better in second quarter. The shot 35 percent in the first quarter and 55 percent in the second. They also only had one turnover in the second quarter after giving away seven in the first. The major difference was they went to Ilgauskas both in the post and on the outside and he was effective in the halfcourt. --LeBron is playing passively tonight. There is no way Peja should be able to guard him one-on-one or keep him out of the post. He's not attacking on picks, he's inviting the double team way too much. So far, this is one of his bad nights. We'll see if it changes. --The Cavs are dealing with Chris Paul's pick and rolls pretty well considering, but they've lost Peja and David West in the halfcourt a few times. The Cavs are also rebounding well, which has helped them stay close. --The Hornets are a good team and they aren't showing any signs of being tired from last night. Cavs will have to play at a high level to win tonight. --Before the game, Donyell Marshall has a routine where he locks arms with all the starters as they go on the court. Well, Drew Gooden wasn't paying attention and he belted 'Yell right in the jaw.
Postgame -- Hornets 86, Cavs 76 Stars David West, 27 points, 15 rebounds Chris Paul, 20 points, nine assists, seven steals
--First off, the Hornets are very good. They are 10 games over .500 and have played four fewer home games than road games. They have excellent promise and this isn't a bad loss for the Cavs. --However, this was a game that reminded the Cavs of eveything they don't have. Such as: guards who can handle or shoot and focus in the third quarter. Defense was reasonably good, especially in the halfcourt. Other than West schooling Gooden, the Cavs allowed just 42 percent shooting and 86 points. That's four good defensive games in the last five, which is progress. --Now, on to the rest. It is just out of hand with Pavlovic and Hughes and their shooting, just grossly unacceptable. Mike Brown is starting them because they are long and better on defense than the alternatives. I'd favor seeing Damon Jones a bit, but I suppose Gibson is playing that role better than DJ could. Sasha just isn't this bad, I don't think. Larry is this bad on jump shots but when he doesn't go to the basket or get the foul line his offensive is negative. Tonight when you consider his four turnovers, it's a negative. --Watching LeBron come off screens and wait for the double team is 1000 percent what other teams want. I'm not sure whether he's inviting them or if he's just so used to getting hit by a second man that it's ingrained in his head to expect it, but he's not aggressive coming off screens right now. The Hawks and Kings scouts were here and they saw it and they'll be doing it, too. Ultimately, that's why you don't want LeBron having to handle the ball so much, you want a point guard that can navigate it much better. That is an old conversation, but tonight was a refresher course. Danny Ferry and Mike Brown know this, of course, but nothing is being done about it at the moment. --The third quarter issue is a complete mystery to me. I guess it is an example of the Cavs' inconsistent focus. Tonight it was a 12-0 run to start the third, which basically ended the game. Players and coaches have been asked the question for months and nobody has a good answer. --Being back here in New Orleans reminds me of the last time I was here and the Jiri Welsch hook in 2005. One of the most memorable shots I've ever seen in the NBA, Welsch comes off a screen on the right wing and puts up a wide open 3-pointer...that started about five feet left of the rim and then hooked. This thing missed the basket standard by like four feet and landed out of bounds. I will never forget the look on LeBron's face as he came back up the court. After that shot, I knew Jiri was done for that season. --That Welsch shot is only surpassed in my personal experience by David Wesley's missed layup last year in Dallas, which some Cavs players were talking about the other night at the American Airlines Center. Wesley had an uncontested layup and jumped off the wrong foot and stuffed the ball into the padding under the backboard. Again, the looks on the Cavs bench were memorable. My colleague Bob Finnan later said Wesley should've dragged a podium out and retired on the spot. --As for New Orleans, this is my first visit since the hurricane. I have only seen downtown and the ride in from the airport. I have never really liked it here and I still don't, but that is a pure personal opinion and not a commentary on the culture (OK, no angry e-mails please). Now, it reminds me a bit of a third world country, everything for the tourists and the businessmen is OK but after that layer it gets ugly quick. Still lots of buildings boarded and ruins right in the middle of downtown, can't imagine the lower ninth ward. So if you liked New Orleans before, you will probably not see a difference now. Certainly not on Bourbon Street.
Quotes Mike Brown: "We came out flat but they had something to do with it. I wonder why we are flat coming out in the third quarters, that is something that in the past and tonight it has hurt us." LeBron: "They did a good job of doubling me as soon as I caught the ball, they had me on the ropes at times. It is going to happen every single game, I get doubled every time I touch the ball. I'm probably the only person in the NBA that happens to."
Cavs: Larry Hughes, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas Mavs: Devin Harris, Eddie Jones, Josh Howard, Dirk Nowitzki, Erick Dampier
--The Mavs didn't land in Dallas after last night's loss in Utah until after 2 a.m. So the Cavs have an advantage there for a change. Not that it will make that much difference, but it could. By the way, the Mavs were using their Boeing 767 on that trip not their Boeing 757. They've got to be the only pro sports team with two jumbo jets. Most NBA teams rent 737s or 727s. --LeBron has always had good scoring games against the Mavs and he'll need another one tonight if the Cavs have any chance. In the opener he got shut down by Jones and Trenton Hassell, we'll see if he's in the mood to make up for that tonight. Big key will be how the Cavs play defense, of course. There are matchup issues everywhere, starting with Harris and Jason Terry. If the Cavs can keep them out of the lane, it will be a good start. --Keep an eye on Howard, if he gets 20 points, the Mavs usually win. --Had a conversation before the game with Ira Newble about the Benazir Bhutto killing. No Cav follows international politics like Ira.
Halftime -- Cavs 47, Mavs 38 --The Cavs shot 25 percent in the second quarter, 33 percent in the half, and they are ahead by nine at the half. How? Defense and attacking offense. The Cavs teamwork on defense has carried over from Miami. They are doing a good job on their men and rotating well. Especially on Dirk, who is just 1-of-8. Drew Gooden has not let Dirk get past him and forced Dirk to take tough jumpers. He can make those, but he's not right now. Maybe the Mavs have some dead legs, too. --LeBron missed five free throws in the first half, but he really went to the basket. All the Cavs did, they got 28 free throws in the first half, which has helped them deal with the bad shooting. This is an ugly game, but it is the style they can win. They have had success running the pick-and-roll inside. --The Cavs have had big leads in this building before and blown them. Of course, we all know they are not good to start third quarters. Plus Avery Johnson is probably firing his team up right now. The first few minutes of the second half will tell a lot. The Cavs will need some more offense in the second half no matter what.
