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NCAA Basketball at MSF:
In addition, in case you missed it, check out my Mid-January Look at Last Years' College Basketball Cinderellas that was posted on Monday over at Midwest Sports Fans. And while your at it, check out the latest from Jerod Morris and the whole MSF team...
Last Plug - Wine and Gold Pregame Podcast, Thursday at 6:30:
While Glenn and I usually start one hour before tip-off of every Cavaliers' game with our podcast streamed lived all over the world, I wanted to let you know that we will be getting things started a half-hour earlier than usual in anticipation of the Foam Finger re-match at Quicken Loans arena on Thursday. Glenn has lined up Kurt from ESPN Truehoop Lakers blog "Forum Blue and Gold" for a conversation during tomorrows show, and he will also be down at shoot-around on Thursday and run audio from that during the podcast tomorrow night. Hope you can make it, tell a friend.
Don't tell me Shaq wasn't excited about that dunk he had late in the fourth quarter off the LeBron feed inside. He took off like Usain Bolt as soon as he hit the ground, arms pumping, sprinting back down the court looking like he stole something. He reminded me of - well Shaq - when he was racing down the court in LA wearing purple and gold celebrating a similar pass from Kobe he had just deposited through the rim during one of their title runs. Good to see from the Big Fella. Even better to see him up off the bench playing critical minutes for the Cavaliers - making pivotal plays - when his team needed him too. His play late was a big reason why the Cavaliers stopped settling for contested jumpshots beat the Raptors tonight.
The Cavaliers were up by one (95-94) with 5:31 left in the 4th quarter when Shaq caught the ball on the block in what looked to be an offensive set. Scissor cut on the perimeter by LeBron and Mo off the catch, and Shaq found Mo in the corner who drained a three. Next time down, Shaq caught it there again. Same movement, this time Shaq faked to Mo - how about that? - defense bit on the fake, and LeBron (option #2 on this particular play) came free to the hoop for a dunk. This is the type of stuff I dreamt possible when the Cavaliers signed Shaq this offseason. Throw it into O'Neal, cut off him, and let him find open shooters and cutters. Don't forget, while he is a top-5 scorer all-time, and a horrible free throw shooter, he is also a great passer, and has been his whole career. He looked good doing that tonight, and when the Cavaliers play like that - for as much as they still can't match up with teams like last year's Orlando Magic the Raptors defensively, those teams can't match up with this kind of stuff either.
Shaq finished with 16 points, 5 rebounds and those 2 assists on 7 of 10 shooting in 24 minutes. LeBron nearly had himself a Big-O, missing the triple double by 1 rebound (Ricky Davis would have gotten that board) with 28 points, 11 assists, 9 rebounds. Mo made half his threes (4 of 8) to finish with 22, while no other Cavalier had double figures. The Raptors- who will be the 5-seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs this season - had 6 players in double figures, with Bosh's 21 points and 10 rebounds leading the way.
Credit the Cavaliers for not looking past this one towards the big one on Thursday night against the Lakers. For their efforts they'll move to 32-11 while they await Kobe and company. Check in with Glenn and I for our pregame podcast on Thursday one hour before tip-off. It should be our best Wine and Gold Podcast to date - and even if that's not saying much, you should listen anyways.
Anytime trade talk ratchets up and I hear: the Cavs will trade Player X for Player Y (who's a huge improvement over Player X) and then get him (Player X) back off waivers, along with Player Y - I grow a little suspicious. I can't help but think about how well that worked out for Jerry Stackhouse and the Mavericks a few years back. But anyways, that possibility is what's being reported by Bob Finnan- who does a great job on the Cavs beat - late Sunday in the Morning Journal.
"A league source said the Cavs have also made a run at Hornets power forward David West. The Cavs are dangling center Zydrunas Ilgauskas out there for the Hornets, who want to avoid paying the luxury tax at all cost. The Hornets could buy out Ilgauskas’ contract and waive him. Then he could return to the Cavs in 30 days..."
If that scenario works, that would be great. And I guess it probably could so long as if Zydrunas doesn't go Stackhouse on a reporter's question about his thoughts on the swirling trade rumors tomorrow night by saying something along the lines of 'I don't really care about the rumors, If I'm traded its already worked out that I will be waived and then come back here to Cleveland to play after the 30 days are up.' Because that's not technically allowed. Stay tuned though to this one, could get interesting.
