CLEVELAND: Twenty-eight thoughts for 28 fourth-quarter points from the Knicks in the Cavs’ 95-90 loss on opening night…
1. LeBron James was not good. In fact, he was arguably the Cavs’ worst player on the court. That might be the last time that happens.
2. James shot 5-for-15 and committed eight turnovers. Some of it was sloppy ball handling, some was miscommunication – watching Kyrie Irving cut one way while throwing it another. It happens, particularly with a new team. Also, James hadn’t played in 10 days since he sat the final preseason game.
3. “I hate turning the ball over,” James said. “It’s a pet peeve of mine and eight is something that’s definitely not OK.”
4. As he said afterward, it has been a big week for him. Not only with the return and all the emotions invested in it, but also the birth of his daughter last week. He’s had a lot going on and he simply didn’t play well.
5. “It was a huge night,” James said. “I’m glad it was great but I’m also glad it’s over. … Now we can play regular basketball.”
6. The Cavs battled glitches throughout the night. At least one quadrant of the humongous 5,500 square foot scoreboard went dark for part of the second half. When that part came back, a smaller section went dark.
7. That scoreboard, though. Wow. Same with the 3-D introductions on the court. The Cavs’ pregame intros will be among the best in the league this season, for whatever that’s worth.
8. David Blatt did not have a good night. Not only was he hobbling around on a broken toe – he’s wearing a plate in his shoe after he stepped off the elevated court awkwardly in a recent preseason game – but he forgot about his bench.
9. The Cavs’ depth is expected to be one of their strengths, but Shawn Marion only played 10 minutes and Mike Miller played three. The Knicks’ reserves outscored the Cavs’ 41-12 in part because Marion and Miller combined for two shots (both by Marion).
10. “It was flow of the game and that’s on me,” Blatt said. “Those guys need to play more.”
11. I asked Marion if that’s the fewest minutes he has ever played on a night when he’s healthy. “Yes,” he said. “By far. By far. It’s interesting.”
12. This was a strange night because early on, there were a few possessions that felt like the Cavs were overpassing and being too unselfish. Yet as the game dragged on, the ball movement stopped and it reverted back to one guy dribbling and four guys standing around.
13. The Cavs’ shooting percentages slowly declined with the ball movement through the first three quarters. They shot 48 percent in the first quarter, 38 percent in the second and 35 percent in the third.
14. “If you’d have told me we’d only have (90) points tonight, I’d tell you you’re full of (expletive),” Marion said.
15. Marion, however, loved the electric atmosphere throughout the night. The crowd chanted along with Nike’s James commercial before the game, then sang the final lines of the national anthem along with Usher. The roar and ovation for LeBron throughout the night was as expected.
16. “This is probably the most electrifying opening to a season opener I’ve ever seen in my life,” Marion said. “I felt like it was the Super Bowl.”
17. In my head I kept contrasting this night to Dec. 2, 2010 when the energy inside the Q was just as electric, but far more negative. That was James’ first return game wearing a Heat jersey. I’m not sure I ever felt hate in a room like on that night. I wondered if James still thinks about it.
18. “He never talks about that night,” said James Jones, one of his closest friends on the team. “LeBron doesn’t live in the past.”
19. Jones was part of the Heat team that started 9-8. Fans across the nation seemed to rejoice in that slow start because everyone across the NBA was rooting against them. That doesn’t seem to be the case with this Cavs team.
20. “Every city in the NBA felt like they had a shot at LeBron last time,” Jones said. “That wasn’t the case this time around.”
21. It’s funny how the little things that seem irrelevant mean so much to some of these guys. Kyrie Irving was genuinely excited this morning when he saw his picture on the wall of the corridor outside the Cavs’ locker room. He took pictures of it and everything. It reminded me of Irving’s first All-Star appearance, when he said he was most excited to see his picture hanging in the hotel lobby. It’s the little things I suppose.
22. Dion Waiters is clearly attaching himself to LeBron as much as he can. In two years covering him, I’ve never seen Waiters lay on the floor and get stretched before a game. Yet there he was Thursday getting stretched by Mike Mancias, James’ personal trainer who followed him from Cleveland to Miami and now back to Cleveland. Again, it’s the little things that make you chuckle.
23. When James and Carmelo Anthony were rookies, they faced off in James’ first home game. It only seems right they were matched up again.
24. “It’s going to take time,” Anthony said of the Cavs’ future. “Just because you throw three of them guys together and everybody expects it to automatically work, it’s going to take time. It took time in Miami for him. It’s going to take time here. He’ll figure it out. They’ll figure it out. I can’t see anything that they can’t figure out, that they won’t figure out.”
25. As I wrote in the notes for Friday’s paper, the Cavs and Anderson Varejao are close on a three-year, $30 million extension. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein was first to report the extension news. The deal should be announced in the coming days. The Cavs have until midnight Friday to get a deal done with Tristan Thompson.
26. Lest anyone reach for the panic button already: “It’s one game,” Waiters said. “We know people are going to make it seem like it’s the end of the world. We’ve got 81 more games.”
27. And the final word goes to Blatt: “This game in general is not indicative of everthing we’ve done this preseason. That speaks to perhaps the moment and the emotional aspect. There are games you have to win when you’re not playingw ell on offense, you have to win with your defense and we did not today.”
28. To recap, the Cavs’ think tank is playing hurt. The coach has a broken bone in his foot and General Manager David Griffin is in a walking boot with a torn calf. Tough start to the season for everyone involved. I’ll talk to you tomorrow from Chicago.