Preview and Chat: The Cleveland Cavaliers

Kurt —  February 11, 2007

4-4? At the start of this road trip Phil Jackson said 6-2 was feasible, I was hoping for 5-3, but in the end I can live with 4-4. However, the Lakers need to win today to reach that lowest of goals.

Missing Luke. For the last couple games, the Lakers have been very slow up the court, they are not getting the ball into the post (or the pinch-post at the corner of the free throw line) early, not really running the offense for long enough and the result ends up being desperations shots late in the shot clock. It’s been ugly

It’s frustrating because just three weeks ago the offense was humming. Maybe it would help if Kobe got a few early (within the flow off the offense), but the other key is for other guys to step up and hit the shots when Kobe gets doubled. Toronto got good defense from Anthony Parker, but at key moments they rand aggressive doubles at Kobe and he made passes and nobody else stepped up. They need to get back to the movement, passing and team ball we saw not long ago.

Radmanovic or Cook? When Lamar Odom went down, Phil gave Radmanovic the starting job but after a few games, Cook had stolen it with better play. Things are not much different now (despite Cook’s run-in with Phil). In his last three games Vlad is -25, including being -7 in the last Laker win. Meanwhile, Cook came off the bench to be +11 in Toronto. When you need a win, like the Lakers do, you give the minutes to the guy getting it done.

MVP candidates face off? Before the season started I thought Kobe and LeBron would be fighting it out for the MVP. Kobe is still in the mix (although I think Nowitzki and Nash lead for most voters), but LeBron has not lived up to expectations.

Not that he’s been bad — he’s got a PER of 23.92, which ranks 11th in the NBA (Kobe is 7th at 24.8). But he is struggling by his own standards — last season his PER was a crazy 28.1. At age 22, you’d have to expect an improvement not a decline.

David Thorpe, the best thing going at ESPN.com, broke down LeBron’s game and said that LeBron needs to improve his midrange game because teams have adjusted their defenses.

James likes to drive hard to the hole from the perimeter, and every James drive is an invitation for two or three defenders to rush and trail towards him. So at the very least he must beat his own defender and prepare for the “pinch” defender (the man guarding the teammate closest to James). On pick and rolls, which the Cavs run frequently, he must also deal with his screener’s defender, who often follows James to prevent him from changing directions.

And he sees other defenders as well. One Western Conference scout told me that his team fronts the post on the strong side when James has the ball on the wing, while the weak-side post defender rotates toward the ball and shows as well. In other words, a sound defensive team gives James the impression that all five guys are ready to pounce on anything he does.

This strategy is working for a couple of reasons.

First, James appears unwilling to take (and sometimes unable to make) the midrange shots that are available to him.

Second, he’s forcing the drive. He often seems locked in on getting to the rim, going up against three or four defenders in traffic. He is rushing his right hand drives and going right into the web that his opponents have spun for him, with no angle to the basket and several tall players to contest his shots.

The other Cavaliers. One of the other things Thorpe hints at is that LeBron isn’t getting enough help from his teammates – only two other Cavs have a PER above the league average of 15, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Drew Gooden. Both of them are crashing the boards hard (grabbing more than 17% of the available rebounds) and are scoring 11 points a game.

But only two other Cavs besides James are shooting over 50% — Daniel Gibson, who finally took the starting job away from the long pat his prime Eric Snow, and Donyell Marshall of the bench. The other guy to watch off the bench is Aleksandar “Sasha” Pavlovic, who is averaging 11 points per game the last 10 games, and is shooting 42.9% from three in those games.

Lakers schedule. Thanks to Maneesh for sending me a great link to a new Lakers schedule Web site. Bookmark this one, it’s maybe the cleanest one I’ve seen.

Off-Topic question: We’re about to bring a computer with Vista into our home. Anyone working with it? Love to hear thoughts and ideas, send me an email (at right) or put it in the comments.

Things to look for: The Cavs love to run James off of a high pick and roll. The Lakers need to aggressively hedge on that, not let James get momentum toward the hoop. Defending this has been the Lakers Achilles heel all season, they need to defend it better today.

Cleveland is not a deep team, the Laker bench need to come forward. In particular, Farmar and Sasha should be able to take advantage of the Cav guards off the bench, particularly Eric Snow. Smush should get his as well – the Cavs struggle to defend the point.

Kurt

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17 responses to Preview and Chat: The Cleveland Cavaliers

  1. I have haunting memories of last year’s game in Cleveland…with the way this road trip is going I’m sure they’ll try and out do themselves though..

  2. it seems to me that Kobe is trying to force his way through triple teams in the lane and getting way too many turnovers.
    I know we have a great coaching staff, and they have to be aware of this.
    so, why not play that defensive collapse to our advantage? let Kobe dive as usual, into the lane, bring in 3 defenders, as usual, then we play that into a cutter to the hole, or an open 3 point attempt?
    this works so well at Phx, Nash, like Kidd used to do, is so strong at the drive and dish, and I know Kobe has that ability, maybe even better with his height and passing ability.
    seems better than trying to drive the lane with 3 defenders, resulting in a turnover, and when it’s out that far, leads to an easy basket for the other guys.

  3. This isn’t about the Cav’s; it’s about the Lakers as they are right now. Though many of us have focused on the Smusher and EITHER replacement small forward (Radman OR Cook), Phil made it clear that he is dissatisfied everyone but Kobe.