Postgame -- Cavs 88, Mavs 81
Stars LeBron James, 24 points, eight rebounds, seven assists Larry Hughes, 17 points, nine rebounds Zydrunas Ilgauskas, 18 points, 11 rebounds Dirk Nowitzki, 19 points, 20 rebounds Josh Howard, 19 points, seven rebounds
--The Cavs have been too inconsistent to take too much from any one game, but this victory illustrates that they still have a spark when they get going. They have a win over Boston, who has just three losses, and now a win in Dallas, where they've lost just three times. The bad blowout losses to the Knicks and Warriors have muddied the water, but the Cavs actually have won 4 of 6 and played strong defense in three of their last four games. Huge stat of the night: Mavs got just 20 points in the paint. --There was no doubt the Mavs were affected by being on the back-to-back. They missed some shots they normally make. But that's the NBA. Credit must be given to the Cavs, who got several big baskets from Hughes, Devin Brown and Daniel Gibson to maintain the lead. They took control in the second quarter and never gave it up, that's impressive in this building. --The halfcourt offense was ugly at times. They were double-teaming LeBron off the picks and he didn't handle it well at times, making some bad passes. Not to mention Z missed a handful of wide open jumpers, though he made up for it somewhat with his offensive rebounding. Erick Dampier, by the way, had two rebounds and one point tonight. Z was not that good and he had 18 and 11. Yet I still get e-mails ripping the big guy. --Drew Gooden is a good job of forcing Dirk to settle for jumpers. That is his greatest weakness, when he doesn't attack the basket. He's got a great long range game, but when that's all he uses he is one dimensional. Also, LeBron made a great defensive play late in the game by coming over to double Dirk from the backside as he tried to get a jumper off. It forced a turnover. --LeBron's dunk at the end of the game was classic. The guys in the TNT trunk were running it over and over from every angle after the game. He went right on Howard, crossed over to the left behind his back. He pushed the ball in front of him to split Howard and Dirk, who was coming to help. Then he finished on Stackhouse's head. He also traveled because he switched pivot feet, but that's never getting called there. That's a star making a play and for LeBron to do it by going to the hoop is a good sign. --Enough complaining about the refs. This was a bad crew. But there were a bunch of non-calls on the Cavs in the first half. It is funny to watch Mark Cuban during the game. When he thinks there is a bad call, he'll signal to the scoreboard operator that he wants a replay on the screen.
Quotes Mike Brown: "The more we embrace our identity, the more confidence we'll gain." LeBron on the dunk: "I just wanted to be aggressive and finish out the game." Avery Johnson: "Whatever the schedule says, we are expected to come out and play with energy."
Heat: Jason Williams, Dwyane Wade, Dorel Wright, Udonis Haslem, Shaq Cavs: Larry Hughes, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Officials Bob Delaney, Luis Grillo, Sean Wright
--Yes, Larry Hughes is in the starting lineup. Mike Brown said it was because this is the lineup that worked last year in the playoffs and at the end of the season. Then again, this requires Hughes to play point guard, which he said he was done with. Or not, maybe LeBron will play it. We'll see. Either way, my read on this is that this is a last ditch effort to get something out of Hughes before they remove him from the lineup altogether. Larry, Brown and Danny Ferry had a long meeting after practice yesterday, in which I'll bet he was told to stop complaining in the media among other things. --Daniel Gibson hasn't done anything to go to the bench, but Brown needs someone who can hit a shot coming off the bench so that may have contributed to this move. --Shaq is not having a great season, but he's still a load and will be hard for the Cavs to handle if he's getting free on the backside. How does he get free on the backside? When they can't stop dribble penetration. --The Cavs have been unable to handle the Dwyane Wade high pick-and-roll in the past, we'll see if LeBron gets the assignment if there is a crunch time. --Cavs next two games are at Dallas and at New Orleans. Which makes this a rather important game to win, as if that matters these days.
Halftime -- Heat 47, Cavs 43 --Yawn. Boy is this a bad game. No, neither one of these team is playing very well but part of this can be blamed on the officials. They are blowing their whistles to stupid touch fouls. We're on pace for an 80-foul, 80-free throw game. Enough already. They can't even stop from tooting when there's free throws going on, there's been three lane violations called. --The Cavs are not playing with a lot of energy. They have 10 turnovers and most of them are on mindless plays. They are dribbling like it's going out of style, there's almost no passing on offense. They had just two assists in the second quarter and they scored just 18 points. After starting the game 6-of-7 from the floor, the Cavs are 8-of-26. Gibson doesn't usually dribble this much in a week. --Sasha Pavlovic and Larry Hughes, the Banger Brothers, are a combined 1-of-8 in the first half. Jeez, doesn't Damon Jones deserve a try by default? --This is a warning for the Cavs, this is turning into a junk game and Wade thrives in junk games. Of course, he and LeBron are a combined 7-of-16 at the line in the half. That's what ABC wanted, right, the stars missing free throws?
Postgame -- Cavs 96, Heat 82
Stars LeBron James, 25 points, 12 assists Anderson Varejao, 15 points, seven rebounds Daniel Gibson, 16 points Dwyane Wade, 22 points, eight assists
--I know this sounds like a broken record, but the defense decided this one again. The Cavs started playing it in the third quarter and the game turned around. Part of it was the Heat getting stagnant with the ball and, no, they are not the most talented team right now. But the Cavs played decent one-on-one defense and the rotations and help were active. There weren't guys going to the basket with three Cavs standing on the floor watching. --The Cavs gave up 20 points below their defensive average tonight, which says a whole lot when you think about it. Yes, the Heat are bad, but so are the Knicks if you get my drift. --It is hard to tell whether or not this is a real stepping stone game, considering this was generally the way the cavs played against the Lakers. As one Cavs official pointed out to me, the team has won three of five. We'll see. --Spoke with Larry Hughes after the game. Seems like after a long meeting with Mike Brown and Danny Ferry, he's going to go back to playing point guard and try to keep himself focused on team goals. He said "There are individual goals that you'd like to accomplish and have that coincide with the team winning. But if that can't happen you have to put the team goals first and you have to respect that." Still, he's not thrilled playing PG but he's got his starting spot and his minutes back, so I guess it is an uneasy truce. He did play better today than he has, but was still 2-of-7. --Sasha Palvovic was 1-of-8 and the one was a dunk in transition. He's now gotten to the point where he is sling-shooting his jumpers, cocking the ball behind his head. He did an OK job on Dwyane Wade, which means he's not going anywhere in the lineup. Still, he's 13-of-45 over the last six games. --Anderson Varejao has played three quality games in a row. He's finishing well in traffic around the basket and shooting free throws well. He didn't do either well last year. I still don't think he's jumping well, I suspect his legs are totally back or totally there. But he's come around well over the last week. --Zydrunas Ilgauskas moved into second place in team history in rebounds during the game. He'll be the all-time leader soon enough. I hear a lot of complaining about Z in my e-mail inbox, on radio shows and tv shows and on message boards. Lots of people complain about his contract. Often people focus on his shortcomings and what he can't do. Let me tell you this, someday No. 11 will hang in the rafters because he's been one of the best players in the history of the franchise. He's a great rebounder, he has one of the best shooting touches for a big men in this era and he'll be remembered as one of the best offensive rebounders of this era. Yes, he's got slow feet. Yes, he's not physical. Yes, he's lumbering. But he's been a great player. And here's something else nobody ever seems to remember. When he signed his current contract, he took a $6 million pay cut in his prime. Give me another example of someone who has done that. Considering his output and what others at his position are making across the league, he's fairly compensated. That's all I wanted to say about that.
Pregame Starting lineups
Warriors: Baron Davis, Monta Ellis, Stephen Jackson, Al Harrington, Andris Biedrins Cavs: Daniel Gibson, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Officials Jim Clark, Rodney Mott, Tommy Nunez
--The Warriors are on a back-to-back and the fifth game of a long road trip and thinking of heading home. They will be in the mood to just hoist jumpers so if the Cavs play the sort of defense they can, it can work to their advantage. Of course, the Warriors like to play up tempo so maybe the Cavs will just try to have fun and try to win the game 115-112, which they probably can't. --When they played in Oakland, there was no one on the Cavs who could keep Monta Ellis in front of them. That hasn't changed. --Look for the Warriors to play very small, even using Al Harrington at center. The onus will be on Mike Brown to match and creat good matchups. --Thoughts with Cavs assistant coach Hank Egan, who had triple bypass surgery Saturday at Fairview hospital. Hank is 70 and a true professional with lots of experience. The Cavs will leave a seat open on the bench tonight in his honor.
