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Cavs vs. Charlotte Bobcats

By George Thomas Published: October 31, 2009

Post mortem:  Cavs 90, Bobcats 79
Ultimately what turned this game into a win is what usually does for this team - defense.
At one point in the third quarter the Bobcats tied this thing up at 46 and it looked as if this would be another night of writing about the Cavaliers' struggles. That was premature.
They reeled off a 9-2 run and never looked back and it came courtesy of blocks, steals and good solid defense.
Some of the pieces the Cavs went out in got are looking as if they're finally going to start fitting this puzzle.  Anthony Parker had a solid night with 13 points, some great defense that included two steals.  Shaq was solid on both sides of the ball.
And then there are the Cavs' vets.  Mo Williams came up huge with 24 points, hitting from the outside at will.  Some may disagree with this, but I thought Delonte West's appearance gave the Cavs a bit of lift and his 13 point performance certainly didn't hurt.
There's little doubt that the team still need work.  At times they were sloppy, turning the ball over 19 time.  Those TOs led to 23 Charlotte points and they only had five offensive boards. 
However, they actually got better from last night's game to today's.
Game: Cavs vs. Raptors
Broadcast:  TV: FSOhio. Radio; WAKR (1590 AM); WTAM (1100 AM), WHBC (1480 AM)
Starters: Cavs:  LeBron James (F); Anderson Varejao (F); Shaquille O’Neal (C); Anthony Parker (G); Mo Williams (G). Bobcats:  Gerald Wallace (F); Boris Diaw (F); Tyson Chandler (C); Stephen Graham (G); Raymond Felton (G).
Officials: Mark Wunderlich, Marc Davis, Kane Fitzgerald
Streaking: Each team has won one.
Things to look for:
Look to see if the Cavs can build on their win against the Minnesota Timberwolves.  The dilemma:  that win didn't really come from the starting five.  Most of it came from LeBron James, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Anderson Varejao and Daniel Gibson playing based on familiarity.
Delonte West has returned.  What's he got for the team.  Lately in the locker room at home and on the road, the same old happy guy could be seen joking with his teammates.

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Remain Calm: All Is Well!!!!!

By George Thomas Published: October 30, 2009

Looking at the Cavaliers in their first two games, I am reminded of Kevin Bacon's anal-retentive Omega House pledge in Animal House as the hordes of parade attendees trampled him fleeing Bluto Blutarsky (John Belushi), his Delta House chums and the mayhem they created in the name of revenge.
"Remain calm!!! All is well,'' Chip screamed to no avail.  The crowd ignored the call to calm and he ended up flatter than day-old Schlitz. 
I'm going to modify Chip's plea a little:  ''Remain calm, all is not well - for now.''
Although I am in Minneapolis, I hear and read the nervousness in the blog posts and on newspaper websites.  "What's wrong with the Cavs?"  "Oh my goodness, we're not going to go 82-0."  "Typical, Cleveland sports team." 
Might I suggest chilling just a wee bit for a host of reasons.
Cavs fans were warned many times over during the preseason that this version of the team wasn't about to start off the way last year's did.  Check that, maybe they still could.  After all, they started 1-2 last year and if all goes as it should tonight, they will do so again.   They'd return home tomorrow to face the Charlotte Bobcats, a team that couldn't hit 60 points earlier this week.
Yes, they could still start the same as last year, but let's be realistic.  The likely won't and there are a host of reasons why they won't.
Let's face it,  there are too many new parts for all of this to work out seamlessly. Shaquille O'Neal?  Mike Brown hasn't had a low post presence like him to work with since being in Cleveland. Figuring out how to play him is a big part of the Cavs' issues.  Because Brown is planning to save O'Neal for the playoffs, he's still working out minutes and how to balance O'Neal's with the need to rest him.
The preseason set the Cavs behind seriously. Flu? Had it.  Injuries? Had those too.  They haven't had the chance to work together enough to get a feel for one another.
And given the fact there are two new starters and a couple of new bench players in Jamario Moon, and Leon Powe eventually, establishing chemistry isn't about to be an instant thing.  If anything it's akin to making a movie.  Take all the elements - screenplay, cast and director - mix them properly and you get Schindler's List.  If anyone of those elements are off, you end up with Ishtar.
And finally, observers are getting a look at just how important Delonte West is to the team.   Because he's so focused on the court, that he does almost flawless.  When LeBron James isn't on the floor, he's usually the best Cavalier playing.  An educated guess is West returns sooner rather than later.
None of this excuses what we've seen on the floor so far.  Brown has been correct in his observation that in some cases the effort from his team just hasn't been there.   And they do look disjointed and awkward together.
But what I do know is that this isn't a football season.  A record of 0-2 in pro basketball is a blip.  In football it can be a lost season.
So when should the worrying commence?  Talk to me in January.

