Much has been made of the trade between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Clippers which sent Mo Williams and Jamario Moon to L.A. in exchange for controversy-laden and Donald Sterling nemesis, Baron Davis. But for the Cavaliers, the crux of the trade surrounded the Clippers unprotected 1st round pick.
In the NBA, teams can trade their draft picks which can be fully unprotected as in this instance, or protected. In the case of a protected pick, teams can determine the terms of the protection so that if the pick ends up being a lottery pick, a top 5 pick or the #1 overall pick, they are able to keep the pick and the team which acquired it in a trade misses out.
The Clippers’ pick that was sent to Cleveland was projected to be the #8 overall pick at the time of the trade but can be no worse than the bottom of the lottery. For the Cavaliers, who will likely possess no worse than the #3 overall pick assuming they remain the worst team in the NBA (seemingly a pretty safe bet), this is an extremely valuable trade in order to speed up the rebuilding process. For a team that is unable to bring in big ticket free agents, having two lottery picks is invaluable to the rebuilding process.
There may be a slight hitch in the savvy trade pulled off by the Cavaliers (and the penny-pinching trade executed by the Clippers), however. Roto World has reported that Lisa Dillman of the L.A. Times has confirmed that Baron Davis failed his outgoing physical with the Clippers and is expected to fail his incoming physical with the Cavaliers due to his “gimpy and swollen right knee.” This also explains the delay in Davis’ reporting to Cleveland.
This news is not expected to hold up the trade, however, as for the Cavaliers, the trade was all about that #1 pick. They won’t say it publicly, but anything Baron Davis does to help the Cavaliers is just a bonus. If he never stepped foot onto the floor at Quicken Loans Arena they would still be thrilled with the trade.
Publicly, head coach Byron Scott (who has had an extremely bumpy relationship with Baron Davis during their days in New Orleans) will tell you that Baron can still be a top-flight point guard and that he expects him to eventually start for the Cavs. This is likely “coach-speak” intended to motivate Davis and get his full effort if and when he arrives. Many fans and local sportswriters question that strategy as young point guard, Ramon Sessions has made significant progress and shows a great deal of potential.
Baron Davis was originally reported to be extremely unhappy with the trade to Cleveland and many questioned his attitude and dedication he would show once he arrived. Davis tweeted during the Cavaliers victory over the Knicks, however, that he was excited to play alongside J.J. Hickson. By all accounts he and Byron Scott have patched up the relationship, but it may be a moot point due to this report.
Technically, if Baron fails his physical the Cavs could ask for additional compensation or even void the trade. It’s possible that they will ask for additional compensation, but even if they are denied I don’t see a scenario in which they will void the trade and forfeit the coveted unprotected 1st round pick.
Entering tonight’s rematch with LeBron James‘ former Cavaliers team, he and the Miami Heat are on a roll and the Cavaliers are in a colossal tailspin. After the performance he put on in Cleveland on December 2nd and as the Heat continue to gain momentum and learn to play together, tonight’s game could get ugly. Fast.
#6 put up an effortless 38 points through 30 minutes of play on December 2nd and embarrassed his former teammates and franchise with ease. Since that game, the Heat have racked up 9 straight wins, all of which by 10 points or more. With what we’ve seen from #6 and the Heat as compared to what we’ve seen from the Cavaliers, there is no reason to believe he or they will be slowed down tonight. It’s entirely possible, and maybe even likely, that he puts up half a hundred tonight. That is, if it’s close enough to warrant giving him more than 30 minutes. To me, the question isn’t who will win, but by how much and how embarrassing it will be.
As a Cavaliers fan, it kills me to say that, but as I have always promised, I’ll tell you how it is. No matter how ugly the truth may be. If the Cavaliers are great, I’ll tell you why. If they look more like the Cleveland Cadavers, I’ll reluctantly tell you about it as well. When a team loses its superstar that it literally built the entire team around, things are not going to be pretty. Literally ever single player on the roster until this off-season were brought in to specifically compliment #6 in one way or another. When the player that you’ve tailored your team around for 7 years leaves and you bring in a new coach with a new system, it’s not going to be pretty. But I never anticipated that it would be this ugly. Through roughly the first quarter of the season, the Cavaliers have essentially quit on the season and that’s sad. They don’t have the talent that they need to compete, but they have shown zero heart, effort, energy, intensity, or hustle and with that roster, they can ill afford such a combination.
