The Cleveland Cavaliers just might be a lot closer to turning their franchise around after a disastrous campaign last year; than many of their fans think, as they demonstrated with a dramatic 96-90 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Chesapeake Energy Arena Friday night. The loss for the Thunder was just the second at home during this campaign, as they have the best record in the Western Conference and second best in the Association at 31-9, after the Friday night defeat. .Oklahoma City is a viable candidate to represent the West in the NBA Finals this June, which would be their first battle for the Larry O’Brien Trophy since their days as the Seattle Supersonics. With a record of 15-23, given the caliber of the opponent and that they were only the second team to beat the Thunder at home, this may have been Cleveland’s biggest victory of the season and a good size leap in the growth curve in Year Two ALJ (After LeBron James.)
It was their second win in a row, after topping the Denver Nuggets 100-99 to snap a six game slide, that began before the All-Star break. Veteran Antawn Jamison seems to be relishing his role as the leader of a club in rebuild mode, as he led Cleveland with 21 points in the win. Rookie point guard Kyrie Irving was not prolific offensively against the Thunder, however he dished off 12 assists and directed the offense down the stretch as if he were NBA Legend Tiny Archibald during his prime.
The number one pick in last June’s NBA Draft appears to be the odds-on choice to capture the NBA Rookie Of The Year Award and rightfully so, as he has flourished during his baptism by fire this season. He has been the starter at the point since day one and has averaged 18.3 points, 5.4 assists and 3.5 rebounds per contest, while averaging just 2.9 turnovers per game, a very impressive accomplishment for a rookie who is on the floor over 31 minutes per contest.
A few weeks ago, Cleveland fans started speculating that perhaps it would be better for the team’s future if they tanked games this year. Cavaliers head coach Byron Scott bristled at the suggestion; stating that he was not in the business of losing games. Scott is one of the best young coaches in the Association and he is a true asset for the team. He got a raw deal in his first two stops as coach with the New Jersey Nets and the New Orleans Hornets, after bringing unprecedented success to both organizations. General Manager Chris Grant and Team Owner Dan Gilbert seem to realize the good fortune they have with Scott running the team on the floor. The Cleveland bench boss has been to the mountaintop many times as a player with the Lakers during the “Showtime Era” and he knows what it takes for a team to get there.
The team has played for almost a month without the man who had been their starting center Anderson Varejao, as he fractured his right wrist in a loss to Milwaukee in February. The original time-table for Varejao’s recovery was estimated to be between 4-6 weeks, which means he could be back with the team before the end of the March or in early April. The native of Brazil was putting up All-Star type numbers before his injury averaging 10.8 points and 11.5 boards per game and after he gets back into playing shape, he should once again be a help to his squad.
Grant made two good choices in the 2011 NBA Draft, especially with Irving, however forward Tristan Thompson has shown he has talent and in glimpses has shown his potential. He leads the teams in blocks with 1.2 per game. Grant also completed a trade with the Sacramento Kings; which was a lose-lose deal for both clubs as Cleveland received forward Omri Casspi in return for big man J.J. Hickson. Casspi now sits on the bench, after losing his starting position, while Hickson has reportedly been shopped by the Kings but has evoked zero interest.
There has been a lot of reports of other teams interest in veteran guard Ramon Sessions, Anthony Parker’s name has been bandied about and Jamison could help a team that needs a scorer get to that next level. However, my advice to Grant would be to let things ride; keep the status-quo unless he is overwhelmed in a deal. Keeping the chemistry the way it is, may just be the better route for Irving, Thompson and other young players such as Alonzo Gee in the long-term, than acquiring another draft pick.