Some Cavs schedule notes.

August 7, 2013

The NBA has released its full 2013-14 schedule of games, and the Cleveland Cavaliers will open their season against the revamped Brooklyn Nets in an NBA TV affair on October 30. (Find the full schedule here.)

The Cavs and Nets have been 2 of the league’s most active franchises this summer — Cleveland’s re-hired Mike Brown as head coach, drafted Anthony Bennett at No. 1, and signed Jarrett Jack, Andrew Bynum and Earl Clark to free-agent contracts, while Brooklyn’s hired the just-retired Jason Kidd as head coach, traded for future Hall of Famers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, and also added a stable of veterans that includes Andrei Kirilenko, Shaun Livingston, Jason Terry and Alan Anderson.

Three years ago this summer, the Cavs opened against KG, Pierce and the Celtics in their post-LeBron debut, scoring a 95-87 win at Quicken Loans Arena. This one’s likely to have a similar atmosphere, and not just because it’s Livingston’s return to Cleveland. The Cavs are 2-1 in home openers in the post-LBJ era.

I like the NBA’s bet here. These are 2 likely playoff teams sure to grab the headlines this year, one for its aging All Stars and the other, if nothing else, for LeBron James’s pending free agency.

Then, there’s the questions. How will Kidd fare in his coaching debut? How will Brooklyn’s starting lineup of 4 superstars — past and present, mostly past — share the ball in the half court? And how will Bynum perform in his first real game action in nearly 18 months?

A few other nuggets on the schedule, in no order of importance.

* I counted 20 back-to-backs through 82 games, with the latter half of 11 of those coming on the road.

* The Cavs have a chance to start fast. Only 4 of the team’s first 13 games are against playoff teams from 2012-13, one of which comes versus a Milwaukee team that lost 3 of its best 4 players, Brandon Jennings (Detroit), Monta Ellis (Dallas) and J.J. Redick (LAC), this summer. That stretch also includes 2 games each against Charlotte, Minnesota, Philadelphia and Washington.

* The longest stretch of road games I counted was 5, from Jan. 10 to Jan. 17, right after which the Cavs return to The Q for 5, from Jan. 20 to Jan. 28, the longest home stretch of the season. The away stretch: Utah, Sacramento, LAL, Portland and Denver; the home stretch: Dallas, Chicago, Milwaukee, Phoenix and New Orleans.

* I only counted 2 other road trips of at least 3 games — Jan. 30 to Feb. 3, at New York, Houston and Dallas; and March 12 to March 16, at Phoenix, Golden State and LAC.

* To the naked eye, the most brutal stretch of games comes Nov. 22 to Dec. 10; the games: at New Orleans, at San Antonio, vs. Miami, at Boston, vs. Chicago, vs. Denver, at Atlanta, vs. LAC and vs. New York. After New Orleans, that’s 8 straight against postseason teams from a year ago, though Boston, Denver and maybe Atlanta are likely to regress.

* Immediately after this stretch comes a 2-day Florida sweep: at Orlando on Dec. 13 and at Miami the next day.

* Ironically, the Cavs’ second home game against Brooklyn, whom they open the season with, is the last game of the season on April 16.

* LeBron’s return to The Q comes early this year — on Nov. 27, the day before Thanksgiving. Miami returns to Cleveland on March 18.

* Andrew Bynum doesn’t have to wait long to play his most recent team, the Philadelphia 76ers … and Philly fans don’t have to wait long to boo. Cleveland and Philly play a home-and-home on Nov. 8 and Nov. 9, the first of which comes at Wells Fargo Center in a Friday night slot that I’d guess could be a national TV affair.

* Jarrett Jack doesn’t return to the ORACLE until March 14, but Golden State travels to Cleveland on Dec. 29.

* The ex-Lakers contingent of Bynum, Mike Brown and Earl Clark returns to L.A. on Jan. 14. The Lakers travel to Cleveland on Feb. 5.

* With Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings in the fold, Detroit figures to compete for a low playoff seed, potentially against the division-rival Cavs. Two of Cleveland’s last 10 come against the Pistons, including an April 9 affair at The Q. The other 2 meetings are Dec. 23, at Cleveland, and Feb. 12, at Detroit.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickJDuprey.