Long-term, it’s not the worst thing in the world because if they can somehow sustain this degree of poor play they’ll be well positioned in the NBA Draft Lottery. The overwhelming strategy in the NBA is to tear your team down completely and rebuild with a lottery pick or 2 and to get lucky on a 2nd round pick (i.e., OKC Thunder). Despite Head Coach, Byron Scott and Owner, Dan Gilbert saying all the right things about wanting to win now, this is undoubtedly a thought in their minds.
The Heat are on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. After struggling mightily in the first month of the season and fighting to stay above .500, the victory over the Cavaliers on December 2nd seems to have catapulted them to the top of the NBA. The Big 3 are starting to learn how to play together at least well enough to run roughshod over the marginal to poor teams in the NBA and they’re probably talented enough to compete with some of the better teams at this point. Big picture, however, there are still massive holes and issues on this team that we’ll get into next.
What to watch for:
The obvious thing to watch is LeBron James. There are a ton of subplots in this game and the first thing I’ll be looking for is how he and the Cavs players interact. On December 2nd, #6 walked right up to his former teammates and with the exception of Mo Williams, they were all friendly with him and Anderson Varejao even went so far as to give him a bear hug before the game and jokingly steal his headband during the game. The Cavs took a lot of criticism for their poor play as well as their seemingly friendly treatment of their former teammate. Speculation has been that a number of them are trying to stay in his good graces so that he will recruit them to play with him in Miami. We’ll see how they act tonight.
Next, I’ll be curious to see how he approaches the game. In the first matchup he was feeling out the game, whether or not he would be fouled and roughed up, and how the refs would call the game. After he got a feel for the game, he went on attack mode, especially in the 3rd quarter. It wouldn’t surprise me if he starts out attacking like he did in game 3 against the Celtics last year where he had 21 first quarter points and was literally unstoppable. Obviously, the final point tally will also be something I’ll be keeping an eye on. He’s likely to try to embarrass his former team again and what better way than with a 50 point performance and a 30 point win?
There has been much discussion about Erik Spoelstra‘s “incentive program” that he used to get the Heat going after a horrible start to the season. In case you haven’t heard, the players have been very unhappy with the offensive system thus far in the season. It’s my belief that it’s because LeBron James has literally never run an actual offense and he doesn’t like the restriction. He is the one who leaked the story about players being unhappy and thinking Coach Spo wasn’t cut out for the job.
So in an attempt to quell the uprising, Coach Spo implemented the new system so that in exchange for a good defensive effort (block, steal, defensive rebound), he gives free reign for his players on the offensive end. Of course, the players love the ability to ignore the offense and freelance and dominate the ball for 20 seconds and then either draw contact or throw up a 30 footer. Especially LeBron James. Remember, he won 2 MVP’s with this exact style of play. And against the lesser teams in the NBA, it will work just fine. Despite zero inside presence, they’re athletic enough to create problems for the other team on the defensive end. If they put in the effort. Offensively, they’re so freakishly talented that they can get away with freelancing against the bad teams and even good teams when they’re hot.
But what I’ll be curious to see is just how far the players take this. Will they get so used to doing whatever they want that when it comes time in the half court to run a real offensive set that they either ignore it or are so rusty that it looks awful? Lets face it, all 3 and especially LeBron are only accustomed to running ISO garbage and getting away with pure physical ability. That’s why long-term, I believe the incentive program is a tremendous mistake. These guys need all the practice they can get in the offense. Right now is the EXACT time they should be running it and running it and running it again. In December, against mostly bad teams is when they should run the offense so much that they can run it in their sleep. So that when things get tough and they’re up against a great Boston defense, they don’t screw up and they can run it and trust it.
