Cavs versus the Charlotte Bobcats. Movable object, meet resistible force. The Cavs had lost five in a row heading into last night’s tilt, which made them the hotter of the two teams (Charlotte was on a seven-game skid).
Personally, I was looking forward to this game with the same warm anticipation that the Native Americans had for the arrival of the colonists, knowing that they would soon have scorching cases of syphilis. The Charlotte crowd had just as much enthusiasm – about half of them came dressed as empty seats, and the rest were consistently ignoring the courtside announcer’s pleas of “DEE-FENSE,” “LET’S GO ‘CATS,” and so forth.
These are two bad teams right now. The Cavs have been decimated by lost player time. Last night, LeBron James would miss his fifth straight game (sprained finger); Donyell Marshall would miss his 19th straight game (injured wrist); and Anderson Varejao would miss his 21st straight game (brain-damaged agent). Charlotte is reasonably healthy (although Porn Stache Morrison is out for the year with a blown ACL); they just suck. The daily standings chart, which normally features “GB” (for games behind), now has a column called “LYB” (for light years behind), thanks to the Bobcats.
Two other reasons why I have little energy as I type these words:
Okay, time to stop complaining about writing this article. The Cavs gave us plenty to complain about in their own right, falling to the Bobcats, 96-93. The loss dropped the Cavs to fourth place in the Central Division, five games behind the eeeevil Pistons.
Mind you, the Bobcats did not want to win. “Take this game!,” they told the Cavs. “We don’t want it! Really!” If you doubt that statement, check out the final moments of the game:
In case you are counting, that is three complete brain cramps by Charlotte in the last thirty seconds of the game. We’re not talking about the ’65 Celtics here. (No, I don’t mean the ’65 Boston Celtics; I am referring to the 1965 Brooklyn Rec (Seven-Eight Year Old) Celtics, a team that (despite possibly never existing) displayed a finer grasp of the game.
Larry Hughes, returning from his knee injury, scored 22 points off the bench to lead the Cavs. Gibson and Brown each had 15 points. Wallace took enough time away from his fascination with senseless fouls to lead the Bobcats with 22 points; Emeka Okafor added 19.
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THE GAME:
Department Of Things I Never Thought I’d Say: It’s nice to see Hughes back in uniform. Yes, it was the typical Larry At The O.K. Corral shooting line (6-of-17 from the field); and yes, he turned the ball over four times. But he slashed to the basket time and again (he went to the free-throw line nine times, and made all but one of his attempts there), and brought a shot of energy to the sleepwalking Cavs.
The past three weeks have shown Hughes’s true value, in much the same way it is also shown Marshall’s. It’s not that Hughes is a great player, or even a good player. It’s not that he will ever be worth the fierce jack that The Balded One showered upon him three years ago. It’s that when he plays, he keeps even worse players on the bench. Devin Brown, Damon Jones, Eric Snow … all of them figure to lose playing time now that Hughes has returned. That is Not A Bad Thing.
Highlight Reel Times Two!: Brown had a SportsCenter-worthy play last night. With the Cavs leading 17-11, he drove the ball down the right side of the lane, then made a sweet spin move to the left for the basket. It was sufficiently impressive to earn him the I Forget The Name Of The Sponsor Drive Of The Game from the announcers.
What’s that? You say you already saw SportsCenter, and they featured a different Shannon Brown play? Okay, make that two SportsCenter-worthy plays. The real highlight reel play came in the closing moments of the first half. Brown had the ball outside the arc on the left side. He dribbled to the right, and found … that the lane was wide open. So he charged into the lane, and soared into the air for a thunderous dunk. (The hell with SportsCenter; see it right now on YouTube.) Say what you will about Brown’s game; the kid has a lot of athletic ability, and he showed it.
Reggie Gibson? Daniel Miller?: It was a small sign, but one that shows that Gibson is starting to understand how to tilt the playing field in his favor. With four minutes remaining in the game, he rose for a deep jumper. As he was in the air, he kicked his right leg out ever so slightly … and he ever so slightly bumped into Charlotte’s Raymond Felton … and he ever NOT so slightly crashed to the ground. The refs called the foul and gave Gibson two free throws. Reggie Miller made a career out of that one play, and a damn good career at that. Nice to see the baby-faced Gibson learning a few of the veteran tricks.
You Knew It Was Coming: Well, you did if you read this column last season. It’s time to re-start the Walter Herrmann bandwagon. Walter (not “Herrmann”; Walter – he is a first-name talent, like LeBron, or Kobe, or Shaq) is a reserve forward for the Bobcats. Last season, I became enamored with him after watching him do the human equivalent of a dog chasing its own tail. After I wrote about him, he started getting more playing time, eventually becoming a vital performer for the Bobcats. (He even earned some Rookie of the Year votes.)
