Welcome to the sixty-fourth installment of Right Down Euclid’s “Weekly Roundtable.” This Friday Trevor Magnotti and Zak Kolesar sit down and discuss the latest trending topics concerning your Cleveland Cavaliers and the NBA. The combination of rotating RDE duos answer three questions regarding the hometown Wine and Gold and two questions surrounding the league.
Today the discussion revolves around Cleveland’s road troubles, Kyrie Irving’s killer crossover against Pablo Prigioni, Andrew Bynum’s recent play, the Rudy Gay trade and stellar coaching by Brad Stevens.
First Question: What are you noticing about how the Cavaliers have played on the road through 12 games?
Trevor Magnotti: Maybe that they just might be a bad road team? I don’t normally put much stock into home versus away unless a.) It’s involved in a back-to-back or b.) You’re a team like the Knicks or Warriors who have a serious home-court advantage. However, a 2-10 record is terrible, especially when that includes losses at Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Charlotte (twice!), and Boston. They’ve cracked 100 points on the road twice (against Milwaukee and New Orleans) and gave both of those games away in the fourth quarter. Kyrie plays decidedly worse in road games, going from 23/3/7 on 43 percent shooting at home to 18/3/5 on 38 percent shooting on the road. Part of it could be that the Cavs have played an absurd amount of back-to-backs early this season, but they are 4-2 in the second half of back-to-backs so far, while going 1-6 (!!!) on the front end of back-to-backs. Five of their road losses have been in the front end of back-to-backs, so maybe Brown’s travel game plan is to blame? I don’t know. Either way, the next four road games are Miami, Chicago, Boston, and Indiana. The Cavs should probably try to play better on the road because all of those games will be challenging.
Zak Kolesar: It’s true that the Cavaliers have had a pretty brutal road schedule so far this season, but I’m going to disagree that it’s because they’re just a bad road team. Yes, part of it is because they might not have the support of their home crowd behind them, as they have won the second end of back-to-backs after returning home after a road trip. But these wins have come after being blown out by Philadelphia, Boston and Atlanta and then returning home to beat the 76ers, Bulls and Clippers respectively. But, they also blew a home game against the Bobcats at home, and then went on to beat the Wizards in overtime on the road. Yes, this trend is going against my theory, but I’m noticing something different. Over their last four road matches (against San Antonio, Boston, Atlanta and Orland), the Cavs have been outscored by 13.3 points in the first quarter. As Dion pointed out, it’s because the team is not coming out with a sense of urgency from the tipoff. The stagnant offense is causing these problems, as we saw on Friday. But, we also saw that Cleveland can be a functional team on the road, as the backcourt of Irving/Waiters carried the team to victory. I’d like to see this lineup earlier on in games, and then we’ll start seeing Cleveland win road games at a .500 rate.
Second Question: Have some fun with this one: provide a narrative of what was going through the minds of Kyrie and Pablo during this sequence: Kyrie Irving Crossover GIF
Pablo: Bien, necesitará obtener una parada aquí. Ni idea de por dónde se va a ir, pero él no puede ser más difícil de proteger a Manu. Oh aquí viene una pantalla de que Thompson tipo. Mejor deslizarse bajo ESPERA, NO, OTRA MANERA. ¿Cómo se mueven con la gracia del OCELOTE ARGENTINA?
(Translation: Well, you need to get a stop here. No idea where it’s going, but he can not be more difficult to protect than Manu. Oh, here comes a screen from that Thompson guy. Best slide under…WAIT, NO OTHER WAY. How do they move with the grace of the Argentinian ocelot? NOOOOOOOOOOO)
Kyrie: Buckets buckets buckets buckets buckets buckets buckets
ZK: I struggled immensely in Spanish over this past semester, so bravo Trevor. I can’t top this, but I figured their exchange went something like this:
Pablo: (with this track playing in the back of his head) Kyrie, Kyrie, Kyrie, can’t you see? That orange thing you have just hypnotizes me. And I just love your flashy moves, get to the basket with shakes and grooves.
Kyrie: (with this track playing in the back of his head) Neeeeeeew Yoooooork, tanking city, why can’t I play every game against you? Your defense is see-through.
Third Question: Ever since Andrew Bynum has been inserted in the starting lineup, he’s become a shell of the man who called himself a shell of his former self a few weeks back. Why do you think Bynum has regained confidence in his on-court abilities?