I’m telling you right now, if they don’t learn to execute the offense flawlessly right now, in the regular season, against bad teams, they’ll never be good enough to run it against the Celtics. And we saw what happens when LeBron or anyone else for that matter, tries to run ISO garbage against the Celtics defense. You just cannot win that way, no matter how much of a physical freak you may be.
Think about it, why did the Heat struggle so much to start the season? Because they were trying to run an offense that they don’t know how to run because they’ve never been forced to learn it and execute it. When that broke down because they’re not good at running it and they don’t trust it, LeBron went into his old offense which consists of him dominating the ball and turning everyone else into statues and jump shooters. No one mentions it, but in training camp, the Heat focused solely on defense because they thought that they would be so gifted that if they played good defense, the offense would take care of itself. After starting off so badly trying to force these guys to run an offense that they clearly didn’t want to run (remember, they just wanna chill), Coach Spo essentially gave in. Which is the last thing he should have done.
Short term, he looks like a genius. The Heat are on a tear and look great. But remember who they’re playing and remember that it’s the regular season. The playoffs are an entirely different game as #6 knows only too well. I’m not saying that Coach Spo plans on doing this all season, but I’m telling you that these guys need ALL the practice they can get within the structure of the offense. They need to learn it against the bad teams in the regular season and perfect it as they match up with the better teams. Now. Not in the playoffs. If they wait until the playoffs they’ll get run out of the gym. If they continue the freelancing, ISO crap in the playoffs, they will get run out of the gym.
As far as the Cavs go, there really isn’t all that much to watch for. We need to keep an eye on how friendly they are with #6, not just before and after the game, but during the game. In the first match up, not one Cavalier put his hands on LeBron outside of a few hugs and kisses. There were multiple opportunities to foul him hard when he went to the rim and they didn’t even attempt a foul. There were multiple opportunities to be physical with him out on the wing and they never tried. They can say whatever they want publicly about being upset with him and about the conversations not being friendly, but until they show me on the floor, I don’t care.
The Cavaliers’ spin job after the last debacle was an insult to every single fan’s intelligence. Unless they play physical, intense, fundamental, smart basketball, no fan is going to listen to a thing they say. They may come out with some energy to start the game, but face it… they’re not a good team and they’re in the middle of an awful losing streak. I’ll be curious to see how they respond when they get 8, 10, or 15 points down. Will they just roll over like last time and let the Heat run up a 38 point lead? Or will they fight back even though they’re clearly outmatched?
Mo Williams, the starting PG for the Cleveland Cavaliers recently commented that after the ‘Decision’, he lost the love for the game and actually seriously considered retirement at the age of 27. These comments, when considered from an outside perspective might seem a bit dramatic and over the top given the actual circumstances. A superstar teammate left his team in Free Agency to join 2 other stars. Mo has drawn incredible ridicule by several NBA players and media outlets. Namely, Chris Douglas Roberts of the Nets openly criticized Mo and laughed at Mo’s personal situation via Twitter. Brandon Jennings, who also has little room to criticize anyone, openly mocked Mo via Twitter.
I have several thoughts about Chris Douglas Roberts’ comments and others who have criticized Mo. First, Chris Douglass Roberts has absolutely NO right to comment on another man’s personal situation. CDR is a complete BUST after being drafted by the Nets in the 2nd round in 2008 averaging less than 8 points per game. Due to his poor performance and apparently poor character and work ethic, the Nets benched him in the second half of the season and traded him to Milwaukee this summer. CDR has also been linked to LeBron James where he admitted that when he 17 and being recruited to Memphis, that LeBron flew him on a private jet for a Minnesota vs. Denver playoff game. Obviously, this would have created significant NCAA issues, but it also explains the link between the two and why CDR might be so openly critical of Mo Williams for his reaction to LeBron leaving.
So, first of all, CDR is a SCRUB and has no right to be critical of anyone given his career performance. Second, it’s my opinion that no man should criticize another man’s personal situation if you’re not directly involved. Finally, CDR has no idea what happened in Cleveland, the true cause for Mo’s retirement contemplation, and the things Mo has gone through personally with his family. This applies to CDR, Brandon Jennings, and anyone else who criticizes and/or mocks Mo Williams for his personal situation.
