Trans. Jul 18 10:23 ET (Jul 18 10:23 ET ) The Cleveland Cavaliers, as presently constructed and until Indiana and Chicago define themselves, are the best team in the Eastern conference. It’s true that there are holes in this roster, it’s true that the team that won just 33 games last season has a long way to go, but the addition of the Best Player in the World and what should prove to be a forceful coach in David Blatt has to make these Cavs the clear favorites to come out of their conference.
That doesn’t mean the team can’t pine for better things, though.
As a basketball nut, I’d give a year off of my life to see LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett all working in tandem at the same age, ideally through ages 26 to 30. Those four, when paired with role players like Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao, would act as multiple title-winners were they to be working together in their respective primes. In a perfect world, all four of them would have been born in 1988.
The problem, here, is that LeBron turns 30 this December. Irving and Bennett turned 22 and 21 last March, and Wiggins is 19 months removed from being legally able to buy a bottle of white wine to finish off the nice lemon butter sauce he just made. This shouldn’t preclude LeBron from winning a title in Cleveland, nobody should ever say that, but it would be nice if the differences were minimized somewhat.
This is why LeBron has reached out to Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love, gauging his interest in forcing a trade to the Cavs and extending his contract in Cleveland. This is why Andrew Wiggins, less than a month from being trumped up as Cleveland’s newest savior as the No. 1 pick in the draft, is reportedly available. This is why the LeBron’s Cavaliers are attempting to win now.
As they should. Because it’s possible to deal a stellar young player like Andrew Wiggins while acknowledging the fact that, yeah, this guy is going to be a beast someday.
Love isn’t exactly nearing the end of his particular rope. At age 25, he still (frighteningly) has a few years to improve upon the remarkable production he’s already given the Timberwolves, production that can’t be accurately detailed ( are you listening, SportsCenter ?) by per-game stats, as Love needlessly came off the bench for the majority of his first two seasons under coaches Kevin McHale and Kurt Rambis.
He’ll earn over $15 million next season and he has a player option to decline for 2015-16, making him a free agent next summer. He’s never played in the postseason and the best teammate he’s ever played with was either Al Jefferson or Nikola Pekovic. He does not want to be with the Timberwolves, and we don’t blame him.
The problem, as has been long assumed in NBA circles since last spring, is that Timberwolves part-owner/president/coach/(eventual point guard?) Flip Saunders seems hell-bent on proving to Love that he can win him over with his coaching in 2014-15, and convince Love to stay with Saunders’ plan for Minnesota’s future.
That’s debatable, but it’s also understandable given Saunders’ paucity of options. Reportedly, the best offer that’s been floated for Love would at best give the Wolves Klay Thompson, David Lee, and a future first rounder while Minnesota shipped back Kevin Martin’s somewhat-onerous contract. Even that deal has been repeatedly shot down by all manner of Golden State chirpers who swear that Klay is unavailable – it would also saddle the Wolves with Lee’s hefty contract, and an immediate and possibly maximum contract extension for Thompson. Who is a shooting guard, and does not matter.
The Cavaliers can offer a better package. Sources in Cleveland revealed on Thursday that they’d be willing to offer Wiggins in a deal , and a transaction featuring Wiggins and Anthony Bennett alongside some other brand of cap fodder (a third team, with Cleveland capped out, will likely have to join in the fun) that the Cavs would have to throw in to nearly match Love’s $15.7 million contract for next season would seem to be the best that Flip Saunders can do.
Assuming he wants to “do,” because we still don’t know if he wants to “do.”
Bennett’s play was worth defending during his embarrassing rookie season, and we attempted to repeatedly. He was playing while injured, while out of position, while out of shape, and while out of the interests of the team’s former coaching staff. It should come as no surprise to those that saw his promise in college that he is currently enjoying a solid Summer League in 2014. Wiggins, meanwhile, may turn out to be the better player than Love in the long run (that’s saying something, for a guy in Love that averaged 26 and 12 last season), and there’s absolutely nothing better than a young stud (or two) on a rookie contract.
LeBron James’ situation is so unique, though, that you have to wonder if it’s worth pushing for a deal like this even before training camp, even before Minnesota gets desperate and flakey when things aren’t turning out well for them prior to next season’s trade deadline.
James is 29, but what kind of “29” is he? There is no plausible comparison for his career arc that would make any sense, as some amalgamation of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Karl Malone still wouldn’t do his prospects justice. Jordan didn’t make the second round of the playoffs until he was 25, and he didn’t play significant playoff basketball as a contender until he was 26. By that age, LeBron had made the Finals, he was on his way to a second Finals trip (the first of four consecutive), he’d made the conference finals three times, and he’d whiffed his way through The Decision. While trading 82 game seasons as a pro from ages 18-to-21 with Jordan’s three years at North Carolina.
