This is the fourth installment of my in game coverage of the Cavaliers' home games against the Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers game this week. I have previously wrote about the Cavaliers' progress in putting together a capable defensive team and how Luol Deng might help in that endeavor. I tackled the Anthony Bennett issue. I gauged Cavs' players reactions to the addition of Luol Deng.
This one doesn't have a set theme. Basically, I talked to as many players and people as I could. Not all of it fits into some big, deeper story. I still want you guys to get a chance to make of it what you will.
One of the guys I was most excited to talk to after the 76ers game was Anderson Varejao. He isn't in the locker room or available very often so this was the first chance I had to speak with him. The first thing I asked was about the easy looks off of cuts he was getting from Dion Waiters:
"Easy? You call it easy?"
Eh, bad choice of words.
"No I am just joking. We are moving the ball. When we move the ball we are gonna get open jump shots, like you said easy layups … they are trusting me and getting me the ball."
If you are keeping track, C.J. Miles, Wayne Ellington, Luke Walton, and now Anderson Varejao have all made fun of me.
I asked Varejao about his ever more impressive midrange game, and if his success surprised him:
"No I'm not. I'm just shooting the ball with confidence. Playing for Byron Scott, he encouraged me to shoot. that helped me a lot and now with Mike Brown he is telling me the same thing, to shoot the ball."
Is the fact that defenses have to respect your midrange game opening up cutting opportunities for you?
"I don't know if they are respecting it yet. The more I make, the more they are going to have to close out on me."
I talked to Sergey Karasev about his time in Canton:
"[It's going] very good. I like going down because I don’t have game time here. It’s way easier if you have game time, trust from the coach."
What's his role like down there?
"I try to do everything there. Create for my teammates, play the pick and roll, play without the ball and shoot, play defense, whatever I can do on the court."
The Cavaliers have had effort issues a few times during the season, but Mike Brown said following the 76ers win that it hasn't been a major concern lately:
As of late I really think we’ve done a good job of competing. Last time, I could be wrong, that we didn’t compete was Atlanta. There might have been times we didn’t do it for 48 minutes - that’s natural. Tonight we got a little closer to competing for 48 minutes.
I don’t think we have been playing bad basketball. We have lost some close games .. we have done some things that make you think, you know what, we may have a chance .. if we get a little more consistent in the areas we are preaching. It’s a long season, I think our guys understand it’s a marathon not a sprint.
On the other side, I also listened in on and got a question in with Frank Vogel, Indiana's head coach, during his pregame press conference. This was prior to the Luol Deng trade, and I still had Granger coming to the Cavs as a faint possibility. I asked how important Granger was to the Pacers:
"I think he is a necessary component of our goal to win a championship. To reach our goal to try to getting the number 1 seed in the east, coming out of the east and ultimately compete for it all … having somebody like that coming off the bench … it’s depth that is necessary. We are really excited about the steps he is making in getting back into form."
Finally, I talked briefly with Roy Hibbert, who doesn't like me very much. I asked him about his stated goal of being Defensive Player of the Year and how -
"I’m not talking about that. It’s already been talked about at great length already."
Alright then. I knew that Hibbert received some blowback when he announced that as a goal before the season. Some Pacers fans complained that he was putting his personal goals above the team. This is absolutely ridiculous. Committing to try and be the best defensive player in the league? How is that selfish? I couldn't have more respect for Hibbert or his game.
Anyway, Hibbert didn't want to talk about it and that's totally fair. Reeling, I asked him where his defensive intensity came from:
"I am a center, so obviously you have to play defense. That’s part of who you are and part of the culture of where I came from at Georgetown."
Hibbert and I did not get drinks after the game.
Hopefully this was worth reading. I understand there isn't anything groundbreaking here. I still will get an article up, hopefully Sunday, about C.J. Miles historic shooting night against the Sixers.