Aside from the general belief that people from the outside looking in, have no right to comment or criticize on someone’s personal issues, it is also clear that those criticizing Mo have NO clue what actually happened over the years. For Cleveland fans, this is not new information, but Mo Williams and LeBron James were very close friends. LeBron lobbied for the trade to bring Mo to Cleveland, they were very close and LeBron ‘appeared’ to consider just about everyone on the team a true friend. The team routinely went out together to dinner, movies, various outings. LeBron’s words and actions lead everyone to believe that the team was extremely tight and had incredible chemistry. From hanging out outside of the facility, to joking around in the locker room and on the court, to the pre-game routines spearheaded by LeBron where he would have the team pose for mock pictures, to the personalized handshakes, LeBron appeared to everyone to be a true friend.
There were several Cavs that were by all accounts extremely close with LeBron including J.J. Hickson, Jawad Williams, Boobie Gibson, and Mo Williams. Perhaps none appeared to be as close to LeBron as Mo. They worked out together in the off-season, met each other’s families, and shared personal information, just like friends do. LeBron’s pull as to the playing time and/or acquisition of his friends cannot be ignored. It was clear that coach Brown wasn’t ready to give J.J. big minutes as he was still developing and we had an abundance of experience on the team. It was also clear that Coach Brown wasn’t ready to give Jawad significant minutes for the same reasons. Due to LeBron’s “Friendship” with these guys, they were suddenly given an increased role and played more minutes. One odd item of note, is the acquisition of Shaq. LeBron publicly insisted that he was ecstatic about the acquisition and welcomed Shaq. However, given his history, if this were true, LeBron would have openly lobbied for his signing and he would have been in touch with Shaq recruiting him to the organization. At Shaq’s welcome conference, he indicated that he had not heard from LeBron. It crossed my mind at the time, but I was still blinded by LeBron and shook it off, but it’s clear now that LeBron clearly did not want Shaq but yet again fooled everyone as he publicly welcomed Shaq and embraced him as a teammate and a leader.
With all the “Friendship” talk, with all the “chemistry” talk, with all the pre-game antics and events outside of the facility, with all the BS of meeting each other’s family, and working out and visiting each other in the off-season, it’s no wonder Mo felt the way he did. Mo and the other Cavs were actually betrayed on a greater level than any of us fans. If you think about it, very few of us, if any, knew LeBron personally. Yes, it’s clear that LeBron took a personal shot at the organization, the fans, and the City by going on TV and dubbing the debacle as “The Decision”. This was a purposeful and premeditated act to directly coincide with the other Cleveland disasters.
Mo and the other Cavs, however, DID personally know LeBron and he purposely fooled them into thinking he was a true friend to them. A true friend would not have planned his exit so far in advance while leading everyone (including his teammates) to believe that he was happy, that he was fighting for a championship, and that the team was like a “Family”. A true friend wouldn’t have sabotaged many player’s only chance at a title by tanking the playoff series against Boston. It was clear even before game 5, that his teammates were busting their ass trying to beat the Celtics but they just weren’t good enough without full effort from their superstar. For whatever reason (Whether it was because of Gloria, or his planned exit, or both), he was unwilling to give it, then completely gave up in game 5 and lost the series. This was an incredible act of betrayal to the fans, to his “FRIENDS” ,to the city, to Dan Gilbert, to Coach Brown, and the entire organization.
So with all this taken into account, it’s pretty easy to understand the thought process and level of hurt that Mo went through this offseason. Someone who he trusted, who he considered to be a true friend, purposely sabotaged his best chance at a championship, shut him out in the weeks leading up to “The Decision”, and clearly carried out his exit plan that had been set for what appears to be several years. Think about it, how would you feel if someone you had grown to be “close friends” with ruined your chance at your dream, shut you out, and basically said that “you’re not good enough to play with me, I’m going to play with my real friends”?