This is my first two for one article, and the basic idea is that we find positives or negatives from Cavs games and go from there. But what if things aren’t clearly positive or negative? What if the Cavs are in the news for things that aren’t Cavs related? What if the Cavs can’t be blamed for that?
Our first item is positive? But it’s also negative.
The Cavs played the Portland Trail Blazers last night, and lost. Notable, but not a big deal. So why did I wake up to everyone talking about the Cavs? Well, Kyrie Irving likes to talk. After a monster game against the Toronto Raptors, Irving divulged to reporters that he had called LeBron James to apologize for not being more open the Lakers forward’s guidance when they both played for the Cavs.
I’m of the view that if Irving and James get along, that’s better for the Cavs and Cavs fans. We have one title. It’s just a little better if the guys that made it happen don’t hate each other. Does it change the fact that the Cavs are the worst team in the league? No. Is it self-serving for Irving? Yes. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter; what 2016 means to you as a Cavs fan is totally up to you. If hating Irving for messing up what could have been a historic, multi-season run is what you feel and what you want, go for it (in as healthy a manner as possible). For me, I just want positive thoughts about the 2016 team. In seven years, I want a 10-year reunion celebration that everyone feels welcome at.
What I’m not sure I want is to re-litigate every aspect of Irving, or even James, over and over again. Last week it was whether Baker Mayfield will be bigger than LeBron. This week it’ll be Irving’s redemption in the national media. Locally, we’ll gnash our teeth and get frustrated with one another as we try and make sense of how to feel about players who chose to leave Cleveland and seek greener pastures elsewhere. In the meantime, we’ll slowly march along to the lottery, discussing the Cavs without discussing the Cavs.
Positive: Ante Zizic showed up in Portland
Given the trajectory of the NBA, it’s a thin needle for Zizic to thread to be a really valuable player. There are some positive signs, though. He played 27 minutes on Wednesday night, scoring 16 points on eight shots, pulling down eight rebounds and blocking two shots. On a tanking team, he needs consistent minutes. In a game the Cavs lost by 17 points, they actually outscored the Blazers by three when he was on the court.
Looking at the season as a whole, the Cavs are allowing an incomprehensible 117.2 points per 100 possessions. That’s mindbogglingly bad. In Zizic’s 353 minutes, though, the Cavs are giving up just 107 points per 100 possessions. That would be good for a top 10 defense over the course of a season. There are any number of caveats here that need to be applied: sample size, the player’s he’s shared the court with, the fact that many of his minutes have come in garbage time, but let’s just take it for the positive that it is. He’s looking like he could be a valuable, or at least useful, bench piece moving forward.
Negative: Just about everything else
Damian Lillard is phenomenal, but seems to be getting overshadowed by James Harden, Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving at the point guard position again. Well, he took it to the Cavs. Lillard and the Blazers starters blitzed the Cavs first unit. Collin Sexton continues to struggle. He had 11 points on 11 shots and contributed just one assist. He’ll keep working at it, but any real jump might have to wait until at least after the All-Star break when hopefully he can reset some things. He’ll have summer league and time to work out on his own in the gym this year. I’m willing to give him a little bit of a pass on improving before then; he’s young, it’s a tough position, and it’s a tough transition.