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 »
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.’”
Before San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich led his team against the Washington Wizards on Saturday night, and as his players were coming off an uncharacteristic loss to the Philadelphia 76ers the night before, I asked him if it was a situation where he’d rather play the very next night.
“Exactly. That’s always one of the great things we all talk about in the NBA, because another game’s coming pretty quickly. Even if it’s back-to-back, you’d rather get to the next game and play and forget the one you just were so horrible in,” the coach said.
After getting poked and prodded like worn leather by the Spurs, the Wizards found them in the same situation, on a flight to Cleveland not only with the motivation of ending a 0-25 road record on the season, but also with the bad taste of poor effort spread on their breakfast toast. The Australians call it vegemite.
Well, they did it. February 13 was long ago marked as a facetious scenario for the Wizards to get their first road win — against Antawn Jamison, in front of a Cleveland crowd previously ingrained to boo the Wiz a little more than other teams, and with a nice number like 25 straight road losses, 26 dating back to last season. With life’s little symmetry in tow, of course Washington won 115-100 on Sunday evening. Ted Leonsis should be dancing, but we’ll get him doing the “Dougie” for another reason.
A D.C. pic, links, commentary and tickets for free ….
The Portland Trailblazers are in D.C. tonight to take on the Wizards … and guess what? They’re giving away John Wall bobble-head dolls to the first 10,000 fans. So if you want one, you best show up on time. What else are you going to do on a cold Friday night in D.C.? Watch Miami (Ohio) take on 25th-ranked Northern Illinois in college football? Sure buddy. Plus, if the game sells out, there’s a chance you could see Ted Leonsis do the “Dougie” … which would most certainly be better than Wolf Blitzer’s “Dougie” (who did it on ‘Soul Train’ of all places? Weird).
Gilbert Arenas is currently struggling to find a set role in the Wizards back-court, and John Wall is struggling with consistency and turnovers. The general feeling is that the current plight of both players is a temporary one, and eventually they will find their individual games, and then learn how to play off each other as well. This is not a slight to Kirk Hinrich at all, but as Hubie Brown would say, “Now we know Wall and Arenas have tremendous upside, and at their peak they give you the best chance to win.” And Hubie is always right.
Until Wall and Arenas find that comfort zone, they will have to continue to work hard in practice, trust each other when they do get in the game, and perhaps watch film to correct their mistakes. The first piece of film they should watch? The play of Mo Williams and Daniel “Boobie” Gibson during the Wizards 107-102 loss to the Cavaliers.
Williams scored 28 points in just 31 minutes of play, and Gibson added an efficient 19-point game during his 27 minutes of the floor. Williams did his damage from beyond the three-point arc, on drives and on mid-range jumpers, while Gibson primarily hurt the Wizards from the outside. During a key 10-0 run by the Cavs, one which saw the Wizards lose the lead for good, Williams had seven points and Gibson had three–including back-to-back three pointers that pretty much sealed the Wizards’ fate.
When I listened to the post-game comments of some of the Cavaliers players and coaches, I couldn’t help but to think about what Wall and Arenas could be. First there was Byron Scott; Read more »
[Note: This is a trial run of a "Player Lock" series in which Truth About It.net will spotlight one player over the course of a game. -John]
I chose to spotlight Gilbert Arenas in Saturday night’s contest between the Washington Wizards and the Cleveland Cavaliers. And why not? It was Gil’s homecoming — the first time he had played at the Verizon Center since January 2, 2010 against the San Antonio Spurs.
[To beard or not to beard? via K. Weidie]
Flip Saunders and Gilbert tested a bit of my patience, forcing me to wait … and wait for his debut. He didn’t check into the game until just a few minutes before the end of the first quarter. After making his season debut against the Knicks on Friday, Arenas indicated that he didn’t mind coming off the bench for the unforeseen future, saying, “When I come off, I just got to be ready like ‘The Microwave’.” And Wizards fans in D.C. were hungry for whatever he had cooking.
I started tinkering around with this trade idea last Wednesday, but never followed up with publishing a post. Today, with Yahoo!’s Marc Spears reporting that the Utah Jazz could face a roster shake-up and Mike Jones, of Mike Jones Sports, reporting that multiple Wizards have asked to be traded, i.e., more than just Mike James, it seems like an appropriate time to float this proposal out there. And no, this is not like Bill Simmons’ silly Utah-Washington-Cleveland idea where the Wizards would lose Haywood, Jamison, Butler and James and only get Shaq and Boozer in return … although my idea is almost as drastic.
So here goes …
Utah has the Carlos Boozer issue hanging over their head, the desire to remain cheap, and is a decent team unwilling to take a big step backwards.
On Christmas day, Yahoo’s Marc Spears reported, according to at least one NBA executive, that the Wizards were “open for business.” Of course, this could simply mean that Ernie Grunfeld has fielded a call, or made a call, and has had a discussion involving the potential possibilities past “hello.” You know, pretty much doing the job a general manager of a team falling way below expectations should be doing in gauging the value of his players.
No biggie and certainly to be expected despite the initial judgement phase of 20 games being extended to 40 games by Flip Saunders, which is probably a reflection of Grunfeld’s thinking … or at least the message the team president of basketball operations wants to convey to the media and the players.
Spears also reported that Gilbert Arenas is on the table and that the Wizards think highly of JaVale McGee and are unlikely to include him in a deal unless the pot is really sweet.
After Monday’s practice, before setting off for hostile territory in Ohio, Brendan Haywood, Caron Butler, Randy Foye and DeShawn Stevenson are prodded to talk about the rivarly/history between the Wizards and the Cavaliers.