Halftime -- Warriors 63, Cavs 50
--The Cavs are being pretty nice to their guests, as a service they are allowing them any open shot they want. It is a minor miracle they are down only 13 points considering the Warriors made 17 of their first 21 shots. Some were made with hands in faces, but there was a lot of lazy rotation and pick-and-roll mess ups. In other words, what you've been seeing out of the Cavs a lot lately. --At this point, you don't even need to watch the game to know when Larry Hughes shoots. The crowd is booing when he gets the ball on the outside. He's 1-of-6 but then again he's not no rebounds or assists in 11 minutes earlier. Sasha Pavlovic is 1-of-5. Right now, how long do you think game of horse between these two guys would take? --Anderson Varejao is showing some extreme effort, he's got six rebounds and has been everywhere on the floor. He's pretty much near the top of his energy game right now. --The Cavs are not out of this by a long shot. The Warriors have no answer for LeBron/Z pick-and-rolls should the Cavs continue to run them. The Cavs shot just 43 percent and missed nine free throws but are just down 13 points. The Warriors have 11 turnovers, so they are not exactly playing clean. Still, they'll need to hold them to 40-45 points in the second half to have a chance, I'm not sure they have it in them right now. Their defensive teamwork looks terrible and with rest and practice time there's no excuse.
Postgame -- Warriors 105, Cavs 96 (sorry for the delay, had wireless issues with my laptop)
Stars Baron Davis, 27 points, 10 assists Stephen Jackson, 29 points LeBron James, 25 points, eight assists
--Lots and lots of booing at the arena, which certainly got under the skin of the Cavs players. Which, of course, is the point. I think the crowd was already in a bad mood because the Browns lost and the Cavs just put them over the top. --After the game, the Cavs locker room was empty except for maybe three players by the time the media was allowed in. LeBron grabbed his clothes and cleared out to get dressed in the training room and then went out the back door to avoid talking to the media. That's the first time in his career he's ever done that. That's OK, him doing that says more than any cliche answer could have gotten across. --The Warriors illustrated what has become a major issue with the Cavs. Overall, they have poor, and I mean, like, bad, individual defenders. There were times tonight when there wasn't a single Cav out there who I thought could handle the guy he was guarding. Sasha Pavlovic on Monta Ellis? Baron Davis on Daniel Gibson? No way. I could go on, but I won't. Last season when the Cavs were working as a team on defense it hid all of that. Now, it sticks out like a sore thumb. And here's the thing, more and more teams are playing like the Warriors. I go on and on about the Cavs playing poor team defense here and in the paper, but it is so obvious that a guy like Gibson has no chance on a big guard like Baron that perhaps it is unfair of me to keep talking about team defense. If you can't guard you man, it really doesn't matter what the rest of the team does. Still, the Cavs defensive effort overall is so weak right now. So many times you see multiple players standing around when the Warriors score and you just wonder what the hell is going on. --After the game, Larry Hughes complained that he got just 18 minutes and said he can't get in a rhythm. Hey, at least he was willing to face the media. --Before the game Damon Jones was singing Christmas songs and inserting his own lines about wanting to be traded. Which he was doing on purpose with the media in there. With that sort of stuff going on, you know what I mean by saying the Cavs are having chemisty problems. Damon was also the first player outta there after the game. Can't say I blame him. He really didn't do anything to lose his playing time. He may not be the answer, but I can understand him boiling watching Sasha getting start after start when he can't make a shot or defend right now. --I understand LeBron being upset. His efforts are being wasted. But I've also listened to him say he won't allow a team he's on to not compete. Well, it's time for some leadership because Mike Brown is trying everything he knows how. Not sure if they need a player's only meeting or what, but LeBron needs to show he's a leader right now. Tonight he just seethed but he was mostly quiet. --Don Nelson said after the game he didn't think his team was going to win, considering they were on a back-to-back at the end of a five-game trip. In other words, even he was shocked at how bad the Cavs were.
Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum Cavs: Daniel Gibson, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Officials Ron Garretson, Derrick Collins, Zach Zarba
--So everyone is talking about Bumpgate. Well, nobody here because it is a complete non-story, but it was an interesting piece of video that was great fodder for the commentary shows today. Well, it happened about 15 feet from me. In case you missed it, LeBron and Mike Brown bumped into each other in the fourth quarter of the Knicks loss. Both men had scowls on their face when it happened, so it looked like something. What really happened was, LeBron was complaining to official Greg Williard about a call. As he was doing that, Nate Robinson made a layup as all the Cavs watched...including LeBron. That upset Brown, who called timeout. He was angry about that and was walking out to meet with his coaches and LeBron was still angry at Williard and they bumped into each other. That's it. I saw it live and didn't think about it for a second. If anything, I'd point to the second quarter when LeBron was yelling at the bench during a timeout as an incident, but that wasn't on film. Here are the quotes, though:
Brown: "It was one guy looking one way and he was looking the other," Brown said. I was kind of shocked when somebody told me (it was an issue). "If LeBron has a message for me, he'll come tell me and if I have a message for him I'll go to him. I think we have a great relationship." LeBron: "I didn’t know nothing about it until somebody just told it to me," James said. "So no issue."
--The Lakers are a more complete team than the Cave right now, especially off the bench. I assume Bynum will be licking his chops after watching the Cavs interior defense last night. It likely won't just be about Kobe, they've been winning with good team efforts. --We'll see if the Cavs come back tonight looking to get pride back on national television. In the past, I'd have said yes. Looking at the attitude on this team of late, I just don't know.
Halftime -- Lakers 53, Cavs 51 --Nope, this isn't going to work. Lakers shooting 53 percent and Kobe is just 4-of-10. Cavs are trading baskets and allowing lots of easy shots. Maybe they get by somehow tonight, but if they don't start playing better defense it won't last. --This is the best Anderson Varejao has played since he's been back. Not only is his jumping better, his timing seems to be back. Let's see if he can keep his wind. He's got four steals in the first half. --LeBron had 19 points on 13 shots and is looking like he really wants to win. Still he's posting up too far from the hoop and dribbling a lot. He had just two assists in the first half, he needs to look to get the ball moving more. --This is the best Lamar Odom has played in weeks, he's 7-of-8. He's a hard cover but he's not this good.
Postgame -- Cavs 94, Lakers 90 Stars LeBron James, 33 points, 10 rebounds Anderson Varejao, 11 points, 15 rebounds, four steals Kobe Bryant, 21 points, five rebounds Lamar Odom, 19 points, 11 rebounds
--Pretty exciting finish for a game in December. Kobe and LeBron were guarding each other down the stretch, each of them telling their coaches and teammates they wanted the other guy. LeBron said he told Sasha "go defend someone else." Not the best shot for Kobe to take at the end, a long 3-pointer over a taller defender, but he's made thousands of those shots in his life and probably a handful to win games. His groin was bothering him and he said it limited him from driving, he didn't look as active as usual. --I hear lots of complaining about officials and the Cavs getting the short end of the stick, which as you know I ignore. The Cavs got a favorable call off Kobe's miss, Derek Fisher slammed Daniel Gibson, but Boobie didn't have position on that play. Coud've gone the other way. --Ok, so the reason the Cavs won tonight was because of defense, of course. They got down 11 in the third quarter it looked like a carbon copy of so many other Cavs games this season. The Lakers were shooting 54 percent after three quarters. But you could just plainly see the changeover, they started showing more energy and contesting more passes and next thing you know the Lakers are taking long, contested jumpers and the Cavs are getting rebounds and running. Bam, 16-0 run and much of it was with LeBron on the bench. Lakers shot 5-of-22 in the fourth, that is why the Cavs won. --The offense is regressing, though. That includes LeBron, he had 33 points but he was not good in the second half. Boy, it was like a throwback to last year with him dribbling so much and standing around. The Cavs shot just 35 percent in the second half and won. --The bench was huge in this game. Varejao had 11 points and 15 rebounds and was a factor on almost every defensive possession. That was him at his best and it could be a sign that he's back to form. If he played like that most nights, he would be worth $9 million a season. Devin Brown had eight points and two rebounds and a big steal and dunk in the fourth. Although when he's running the point, it's downright scary. Even Larry Hughes, who was booed by the crowd tonight, did a good job on defense in the fourth. --The Cavs had just 11 turnovers tonight and were 23-of-30 at the foul line. They have been improving in both those areas of late. --The Cavs had 25 second chance points tonight. Jeez, defense and rebounding and a low-scoring victory. Bad, LeBron dribble-heavy offense. Just like old times, eh?