TM: I just think that he’s played better as a focal point of the offense. Bynum has slowly become more efficient on offense, as he’s gotten more confidence in his knee. This is evidenced by his true shooting percentage jumping by nine percent since his insertion into the starting lineup. He also gets quite a few more touches per game, and that is coaching. It appears as though Mike Brown really wants to establish Bynum inside, especially early on in games, and that is going to boost your confidence. Combine that with better function out of his knees, and of course Bynum’s confidence is going to be high.
ZK: It’s crazy that the same Bynum who said that he might not find joy in playing the game of basketball again a few weeks back is now smiling from ear to ear after each of Cleveland’s past three victories. I agree that Brown’s game plan of getting him the rock more down low is definitely helping in boosting his confidence, especially when Kyrie is on the court. Although his shooting percentages haven’t reached the previous levels that he put up with the Lakers, his offense is trending in the exact direction that the Cavs want it to. This could be because that Bynum was often the third option in that Lakers offense, but what I’m seeing is a Bynum that is getting great position down low (both on offense and defense) and taking advantage of his touches. Being inserted in the starting lineup this early in the season is the best thing that Brown could have down to boost his self-esteem, so great call, coach Brown.
Fourth Question: What are your thoughts on the Rudy Gay trade?
TM: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I can’t believe the Kings made this deal. Not only are they trapped with a high amount of guaranteed salary now, but they traded their best offensive point guard and a pretty decent stretch four to Toronto for Gay. They did drop John Salmons, which was good, but the Kings have said they are going to experiment with Gay at the four, which is not going to end well. The Kings needed a strong defensive wing who could compliment Boogie Cousins and the menagerie of shooters they have on the outside. They are getting a good defensive wing, but Gay is a black hole, and I have no idea how this improves what is the 23rd best offense in the league. I see this ending poorly for Sacramento, and my only hope now is that we see a Jimmer/Marcus Thornton/Ben McLemore/Gay/DMC lineup consistently, because that lineup may be the one that finally let’s us see what it’s like when two guys try to shoot the ball at the same time. As far as the Cavs are concerned, I think we’re gonna have to wait another year for the Kings’ first-rounder we’re owed.
ZK: At 6-15 and with the addition of Derrick Williams, this team has slightly better (and I use that term very loosely), but Gay at the 4? No. Thanks. But, as Sam Amick pointed out, if this team can finish they rest of the season playing around .500 basketball (seems unlikely, but could happen), they could very much lose their 2014 pick that they owe the Cavaliers from the J.J. Hickson trade. I agree with Trevor that the Wine & Gold will probably have to wait another year for the Sacramento pick, but Williams has been playing much better since joining for the Kings (13/5, shooting 51.4 percent from the field), so it could happen. They’re not winning yet, but the addition of Gay, if he can learn to be a team shooter, could benefit the Cavs.
Fifth Question: Brad Stevens is an early frontrunner for Coach of the Year through the first quarter of the NBA season. Why has he been so pivotal to the success of the Celtics thus far?
TM: Mainly he’s instilled a solid system for his players. He’s a young guy coaching a young team, and that has to be easy for the players to buy in to. He’s really settled in and helped these guys develop, which should be this team’s primary goal, and you can see it in each player’s individual play. Jared Sullinger has turned into a monster on the glass. Avery Bradley’s three-point shooting is better. Jordan Crawford looks like a viable offensive threat (???). And somehow, this team is a top-half of the league defense in terms of efficiency. That’s amazing. The Celtics have been one of the better stories in a depressing East this year, and Stevens is a huge reason why.
ZK: And Jared Sullinger is shooting threes (!!!), something that Brad Stevens is in love with from the big guy. He’s attempting about three shots from beyond the arc at a 30-percent clip with most defenders sagging off from him in this area. If he starts to get hot, players will obviously catch on, but Stevens remembers watching Sullinger in high school and loving his long-range game. Overall, he knows and is noticing the strengths of his team. Crawford is becoming an offensive threat for the Celtics, especially from a distributing standpoint; yet another strength that Stevens is noticing in his players through the first quarter. You’re seeing qualities from players like Sullinger and Crawford because Stevens stresses that this is the most important part of being a coach. The guys playing at an NBA level are in the League because they have a specific/specific strengths. Stevens is taking advantage of this beautifully early on, as you can tell from his interview with Zach Lowe earlier this week.
Make sure to check back next week to see what Trevor Magnotti and Chris Manning have to debate at the “Weekly Roundtable.”