Andrew Bynum to Cavs: All reward, no risk

July 12, 2013

Andrew Bynum is your newest member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. The news of an incentive-laced 2-year, $24-million deal, first reported Wednesday by ESPN’s Chris Broussard, brought out excited Cavs fans on Twitter. And why not.

Admittedly hesitant at first, here’s why I love this deal.

Not a lot of financial risk.

$6 million guaranteed in Year No. 1, Year 2’s a team option. Sign me up!

If Bynum flops, Chris Grant lets him walk next summer and maintains flexibility to sign a max-contract player, such as a LeBron James. Even after the signings of Earl Clark and Jarrett Jack, the Cavs needed to spend to reach the $52-million salary floor. Why not spend it on a 7-footer who’s still only 25 and has averaged double-figure scoring every year he’s played since 2007-08, all while carrying the burden of being Shaquille O’Neal’s successor in L.A.

If Bynum plays well, Grant owns a team option for an affordable $12.5 million, barely $1 million more than DeAndre Jordan and JaVale McGee are scheduled to make, next season. Trade Anderson Varejao and decline team options on Clark and Alonzo Gee, and, boom, you’ve got your max slot again!

Or, Grant could pick up Bynum’s team option and then shop him. L.A. picked up Bynum’s option last summer, only to deal him to Philadelphia in the Dwight Howard trade 2 months later.

The injury history is real, but doesn’t bother me.

Not every day does a team add a 19-point, 12-rebound-a-night center. Those were Bynum’s stats in 60 games in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign, under current Cavs coach Mike Brown, while sharing touches with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. He’s a 2-time NBA champion with 74 postseason games under his belt, easily the most among any current Cavs player barring a Luke Walton return.

Sure, Bynum’s a health risk. He’s played only one 82-game season throughout his 8-year career, and he’s missed at least 15 games 5 out of 7 times since he started earning meaningful minutes in 2006-07. Much is made of how Bynum’s knees, re-aggravated during a November bowling injury, kept him out of all last season in Philly, and how many, including Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, have questioned his work ethic.

But now, Bynum’s legitimately playing for his NBA career. If he flops in Cleveland, and if the knee issues return, he’s going to have a hard time finding anything more than veteran-minimum dollars in free agency next summer.

Look at this roster. This is a playoff team.

There’s five teams in the Eastern Conference above everyone else — in no particular order, Miami, Brooklyn, Indiana, Chicago and New York. Boston traded 2 of its 3 best players, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, to Brooklyn, sent their Hall-of-Fame coach to L.A. and could be shopping Rajon Rondo. Atlanta lost Josh Smith to Detroit, and Milwaukee’s likely to lose Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis and J.J. Redick.

I see the Cavs, next to Washington and Detroit, competing for those 6-8 playoff spots, along with Atlanta, maybe Toronto and whatever Boston throws on the floor.

The Cavs needed an offensive punch, so here comes Bynum, Jack and No. 1 selection Anthony Bennett. The Cavs needed a defensive mentality, so here comes Mike Brown, Clark and Jack.

Barring any other major moves or injuries, that’s a rotation of Kyrie Irving and Bynum, 2 of the league’s top 30 players when healthy; Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Bennett, Jack, Clark, Tyler Zeller, C.J. Miles, Gee and maybe Sergey Karasev. That’s 11 quality NBA talents.

And when they need buckets, a 3-guard lineup of Irving, Waiters and Jack, coupled with Bynum and Bennett would give defenses a lot to handle.

Yeah, I really like this team.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickJDuprey.

3 free agents I’d love to see in Wine & Gold

June 30, 2013

Cleveland Cavaliers GM Chris Grant has quite the rainy day fund to play with, or not play with, this summer. Within the past 2 days, Marreese Speights has declined a $4.5-million player option, and Grant decided not to extend $3-million qualifying offers to Omri Casspi and Wayne Ellington, effectively making all 3 unrestricted free agents. Cleveland owns a $2.25-million team option on C.J. Miles, who was reportedly on the block on draft night.

