Darnell Jackson

Semi-Shocking Happenings During the March Doldrums

The Cleveland Cavaliers are finally getting good at making their wins against the Detroit Pistons entertaining to watch.  Or at least, entertaining early on . . . before fans watching at home decide to pick up a multi-tasking activity to do on the side.

Unfortunately, this epiphany came after the Cavaliers played the Pistons three times in the span of one week.

(Correction:  Upon actually doing the research, it turns out it was the Cavs’ third Pistons game in just over two weeks . . . no matter how much it seems like the Cavs have been playing against sexy Swede Jonas Jerebko every single night.)

The final score was 104-79 . . . and for once, the destined-to-be-lopsided score actually did end up lopsided, and it didn’t just become lopsided in the final four minutes.  No.  For unknown reasons (that I am very thankful for) the Cavs seemed wholly interested in winning this game . . . and doing it right.

That, as out of the blue as it was (against a bad opponent that they’ve already beat two previous times this month), was . . . well, semi-shocking.

Here are a few other semi-shocking happenings:

#1.)  Leon Powe led the team in scoring. 

That is not a typo;  I did not accidentally mistype “LeBron James led the team in scoring.”  Leon had 16 points (on 5-of-8 shooting and 6-of-10 from the line).  He also had seven rebounds and a steal.

 

In my opinion, this was a breakout game for Leon.  I know that’s easy to say after he does something crazy like leading the team in scoring, but I had been hesitant to join all the excitement over Powe.

While I was very impressed with how he looked so soon after some major knee operations, it’d seemed like he was a long way off from being comfortable enough to be a legitimate rotation option for the Cavaliers.  Apparently, he’s much closer than I realized.

He played tough, and even drew two charges.

There were five other Cavaliers in double-figures:  LeBron – 15 points, Delonte West – 15 points, J.J. Hickson – 13 points, Mo Williams – 12 points, and Anthony Parker – 11 points.

#2.)  Anthony Parker scored 11 points.

Leon Powe leading the team in points with 16 would have been a Vegas-busting bet.  AP scoring in double-figures, though, wouldn’t be that far off . . . these days.

AP hadn’t scored over 10 points in his previous 10 games.  He was only averaging 6.0 points in March, with a cold 36.8% field goal percentage, and a freezing cold 30.3% from beyond the arc.  Not the best numbers from your starting shooting guard . . . regardless of what kind of option he is in the offense.

On Sunday, he looked comfortable both looking for his shot and for his teammates.  He had five assists, which was also a number he hadn’t reached over his past 10 games.

#3.)  Speaking of looks, why isn’t Antawn Jamison getting any?

Out-of-towners got the Chicago feed on NBA League Pass on Friday night.  And one of their announcers was ripping the Cavs for not making Jamison more of a focal point in the offense.  At first, I scoffed.

Clearly, this dude was just looking at stats, and hadn’t really seen much of the Cavs this year . . . both their successes in balanced team play (like they did against Detroit on Sunday), or their troubles in solidifying set plays within what has been a turbulent roster over the past two months.

But maybe he has a point.

Not sure what’s up, but in the last two games, Jamison has only shot the ball 10 total times.  Against Chicago, he was 1-for-4, and against Detroit he was 3-for-6.  A lot of those shots came on mop-up duty and bail-out shots . . . meaning that he’s having virtually no plays called for him.  If any.

In Chicago, he still had nine rebounds (in 27 minutes).  Against Detroit, he only had two (in 24 minutes).

Two games is nothing to lose your lunch over . . . but you do have to wonder if there’s some sort of conscious effort going on that’s temporarily squeezing Antawn, if it’s purely a meaningless coincidence, or something else.

#4.)  Darnell Jackson may have scored his last two points as a Cavalier.

The Cavaliers can begin talking to Zydrunas Ilgauskas today . . . and if things go as expected, things will go very quickly.  That means the Cavs are about to lose someone from their current roster (to make room for Z).  The only options are Darnell, Danny Green and Sebastian Telfair.

(And because of his position and contract status, Darnell is the most likely to be let go.)

If it is the end for Darnell . . . well, at least he got into the game.  He played just under five minutes, and had two points (on free throws) with a turnover.

