That headline isn't meant as a slight to Al Jefferson at all. He's a legitimate NBA style beast, a rich man's Kendrick Perkins, and a guy who's averaged over 20 and 10 for the season twice in his eight year NBA career. Call it a match-up problem for Cavaliers on Tuesday night, a failure by the Cavs bench to adjust schematically with a double team in the second half, or Big Al just playing too good, but the Cavs had no answer at all for him and that's pretty much why they lost their ninth game of the season 113-105. Jefferson went for 30 points and 12 rebounds, and he was just too much.
Heading into yesterday's game I made the pretty obvious statement that Al Jefferson the Utah Jazz frontline would be another test for Anderson Varejao and his front court crew from Cleveland, but there is no way Anderson should shoulder the majority of the blame for Jefferson and those guys going off inside. He did just about as much as he could out there on Big Al, and nobody came over to help him ever. Andy pressured him, contested shots, made him work, but Al never saw a double team all night as far as I can remember and he definitely should've. The Cavs should've also given Samardo Samuels a chance to run out there at him too for a few minutes in the 3rd quarter as well because Semih Erden didn't provide anything on that end of the floor.
What are you gonna do though. I'm not trying to infer that any of that would've necessarily changed the outcome of the game, because it certainly was a total points in the paint beat-down by the Jazz. Utah scored 56 points in the paint as a team which also included 19 from Paul Milsap, 14 from back-up C/F Derrick Favors, and 17 from Josh Howard. Antawn Jamison paced the Cavaliers with 22 on 18 shots, Kyrie Irving went for 20, and Anderson Varejao countered with 12 points and 11 rebounds in 31 minutes.
Tristan outplayed Enes Kanter though at least: I read somewhere that Enes Kanter scored 17 points for the Utah Jazz last night but that's not a true story. He only scored 2. He played 9 minutes of relief duty on the night, grabbed 4 rebounds, committed a foul, and turned it over twice. In response, the guy that Chris Grant had "considerably higher" than Enes Kanter (who inevitably went 3rd) leading up to this past June's Draft went for 9 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, and a blocked shot in 15 minutes of work. Before you can say there is no way you can use 9 and 15 minutes as a sample size to say somebody outplayed anybody else in an NBA game I'll simply leave you with this regarding the Kanter / Thompson topic...from what I've seen I am glad the Cavaliers got Thompson instead of Kanter. No offense to Enes.
Showcasing Antawn Jamison: I was having a speculative Cavaliers conversation on the phone with a friend of mine the other day, and I am going to continue that speculation here. I think the direction given to Antawn Jamison behind some closed door somewhere prior to this season tipping off might've went something like this maybe: Antawn, obviously we are going to try and trade you at the deadline. In the meantime, you have the greenest, green light that you've ever seen in your NBA career to date. Fire up as many shots as you want for the first half of this season. Shoot wherever, whenever you feel like it, and you can even invent a couple new methods of shooting in the process. The goal here is to convince a contender that you can provide firepower and scoring for their team down the stretch. So if it takes you 18 shots to get 20 points and you'd like to conserve your energy on defense by not guarding anybody ever that's not a problem. If you can generate a lot of interest, we'll be glad to help send you somewhere you'd like to go at that point. During the second half of the season we plan to divy up your shots and minutes amongst our young players, they're all yours for now though. #Speculation
The Topic of Trading Anderson Varejao: Jason Lloyd, who does a great job at the ABJ, has been on record saying that he thinks Anderson Varejao should be traded but the Cavaliers do not agree with him. Before I get too much more into this, I can totally see both sides here. I can write a thousand words on why the Cavs should most definitely trade Andy, and then a thousand more on why they shouldn't. As a fan of the team and his, I don't really want to see Andy go to be honest. I still stand by what I said in the preseason though, that I don't think Andy finishes the year in Cleveland. The reason why is because I think Varejao is going to simply keep playing too well for somebody to not come in super desperate at the deadline and offer Chris Grant a ridiculous package he can't say no too. In this current NBA world where Tyson Chandler gets paid like Warren Buffet, along with guys like DeAndre Jordan right behind him, Anderson is a seven footer who can get you a double-double without running a play for him ever just about every night. He plays hard, is a great guy too, and I think the offers for him are going to be too good to pass up as this season goes on. Even if nobody wants to necessarily see him leave.
Kyrie Irving Simply Solid Again: There was a stretch in that second half when the Cavaliers where hanging around within three points or so and Kyrie Irving just took the ball right down the teeth of the defense and finished a lay-up at the rim. That was awesome. He wasn't necessarily spectacular last night though, but that's kinda also what's cool about the fact that he scored 20 points and dished out 5 assists in his 9th NBA game ever and nobody who's watched him through those first eight felt like his night was specifically spectacular. For him. It was elite level NBA player solid though, as he shot 50% from the floor, and finished as one of the only two Cavs to post a +/- on the positive side (+1) for the game. The other guy was Varejao (Team High +3).
Phoenix Up Next: Cavs are off today as they travel to AZ for a match-up on Thursday with the Suns, then Friday with Mike Brown and his Lakers. Be back tomorrow around this same time.
"I can write a thousand words on why the Cavs should most definitely trade Andy, and then a thousand more on why they shouldn't." - Haha, I didn't get quite to a thousand on each, but I certainly spent a lot of words to not offer a strong opinion either way. Seriously, it's so tough to figure out what the "right" thing to do with Andy is. I'm genuinely glad I'm not charged with making the decision.
@AndrewSchnitkey Haha-I actually read your piece on the trade Andy debate right after I posted this, great minds-ha. I agree with what you wrote totally in that "ultimately, the decision may rest in what the return for Varejao is" as well. I just have a feeling the return for him right now could be higher than we think it might be come deadline time. I also agree with you too in that there is absolutely no reason to trade Andy "just because" as well. I don't think Chris Grant would do that either, I don't think he operates that way, which is a pretty good sign for this rebuild IMO. Lessons learned from recent eras gone by maybe. Thanks for the comment my man.
@StepienRules haha. I read your opening night recap and was like "jeebus, I hope no one thinks I plagiarized Bowers"
@StepienRules I do feel deep down that trading Andy is better for a quicker rebuild, but keeping him is better for when the team is position to contend, even as declining veteran. So the question the Cavs need to ask is, which is the better path? I don't know what Andy says behind closed doors, but if he's happy in Cleveland and ok staying, I would lean toward keeping him. But you're probably right, once deadline hits and teams get desperate, they may get an offer they simply can't refuse. Good stuff Brendan.