So, if the Cavs pick up Miles’ option, Grant will have about $30.25 million tied up in 7 players; if not, about $28 million tied up in 6. That does not include any of the team’s 3 draft selections — Anthony Bennett, Sergey Karasev or Carrick Felix — all of whom I’d expect in a Cleveland uniform on opening night.

The salary cap for the 2013-14 NBA season is set for around $58.5 million, and the floor, or minimum teams must spend on players, about $52.65 million, according to Grantland’s Zach Lowe.

Grant has money to burn. But he also has to be smart — next summer’s free agent class, and of course the possibility of LeBron returning, is much better, plus Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson will be due considerable extensions about 16 months from now. So Grant either has to a) front-load any hefty deals, or b) sign veteran guys to 1-year deals.

That said, here’s 3 lower-tier free agents Grant could have at a bargain.

No. 1: Greg Oden, 25, C, free agent

To me, this is a no-brainer low-risk, high-reward type of move. Oden, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2007 Draft, played a year at Ohio State. Alongside Miami, who’s restricted in the amount of money they can offer the 7-footer, Cleveland’s the team most commonly mentioned in the Oden sweepstakes.

Cleveland passed on Nerlens Noel and Alex Len in Thursday’s draft, and thus need a center. The Cavs are not players in the Dwight Howard chase, and, despite a HoopsWorld report to the contrary, I refuse to believe Grant’s serious about signing the sideshow that is Andrew Bynum, who played the same amount of games as Oden last year.

Yes, Oden has not played since the 2009-10 season, and has only played 82 games in his entire career. But consider these stats from his 21 games in ’09-10: 11.1 points on 60% from the field and 77% from the foul line, 8.5 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks in 23.9 minutes. Per 36 minutes, that’s 16.7 points, 12.8 rebounds and 3.5 blocks; in 35.8 minutes per last year, Dwight Howard averaged 17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks.

It would be unwise to expect these numbers from Oden right away, or even at all, but even glimpses over 15 quality minutes a night is worth a few million. A rim-protector and quality finisher in close, Oden would also give the Cavs the 3rd No. 1 overall selection on their roster. If he can be had for $8-10 million over 2 years, with a team option for the second, I’m all for it.

No. 2: Corey Brewer, 27, SF, Denver Nuggets

I’ve loved Brewer’s game for as long as I can remember. Tennessee’s Mr. Basketball in 2004, a 2-time national champion at Florida in 2006 and 2007, the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player in ’07, and an NBA champion in 2011 — though he only appeared in a combined 19 games, regular season and playoffs, for the latter.

Energy, defense, intangibles, more energy. Perhaps George Karl’s up-tempo style was the perfect fit for Brewer; he averaged 12.1 points in 24.4 minutes last year. But he’s also shown he can score in a slower style — he started all 82 games for Minnesota in 2009-10 and netted 13 points per 30.3 minutes.

Mike Brown would love Brewer’s length — he’s 6’9″ — on the perimeter, but how he’d fare defensively in the post, at only 188 pounds, against guys like LeBron James, 250; Carmelo Anthony, 230; and Paul Pierce, 235, is another story. Either way, if the market for small forwards collapsed and Grant threw $3-4.5 million annually at this guy — Brewer made $3.25 this year — I’d be thrilled.

No. 3: Shaun Livingston, 27, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers

Grant doesn’t have to look outside his own locker room for candidate No. 3. A Christmas Day signing in 2012, Livingston contributed, probably too much, to the Cavs this year — he averaged 7.2 points, 3.6 assists and shot 51% from the field in 23.2 minutes. The former No. 4 overall pick even started 12 games as Kyrie Irving missed time late in the year.

The fact that Livingston was able to return from this and, 6 years later, is still a solid role player in this league tells me everything I need to know about the guy. I love his 6’7″-frame on the perimeter, his ability to back down smaller point guards and score over the top, and his effectiveness in delivering the ball to his bigs. By all indications, he’s a quality teammate and an even better backup point for Kyrie, a spot the Cavs had struggled to fill prior to his arrival.

