The Disappointment Zone

Musings from a Cleveland sports fan

Archive for June, 2007

To do list…

Posted by disappointmentzone on 15 June 2007

The Cavs were swept by the Spurs last night. No big surprise there. The Spurs, as they demonstrated in the first three games (and the entire season there unto), are clearly a superior team. For starters, the Spurs have players who can shoot well. So what do the Cavs need to do this off season in order to be in a position to win at least one NBA Finals game? Here’s a quick list:

* Bring in an offensive coordinator whose job will be to oversee the entire offensive scheme the Cavs run next season. Mike Brown should have total control over the defense — he’s clearly a wizard in this area — but limited control over the offense. He’s still young enough (and one hopes wise enough) that he should be willing to play ball with delegating some authority to another coach.

* Bring in a shooting guru to teach LeBron James proper shooting form. Anyone with any basketball sense and working eyes can clearly see that LBJ’s form is terrible. I have no idea how he’s made it through four seasons without anyone correcting his form, but now is clearly the time. Just look at Tony Parker. When Parker entered the league he had a terrible jumper. Then in 2005 the Spurs hired a shooting coach. In 2007 Parker is nearly unstoppable on offense because he can consistently live make mid-range jumpers. Being able to do so only opens up more room for him to get inside, where he is lethal. The same goes for Wade, who is best known for his acrobatic dunks and layups, but whose games actually centers on his ability to kill teams from 18 feet. LBJ is getting by right now on pure innate ability. Just think of how good he could become if he added skill to that list.

* Speaking of shooting, Larry Hughes hesitates on the top of his jumper and snaps his wrist way too hard. He does this on free throws, too, for reasons passing understanding. He would benefit from working with a shooting coach. So would Daniel Gibson. He has decent form but his shoot lacks the sort of arc required to be consistently accurate. He also needs to work on a running teardrop shot (what used to be Parker’s bread and butter). It’s fun to watch him jump against the taller players in the league, but it’s not a sound strategy for long-term success.

* Pavlovic needs to enroll in LBJ’s Finishing School. Pavs is almost the opposite of LBJ in that Pavs can shoot quite well and has the athletic ability to get to the rim, only he lacks the skill required for finishing once he getst here. Strength is probably also an issue here — not only upper body strength, which seems obvious, but lower body strength. He just doesn’t explode off the ground very well. That makes finishing much harder.

* Somehow, someway, get rid of: Hughes, Snow, Jones, and Marshall. Their contracts and unproductive basketball play really hurt the team.

* Somehow, someway, sign: Pavlovic and Varejao. Varejao might have played himself into a smaller contract than he was in line to receive entering the playoffs by furthering his reputation as a flopper and a maverick on the offensive end. Pavlovic probably played himself into a larger contract. I would focus more on trying to keep Pavlovic because he’s a more well-rounded player, but active big men are hard to find. Locking both into contracts would be a boon. Signing one would be nice. Failing on both would be terrible.

* Somehow, someway, bring in: a point guard. I am not of the opinion that the Cavs need to brake the bank this off season attempting to sign a Billups-type PG. Frankly there are no PGs available this year who blow my hair back, mostly because signing any of them will require a Hughes-like contract. I would be patient and try to lure a second-tier PG, one who can make a mid-range jumper and whose best asset is basketball IQ. Why? Because Agent Zero is opting out of his contract next season and if I were Danny Ferry I would do everything in my power to sing Arenas. The Cavs can’t afford another hefty contract this upcoming season (unless Hughes is traded) but it is entirely within the realm of possibilities that, with a few savvy trades, the team could be in a position to sign Arenas in 08. If you aren’t scoring at home, that would give the Cavs with one season with LBJ and Arenas, which should be enough to entice The Chosen One to re-up with the Cavs.

Not signing a Headline Point Guard his off season would also further Gibson’s development, which would make him a valuable asset since he’s rookie contract expires after next year. If the Cavs could lock him up before then to a reasonably long-term deal (3 years) at a fair price all of a sudden the team has another trading chip. Of course, this is assuming that Gibson’s development stays on track. But I don’t think that’s a huge assumption given what we know about Gibson.