Quotes Kobe: "I look forward to those matchups, that's what I do as a defensive player." LeBron: "If you want to win ballgames, you have to be able to defend the best player. I think we both took on the challenge." Derek Fisher: "I felt I got to the ball first and there was contact. But I had two hands on the basketball, so had a pushed (Gibson) first, then pushed him, it would've been a foul."
Cavs: Daniel Gibson, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas Knicks: Jamal Crawford, Fred Jones, Quentin Richardson, Zach Randolph, Eddy Curry
--Ladies and gents, this could be a wild night at the Garden. I am actually looking forward to experiencing it. The Daily News ran "Fire Isiah" signs in the paper for people to hold up tonight. The fans are out for blood. The players are pissed Thomas called them out in the media the other day. Whoa, it's like watching a train wreck. --Before the game, LeBron said he felt bad for Isiah and that the Knicks don't give effort more nights and that he'd never allow that on his team. Considering he ripped Stephon Marbury a few weeks ago, you can assume he's not a huge fan of the Knicks team. I assume his comments will be splashed everywhere tomorrow. --Several Cavs joked in the locker room that they should wear helmets in case the fans start throwing stuff on the floor. Of course, that won't happen unless the Cavs actually win the game. --The Knicks are a terrible defensive team and they often are selfish on offense. However, they do have good post scorers and streaky shooters. So if the Cavs play the defense they did last time they were here (last week vs. Jersey) they can easily get beat. If they work hard on defense like they have the last two nights, they will be in good shape. --LeBron has never really had a big game in the Garden. He's really not had a great game since he's been back from injury. Does that make him due? We'll see.
Halftime -- Knicks 63, Cavs 50 --Pretty sad referendum on the Cavs considering the Knicks are playing harder than them. Especially David Lee, who has 17 points and eight rebounds in the half. He is a crowd favorite and he has gotten the crowd to forget about Isiah for awhile. Overall, the Knicks are much, much more aggressive than the Cavs. Reminds me of several other games I have seen of late. --LeBron started out very strong and aggressive but then with four minutes left in the first quarter he seemed to get him on his left hand going for a rebound. Then he had a collision with Zach Randolph and he's seemed to be a little different player since. He's not attacking the pick-and-rolls, he's waiting for the double teams. Sort of like against the Sixers. --It was pretty easy to see that Isiah is trying to send a message to a few players. Eddy Curry played just two minutes and he rode Malik Rose and Lee, two guys who are known for always playing hard, a bunch. Basically, he's not putting his most talented team out there, he's putting his hardest working team. It is working against the Cavs. --The Cavs gave up 58 percent shooting in the first half and are getting killed in transition. The Knicks have been hot from the outside, but slow rotations and slow-footed big men have hurt them. Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao are in foul trouble and Gooden couldn't begin to stop Lee. Cavs are on pace for 100 points, that should be enough to win. Same old story, here.
Postgame -- Knicks 108, Cavs 90
Stars David Lee, 22 points, 11 rebounds Jamal Crawford, 21 points, six assists LeBron James, 32 points, eight rebounds, six assists, six steals
--The Rev. Jesse Jackson came to the Cavs locker room after the game. Perhaps he wanted to speak to them about their defensive boycott. --Here's how bad the Cavs were tonight...The Knicks got a standing ovation. --56 percent shooting, 50 points in the paint, 22 points off turnovers. Seen all of this before...this was the sixth time the Cavs lost by 18 points or more. For detail analysis, please refer to any of the posts from those games. Same story. --The Nets have two wins in their last eight games, both the against the Cavs. The Knicks haven't beaten anyone by more than eight points until tonight. They love the Cavs here in the NY/NJ metro. --In case you were wondering Larry Hughes is 11-of-45 in the last four games. Sasha Pavlovic is 6-of-24. --So which was the Cavs focusless play of the nights was your favorite: A. Calling a fulltime out and thinking it was a 20-second timeout, so they stood on the court arguing about it while the Knicks were still in their huddle. B. Sasha Pavlovic's perfect bounce pass to a cutting Nate Robinson for a layup. C. LeBron arguing with the ref over a call as a Knick scored a layup right behind him. --Though LeBron can't be faulted tonight. He played hard and tried to get the Cavs back in the game. He was more than a little frustrated with his teammates, although he's getting beat a fair amount in defensive rotation, too. --I saw some complaining in the comments about LeBron coming out in the third quarter. For the record, he asked to come out with three minutes left and it took almost two minutes before he could. He was gassed at that point. Plus you can't make a comeback if you can't get stops. --It is fair at this point to start to question Mike Brown. He has openly said that he didn't devote enough time to defense in training camp and it's hurting the team. Ultimately, it is his responsibility to fix it. But these are the same players as last year. Yes, the team could use some upgrades at the offensive end, starting with a point guard. But defensively, these guys know how to play better and they aren't and some of the blame has to go there.
Quotes: Mike Brown: "We think it is going to be easy, like we can show up and win the game. If guys on our team think we defended tonight, we're going to be in trouble." LeBron: "They beat us pretty bad, we had no answer for them defensively and they took advantage of it. It doesn't matter who you are playing against, if you don't play defense you're going to get beat up." Isiah: "We want everybody leaving the arena feeling good and feeling like they had a good time."
Bucks: Mo Williams, Michael Redd, Desmond Mason, Yi Jianlian, Andrew Bogut Cavs: Daniel Gibson, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilguaskas
Officials Dan Crawford, Monty McCutcheon, John Goble
--Gibson is back in the starting lineup and says he's 100 percent. --Tonight is really more about the Cavs than anything, we'll see if they can get their act together. The offense and defense have both been very sick and there hasn't been any practice since. So it will be mind over matter here. --Bucks are a good rebounding team, especially offensive rebounding. The Cavs have been getting whipped there lately so we'll see how that plays out. --The Cavs are going to have problems keeping Mo Williams in front of them. That could be a serious defensive issue. Michael Redd is going to make his shots, but you can't have Williams in the middle all night. There's a chance LeBron will be put on him if Gibson, Larry Hughes or Eric Snow can't get it done. --Sasha can't keep playing this bad, can he?
Halftime -- Cavs 46, Bucks 44
--Cavs held the Bucks to 8-of-22 shooting in the second quarter and have been working hard on their rotations. Which is why they are ahead despite shooting just 42 percent. However, Mo Williams and Michael Redd are a combined 2-of-13. Can that keep up? --LeBron James has seven free throws already, he is looking to drive much more tonight. He's not being super active but is picking his spots and showing some aggression, which is what the Cavs need. --Cavs have looked pretty aggressive on the boards and have worked to get back on defense off long rebounds. These are pure effort upgrades from the last few games, let's see if it keeps up. --Larry Hughes is 2-of-8 and it's actually looked worse and he's been playing his preferred shooting guard spot and running off picks, etc., etc., sort of leaves him out of excuses. --Lots of really average big men have been dunking on the Cavs lately, tonight it's been Jake Voskuhl. But then again, Yi scored nine points in eight minutes and we didn't see him the rest of the half so maybe it's just as well.