Fox Sports Ohio’s Sam Amico reported June 1 the Cavs like Livingston, but his camp was likely to seek a deal larger than they’d be willing to pay. I’m not saying throw $4-5 million annually at Livingston, but if he finds the market a bit cooler than he expected, I’d be more than happy with a 2-3 year deal worth $2-3 million per. Health is no longer much of a concern; Livingston appeared in 66 games for 2 teams last year, 58 in the lockout-shortened campaign the year prior, and 73 in 2010-11.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickJDuprey.

Dribbles: The Andrew-Bynum-in-Philly debacle

March 20, 2013

So I’m a little late to the ballgame here, but I wanted to get in some quick thoughts on the Andrew Bynum debacle, now that, before he ever dribbled competitively in a Sixers’ uniform, his season is officially over. Bynum had arthroscopic knee surgery on both (knees) today, meaning he’s out for the year and, as an unrestricted free agent this summer, probably permanently done in Philadelphia.

  • Um, what a disaster.

After the Bynum deal went down in August, there were no real concern about Andrew’s health, and even after he was diagnosed with a bone bruise in September, the 76ers expected the big man back for the season opener. Then, the delays kept coming, and the team kept pushing his return date before the inevitable finally came Monday.

In Philadelphia’s defense, it’s not like this guy has a horrible injury history, either. He played 60 games in a 66-game lockout-shortened campaign last season, then started all 12 of the Lakers’ postseason games, even averaging 37.6 minutes per in the process. Bynum’s only played one full, 82-game season in his 8-year career, but has appeared in at least 50 games, of which he’s started the vast majority, every season since 2008-09.

  • So, for a guy who never played, the 76ers gave up WHAT!?!?

Before we delve into just how many young pieces Philly gave up in this deal, remember that, for them, this deal centered around a swap of franchise players, Andre Iguodala for Andrew Bynum. Iguodala’s a very good player — a great athlete who can slash to the basket, finish around the rim, defend from baseline to baseline and more, but he had also been on the trading block for years. And even though Philly peaked probably higher than they should have last year, pushing the Boston Celtics to 7 games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals — a series they advanced to mainly because of Derrick Rose’s torn ACL in Round 1 — this team was not winning anything with a core centered around Iggy. So they dealt him for, when healthy, one of the league’s top 3 centers.

What hurts most for Philly fans is the 3 young pieces they gave up, all to Orlando — a protected 1st-round selection, Nikola Vucevic and first-rounder Moe Harkless. Vucevic, who did start 15 games as a rookie in Philly last year before falling out of Doug Collins’ rotation in the postseason (he played 3 playoff minutes), is averaging a double-double, 12.4 points and 11.5 rebounds, on the NBA’s second-worst team; he’s also tied for 4th in the league in rebounding. Harkless, 19, has started 44 games for Orlando, and despite limited range, has, by all appearances, shown upside as the team’s swing-forward of the future.

In the deal, Philly also took on Jason Richardson’s contract, which, assuming he wisely extends his player option in 2014-15, pays him about $6.4 million per through 2015. (In fairness, J-Rich, 32, was averaging double-figure scoring numbers before a left knee injury prematurely ended his season in February.)

  • So what does Philly do now?

If I’m GM Tony DiLeo, I cut my losses on Bynum this summer and move on. Why compound the organization’s error in dealing for Bynum — which, again, looked like a good deal at the time — by giving him substantial long-term money? There’s a desperate team out there who will give him 8-figures annually, and that team should not be Philly, especially when such a deal would likely put them over the salary cap.

Further reading: Take a look at this Deadspin compilation of Bynum’s highlights in Philadelphia.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickJDuprey.


February 25, 2013

The NBA’s most tightly guarded secret this season may be that Philadelphia’s still in the playoff race. But how? Andrew Bynum, Philly’s centerpiece of the 4-team deal that sent Dwight Howard to L.A. in August, due to bad knees. Bynum has said he will return this season, though that looks increasingly unlikely; said head coach Doug Collins after practice Friday: “He looked like a guy who hadn’t played in 9 months. I don’t think any bells and whistles should be sent off that he’s close to playing.” Jason Richardson is out for the season, also due to a knee injury, and Thaddeus Young, whom Collins has called the team’s ‘most important player,’ has missed 7 games and counting.


