Who? Cleveland Cavaliers at Detroit Pistons
When? 7:00 pm
Where can I watch? Fox Sports Ohio
Music? Why not a little Motown that sums up how Cavaliers fans might be feeling after the rough display the Cavaliers put up on Tuesday night?
What to watch for from the Detroit Pistons: Detroit is a team that has every incentive to make the playoffs this season. In the summer of 2012 the Pistons unloaded Ben Gordon and his contract on the Charlotte Bobcats from a protected first round pick. If the pick is outside of the top 8 in 2014, it will go to the Bobcats. That trade freed up a significant amount of cap space for Joe Dumars to add to the young core of Brandon Knight, Greg Monroe, and Andre Drummond. Instead, Dumars traded Knight to the Milwaukee Bucks in a sign and trade for Brandon Jennings, and signed former Hawks forward Josh Smith to a substantial free agent deal. They also drafted Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a shooting guard loved by much of the analytics based basketball world.
This has left the Pistons with a situation in which they are a) better, perhaps much better, than they were last season, and b) still have uncertainty over how pieces fit and what moves, if any, Joe Dumars has in store. Will they sell high on Monroe and get back into the 2014 first round? Will they keep what they have and tinker with lineups in hopes that Smith, Monroe, Drummond and Jennings can all share a court together that isn't a spacing nightmare? How good, exactly, can Drummond be? Is Maurice Cheeks really the right coach? It is a fascinating team, and I don't really know the answer to any of these questions. Living in Toledo I am fortunate enough to be in both the Cleveland and Detroit markets, and I hope to catch quite a few Pistons games to try and find out. With Jennings now out for some time with wisdom teeth issues (possibly related to a fight with the rapper The Game, this summer?) the Pistons will rely on Will Bynum quite a bit in this preseason game.
What to watch from the Cavs: Cleveland came out in the first quarter Tuesday against Charlotte looking like world beaters. Then the bench came in, and everything went to hell. The starters came back, and it wasn't better. Kyrie Irving didn't have a great shooting game, but did get positive comments from Mike Brown about his defense. Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson struggled. With Varejao out (he didn't play Tuesday, but almost certainly will tonight) Thompson has to be better on the defensive boards. He has to. He was pretty darn good last season when Varejao went out, and the team can't afford for him to slip back to his rookie year defensive rebounding numbers.
For Waiters, I think Conrad said it best in a tweet yesterday:
I think Dion Waiters can be a tremendous defender. And if that happens, then you'll live with some dumb shot selection.— Conrad Kaczmarek (@ConradKazNBA) October 16, 2013
Unfortunately, Waiters isn't quite there yet, and Coach Brown has been all over him. To Waiters' credit, he has been handling the teaching about as well as you possibly could. Brendan Bowers of Stepienrules.com got a great quote from him following the game Tuesday:
Waiters on Mike Brown: "He's tough on me but he's making me better. He calls me over, starts talking to me, I love the way he coaches me"— Brendan Bowers (@BowersCLE) October 16, 2013
With about 3 minutes left in the second quarter, I myself used the Fear the Sword twitter account to tweet that I was more than pleased with how Waiters was playing. He had a rough go of it after that. This is the preseason though, and it's a time for learning. Coach Brown and Waiters are getting that. Look: I don't think you are ever going to get Waiters to completely give up midrange jumpers off the bounce. You definitely aren't going to get it in preseason of his second year. Harden type levels of efficiency just aren't that easy. But that won't preclude him from being a really valuable basketball player if he buys in defensively, moves without the ball, hits spot up threes and attacks the rim seeking contact. All of those things are possible.
Prediction: No clue. It is a preseason game. I just wrote 750 words, what more do you want from me?