Postgame -- Cavs 104, Bucks 99, double overtime Stars LeBron James, 31 points, eight rebounds Zydrunas Ilgauskas, 24 points, 11 rebounds Devin Brown, 11 points, nine rebounds, six assists Desmond Mason, 15 points, 11 rebounds
--At times this looked like two really bad teams figuring out ways to keep themselves from winning. But in all honesty the Cavs must start somewhere, so this is as good as place as any I suppose. --Much credit must be given to Devin Brown, whose gutty play seemed to inspire the rest of the team at times tonight. He's got his flaws and he'll not play this way all the time, but the Cavs needed a spark from somewhere. It came out of nowhere. Let's just assume Damon Jones, Eric Snow and Shannon Brown weren't really thrilled because they didn't play. In my mind none of them deserved to be benched, but the team was losing with them playing. --There were some poor calls both ways by the officials, especially by rookie ref John Goble, in my opinion. But, as unbiased as I can be, I feel it was the right call to swallow the whistle when Andrew Bogut battled Z in the closing moments of double overtime. Z bumped him but he went straight up and I felt it was an OK non-call. In case you missed it, Bogut got an offensive rebound and missed the putback. --The Cavs didn't turn the ball over for the last 23 minutes of the game. That is simply unreal. Devin gets some credit there, too, he was playing as the Cavs backup point guard tonight. --Other than a couple of occasions, Mo Williams didn't get deep penetration. Michael Redd missed some wide open shots but that might've been some karma from the last game when he made some with people in his face. Overall, the Cavs did a good job of playing defense and held Milwaukee to 42 percent shooting and Redd and Williams for 13-of-42. This is how they won games last year, they didn't play good offense but they battled on defense and found a way at the end. --LeBron looked a little too passive at times, especially when he passed up an open 12-footer to pass the ball to Brown for a 3-pointer in overtime, but he got it down when it counted. He made a huge jumper at the end of regulation and made a big-time, left-handed driving layup to seal the game in double overtime. He's still not back yet, but he was better tonight. I thought Desmond Mason did a really good job on him for much of the night, one of the best defensive performances on LeBron this season. --There is such a huge difference in Z's game when LeBron is on the court. He's been a different player over the last couple games. More on that later.
Quotes Larry Krystkowiak: "There's some calls late in that game that I think our team and our league needs to take a little look at. I'll leave it at that." LeBron: "We just made a couple more plays down the stretch than they did," James said. "It was a tough game to win, but we needed it."
p.s. I promised a shout out to Dave from Kent, a reader I met at the game tonight and a fellow Kent State grad. Thanks for reading, Dave, and to all of you as well.
76ers: Andre Miller, Willie Green, Andre Iguodala, Reggie Evans, Samuel Dalembert Cavs: Eric Snow, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Officials Mark Wunderlich, Derek Richardson, Tony Brown
--Daniel Gibson is out after getting hit in the mouth by Jason Kidd in the second half Friday. That may be why he didn't score in the second half. --The Sixers have been playing pretty well of late and have some good young players you may not of heard of. Louis Williams is a bright guard prospect and Jason Smith has been a really good rookie for them off the bench. --Sixers are another team that supposedly has trouble scoring, especially in the front court. We'll see if the Cavs actually play defense tonight or not. On the board in the locker room before the game one of the coachs wrote: "Defensive Pride???" We'll see.
Halftime -- 76ers 51, Cavs 46
--The Cavs aren't doing a whole lot right tonight. Their execution level across the board is very low. Last night in the fourth quarter they did a lot of standing around on offense and it has carried over to tonight. They do have 13 assists and Eric Snow has five, they've had good possessions, but many bad ones. --The bad possessions and long shots and rebounds have really let the Sixers get out and run. And with Andre Miller and Louis Williams, they know how. Try 22 fastbreak points in the first half. That is a great number for a game. Cavs transition defense is what is terrible tonight, in the halfcourt they haven't been too bad. The 76ers had 18 fastbreak points in the second quarter alone. Man, that may be the most I've ever seen in a quarter from a team other than Phoenix. --Miller, who has 16 points, really pushes the ball up the floor so well. Plus he knows how to get fouls and how to score. You can say he's not a great shooter, but neither is Jason Kidd. --Anderson Varejao just isn't getting to loose balls, he is really looking sluggish. 13 minutes and one rebound, but beyond that he just isn't getting his hands on balls he usually does and it happened last night, too. Guess this is getting into basketball shape. --When all Larry Hughes does is take jumpers he is going to look bad. That is all he's done the last two nights and he's 4-of-20. Maybe I am wrong, but he looks like he's favoring the left leg a little bit. I am not sure of that. Also, Mike Brown put him at point guard for a few minutes in the second quarter which made him so unhappy he immediately dribbled a ball off his foot. --LeBron is one his way to a good night but he hasn't been able to get to the line yet. Andre Iguodala is in foul trouble and LeBron should go at him early in the half and attempt to get him out of the game.
Postgame -- 76ers 92, Cavs 86 Stars Sam Dalembert, 16 points, 19 rebounds Andre Miller, 20 points, five assists Andre Iguodala, 20 points, four steals Drew Gooden, 21 points, 10 rebounds
--The 76ers shot 12-of-40 in the second half on the road and won this game. Tonight this blog must focus on offense, I guess. Just shows how out of rhythm the Cavs are right now because they were pretty darn good in halfcourt defense tonight. --This was LeBron's first bad game since the opener. I don't know if it was an energy issue after playing last night, but he was passive LeBron. We've seen it before just like we've seen standing around on offense before. He had just two baskets in the second half and one was a freebie at the end. The Cavs had just four points in the paint in the second half, one was the freebie. He has just one free throw, a major indication of how he was playing. --The 76ers trapped LeBron on pick-and-rolls, which is only effective when he doesn't attack. Tonight after the first quarter he didn't. They may congratulate themselves for great defense and give them credit because the scheme worked, but this was more about LeBron stopping himself in my opinion. --All that said, he is entitled to have an off game every now and then. It just can't happen on a night when Shannon Brown, Larry Hughes and Sasha Pavlovic go 6-of-28. Sasha is back to airballing big shots again, safe to say his confidence is messed up. Way, way, way too many jumpers overall. That is all they took in the second half, can't win that way. --Starting to wonder what is happening to the Cavs' rebounding. Varejao actually played much better in the second half but the Cavs again got pounded on the boards and it made a major difference. Seems like they are out of position a lot. --The Cavs are surely in a terrible streak here and they better start getting concerned. They are also not a complete team. But save the overreactions for later, it is a long season. But as you'll see from the quotes, there is reason to find urgency.
Quotes LeBron: "I'm very concerned, we're not playing good basketball. Right now we are not a very good team. It looked good (Tuesday) but a loss to New Jersey and a loss at home puts things in perspective. We've got a lot of work to do. We're just not a good team, simple as that. It has to be (fixable) or we'll be 15th in the Eastern Conference soon." Mike Brown: "We had a couple wide open looks at the didn't go in that took the wind out of. Right now we're reeling a little bit because of the losses that we've had."
