The Cleveland Cavaliers’ 115-107 defeat at the hands of the Washington Wizards last Friday was their 60th loss in 75 games and their 32nd road loss in 37 road games. Included in those depressing numbers is a 26-game losing streak, which represented the longest such streak in NBA history. Those numbers are a far cry from the 61 victories they amassed just one year earlier, and to say this has been a long season for the Cavs would be an understatement of epic proportions.
The reasons for Cleveland’s futility are well-documented. Big Bad LeBron James took his talents away from the Cavaliers and bolted for Miami, as did Zydrunas Illgauskas. Delonte West was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Ryan Hollins, Ramon Sessions and a first round draft pick. Anderson Varejao has not played a game since January 5 of this year because of a torn tendon in his ankle, and Antawn Jamison’s season also ended prematurely with a broken finger. Mo Williams, arguably the second-best player on the team after LeBron last year, and the best player on the Cavs entering this season, was traded along with Jamario Moon to the LA Clippers on February 24. In return, the Cavaliers received Baron Davis and a draft pick. The lack of continuity has just been just too much to overcome.
Due to injuries, trades, and flat-out inexperience, the Wizards have had similar frustrations during this 2010-2011 season. But the play of John Wall, Nick Young, Jordan Crawford, JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche (at times), has given everyone from Wizards fans to owner Ted Leonsis some hope for the future. The Cavaliers have also had occasional bright spots with an opening day victory over the Boston Celtics and a victory right before the All-Star Break over the defending champion Lakers. Perhaps the biggest moment of the year came last week when the Cavaliers defeated LeBron and the Heat 102-90 in Cleveland — Miami defeated the Cavaliers 118-90 back on December 2; LeBron destroyed his old team in his first return to Ohio by scoring 38 points in just three quarters.
Still, in a season full of losses and frustration, it would seem to be a difficult task for the Cavaliers to think positive, encouraging thoughts. I asked head coach Byron Scott, Ramon Sessions and J.J. Hickson what, if any, positives could be taken out of a season that has gone this badly. Read more »
When LeBron James complains about fouls, it’s not about his size, as he would gladly have you believe. Neither is it about there being a presumed double-standard from imposing basketball specimens like himself and Dwight Howard. Sure, there are reasons to take notice, but let’s be honest, it’s about politicking through the gladly willing media.
Said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra after Wednesday night’s game versus the Wizards:
“He absorbs a lot more contact than people realize. He’s big and tough enough that he shrugs it off. But you go in there and see him in the locker room, and he’s got ice on pretty much every part of his body.”
So do 5’11″ guards who live in the lane. So do a lot of NBA players. It’s a tough game. And when someone like LeBron, who has the sixth highest usage rate in the NBA at 31.4-percent, gladly uses his abnormal physique to gain an advantage, it certainly is going to feel like he’s being handled more physically, at least to him. But it’s all relative.
Before tip off, I was curious how the Wizards would respond in a game that had all the trappings of an emotional let down. Gone were the Heat and the insanity they always bring to an atmosphere. Gone was the underdog mentality, facing a Cleveland Cavaliers team that had won three fewer games than the Wiz this year. And of course, gone was John Wall, suspended after trying to put his fist through Zydrunus Ilgauskas’s rib cage against Miami Wednesday night.
How would the Wizards respond in a game that, even without John Wall, one might actually expect themto win?
Said Flip Saunders, “in the pregame talk, after we got done, I told one of the assistant coaches ‘man I don’t feel that energy in that room tonight.’”
It’s an hour and a half before tip off, and six young Wizards have a good lather going. While Flip Saunders gives his perfunctory interview to a cadre of media of diverse status– Michael Lee mingles with the nameless of bloggerdom—Othyus Jeffers, Cartier Martin, Mustafa Shakur, Andray Blatche, Kevin Seraphin and Hamady Ndiaye are engaged in a spirited bout of half court three-on-three. Working mostly on one half of the court, an assistant coach feeds the ball to a player and the offense executes a pick and roll play.
This is not a walkthrough. Bodies are banging, the screens are physical, and on one roll to the basket, Ndiaye collides with Seraphin and is sent tumbling into the basket support.
It’s a game to three, by ones, winners keep the ball. While none of the players besides Blatche and Seraphin have received a major investment from the Wizards, Jeffers and Shakur are battling like they have. When Seraphin is late coming to set a side pick and roll for Jeffers, he barks at the French rookie to hop to it—there’s a meaningless three-on-three scrimmage on the line!
Up close, Jeffers and Mustafa’s duel catches the eye. Shakur, of smooth handle and prototypical point guard size, plays the pick and roll with style. A highly touted player since his high school days in Philadelphia, Shakur plays with uncommon polish for a player just called up from the D-League. Jeffers on the other hand, who is listed at 6-5, one inch taller than Shaker, is actually a couple inches shorter and a ways rougher. His handle isn’t exactly awkward, but it’s about as clean as Cherokee Parks after six days lost in the woods. It’s strange to find these two in the same play for next year’s pay situation– one bred for a stardom that never quite panned out, the other a darling of exceeded expectations.