* Further expand the team’s international scouting. If there’s one thing the Spurs have made clear it’s that foreign-born players are not novelties. The Cavs need to be ahead of the curve on this.

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Posted in Cleveland Cavaliers | 19 Comments »

NBA Finals: Game 3: Doink!

Posted by disappointmentzone on 13 June 2007

Well the Cavs did just about everything I suggested in my preview of Game 3 and they still lost. What a monumentally poor shooting performance. That was historically bad. It’s not as though the Cavs were missing tough shots. The offense wasn’t terrible. They had open looks. They could have had more open looks if someone other than Gooden or Pavolvic decided to shoot a mid-range jumper. It’s just that no shots fell. Even layups were bricked. 3-19 from three is pathetic. After missing, oh, ten three pointers, might it be worth switching to another strategy? It’s not as though the Spurs were ever so far ahead that the Cavs needed to resort to bombing three pointers to get back into the game. If you can’t make baskets you can’t win, no matter how good your defense is.

And the defense was good. Very good.

Daniel Gibson played pretty solid defense on Tony Parker, who was a lot less aggressive with Gibson guarding him than I ever thought he would be. Eventually Parker wised up and started driving, but he certainly did not kill the Cavs in the way he had the first two games.

Of course, Gibson’s defensive contribution was balanced by his offensive slump. The boy did nothing to help the team win. 1-10, 1 assist, 1 steal, 3 rebounds — in 36 minutes! Those are Larry Hughes numbers. So through three games the Cavs’ starting point guards are now 2-20. No team can win getting so little from such a crucial position.

If you can over the boxscore you might be surprised that the Spurs won. Duncan had 14. Parker had 17. Ginobili had 3. Bruce Bowen played well, with 13 points. The Cavs? LeBron James had 25. Gooden had 13. Ilgauskas had 12. Pavolvic had 13. So how did the Cavs lose? The remaining players on the roster had NINE points. Let me repeat: The other FIVE players who played for the Cavs had NINE POINTS. Yikes.

Question: How can you lose when you out rebound the other team; when you have more than twice as many offensive rebounds as the other team; when you have more assists and fewer turnovers than the other team; when you have more blocks than the other team; when you attempt 11 more shots than the other team; when you make more free throws than the other team; and when you have as many steals as the other team?

Answer: By only getting NINE POINTS from five guys who combine to play 89 minutes.

That’s the whole of it right there.

At least the Cavaliers fans will be able to watch a basketball team receive the NBA Championship trophy on Cleveland’s home court. Too bad it’ll be the Spurs.

Posted in Cleveland Cavaliers | 6 Comments »

Hughes Benched! Gibson Starting!

Posted by disappointmentzone on 12 June 2007

From the PD, filed just a short while ago:

Cavaliers point guard Larry Hughes indicated this morning that he would not start in tonight’s Game 3 because the pain in his injured left heel has increased, a move that presumably opens the door for rookie Daniel Gibson to slide into the starting rotation.

That’s quite some learning curve for Mr. Brown, who still isn’t ruling out starting Hughes. But no matter. Let’s celebrate the fact that Mike Brown has joined the rest of us.

Posted in Cleveland Cavaliers | 10 Comments »

Game plan for Game 3

Posted by disappointmentzone on 12 June 2007

The Spurs have a history of Game 3 let downs. In the Western Conference Finals the Spurs, after going up 2-0 on the Jazz, got rocked 83-109 in a game that was never close. Two years ago in the NBA Finals the Spurs beat up on Detroit in the first two games only to get crushed in Game 3 upon arriving in Detroit. Meanwhile the Cavs seem to win at home. Based on those two tendencies I am apt to believe that the Cavs will win Game 3 simply by showing up.

But of course nothing is ever so easy, so here are a eight things the Cavs should do:

1) Play Daniel Gibson. Some people think simply giving Gibson a lot of minutes will solve the Hughes-Brown-Gibson conundrum. I am of the opinion that Brown needs to start Gibson (and then play him the rest of the game). A quick start to the game will ensure that the crowd remains active and enthused from the tipoff onwards. A quick start is far more likely if Gibson is playing instead of Hughes. Gibson needs to start.