In fairness, unlike the rest of the Cavaliers, Darnell was on the second night of a back-to-back.  He played in a D-League game on Saturday night . . . and had a huge stat line.  In 41 minutes, he had 32 points (on 14-of-21 shooting) with 11 rebounds, two steals, and a block.

That monster line was almost identical to his only other D-League game this season.  In 42 minutes in that one, which happened on February 25th, Darnell scored 34 points (on 14-of-22 shooting) with 12 rebounds, four steals and a block.

You probably couldn’t have two lines that similar if you tried.  It could also either be a testament to D-Block’s potential . . . or his dominance at that level of play.  If he must leave, I’m sure he’ll catch on somewhere.

#5.)  LeBron had zero turnovers . . . for just the second time this season.

With everything that LeBron does for the Cavs, it’s hard to rip him for turnovers . . . especially considering how much he handles the ball, and all the plays he tries to create with phenomenal passes.

But on Sunday, he had zero turnovers (in 31 minutes) for just the second time this season.  The other time happened in the home, losing streak-busting win over New Orleans last month.  He played 44 minutes in that one.

Amar’e Stoudemire to Cleveland Speculation Surfaces . . . So Why Can’t I Get Excited About the Trade Deadline?

There are 24 days until the NBA trading deadline.

I know this because when I woke up this morning, I opened the #24 window on my NBA Trading Deadline Advent Calendar.

Pretty exciting right?

Well, at least it’s supposed to be.  (That’s why I have the NBA Trading Deadline Advent Calendar in the first place.  No one enjoys counting down to something inconsequential . . . like Groundhog Day.  Ooooh, snap!  I know, cue the rage.)

Plus, there’s a decent to more-than-decent chance that something will happen . . . to some degree . . . because of the “all-in” mode that the Cleveland Cavaliers are in right now.  On top of that, it looks like they’re actually in a good position to do a little thievery.

Are the Cavs one puzzle piece away?  Is that puzzle piece out there?  And if the missing piece is discovered (say, in the collection bag of a household vacuum), would the Cavs be able to acquire it with reasonable (or more than reasonable) expense and without creating too much of a dust-up?

(Because the Cavs have company coming, and they need to have the house ready . . . regardless of whether or not the puzzle is finished.)

See?  How can you not be feeling the early pangs of NBA Trading Deadline excitement?

Here’s a list of the Cavs liquid assets:

In Zydrunas Ilgauskas, they have a large, $11.5 million expiring contract.  (They also have a bigger one, at $20 million, in Shaquille O’Neal . . . if you’re someone who believes they’d be open to trading him.)

In J.J. Hickson, Daniel Gibson and (apparently) Jawad Williams, they have young talent that is ready to make an impact on most teams.

In Darnell Jackson and Danny Green they have intriguing prospects that have already made significant steps toward becoming NBA players.  And speaking of horizon assets, the Cavs also have their full set of future draft picks that they’d be able to trade if necessary.

 

In Danny Ferry they have a creative General Manager, who has made big, bold, and well-thought out moves in the past . . . and who is well aware of the stakes LeBron’s uncertain future has created.

And . . . here’s the big one . . . in Dan Gilbert they have a passionate owner who’s willing to invest whatever smart money is required in order to bring a championship to Cleveland, and to retain LeBron.

And there has already been a lot of speculation on several potential targets:  Antawn Jamison, David West, Troy Murphy, Andre Iguodala, Corey Maggette, Andre Miller, etc.

All that being said . . . what if I’m not excited?  If I don’t feel the pangs.  Is that bad?

Maybe it’s still too early for me . . . or maybe the right name hasn’t been seriously (and at least somewhat legitimately) discussed yet . . . or maybe something’s just wrong with me, and I should get it checked out.

For example:  Last night, “Cleveland Plain Dealer” beat writer extraordinaire Brian Windhorst reported that there was credible word that the Cavaliers have (at least) had trade talks with the Phoenix Suns regarding Amar’e Stoudemire . . . with Golden State and Minnesota also in the picture.

He writes:

“The natural trade that makes sense here would be Zydrunas Ilgauskas and J.J. Hickson for Stoudemire.  The Suns could also ask for draft picks.  The Cavs and Suns talked about Hickson [in] the O’Neal deal but the Cavs wanted to keep him.  So the Suns have a history of interest in Hickson.

