Preview and Chat: The Cleveland Cavaliers

Darius Soriano —  January 11, 2011

Records: Lakers 27-11 (3rd in West), Cavaliers 8-29 (15th in East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 111.4 (2nd in NBA), Cavaliers 100.9 (29th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 104.5 (11th in NBA), Cavaliers 110.0 (27th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers:Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Cavaliers: Mo Williams, Manny Harris, Alonzo Gee, Antawn Jamison, J.J. Hickson
Injuries: Lakers: Matt Barnes (out), Theo Ratliff (out); Cavaliers:Anderson Varejao, Leon Powe, Daniel Gibson, and Joey Graham (all out), Anthony Parker and Christian Eyenga (both doubtful)

The Lakers Coming in:  The Lakers have won 4 in a row and after thrashing the Knicks, things are looking up and the team seems to be on solid ground.  The team is starting to play better defense – with the Knicks game being one of the team’s best defensive performances in a long while – and offensively the team also seems to be finding its stride.  All in all, there’s been little to complain about as the team is executing well on both sides of the ball and really building momentum during this home-heavy stretch.

In other news, Matt Barnes underwent successful surgery to repair his right meniscus tear today.  As Matt explained via twitter in the lead up to his operation, he’s expected to miss about 8 weeks.  This would put him on track to return around the first week of March (give or take a week) and would give him about a month of regular season games to find his rhythm in preparation for the playoffs.  So, things could be worse on that front with it looking likely that he’ll be back and ready for a late season push and then contribute in the playoffs.

The Cavaliers Coming in: What a difference a decision makes.  What used to be a perennial contender is now one of the leagues worst (the worst?) teams.  The Cavs have lost 10 in a row and 20 of 21 contests in Byron Scott’s first season as head man (insert relieved picture of Brian Shaw – who turned down the Cavs job – here).  Obviously, this team misses Lebron James, as this specific team was built around him.  Throughout the James era, complementary role players were put in place to help this team win the championship – even last year’s addition of Jamison was one that was specifically made to complement James.  However, with the superstar now gone, all that remains are guys who have some talent – but not the transcendent one that teams rally (and are built) around.

But missing Lebron isn’t this team’s only issue.  They’ve been hit hard by the injury bug as their remaining top players have all missed time this year.  With news that Andy Varejao is lost for the season with a right foot injury, the poor have gotten poorer and what used to be a competitive team that drew the ire of opposing fans due to their status as one of the league’s best now just gets sympathetic shakes of the head.  I mean, look at their projected starting lineup.  This team will be lucky to win 20 games this year.  Rebuilding is on the horizon, obviously, but until then this team suffers beatdowns in every arena (including their own) and the fans sit through it all wondering how it all changed so quickly.  (Well, actually, they don’t wonder.  They know where their team went.  They saw it on TV.)

Cavs Blogs:  Despite the poor outfit he covers, John Krolik and company continue to do excellent work at Cavs The Blog.

Keys to game:  Normally this is a place where I discuss strategy, X’s and O’s, and what each team will try to do to win the game.  But tonight’s game doesn’t offer that same intrigue where styles of play can win out or where the teams are evenly matched in any area.

That said, of course I can’t ignore this stuff.  So yes I’ll be looking for strong offensive execution with an emphasis on post play.  Gasol and Bynum should get touch after touch against Jamison and Hickson to punish them in the paint.  Kobe and Artest can also get in on the act if they’d like by running center opposite actions where they fill the post on flashes from the weak side.  Defensively, the Lakers will need to defend the P&R where Williams will look to exploit the Lakers guards, while Hickson dives to the hoop and Jamison circles the arc looking for an open three-point attempt.  Also don’t be surprised to see Mo Williams and Ramon Sessions push the pace a bit more considering their team speed may be their one advantage.  So, the Lakers will need to defend well in transition, too.

But really, forget the X’s and O’s for one night as this game will be more about the Lakers just taking the game seriously and playing with effort and smarts.  The talent gap in this game is enormous (I again point you to the starting lineups).  Plus, with the Cavs dealing with so many injuries, their depth will hamper them as well (last game Byron Scott played 8 guys and one of them is doubtful for tonight).  So, all I’m really looking for is a Laker team that isn’t already looking at tomorrow’s game against the Warriors and playing like this game doesn’t matter.  The Cavs may not have the talent, but I’m sure they’re going to try hard.  If the Lakers don’t do the same this game will be closer than it should for longer than it should.  And like any other NBA  game, when a team with lesser talent hangs around it starts to get the idea that it can win.  The Lakers need to crush those hopes early tonight and get their main players some extra rest for what could be a fast paced game in Oakland tomorrow night.

If the Lakers can play the brand of ball they’ve shown in the past week, everything will be fine tonight.  So, go out there with intensity and focus and the win will follow.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start on Fox Sports West.  Also listen on ESPN Radio 710am.

