Believe it: Cavaliers, Pistons riding high
FEB 12, 2014 4:43p ET
Venue: Palace of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills, Mich.
TV: 7:30 p.m., FOX Sports Ohio (Cavaliers Live pregame starts at 7 p.m.)
-- The Pistons fired their coach and have won three straight. The Cavaliers fired their general manager and have won three straight. That makes them two of the three hottest teams in the Eastern Conference, along with the Magic (yes, the Magic, who have also won three in a row). By the end of the night, one of these teams will have won four consecutive games for the first time since Abe Lincoln was president. Not really, but it sometimes feels that way.
-- So, who's the new coach of the Pistons? Glad you asked. His name is John Loyer, and he's an Ohioan who grew up near Mansfield. He also played for the University of Akron's first NCAA tournament team back in 1986. That was the same year Cleveland State made a run to the Sweet Sixteen. Loyer and the Zips, however, fell just short of a first-round upset, losing to Michigan, 70-64. Loyer later assisted then-Zips coach Bob Huggins and worked his way up to NBA assistant with Portland, New Jersey and then Detroit.
-- As for the Cavs' new guy, you probably already know all about acting general manager David Griffin. And I'm asked this question all the time: Can a GM actually change the culture of a team? The short answer is yes, absolutely. If the GM makes his voice and ideas heard, he can make a difference. You think the Spurs' culture is all coach Gregg Popovich? And check out what's become of the Trail Blazers, Suns and Raptors. Their GMs all have an influence over their surprising seasons.
-- Sticking with the Cavs, I was impressed with what I saw from deep reserve center Henry Sims in Tuesday's win over the Kings. He used all six of his fouls near the basket, including at least one really hard one. That's how to foul people: Cleanly, but with a little bit of force. You don't want opponents getting the opportunity for and-ones. Sims was very active, very aggressive and made his presence felt. That's basically what you're looking for from a guy in his position.
-- Speaking on non-stars, you have to love small forward Alonzo Gee lately. Again, he has played his role to near-perfection during this three-game winning streak. I always felt Gee would make a very nice eighth or ninth man who can defend backup wings and score when needed. If this continues, Gee will be an underrated piece for this team for a long time.
-- Obviously, this is going to be the Cavs' toughest assignment of the "Griffin Era." (I used quotes because I'm the only person who calls it that - and I just now made it up). The Cavs played last night; the Pistons did not. The Cavs are on the road; the Pistons are not. Plus, the Cavs will again be without center Anderson Varejao, who is always a big key when facing an ultra-talented frontcourt like the Pistons. That said, it will be interesting to see how youngsters such as Sims and rising rookie Anthony Bennett fare. Both should get plenty of opportunity.
-- So what do I make of the Cavs and Pistons heading into the All-Star break? Both have been disappointments so far, especially since the East is WIDE open. I still think we could see a LOT of changes among the Nos. 3-8 seeds before the playoffs actually get here. Yet both of these teams, today, are on the outside looking in. I predict one makes it. Just don't ask me which for at least another three weeks.