On Tuesday night, the Miami Heat went to Cleveland and were soundly defeated by the Cavaliers, 102-90. LeBron James had a triple-double with 27 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. Dwyane Wade had 24 points and Mike Bibby chipped-in 23 points–his most as a member of the Heat. Unfortunately, Chris Bosh (10 points, four rebounds and a team-worst plus/minus of minus-24) was a non-factor, and the Heat allowed the Cavs to shoot 55-percent from the field and 52-percent behind the arc.
After the game, Heat coach Erik Spolestra was not at all pleased.
We (I/you/us/them) have found cause to critique JaVale McGee to a high degree this season. It’s just when you combine immense talent and potential with a seeming unwillingness to learn and/or an inability to grow in basketball IQ, the way of the world is done an injustice without an honest assessment.
So, when McGee finally does “put it together,” also known as when he stops doing stupid things (like JaVale’s dribbles), you’ll appreciate how much he’s grown even more. All of this could be a bunch of bull to make myself feel better about my criticism. It also could be an “it is what it is” situation*.
The Wizards want JaVale McGee on that line, they need him on that line. They need him to get better because in totality, his improvement this season has been a slight disappointment. But rebuilding time is time afforded to go through these frustrations. So it’s all good … as long as McGee kicks butt this summer.
He’s done a lot better lately. One day he could be consistently amazing to watch. Oh the day dreams. Although, his mere five rebounds in 36 minutes against the Miami Heat on Wednesday night stands out from the 15.3 boards he averaged in the previous four games (on the road against the LA Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors and Utah Jazz). The quality of the opponent should be considered, but McGee still made his presence felt against the Heat, in the form of sweet, sweet blocks.
There were times last night when it seemed like the torso and arms of recent Wizards D-League call up Othyus Jeffers formed into a mouth to gobble up missed shots in mid-flight. I imagined the ball clenched by massive teeth, unable to be relinquished, but somehow spit out cleanly to continue play, Wizards possession. I wasn’t hallucinating.
My mind was curious about the perception. How exactly was the unassuming stature of Jeffers — listed at a very generous 6’5” and weighing in at a 200 lbs. that unfairly masks his strength — able to gulp down rebounds so commandingly against the juggernaut Miami Heat?
DVR has made me selfish against real-life action. I wished I was at home watching the Wizards play the Heat on television and not sitting baseline taking photographs. No, I wouldn’t really give up one of the best seats in the house, but that didn’t keep me from wanting to quench instant gratification with a film study in the art of rebounding.
Jeffers finished with 15 points on 6-7 shooting and eight rebounds, both career highs, in 29 minutes off the bench against Miami. The bad guys, or bandwagon drivers, beat the Wizards 123-107, but the game was much more competitive than the score indicates.
Monday night the Wizards competed without Nick Young, Rashard Lewis, Josh Howard and Andray Blatche—roughly $32 million, 55-percent of the team’s payroll. It felt great. I haven’t had this much fun watching a Wiz game in months.
Yes, John Wall was spectacular in the first half, as Kyle points out in video form. But my excitement and interest can be traced to exactly one player, Jordan Crawford.
Crawford, a skinny combo-guard out of a mid major conference; the kid with the slightly hunched posture, a wide, loose handle and a perpetual look of %$@! the world on his face. You may know Crawford for banging on LeBron James or for his eye-popping pull-ups in the NCAA tournament. He’s also the one who ditched Indiana after his freshman year when Kelvin Sampson was fired, deciding to rebuild his reputation in the A-10. The one who came with character questions—would he focus? was he mature enough?—but also an unquestioned hunger. The one who’s made a name for himself gambling on his own guts and repeatedly come up cash.
Crawford isn’t a very good player yet. He’s a streak shooter (the positive parlance for inconsistent) who turns the ball over too much and takes other foolish risks.
Antawn Jamison is on his own level and you can’t get on it, atleast that’s what the promotional party flier above seems to indicate. Jamison’s level these days involves sitting out the past 13 games — likely the rest of the year — due to a broken pinkie finger; and he has to watch the 15-58 Cleveland Cavaliers all the time, which probably isn’t that much different than watching the 18-55 Wizards. Jamison’s level also involves getting paid over $13.3 million this season, which is a pretty nice level regardless of the environment. Back to the promotional flier … Jamison’s level will evidently be on display this Thursday at the Shadow Room, as he is welcomed back to D.C. with a party the night before his Cavs take on the Wizards. Speaking of the Shadow Room, that’s the venue where Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee once got on the level of fighting with each other outside the club on Christmas Eve. The Wizards are just a classic team, on so many levels.
In other team party news, Josh Howard, who has appeared in 409 minutes over 18 games this season, has lent his name to the Wizards-Heat post-game party at Oxygen tonight. The most recently injured Wizard, Trevor Booker, had provided his name for use as well. Wale will also be performing … I still wonder if he roots for the Cavaliers and/or Nuggets.