“Straight up, this type of deal would save the Suns around $3.4 million off their payroll ($6.8 million including luxury tax).  However, the Suns currently are a little more than $5 million over the luxury tax line.  It is then possible they could then negotiate a buyout with Ilgauskas and get below the tax, which would probably enable such a trade to save them around $10 million in real money.”  [Windhorst Beat Blog]

[Hit up that link.  Brian talks about how Shaq and Amar'e have already been teammates, somewhat unsuccessfully, in Phoenix . . . and about how an extension for Amar'e, who can opt out of his contract this summer . . . would play a part in this deal, if it got real.]

But, I don’t know if I’m feeling this right now.

In addition to the Shaq + Amar’e workability and the contract situation, there’s also chemistry and personality issues.  He currently averages over 14 shots per game, but can he be cool with being the second to fourth option on offense?  Will being on a title-contending team inspire him to pick up his effort on the defensive end, or will he initiate breakdowns in the Cavs’ rotating help defense?

He’s also had some health issues in the past.  A few years ago, he had microfracture surgery on his knee . . . and last season he suffered a detached retina, an injury that could have threatened his career.

Assuming the trade is as billed, the Cavs would lose Z (for at least 30 days, if not permanently) . . . and J.J.  Assuming the trade will require more talent than that (which seems realistic from the Suns’ perspective, considering it’s possible that Amar’e doesn’t leave Phoenix after the season), the Cavs would also lose another player.

OK.  Before you worry about my sanity, yes . . . if Phoenix offered Amar’e straight-up for Z and J.J., Phoenix agreed to buy Z out, Z agreed to come back, everyone involved thought Amar’e could play with Shaq in Cleveland (and some serviceable defense) and Amar’e agreed to some sort of extension with the Cavs . . . you just have to do this deal.

Even if one of the above doesn’t happen, you strongly consider it.

Amar’e is a star, and would definitely make a huge impact on the team.  This should be an exciting possibility . . . but for some reason, I’m thinking about the “huge impact” from the other side.

I’m thinking about all those things that need to come together just to make a trade like this work . . . and that’s before you have any idea whether it’ll be a success, a wash, or a detriment.

In any potential trade, there are two intangible things to think about:

#1.)  As of yesterday, the Cleveland Cavaliers (34-11) have the best record in the NBA.  Obviously, it’s January . . . and the team hasn’t always looked as dominant as that record would suggest.  Still, they do have the best record in the NBA.

(And yes, I realize this was the line of thought that may have stopped us from making a trade at the deadline last season.  Notice I still didn’t delete it.)

#2.)  With the uncertainty surrounding LeBron, you want to be cautious about trading for contracts that limit your future flexibility and trading for old guys.  I believe LeBron will be thinking most about future championships this summer.  So ideally, you’d trade for someone who could be a part of a young core with LeBron.

Amar’e (27) would be a fit there.

And he may be “the piece” . . . or a ”the piece” . . . I mean, you’d think he would be.

But you just never know.  (For the record, even though both Phoenix and Cleveland are reportedly putting feelers out there . . . it definitely doesn’t mean anything serious yet.  There may not even be a trade to be made there.)

That’s why I think I haven’t become too excited about the trade season yet.

Maybe I’m sensing some of the pressure that Ferry is under (not necessarily to make a deal, but to to make sure that whatever you do is the right thing to do) . . . and feel a little queasy about the goodness or badness of “huge impacts.”

Fortunately, it seems like the stars are aligning in a way that Ferry may be able to snag a nice piece in one of those “financial cap/tax relief deals,” without giving up much of anything at all.

If that ends up being the case, something tells me my excitement will be building.

J.J. Hickson: “The Prince of Fresh Air”

All things considered, it wouldn’t have been surprising if the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors by 50 points.  It also wasn’t surprising that they ended up winning by six.

Several Cavaliers had great individual nights in Tuesday night’s 114-108 win over the Warriors at The Q, but the team as a whole did not have a good night.

It’s difficult to be too hard on the Cavs . . . who just won their fifth game in a row, to push their record to 8-3 on the season . . . so I’m making the executive decision not to.  After all, this is my blog.

Before we talk Cavs, let me just say Golden State me totally nonplussed.

