Trans. Nov 25 8:38 ET (Nov 25 8:38 ET ) With the Cleveland Cavaliers riding a four-game losing streak and sitting two games under .500 in an uneven start to a season many expected to result in a championship, LeBron James made headlines Monday by summing up his team's troubles in two words: "I stink." He then went about the business of righting the ship by proving himself a liar, much to the chagrin of the visiting Orlando Magic: [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Basketball: Sign up and join a league today! ] James grabbed control of Monday's contest at Quicken Loans Arena, repeatedly attacking the basket and either scoring or notching the assist on the Cavs' first 17 points, pacing Cleveland to a 10-point lead after 12 minutes. After a rest on the bench that saw the Cavs' reserves extend the lead, James brought more of the same in the second quarter, setting up a pair of Kevin Love jumpers and a Shawn Marion 3-pointer that pushed the advantage to 19, and capping the first half's scoring with a foul-line fadeaway over a too-small Evan Fournier, giving him 22 points on 12 shots and seven assists by intermission. A pair of LeBron free throws following a clear path foul midway through the third put Cleveland up 20; Orlando never got closer, as the Cavs' second unit finished off a 106-74 rout that, for the moment, quieted talk of fragility , challenges and, of course, stench. Just as he instantly took responsibility for the game-sealing turnover that capped last week's loss to the San Antonio Spurs, James viewed Monday's meeting with the Magic as an opportunity to show a more vocal and proactive form of leadership amid turmoil than he modeled earlier this season , and the result was a comfortable victory. From The Associated Press : "I'm my biggest critic," James said. "I wasn't happy with my play the last week. No one puts any more pressure on me than myself. You go out and you just don't talk about it, you show it too." Cavaliers coach David Blatt wasn't surprised that James followed his self-criticism with a strong game. "His influence is widespread," Blatt said. "The things that he does and the way he plays the game and the impact he has on those around him is consequential in every respect. He can impact in every way. He did that and obviously everyone followed." James finished with 29 points on 9-for-17 shooting, 11 assists against just one turnover, four rebounds and three steals in 31 minutes of play through three quarters before resting for the entire final frame. Anderson Varejao (14 points, six rebounds, two assists, two blocks), Kevin Love (12 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two steals) and Kyrie Irving (12 points, four assists, four steals, no turnovers) offered plenty of support in a get-well win that saw the Cavs hold the 6-10 Magic to just 36.3 percent shooting and score 25 points off 18 Orlando turnovers. Blatt called the skid-snapping win "a good small step," but the still-getting-acclimated-to-his-new-gig coach knows that blowing out a likely lottery squad that's flirting with bottom-third-of-the-league rankings in offensive and defensive efficiency — and that was without injured second-leading scorer Tobias Harris — doesn't necessarily prove the Cavs are on the right track. Still, with the Cavs struggling to string together consistent performances at this early stage of their development, the component parts of Monday's win — better ball movement, more committed and active defense, and, perhaps more importantly than anything else, LeBron playing very hard from the opening tip with the expectation that his teammates would rise to his level — are the kinds of things James and company can build on, and the ingredients for a sweeter-smelling, more reliably excellent brand of ball. "A win always makes things feel better," James said after the game, according to Chris Fedor of Northeast Ohio Media Group . "But we still have a lot of work to do. Tomorrow we'll see some of the things we did well, see some of the things that we didn't do so well and we can work on it. It's a good start." Well, it sure doesn't stink, at least. Video via Dawk Ins . More NBA coverage: - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow BDL's Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.
Anderson Varejao posted his second double-double of the season on Saturday with 13 points and 12 rebounds in 29 minutes of action.
The Scoop:He chipped in three assists with two turnovers and zero defensive stats, and his 5-of-9 FGs were tainted by a 3-of-6 mark at the FT line. AV has been a top-100 value this year and he's ably held off Tristan Thompson (11 points, seven boards in 20 minutes) for the starting center job so far. David Blatt said he's considering a change to the starting five, but that's more likely to impact Shawn Marion than Varejao.
