Friday, October 31, 2014

The Cavs Learn From Nothing

Not Shown: Defense
So tonight in Cleveland, in the closest thing the NBA has to a homecoming game against a Division II opponent, the Cavs played the Knicks in LeBron James' first game back as a Cav. The Knicks had gotten treated like a punching bag the night before in New York, were missing starting point guard Jose Calderon, and are, well, the Knicks. A team that's not likely to make the playoffs in the still pretty bad East. A team that just went max contract for Carmelo Anthony, a me-first scoring forward who has gotten out of the first round once in his whole damned career.

Oh, and the Cavs lost.

How the hell does that happen?

Well, the first and most important thing we have to say here is that This Game Didn't Really Matter. The Heat lost to the Sixers in their opener last year, and it haunted them all of the way to the Finals. But the way in which the Cavs lost this was telling, because it's not going to be the last time they lose like this.

They lost on defense. And they lost pretty badly there.

New York shot 53% from the floor (just 6 of 12 from the arc), with 30 assists on 37 makes. The Cavs stressed their defense with lots of turnovers, and New York's benchies played over their heads, with 41 of the team's 95 points on 16 of 31 shooting... but when you give your bench minutes to the likes of Tristan Thompson, Mike Miller, Matthew Dellavedorva and Shawn Marion, that's three guys who have never played good defense... and the last guy, Marion, is 36 years old, and in his 15th year in the Association. He's not exactly lockdown now, either.

Please note that James *did* play poorly in this game, and will play better soon, and the Cavs are going to be fine. God does not love me, and hate Cleveland, so much as to have the East's New Big Bad to be mediocre or worse, and offense is more important than defense in the NBA.

But there was also this. James said in the aftermath that the Cavs needed to learn from this, but neglected to say anything more than the cliche. But what, really, are they supposed to learn? The man's 30 and isn't going to kill himself to win a regular season game. Kevin Love isn't going to start D'ing up his man and giving up his cheap board stats. Anderson Varejao isn't getting younger, and Dion Waiters isn't getting taller, or more interested in turning into Gary Payton II. Love and James aren't going to shoot 11 for 29 with 10 turnovers against 8 assists very often.

But make no mistake about this: these Cavs are a different club than James' Heat. The Heat had a defensive hammer at shooting guard who had won an NBA Championship before James came to town. They also had a stretch 4/5 who never had to come off the floor, even when other teams went small. They also had a defensive genius as a coach, and a defensive genius as a GM. The bench had stoppers. Hell, the starting five had stoppers.

These Cavs? Should be better at offense, especially once the shooters get used to all of that space. They should be vastly more athletic, even when you compare 26-year-old James to 30-year-old James. (Don't forget the crazy minutes he's played, all of the playoff runs, and the early start to his career, either. 26 might have been his 29, and 30 might be his 34.) There will be nights when Love or Kyrie Irving goes off, and James should be able to not have to rev in the red zone quite so much.

But better?

Not yet.

And maybe not ever.

After all, it's not as if the ownership here didn't screw things up when James was younger, or ever brought in teammates back then who could play defense, either...

No comments:

Ads In This Size Rule