LeBron James is currently second in the NBA in scoring average, and the NBA's top-5 in that category currently reads like this:
Carmelo Anthony: 30.0
LeBron James: 29.6
Kevin Durant: 29.1
Kobe Bryant: 28.8
Dwyane Wade: 27.1
You probably knew that. You might have also known that nobody on this list averages more assists per game than LeBron, and only Durant's 7.2 rebounds per game are more than the 7.l James averages. But that's a topic for another day.
If you are just talking scoring, there is no NBA point scoring machine as dependable as the Akron Hammer 'Bron 'Bron's been this season, especially when considering points per game, combined with both field goal percentage and the amount of times a players gets his team at least 20 points in a game.
Amongst these top-5 scoring leaders, there isn't anybody on the list that boasts a better overall field goal percentage than the 51.1% clip LeBron has shot it at thus far this season. In fact nobody else is as high as forty-nine.
Durant's 48.6% is second on that list, followed by Anthony at 47.6%. Kobe's 46.9% field goals made mark would slot him fourth, and Wade's year to date 45.5% from the field would round out the top-5.
But beyond scoring average and field goal percentage, the other measure of dependability and productivity is at least how many points can you count on a player for on any given night. Specifically, how often does a guy give you at least 20 points or more.
In LeBron's case, he hasn't reached the 20-point mark during a game this season 4 times. He has played in all 42 games, and scored at least 20 points or more in 38 of them.
How does that compare?
Kobe has scored less than 20 points in 8 games this season. Bryant has played in 40 games so far, and scored at least 20 points or more in 32 of them - and in those 32 games he has averaged well over 30 minutes per so don't try to say that's why.
Wade has played in 39 games this season and not scored 20 points 5 times, which is the same amount of times Durant didn't manage to crack 20 through 40 games for OKC this season. And while Carmelo'sFG% is about 4 points worse than LeBron's current average, he does have the least amount of games of not netting 20 points on this list (3 times) however he has also played in the least amount of games overall so far (35).
Notes: For whatever its worth, Melo did not make it to 20 points last season 22 times, Durant didn't get there 16 times, Kobe didn't get there 15 times, LeBron didn't get there 9 times, and Wade didn't get there 8 times.
Reference: ESPN Players Stats
Take one look at the box score, and you would have thought the Cleveland Cavaliers were playing the other Los Angeles basketball team. Led by LeBron James, the Cavaliers put together a late fourth quarter rally and then survived a 3-point attempt at the final buzzer by Baron Davis for a 102-101 victory on Saturday night.
But the last second shot thing is getting a little too familiar for the Cavaliers.
Two days after experiencing a buzzer beater by Sundiata Gaines of the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City, the Cavaliers (31-11) late smothering defense worked as they survived a scare in L.A.
Take another look at the Clippers record and you would have thought the Cavaliers would have it easy, especially playing without Chris Kaman, their leading scorer. Also in the last month, the Clippers (17-22) have beat the Spurs, Celtics, Lakers, and Heat. And they were very close to adding Cleveland on that list.
James scored 13 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter in leading the Cavs to their 15th win in 19 ties and eight of their last 10 on the road. The beat the Clippers for the seventh straight time, are 40-9 against Western Conference teams since the start of last season, having won their last 11 against Pacific Division clubs.
“We just got in attack mode,” James said. “I decided to be a little more aggressive on the offensive end, either making a play for myself or making a play for my teammates. We also had to get stops on the defensive end, which we were able to do. We just turned it up another notch.”
Mo Williams had 18 points and Delonte West added 14 points in 29 minutes off the bench, even though he didn’t participate in the morning shootaround because of stomach issues.
The Cavs trailed by 13 points in the second half and were down seven early in the fourth quarter before James took over and led another comeback effort.
“When you have a guy like LeBron, you can get bailed out,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said. “If you get some stops and make some hustle plays down the stretch.”
The Cavs didn’t get that many stops all night. All the Clippers did in this one was shoot 60 percent from the floor, the highest the Cavs have allowed this season.
Rasual Butler tied a career high with 33 points and Eric Gordon added a season high 28. The Clippers have lost all four games without Kaman, their leading scorer, who is averaging 20.4 points and 9.4 rebounds and was last week’s Western Conference player of the week.
The Cavaliers finished their longest road trip of the season 3-2 and will play their next 11 of 13 at home, including the Los Angeles Lakers on January 21.