    I personally am presently dissatified with Phil himself–not for his big strategy, but for his (lack of) inner tinkering. Against Toronto, he was a bit more creative–but he has a long ways to go.

    With the passing and assists of Walton and Lamar, the Lakers can get by with the Smusher starting. With a weakened Lamar and no Walton, and a Kobe that defenses expect to be a setup man at the start, there is no offense.

    The Lakers struggle and get behind–only to be rescued by some of the guys that might as well start.

    Why not start Farmar for now? Why not trade back and forth between various front liners right from the beginning-depending on matchups.

    I know that one could argue that “starters” are more cohesive as a unit–but that unit has not remained consistent anyway, There is no real starting 5 right now.

    Consider it part of the “halfway assessment.” Go ahead, Phil–take a chance–you’re losing anyway already.

  4. Chris Bosh (formerly known as ian) February 11, 2007 at 2:34 pm

    What does everyone think about Peter Vecsey and his reports of the lakers shopping for Kidd?

  5. What would we give up? Guessing draft pick, Farmar, and their choices of the expiring contract triumverate of McKie, Shamu, Mihm

  6. Or perhaps Cook as well..don’t know if they’d want Farmar with Marcus Williams

  7. shitty first half. we are one sluggish team playing with a chip on our shoulder. confidence seems way down. still have a half to pull this one out, though.

  8. No way Mitch in his right mind would trade for Kidd. We’re just too far away. And Kidd isn’t the right player for the system.

  9. Wow both teams are either playing incredible defense, or they just can’t shoot.

  10. Smush, you nitwit. If you foul someone on a breakaway layup, you make darn sure they cant get the shot off. Moron. LeBron can’t play defense. Kobe can turn water into wine.

    So frustrating. I want to throw MY jersey at Phil.

  11. At the begining of the season this team would compete in close games. Now they fall apart under the pressure. My guess is the home heavy begining of the season made them look better than they are.

  12. God that was a really frustrating game to watch.

    From 16-7 in the 1st quarter and shooting 70% to.. that.

  13. Tony..you’re pretty much right ..I knew their record was somewhat out of line with their actual ability but I didn’t know it was THAT out of line..I guess a 1.2 point differential shows more about their team then their record..

    To be honest..the 2nd round of the playoffs was probably the realistic goal for this team and it’s still possible..they NEED to stay above the 7th seed though..

  14. Lamar just came back from a knee injury…remember how long it took Kobe to get going again. You can see he’s not comfortable yet just by the fact that he’s settling for Jump Shots.

    Farmar should start. At this point I don’t see any reason he shouldn’t. He plays well whenever he’s on the floor. And as I said, he needs to cut his teeth sometime.

    Let’s not give up on the Lakers. Walton and Kwame are big parts of this team, and until we get them back and have Lamar back at full strength, it’s really tough to judge this team.

    As for the Kidd rumor. I disagree with the comment above that says he couldn’t fit in this system. Jason Kidd can fit into any system in the NBA. He’s that good. He’d also be a tremendous upgrade for the Lakers defensively. As well, he’d allow the Lakers to have a point guard that’s actually capable of, you know…running the point. But I don’t think the Lakers have the capability of making the salaries work out. I’ve seen crazier things happen, but don’t see that as a very likely scenario.

    The Lakers really don’t need a traditional PG as much as they need a guy that can hit an open shot and defend the point. They need guys like D-Fish, Chris Duhon, or Delonte West. Smush can’t hit a jumper and can’t defend anyone. That’s their main issue.

  15. Re: Kidd,

    To me, there is little doubt that Kidd could fit in the triangle, he’s still a good outside shooter and he has a basketball IQ that would fit great in the triangle. Once he learned it, which could be next season by the time he gets it down. But he’s a huge upgrade at the point, no doubt.

    The rumored package is Kwame and Farmar and others (this may also need to involve Mihm, McKie, Shammond or others from the Lakers and someone coming back from the Nets to make this work). But why blow up the team at the deadline if you’re the Nets? You’re the 8 seed right now in the weak East, even if you blow it up and fall into the lottery you’re going to be at the back end, pick 10 or higher. Is that worth taking pennies on the dollar for Kidd (and maybe Carter)? I just don’t see that.

  16. its lame how everyone gives up so quick. things will be fine some of you sound worse than my eight year old brother when they lose. 50 wins. we are not dropping to 7th and the 5th is gonna be hard to get. so chill.

  17. (14) Couldn’t agree more.

    This thinking is all happening at the halfway point. To me, that means decisions for this year are being made now. Here are some thoughts.

    If there is a trade, I would hope it would be for a backcourt player. I could imagine us parting with Cook without too much discomfort , and the Smusher from the backcourt. Under some circumstances, I could see us giving up Walton in the front court, and Sasha from the back court. We also have expiring contracts, of course.

    Without a trade, we need to rethink the balance of minutes. We are still overloaded at small forward, so player unhappiness at that position is unlikely to disappear–especially when Walton returns. At point guard, we need to decrease Smusher time, increase Farmar time, increase Sasha time–and keep the Smusher out during the last four minutes of the game.

    If they were healthy, we could probably use both Kwame and Chris Mihm. It would be good for the team AND good for Andrew.

    No matter whether at power forward (where he belongs) or center–or small forward, for that matter, I’d want to be sure that Turiaf gets his minutes. His spirit is very important for the team.

    The next two weeks are very important for the Lakers this year. I’m sure that some things will change.