2) Do not pull LeBron James. In Game 2 Brown removed James early after he picked up two quick fouls. LBJ finished with three fouls. LBJ needs to play until the game is over or he fouls out, whichever comes first. There is no good reason to have LBJ on the bench. Taking him out to calm him down is one matter. Taking him out so that he doesn’t pick up any more fouls is another matter. If LBJ doesn’t play the Cavs have no chance. Play LeBron.

3) Run a zone every once and a while. Gibson is the only person with a puncher’s chance of staying with Tony Parker, but Gibson is not yet of the ability to cover Parker one-on-one for an entire game. I know the Spurs have a bunch of shooters, but Duncan is not one of them and neither is Parker. A zone might mitigate those two and force the Other Spurs to score some points. The Other Spurs have yet to pull their weight. Mixing in a zone might go a ways in this regard.

4) Play small. Gibson, Pavolvic, LBJ, Gooden, and Varejao. There is a winning lineup. Put them on the floor together and tell them to run until they can no longer feel their legs. Then call a timeout. And repeat. Forget Donyell Marshall. He can’t shoot. Forget Z — he’s a lost puppy. Forget Hughes — he can’t really run and his tendency to shoot early jumpers is too big a liability. Damon Jones can play in short stretches, but only if he actually makes his shots.

5) As a corollary to playing small, LBJ needs to play the 4 from time to time. Bruce Bowen is an outstanding perimeter defender. As an interior defender against LBJ? Not so outstanding.

6) Keeping with the team of sending LBJ down low: he needs to attack the basket more. With the home crowd (and the NBA’s need for the Cavs to win) LBJ will be getting all the favorable calls, but only if he drives to the hoop.

7) Sasha Pavolvic needs to do some pushups before the game. Then he needs to get in a one-man layup line and work on finishing near the basket for 20 minutes. Then he needs to forget all of that and try to dunk everything during the game. If he misses — so what? He’ll go to the line.

8) Run the ball up the court. No more walking. When the Cavs start running on offense a surprising thing happens when they play defense: they become a swarm of arms and legs. When playing at a plodding tempo on offense too often that tempo carries over to the defense. Chalk it up to inexperience, but the Cavs are not good at playing one way on offense and another way on defense. Slow and deliberate is not working. Fast and almost out of control sounds like a good option, especially with suggestion #4.

Posted in Cleveland Cavaliers | 4 Comments »

Dear Mike Brown…

Posted by disappointmentzone on 11 June 2007

Dear Mike Brown,

Get your head out of your ass and play your best players. That means Daniel Gibson and not Larry Hughes. How many more quality games from Gibson will it take before you realize he’s a better option than Hughes? How many more terrible games from Hughes will it take before you realize he’s not good? For heaven’s sake, Hughes is injured, too. Forcing him to play is just plain evil, to both Hughes and us Cavs fans.

We’ve been waiting so long, Mike Brown. The Cavs are in the finals for the first time in team history and what do we have to show for it? Two semi-comebacks. You are ruining the team’s chances of winning by routinely failing to put on the court the players most likely to help the team win. You never made any football-coach-esque proclamations about how “the best players will play” so maybe we shouldn’t hold this against you. But isn’t it just assumed that you’ll do what you can to ensure that your team will win? Isn’t it written into the contract you signed, or is it so blatantly evident that it goes without saying? How can you keep failing to make the smallest and most obvious changes? Us Cavs fans just do not understand.

Mike Brown, I’m not sure if a player playing extremely well has ever killed a coach before, but that’s where you are with Daniel Gibson. He’s playing so well and you are handling it so poorly that you have to wonder it’s possible that every basket Gibson makes is one more nail in your coffin. Such is your coaching that the success of one of your players serves to shine light on your failures as a coach. It really defies the laws of reason. You are a rebuff to the nature order of things, Mike Brown, and you are killing the team.

Please get your head out of your ass. It’s quite unseemly, you blight.

Yrs,

Cleveland Cavaliers fans

Posted in Cleveland Cavaliers | 3 Comments »

NBA Finals: Game 2: Black Cloud

Posted by disappointmentzone on 10 June 2007

Well that sucked. About as one sided as a hurricane, only it was the Cavs that were blowing.