The Warriors dressed (a league-minimum) eight players, and had seven who were actually available to play.  And one of those players, Vladimir Radmanovic, was playing in his first game as a Warrior, after just coming from Charlotte in the infamous Stephen Jackson trade.

However, all seven of those players scored in double-figures against the Cavs . . . and seemingly all of them can run four-second 40s, get a shot off within the first five seconds of the shot clock, and score enough for them to play sub-YMCA level defense.

It’s the strangest system in all of basketball . . . if you can actually consider it basketball.  Yes, they have super quick players.  Yes, they have super athletic players.  Yes, they have super lethal shooters.

But what the hell are they doing?  Are they just hoping to make it to the playoffs by winning 55 trap games against the 29 teams that actually try to play defense?  If so, it hasn’t worked so far.  Their three wins (against Memphis, Minnesota, and New York) have come against teams that, like the Warriors, are in last place in their respective divisions.

[Technically, the New York Knicks have the second-worst record, after the New Jersey Nets, in the Atlantic Division.  But since I'm from Cleveland, I consider both New York-area teams to be under the same evil umbrella . . . for acting like their abysmal organizations have a chance to steal our superstar.]

Again, though, their offense is something to watch . . . whatever it is.

 

All awe aside, the one thing I was thinking when I was watching them was:  The Warriors wanted Zydrunas Ilgauskas (in the Stephen Jackson trade)???  Z would be lagging at least four possessions behind these guys at all times.  That doesn’t make any sense . . . not that you’d expect any from Golden State’s front office.

Since this team just can’t work.  I spent a lot of time window-shopping.  And not just Monta Ellis.  I was moving on to things like, “Wow, Anthony Morrow has a deadly shot.  Maybe we could put together a nice package with Coby Karl as the centerpiece . . . and that’s it.  Just surround him with cash.”

As fun as it is to poke fun at the Warriors, I am fully aware that we have two professional sports teams in Cleveland that rival Golden State’s level of dysfunction.

Back to the Cavaliers.

Even though Cleveland couldn’t settle into a defensive rhythm . . . and became seduced into the Warriors’ too-fast offense . . . there were some great things that came out of this game.

First and foremost, J.J. Hickson had his third straight career game.  Literally.  In each of the last three games, J.J. has posted a new career high in points.

On Tuesday night, he had 21 points on a perfect 9-of-9 shooting, with nine rebounds, a steal and a block.  And his night could have even been bigger, if you can believe that.

At halftime, he had 16 points on 7-of-7 shooting with eight rebounds.

Mike Brown can boast that he doesn’t call plays for J.J. all he wants . . . but can I introduce a “New Cavalier Rule” here?  It is:  “If you’re finding that your offense is struggling and lacking ball movement . . . especially in the second half . . . call plays for anyone who is shooting 100%.”

The Cavaliers were settling for too many jumpers in the second half, and should have spent more time operating in the paint.  Even the Warriors were doing that . . . using their quickness to get too-easy dribble penetration.  J.J. could have helped.  He didn’t show any signs that he couldn’t.

J.J.’s most exciting play was his last.  With less than two minutes left to go in the game, and the Cavs only up by four, LeBron deflected a pass on the defensive end.  The ball shot up in the air, and Anthony Parker caught it.  He passed it up to Lebron, who hoisted a 40-foot lob to a wide open J.J. for a mammoth alley-oop dunk.

“Fox Sports Ohio” play-by-play announcer Fred McLeod exclaimed:  “J.J. up top . . . Yes! . . . The Prince of Fresh Air has thrown it down!”  (???)  (Your move, A.C.)

The Cavaliers were without Shaquille O’Neal (strained shoulder) and Anderson Varejao (hip contusion).  Both are not expected to play tonight in Washington . . . and may not play Friday in Indiana either.

Jamario Moon also sprained his ankle.  It was bad enough that he didn’t return to the game, but his status for the rest of the week was not immediately clear.

Both Delonte West and Darnell Jackson played about 14 minutes against Golden State.  Delonte didn’t do much offensively, and Darnell was active but turned the ball over four times.

With two of their big men out, the Cavs played a lot of small lineups tonight.  That’s not a problem against a team like Golden State . . . but it might not be as effective against Washington.

 

The Wine and Gold Rush Awards:

[We'll be giving these out after each game.]


Most Valuable Player:  J.J. Hickson.