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Cavs vs. Raptors

By George Thomas Published: October 28, 2009

Raptors 101, Cavs 91
So who do the Cavs miss most?  Delonte West or former assistant Jon Kuester? Considering they're having problems on both sides of the ball right now, the short answer might ''both.''
Defensively speakign the Cavs let the Toronto Raptors have their way with them the entire first half, going into the locker room down 57-39.   The shot just 31 percent in the first half and it didn't get much better in the second.   They finished the game shooting just 35 percent.
Mike Brown was succint in his appraisal of what's going on the defensive side of the ball:

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Gameblog: Cavs vs. Boston Celtics

By George Thomas Published: October 27, 2009

Final:  Boston 95, Cavs 89
Post-mortem:  After getting off to a sizzling start in the first quarter, the Cavaliers fizzled the rest of the game partly because of unfamiliarity and mostly because of sloppiness.
This is what coach Mike Brown meant about starting the season out rough as the Cavaliers jumped on the Celtics early only to watch Boston beat them from the outside and claim the lead.
For much of the game, the Cavs' defense went missing - especially from the outside and Boston made them pay connecting on 47 percent on three-pointers and a host of other jump shots that went uncontested.
After that start, it was clear that the team's not quite in tune offensively - especially in the fourth quarter - as they committed five turnovers when the game mattered most.  In one instance, free-agent acquisition Anthony Parker looked surprised by a ball that LeBron James fired at him.  Parker had a wide-open look on the shot. Instead, the ball bounced off his hands out of bounds.
At the time it as just a two-possession game with more than 50 seconds left.  It ws one of a host of miscues the Cavs had in the fourth. 
From Mike Brown:

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Cavs: Game Day Notes

By George Thomas Published: October 27, 2009

The primary question waiting to leap from tongues of the media herd assembled at Quicken Loans Arena for shootaround this afternoon:  wither Delonte West?
Here's the official answer.  Delonte West is doubtful for tonight's game.  The team continues to handle his situation with kid gloves and coach Mike Brown once again stated that he'll play West when West is ready.

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When Do You Give Up Your Privacy?

By George Thomas Published: October 26, 2009

Psssttt...Have you heard the news?
Delonte West is in trouble - again.  I wrote the last sentence with a healthy dose of sarcasm and disdain.
According to a report from WOIO Channel 19, West argued with his newlywed wife this past weekend and she filed a report against him for domestic violence.

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Cavs and Wizards Preseason Fun

By George Thomas Published: October 15, 2009

It's difficult to find anything to like in a game where the Cavs give up 109 points on 55 percent shooting in a five-point loss.  The Wizards were able to get off easy layups, uncontested jump shots and perimeter defense was non-existent.
But circumstances have to be taken into consideration.  LeBron James out with flu-like symptoms. Though not as impactful, so were Darnell Jackson and Coby Karl -same reason.
Mo Williams?  Right groin problem.  Danny Green? Right glute contusion.  And, of course, there are ongoing issues with Delonte West.
Then Daniel Gibson and Anderson Varejao go down with injuries. Fun. Fun. Fun.  Yes, it was a thoroughly enjoyable  night at Quicken Loans Arena.  And, yes, and I say this with all due sincerity - there were good moments.  Laugh if you will, but it's not like it was the Browns beating the Buffalo Bills 6-3.
So with that heaping pile of bad, comes these facts:
Shaquille O'Neal can still dominate games.  He wasn't the high scorer for the Cavs but he pushed around any Wizard that dare guard him, tallied 13 points and six rebounds in the process.
Jawad Williams, a back up forward, made the case for a roster spot with his 21-point performance that including 4-of-6 from the three-point line.
Andre Barrett will make it difficult for coach Mike Brown to cut him.  He scored eight points, dished out eight assists, ran the offense well, played aggressive defense.

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Delonte West Returns to Training Camp

By George Thomas Published: October 13, 2009

Delonte West returned to the Cavaliers Monday night, said coach Mike Brown.
Last year's starting shooting guard, didn't play with his team against Olympiacos, but did practice with coaches at Cleveland Clinic Courts.
So is this good news or bad news?  Ultimately it depends on the type of person you are. 
Looking at this situation last year, West missed approximately 10 days of training camp and went on to have the best season of his still-young career.   It's quite evident that he will be able to come back whenever he wants.
A source with knowledge of West's situation told me that the team is in no hurry to get him back on the court.  Anxious fans sniffing the possibility of a championship might consider this disruptive to those aspirations, but personally, I think the team is handling this properly.
West and his father Dmitri both told me that Delonte is at his best when he's on the court.  He can forget his problems.  As therapeutic as it may be for him, it's better for both parties to take their time getting him back to form.
Coach Mike Brown says he's in no hurry to get West back, preferring to get it right as opposed to rushing things.  West will be in shape and he will be ready to play.  The best thing he can do is to get mentally healthy.

