Somehow, we're just a week away from the opening night of the 2012-13 NBA season. Tonight, the Cleveland Cavaliers play their final preseason game against the Indiana Pacers. For some, this is a big opportunity to make the final roster. For others, this is a meaningless preseason game.
Who? Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Indiana Pacers
When? 7:00 PM Eastern
Where? Quicken Loans Arena -- Cleveland, Ohio
Where on my eyeballs? I don't think it's televised anywhere. I'll let you know if I find something.
Why? It's the last preseason game before the regular season. Michael Eric, Luke Harangody, and Kevin Jones are all fighting for their jobs. Dion Waiters is trying to prove to unreasonable fans that he doesn't suck. Kyrie Irving is slowly taking over the world.
I need a song to get me pumped for this game, can you help?
Get Down On It -- Kool & The Gang
What am I watching for tonight, Conrad?
Well, it's basically all the same things that we've been looking for the entire preseason. We want to see progress from Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller. The system that Byron Scott is implementing requires some smart decision making and clean passes from his big men. That's not particularly easy for big men that aren't used to handling the ball so much. Obviously, we want to see Dion Waiters play well too. I urge you not to focus solely on his scoring and efficiency numbers. Instead, look at what he's doing on each play and see if he looks lost. He's had more time to learn the system and learn where he needs to be at all times. It's not reasonable to expect him to have it down perfectly at this point, but he should be better than when he first started in Cleveland. Look for smart decisions with and without the ball. Those off-balance jumpers with 10+ seconds left on the shot clock are the main thing we want to eliminate.
As I said before, a few players are fighting for their jobs. Jones, Eric, and Harangody are fighting for one or two roster spots. Byron Scott had initially said that he wouldn't give these end-of-the-bench guys many minutes in games anymore, but he went back on that claim. Expect to see some of these bench guys get some burn in the fourth quarter of tonight's game. Byron also said on Monday that he expects to tweak the starting lineup and try some combinations that he hasn't used in a game yet. If you want to read into his lineups and try to guess what the Opening Night starting 5 will look like, be my guest. But keep in mind that after tonight, Byron still has a week of practice and could change his mind 10 times from now to October 30th.
I also see lots of fans on Twitter and otherwise worrying about who is going to be the Cavaliers' second leading scorer. I'm inclined to tell you not to worry about that. From everything Byron Scott has said and lots of the points made by John Hollinger is his Cavs preview yesterday, the offense looks to be much better. It's the defense that both of these guys are concerned about. Each of them knows a bit about basketball, so I kind of want to trust them.
Danny Granger will play for the first time this preseason for the Pacers. He's a good scorer and should be a nice test for Alonzo Gee or C.J. Miles defensively. Roy Hibbert is enormous and a mismatch against most of our big men. It will be interesting to see how Byron goes about defending him.
Anyway, enjoy tonight's game and remember that this is preseason and still doesn't count. The games that count start a week from today. Get excited!