J.J. must be at least serviceable right now.  With both Shaq and Andy out . . . for at least one more game . . . it’s important for J.J. to hold down the fort inside.  And he’s been not only been “serviceable,” he’s been awesome.

Over his last three games, J.J. is averaging 20 points on 74% shooting (23-of-31) with six rebounds.

Note:  Mo Williams (16 points, six assists, eight rebounds) and Z (14 points, four rebounds) also had good games.  They both shot 50% or better.

Least Valuable Player:  Delonte West.

Delonte was only 1-of-4 from the floor, with two points and two assists.  He didn’t feel comfortable taking shots that he used to love . . . and he forced a couple others.  He was active on defense, but he wasn’t able to stop the Warriors either.

It was nice to see him back.  Hopefully, he’s able to quickly and seamlessly work his way back into the team on both ends of the court.

“The Diff Award” (for the difference maker, even in defeat):  LeBron James.

LeBron had 31 points (on 11-of-19 shooting) with 12 assists and five rebounds and two, sweet, “chase down” blocks.  He also iced the game with a jumper in the final seconds.

Without LeBron setting the table, the box scores would not have been as stacked as they are.  Against Golden State you can find an open shot with ball movement . . . and LeBron was a catalyst.

 

The State of the Cavaliers – #3 – Playin’ Like It’s November 2008

[This is a regular feature called "The State of the Cavaliers."  In it, we'll rank each player on the roster, based on recent on- and off-the-court production, news, and intangibles related to the Cavs' quest for the Larry O'Brien Trophy.]

Since our last State of the Cavaliers on November 3rd, the Cleveland Cavaliers have proved that their first two wins (in Minnesota and against Charlotte at home) were not merely the product of a lost team playing lost franchises.

Instead, those wins proved to be a springboard for a team that was re-grouping from a weak 0-2 start.  Over the past two weeks, the Cavs have posted a 5-1 record . . . and are suddenly 7-3, placing them back in the mix atop the Eastern Conference.

It hasn’t all been pretty; the offense was extremely flat in the irritating loss to Chicago at home . . . and the defense, especially late in games, leaves a lot to be desired (specifically, good defense).  But the Cavs current work-in-progress-ness is much more reasonable and palatable than it was two weeks ago.

The crowning moment has been how the team was able to capitalize on a four-day break to execute a two-game all-Florida sweep, which produced solid, back-to-back road wins over Orlando and Miami.

This return to form makes it a little easier to get a feel for where the Cavaliers are at this stage . . . and we’re going to break that down right now in our third State of the Cavaliers rundown.

[Up to date, through Sunday, November 15th.]

Here’s the complete list.  Each player’s previous rank and average rank are in parentheses . . . because, as they say, too much information is good information. (?)

 

#1.)  LeBron James.  (Prev: #1 / Avg: 1.0)

LeBron was the only Cavalier who didn’t need an extended preseason.  And now that the rest of the team has noticed that the NBA season has started, LeBron is showing that he’s there to be their superstar.

In the past six games . . . after the Cavs’ reset at 2-2 . . . LeBron has averaged 29.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 2.0 steals per game.  But the story, as usual, ishow he’s doing it.

In New York, he catapulted the team out of the gate; in Miami, he went toe-to-toe with Dwyane Wade . . . and trumped him;  he was an unstoppable force while closing out the Utah game;  and he came just a whistle tweet away from bailing the Cavs out against Chicago.  Can you say MVP?

#2.)  Mo Williams.  (Prev: #4 / Avg: 5.3)

After a sluggish start, Mo has returned to his all-star form . . . and in related news, the offense has, too.  In the first four games, he shot 43%.  In the past six, he’s shot 52%.  In those games, Mo has averaged 18.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, 4.8 assists.

Mo’s official coming out party (or so I’d like to hope) came against Orlando, where he looked like Mitch Richmond in “NBA Jam”.  He connected on his first three shots . . . the ball seemed to glow in his hands . . . and then he was making everything.  [You can read more about his night, here.]

In his last three games, he’s averaging 25 points, 5 assists, and is shooting 58.5%.

#3.)  Anderson Varejao.  (Prev: #3 / Avg: 5.0)

Andy has averaged 7.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.0 assists over the past six contests.