San Antonio is just so much better than Cleveland in all facets of the game that there really is no way the Cavs have a chance of winning if the Spurs show up. It’s as simple as that.

Here’s to hoping the Spurs get food poisoning.

(Yes, I’m publishing this at halftime. The second half is irrelevant to the outcome of this game. It’s over.)

UPDATE: I was right.

Posted in Cleveland Cavaliers | 1 Comment »

NBA Finals: Game 1: Silver Lining

Posted by disappointmentzone on 8 June 2007

It’s late and I am graduating tomorrow, so rather than attempt a semi-coherent synopsis I am instead going to crib the Random Thoughts format and hit you with some bullets.

* The Spurs played very well. Duncan, Parker and Ginobili shot 27-52 (52%) for 67 points. The Spurs had 13 offensive rebounds and out-rebounding the Cavs 43-32. But the key stat is assists. The Spurs had 18 assists. The Cavs had nine assists. Interestingly, the Spurs shot just marginally better from the field than the Cavs: 45% vs 43%. The Cavs had fewer assists because they missed a lot of shots and often played one-on-five, but they only missed one more shot than the Spurs. The difference between the teams was that the Spurs’ assists were mostly on dunks and layups and shots from within eight feet. The Cavs’ assists seemed to be on a series of jumpers with the occasional layup. The Spurs interior defense was outstanding and the Cavs opted for jumpers all night long.

* That said, the Cavs kept the game close throughout the first half and had the Spurs in their sights late in the fourth quarter. For long stretches of the game it appeared as though this was Game 1 of the ECF: the Cavs never played particularly well on offense but they hung around by playing pretty good defense and, had a few more key shots fallen, they could have had a chance to steal the game. If you are looking for a silver lining this might be it. The Cavs didn’t look good. The Spurs did. The game wasn’t a blowout. The Cavs are better than people are giving them credit for and at this point it’s getting hard to imagine that the Spurs will ever blow the Cavs out. The Cavs’ defense is too good.

* Speaking of defense, Cavs defensive strategy for Duncan was similar to the way that the Warriors played Dirk — throwing multiple guys at him coming from multiple angles. When Duncan got the ball with his back to the basket he was far less effective than when he was facing up or coming off a pick-and-roll precisely because he didn’t know where the double (or triple) team was coming from. I know it sound ridiculous, but from time to time I think it might be a good strategy not to hedge of pick-and-rolls that occur close to the top of the key, instead letting Duncan get the ball outside or allowing him to set up with his back to the basket. He’s not particularly great facing up from the key and the Cavs worked him well when he had his back to the hoop. Duncan won’t crumble like Dirk, but this might be the only way the Cavs can control Duncan on offense — control not in terms of dominating him but rather in terms of having some measure of influence over how he plays.

* At 6:17 in the first quarter the Spurs had 16 points. With 6:08 in the second quarter the Spurs had 20 points — a pretty remarkable stretch given how the Spurs shot out of the gate. In the fourth quarter the Cavs went on a 16-6 run in about five minutes. Unfortunately the Spurs had a number of runs of their own. But what these two stretches demonstrate is that the Cavs can control the Spurs defensively and that they can score in bunches against the Spurs as well. Now they just need to figure out how to have such runs in the third quarter.

* The Cavs attempted too many jump shots and Henry Abbott at TrueHoop made an interesting observation after the game about why it is that the Cavs are shooting so much from the outside: “I swear, every time LeBron gets the ball he likes to hold it for three or four seconds to look at the defense. That pause helps the defense. I’d love him to mix in some catch, rip, and go. That would get him layups sometimes.”

* After Manu hit that three pointer very late in the second quarter to push the Spurs’ lead to 40-35 the Cavs were never really in the game. They cut the lead to eight late in the fourth quarter, but asking this Cavs team to score eight points in about 98 seconds is a tall order. This team has trouble scoring eight points in eight minutes.

