About Michael Reghi | Past Blog Entries: Nov. 21st | Nov. 13th | Nov. 8th
November 28th, 2005
I trust one and all had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend, filled with love and laughter amongst family and friends. I relish the opportunity to communicate with all of you here on the blog, or as we see one another at 'The 'Q' or about town. That having been said, I want to not only dig into the email bag this week, as all of you Cavalier fans have been extraordinarily strong with your questions and comments, but respond in this space as well to some thoughts many of you have presented personally. So here goes:
A question from literally hundreds of you in person, and Collin of Beachwood via the blog email:
'How good is this team, given one-sided losses to San Antonio and Indiana, with the nine wins over teams not expected to go deep in the playoffs? Should there be cause for concern?
Let's talk frankly, folks. It will always raise an eyebrow or a thousand when a team doesn't perform well against elite competition. And sure, ask Mike Brown and he'll be the first to tell you it causes concerns in a variety of areas. Here's a simple analogy about NBA play to always use as a rule of thumb: When a team doesn't shoot well, and the Cavaliers shot a combined 34% against the Pacers and T'Wolves, you won't look pretty. Furthermore, you won't beat the high-end teams, period. Take the Minnesota loss, for example. Larry Hughes, Donyell Marshall, Damon Jones and 'Z', four of the very vital offensive components, went a combined 5 for 41 from the field! That's a very chilly 12%!! One of those nights that you won't see but a handful of times during the season from that quartet.
What I hone-in on with this team is two-fold. How are they adapting to the system that MIke Brown is implementing, with a heavy accent on the defensive end of the floor, and maybe, more importantly,...how are they blending the skills and abilities of the new faces while going through the getting-acquainted process?
As Mike Brown himself said after the Indiana setback, the team overall remains a work-in-progress, with the defensive end of the floor still needing daily maintenance. What is encouraging? Hey, first off, with a game left in November, the Cavaliers are 9-4, and in second place in the Central Division, just a game-and-half back of Detroit. If I gave you that when the season started, how many of you would have raised your hands and asked, 'Where can I sign up?'. Now, next time you are at 'The Q', or watching with us at home, look at the defensive rotations, especially on the weakside of the floor, the side away from the ball. There's becoming better 'help' there, when a defender is beaten, and the off-the-ball Cavalier defender must step in to help. We've seen 'Z', Drew Gooden, and Lebron take charges in the paint, a very good sign, and more shots are being challenged around the rim. What still needs improvement is the want to stop the ball up top when a guard is penetrating, whether off a pick-and-roll sequence, or just a straight dribble penetration. Take heart, though. The desire, the understanding of its importance, is solid with this group. They will get better as the comfortabilty heightens.
As for implementing the new talent, it's been a bit hit-and-miss. Again, very strong bottom line at 9-4, yet the Cavaliers realize they must fine-tune the offensive end in the halfcourt as well. When getting stops and flying out in transition, it all looks very pretty with LeBron and Larry turning the floor over in a hurry. In the halfcourt, Mike Brown desires lots of movement off the ball, bodies moving, thereby the ball moving, and putting defenses in a quandary. Too much standing with the ball pounding is not the desired result. I want to see what transpires at about the 20-25 game mark or a quarter of the season in. Games in the Central Division will be extremely key. Chicago and Milwaukee believe they are playoff teams, right along with Detroit, Indiana and the Cavaliers. The Wine and Gold realize winning in the division is crucial to playoff success. So pay very close attention to December games against the Bucks, Bulls, and Pistons.
*Daniel/New York City writes to ask about the injuries to Ira Newble and Anderson Varejao. When can we expect them back?
They are both vital to the Cavaliers being 'whole', Daniel. Given Mike Brown's passion for energy on the defensive end, both Ira and Anderson will earn rotation minutes when healthy. Ira is just beginning rehab from the plantar fasciatis discomfort of the right foot. He told me if you put a golf ball in your shoe at the heel, and try to walk, that's the discomfort level. He's hopeful of returning by Christmas. Anderson is still two months away after the shoulder surgery. He is doing very light court work with trainer Max Benton and strength and conditioning coach Stan Kellers. Those two are tremendous professionals who will play a key role in their return. And by the way, when Mike Brown does get both Ira and Anderson back, the battle for rotation minutes off the bench just goes up ten-fold!! Can't wait to see the practice floor then!!!
