BROOKLYN, N.Y.: Fifteen thoughts tonight following an 89-82 loss to the Nets…
1. Forget about this game for a moment. The column I filed for Sunday’s Beacon Journal explores whether it’s time to pull the plug on expectations for this season. As the Cavs inch closer to dealing Andrew Bynum to the Lakers for Pau Gasol, as ESPN.com reported late tonight, I wonder if it’s time to stop looking for band-aids to fix the season.
2. Gasol instantly gives the Cavs a formidable scorer in the post and someone who can play pick-and-roll with Kyrie Irving, whenever Irving returns from this knee injury. Andrew Bynum is very gifted offensively, but he was obviously rusty after missing so much time. Gasol is a different type of player as well and could blend in easier.
3. Notice I said “could.” There are no guarantees. The Cavs will be incorporating Gasol on the fly and that didn’t work out so well with Bynum. And much like with Bynum, the Cavs won’t have a training camp or preseason to learn how to play with Gasol. In a way, they’ll be starting over 30 games into the season. I’m not sure I like those odds.
4. The Cavs have had their eye on Gasol for a while. They tried trading for him over the summer, and frankly I think he could be a terrific addition to this offense. I’m just concerned over the timing of the deal. Like I said, the learning on the fly thing.
5. In the broader picture, I’m just not convinced it’s worth continuing trying to drag this team to the playoffs. The foundation isn’t complete. We’ve seen enough of this team to come to that conclusion. And that shouldn’t be much of a surprise. The history of the league, and how long it has taken teams to recover from losing superstars, backs that up. I’m not going to rehash the entire column. Click the link above if you haven’t seen it.
6. Here’s an example of what can happen if you head back to the lottery one more time. Whether it’s from trading Anderson Varejao, Dion Waiters or getting a team like the Clippers out of the luxury tax, you can expect at least one first-round pick in return. It won’t be in 2014, but it’ll be a future draft. For this hypothetical, just use the Clippers’ pick in 2017.
7. I hate to use this example because it has been tossed around so much already, but Kevin Love can become a free agent in 2015. The Timberwolves are adamant at this point about keeping him, but they’ve faded after a hot start. What if they don’t make much progress this season and next? What if Love makes it clear to them he’s not coming back. They may come to the conclusion they’ll eventually have to trade him or risk losing him for nothing.
8. The Cavs can offer Tristan Thompson (who will still be on his rookie deal), the Grizzlies’ pick in 2015, which could be in the top 10 based on their struggles this season (it’s top-5 protected) and this hypothetical Clippers pick in 2017. And they still haven’t touched any of their own picks, plus the future Sacramento pick. Anyway, you get the idea.
9. Now the Cavs have a foundation of Irving, Love and Player X from this summer’s terrific crop. And now they’re ready to start winning.
10. Of course, Love could commit long term to the Timberwolves and destroy the whole idea. That’s why these trades are so difficult to make. It took the Rockets months and months of pestering the Thunder before finally getting something done for James Harden. Players like that rarely become available, and when they do, you have to have the right mix of players and picks to get something done.
11. If the Cavs cash in on this season, it will allow them to play Anthony Bennett enough minutes to really evaluate what they have. Did they swing and miss? Better to know now rather than later. Can he develop into a useful piece? The only way to find out is to play the kid more than the eight minutes he received Saturday. After saying he was going to try to have more patience with Bennett, he has played about 11 minutes in three consecutive games and then played eight tonight. That doesn’t look like much patience. But again, the Cavs have been cornered into this win-now mode for which they are not ready.
12. Dion Waiters was funny tonight. He looked up and saw the Eagles were losing and looked upset. I asked him what was bothering him and he said, “Everything.” I didn’t see the game on in the background, but another reporter said it seemed in reference to the Eagles. It didn’t look that way on the quote sheet distributed after the game.
13. Waiters, however, is clearly frustrated with his lack of calls. Of course, I’ve sat courtside and heard Waiters shout “and-1!” on drives to the rim when he isn’t even touched, so he may not be the most impartial juror. But the Cavs don’t seem to get many calls and it’s boiling over for Waiters, who was given a technical in the fourth quarter.
14. “It’s built-up frustration,” he said. “There’s a lot of grabbing and they let a lot go. I felt they had to call it both ways and every time we come off … a certain play call, they have a guy grabbing our jerseys while they are watching it and not calling it. At the end of the day it gets frustrating. When you go to the rack they do a lot of cheap stuff – they hold you, they bang you, and then they hold you some more. They need to call it both ways.”
15. I’ll leave you with this, which someone pointed out to me tonight. Look at Ricky Davis’ per 36 numbers from his 2002-03 season with the Cavs, his only season as a 20-point scorer (20.6) and look at Waiters’ per 36 numbers this year. Frighteningly similar.