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Cavaliers vs. Hawks Preview: Cleveland Newcomers Make Debut Against Atlanta

The Cavaliers have had several days off since their loss to the Milwaukee Bucks -- and since then, the team has changed significantly. Ramon Sessions got dealt to the Lakers. Luke Walton joins the Cavaliers. And Donald Sloan and Manny Harris were signed from the D-League. Bring on the Hawks!

Song Of The Day: Walkin' On The Sun - Smashmouth

Tonight's Overview:

Atlanta Hawks (25-19) at Cleveland Cavaliers (16-25)

The Cavaliers are on another 2-game losing streak and will look to bust out of it after a nice stretch of days off. They will obviously be well-rested, but the addition of new players may make for a bit of a transition period. Luke Walton was brought in most as a financial consideration. The Lakers wanted the Cavs to take his bad contract in the trade, but there's a possibility that he will actually play for the Cavs as well. He claims that his back is healthy and hopes to contribute. He also noted that Mike Brown and he were not on the same page in Los Angeles. I doubt he'll be very important, but considering some of the guys that have gotten burn on this squad, it wouldn't surprise me if he cracks the rotation.

I'm really excited to see Donald Sloan in action. Since Sessions is now in Hollywood, Sloan will presumably be handed the back-up point guard role for the remainder of the season. It will be his first extended chance at the NBA after playing so well in the D-League. I haven't gotten around to scouting him at all, so Sunday will be the first time that I see him.

Manny Harris is also back with the team after a brief hiatus. The Cavs let him go earlier last week for roster flexibility before the trade deadline. Since the deadline passed, they signed him for the remainder of the season. It is pretty clear that this team is building for the future (draft picks, young players, etc.), so I hope Scott gives the D-Leaguers a chance to stay on the team into next year. Imagine if Sloan turns out to be a viable backup NBA point guard? We trade away a great backup and then just turn around and pick up a solid backup out of the D-League. That'd be fantastic.

With all of this talk about Ramon and his replacements, we almost (well not really) forgot about Kyrie Irving. He's still unbelievable. He's still a stone-cold lock for Rookie Of The Year. He's still the best player on this team. He's really the reason that I'm so excited to watch this team every night. Can't wait to see what he does against Atlanta.

One of the main keys in this game is that Tristan Thompson will be starting at center. It will mark the first start of his NBA career and means that Ryan Hollins is out of the starting lineup! I'm a little bit nervous about how he will be in this role. It's possible that he's overwhelmed due to the fact that he has never made a start before and that he is a bit undersized for a center. However, this is probably a good team to make his debut against because Al Horford is out and the Hawks are without a real solid center.

We still have no timetable for Anderson Varejao's return. This may be a good thing if you want the Cavs to get a better lottery pick. It's a bad thing if you are a normal basketball fan and love watching Andy play, as I do. Get well soon, Wild Thing.

The starting lineup will likely be Irving-Parker-Gee-Jamison-Thompson. My ideal lineup would be Irving-Harris-Gee-Jamison-Thompson. Go all out with the youth movement and let HARRISTERIA commence.

Key Matchup:

Antawn Jamison vs. Josh Smith

Despite being mentioned in various trade rumors (including some that had him coming to Cleveland) J-Smoove remains with the Hawks. He's a phenomenal talent, albeit an underachiever. He is a beast defensively and an athletic freak. Here's the key with this matchup: if Smith attacks the paint and tries to score at the basket, he'll have a great day. If he falls in love with his jumper and fails to take advantage of Jamison's defensive shortcomings, he'll miss out on a huge mismatch. Jamison will probably score with his usual unorthodox methods, but Smith has the athleticism to compensate for being off-balance. It's a huge contrast of styles and should be something to watch throughout the game.

Fear The Sword's Fearless Prediction:

I think the Hawks are just the more talented team. Joe Johnson, however overpaid he may be, is still a really good, versatile player. J-Smoove could have a huge day. Kyrie will probably have another nice game (per usual) but I doubt it'll be enough. I'll say that the Hawks win by a score of 101-98, in a really close one.