Before welcoming the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs to Quicken Loans Arena, LeBron James said the experience of leading the Cleveland Cavaliers' young stars, of teaching them about professionalism and how to win, is the greatest challenge he's faced in his Hall of Fame career. After Wednesday's contest, he'll be able to impart a particularly important lesson — how to accept responsibility for a pivotal late-game miscue. [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Basketball: Sign up and join a league today! ] With the Spurs leading 91-90 and 9.1 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, San Antonio guard Manu Ginobili stepped to the foul line for a pair of free throws. The Argentine canned the first but missed the second, giving Cleveland possession with a chance to tie or win it at the buzzer. The Cavaliers had no timeouts remaining, though, so they had to push the ball the length of the court to get one last crack at an equalizer or a winner. But after Anderson Varejao had rebounded the miss and handed it to James, the Spurs worked to pressure James' dribble in the backcourt, with Tim Duncan looking to cut James off from the middle of the floor as he sprinted back and Ginobili stepping over from the stripe to impede James' progress. After James dribbled from left to right around his back to evade Ginobili, he tapped the ball a bit too hard with his right hand, losing control of his dribble and sending the ball into Duncan's feet. Ginobili came away from the ensuing scramble with possession, raced back into the frontcourt, and avoided a Cavaliers foul long enough for the final horn to sound, giving the Spurs a 92-90 road win , their fifth in six games. Before he walked off the court, James raised his hand, throwing up a sign to one and all that he was taking responsibility for the turnover that cost the Cavs a chance to get one last shot. It was James' fifth turnover of the game, and Cleveland's 18th; San Antonio scored 22 points off those mistakes, seven more than the Cavs managed off Spurs turnovers. In a tightly contested game with such a small margin for error, such a discrepancy can prove costly, and it did Wednesday for David Blatt's club, which fell to 5-5 as the early-season struggles continue in Cleveland. James has long since sloughed off the ill-fitting late-game choker mantle some commentators saddled him with early in his career — four MVPs, a monstrous statistical record in Game 7s and a pair of championship rings will do that for you — but this note really puts into perspective just how rare such late-game missteps have been for LeBron over the years: This was the 1st time LeBron James had a turnover in the final 5 seconds of a 1-possession game since Jan. 4, 2009 at Wizards — ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 20, 2014 But rare though it might have been, it happened, serving as a somewhat fitting cap to a night that saw James score 15 points on just 6-for-17 shooting and attempt only one free throw in 34 minutes of work. He did add nine assists and six rebounds, but it wasn't enough to keep the Cavs from dropping their second straight, and continuing to look like a team that's capable of producing nearly unstoppable offense only in occasional fits and starts between long stretches of my-turn-your-turn stagnation that don't seem to get the best out of Cleveland's stellar individual pieces. Kevin Love grabbed 11 rebounds and dished five assists, but he missed eight of his 12 shots, including both of his 3-point tries, and often struggled to match up with Spurs big man Boris Diaw (19 points on 8-for-14 shooting, seven assists, six rebounds, three steals and a block in 39 minutes). Kyrie Irving chipped in 20 points on 15 shots and got the better of his individual matchup with Tony Parker (eight points on 2-for-7 shooting and three assists in 33 1/2 minutes), but missed his final three shots — a runout layup just past the midway point of the fourth, a pretty clean look at a left-wing 3 with 3 1/2 minutes left, and a go-it-alone pull-up fadeaway in the paint with just under two minutes remaining — at points where the Cavs needed every make they could muster against the Spurs' stingy defense. Blatt still seems to be searching for rotation answers, too, shelving Mike Miller, limiting former top-five picks Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson to just 21 and 17 minutes respectively, and relying on 2014 second-round pick Joe Harris to play the entire fourth quarter on the wing. And while the rookie out of Virginia has been better than many expected for the Cavs in the early going, guess who the Spurs attacked when they needed a basket in the final 30 seconds to get some breathing room? It's something we've seen the Spurs go to time and again — Manu feeds Parker on the wing then cuts toward the basket; Parker enters to Duncan at the left elbow; Duncan hits Manu on the high-low; Manu, who has done a masterful job to make Harris think he's moving to the corner before reverse-pivoting inside, catches directly in front of the rim and makes the key bucket with his strong left hand. Welcome to the big leagues, Mr. Harris. Enjoy the film session. Another look at Manu's cut and lay-in: Despite the game-sealing bit of late-stage execution by the three Hall-of-Fame linchpins, San Antonio still doesn't quite look like they've found a rhythm yet. The Spurs missed 11 of their 16 3-point tries and eight free throws en route to just 92 points against the Cavs' 26th-ranked defense. But they got enough stops of their own — through 11 games, the Spurs are allowing just 95.7 points per 100 possessions, the third-best mark in the NBA — and enough contributions from the likes of Diaw, Ginobili (seven points, five assists and three rebounds in 33 minutes) and reserve point guard Cory Joseph (10 points on 4-for-5 shooting, three assists and three rebounds in just 18 minutes) to support Duncan, who notched his seventh double-double of the season (19 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, two blocks, two steals) and led the way to San Antonio's seventh win of the season. That, right now, seems to be the difference between the team that ousted James in last summer's NBA finals and the team he joined in hopes of getting back to the championship round. The Spurs know who they are and what they're supposed to be doing, even if they aren't necessarily doing it to their maximum capacity just yet. The Cavs know who they can be, but aren't sure how to get there, and at the moment, they don't seem especially sure of who they are. When those elemental questions remain unanswered, you wind up leaning on individual talent more than team identity. Sometimes, that works out just fine . Sometimes, though, even brilliance blunders, and the result is raising your hand to take blame while the other guys get their hands raised in victory. GIF via Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated . - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow BDL's Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.
