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Jason Lloyd: Cavs holiday gift guide includes confidence, good health and new knees

By Jason Lloyd
Beacon Journal sports writer

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CHICAGO: The Cavaliers would like one gold ring before worrying about five and their last leaping lord is now on South Beach. With Christmas fast approaching, here is a gift idea for various members of the organization.

Kyrie Irving

Continued health. Irving admitted Friday one of his goals for this season is to play in all 82 games. He is tired of hearing about how injury prone he is, and while his overall shooting numbers are down, I have to believe there will eventually be a course correction if Irving continues to stay healthy.

He missed 15 games his rookie season and 23 games last year. One of the overall keys to the Cavs’ season was health. With roughly one-third of the season complete, Irving, Anderson Varejao and Andrew Bynum have all managed to stay healthy.

C.J. Miles

A rabbit’s foot or maybe a horseshoe. Miles is due some good fortune. He was terrific in his bench role, then moved into the starting lineup and injured his calf. He’s yet to rediscover his shooting stroke.

Miles was averaging 11.6 points and shooting 48 percent (38 percent on 3-pointers) off the bench. But as a starter, he’s averaging 5.7 points and shooting 34 percent (28 percent on 3-pointers). He could be figuring some things out, however. He went into Friday’s game against the Bucks averaging 8.3 points in his previous four games and shooting 45 percent.

Tristan Thompson

A time machine. If Thompson could go back about six or eight years and start working on becoming a right-handed player then, how good could he be today? The transition has been choppy this season. After a fast start, he’s shooting 44.3 percent — down from his 48.8 percent last season and up only slightly from his rookie season of 43.9.

Granted, Thompson is taking shots farther away than he did in either of his last two seasons, but he simply isn’t making as many shots as he was last year and the Cavs need his scoring in the post.

Andrew Bynum

New knees, if only it were that easy. Bynum is certainly ahead of where most everyone thought he’d be at this point, but his timing and touch seem to come and go. Just when it looked like Bynum was really starting to figure some things out, the Cavs ignored him during games and Friday night he really struggled with his shots around the rim.

Brown has told Bynum even if his explosiveness doesn’t improve at all, he’s still more mobile right now than the Pacers’ Roy Hibbert — and Hibbert is an All-Star. That can still be Bynum’s ceiling, but the Cavs have to be more consistent in getting him the ball. Then they have to hope his touch and feel will continue to return.

Dion Waiters

A defensive mindset. Too often it seems Waiters lets his offense dictate his defense. When he’s scoring and shooting well, he’s happy to defend and dig in to grab big rebounds. But when he’s struggling with his shot, Waiters often gets pummeled defensively, too.

That’s a good way to get on Mike Brown’s grumpy side. Waiters has proved he has the ability to be a great defender, but he too often loses interest, particularly when his man doesn’t have the ball.

Anthony Bennett

Can you wrap confidence? Does it fit in a box? Despite what he has shown so far, Bennett has the physical tools to be a very good NBA player. He just seems overwhelmed right now, although he’s slowly starting to figure things out. I think the position switch has helped because he was playing like a wing anyway.

Until Mike Brown starts playing him more minutes, it’s going to be difficult to gauge his progress. Lately he has been playing one stretch late in the first quarter into the start of the second and that’s it. He has hit his first shot or two at times, but doesn’t get enough playing time to build off it.

Brown is more concerned with winning than developing a rookie right now, which is why he’s only playing a fraction of the minutes other top rookies are getting. It might take an injury for Bennett to receive meaningful minutes.

Anderson Varejao

You know how people always wish good health and happiness for the new year? Well for Varejao, they mean it.

Varejao played in his 25th game Friday night, equaling his total from each of the last two seasons. Varejao suffered injuries that ultimately ended his season in the 25th game the last two years. Three years ago, he played in 31 games before an ankle injury ended his season.

If Varejao makes it through the New Year’s Eve game at Indiana unscathed, he’ll have matched his most games played total from any of the last three years. If he makes it to 2014 healthy, the Jan. 2 home game against the Magic will make this the most games he has played in since 2009-10.

Sergey Karasev

A jug of muscle milk and one year subscription to Muscle & Fitness. Get the idea? Karasev is very skilled and the coaching staff and front office remain high on him, but he has to get bigger and physically stronger. He’s probably a better long-term fit at small forward, but he would get dominated right now by some of the league’s better 3s.

Karasev’s playing time has been minimal and that will probably continue. He’s only 19. He grew up the son of a coach, so his body just needs to catch up with what his mind already knows.

Matthew Dellavedova

A rawhide or a new chew toy for the team’s reigning pit bull. Anderson Varejao gave Delly that nickname last week and it sticks, certainly more than when former coach Byron Scott trotted out the “pit bull” nickname for Omri Casspi a couple of years ago. That, unfortunately, followed Casspi around for two years like a punch line.

Dellavedova, however, is one of the toughest players on the team. His defensive acumen tends to irritate opponents (and teammates in practice) and while he doesn’t make many baskets, the ones he makes are usually huge buckets at critical points in the game. Fairly remarkable in a draft this bad, 60 players were selected and Dellavedova wasn’t one of them.

Mike Brown

A new small forward. Alonzo Gee’s story is terrific. He went from undrafted to NBA starter through hard work and tremendous natural athleticism. But he’s simply not good enough to be a starter on a championship-caliber team.

Now no one is expecting the Cavs to contend for a title this season, but it’s fairly remarkable they’ve played as well as they have lately, considering how little they’ve received from perhaps the most athletic, scoring-focused position in the game. Gee is averaging 3.9 points and 2.6 rebounds.

He is very good defensively and Brown has done well to squeeze what he can out of Gee offensively. Eventually the Cavs are going to have to address this, either through trade this season or free agency next summer.

Jason Lloyd can be reached at jlloyd@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.


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