Pregame Starting linueps
Cavs: Daniel Gibson, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas Nets: Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson, Malik Allen, Jason Collins
Officials Joe DeRosa, Bennie Adams, Eli Roe
--Boobie Gibson is back in the lineup but he's not 100 percent as he's still dealing with the effects of what sounded like a nasty tooth issue. We'll see if there is carryover. --It is hard for me to believe that the Nets are this bad, especially after watching them in last year's playoffs. I was actually telling people that I thought they'd challenge the Celtics in the Atlantic Division. Oops.
Halftime -- Cavs 57, Nets 50
--Overall Cavs have played OK. They are having problems at times dealing with the Nets zone and driving into traffic in the middle. But they have shot the ball well enough from the outside to stay in front. Seems like the Nets surprised them with it and their halfcourt trap, but the Cavs have turned it over just six times. --Daniel Gibson has 12 points on three official shots. Guy is crazy in that regard. --Cavs are allowed way too much penetration into the middle on defense. It is repeatedly breaking down their rotations. The Nets have 18 assists on 21 baskets, which is amazing, but part of it is because they are just dishing to open guys around the basket. --LeBron may be on the way to a triple double but lookout for Zydrunas Ilgauskas, seven points, five rebounds, five assists. That would be the statistical achievement of the year, I belive. --Vince Carter hit some jumpers early so he'll probably feel like shooting them the rest of the game, if the Cavs get up into him he'll be hard-pressed to hurt them. But he can get super hot if he gets any space. --Cavs bench scored 20 points in the first half, having Larry Hughes off the bench makes quite a difference. Then again Sasha Pavlovic has played eight minutes without a shot, rebound or assist. --Make it six arenas I've been to that use the Kanye West song as their intro.
Stars Vince Carter, 32 points, seven rebounds Richard Jefferson, 24 points Jason Kidd, eight points, eight rebounds, 11 assists, five steals LeBron James, 29 points, eight assists Zydrunas Ilgauskas, 21 points, 12 rebounds, six assists
--Offense will not be discussed in this blog tonight, there is no point. --The Cavs' defense in the second half was pretty much a joke. Mike Brown tried zone for awhile and then got so desperate that the Cavs went to the hack-a-Josh Boone card. That had to be embarrassing for the entire team. They couldn't get stops, so they sent players in to slap Boone. Boobie Gibson went over to Bennie Adams to tell him the Cavs were going to do it and Adams even gave him a weird look. --Yes the Nets have some hard covers, but let's keep in mind they are ranked 30th in the NBA in offense. Tonight they had 27 assists on 39 baskets and Kidd had just 11. That means there were a lot of Nets passing to wide open other Nets. The reason? Because the Cavs didn't keep anyone in front of them and their weakside rotations were non-existent. Boone had a season-high 15 points and his is a man who cannot make a free throw and missed at least three shots within six inches of the basket tonight. --The Nets have scored more than 100 points just twice in the last eight games...both against the Cavs. --Nets started 1-of-11 from the field, then went 30-of-50. That's not a hot streak, that's domination. --The Cavs won 50 games last year and 12 playoff games with defense and rebounding. Tonight, they only had a handful of good defensive possessions and got outrebounded by the 25th ranked rebounding team, 45-35. The Cavs got beat to 90 percent of the loose balls and Anderson Varejao looked pretty rusty, he couldn't get his hands on anything. --The Cavs now rank 27th in the league in opponents field goal percentage. They have been behind going into the fourth quarter in 19 of 23 games. Considering injuries and the schedule, it is a miracle they have 10 wins. Yes there is promise because they still have the personnel to be a good team but this night was just a reminder of how far away they are from the level they were playing last year. --Larry Hughes went 4-of-15. Hot streak over. --The Cavs got one basket in the paint in the fourth quarter...with 30 seconds left. --LeBron had six turnovers, the Cavs allowed 23 points off turnovers.
Quotes Mike Brown: "It's pretty simple to break this one down. We haven't defended all year."
Pacers: Jamaal Tinsley, Mike Dunleavy, Danny Granger, Jermaine O'Neal, Jeff Foster Cavs: Eric Snow, Shannon Brown, Sasha Pavlovic, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Officials: Tom Washington, Leon Wood, Gary Zielinksi
--Yes LeBron James is playing, no LeBron James is not starting. No, there's no good reason for that. I've covered like 600 games LeBron has played in, heck maybe more, and he's started them all. --Boobie Gibson is swollen and out after having a tooth pulled. --Snow is starting because they need someone to defend Tinsley. That I understand. --Andy Varejao said he expects to be booed and then he blamed it on the newspapers. Look elsewhere, buddy, try the mirror. --Pacers like to shoot 3s, Cavs defensive rotations better be strong. But let's see how Varejao does guarding O'Neal, which I am sure will happen.
Halftime -- Cavs 65, Pacers 49 --The Cavs are feeling good and it is showing in their play. They are aggressively driving to the basket, stepping into their jumpers and being very active on the defensive end. They are getting a lot of frustration out in this one. --Wow, seeing the Cavs right now it is overwhelming to see the talent they have on the floor and off the bench. It's like emerging from the desert after what they've been putting out there. Plus Boobie Gibson isn't even active. Been a long time coming. --I was on WKNR about 10 minutes before tip and Kenny Roda's producer, Chris Fedor, said he thought not starting LeBron was so that they could bring him into the game with Varejao so there wouldn't be boos. That is why they did, although I don't know if that was the motive. Frankly, I don't think the Cavs would be in the mood to do Andy any favors right now but you can decide for yourself. --That glove on LeBron's hand is scaring small children here at the Q. Seriously, I have no idea what that thing is. --The Cavs are shooting 61 percent and they are 5-of-7 on 3-pointers. Larry Hughes has 17 points and has made a bunch of jumpers. We'll see if they (and Larry) can keep it together if the jumpers stop falling. --Sasha Pavlovic's minutes are in serious jeopardy with Hughes and LeBron coming back. Right now, he's playing like it with 12 points in the half. --The Pacers were 3-of-12 on 3-pointers in the first half. They play fast and shoot loose, 16 points is nothing for them to overcome if things turn around from outside. The Cavs cannot cruise and expect to win this game. That said, LeBron has just nine points and I feel like he could take over this game if he wants.
Postgame -- Cavs 118, Pacers 105
Stars Larry Hughes, 36 points LeBron James, 17 points Zydrunas Ilguaskas, 17 points Mike Dunleavy, 23 points
--After the game, LeBron said he asked Mike Brown to come off the bench. He said he wanted to come in with Andy so he wouldn't hear any boos. He said he wanted to "protect" his teammate. That is a nice story and explains why he didn't start. Although it was funny to watch Brown dance around the issue with the media. When Bill Livingston of the Plain Dealer asked whether LeBron would start Friday in Jersey, Mike paused and said: "I've got to watch the film." Priceless! --Anyway, it's not 100 percent true. LeBron did ask to come off the bench but there was no discussion about bringing him in with Andy. But LeBron did pick up that ball and run with it and give great quotes about it. I just wrote a story for ESPN.com about it and I'm sure the soundbyte will make the rounds. Don't say he needs media training. --Forget about the politics, that trio made a major impact on the game. In the first half with LeBron, Hughes and Varejao came in the Cavs went on a 22-5 run. In the second half they came in and went on a 15-0 run. --This was an energy victory, they Cavs shot 55 percent and lots of things went their way. They cannot win this way every night. But after seeing them average 82 points and shoot 37 percent with LeBron out, seeing them put up 118 points was a change of pace. It wasn't just LeBron either, it was like a team-wide exhale. --Hughes is playing happy at shooting guard, at the moment he's getting what he's always wanted. Obviously this was one of those once-in-a-season nights. He was making everything, including bank shots. By the way, going 13-of-17 from the field brought him to 39 percent for the season. So close to that magic 40 again. So he's not going to play this way every night, but if he can be a viable second offensive option to LeBron -- what the Cavs thought when they signed him in 2005 -- it will be difference-making. Need to see a lot more of it before this can be classified something besides a blip. Despite all that, seeing him mix up his drives with his jumpers is a welcome change. He is looking to go the basket more. --Interesting that Z played his best game since LeBron last played tonight. --The Cavs had a skit during the game that showed mascot Moondog running away from someone and wetting his pants when he was backed into a corner. When the camera panned out, the guy chasing him had a Michael Vick jersey on. Whoa. --After the game, the Cavs were all upset in the locker room after seeing the clip of T.J. Ford getting hammered and needing to be carried off on a stretcher.