Well, it is now the 2007-08 season, and Herr … I mean Walter is back to being a seldom-used reserve on the Bobcats’ bench. He got into last night’s game for a few minutes, scoring five points. I’ve been a bit derelict in my coverage of Walter (of course, all Cleveland sports writers should pay attention to the end of the Charlotte bench), but I am going to change that, starting now. Just as we did last season, we’ll check in on Walter from time to time.
And this year, it is early enough that we can stage a write-in campaign to send Walter to the All-Star Game. I’m serious about this. When All-Star balloting time comes (it may already be here; I am too lazy to check), I want you (both of you) to jam the Internet with write-in votes for Walter. When you attend a game, grab a stack of ballots from the usher and fill them with Walter’s name. I want to show the power of the people, and to teach the Bobcats that they ignore their budding superstar at their own peril.
(Aside to Cavs announcer Austin Carr: Walter looks nothing like Fabio. Both of them are men, and both of them have long hair. That is where the similarity ends.)
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE ABOUT THE GAME:
Twenty-Seven: It’s the number of outs in a baseball game. It’s about the upper limit of the counting abilities of my four-year-old.
It’s also the number of times the Cavs turned the ball over last night. Twenty-sporking-seven times. Remember Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, in which the principal’s words that Ferris had missed school nine times kept ringing through the mother’s ears? (Though not TOO much, as she was still duped into believing that a synthesizer-snoring dummy was actually her son.) That’s the voice I want ringing through all of the Cavs’ players’ ears this morning. Twenty-seven times. Twenty-seven times.
Consider this series of plays, in the crucial final moments of the game:
Stomach-turning, no? Remember: I watch the games so you don’t have to.
It Wasn’t Just The End Of The Game: When you turn the ball over twenty-seven times, chances are you are making gaffes the entire game. As fellow site writer Sam Amico pointed out the other day, the first few minutes of the second half are a critical time of the game. Let’s see how the Cavs handled these delicate moments, shall we?
No wonder Charlotte took a seven-point lead during that time.
By the way, Pavlovic followed up his two turnovers with a flagrant foul. For his efforts, he was rewarded with a quick seat on the bench; he would not return the rest of the game
For His Next Trick, The 7’3” Man Will Make Himself Invisible: Nobody misses LeBron more than Ilgauskas. Until LeBron’s injury, Z was averaging a shade under 15 points per game. In the six games that LeBron has missed due to injury (including the Detroit game, when King James was in civvies by the third quarter), Z has averaged nine points. Apparently nobody else on the Cavs is able to run the pick-and-fade with the big guy; he is getting no outside shots these days. Come to think of it, the rest of the team is not getting the ball to Z in the post either. Ilgauskas, like almost every other big man in the history of roundball, is not really able to create his own shot; his effectiveness depends on the little guys getting him the ball in an advantageous position.
Now He’s A Verb!: Twice last nice, Devin Brown made nice plays, only to immediately follow them up with boneheaded moves. In the second quarter, he stole a pass under the Cavs’ hoop … then drove the ball right into traffic, where Charlotte’s Jeff McInnis (yes, that Jeff McInnis; Charlotte also features another long-forgotten former Cavalier in Derek Anderson; I was half-expecting Milt Palacio to come off the Bobcats’ bench) stole it for the easy hoop.
Later, in the fourth quarter, Devin collared a rebound … only to throw the outlet to Charlotte’s Richardson.
I would like to suggest, in Urban Dictionary style, that to “Devin Brown” (or maybe just “Devin”) means to follow up a smart move with a total brain cramp. He got a date with the hot girl at the end of the bar, but then he Devined it by asking her if he could bring his girlfriend too. I think we may be onto something here.
I would also like to make one more suggestion, this time to the NBA brain trust: when you are writing a play-by-play summary of the game, and a team features two players with the same last name, use their first names/initials so we can tell them apart. Thanks to Shannon and Devin, it looks like this “Brown” character was really active last night! The height of the absurdity is this entry, dating to nine seconds remaining in the third quarter:
Brown Substitution replaced by Brown
I think they should have noted that Coach Mike Brown ordered the substitution. I’m just glad that the Cavs did not sign P.J. Brown.
NOT THAT YOU ASKED, BUT…
It’s Like He Meant It For Me: Austin Carr, on Anderson Varejao getting back into shape: “I don’t care if you run marathons; you’re not in game shape.”
Ouch, babe. Very ouch.
The inevitable follow-up question is “can 7,269 people dressed as Santa Claus take part in a five-mile run?” You will be relieved to know that the answer is yes. According to CNN, this event, which took place last weekend, set a record for the most number of Santa Clauses (Santa Cli?) in one location. (Nice to know somebody is tracking these things.) If you can imagine, the gathering took place in Las Vegas, where “ho ho ho” usually means “send three girls to my room.”
WHAT LIES AHEAD:
The light at the end of the tunnel is here! Tuesday’s home game against Indiana should bring the return of both LeBron and Varejao. They will then have a couple of extra days of practice before traveling to New Jersey Friday night (speaking of the Nets, those Jason Kidd rumors sure died a quick death, no?).