Cavs Report: For Thompson and others, it’s back to basketball
Several Cavaliers items as they get ready for their first western swing, which tips off Tuesday in Portland:
1. At least the contract stuff is out of the way (for now). The Cavs were able to sign Anderson Varejao to an extension, but couldn’t do the same with Tristan Thompson. No harm, no foul, and no contention or awkward feelings from the Cavs or Thompson’s camp. It’s just business as usual, and Thompson can focus on just playing basketball now — and his contract in July.
2. The Cavs did feel they budged a little in the last-minute negotiations with Thompson on Friday. They offered Thompson more than $48 million over four years. Agent Rich Paul is gambling that Thompson can get more than that on the open market. On the bright side for the Cavs, if Thompson wants a large contract, he must earn it. Read: He currently has millions of reasons to play the best basketball of his career.
3. Speaking of basketball, let’s get to it. As we saw with Saturday’s win at Chicago (and Friday’s clunker of an opening loss to New York), sometimes being away from home is what a new team needs. Just look at LeBron James. He struggled mightily in the historic opener, only to score 36 points at the United Center to the background chants of: "Cleveland sucks. Akron sucks."
4. Trail Blazers fans aren’t as likely to be as hard on James. The Blazers just don’t have the proximity or any sort of rivalry with Cleveland. But as these Cavs are learning, they are now the opponent that everyone wants to beat. In fact, they may be playing with more of a target on their back than even defending champion San Antonio.
5. It’s interesting to see how younger players such as Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Thompson are adapting to the Cavs’ new status as Most Targeted Team. Those three were accustomed to the Cavs sort of being everyone’s homecoming opponent. Those days are long gone.
6. After two games, James leads the Cavs in scoring at 26.5 points. Irving is next at 22.5, followed by Love at 17.5. Meanwhile, Waiters has struggled a bit, averaging 9.5 points and shooting just 37 percent from the field.
7. As for Love’s rebounding … wow. The man simply knows how to box out. After that, he goes and gets the ball. That is how you’re supposed to do it. It truly is amazing how Love dominates, especially when you consider how he had his way with Bulls big men Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol on the boards. That’s impressive, because those two are no slouches.
8. For the record, Love grabbed 16 rebounds against the Bulls and 14 against the Knicks. That’s 15 per game, many of which are followed by some wicked outlet passes.
9. We’ve been over this once already, but never hurts to try to clarify: Is LeBron’s back bugging him? Yes, it seems at least a little. The issue has been described as as a muscular problem, and James is said to be playing at about 85-90 percent. But if he keeps scoring 36 on the road against teams like Chicago, my guess is the Cavs won’t be worried.
10. Entering Monday night, the 3-0 Miami Heat were the only unbeatens in the Eastern Conference. Yes, the Heat. Also, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers were 0-4. Last time the Lakers lost four straight to open the season? Try 1957-58, when they played their home games in Minneapolis.