* Tony Parker is an annoying little runt. Parker went 12-23 from the field for 27 points, a fairly impressive line until you consider that he missed 11 of his 23 layups. Wait? Are you telling me that Parker actually attempted jump shots? I sure didn’t see them. All I saw was a French blur weaving its way through a series of tall legs before tossing an orange orb 13 feet into the air off of a plane of glass and through a net. If Parker continues to get to the hole the way he did in Game 1 the Cavs have no shot at beating the Spurs. (1)

* Larry Hughes cannot stay with Parker defensively. Parker is too quick and Hughes is too gimpy. If Hughes’s defense is rendered moot, then what does he offer the team? Practically nothing. His +/- was -18, the worst on the team (tied with Z). Watching Damon Jones play defense is an exercise in patience, but at least he can make a jump shot from time to time. You might also ask where Eric Snow was — I sure did. Snow is big enough to body Parker and certainly is the probably the best defensive guard on the roster at this point. But the real question is: why not play Gibson more? Gibson had a +/1 of +4, second only to Varejao (+5), and made pretty much ever shot he took. He also had four steals and four assists and no turnovers.

* Donyell Marshall can no longer shoot. Since March 1st Marshall is 16-56 on three pointers. That’s 31% and it includes his 6-10 performance against the Nets. Cut out that game and he’s shooting a lowly 22% and has only one game in which he’s made two or more threes (he made two in Game 2 against Detroit). Why he’s allowed to shoot is beyond me. He’s hurting the team.

* The 2-3-2 format of the NBA Finals pretty much means that Game 2 is a must-win. There is no way the Cavs are winning all three home games and it is pretty much impossible to imagine that the Cavs could win both Games 6 and 7 on the road, which is what would need to happen were the Cavs to drop Game 2 and one of the home games. The only chance the team has of sneaking out with the Championship is sneaking out of San Antonio with the series tied 1-1. Here’s to hoping that happens.

1: Quick joke: How many Frenchmen does it take to guard Daniel Gibson? Answer: Not sure. No one’s ever tried. 7-9 from the field for Boobie. Maybe Brown should play this guy.

Posted in Cleveland Cavaliers | 4 Comments »

Welcome, Beau Mills

Posted by disappointmentzone on 7 June 2007

On Thursday afternoon the Indians drafted Beau Mills with the no. 13 pick in the First-Year Player Draft. (1) Mills is a LH power-hitting infielder who has spent time at 3B but will probably end up as a 1B due to limited arm strength stemming from shoulder problems. He is 20 years old and hails from Lewis-Clark State. This past season he had staggeringly impressive numbers: .458/.556/1.033, with 38 homers, 22 doubles, 123 RBI, 43 walks, and 22 strikeouts in 240 at-bats. (2)

John Sickles at minorleagueball.com has this to say about Mills:

With a ┬árelative shortage of top college hitters this year, Beau Mills stands out…Scouts are certain that Mills’ power is for real and that he’ll continue to hit for plus power at higher levels. He’s got solid plate discipline. There’s some doubt about what his batting average is going to look like, but he should post a solid OBP no matter what to go with his power.

My best guess is that Mills will report to Lake County (A ball) once he’s signed and could end up playing in Kinston (High A) in late 2007. There is a very small chance that he could get to Akron (AA) in 2007, but with the logjam of 1B/OF prospects in the farm system right now I highly doubt Mills would progress through the system that quickly. AAA is not a possibility this season, although next year AAA is not out of the question, possibly with a September call-up should things go amazingly well (though not likely). He’s an experienced player who will turn 21 this summer so keeping him buried might not be a great strategy, especially with the looming free agency of some other LH hitter.

1: Such a Southern name. He ought to report to his first stint in the minor leagues wearing seersucker and a straw hat.

2: So he has a name that makes him sound like a good old boy, is a LH masher, plays 1B…He certainly fits into the Thome/Pronk mold.

Posted in Cleveland Indians | 14 Comments »

It’s all been said before

Posted by disappointmentzone on 7 June 2007

Every single series preview that provides a position-by-position breakdown of the Cavaliers and Spurs says exactly the same thing:

Center: Advantage Cleveland (Ilgauskas over Oberto)
Power Forward: Advantage San Antonio (Duncan over Gooden)
Small Forward: Advantage Cleveland (James over Bowen)
Shooting Guard: Advantage San Antonio (Finley over Pavolvic)
Point Guard: Advantage San Antonio (Parker over Hughes)

Bench: Advantage San Antonio (Ginobili/Horry over Gibson/Varejao)
Coach: Advantage San Antonio (Popovich over Brown)

Yesterday I went over a number of expert picks, most of whom have the Spurs winning in five or six games. You certainly cannot call Bill Simmons a basketball expert, but today he published his preview had he has the Spurs winning in five games, with the Cavs winning one game solely by virtue of poor officiating.