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Sitting at the midway point in the season, with trades rumors swirling, I'm of the opinion that the Cavaliers can compete for an NBA title as currently constructed, with a record that reads 30-11, but one thing needs to improve with this team. A good portion of the hard work is behind them in a way - incorporating three new starters into the line-up, blending Shaq into the offense, working through the Delonte West issues, figuring out the rotation, playing more than half their games on the road - and they did all that while still keeping pace to win 60 games. For the stretch run the Cavs will add Leon Powe, who as opposed to picking up a piece via the trade deadline, has be to every practice and game making the late season transition that much smoother assuming health. So basically I just don't want to mess with it, and I don't think the Cavs need to look outside their roster for improvement. Sure, adding a piece like a Kevin Martin (19 points last night in his first game back from injury), Antawn Jamison, or Anthony Randolph somehow for next to nothing might be a solid play, but I don't see how the Cavaliers can add a significant player of value without drastically restructuring their line-up. So I say ride it out. The Cavs have as good a chance to win it all as any of the other handful of teams with realistic title aspirations, but they have to improve in one key area: the supporting cast cannot continue - at times - to play afraid of letting LeBron James down.
Portland: When LeBron comes out in a road-game you have to have, and sets the tone by going 8 of 8 for the first quarter, scores 31 in the first half, and stretches his team out to a comfortable halftime lead, his supporting cast has to come out like Herm says 'playing to win the game.' Not playing to watch the King, which is what they did against Portland. They came out watching LeBron in that second half - despite his efforts to get everyone involved - and in turn they ended up watching Portland come all the way back from a 17-point second half lead. Luckily the Cavs hung on to that one.
Utah: If only the same could be said about the game on Thursday Friday morning. I stayed up until the game ended at 1:39 ET and thought I was happy I did...until Anthony Parker and Zydrunas Ilgauskas combined to miss three FT's - of which any one of those would have sealed the deal. The Cavs played bad all night, then LeBron went absolutely crazy and put the Cavaliers in position to win a game they tried to lose. And after he did, all starter Anthony Parker or key reserve Zydrunas Ilgauskas had to to do was make a FT. LeBron had just scored 20 points in the fourth quarter. Just help him out with a FT. Instead they didn't, and they made sure the Cavs did lose after all. And I really don't want to hear criticism of Mike Brown for having the ball in those guys hands either. It wasn't but a couple of seasons ago that Z shot technical FT's for this squad, and while his athleticisms gone, he should still be able to connect from the FT stripe. And Anthony Parker? He shoots 77% from the stripe, and is amongst the league leaders from three. He's a starting guard, and cannot choke on FT's down the stretch. He has to make those...his sister would.
Mo and JJ: Beyond that, Mo Williams cannot stat to go Russel Branyon here for the rest of the season - turn in a monster stretch of games, followed by a bunch of whiffs. Let's go Mo, you're an All Star - we need you in it. And while were on the subject of gray matter, JJ Hickson, anyday now bud. You are the second best pure athlete on the court every single time you take the floor - your talent is huge, and I don't even think you know how good you can be yet. But you have to learn the plays boss. I know they are complicated, and I know you're only 21, and I know you only did a year at NC State, and I'm sure your HS team didn't run any plays either...but c'mon now Hickson, you've been in the NBA for a year and a half now, learn the plays.
Tonight: The Cavs tip-off against the Clippers tonight at 10:30...a shame we won't get to see Blake Griffin play, tough to see him miss the whole season...Wine and Gold Podcast will stream live tonight at 9:30 so stop back and check us out before each and every Cavaliers game.
Our intentions for the "Wine & Gold Podcast" is to preview that night's Cavaliers game, but that was not the case on the night of 1.15.10. Brendan and I were supposed to talk about Cavs/Jazz but it turned out to be a discussion about Gilbert Arenas, which we totally didn't mind. We also had a huge amount of call-in's as well.
We welcomed RICK GRAYSHOCK from the acclaimed Cleveland sports blog, Waiting For Next Year, to the show to talk about trade possibilities for the Cavaliers. Also great insight on the Arenas situation and how it compares/doesn't compare to Delonte West.
Our next pregame show will be before Saturday’s Cavaliers/Clippers game, with the show starting at 9:30pm ET.
We also will be doing pregame shows for ALL Cavalier games, one hour before tipoff! Just come to the website and join the chat box and listen in!!!
Call him the best player from Cleveland since Earl Boykins
LeBron James is from Akron, he reps Akron, and there's nothing wrong with that. He should represent Akron because he grew up there. And while LeBron is the best player to ever emerge from Northeast Ohio, the state of Ohio, and possibly the world, he's not from Cleveland. So he can't be the best player ever from Cleveland. But Jawad Williams could be. Maybe? After his last four games with the Cavaliers its at least a very real possibility. And if you think back to some players who've come out of Cleveland since Boykins way back in the early 90's, I bet you never thought you would say that of Hot-Wad Jawad.