Darius Soriano

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68 responses to Preview and Chat: The Cleveland Cavaliers

  1. This one really is for Warren!

  2. With Barnes out for an extended period of time, the lakers should make a minitrade to get a better small forward than what they have with Luke Walton. Rasul Butler is not playing at all for the Clippers with the emergence of farouq al amin. The lakers could send any combination of Ratlif, smith, and character to get Butler. Butler has not shot the ball well this year but historically has been a decent 3 point shooter, and a good role player. He could help the Lakers with minimal downside as he has an expiring contract.

  3. Radmd,
    Are you out of your mind? Three players for Butler?

    Each one of those players has a specific place in the Laker bench organization. Butler would occupy another spot – one that the Lakers have the deepest talent at.

  4. given the 2 month recovery period, am i correct in assuming that barnes had a meniscus repair surgery(like bynum) as opposed to a menistectomy?

  5. Radmd

    I’m the biggest trade monger on the site and even I think that is a bad idea. I would rather them go after OJ Mayo and Thabeet for the trade exception and Blake or Walton. OJ would fit perfectly into the triangle and he would be the definite heir apparent to Fish.

  6. Craig,
    What have you been smoking?
    I said any combination, that means two of the 3 for matching salaries, that still leaves one of them for a rainy day. None of these 3 players would ever play unless an injury occurs to the rotation of Bynum-Gasol-Odom. You only need one of them for back up not all three.
    Ratlif is always injured. Even if he wasn’t, he would not get any minutes with the Bynum-Gasol-Odom combination.
    Smith and Character never play except for garbage time anyway.

    Deepest talent? Are you kidding me? Luke walton? Artest, shooting under 40% and a non-factor in the majority of games? The small forward position is the WEAKEST link of the Lakers and ranks up there with the point gaurd position. I personally like Ebanks long term potential the most, but he is not ready for primetiem this year. Butler has a one year contract only at 2.4 mil, so it would not take away from Ebanks minutes in case he blossoms next year.

    The lakers cannot afford to have Kobe increase his minutes to fill in at the SF spot, he is already sore just playing 33 minutes at the Guard position.

  7. Wow. Trade talk. To replace Barnes. Really? What’s a replacement going to do, pick up the 7 minutes Walton got in the last game? Displace Kobe from getting more Burn? Beat out Shannon so Kobe can only play SG? I’d prefer if this talk stop now. Understand that if any player is going to come in and play instead of any of the previously mentioned guys it would likely be Ebanks, since he’s actually been called up and all.

    Lastly, I’d not give up any of the big man depth the Lakers have for more wing depth all things being equal. And in this case things are equal (salary and expected minutes being chief among them). So, yeah, why don’t we stop with this. Thanks.

  8. If folks are bored, check out this interesting post over at Lakers Nation about a local artist that does Laker Art. Pretty cool stuff and it’s a good feature.

  9. Busboys:
    No team would take on Walton’s contract with 2 more years left on it averaging around 5.8 mill per year (one of the worst in the Lakers history).
    I would love to trade Luke for just about anybody with an expiring or at least a shorter contract, but it is not going to happen. Luke has zero trade value until 2012-13 when he will be in the last year of his contract.
    The Lakers cannot/won’t trade Blake as they have no other point gurads that is familiar with the triangle.
    The Lakers will not use that trade exception, no way. The whole point of the trade and giving up the number one pick was to cut payroll, not to add back to it and defeat its original purpose.
    Let’s talk about trades that have some probability of occurring.

  10. Darius,

    I’m surprised you don’t delete these trade posts.

    But they are amusing.

  11. #10. If it continues, I will…

  12. @10. Especially because Butler is at the stage in his NBA career where he couldn’t hit a bull in the ass with a bass fiddle. I like the team we’ve got. Drew is beasting down low, Pau is Pau and Kobe is Kobe, Lamar and Shannon are playing the best ball of their lives, Fish is still taking charges, hitting threes, and disrupting fast breaks (unfortunately our own sometimes), and Luke is upright and able to walk.

  13. “Fish is still taking charges, hitting threes, and disrupting fast breaks (unfortunately our own sometimes)…”


    Honestly, is there a worse sight on this Lakers roster than a fast break involving either Derek Fisher or Ron Artest or some combination thereof? There was one play with those two and Shannon on Sunday that was so bad it was comical.

    Or think of Lamar’s frequent behind-the-back to the fans in the expensive seats numbers, or Pau getting a steal and trying to play point before falling all over himself against the Hornets on Friday. I could go on and on.

    For people like me who grew up watching Magic and Worthy and Byron and Coop reinvent the fast break, it’s a form of punishment watching these current guys trying to run.

    Thank God today’s Lakers don’t have to run to be successful. If they did, this would be a lottery team rather than a two-time champ.