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Training Camp: Half Way Through

By George Thomas Published: October 13, 2009

Two weeks remain in the Cavaliers' preseason and there are a couple of things worth noting:
Shaq and LeBron are showing that they're developing that elusive thing called chemistry.  While Monday night's exhibtion game against Greek team Olympiacos felt every bit like a preseason fling.  Those two got to work toward the end of the first half showing that they should indeed be able to mesh.
One thing to note, however, this doesn't look as if it's going to be the Shaq and LeBron show solo.  Judging from the way the team is playing, this will be an ensemble effort - as much as it can be when you have someone like James on the roster.
Why do I say that?  Just looking at the way they play.  James loves to find a streaking Anderson Varejao cutting to the hoop.  Monday night, O'Neal, whose passing skills have gone unnoticed by yours truly until now, did the same thing.  Varejao will get his share of shots if he remains active around the offensive side of the ball.
Anthony Parker more than once shown that he's as advertised - you can toss him the ball breaking to the outside and he can drain a jumper with little problem.
The Cavs' first unit toyed with Olympiacos and that was without Mo Williams.
That's just the first unit.  If you look to the bench, the ssecond unit could potentially start in the league.  This Cavs team with Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Daniel Gibson, J.J. Hickson and, should he return, Delonte West , gives the Cavs their deepest team ever.
Hickson is someone fans should watch once the regular season begins.  If he ever plays defense and does the little things that coach Mike Brown stays in his ear about, he's going to be a hell of a player.  The Cavs drafted him on athleticism and potential.  Both could yield huge dividends in the coming season.

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Washington Wizards: Rivalry Tips Off Before Regular Season

By George Thomas Published: October 7, 2009

You can never accuse the Washington Wizards of having long memories. The team that injuries decimated last season is healthy, has a new coach and, apparently a new life.
Some things never change, however and that's the fact that the Wizards kinda, sort of, well...detest the Cavs and, it would seem LeBron James in particular.  But the level of vitriol was taken to a new level - I'll leave it to you to decide whether it's high or low - the other day during a practice.
Mike Miller, a player the Wizards acquired in the offseason from the Minnesota Timberwolves and a good friend of James, wore some of the Cleveland superstar's signature shoes in practice.  The reaction was immediate according to the Washington Post.

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Preseason: Cavs vs. Charlotte Bobcats

By George Thomas Published: October 6, 2009

We'll get back to the regular game blog format when the regular season rolls around.
In the meantime, here are a couple of highlgiths from the Cavs-Bobcats game at Quicken Loans Arena Tuesday night.
Shaquille O'Neal and LeBron James look very comfortable out on the floor together.  The entire starting lineup looked comfortable, despite the fact that there were two new faces in O'Neal and Anthony Parker. One thing that apparently caught at least Anderson Varejao by surprise - O'Neal's ability to pass the ball.  He tossed one to Varejao that the power forward didn't expect and the result was a turnover.  As the month wears on, O'Neal's teammates will get used to it.
J.J. Hickson, who looked so out of sorts on the court last season played with confidence against the Bobcats.  He, along with James, led all scorers with 15 points a piece.  Hickson hit from the outside with a mid-range jumper.  He drove to the hoop with confidence and showed some creativity getting the ball up and in the hoop on a couple of occasions.
Coach Mike Brown wasn't ready to praise him effusively just yet, however.  He harped on the fact that Hickson needs to work on his defense, specifically guarding players on the weak side.
And a couple of ugly things came to light.  The Bobcats scored 40 points in the paint and as a team and the Cavs committed 19 turnovers.  Those problems can be corrected given the fact that it's early in the preseason.

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NBA GMs: Sorry, Cleveland. Lakers Still the Faves

By George Thomas Published: October 6, 2009

Bad news Cavs fans:  The Cavaliers aren't the favorite, even with the additions of Shaquille O'Neal and Anthony Parker, to win the NBA's championship this season.  They're not even the favorite to win the league's Eastern Conference - at least not with the league's general managers.
Just 17.9 percent of league GMs say that the Cavs are good enough to win this year's championship and they're tied with the 2007-08 champs, the Boston Celtics.  The reigning champs, the Los Angeles Lakers, are favored to repeat by 60.7 of the NBA's top execs.
Fifty-percent of GMs expect the Celtics, who will have the Boston Three Party in tact to start the season, to reassert themselves atop the Eastern Conference.  More than 42 percent said the Cavs will find themselves in The Finals.
Individually, there was good news for LeBron James as GMs expect him to repeat as NBA MVP. 
My assessment?  Nothing wrong with a healthy dose of skepticism or a reality check for the Cavs.  Expectations by Cleveland fans desperate for a winning are so high, I suspect that they'd starte following the Cleveland City Stars, the local pro soccer team.  Yes, there is one.
The reality is the Cavs got better in the off season.  The bench has the depth that most NBA teams would scream for with the additions of Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon.  It gets better when Leon Powe is cleared to play.  But so did many teams in the Eastern Conference. 
The Orlando Magic added Vince Carter to their roster. They probably gave up a lot in Courtney Lee, who will be an All-Star in the future, but it's quite obvious they want to win now.  As for the Celts:  they added Rasheed Wallace, a personality who's been a handful in the past, but one that Coach Doc Rivers will be able to tame.
In short:  the Cavs won't be dancing through the season.

