Interesting week for the Cleveland Cavaliers. They have almost come full circle over the past week and trite over simplifications have been exposed. I will try to keep you up on these developments and provide commentary and perspective.
I watched in person an almost amazing game on Saturday night. The team was most noticeably smoking hot shooting and that carried over to the defense and the offensive rhythm and assists. It was certainly fun to watch and gave us all a glimpse of what this team can be going forward. We all need to be aware that shooting at that level will be a rare exception even for the talented Cavaliers. But the team also showed what sharing the ball and moving bodies with the pass can accomplish. The Cavs showed that defensive effort and intensity leads to run outs and easy transition baskets. Something the Cavs can do on a consistent basis if they make a commitment to defensive effort.
Off the court LeBron took a local reporter to school. The question dealt with the infamous “Rim Protector” saga that will likely follow the Cleveland Cavaliers until the day they either 1) Get one or, better yet, 2) Win a championship to shut them all up. While it is true that the Cavs do not have a “rim protector”, there is no known NBA truism that a team MUST have one to be a great team or win a championship.
What gets me fired up about all this is that there is a constant parroting by the media of this refrain that you need a rim protector to play good defense. Then, once parroted by the media for so long, it is picked up by the bloggers and fans who spew it everywhere like it is an undisputed fact. LeBron quietly and efficiently helped the fans who listened to his recent post-game interview understand the real truth about rim protectors and a winning/championship team.
When asked, he pointed out to Haynes that the Miami Heat never really had a rim protector and they did pretty well. James further explained that many of the great teams, including San Antonio and the historic Bull teams did not have a consistent rim protector type player.
LeBron was trying to put this line of thinking to rest by being so clear in his explanations and providing detail. He discussed the importance of “up top” defense on the ball and the importance of the layers of players below that who need to communicate and scramble to fill open areas of penetration.
As much as it tickled me that LeBron clearly rebutted this overused defensive excuse, I was pretty irritated at how the game was played Monday against the Nuggets. It is true that very few if any NBA players can stay in front of Ty Lawson. However, the entire Nugget team seemed to be able to find their way to open shots. The Cavaliers did not put forth the effort and were not aggressive enough to compete in that game. This is a recurring theme at this point and I hope that it is resolved as they play together more and learn what it takes to consistently win in the NBA. If I were to guess, I believe that they will definitely get better and develop the killer instinct necessary to be a dominant NBA team. I know all of us are counting on it. I was also at that game and left with a much different feeling than after the Atlanta game.
Finally, tonight we played in a “playoff” type game against the San Antonio Spurs. This will be another good learning experience. They watched the Spurs close out each quarter strong and that was the ultimate difference in the game. This is something they can gravitate to over time and learn how important it is to affect the psychology and flow of the game. Overall, this was the middle of the two extremes demonstrated against Atlanta and Denver. They played hard. They competed well. They overall shared the ball. But they didn’t do any of those things as well as against the Hawks. The shooting wasn’t as good. The defense wasn’t as sharp. The transition was sloppy at times.
LeBron has had some trouble with sloppy passing and ball handling throughout these early games. The final possession demonstrated that nicely when he simply lost the ball. We need to keep an eye on this over time and should expect him to get better as the season progresses. I don’t remember this problem before so I will be interested to see how it goes.
Scribbles will return next week or this weekend. In the meantime, GO CAVS !!!