I hope you all enjoyed the holidays and are ready to put 2013 behind us. The Cleveland Cavaliers did not have a great 2013, but the good thing is that it's hard to imagine 2014 being much worse. The Cavs are sitting at 10-21, have lost six straight games, and just had a serious injury scare with Kyrie Irving. So let's hope that they can start to turn this thing around and start 2014 with a win over the Orlando Magic.
Who? Orlando Magic (10-21) at Cleveland Cavaliers (10-21)
When? 7:00 PM Eastern
Where? Quicken Loans Arena -- Cleveland, OH
Where on my eyeballs? Fox Sports Ohio / NBA League Pass
These two teams have identical records at 10-21 but have very different intentions for this season. The Orlando Magic seem content to work through another rebuilding year (some would call it tanking) and grab another talented prospect with a high draft pick. I don't expect the Magic to be looking to improve their team for the remainder of the 2013-14 season. Instead, they might unload some of their veteran players in hopes of losing some more games and gaining some future assets. Meanwhile, the Cavs are looking in the opposite direction. They've already drafted four players with top-5 draft picks and want to move on from the lottery. But it remains to be seen if the Cavs have the team in place to actually make the playoffs, even in this pathetically weak Eastern Conference. Since the Magic want to get a higher draft pick and the Cavs want to get some more wins, can't we come to some sort of agreement? Cavs win and Magic lose. How's it sound? Of course, that's not how it works and the Cavs will actually have to earn a win if they want to snap their losing streak.
Kyrie Irving's knee injury is not serious, but he is listed as questionable for tonight's game. I figure that he's going to play, but it's something to keep an eye on. If he experiences some discomfort or anything when warming up, he could easily be scratched before tip-off. Of course, playing without Kyrie would make it significantly more difficult for the Cavs to win the game. Jarrett Jack would start at point guard and it would probably mean more playing time for Matthew Dellavedova.
The Cavs beat the Magic in their first meeting of the season in Orlando by a score of 109-100. In that game, Dion Waiters did a nice job of scoring pretty efficiently to complement Kyrie's 31 points with 21 of his own. There's been a lot of talk about how Waiters and Irving cannot play effectively together, but the truth is that when they both play well, the Cavs have a pretty darn good shot at winning. It sounds obvious, but I think it really speaks to something larger about this team. There needs to be some sort of vision and plan about what the Cavs are trying to do every night. Mike Brown will always focus on defending at a high level and I don't really doubt his ability to get them playing good defense by the end of the year. But what's the plan on offense? With Andrew Bynum no longer playing for the team, the coaching staff needs to figure out who the 2nd and 3rd options are on offense. If you go into each game thinking "if we can get the ball to Kyrie and Dion in good spots, they'll make plays for others," I think you have a much better chance of scoring efficiently.
This team has no offensive identity other than "let Kyrie Irving score." What else are you trying to accomplish on offense? Is Anderson Varejao your second scoring option in the starting lineup? Earl Clark has been shooting the ball very very well, but just how much do you want to feature him? Is Jarrett Jack in charge of the bench unit or is that Dion Waiters' title? It's frustrating that these simple questions remain unanswered when we've already seen 31 games, but there's a lot of time left. The Cavs still have 51 games to play and, now that the Bynum experiment is over, they can continue to move forward and figure out what they want to do.
Hopefully the team starts to clear up some of these questions as we start 2014 and head towards a very important offseason for the Cleveland Cavaliers. We shall see.
Fear the Sword's Fearless Prediction:
Happy New Year! The Cavs play a lot better at home and, assuming Kyrie plays, they'll take care of business against the Magic --- 102-91.