The Scoop:"I don't think it's going to change," Varejao said. "I played with LeBron for six years and what I did was playing defense, setting screens for everybody, fighting for every rebound and being ready on the offensive side when I get the ball." Varejao's statement basically verifies his limited fantasy potential with the Cavaliers, but he can still provide owners in deeper leagues with solid rebounding numbers.
The Scoop:"I feel pretty good. I feel like I'm 100 percent," said Varejao. "I feel like I'm moving a lot better. I'm healthy. I feel like I'm in shape." Varejao had a rough four-years following the departure of LeBron James, as he's averaged just 37 games per season. However, Cleveland was also exquisitely bad during that time, so he really didn't have much to play for. But now with the Cavs penciled in as championship-favorites, Varejao will need to remain healthy and bring his defensive intensity on a nightly basis. Varejao is mostly a rebounding specialist, and given his extensive injury history, he doesn't merit much more than a late-round flier in standard leagues.
The idea of an obvious NBA leader is a tricky thing. Point guards are typically asked to act as a team’s leader because they tend to walk the ball up court and call the plays, but oftentimes the best NBA offenses don’t – or shouldn’t – rely on a point man dominating the ball. The top overall pick in a draft is usually added to a team to become its franchise player, but working as a high lottery selection usually means you’re paired with players on a terribly poor team. They could include aging and disinterested vets, youngsters that haven’t gotten their act right, or limited players that no amount of sound leadership can help remake or remodel. Acting as the most talented player on the team usually means being burdened with the status/privilege of acting as a leader, but an ability to break down defenses or swat away heaps of shots doesn’t always lend itself to being able to act a right Knute Rockne in the locker room. These are the fascinating elements that have long been in place in a star-driven league that still relies on strong team play to win. Nobody knows this more that Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, who was drafted first overall in 2011 before watching his Cavaliers take two more top overall selections in the years since, while never coming close to sniffing the playoffs in his three NBA seasons. Now paired with LeBron James and tasked with acting as the lead guard on a championship contender after years of watching his team’s championship contention end sometime around Christmas, Irving copped to failings as a “leader” in an interview with RealGM’s Shams Charania recently : “I haven’t been a leader – not at all,” Irving told RealGM. […] “I’m more than excited with our new veterans. I’m really excited just from the standpoint of how the locker room is going to go and how to really be a professional. I’m not saying that the veterans that we had weren’t professionals themselves, but we didn’t have enough. Given the right and wrong things to do in the league, I’ve had to learn on my own and that’s what some of us been doing. “Now, we have guys who’ve been in the league for years, guys who’ve won championships and have had to give a piece of their game for the greater good of the team. It’s something I admire and something I’m going to learn from.” Irving truly does have it made with James in the room, a star who has dealt with more criticism than any player in NBA history not so much because of his early failings, but because of an ever-growing amount of media saturation on several different platforms. Whether James deserved it or not is beyond the point. What matters now, entering 2014-15, is that LeBron James has been through the storm. From here, we have to move onto the question of whether or not Irving deserves criticism. The Cleveland Cavaliers foolishly thought they could contend after James left the team in 2010, the franchise’s owner said as much in a public letter, and refused to rebuild until a miserable 2010-11 campaign was past its midpoint. The squad then lottery-lucked its way into receiving the top overall pick in selecting Kyrie, who was tossed into a world of dysfunction. Irving had played just 11 games at Duke the season before and missed a proper NBA training camp and rookie orientation program due to the league’s locking out of its players. He also missed 38 games due to injury over the course of his first two seasons, as coach Byron Scott seemed to stand helplessly by on the sidelines. The re-hiring of Mike Brown in Irving’s third year didn’t seem to help, nor did the arrival of top overall pick Anthony Bennett. Tristan Thompson’s growth has come on the slowest of curves, and lottery pick Dion Waiters has both clashed with Irving and shown a miserable sense of shot selection and station at times. This has not been an ideal upbringing. Could Irving have done much about it? Possibly, but certainly