This isn’t a comparison between the accomplishments of MJ and LBJ, as this is a team sport. What we are comparing is the mileage on those legs. If you’ll recall, even before the tragic loss of Jordan’s father in the late summer of 1993, Michael was already addressing rumors about a retirement in the spring of 1993, citing the abject exhaustion of making it to the Finals three years in a row, while playing in the Olympics in 1992.
LeBron just finished a fourth consecutive (and fifth overall) Finals trip, with an Olympics (one of three in his career, alongside other summertime international play) tossed in, and he has no Birmingham Barons on his particular horizon. James is in Cleveland to (hopefully) finish off a historic career, and we have no clue how the teen phenom who was asked to play point guard with Karl Malone’s body will hold up as he enters his 30s. Pointing to Kevin Garnett or Kobe Bryant or Malone himself (who was still a fantastic, sometimes game-changing player in his final season at age 40 despite injuries) as proof of endurance would be missing the point.
This isn’t to say James will break down, not in the slightest. This is only to point out that he’s a unique, special player working through unprecedented circumstances. And though Wiggins and Bennett aren’t being asked to work as James’ clear No. 2 – that’s Kyrie Irving’s job, and he better get ready – their potential All-Star futures (yes, even Bennett’s) will not mean much to a star in James that has already played nearly two full regular seasons’ worth of playoff games so far in his career.
The issue from here is whether or not Love is truly what the Cleveland Cavaliers need.
They’ll have shooting. Bennett has struggled from long range during the Summer League, but he has a good stroke, while Mike Miller is already in the hopper and Ray Allen may not be far behind. The rebounding, between Thompson, Varejao, James and Bennett should be fine. The team does not lack for floor-spacers, screen-setters, or shot-makers.
Those three things, alongside the all-world rebounding and gorgeous passing, are what Love does best. How much of a good thing do you need, though, especially with Anderson Varejao averaging just 37 games a year ove
Anderson Varejao was dressed and ready to play to make one final appearance in front of his home fans on Wednesday, but was left on the bench by coach Mike Brown, who simply chose not to play Varejao in a meaningless blowout win over the Nets. .
The Scoop:That was likely Varejao's last game as a Cavalier and Brown also failed to play Zydrunas Ilgauskas back in 2009 on a night he would have broken the team's all-time games played record, a move that drew the public ire of LeBron James at the time. Michael Curry also points out that Brown, in fact, has never really made a true "significant relationship" with one of his players in his entire career. While Brown is a respected NBA coach, his treatment of Ilgauskas and Varejao will not go unnoticed by some players around the league and could impact Cleveland's ability to sign free agents at some point down the line.
The Scoop:Surprisingly, he only needed one game on the sidelines to recover from his AC joint sprain. Varejao is one of the more injury prone players in the NBA, so he's still a risky player to use tonight or even pick up. Tyler Zeller's fantasy value takes a hit here.
Anderson Varejao returned after a one-game absence on Friday with nine points, five boards, two assists and one foul in 24 minutes.
The Scoop:His injury to his AC joint in his right shoulder looked serious over the weekend, and it was a mild surprise to see him back so soon. Varejao could be looking at a double-double average the rest of the way, but that's a bit of an optimistic outlook. He's a low-upside, high-risk player for owners in deeper leagues.
The Scoop:The Cavs have won six of their past seven games and trail the eighth-place Knicks by only two games, so Varejao may press the issue to help his team keep up their momentum. He'll play limited minutes in a reserve role, as he has since Spencer Hawes was acquired, so there's minimal upside here for fantasy owners.
The Cavaliers have signed free-agent swingman Scotty Hopson for the remainder of the season, a move that will give them flexibility in summer free agency. Hopson's deal includes a non-guaranteed team option for next season. The 6-foot-7 Hopson, who has spent the past three years playing overseas, will get the $2.5 million exception this season and his second season is worth about $1.44 million. His contract, along with the guard Alonzo Gee's non-guaranteed deal next season and forward Anderson Varejao's partially guaranteed deal for 2015, gives the Cavs trade options as they try to rebuild.
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving has been cleared to resume full contact practice. He has not played since suffering a strained left biceps tendon during the team's March 16th game at the Los Angeles Clippers. Irving's status for the team's two-game road trip to Orlando on Wednesday and Atlanta on Friday will be determined on a day to day practice. Center Anderson Varejao has been ruled out against the Magic due to a sprained AC joint sprain in his right shoulder suffered against the Indiana Pacers on Sunday.
The Scoop:There's a decent chance he's out for the season, but there is no timetable given on his possible return just yet. The AC joint allows a player to raise his hands above his head, which is obviously a very important thing to do when grabbing rebounds. Varejao suffered the injury on Sunday and he was not able to return. There is no reason to own in him in almost any format. Tyler Zeller fill AV's spot in the rotation while Tristan Thompson and Spencer Hawes should see a few extra minutes.
Mar 31 12:00 ET
News (various sources)
Report: LeBron, Cavs will play at Miami on Christmas (The SportsXchange) (1 Day Ago | courtesy: The SportsXchange) The NBA understands how to maximize a story line. More...