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Braylon and LeBron: I Can Only Go By What I Remember

By George Thomas Published: October 5, 2009

In case you missed the latest Cleveland sports soap opera:  Braylon Edwards allegedly decked one of LeBron James' friends - a club promoter named Edward Givens giving him a black eye.
Words were bandied about beforehand.  Edwards said Givens wouldn't have what he has without being a F.O.L, which may or may not be true.
But Givens and Later James said something interesting:
"As long as I've known Braylon, I've allowed him and his friends to come into our events free of charge. Whatever jealousy he has with LeBron, he felt he needed to take it out on me,'' Givens said to Cleveland. com
James took it a step further:
''I never crossed paths with Braylon before, but it seems there's a little jealousy going on between Braylon, me and my friends,'' James said. '' I have no idea why. I've never said anything to Braylon at all.  For him to do that, he's just very childish.''
Strong words, but for anyone who remembers the 2005 NFL Draft vividly, such as yours truly, you can't help but believe there is some truth there.  I remember cameras following Edwards working on a documentary.  I also remember the draftee's concern with marketing himself across many platforms.
In Cleveland an athlete has done that successfully, but it hasn't been Edwards.  In fact, his stay here in Northeast Ohio is tumultuous at best with one memorable season in 2007.  Is Edwards jealous? Only he knows for sure, but given some of the vitriol mentioned related to this incident, it takes just one small step to get to the answer ''yes.''
What say you, blogosphere?

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Varejao Thrilled His Homeland Got 2016 Olympic Games

By George Thomas Published: October 2, 2009

A smiling Anderson Varejao greeted reporters Friday after he learned that his native Brazil – Rio De Janeiro specifically – was awarded the 2016 Summer Olympics, beating out the Windy City – Chicago – and the star power of Pres. Barack Obama as he personally made a pitch to the International Olympic Committee for the games.
‘’It’s huge for my country,’’ Varejao said. ‘’I’m very happy. I hope (the Brazilian men’s basketball team) can make it this time.’’
What would be better than that? Varejao participating. But will he be able to lace them up at the old age of 34? ‘’I hope so,’’ he said with a laugh.

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Shaq Cracks Them Up (and That's Just the Media)

By George Thomas Published: October 1, 2009

So this is what it's going to be like?
Shaquille O'Neal came to the North Coast with the reputation of being funny, the prankster, the court jester if you will.
But the media - including yours truly - experienced it first hand Thursday afternoon.
It's the first time reporters got a chance to talk to Shaq since media day Monday.  Scott Raab, a former Clevelander and writer for Esquire magazine who is planning to write a book about the upcoming season, is portly with wavy, long silver hair combed backward and a beard to match.  Shaq greeted him but two words stood out - Santa Claus. 
It only got better from there - for some.  As O'Neal deftly answered questions ranging from how in-shape he is to his summer TV series, the subject of Twitter came up because David Stern recently enacted restrictions on the text message-based social networking site. Shaq helped to popularize it.  In fact, he used it just this week to solicit suggestions for what he should be for Halloween.
When asked if he'd gotten any, he said no.  That's when yours truly opened  his big mouth and said "Have you considered going as Shrek."
He gave the hilarious answer you might expect:  "I already look like him, so I don't want to go as him."
But as he was walking away, I said: "It's a costume that's always worked for me."
He drifted behind and said:  "You're trying to be funny, big guy?"
He then promptly grabbed two handsful of my gut.  Got the biggest laugh of the the day.
Yes, there were plenty left over for a third hand.

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Delonte West Returns to Training Camp

By George Thomas Published: October 1, 2009

Cavs gaurd Delonte West returned to Cleveland Clinic Courts Thursday after missing the first two days of training camp.
While West didn't talk to the media, Coach Mike Brown said that he participated fully in practice and it was good to have him back on the floor.
West's absence had been a surprise given his participation on media day, despite a recent arrest on weapons charges near his home in Upper Marlboro, Md.   Monday, he appeared to be in good spirits, flashing a big smile and laughing.  His absence surprised the team
Brown said West will participate in the team's annual Wine & Gold Scrimmage Saturday at the University of Akron's James A. Rhodes Arena.  G.M. Danny Ferry is expected to address the issue then, said a team spokesman.

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