Four games ago, Andy was bumped to the bench . . . not because of his play, but because Mike Brown wanted to give J.J. Hickson some regular, scheduled minutes every game.  Coach also wanted to re-team Andy with Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and give the bench a shot in the arm.

And it worked.  Since then, the Cavs are 4-0, and J.J. has been given an opportunity to blossom . . . which, so far, he has.  And Andy is providing the second unit with some much-needed toughness, continuity, and yes, “energy.”

His shot attempts are down over those four games . . . but as a reserve, he’s shooting 62% (8-of-13).

And something for the “team player” files:  Did anyone hear a single complaint from Andy when he was moved to the bench?

#4.)  Shaquille O’Neal.  (Prev: #7 / Avg: 5.3)

It doesn’t sound like Shaq’s “shoulder injury” . . . the reason he was held out of the Utah game . . . is anything serious, so we’ll go ahead and place him where he deserved to be up until then.

We brought Shaq in for more than just stats.  We want him to be a tough, intimidating paint presence on the defensive end.  And on offense, he’s a big target under the basket for LeBron . . . he’ll draw fouls . . . and he’ll split the opposing team’s attention away from the Cavs shooters.

Shaq’s infusion into the team is still in development, but the early returns are good.  On Wednesday, Dwight Howard put up half the numbers we saw in the playoffs last year . . . and on offense, Shaq has made at least 50% of his shots in his past six games.

Over that time, he’s averaging 13.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game.

#5.)  J.J. Hickson.  (Prev: #8 / Avg: 5.0)

Check this:  In the first six games . . . before J.J. was inserted into the starting lineup . . . he was averaging 6.5 minutes per game, and 1.5 shot attempts per game.  Yeah, that’s attempts.

In the four games since, he’s averaging over 26 minutes, 13.3 points (including his back-to-back career-highs of 18 and then 20 points), 3.5 rebounds, and he’s shooting 59% from the floor.

LeBron and Mo have been finding him for wide open dunks and lay-ups, and J.J. has some promising finishing abilities.  He’s also shown some good post moves.

The next step in J.J.’s crash course is going to be improving his rebounding and boxing out . . . and getting him to the point where he’s comfortable within the team defense.

#6.)  Anthony Parker.  (Prev: #5 / Avg: 5.0)

If it weren’t for 3-pointers (and in the case of the Utah game, clutch 3-pointers), Anthony would be closer to Delonte West than the Top Five on this list.  But 3-pointers do count . . . for more than 2-pointers, as a matter of fact . . . and that’s a good thing for AP, because he can’t make those.

Interesting Fact:  Anthony is 14-of-24 (58%) from beyond the arc in his last six games.  In that same period, he’s just 3-of-17 (17.6%) from inside the arc.  Expanded out:  AP has hit 60% of his 3-pointers over the whole season, and 22.5% of his 2-pointers.

This is either just an anomaly . . . or Boobie is contagious.

#7.)  Daniel Gibson.  (Prev: #6 / Avg: 6.3)

First off, while we’re here:  Daniel has hit 46% of his 3-pointers over the whole season, and 25% of his 2-pointers.  Fortunately, 73% of his shots are from beyond the arc.  Boobie had a rough game offensively in Miami last week (where he shot just 1-of-7) but overall, he’s having a strong season.

That being said, there has to be a way to get Boobie six to eight three point attempts every game.  That’s where he can thrive . . . and honestly, right now that’s the only place he can thrive.

With Delonte West out indefinitely, Boobie is going to get 20+ minutes a game.  The Cavs really should take advantage of his time on the floor and try to get him some deep looks.  Otherwise, isn’t he playing a lot of fairly empty minutes?

#8.)  Jamario Moon.  (Prev: #10 / Avg: 7.0)

Over the past four games, Jamario has averaged just under 20 minutes a game . . . that’s a big improvement over the three games before that, when he was getting under 4 minutes a game.

And Jamario has looked good . . . especially rebounding the ball.  With Jamario and J.J. playing increased minutes, it gives us more athleticism on the boards.  Shaq and Z may be huge . . . but they aren’t going to be leaping for many rebounds this year.

Over the last four games, Jamario has averaged 5.7 points and 4.5 rebounds.

#9.)  Zydrunas Ilgauskas.  (Prev: #2 / Avg: 6.3)

For whatever reason, Z was the only Cavs player that played better in October than in November.