Quotes: LeBron: ""I thought it would raise the intensity of the fans, having me, Larry and Andy come in at the same time and it worked. I thought by coming in with Andy it might stop of the boos Andy might get. Andy is one of my favorite players, I was just protecting my teammate." Larry Hughes: "I enjoy the opportunity to play off the ball. I've been catching a rhythm." Jim O'Brien: "Larry Hughes was fantastic. I thought they had two LeBron Jameses out there."
Cavs: Daniel Gibson, Shannon Brown, Sasha Pavlovic, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas Bobcats: Raymond Felton, Jason Richardson, Gerald Wallace, Primoz Brezec, Emeka Okafor
Officials Jim Clark, Courtney Kirkland, Eric Lewis
--Larry Hughes will be back tonight after missing 11 games with a deep bone bruise in his leg. And he's promised big things now that he's no longer going to be playing point guard. More on that story in tomorrow's paper/online edition. --Anderson Varejao is not with the team, he's in Canada getting his visa. LeBron James is also out again. --This has the makings of a classic, folks. Bobcats and their seven-game losing streak vs. the Cavs and their five-game skid. Boy, and when you look at the starting lineups you have to give the edge to Charlotte. --The Bobcats average just 91 points a game, they are not good foul shooters, and they are not a good rebounders. Considering the Cavs can't score right now, this would seem to be an opponent they'd have a chance against, we'll see. --The Cavs had their first full-scale practice in two weeks on Friday, we'll see if Mike Brown was able to fix the offense that ignores Zydrunas Ilgauskas. --Gerald Wallace is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated players in the league. He's a good defender who gets steals and bodies up guys like LeBron well. He also can get to the hoop, even though he settles for the jumper, which he's not good at, too often. --By the way, nobody here in Charlotte can figure out what the Bobcats got out of giving Anderson Varejao that offer sheet, either.
Halftime -- Cavs 51, Bobcats 51 --Cavs have survived the Bobcats shooting 54 percent -- mostly from drives and easy post scoring -- and giving up 15 points off 11 turnovers. If they clean up either of these areas, they have an excellent chance in the second half. --Larry Hughes has shown excellent energy and good legs on his way to 12 points. He's playing off the ball and attacking when he can. Look, it's not All-Star production but it is better than taking spot-up jumpers...so far. --Cavs found some success on offense late in the half running a side pick-and-roll with Daniel Gibson and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. The Bobcats are really camping down on Z, using double teams and fronting him. Still, getting him involved makes a major difference. He's 3-of-3 for seven points. --Once again, the Cavs are not rebounding all that well. I can understand without LeBron that it changes offensive rebound chances, but the Bobcats have eight second-chance points. --If you missed the highlight of Shannon Brown's dunk with a minute left in the half, find it somewhere. --The Bobcats are about the fifth team that I've seen that uses that Kanye West Stronger song during their intros. That includes the Cavs. C'mon NBA, how about some original thinking. In general, NBA intros have become very, very lame and that includes the Q, where this year's version is below their previous standard. Here's what happens in every arena: There's a bunch of highlights where the crowd just watches and doesn't cheer spliced in with players in boring setup shots clowning around or looking mean, then there's some smoke or fireworks and they announce the names with piped in crowd noise. Not that I could do it better, I'm just saying all of them have gotten boring.
Postgame -- Bobcats 96, Cavs 93 Stars Gerald Wallace, 22 points, seven rebounds, four steals, five blocks Raymond Felton, 15 points, 11-of-12 at the line in the fourth Larry Hughes, 22 points Ira Newble, 14 points, five rebounds
--LeBron was the first guy out of the locker room going to the bus, within minutes after the game ended and I don't blame him. Not having him was not an excuse tonight. Personnel was not an excuse tonight. The Cavs just plain kicked it away. --Daniel Gibson missing a free throw with 6.6 seconds left that could've tied it obviously was big. You'd like the team's best free-throw shooter to make clutch shots. But that did not decide the game, the Cavs turning the ball over 27 times including three straight times inside two minutes decided it. Sometimes it was Wallace or Jason Richardson making a play, but so many of them were unforced or the product of a terrible decision. --I know he made some offensive plays, but I just don't agree with having Shannon Brown on the floor in the stretch run. He just can't take care of the ball and tonight, neither could Gibson. You have to have a safer ballhandler in there, a guy like Eric Snow or even Damon Jones. Those two combined to play 22 minutes with no turnovers, by the way. --Also, I don't understand why Mike Brown took Newble, Devin Brown and Snow off the court in the fourth. They were playing great defense. Things turned around three minutes into the second half when he pulled Sasha Pavlovic for Snow, who changed the defensive tone. The Cavs got the lead back. --The Bobcats were the second worst free-throw shooting team in the league and they go 14-of-14 in the final minute. So I guess they deserved it, but they turned the ball over 12 times in the second half, shot 31 percent in the second half, and made some really mindless foul mistakes down the stretch. Both of these teams looked very bad in my opinion. --Drew Gooden and Zydrunas Ilgauskas combined for 16 points on 6-of-15 shooting. They have cooled off and not having LeBron is really hurting them. The open shots just aren't there. --Hughes was just 6-of-17 shooting and took some bad jumpers, but he attacked the basket and got to the foul line nine times. He made mistakes, but this was his best game of the season and he hasn't played in three and a half weeks. There's something to be said for that. He will be playing the off-guard from now on, we'll see if this becomes normal. --Wallace had six turnovers and made a stupid foul on Gibson with six seconds left, but otherwise he had a great game. His block of Z with 1:54 left when the Cavs were ahead by a point was a massive play. He is an underrated player, folks, he's really good.
Quotes: Sam Vincent: "When you lose seven in a row, sometimes you make decisions that put you in a position to lose. I thought we did a great job of fighting through that and still coming out with a win."...Translation: We didn't really deserve to win but we did. Raymond Felton: "It was a big win for us."...I guess when you've lost seven straight, any win is big. Mike Brown: "The guys were a little nervous and skittish, but I've got Daniel Gibson, who is a second-year guy and Shannon Brown, who is a second-year guy on the floor."...Excellent point, coach. So why were they both on the floor at the end?
The Jason Kidd-to-the-Cavs stories are certainly sexy, at least in a basketball sense. And after Kidd's comments to Sports Illustrated last week, there's some rationale. There's his contract issues and the weird headache. All the elements are there, which is why my inbox has been blowing up. But now comes this blog's trademark...realism.
First of all, after talking to some NBA executives today, the word Nets president Rod Thorn is putting out there is that he's not interested in trading Kidd right now. Obviously that's fluid and things would change if Kidd came out and demanded to be traded. That hasn't happened yet.
