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Sunday, January 04, 2009

The Potential Impact of Big Z's Injury

The Cleveland Cavaliers are off to their best start in franchise history and are right behind the defending champion Boston Celtics in the race for the league's best record this season. However, the Cavs will face some adversity in the next few weeks because starting center Zydrunas Ilgauskas has been sidelined by a fracture in his left ankle. The good news is that the injury is not related to and did not compromise the foot reconstruction surgeries that he had earlier in his career but Ilgauskas may miss up to a month, which probably adds up to 14 games--nine of which will be played on the road, including matchups with the Magic and the Lakers.

In my newest article for CavsNews, I examine how Ilgauskas' injury will affect the Cavaliers:

The Potential Impact of Big Z's Injury

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posted by David Friedman @ 2:07 PM


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At Monday, January 05, 2009 12:52:00 AM, Blogger FreeCashFlow said...

Cavs fall to Wiz, with more losses on the horizon.

Right - again!

I apologize for being so Kobe-centric, but I have to take this time to point out that if it this was the Lakers and it was Gasol that was injured, and the Lakers lost, it would be some kind of indictment on Kobe.

But this loss is not a reflection of Lebron's deficiencies, who is a great player, it's a reflection of the nature of basketball and how much difference one player can make, even if he is not the "best" player on the team.

People just don't understand that even the best players need support to win. I'm talking about those people especially who think that Michael Jordan did it all himself, and that he could win with any set of players (ever heard of Scottie Pippen? Only one of the best defenders all-time) MJ is the greatest player ever, and still he has been raised to such high standards that he's believed to be a deity. And time and time again Kobe has been measured up to MJ the God and not MJ the man.

End of Rant.

At Monday, January 05, 2009 1:33:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Free Cash Flow:

Although I did not mention Kobe/Gasol in this post or in my article, I definitely had the same thought that you just articulated, namely that if Gasol got hurt and the Lakers started losing that Kobe would receive a lot of criticism.

It is worth noting not just that the Cavs lost to a sub-.500 team for the first time this season but also that the Cavs were killed on the boards (52-35), which is a direct reflection of the impact of Big Z's absence.

Last season, I said that the Lakers actually had "three" seasons: one with Bynum, one with Gasol and one in which they did not have either big man. Kobe helped the Lakers put together enough wins without either big man to still end up with the best record in the West. The Cavs face a daunting task trying to keep up with the Celtics but the Celtics have floundered a bit lately; it will be interesting to see what kind of record LeBron leads the Cavs to over the next month or so. It has been suggested in some quarters that Kobe has a better supporting cast than LeBron but I think that the value of LeBron's supporting cast--particularly the rotation of three bigs in which Z plays an integral role--has not been adequately appreciated. If the Cavs are truly a one man team, then Z's absence should not matter that much but the truth is that the Cavs are not a one man team--no team that only has five or six losses by early January is a one man team.

At Monday, January 05, 2009 6:47:00 AM, Anonymous tp said...

The thing with the Cavs is that their big men rotation works because it covers many aspects of the game and each player gives a different look to the team. The problem is that it means nobody can cover for somebody else if he goes down. Ilgauskas is the only seven footer on the team, and the only big man with a shot.

Varejao and Wallace will do their thing, but none of them can contribute in certain areas that only Ilgauskas covers. Same thing happened during Varejao's holdout.

Hickson has apparently gotten the nod so far, and he had a good game vs the Bulls. But he is not a seven footer and neither has he a reliable midrange jumpshot, so Ilgauska's contribution will remain unaddressed. Also, Hickson is a work in progress and cannot be expected to become a reliable contributor at a moment's notice.

Maybe in the long run it will help: if Hickson improves with extended playing time, maybe he becomes a viable fourth big man come playoff time. But right now, the problem is that the Cavs frontcourt rotation was a finely tuned machine and one of the vital cogs has been wrenched loose. That's the problem with the Cavs: as long as they all play and contribute, they have a roster that plays all the keys in the piano. But if a player gets hurt or underperforms, there is nobody to pick up the slack because each player has a very definite set of skills.

At Monday, January 05, 2009 3:33:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


In general, I agree with you, but I would add that Z is particularly hard to replace--and for the reasons that you mentioned (which I also noted in my article): Z is a legit 7 footer who can post up and shoot with range. To some extent, Varejao could fill in for Wallace or vice versa if one of them got hurt but when Varejao replaces Z the Cavs lose post up scoring and outside shooting.

Hickson has potential but he is raw and, as we both have noted, he is not a 7 footer like Z.


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