In his first four games, Z shot (a team-leading) 54%.  In his next five, he shot just 4-of-31, which is 12.9%.  Z showed some signs of breaking out of it in Saturday’s game against the Jazz . . . making four of his 10 shots.  But then again, that’s the game he started in place of Shaq.

Z will regain his touch . . . although the team could probably help him out by calling some plays for him when he comes into the game.

#10.)  Delonte West.  (Prev: #9 / Avg: 11.3)

Due to the uncertainty surrounding Delonte, he probably should be at the bottom of this list.  And I wouldn’t have any problem putting him there . . . except with the “uncertainty,” there’s always the chance that he could play, which beats everyone from here on out, who hasn’t played.

Before mysteriously disappearing from the active list last week, Delonte had cooled down after his spectacular first game back.  He always supplied good defense and posted solid +/- numbers, but in his last three games he averaged just 3 points on 22% shooting.  He’s now missed three games since then.

As far as we know, he’s still day-to-day at this point.

#11.)  Leon Powe.  (Prev: #11 / Avg: 11.3)

Can’t wait to see Leon on the court . . . but he’s still a long way away.  He’s recovering from an ACL replacement and a microfracture procedure on his knee.  Last we heard, he was ahead of schedule and could be back on the floor as early as January.  (Although, February is a more realistic expectation.)

#12.)  Danny Green.  (Prev: #15 / Avg: 13.7)

Danny made his NBA debut in Miami last Thursday night.

It was everything he always dreamed it would be . . . assuming that he always dreamed it would be less than a minute long, and not require him to do anything whatsoever.

#13.)  Darnell Jackson.  (Prev: #12 / Avg: 12)

Darnell has played a few seconds in two of the last six games, but didn’t make a dent in the stat sheets.  The Cavs have a fairly light schedule throughout the rest of November . . . so if they can continue to improve and take care of business, they might build up some leads big enough to get Darnell some playing time.
#14.)  Jawad Williams.  (Prev: #13 / Avg: 11.3)

Jawad last entered a game two weeks ago against Washington.  He was in for two minutes . . . and fouled somebody.  It’s unclear if he needed to shower after the game.

#15.)  Coby Karl.  (Prev: #14 / Avg: 14.5)

Coby hasn’t played in the past six games. On the bright side though, he’s still on the team.
Until next time, Go Cavs!

Can Antonio Daniels See Where He’s Going???

Is Antonio Daniels coming to the Cavaliers or not?

Just as everyone seemed to dismiss the possibility of signing 34-year-old point guard Antonio Daniels (who recently agreed to a buyout with the Minnesota Timberwolves) . . . there’s a new rumor making the rounds that suggests a deal may be imminent.

Here’s the latest, according to a new report on Hoopsworld:

“Antonio Daniels worked out for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday and could reach an agreement with the team in coming days, a source close to the situation tells Hoopsworld. Cleveland has shown interest in Daniels since he was waived by the Minnesota Timberwolves several weeks ago.

“Daniels’ top choice remains the Cavaliers and he’s awaiting an offer from the team before working out for other suitors.  Cleveland has also asked Daniels’ camp not to speak with other teams, suggesting that an agreement between the two sides could come shortly.”

It’s hard to know what to think of this.

Suddenly, it seems like Daniels sees himself in Cleveland . . . and is just waiting for Danny Ferry to hand him a pen.  But . . .

Just last week, Hoopsworld reported that Daniels was close to a decision . . . and insinuated that he’d cooled on Cleveland, because he was concerned about his “minutes and role on the team.”

Likewise, Cleveland was probably stepping away from the table because Delonte West had just returned to the team and Mo Williams had regrouped from a slow start and a minor preseason groin injury.Even though Delonte and Mo haven’t played consistently yet this season . . . and even if Daniels relaxes his stance on minutes and a “role” . . . it’s hard to see how this makes sense right now.

 

For starters, with Delonte, the Cavs are 10 players deep . . . and 11 if you include Darnell Jackson, who was active for most of last season.  The team has 15 players on the roster, but only 12 can be active for each game.

