This season has felt much more up and down than last season and the Cavs seem to still be working through some challenges both on the court and off. On the court, they have been a largely sour bunch and have looked anywhere from “totally lost” to “utterly brilliant” on both ends of the floor. They are without a doubt “different” than last year’s team.
Off the court has been challenging too this season. The latest incident involves Mike Brown’s boneheaded decision to leave Z on the bench on Saturday against Dallas. The whole situation has been beaten to death, so I’m just going to mention that I think it’s another example of Mike Brown’s startling lack of understanding for his surroundings. He seems to be genuinely wired as a reactive person, rather than proactive. Other examples include clearly not having his team prepared during preseason, lingering on the Twin Towers experiment too long, and continuing to “tinker” with his starting lineup now going on 6 weeks into the season. And that’s just this year.
Another off the court issue which is still raging is Delonte West. Everyone has been so caught up in the Z controversy this week that no one seems to have caught that, despite an outstanding performance from Delonte on Saturday, he is still by far the most volatile athlete we’ve seen in Cleveland since Albert Belle. I was so happy to see Delonte play well against Dallas. The whole team seemed to feed off of his play. The crowd loved it. He even was caught on camera cracking up Mo Williams while a Dallas player was taking free throws. YES! Joking-Around-Delonte is back!
Unfortunately the camera also caught him exiting the court. Fox Sports Ohio always has a camera in the tunnel leading from the court into the Cavs’ locker room. On Saturday, Delonte had already torn off his shirt and could be seen stalking past the camera, muttering obscenities with his eyes fixed downward, and generally looking like he wanted to kill somebody. Just that quickly he cycled from a guy seemingly having a good time playing the game he loves to a brooding, dangerous looking human being whom most people would cross the street to avoid. Was he upset about the Z situation? Did somebody say something that set him off? It’s impossible to know for sure and this is the way it goes with people suffering from bipolar disorder. My point is this. Just because Delonte played a good game does not mean we are out of the woods and it does not mean that you can expect him to play like that every night. He’s not really back and the Cavs still have a lot to deal with regarding Delonte West.
All of this said, the Cavs played one of their best games of the season against Dallas, which followed closely a dismal loss to Charlotte. The loss to the Bobcats was somewhat determined by the referees, who called a couple of early offensive fouls on LeBron. More troubling was the fact that the Cavs were not able to adjust and deal with it, despite having one of the more flexible rosters in the NBA.
Against Dallas, the Cavs got off to a good start and never really looked back. LeBron got his teammates involved, Mo and Delonte were great, and Andy was lights out from the bench. That night it was Dallas’ turn to have no answers for their opponent. This game was the second of two which epitomized how the Cavs can look totally lost one minute and utterly brilliant the next. The Dallas game also included the rare successful Mike Brown tactical switch when he moved Mo to guard Jason Terry, who was tearing Anthony Parker apart, and let Parker guard the slower Jason Kidd. It worked out very well.
Tonight the Phoenix Suns come to the Q and the Cavs had better be prepared to defend. One of the weakest points in this year’s team is the transition defense. As I’ve stated previously, opposing guards have been able to go from one end of the floor to the other without so much as a hand check. The Suns will look to run after every rebound and the Cavs will have no chance if they can’t either slow down Phoenix’s attack, answer with offense of their own, or both.
Look for Mo to be a big part of the offense. If he’s also able to successfully defend Steve Nash in transition, then the Cavs will be fine. I’d also like to see a better performance from J.J., who had an off night on Saturday.
Kevin Hignett hawks insurance during the day. He spends the rest of his time being a dad and dreaming of a mid-June parade in downtown Cleveland. You can follow him on Twitter: @KevinHignett