So what’s went right in Philadelphia? Well, the Sixers are 22-32 and only 4 games out of the Eastern Conference’s No. 8 playoff seed, currently held by a Milwaukee Bucks team 2-8 in its last 10. Jrue Holiday, now firmly the team’s primary 1-guard given Lou Williams’ departure, has ascended to an All Star status, with career-highs in points, 19.0; assists, 8.8; rebounds, 4.2; FG percentage, 45.4%; and minutes, 38.2.

But then there’s Philadelphia’s, you know, talent issue. Collins’ team is 29th in the NBA in scoring, at a mere 92.2 points per game, and, aside from Holiday, Young and Evan Turner, I’m not sure the Sixers currently have any pieces part of their long-term future. Bynum’s an established center in this league, who averaged 18.7 points and 11 rebounds per last season, but one who’s logged only one full 82-game season in his 8-year career. If I’m GM Tony DiLeo, I’d be hard-pressed to commit long-term to Bynum, especially at max dollars.


Six players on the 76ers average double-figure scoring  — Holiday, 19; Young, 14.9; Turner, 13.9; Nick Young, 11.6; Richardson, 10.5; and Spencer Hawes, 10. A lottery pick by the Sacramento Kings in 2007, Hawes has shown flashes of a more-than-capable 7’1″ center, but his low rebounding rate, 6.4 per 25.6 minutes, is of concern. Young’s a confident, streaky scorer who’s not a consistent defender or, well, anything; he throws up 10 shots a game in less than 26 minutes, but, hey, someone’s gotta score!

Defensively, Philadelphia’s been stellar, tied for 6th in points allowed, at 95.7, and tied for 8th in opponent’s 3-point percentage. But Collins’ crew is much worse on the glass, tied for 26th in rebound differential at -2.6, showing how much they miss Bynum’s size and Young’s athleticism. Philly’s bench is 25th in the NBA in scoring, at only 27.4 points per night, many of which comes from rotation starters Young and Hawes.


(Remember, over the summer, Philly lost Williams, 14.9 points per game; Andre Iguodala, 12.4; Elton Brand, 11.0; and Jodie Meeks, 8.4, while gaining almost nothing in return, at least in short-term scoring. Oh, and they also dealt Nikola Vucevic, who’s averaging a double-double in Orlando.)

The Sixers think they have something in 2nd-year forward Lavoy Allen, who’s undersized for a 4 at 6’9″, but weighs a bruising 255. He’s a limited scorer, 6.6 points per in 23.5 minutes, but a strong rebounder for his size — 5.6 per game — something sorely lacking on the Sixers’ current roster. Dorell Wright’s always intrigued me, with his size, a 6’9″ 3-forward, and range, a 36.3% 3-point shooter, but now in his 9th year in the league, the former 1st-round selection is running out of time to develop into the scorer he flashed in 2010-11, when he averaged 16.4 points in Golden State.


The postseason is, in all likelihood, out of the picture, especially with 3 games remaining against the Miami Heat and 2 separate 4-game road swings. But the moves this team makes this offseason will go a long way in shaping their future — Philly has only 7 players on the books for 2013-14, excluding Kwame Brown’s $3 million player option, which my best guess is he picks up, to the tune of about $45 million. The big decision, of course, rests with Bynum, whose deal would presumably assume the rest of Philadelphia’s cap.

Or, should they let Bynum walk, Philly would enter the summer of 2014 with only 2 players on the books for the following year, Holiday and Young, for a combined $20 million. Then, there’s Turner’s $8.7 million qualifying offer, Richardson’s $6.6 player option and Arnett Moultrie’s $1.1 million team option. So, in theory, even if Philadelphia was ready to commit long-term to Turner, whom the Sixers were reportedly shopping before Thursday’s deadline, DiLeo would still have enough room on the cap to entice a max-level free agent.


In the meantime, it’s a long road back for Philly, who, even with a healthy Bynum, is a fringe playoff team — best case scenario a similar semifinals departure, like in 2011-12. The more likely scenario: a few consecutive years of playoff-less basketball as the Sixers search for their next franchise centerpiece.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickJDuprey.


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