*Frequette/Richmond Heights checks in to ask about Sasha Pavlovic being out of the rotation at the present time with Luke Jackson getting minutes. Why?
It's the defensive end of the floor, again, Frequette. Mike Brown was giving the minutes to Sasha in the first week or so, then Luke Jackson began to show the 'spirit' defensively that the head coach desires. Now, for Luke to continue to earn them, in addition to maintaining a defensive presence, he has to be more assertive offensively as well. A couple of instances, shots were passed up by Luke with the shot clock expiring that must be taken. Sasha is an intriguing offensive player. We'll see if the defensive principles required kick in as well. That's why I've stated the battles for playing time will be extremely intense when Ira and Anderson return. Remember, no head coach plays all 12 significant minutes. Can't do it. 9, maybe 10 tops. It'll become a numbers game off the Cavaliers' bench shortly, and you know what...that's a GREAT thing to see unfold. It only makes this squad more balanced and competitive.
*Matt/Sydney, Australia (way to go, Mate!) writes to say he misses the Cavaliers here at home, but checks out our man Joe Tait on the NBA's Audio Channel from the 'Land Down Under'! Nice, Matt! And, he asks where we see the Cavaliers finishing the third week of April as the regular season ends?
Matt, you are a Wine and Gold diehard! Just love it! As I stated before the season began, I conservatively called the Cavaliers a 48-win team, with the possibility of the 4 or 5 slot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The desired goal for the players is 10 wins each and every month through March. That would have them at 50 with still 11 games to go! That's lofty! Yet it's an excellent mindset to have. 48 wins could be a bit conservative on my part. You know what, I sure hope so. 52-54 wins should surely be in the ballpark for a 'homefloor' edge at playoff time! That's why they play 82, right?
*Randy/Hudson asks where I see the Cavaliers compared to the 'big boys' in the Eastern Conference?
Randy, you are right on the money with the possibility of a shifting of power from West to East in the league. I, as the year started a month ago, felt four teams from the Cavaliers Central Divison would be playoff qualifiers: Detroit, Indiana, Chicago, with the Cavaliers. I'll stay with that, although one might want to make a case for Milwaukee as well, making it a clean Central playoff sweep! Taking that as a given, and adding the winners from the Atlantic and Southeast Divisions with the automatic berths regardless of record, we may see just two additional playoff slots in the East to battle for! With that as our measuring stick, yeah, sure, the East has the more talented, deeper teams. Does anyone beat San Antonio in June is the question that still begs the asking, however.
*Amar/Beaverton, Oregon checks in to wonder why there is all the national talk regarding the possibility of LeBron James leaving the Cavaliers when his first contract expires?
Oh man, Amar...all the way from the land of Nike...I get that asked over and over again...relentlessly! So, let's address it. Let me state straight away that I believe LeBron deeply desires to win multiple NBA championships in his hometown region. Right here in Northeast Ohio. He carries a tremendous amount of pride with regard to his upbringing, and desperately wants to emulate Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan as NBA megastars who played and won multiple titles for one franchise. I know, MJ finished up in Washington, but a title wasn't realistic with that frachise then. And, please...everyone forget about an NBA or Nike conspiracy to facilitate LeBron with greater riches should he play as a Knick, Laker, or Bull. Not happening. LeBron flat out leaves way too much on the table to leave Cleveland, monetarily and otherwise, and maybe more importantly, has received an outpouring of organizational committment from Dan Gilbert and Danny Ferry in the form of free agent acquisitions that have molded this team in the best complementary form to him. That commitment meant everything to LeBron. So please Cavalier fan base, sit back and enjoy the ride with this exciting team with plenty to prove. LeBron's on board...for the long haul!!!
My deep gratitude and personal thanks to the hundreds of you who dropped me a note in our first month of blogging. As mentioned, I'll start my trek through the emails and answer all of you...promise! And for those of you who have been so kind to compliment our telecasts, and my involvement with them, I am thrilled for your involvement and enjoyment of Cavaliers' basketball. Stay tuned, it's going to be an electrifying ride! Just you watch!
Next time out, I'll be west coasting with the boys, and will break down the Cavaliers recruitment of Larry Hughes, and why he is a better fit than Ray Allen, Michael Redd, or Joe Johnson might have been..I'll see all of you then!
My Cavaliers Best!