Jawad Williams' Last Four Games:
In the last four games he's played at least 9 minutes a game, averaging just over 17 minutes per contest. In those games he's scored double figures twice, and averaged 8 points per game to go along with solid play on the defensive end of the floor off the Cavaliers' bench. He's gotten a steal in each of the last four games, and in the last two has connected on 4 of 8 from three-point range. Hardly an All Star - but - if he can play himself into the rotation for the rest of the season he just might make a career of it in this league. Which is more than can be said about a few Cleveland ballers I would have never dreamt wouldn't.
Guys from Cleveland you probably thought would have had better NBA careers than Jawad Williams:
Melvin Levett: If you're in your mid to late 20s you probably spent a good portion of your young life pretty convinced that Melvin Levett was not only the best basketball player in Cleveland, but quite possibly the world. He was amazing. And he went on to have a good amount of success playing for Bob Huggins at Cincinnatti, which most people thought would parlay into an NBA career of 10+ years. But after being drafted by the Pistons in the 2nd round of the 1999 NBA Draft, he later signed with the Lakers, and was released prior to ever playing an NBA game. He would play for the Globetrotters though, and is currently the Head Basketball Coach for the Miami Hamilton Harriers - bet you didn't know that.
Sam Clancy: He would arguably still be in the league had it not been for a knee injury that forced him to sit his entire rookie year for the 76ers after being drafted in the 2nd round out of USC. But he did get hurt, and unfortunately that was it as far as the NBA goes. Growing up in Cleveland, while his Dad played for the Browns, Sam Jr. went to St. Ed's and was a senior when Jawad was a freshman. At USC, he was named an All American and Pac-10 player of the Year for the Trojans, before being drafted in 2003. After missing his rookie year due to injury, he was waived by Philly, and later signed in 2005 with the Trailblazers, but was eventually cut before ever playing an NBA game.Steve Logan: I thought Logan would be an NBA Player for sure, and probably would have been if not for his agent. A Cincy guy like Levett, and a HS teammate of Clancy and Williams - on arguably the second best HS team in Ohio HS history behind LeBron's squad but honestly the '98 St. Edward's team would have given LeBron's St. V's team a game to be sure - Logan scored over 22 a game during his junior and senior seasons at UC. He was sweet, and as a Bearcat he was named 1st Team All American, Conference USA player of the Year, and scored enough points to be second on the UC scoring list behind only Oscar Robertson. But after being taken with the first pick of the 2nd round (29th pick overall) in 2002 by the Warriors, he would never play an NBA game. His agent argued that he should be paid first round money (the T-Wolves didn't have a pick that year) and the team parted ways with Logan due to that dispute. He was last seen playing in Israel.
Andrew Schnitkey (Rock) at Waiting For Next Year put up a great analysis of Mike Brown yesterday, and if you didn't read it yet I suggest you do. I had been thinking about the way Mike Brown runs his team ever since he began inserting Jawad Williams into the line-up, and have offered my opinions on the Cavaliers coach as well below.
This offseason, the Cavs acquired a LOT of new talent, like 2/5 of their starting lineup, plus a lot of the bench "new talent." The preseason was mostly used as a time for the Cavs to work out stretch-forwards, and to see what the 12-15 guys on the bench were capable of. Also, in case you don't remember injuries, arrests, and illnesses preoccupied the Cavs' preseason as well, so the first time the Cavs were able to play with a lineup they wanted (minus Delonte) was opening night. So against the Celtics and Raptors, the Cavs were still working out kinks in the rotation and the rest of the team was trying to figure out how to move around 2 different 7 footers, while trying not to think of their busted postseason a few months back, and their friend and teammate who was just arrested while trying to single-handedly recreate the Battle of the Alamo in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
But after watching them so many different teams, with so many different styles, and beating teams on the road in tough arenas (Staples, Rose Garden, Phillips, etc), you can't help but realize that Mike Brown knows that, with a pretty healthy roster, this team is team and versatile. They can go small, they can go big. They can go fast, they can slow it down. Man-to-man defense, help defense, on-ball defense. Three point shooting (2nd only to Phoenix in %), beautiful alley oops, and still the hockey assists.
Like many Cavs fans and non-fans, I've been known to take some jabs at Mike Brown. You can't really avoid it if you're an NBA fan. His career has been blessed and cursed with LeBron James. Every coach would love to have that guy playing on his team, but Brown's pretty much been unable to criticize his star for their entire relationship, lest he want to get his resume ready. His abilities and job security have also been linked to LeBron's lack of a championship, which if if you follow the Cavs, you know that the team's been missing a lot more than Hall of Fame coaching during the LeBron James era.