Here’s the rundown:

(1) LeBron James, (2) Shaquille O’Neal, (3) Mo, (4) Anthony Parker, (5) Anderson Varejao, (6) Zydrunas Ilgauskas, (7) Daniel Gibson, (8) Delonte, (9) Jamario Moon, (10) J.J. Hickson, (11) Darnell, (12) Danny Green, (13) Jawad Williams, (14) Leon Powe, and (15) Coby Karl.

Signing Daniels would likely mean that Coby would be cut, and Daniels would probably become our 12th player . . . meaning he’s just borderline active.  And as the 12th player, he can’t expect to get 10+ minutes a game.  As it stands, Jamario (our 9th player, roughly) has trouble getting 10 minutes.

And even if you’d rank Daniels ahead of DJ, what are the chances Mike Brown goes with an 11-man rotation?  (0% – That isn’t happening.)  Bottom line:  Barring an injury or a trade, Daniels isn’t going to get regular minutes, in every game.

Yes, he’d be great insurance for Delonte, who is undoubtedly going to miss some games at some point this season as he deals with his indictment on weapons charges in Maryland.  There’s also his unpredictable personal issues, but I’d like to not speculate about him missing more games for that.

He’d also be a great back-of-the-bench guy, to step in when the Cavs are hit with injuries, face match-up problems . . . or just need a fresh spark or new look on offense.

And if the Cavs are interested, let’s assume that they’ll remember to discuss this important, but reduced role with him beforehand.  Because if he isn’t aware of this (and / or doesn’t sign off on it), we could have a mini-Allen Iverson distraction on our hands.

Because as of right now, if Mo, Delonte, AP and Boobie are healthy (and playing reasonably well), Daniels is just not good enough to crack the into the backcourt rotation.

There is another way to look at this, though.

Smooth (from Cavalier Attitude) has made the following observation:

“Brian Windhorst [of the 'Cleveland Plain Dealer'] reported [this weekend] that while the Cavs have interest in Daniels and were close to signing him at one point in time, nothing was close as of the last few days.

[Windhorst reported:  "The Cavs were close to pulling the trigger on Daniels, but two things happened.  One, team doctors gave indications that West would be returning sooner rather than later. And second, Daniel Gibson has been shooting and defending and earning extra playing time. Neither of these were certain when Daniels was waived at the end of the preseason. Had the Cavs signed him, he'd be on the inactive list right now."]

“I find it suspicious. [...] Why would the Cavs all of a sudden be in hot pursuit of someone to potentially put on the inactive list?  Something might be going on.  I don’t know what but something just might be happening.  It could be good and it could be bad.

[And on Twitter, Smooth adds]  “Maybe it’s nothing.  But it’s suspicious that they’d be going after someone who wouldn’t mean anything and would cost double [because of the] luxury tax.”

It’s a good point.  There are three ways I could see this making sense.  [Of course, all this is momentarily assuming that Hoopsworld's sources are accurate and there is serious interest from the Cavs.]

#1.)  The team knows something we don’t know about Delonte’s status.  Perhaps they know, or have a feeling, that Delonte will have to miss a substantial number of games this season due to either his legal or personal issues.  This is, of course, a “bad” explanation.

#2.)  Antonio just really wants to come to Cleveland . . . maybe because we’re the best team interested in him, or maybe because of LeBron and / or the rest of the organization.  He is unemployed, but supposedly he has received interest elsewhere, and he did get a big buyout.  So he probably wouldn’t have to chase any paycheck.  At least, not yet.

In this case, he’d have to be cool with very limited play, at least until he’s needed for a greater role.

#3.)  The team is planning on making a trade, and will need help at guard in the aftermath.

Now, there haven’t been any real trade rumors connected to Cavs, except that Stephen Jackson one, in which we’d give up Z.  But that would make the backcourt even thicker . . . so who knows?

It’s early, and we’re still meshing as a team, but I’m not in favor of making any moves right now unless it’s something you can’t turn down.  We don’t know what we have yet, so how do we know exactly what we need?  A player shift now would complicate and lengthen the Cavs’ fusion process.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Daniels.  Maybe he and the Cavs are a perfect fit for each other, or maybe Danny Ferry is just continuing to do his job . . . investigating as many options as he can to see if anything catches his eye.

[Monday Afternoon Update:  Brian Windhorst on Twitter:  "The Cavs did workout Antonio Daniels over the weekend but currently have no plans on adding a player."]

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