  14. Trade proposals for Rasual Butler? Not even sure that is worthy of a response.

    As for tonight, hopefully this one can be put away early to get Kobe some rest. I want to see Ron get on track with his offensive execution tonight. With the soft schedule for the next four games, this can be a good opportunity for him to get going.

    Of the upcoming games, I cannot wait for the return of Sasha. Kobe is definitely going to go hard at him. It will be so great.

  15. 12. LMAO. Yeah, that about sums it up.

  16. The only trade I’m willing to make is if we could somehow replace Kobe’s fingers and knees with that of somebody younger 😉

    Off topic, heard that Kobe is back to skipping practices. Any thoughts?

  17. @16. The longer Kobe can play without turning into Brandon Roy, the better.

  18. Who do we play again? Oh yeah, Cleveland. I hope the team takes these yahoos seriously. As always Darius you are right; pound it inside to Drew and Pau, cutters be ready for easy drop offs, and no quick shots (read Shannon, Kobe and Fish). There should be a Luke citing in the 3rd quarter of this game. Even Ebanks should get some burn.

    @ Darius

    At what point would you think it would be appropriate to acquire some younger players to keep the LakeShow going? Do you think the Lakers should ride this out until they become the 2004 team or should they squeeze everything they can out of Kobe by infusing some younger talent around him (read at point) so he can pass his knowledge to them during games?

  19. I know it’s because of Aminu’s emergence as a pretty good player, but trading for someone that can’t get off the Clippers’ bench sounds like the punchline to a joke.

    Well, trading someone alive, I guess. Maybe they could get him for one of those big bags of popcorn they used to sell at Costco.


    I found this article right after I made mention of getting something for Sasha a month ago. It’s pretty good. You remember when Bynum was at this point. The kid just doesn’t have right people working with him. So for all of you who think that Walton’s contract is untouchable just remember Rashard Lewis and Gilbert Arenas both have new homes.

  21. 18 – you didn’t ask me, but this Laker team is built to win now (hopefully). The off season, after the CBA is sorted out, would be the time to think about avoiding ’04 all over again.

    Actually – I take that back. The Show is already building for the future with those two rookies they picked up last draft.

  22. I’d take CARON Butler back.

    Mo Williams’ shooting percentage has taken its predictably staggering drop this season, and I’m completely unfamiliar with two of the Cav’s starters.

    I hope to see a lot of the second unit tonight.

    Sorry BS4 but I think I’d rather be coaching the clips

  23. I think Pau and LO run fastbreaks pretty well. So they’ve had some miscues recently. But they’re still better than most. Do we so quickly forget some of the highlight breaks Pau led last year? Like the one where he went between the legs?

    I grew up watching Showtime, let’s not forget that Magic threw quite a few passes into the stands and also off his teammates’ heads. It happens especially if you’re willing to push the envelope.

  24. @R

    I don’t think an undersized 4/5 is building for the future. Nor is hoping that a kid the resembles TA will become TA.

  25. 24,
    They are way over the cap, so free agents over the MLE are out of the question, and they do too well to get high draft picks. Hope that Ebanks and/or Caracter turn out well.

    Realistically, this is it for a couple of years, unless they trade Bynum, Gasol, or Kobe.

  26. #24 – True, but value picks in the 2nd round are the way that a team as successful as the Lakers STARTS to plan for the future.

  27. So, it’s just been mentioned that the Cavs will start Ryan Hollins at C rather than Hickson (who will start at PF). That gives the Cavs more size, though I’ve never been a fan of Hollins. (As an aside, I still remember Hollins being a guy that talked a bit of trash a few years ago when LA was on their way to their title over Orlando as a team that Dallas matched up well with – at least that’s what my dodgy memory has me thinking right now.)

  28. Darius – I think that your dodgy memory might be on point. Or else I am sharing that dodgy memory with you, as that’s what comes to my mind when I think of Hollins too.

  29. Is there a PG in the league that runs worse fast breaks than Fish?

  30. This is how the Lakers should have been playing against lesser teams. Let’s see if they can keep the focus and discipline for a full 48.

  31. Only 23 to 6??? Terrible start! Oh, anyone have a link? 🙂

  32. Far cry from the LAL @ CLE game I went to last January . . . I can barely watch.

  33. Is it just me or is this the most dull regular season game ever. Its worse than a preseason game the crowd isnt cheering the lakers are playing well but it just looks way too easy for them. I feel bad for the cavs and their fans.

  34. Wow Ken Mauer just handed out 5 technicals in 10 seconds. Rambis got ejected.

    From my vantage point, right now the refs are disrespecting the game more than the officials.

  35. *That should read “the refs are disrespecting the game more than the players.” Time for bed.