not enough to create massive change in the Cavalier ranks. None of these teams should have come close to the postseason. One has to work through the paces, because not every certain star can come into the league and play for a ready-made winner, as Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were gifted. It took Isiah Thomas years and two or three different variations of his Detroit Pistons. Same with Michael Jordan, including four coaches along the way. And if Irving wants to model himself after anyone, LeBron James wouldn’t be a bad place to start. James deferred in his first season in the presence of knuckleheads like Darius Miles and Ricky Davis. He did the absolute best he could after free agent signings like Donyell Marshall and Larry Hughes – rightfully lauded at the time – failed to pan out. He took a miserable supporting cast to the 2007 NBA Finals, he handled the terrible and embarrassing mistake that was The Decision as best he could, and properly responded to the disappointment of losing the 2011 NBA Finals to a (better) Dallas Mavericks club with professionalism and a re-shaping of his offensive game. Along the way, he’s watched as his Q rating, respect amongst peers and reputation amount journalists and fans have come to match his already-sterling production on the basketball court. Irving hasn’t been through a scintilla of what James has, and while he is still going to be counted on to wreak havoc on NBA defenses (while improving his own work on that side of the ball), he can also be counted on as the NBA’s luckiest man. Cleveland Cavaliers front office and ownership group excluded, of course. This is where Irving can step up. LeBron James has played deep into June for four consecutive years, and he wants to do the same for four more, but he’ll need another voice as his enters his 30s (in this unprecedented career) and wearies. James didn’t mention Andrew Wiggins in his Cavalier announcement . Kevin Love isn’t yet part of this team and the enjoyment of once again playing alongside Anderson Varejao only counts for so much. LeBron James returned to Cleveland to come back to northern Ohio, but in strict basketball terms he returned to play alongside Kyrie Irving. Kyrie Irving can use this as all the cachet he needs in order to keep things moving correctly on the court, and in the locker room. He’s been blessed with something pretty special, and the good news is that he’s apparently more than aware of it. - - - - - - - Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops
The Miami Heat “only” won two championships during LeBron James’ four seasons with the team, with the main personnel criticism from that run coming in the form of chiding the team’s front office for only going after big names in its attempts to build a roster. Mike Miller seemed obvious. Shane Battier seemed like a pick from straight out of central casting. Ray Allen seemed like a perfect, famous fit. Chris Andersen seemed like the way to go. Even the buy low options – former high end lottery picks like Greg Oden and Michael Beasley – had enough Q rating to make the headlines. We’d heard and seen all of these players before, and in the end there wasn’t a whole lot of home-grown talent to work with. The Cleveland Cavaliers, to the dismay of some, are taking the same approach. Veteran forward Shawn Marion has reportedly agreed to terms with the team in the advance of what Shawn hopes will be another championship turn . Marion will join what could turn out to be a star-studded front court, should the expected trade for Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star Kevin Love go down as expected. Ray Allen could also join the team. Mike Miller is already on the team. Names, names, big names. Marion’s production declined last season in Dallas as Monta Ellis’ impact swelled, but he’s a bargain at the minimum, $1.4 million price he’ll make next season. Capable at either the stretch four or small forward position, the former All-Star and 2011 NBA champion (sorry, LeBron) can defend three positions soundly and stretch the floor even if he’s not making the league average percentage from three-point range. Additionally, in a four-and into-five year run that has seen LeBron James make the Finals four times in a row (something Michael Jordan never did), Marion will give James a blow as a wing and big forward defender; something he never had in Miami. He’ll also perform better than Love, should the potential trade go through, as a pick and roll defender in undersized lineups. The criticism from here, and a quick search around the Internet will reveal as much, is that the Cleveland Cavaliers don’t really need more forwards, shooters and scorers. That they really need a big man in case Anderson Varejao (currently playing international basketball for Brazil’s team) goes down, and a reserve point guard. My criticism of that criticism? I’ll steal from Seinfeld – who are these people? That same Internet search will reveal columns that don’t