SAN ANTONIO: Thirteen final thoughts from a 126-96 beatdown at the hands of the league’s best team…
1. This is going to be brief. There’s not a whole lot left to dissect over a game like this and I’ve got a 6 a.m. flight.
2. The Cavs now have 10 losses, tied with the Celtics and Bucks for most in the Eastern Conference. The only team in the league with more losses is the Jazz (1-13). Yet the East is so screwed up right now, the Cavs are only 1.5 games out of the eighth playoff spot.
3. That isn’t changing anytime soon. The loss of Derrick Rose, perhaps for the rest of the season, makes the Bulls very ordinary. The Heat and Pacers are the only elite teams. Everyone else is fighting for six wide open playoff spots. That’s good news for teams like the Cavs, who some nights can’t get out of their own way.
4. The bad news is the Cavs have let a lot of winnable games slip away. They’ve played the fourth-easiest schedule in the NBA to start the season, according to the website playoffstatus.com. Those losses to teams like the Bucks and Sixers could really cost the Cavs in April – provided the April games matter when we get there.
5. There were people within the Cavs warning me before the start of the season that it could be messy early. No one expected it to be this ugly, but there were people within the organization uncomfortable with all the talk about the playoffs. But once Dan Gilbert proclaimed the Cavs weren't going back to the lottery for a while, expectations soared.
6. This is the article I wrote in July, after the Cavs signed Andrew Bynum. I was working under the assumption the Cavs would be significantly better and buck the trends of history. They’re not. So far, they’re falling right in line with all the other young teams.
7. I think I’m more concerned with Dion Waiters right now than I am Anthony Bennett. Typically not all the guys drafted high by one team fit and they certainly don’t all fit when a team changes coaches mid-rebuild. With his defensive shortcomings and Brown’s quick decision to move him to the bench, Waiters would be my best guess as the guy least likely to be here a year from now. But the Cavs aren’t going to just give him away and I’m not sure what his trade value is right now.
8. For all the bad I saw tonight, and there was plenty, this weekend may have been the springboard for Andrew Bynum. We’ll see, but if this works, this weekend might be the point where it all started coming together for him. Of course a few hours ago, I was questioning if this Bynum experiment was worth it. But after watching him against the Pelicans and Spurs the last couple nights, I’m starting to see the light.
9. All those shots that were clanking off the rim and bouncing out have been rolling in the last couple of nights. He made 3 of 5 shots against the Pelicans, then had a season-high 16 points against the Spurs and equaled his season high with six rebounds. Brown said tonight the Cavs are getting close to increasing his minutes (right now he’s hovering around 20) and the fact he’s already playing on back-to-backs means his blending into this team may now accelerate.
10. Brown believes Bynum will eventually be able to get to regular starter’s minutes. If/when that happens, Kyrie Irving and Bynum together is a good start. Part of the reason Waiters was moved to the second team was because he needs the ball too much, and right now Irving and Bynum take a priority.
11. Let’s not get carried away with Anthony Bennett, but his performance in garbage time against the Spurs (4 of 5 shooting, 9 points, 5 rebounds) was by far the best he’s looked in a game during the regular season. He of course got his requisite 3-pointers up, but I was impressed with the way he drove the lane and attacked the rim on one possession. We’ve been waiting to see that for weeks.
12. Now, again, it was the fourth quarter of a blowout and the Spurs had stopped defending long ago. But Bennett was in a similar position 10 days earlier against the Minnesota Timberwolves and flopped during garbage time, so any step forward, no matter how small, is progress. The Cavs were legitimately pleased with how good he looked in a couple of recent practices, so maybe something is starting to click.
13. That’s it for tonight. I’ve been battling a chest cold all weekend and I’m tired of working on a Super Mario Bros. computer. See you in Cleveland.