  36. Holy crap this is a bad team.

  37. Kobe with only 1 shot attempt so far? Somebody please tell me that Kobe’s finger is not bothering him again.

  38. Well, I don’t want to get ahead of things, but it looks like a 5th W in a row here. Hard to read anything into it with Kobe only taking 2 shots, and the general paucity of ability the Cavs have.

    The big upside for me is that the Lakers are certainly not letting a lower quality team hang close.

  39. The record for low score in a game is 48, set by the bulls a few years back. I highly doubt the Cavs will break that record, but it is in reach at the pace their scoring. That is about my only reason for watching those losers still.

  40. Sheesh, the starters are all between +25 and +27. For the HALF. The whole team is in the positive, and all the Cavs are in the negative, Hollins at -31. Again, for the HALF.

    I know it doesn’t really mean much, but it’s still a boggling thing to look at.

    So…I guess to criticize, they only have 14 assists on 23 field goals. Move that ball, guys!

    Then again, 9 offensive rebounds and a lot of put-backs mean that some assists got fumbled. So…great half, guys!

  41. Surely the starters for Cleveland can’t go 4-25 in the 2nd half like in the 1st.

  42. they should play odom pau and bynum at the same time

  43. Honestly, I’m about ready to start rooting for the Cavs to score. This is savage.

  44. Manny Harris with an epic -50. I’ve never seen a beatdown like this. Their high quarter is THIRTEEN.

    I mean, a win’s nice, but maybe they should call this one after three.

  45. Noooo dont do that, they got a shot at beating the lowest scoring record in a game!

  46. The Cavs look like they threw in the towel from the opening tip. I’m also watching the game just to see if they break the lowest point total record.

  47. So with the back-to-back and all, are we going to see some major bench burn pretty soon? Maybe Joe Smith gets some minutes? It’s nice seeing the starters keeping the hammer down but it’s not needed… they should get to put on the ice bags soon. 50 point lead, really? Crazy.

  48. Good, here comes the bench parade. Where’s Sasha when we need him, haha.

  49. man is this embarrasing for the cavs

  50. Holy ****!

    Okay, new nickname: Half-court. No more ShanWOW. He is Mr Half-Court now.


  52. We need to hold them to 6 points this quarter and they break the all time low scoring record, at least in the modern era, not likely but possible.

  53. Tacos! Oh wait… 🙂

  54. Even as a Laker fan, that’s tough to watch. I’d only take this kind of a win over one particularly green team in basketball and LOVE it.

  55. Loved that Shannon Brown piggyback!

  56. Oof, that botched 3 on 1 fastbreak by the Cavs was particularly brutal. After tuning this game on after the Nuggets-Suns matchup I’ve just watched 5 straight quarters of garbage time.

  57. LeBJ apparently tweeting taunting messages about the Cavs’ performance tonight. And throws in a religious reference to soften the blow.

    Stay classy.

  58. Actually, I got to admit, I kind of feel bad for that Cavs team afterall. That team has got to be demoralized and embarrassed after that loss. If I was their coach I probably wouldnt not know what to say to my team other than, the year is almost half way over guys.

  59. New record low for a Lakers opponent 57 points scored by the Cavs for the game Quarter totals 12-13-16-16

  60. Phil either hates Byron or he has lost his mind.

  61. this was the worst beatdown i have ever seen in my life. I feel bad for the cavs a little i mean it was nice to win but this might be too much. on the other hand it was actually fun to watch the score in the end

  62. @16 Kobe can skip all the practice he wants. Think of his knees like tires rated for 50,000 miles, and he has 45,000 miles on them. Once they are done, they are done.

    What a beat down. The end of the bench guys should have gotten more burn. An outcome like this must skew the point differential stats for the Lakers.

  63. #64 – It also skews the strength of schedule stats against the Lakers…

  64. Reign on Parades January 11, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    That… was awesome. My apologies to Cleveland.

    Also, we’re going to look much better statistically than we should after this game. I don’t even know if that’s a good or bad thing, just a note.

    As an aside I know we’re all L.A. residents and probably watch more Clippers basketball than is healthy for fans of the sport (although Blake Griffin has QUICKLY turned that sentiment around) I think we’re being a little harsh on Raz’al “Ghul” Butler

    I’m not advocating a trade for the guy but it wasn’t too long ago he was the best wing player on the Hornets.

    I’m actually a little puzzled why Gomes gets so many minutes over the young Al Faroq or the more experienced Butler. Actually I’m confused about a lot of what Vinny does, so I’ll leave it at that.

  65. @AusPhil
    LeBron joins Britney Spears and Lindsey Lohan in the category of people known as “Living proof that money cannot buy class”…

  66. @Mimsy
    I think that tweet was pretty damn rotten… If there really is such a thing as Karma, then LBJ will blow his elbow out again in defeat to the Celts.

    Ok Ok now I feel bad for writing that! I don’t wish any injury on LBJ. Only some kind of humbleness. sorry 🙁