After two days of major trades, all Cavs need now is a win
Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 105-93 loss to the visiting Houston Rockets on Wednesday:
1. The Cavs battled, they really battled. Kyrie Irving was great with a season-high 38 points on 15-of-26 shooting. But man, this team needs to get a win and it needs to do it fast.
2. Make it six losses in seven games and a five-game trip through the West up next. Read: Things are only going to get tougher for a team that’s trying to somehow survive without LeBron James. Right now, the Cavs (19-17) are failing.
3. Now, the Rockets are no joke. They have a lot of size, a lot of athleticism, and plenty of 3-point shooters. Six Rockets reached double figures in scoring, led by James Harden’s 21 points. Dwight Howard added 17 points and a whopping 19 rebounds. The Cavs had no one who could match him physically down low. Not many teams do.
4. Also, for the second straight game, the Cavs led heading into the fourth quarter — and lost. Cavs coach David Blatt cited the bench. That makes sense, since some of the guys who normally come off the bench now have to start. "Look, we got outscored 37-13," Blatt said. "That’s pretty telling."
4. Since I last dribbled (not including pregame), the Cavs made another trade. That, of course, was the deal for Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov. So since Monday, the Cavs have made two big trades and added three major rotation pieces in Mozgov, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert.
5. Mozgov is the rim protector the Cavs and their fans have been clamoring for since, oh, about August. Cavs general manager David Griffin admitted Mozgov has been a target for some time. Griffin joked he talked to Denver GM Tim Connelly more than anyone but Connelly’s wife since July.
6. The Cavs did have to give up two first-round picks (from Oklahoma City and Memphis), but let’s be clear of one thing: This team is no longer in the "asset protection" mode of former GM Chris Grant. That method didn’t work, as the Cavs compiled the NBA’s worst record over the past four years. Now the Cavs have LeBron and they want to win, they want to win now, and they want to win big.
7. Blatt has experience coaching Mozgov when the two were together with the Russian national team. Blatt defined him as a "excellent pick-and-cut player." Mozgov is also a pretty good athlete at 7-foot-1, averaging 1.2 blocks per game. "He’s very fast," Blatt added. "He was a guy we wanted here in Cleveland (since the summer)."
8. Basically, if you toss out the Oklahoma City draft pick (which the Cavs owned for less than 48 hours), the Cavs basically turned Dion Waiters and the Memphis pick into a rim-protector in Mozgov, an explosive perimeter threat in Smith, and a versatile defender of wings in Shumpert. Now all they need is LeBron James.
9. Oh, and about that LeBron guy. He had his sore knee and back re-examined Wednesday, and while the timetable hasn’t changed, it sounds likely that James will be back at the end of next week. The Cavs travel to Los Angeles to face Kobe Bryant and the Lakers a week from Thursday. It’s hard for me to envision him missing that one. Especially since Chris Paul and the Clippers follow the next night.
10. LeBron on how he’s doing: "I’ve had spurts where one or two games I felt good and after that I was just pushing through it. I feel better right now than I’ve felt for the majority of the season."
11. More LeBron: "I finally just listened to my body ultimately. Once I started seeing my game being affected by my stubbornness, then I looked myself in the mirror and understood I have to do what’s best for me. It was one of the hardest but smartest decisions I’ve made."
12. OK, back to the game. J.R Smith actually got to play, and as expected, he looked a little dazed and confused. Not surprising, since he wasn’t sure he’d play until about three hours before tipoff. He finished 0-for-5 shooting, and 0-of-4 on threes. He did throw a couple nice passes, though.
13. Smith indicated he never felt comfortable playing in the Knicks’ Triangle offense under first-year coach Derek Fisher. He implied that offense wasn’t his style and "now I need to get back" to playing his brand of basketball. I personally think Cavs fans will love it.
13. Actually, I personally love these additions if I’m a Cavs fan. This team is much deeper, more athletic and more explosive than it was three days ago.
14. Right now, though, the Cavs are just trying to get all these pieces acclimated. "One game we look really good, the next we look terrible as a team," Kyrie Irving said. At least he sort of smiled.
15. Mozgov is expected to join the team Friday at the Golden State Warriors. Shumpert, who suffered a dislocated shoulder with the New York Knicks, isn’t expected to play for another 2-3 weeks.
16. Kevin Love put forth another strong effort with 17 points and 16 boards, but the Cavs shot just 41.5 percent from the floor. And 16 assists as a team won’t cut it.
17. The Rockets (24-11) are just stacked. You could say that about seven or eight teams in the West. It truly is remarkable. Newcomer Josh Smith scored 16 points off the bench, and fellow reserve Corey Brewer added 13. The Cavs may have a Brewer of their own once Shumpert is healthy. "I kind of see him as (Chicago’s) Jimmy Butler for us at some point," LeBron said of Shumpert.