actually point to who the Cavaliers should be attempting to sign or trade for, nor do they chide the Cavs for declining to pursue previously signed players in this offseason. There are no actual specifics behind the non-moves, just bash-work centered on the idea that the Cavs failed to land the mythical “guy who can protect the rim” without noting that that particular guy wasn’t really available this summer. Were the Cavaliers supposed to pull Joakim Noah out of a hat? In response to that, you go after the best players available – and Shawn Marion/ potentially Ray Allen on the cheap, and a 26-and-12 guy in return for a couple of talented kids clearly fit that mindset. “LeBron James-as-general manager”-jokes abound these days, and that’s fine, but this isn’t some instance of LBJ/GM building some fluffy cadre of stars. These are the guys that are around this summer, via trade or signing. Tyson Chandler isn’t available until next summer. Roy Hibbert can’t be had in return for Dion Waiters. Joakim Noah isn’t going anywhere. And capable defensive-minded reserve centers just don’t walk the earth anymore. Those guys are called “starting centers.” In lieu of those candidates, you sign a slim but strong hybrid forward on his last legs to the minimum salary, and keep your eye on an ever-churning trade and free agent market. Shawn Marion isn’t the answer in Cleveland, but he sure as hell doesn’t hurt the Cavaliers’ championship chances. More NBA coverage: - - - - - - - Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops
The return of LeBron James to the Cleveland Cavaliers isn't just the biggest story of the NBA offseason — it's also been a major point of pride for an entire fan base and metropolitan area. After years of being left by prominent athletes in many sports, with LeBron's 2010 decision to bolt for South Beach serving as the ultimate disappointment, the people of Cleveland and surrounding areas now have considerable reason to celebrate. Now that the Cavs are set to add All-Star power forward Kevin Love in a matter of weeks, there's only more reason to feel that good times are ahead. On Friday, Cavs fans finally got to welcome LeBron in a more formal way. In a rally at InfoCision Stadium in his hometown of Akron, roughly 30,000 fans gave James a hero's welcome back to Ohio and the Cavaliers. The event didn't feature the same hyperbole as LeBron's welcome party in Miami four years ago (which is probably for the best), but it did give Cavs fans even more reason to get excited about the return of the four-time MVP. That's because they can expect James to stick around well past the end of his current two-year contract. Zac Jackson of Fox Sports Ohio has more from the event-opening press conference held before several reporters and members of LeBron's foundation: "I'm not going anywhere ever again," James said. "I don't have the energy (for free agency)." James spoke for about 15 minutes in an empty locker room at the University of Akron's InfoCision Stadium, just a few miles from where he grew up and attended high school. He made his decision July 11, then flew to Brazil, and has been everywhere from New York City to China in recent weeks. [...] James said winning a title in Cleveland "would be the greatest achievement of my life on the court." Multiple reports have the Cavaliers acquiring All-Star forward Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves later this month, as soon as league rules allow No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins to be traded. Asked to address that, James started by saying he believes Kyrie Irving can be one of the NBA's best points guard, that he "loves the chip on Dion (Waiters') shoulder" and that "we could with nine (Anderson Varejaos) and me." [...] "If it happens, I'm very excited," James said of Love. "I don't really care about the 26 (points) and 12 (rebounds Love averaged last season). I care about the basketball IQ." He said he welcomed the additions of former Heat teammates James Jones and Mike Miller because "to bring on champions, that helps in the locker room. They've been there." The event in Akron has a decidedly populist feel, with seating available on a first-come, first-serve basis for those who were lucky enough to nab free tickets online. Fans lined up as many as four hours in advance of doors opening: Fans already in line for LeBron. #welcomehomelebron @wkyc pic.twitter.com/NuqpPq3P6Z — Jonathan Adkins (@Producer_Jon) August 8, 2014 Those lines eventually got much, much longer:
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:Varejao has rejoined the team in Atlanta, giving him a chance to play through his sprained AC joint. He'll come off the bench and cut into some of Spencer Hawes' upside if he does suit up.
Apr 4 12:00 ET
News (various sources)
LeBron banner approved to hang in Cleveland (The Associated Press) (1 Day Ago | courtesy: The Associated Press) CLEVELAND (AP) -- A larger-than-life LeBron James will again tower over downtown. More...