Never mind that the Cavs beat the Spurs twice this season, once in San Antonio.

Never mind that the Spurs have yet to play a team in the playoffs remotely close to the Cavs in terms of defensive ability.

Never mind that the Cavs have the most intimidating and dominant threat in LeBron James.

Everyone is picking the Spurs and all for the exact same reasons. The consensus is resounding. The uniformity among the experts is startling. The Cavs are getting no love. Is this series really so black and white?

Probably.

Look, the Spurs are miles ahead of any team the Cavs have played this postseason and they are clearly the better team. But a best-of-seven series is not just about which team is better. Seven games isn’t enough. The sample is too small. One victory can swing the momentum of the series so far in one direction that the other team cannot lift itself up from underneath the pressure. It’s what happened to the Pistons.

Over the course of a season the best team will win the most games. Over the course of a playoff series the Golden State Warriors can beat the Dallas Mavericks. If the Cavs do beat the Spurs it won’t be because the Cavs are the better team. But that is not what the NBA playoffs are about. If the NBA were in the business of awarding the best team with the Championship trophy then there would be no playoffs. The playoffs are exciting precisely because the best team doesn’t always win and lesser teams can ride some combination of luck, a hot streak, or a hot player to victories over teams they have no right beating.

There is a reason the NBA playoffs are commonly referred to as The Second Season. It’s not just because teams get to start over, a race to 16 wins among 16 teams. The playoffs are The Second Season because anything can happen — and unusual things often do happen. Hope springs eternal once again and one should never underestimate the power of hope. It can be enough to send a scrappy group of upstarts to victory over an efficient group of veterans.

….That said, I like the Spurs. In six.

Oh, and get to the Q for game 2 even if you don’t have tickets because you’ll be able to watch the game in 3D.

And if you want five reasons why the Cavs will beat the Spurs, SI.com basketball writer Kelly Dwyer has four reasons.(I say four reasons because two reasons are LBJ. Also, one reason is mid-range jump shooting — does this guy actually watch the Cavs play? Mid-range jump shooting should be reason #6 why the Spurs will win. So really it’s three reasons. Yikes.)

Posted in Cleveland Cavaliers | Leave a Comment »

Who will win? Roundup

Posted by disappointmentzone on 6 June 2007

If you are searching the Interwebs for NBA experts who like the Cavs’ chances of knocking off the Spurs, good luck finding any. They are few and far between. It seems the smart money is on the Spurs. The only question is in how many games.

The Spurs are a polyglot of international players, led by that pesky Frenchman Tony Parker. Tim Duncan is from the Virgin Islands. Manu Ginobli is from Argentina, as is Fabricio Oberto. Beno Udrih is from Yugoslavia and Bruce Bowen is from North Korea.

Picking the Spurs to win makes one thing clear: these so-called experts clearly hate us for our freedoms LeBron.

So this quick roundup of picks will be organized on a scale of freedom LeBron hating.

Hates the player, game

Ian Thomson, Sports Illustrated: Spurs in 5
Mark Stein, ESPN: Spurs in 5
Jack McCallum, Sports Illustrated: Spurs in 5
Chris Mannix, SI.com: Spurs in 5
David Berri, Wages of Wins: Spurs in 5
John Hollinger, ESPN.com: Spurs in 5
Justin Kubatko, basketball-reference.com: Spurs in 5

Hates player

Chris Sheridan, ESPN.com: Spurs in 6
Marty Burns, Sports Illustrated: Spurs in 6
Paul Forrester, SI.com: Spurs in 6
Kelly Dwyer, SI.com: Spurs in 6
Kevin Pelton, Seattle SuperSonics APBR: Spurs in 6

Hates game

Chris Broussard, ESPN: Spurs in 7

Loves TheBron

Mike Kurylo, KnickerBlogger.net: Cavs in 6
Jeff Ma, PROTRADE: Cavs in 6

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