Anderson Varejao, who played 18 minutes and failed to score on Monday, blew up for 23 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks on 11-of-16 shooting against the Spurs on Wednesday.
The Scoop:He followed up his worst game of the season with his best and Varejao looks like a complete mystery thus far. After going on a three-game "tear" where he averaged 14.3 points and 4.5 rebounds last week, he disappeared for a two-game streak of 1.0 points and 7.0 rebounds before tonight's explosion. With his season highs in both points and boards tonight, it's possible the Cavs are just going to showcase Varejao in the big matchups this season in hopes of keeping him healthy. And that has fantasy headache written all over it.
For a league with a massive new television deal in its future, in a market featuring several teams with impending cap space, and in the light of the “whee, we’re all tied for first!”-exhibition season, it was more than a little surprising to see NBA teams of all shapes and sizes fail to come to contract extension terms for four-year players last week. Franchises both good and bad, teams both previously smart and previously silly, all decided to let their various contributors enter restricted free agency next summer, rather than locking them before the Oct. 31 deadline. Some are stranger than others. Enes Kanter This big man has always been a bit of an odd duck, and he’s working within a Utah Jazz setup that might not be to his advantage. Kanter, clearly, does not play well alongside Derrick Favors; which is unfortunate, because you’d assume their somewhat versatile skill sets would allow for some ham-and-egging. Kanter is a thick, nearly-7-foot big man that can walk and chew gum at the same time, but the necessity for those sorts of talents has diminished in recent years, and Utah’s decision to hand shooting guard Alec Burks an eight-figure yearly extension (at a similarly diminished position) is telling. The issue with Utah’s decision to pass on coming to terms with Kanter’s salary suggestion is that some team will break the bank for the center this summer. That hypothetical team may not be making the correct decision, but it will happen, and Utah will have to face the prospect of losing out on the third overall pick in the 2011 for no compensation should it choose to decline to match. Expecting that Kanter’s restricted free agent salary would fall in line with what he was attempting to sign for in Utah is a fair assumption, and Enes has only shown flashes of starter-worthy play so far in his career, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a curious decision. Enes Kanter has talent and will but he also has not enjoyed a very good career thus far, and there is the fear that his game might be a bit of an anachronism in a sleeker, less big man-obsessive NBA. He enjoyed an impressive year off the bench in his second season, but his limitations as a defender were revealed last season. The “play for pay” ideal seems appropriate in his case at the moment, but only because we’ve yet to determine which general manager/owner combination will go over the top in attempting to sign Enes this summer. Tristan Thompson As we outlined before , it truly is unfair that a player like Tristan Thompson (or any player, really) has to be considering his NBA future in the hours before and after playing a basketball game that actually counts. A run on national TV , no less, in a preview of what most are expecting to be this year’s Eastern Conference finals. Thompson and the Cavs could not come to an extension agreement on Friday, and while this isn’t the fault of Tristain’s Cavaliers playing the Chicago Bulls on the same Halloween evening, that doesn’t make the NBA’s practice right. Thompson genuinely has quite a bit to lose or gain this season. At this stage in his career, he’s definitely a better player than someone like Enes Kanter or Iman Shumpert, but because of the seeming high ceiling for both Kanter and Shumpert, their potential payday this summer could be far higher than Thompson’s – NBA general managers can talk themselves into just about anything. Tristan has a strange game. He doesn’t rebound as well as you’d like, his main offensive weapon is an Eric Murdock-styled floater, and his length doesn’t make him an absolute knockout defensively. He’s also played on some terrible and not exactly expertly-coached basketball teams. The shine from a stellar season as either Cleveland’s top reserve (as was in full showing on Friday against Chicago) or even starting center (should Anderson Varejao go down) could be enough to influence a general manager to break the bank. Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert has sworn that the luxury tax is of no concern to him currently, but the Cavaliers will be at the salary cap level this summer just based on LeBron James, Kevin Love (once he opts-out and re-signs to a maximum contract) and Kyrie Irving’s deals alone. Toss in Varejao and various other helpers, and you have quite a price to pay – even for what should probably be the 2014-15 NBA champion. The problem for Cleveland is Thompson’s position – they have no obvious replacements lined up, and both the 2011 and 2014 Miami Heat proved that well-respected scrap heap veteran replacements aren’t always the best solution in a pinch. Unless Thompson turns in a terrible year (not the case, thus far), Cleveland will end up paying quite a bit to retain a player they need. They may regret not signing Thompson to his demands in October, but you can excuse the team for acting a bit giddy while watching LeBron, Kyrie, and Kevin Love dart up and down the floor. Iman Shumpert A solid, cut-and-dry move for both sides. Shumpert has intriguing talent, he’s worked through a ACL tear and could genuinely be the sort of hybrid big guard that Knicks president Phil Jackson absolutely loves. Even with obvious names like Kevin Love off the free agent table this offseason, however, Jackson is playing the restricted free agency route to his advantage, here. He has a full season with a (hopefully) healthy Shumpert to scout as a triangle offense participant, and if he doesn’t like what he sees? Good for both team and player. Kawhi Leonard This is a fairly obvious move. The Spurs love Kawhi, as they should, and Leonard seems at home with the team. By all accounts, he’ll be a Spur for life unless something goes terribly wrong. What San Antonio does want to encourage, as is their right, is flexibility. At this cheery-cheeked point of the NBA season, it appears as if an appropriately-rested Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili would want to return in 2015-16 whether or not the Spurs grasp their second straight title, or if they fell to another Western behemoth in the first round. There is always the option, however, that in either glory or a too-early defeat that both players may want to walk away once their contracts expire in July. This would put the Spurs in a position to rebuild on the fly, and if Leonard’s (presumed) maximum contract were on the books at that point, San Antonio would have a tougher go of things acquiring replacements for Tim and Manu (assuming such a thing existed). Leonard has a cap hold that isn’t insignificant, but it’s less than half of what he’d take up on the books had he signed to a max in October. This is why the Spurs decided to embrace the cap hold, as opposed to the salary cap clutch of a contract they’ll have no problem eventually signing Leonard to. Should the worst – a terrible injury – happen, Leonard would still be taken care of. Not only would several other NBA teams want to sign someone like Kawhi Leonard coming off of, say, an ACL tear, but the Spurs would no doubt match any offer. He’s getting his, at some point, as the Spurs continue to think on their feet. Jimmy Butler If you’ll allow us to be dubious, it’s because we’ve dealt with the Bullies before. The Bulls would seem to be taking on the same approach as the Spurs as they take in Butler’s upcoming restricted free agency. With second-year man Tony Snell on the outs with the coaching staff and Mike Dunleavy getting on in age, securing Butler’s two-way game would seem to be of paramount importance as Chicago digs into a win-now setup. The two sides could not come to an agreement, though, which on Chicago’s front end appears to be unfortunate timing – Butler played most of last season through myriad injuries that limited his ability to score efficiently, and it’s quite possible he spent all of the 2014 offseason bargaining from his lowest position of strength. Butler, despite a wrist injury suffered during the exhibition season, also spent the offseason losing weight, adding range to his jump shot,
The Scoop:One of LeBron's favorite teammates, Varejao has quickly established himself as one of the hardest workers in the league and it shows how much the Cavs value him. Varejao is penciled in as the starting Center and will be a good source of boards, which makes him worth owning in standard leagues.
Best known for his wild hair and hustle, Anderson Varejao's heart and hard work got him a new contract with the Cavaliers. Cleveland signed its starting center to a contract extension on Friday. He's making $9.7 million this season and would have been eligible to become a free agent this summer before the Cavs decided to lock him up for a few more seasons. ''Anderson represents how this franchise wants to approach the game of basketball, both on the court and off,'' Cavaliers general manager David Griffin said.
The Scoop: None.
Oct 31 3:44 ET
News (various sources)
No Cavalier attitude as LeBron faces toughest test (AFP) (5 Hours Ago | courtesy: AFP) Nearly a month into his homecoming season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, NBA superstar LeBron James and his new teammates still struggle to discover roles and mesh into a title contender. The Cavaliers snapped a four-game losing streak with a 106-74 victory over Orlando, but at 6-7 on the season remain very much a work in progress. James left the Cavaliers in 2010 for Miami and won two NBA titles and lost twice more in the NBA Finals before making his return to his home region last July, joining Australian guard Kyrie Irving and adding star big man Kevin Love to create a new "Big Three" that figured to make Cleveland the team to beat in the NBA's Eastern Conference. More...