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Friday, December 28, 2007

The One They Owed Them: Cavaliers Repay Mavericks for Opening Night Defeat

The Cleveland Cavaliers took another step toward regaining the form that carried them to the 2007 NBA Finals, earning an 88-81 road win versus the Dallas Mavericks. The Cavaliers had not won in Dallas since 2000 and were booed on opening night by their home court fans during an embarrassing 92-74 loss to the Mavericks; as Chris Berman (channeling Howard Cosell, as he often does) would say, "I remember because I was there." The formula for the Cleveland win, as usual for this team, consisted of rebounding (56-45 advantage), defense (Dallas shot .365 from the field and scored fewer than 20 points in two quarters) and the all-around brilliance of LeBron James (game-high 24 points, eight rebounds, seven assists). This was not a pretty game by any means and the Cavaliers shot just as poorly (.364) as the Mavericks did but good teams are able to win "ugly" games. Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 18 points and 11 rebounds, while Larry Hughes added 17 points, nine rebounds and three assists. Hughes is an erratic shooter and is often the target of boos and derision by Cleveland fans but there is no disputing the fact that this team is most successful when he is healthy. Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard led Dallas with 19 points each; Nowitzki also had a game-high 20 rebounds.

TNT analyst Mike Fratello made an excellent point during the broadcast, reiterating something that he mentioned last week during Cleveland's 94-90 win over the Lakers: continuity is vital to any team's success and three of the top eight players in Cleveland's rotation from last season (Anderson Varejao, Sasha Pavlovic and Eric Snow) missed all of this year's training camp either due to injury (Snow) or holdouts. The Cavaliers hit their stride last season when they had a starting lineup of James, Ilgauskas, Hughes, Pavlovic and Drew Gooden, with Varejao, Snow, Daniel Gibson and Donyell Marshall providing support off of the bench. That rotation (minus the injured Marshall) is now set again, so--as I wrote after Cleveland's recent victory over the Lakers--"it would not be surprising at all if the Cavaliers go on a winning streak or at least put together a run of .700 or .800 basketball to boost their record."

The only dark cloud hovering over the Cavaliers at the moment is the bizarre sideshow centering around little used guard Damon Jones, the self-proclaimed best shooter in the NBA who has scored just 24 points so far in December. Prior to Cleveland's Christmas Day victory over the Heat, Jones declared that he wants to be traded to Miami, adding, "Oh, man, that would be the icing on the cake for me. Especially with the group of guys that they have now, still, some of the key guys that were there when I spent the best year of my career. It would be special. Man, I'm very comfortable with the system. I don't know if I could really say what I want to say, but I would definitely enjoy being back in that system and trying to get back that success we had some years ago." TNT commentator Reggie Miller interpreted that last sentence as a not so thinly veiled shot at Cleveland Coach Mike Brown. Jones escalated this situation by refusing to enter the Heat game in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter and he has reportedly been fined by the Cavaliers for his insubordination. Here's a better idea for the Cavaliers: cut him. This will likely not happen, due to salary cap ramifications and the possibility of the union filing a grievance, but one of the things that is wrong with the NBA today is players not understanding how good they have it. You would think that Jones, who worked long and hard in various minor leagues just to get a chance to play in the NBA, would have the right perspective about this. He really needs an intervention, for someone who he respects to calmly explain to him that he is not in fact the best shooter in the NBA; Jones is a one dimensional role player who should keep his mouth shut and ride the LeBron James gravy train to more playoff success and more financial success than he will obtain anywhere else. Think for a moment how twisted it is for Jones to want to leave Cleveland and go to Miami; the Cavaliers went to the Finals last year and are rounding into form now, while the Heat are a moribund franchise with one star who is banged up and another star who is over the hill. As Charles Barkley quipped, Pat Riley is not thinking to himself that Damon Jones is the answer to Miami's problems. If Jones can't get his head back together and the Cavaliers can't find a team willing to deal for him then they really should bite the bullet and cut him; it simply is not worth it to have that kind of distraction emanating from the team's 12th man. Years ago, Riley coined the perfect phrase to describe Jones' affliction and how it can bring a team down if it is not nipped in the bud: "the disease of me."

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posted by David Friedman @ 5:26 AM

7 comments

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7 Comments:

At Friday, December 28, 2007 7:04:00 AM, Anonymous jn said...

From memory, I seem to recall it was "the disease of more". Still, I read the book some time ago and I am far from sure.

Like you say, it's hard to understand how a player like Damon Jones does not understand how much closer he is to the waiver wire than to a starting spot. He is not a Ricky Davis or Isiah Rider type who has gotten it all proferred to him, I can understand his wanting to play and requesting a trade but not this way. He is damaging his case both with the Cavs (who will probably get rid of him sooner or later) and with any potential new team. Allstars may behave like prima donnas, but role players seldom have such luxury.

PD: The piece about Steve Nash and athleticism was most interesting indeed.

 
At Friday, December 28, 2007 7:45:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it possible that Jones is clever to enough to raise all this fuss in order to get cut by the team?
I mean - maybe he's sick of playing basketball and this way he can get out with all the money.

 
At Friday, December 28, 2007 3:27:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

JN:

I have the correct quote. Here is just one print citation of it:

http://www.cleveland.com/pluto/index.ssf?/base/sports-0/119381961474331.xml&coll=2

You can also easily confirm this by Google search.

The Cavs will likely get rid of Jones one way or another as soon as possible; my point is that financial considerations (salary cap) complicate these decisions and that is probably the main reason that they have not already parted ways with him.

 
At Friday, December 28, 2007 3:39:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

I suppose that is possible but I don't know that to be the case and I try to avoid pure speculation.

 
At Friday, December 28, 2007 5:20:00 PM, Anonymous jn said...

I've checked and Riley does indeed write about a disease of me (in Winner Within) and a disease of more (in Showtime). I guess he's on his way to a unified theory of the "disease of more me". Maybe that's why he signed Smush Parker.

 
At Saturday, December 29, 2007 6:04:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

JN:

I honestly did not remember the "disease of more" quote and "disease of me" is what I had in mind for the post; the latter phrase perfectly describes Damon Jones, though I guess "disease of more" probably fits, too.

It is strange that Riley would sign Smush in light of Smush's bad attitude last season.

 
At Saturday, December 29, 2007 1:29:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is amazing how delusional some of these marginal players are. Plan or not, Jones has always been this way; he just can't shut his mouth. Parker lost a spot on the Pistons in part because he wouldn't even give up the ball to Detroit's starters.

"Role player" carries the negative connotation of limited skills, but it's a limited attitude that'll get you cut. The league is too good to some of these guys.

 

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