Secondly, the Cavs probably don't have the assets to pull this deal off. The Nets will want a star (which the Cavs don't have to trade) or a package of young talent (they have some there) instant expiring contracts (which they don't have enough of) and draft picks (they have next year's No. 1). It would've been interesting if this happened last week, because maybe there could've been a sign-and-trade with Anderson Varejao to help.
Anyway, someone will need about $15 million in contracts to make a Kidd trade work under the rules. In addition, the Nets have 14 contracts so doing a 3-for-1 or 4-for-2 deal doesn't work without them cutting someone. All their expirings next year don't make sense in a deal because Kidd's deal expires next year. Plus if the Nets trade him, they'll want to trade him West. Never say never, but this just isn't likely.
If you want to start talking about a point guard -- and with Varejao now signed, the Cavs are starting to think trades -- look at Andre Miller. The Sixers just made a change at the top, firing general manager Billy King, and they are headed nowhere fast this season. King was not crazy about moving Miller, who Danny Ferry really likes, in the past. The Sixers are also in position to have a lot of salary cap space next summer and the Cavs could get them some more by involving Ira Newble and Shannon Brown in a deal.
Cavs: Daniel Gibson, Shannon Brown, Sasha Pavlovic, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilguaskas Wizards: Antonio Daniels, DeShawn Stevenson, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, Brendan Haywood
Joe DeRosa, Tommy Nunez, Jack Nies
--LeBron James isn't playing, Gilbert Arenas isn't playing, it's a Wednesday in December and it's snowing here in D.C. Not surprisingly, there's no one here at the Verizon Center. --Based on my viewpoint, there are three players in the Wizards starting lineup the Cavs cannot guard right now. That's Daniels, Butler and Jamison. Could be trouble. --I spoke with Anderson Varejao on the phone a short time ago. It was good to hear his voice, but he won't be back until next week probably. More in the newspaper tomorrow. --Cavs need to remember that Z exists and use him instead of just hoisting jumpers like it's streetball. But then again, the Wizards play streetball. Ugh, lookout.
Halftime -- Wizards 53, Cavs 34
--The Cavs are playing like the New York Knicks right now. They are getting outhustled, they are making silly and unforced mistakes, they are playing one-on-one offense, they are not playing like the care on defense. Sure LeBron, Hughes, and others are out, but this is looking like a summer league game. You can understand getting beat with LeBron out, but they keep getting blown out. Not a good statement on the character of the team right now.
Postgame -- Wizards 105, Cavs 86
Stars Caron Butler, 27 points, seven rebounds Antawn Jamison, 17 points, 12 boards Nick Young, 17 points
--Boy, those Cavs really took Mike Brown's comments about coming out and competing to heart, didn't they? They were down by 28 points a few minutes into the second half. --Just as I will disregard anything Eddie Jordan says about his defense playing well tonight, I will disregard the Cavs comeback to get it to nine points. Both are heavily circumstantial. --The locker room was pissed off after the game, which I honestly have not seen much out of the Cavs. Usually even when they lose they are loose, there were some angry people in there. Especially Drew Gooden. Of course, that doesn't matter if the team doesn't show it on the court. --There are times when I just cannot stand watching Shannon Brown. Yes, he makes a great play every now and then, but when he starts trying to juke a defender and then jacks up a jumper over somebody it is just bad basketball. Same goes for Sasha Pavlovic over the last two games. --Zydrunas Ilgauskas got seven shots tonight, he made five, three of them came when he got offensive rebounds. Unacceptable. The blame goes a lot of places, but partially at the head coach who has to demand the team use its best weapon of the moment. And if he's facing double teams or whatever, do something about it. --Anybody who has been reading this blog over the last four years and knows my philosophy about the game knows how I feel about this stat. Cavs: 20 3-point attempts, 14 free throw attempts. Guess who the only player was who drew more than one shooting foul...Z. --In summer league, I didn't think Nick Young could play dead. I mean he was terrible. Now, he looks like he's going to be a player. He's certainly going to score and he has no fear. Could be a real nice pickup for the Wiz. --One of the Cavemen from that TV show was here tonight. I loved the commercials, hated the show. He was sitting on the baseline next to the Cavs' bench, I wonder if Mike Brown did a double take when looking down the bench thinking of someone to put in the second half. --By the way, Anderson Varejao was on the active roster tonight.
Drew Gooden: "Being the caliber of team we are, even having this many injuries, losing this many games in a row is unacceptable." Z: "We're not cherishing our possessions and we're playing a lot of one-on-one and it makes it very easy to play us."
Also, Thanks everyone for the well wishes while I was out sick. I've been dealing with illness and been limping around with foot tendinitis recently. So if you see me in the airport, please understand why I'm moving so slowly on the people movers.
The Cavs have matched the contract offer to Anderson Varejao. He will be with the Cavs in a couple of days. After this ordeal there is a bunch of postmortem that will be done. Some are calling Anderson Varejao and his agent, Dan Fegan, the winner. Some are calling Danny Ferry the winner. As someone who covered this as close as anyone and someone who spent an hour talking to Fegan and about an hour talking to Ferry yesterday, I don't think anyone can claim victory. One thing I am darn sure about is anyone calling either side having pulled "a masterstroke" is way off in my opinion. It is simply too soon to know.
About a year and a half ago I was outside the Cavs locker room after a victory at Quicken Loans Arena. People were celebrating a victory, Mike Brown was holding his press conference, and there was a lot of activity but I was focused on something else. I saw Mr. Fegan standing outside the locker room, waiting. At the time, he didn't represent any Cavs, or so I thought. Moments later I found out that Andy had fired Herb Rudoy and hired Fegan. From that moment I knew this contract would be a battle. Not just because Fegan is known as being so demanding and unrelenting, but because I knew way back then that it was going to be tough to put a value on Varejao.
I cannot quote anyone and I am not going to go into heavy details, but I've heard what I believe is about 70-80 percent of the story from both sides now. One of the big issues as to why this took so long was communication. I am not kidding you when I tell you the two sides spent months asking each other for a proposal and each refused to give it. One thing I have learned about Ferry over his dealing with Drew Gooden, Sasha Pavlovic and now Varejao is that he can be extremely rigid. Once he makes an offer or sets a parameter, he doesn't like to move. One might even call him hard headed. Here's what I know about Fegan, he doesn't like to compromise and he is obsessed with winning, which is what he spent yesterday trying to convince the media that he did. I guess he sold a few people on it. There is no doubt that these two men being involved caused the delay as much as anything else. But they are also proving to be very good at their jobs.
For the contract itself, the Cavs did the same thing they did with Gooden and Pavlovic. They refused to get locked into a long deal that would be hard to trade. They didn't. They would have been glad to sign Varejao to a five-year contract at their number. Andy didn't want to be locked into that number, which is fine. Andy wanted to be an unrestricted free agent as soon as possible, which is fine.
He will be a free agent in two years and he very well might end up coming out ahead because maybe at that time he will sign the $9-$10 million per season deal he wanted. Maybe Fegan will look smart and collect the massive fee and respect, too. But maybe Andy injures his shoulder again. Maybe he continues to average six points and six rebounds. Maybe the Cavs make a trade that marginalizes his role on the team. He is accepting risk and the third year of that contract is not guaranteed, no matter what you read elsewhere. Which means that he is leaving $8.5 million on the table than if he'd signed the deal with the Cavs. Maybe it'll work out, maybe it won't.
So do yourself a favor, don't paint yourself into a corner by taking a strong position on this outcome.