Opening Statements: Wizards at Cavaliers, Game 56
Wizards and Cavaliers. Henceforth there will be unilateral vitriol and arbitrary rivalry tags. The Cavaliers had their six-game winning streak snapped by Toronto, and the Wizards are a mere game from their “safe place,” the .500 record. Washington won Saturday evening at the Verizon Center on a last-second #NeneJam, which is a sentence I didn’t expect to be typing this morning, and a thought I’m still uncomfortable having, given the amount of retroactive worry it is stirring up for the Wall isolation possession it looked to be before the brilliant pass to Nene.
Today’s injury report tells us that Dion Waiters, C.J. Miles, and Sideshow Bob, er, Anderson Varejao, will all miss the game with injuries. Which is too bad for the Cavaliers, since that’s an almost-up-to-date list of players that tend to go off against Washington. Still, #KyrieTime, #KyrieDribbles, #KyrieBuckets (of Sprite). And that’s enough.
Teams: Wizards at Cavaliers
Time: 6:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio.
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/THE FAN-FM 106.7
Spread: Wizards favored by 1.5 points.
Wizards tickets … anyone?
Click to get them served up for cheap via TiqIQ and TAI.
Q #1: From 10,000 feet, it was confusing to see the Cavaliers go on a six-game winning streak (including a convincing win over the Wizards) and then turn around and shop Luol Deng at the trade deadline.
Did that signify a change in philosophy surrounding what this season means to the Cavaliers?
@DavidZavac: I think what it should tell you is that the narrative surrounding the Cavs’ “make the playoffs or else!” isn’t really in line with reality. The team is worried about whether they can re-sign Deng this summer. He hasn’t played well since he came over, and there have been reports of him being unhappy. Even with the team’s win streak, his performance remains uneven. The team has really serious issues with outside shooting and interior defense. I’m not sure they can afford to have a small forward quite as bad shooting the three if Dion Waiters (career 33% 3-point shooter) is the long term answer at the 2. So ultimately, the Cavs were open to moving Deng and getting a long-term asset. But it doesn’t sound like there was much out there.
Q #2: I was so happy to see Anthony Bennett finally “release the kraken.” What has been different about his game in the last few weeks?
@DavidZavac: The easiest answer is that he is in shape. Honestly, I think he is just making a few more jump shots. Teams aren’t really guarding him on the perimeter and his form has always been pretty darn good. Nothing was going in. He doesn’t have a consistent release point on his jumper (and that’s something that has gone back to UNLV), and that has given him trouble. Once he shows he can shoot a bit, then the Cavaliers can start to figure out what they have. His handles seem pretty weak so hopefully those can improve. Given the fact that he is undersized, it makes it hard for him to create from the post. His energy level is good, he is hitting shots, and his PER has gone from 1 to 6-plus. Baby steps.
Q #3: TRADE TALK: How do you reeeeally feel about the Spencer Hawes trade?
@DavidZavac: I can’t work up any strong feeling about the deal. The Cavs had three second round picks and gave up the two lower ones for Hawes. It’s 27 games of a mediocre center. I worry that it means Anderson Varejao is more hurt than the team wants to admit. I am excited to give Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters a pick and pop partner that’s likely to convert open looks. Given that he can shoot and the expected cost to keep them, I think I would rather have Hawes than Deng long term. If Tristan Thompson can live up to his defensive potential they could be a really nice fit. Who knows?
Over/Unders! with @DavidZavac:
Over/under 37.5 wins for the Cleveland Cavaliers this season?
Under. Just not enough season left and the schedule has been easy of late; that won’t continue.
Over/under 8739.5 Jarrett Jack trade machine attempts on ESPN’s servers in the last two weeks?
Over. I hate to be the guy who overreacts against one player, but it’s hard to express how bad Jack was against the Raptors Friday night.
Over/under 0.5 teams in the NBA that needed a six-game winning streak like the Cleveland Cavaliers?
Under. The Kings? Maybe? No, I will say under.
Over/under 0.5 tears shed for Earl Clark?
Over, maybe. One of our writers over at Fear the Sword, Ryan Mourton, was a big Clark fan. Not sure if he cried or not.
Philosophical Question! with @DavidZavac:
Mark Twain said “By trying we can easily endure adversity. Another man’s, I mean.”
What does adversity make in an NBA locker room…men or monsters?
@DavidZavac: In the Cavs case, the answer appears to be both. Half the time the reports are that everyone hates each other. Then we learn that they are all best friends and they laugh on the court and joke with Mike Brown. It’s bizarre. But Mark Twain also said that we should “dream other dreams, and better!”. So I usually just pretend there are no locker room issues, and there is no adversity at all. For Twain also wrote “No sane man can be happy because he believes that life is real.” I choose insanity.