2016-17 NBA Season Weekly Recap: Cavs
After a 4-0 week, the Cavs looked to continue the streak with a back-to-back against Memphis and a date with the Baby Lakers (that is now their official name in case you were wondering). Each of these games were largely blah. The first game in Cleveland against the Marc Gasol-less Grizzlies, Cavs took control of the game from the beginning. Kyrie Irving was out to rest some heavy legs. With Kyrie out, Kevin Love picked up the slack racking up 29 points and 13 rebounds on 9 of 17 shooting. LeBron was his ever-coasting regular season self (not a bad thing) to the tune of 23 points, six rebounds, eight assists but added six turnovers to the mix. Cleveland held off the Grizz to win 103-86. The very next night, Cleveland traveled to Memphis WITHOUT LeBron, Love, and Irving due to coach’s decision (more on this in a few minutes). As you’d expect, Cleveland did not have a shot. They surprisingly kept it close in the first half cutting the lead to 5 in the 2nd quarter but Cleveland found themselves down as many as 25 points in the 4th quarter en route to a loss and their lowest scoring output of the season 93-85. As some folks say, this was a schedule loss, nobody in their right mind expected the Cavs to compete with Memphis without their Big Three. After having three nights off, The Big Three returned to court against the Baby Lakers in Cleveland. Cavs coasted against LA, who was without one of their young stars in D’Angelo Russell. Kyrie looked himself after having a week off, scoring 21 points and tying a career-high with 12 assists. LeBron had 16 of his 26 points in the 4th quarter, leading the Cavs to a 10-3 late 4th quarter run after LA had cut the lead to 110-105. The 119-108 final was the Cavs’ fifth-straight win over the Lakers and brought Cleveland to 19-6 on the season.
As I said, this week on the court was pretty uninteresting but we know the NBA is full of off-court conversations. Both games versus the Grizzlies sparked some sort of debate. After the first game, Memphis coach David Fizdale was asked about LeBron James being a coach after his future Hall of Fame career comes to a close. Fizdale basically said there’s not a chance LeBron goes into coaching because he does not have the patience for it and, well, he’s 100% correct. Even Bron Bron agreed with him. The problem with all-time great players becoming coaches is an obvious one; all-time greats are often generational talents. Michael Jordan could not coach because he is a hyper-competitive full blown asshole, who happens to be the greatest player (with our without jaundice) to ever play the game. How can MJ limit his expectations for his players and coach to their ability? It is something he cannot relate to. Everything on the court he can do well — very, very, very well — and would expect his players to have the same ability. That just is not realistic. Some of the greatest coaches are very forgettable players. Yes, I am looking at you Phil Jackson. Spending a healthy amount of time on the bench teaches players how to relate with different on court personalities and styles from an alternate point of view. Players on the bench are able to hear in-game conversations, game plans, and philosophies that those such as a LeBron or MJ would not because they are busy trying to diagnose defensive schemes two possessions ahead of time. This is true with the latest opponent the Cavs faced. Luke Walton was a key instrument in the Warriors band that won a ring and made history. He leaves during the offseason to coach the Baby Lakers with some questioning if it was him or the actual roster that made the Warriors so impressive. Luke was doo doo as a player, but has the Lakers fan base —and NBA heads like myself — very excited for the future in purple and gold (I cannot believe I just said that, I’m going to rinse that sentence off of me, brb).
The second game against Memphis brought up and even bigger issues in the league today, the idea of resting healthy players, a tactic made famous —or infamous depending how you view it — by Gregg Popovich. Now, this debate is extremely interesting and completely subjective. Both sides have very legitimate arguments. There are the old heads that are disgusted by this saying nonsense like “players in the 80s would never. They’d go change their wife’s tires, build a house and still play when they were healthy.” Wrong. Players of older generations did the same exact thing as players (and coaches) do now, except they disguised it as “sore back or twisted ankle.” I am all for resting players in regular season games. The end goal is ultimately a championship, right? Why not prepare to be at your healthiest by season’s end? often times as we have seen, sports are a war of attrition. The healthier team normally wins (look no further than your previous two NBA champions). With that being said, it is not black and white. Ty Lue could have rested the Big Three at home versus Memphis where the Cleveland fans have 41 opportunities to see them play. Instead, he rested them on the road in Memphis where those Grizz fans only get to see the defending champions one time. If I were a Grizz fan that purchased tickets months in advance to witness LeBron, I’d demand I suit up and play a couple minutes so its worth it. Fans spend their hard earned money to see superstars play basketball at the highest possible level. I support resting players because I would rather see superstars on the court in the playoffs when it matters most than in a December game. But at the same time, I also see the fine line when the same people who put money in these teams’ pockets (the fans) are not considered when these decisions are made. Maybe there could be designated games where the coaching staff, let’s say two weeks out, would forewarn the public of stars sitting out? I don’t have a solid solution, but you can guarantee it is a topic that will routinely be discussed as the season progresses and the injuries pile up.