10 Orbservations is a regular Saturday piece at Everybody Hates Cleveland where EHC Managing Editor Steve Orbanek offers 10 quick sports takes, both on Cleveland topics and national ones.
1. That was a big one. Last night, the Cleveland Cavaliers pulled out a 126-121 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. The win capped off a two-day sweep of Los Angeles-based teams as the Cavs defeated the Lakers 109-102 on Thursday night. Given the circumstances and everything that the team has faced up until this point, it’s easy to say that last night’s win was probably the biggest win of the season. Sure, things were still far from perfect. The idea of the Cavaliers playing transition defense remains a myth, and it’s never good to allow 121 points to an opponent in regulation. That said, there were still so many other positives from this game. LeBron James, in his second game back continues to look like his old self and Kyrie Irving was just dominant; the two finished with a combined 69 points. The team also got out and ran a bit as the Cavs finished with 24 fast break points. All of this happened as Kevin Love sat out the contest with back spasms, which makes it even more impressive. It’s only one game, but one Cavaliers game has not felt this good for quite some time.
2. There are times, and last night was one of those times, where Kyrie Irving will really remind you of just how special of a talent he is. Last night, Irving finished 12-of-18 from the field with 37 points. More importantly, he played a key role in the Cavaliers overcoming a rough stretch in the third quarter and also in the fourth quarter when the team began to put the game away. At times, he is criticized for his lack of defensive prowess, but please remember who it is we are talking about. Irving is a mere 22-year-old kid, who is a whole six months younger than Michael Carter-Williams, the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year. Irving is going to get better, in so many facets of the game, and this is just another reason why patience needs to be preached in regard to the Cavaliers. Yes, it’s looked bad up until this point, but there’s still time for the ship to get righted. Plus, who knows how this thing will look in the months and years to come.
3. Tristan Thompson had what was arguably his best game of the season last night as he finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds, while shooting 12-of-18 from the field. Some news broke this week that Thompson had turned down a proposed extension from the Cavaliers back in October. According to the report, the Cavaliers offered Thompson a four-year, $52 million deal, which he ultimately turned down. That’s a more-than-generous offer, so it’s surprising to see that Thompson, who will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season, would not accept it. He clearly is betting on himself now, but could you really see him even getting an offer sheet that exceeds that amount? The one thing to consider though is that Thompson’s agent is Rich Paul, who also happens to be the agent and close friend of James. The four-year, $52 million might have been an effort to appease James, and who is to say the Cavaliers won’t continue to try to appease James come this offseason? Who knows, perhaps this move works out for Thompson.
4. LeBron James has now been back with the Cavaliers for three games, and the team has gone 2-1 in those contests. So far, the team results have been good, but the results from James have been even better. In each of his first three games back, James has scored more than 30 points, and he looks to be his old self. It’s clear that he really was hurting before he went out with injury, likely more than any of us even know. Overall, the Cavaliers are 20-12 when James plays and 1-8 when he sits. That’s pretty disappointing, no matter how you look at it. That said, it does go to show that this team has potential to make waves, provided that James stays healthy. In the next week or so, we’ll get our first look at what the Cavaliers will ultimately look like as Iman Shumpert is set to return to the lineup after sitting out with a dislocated shoulder. We’ll have to see if this team has a run in them because it would be nice to for them to get better than the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.
5. You have to give David Blatt some credit. He certainly is trying to reach his players. This past week, the Cavaliers head coach surprised his team with a bowling outing, which he hoped would build camaraderie and help team morale. By all accounts, the trip had a positive effect as players said it was nice to get away and just enjoy themselves in a stress-free environment. Since then, the Cavaliers have gone 2-0, winning games against the Lakers and Clippers in back-to-back nights. Now, this is not meant to label this incident as a “sacred” bowling trip that suddenly stopped all of the Cavaliers problems. It is, however, an acknowledgment of Blatt and his effort to connect to his players. It’s unconventional, yes. But it’s a step in the right direction, and that’s all that can be expected from Blatt at this point.
6. There are reports that the Cavaliers could be interested in either Jordan Farmer or Nate Robinson, both of whom have recently been waived by their respective team. Both players could potentially fit as the Cavaliers’ backup point guard, but they also both bring some baggage to any team who signs them. Farmar and Clippers coach Doc Rivers could never really get on the same page this season and Robinson has a history of being a so-so character guy. Farmar might be the more attractive player of the two as he’s only 28 years old and coming off a season with the Lakers in which he averaged 10.1 points, 4.9 assists and shot 44 percent from three-point range. The Cavaliers still have one open spot on their roster, so either player could come in and no other transaction would need to be made. Nonetheless, that roster spot will be interesting to monitor in the days ahead. It’s not going to stay empty for long.
7. We’re still a ways out from the start of baseball season, but I already have Indian Fever. I’m so excited over the Cleveland Indians’ potential this season and their ability to make a potential run. We’re still at the point where rosters are being constructed and the Indians had a new minor league signing this past week when they inked Anthony Swarzak to a deal. EHC’s Michael Hattery discusses that signing at length in his latest piece, and even offers a positive view as to why this might be a decent move by the Indians. The bottom line is that Terry Francona has made it known that he likes to have an eight-man bullpen, so it does seem as if Swarzak might have a chance to make the team, provided he pitches well in spring training. He’s a long man, and he can certainly go multiple innings, which helps his value. Still, it’s hard to get that excited over a 29-year-old coming off a season in which he had a 5.03 ERA. That said, I don’t remember too many people being excited about the Scott Atchison signing last year either…
8. As far as the bullpen goes, I am excited to see how things play out with Zach McAllister. He’s had an up-and-down tenure as a starter, but we saw him moved to the pen toward the end of last season, and the results were solid. His fastball gained a nice tick and averaged 96 miles per hour; he even clocked 98 at times. A live arm like that screams eighth inning, and it will be interesting to see if the Indians give him a chance to potentially build up to that. Remember last year when Carlos Carrasco was moved to the pen, he initially pitched in meaningless situations before eventually finding himself in important ones. An arm like McAllister’s could be a difference maker, and it’s an added bonus that he could probably go multiple innings every time that he takes the mound.
9. The Indians’ rotation is an interesting discussion, even now in January. We know that Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Gavin Floyd have all been assured spots in the rotation. The question mark is the final spot, which will come down to a battle between T.J. House and Danny Salazar. Given Salazar’s live arm, one would suspect that he would go into the race as a heavy favorite, but there is something to be said for having a left-hander in the rotation, who can give a team a different look. The good sign in all of this is that the Indians seem to have finally taken the bubble wrap off of Salazar. He’s been throwing in the Dominican Republic, and he should come into Spring Training more ready to go than ever. There’s few players I am more excited to see in April than Salazar, and I contend that this will be the season in which he puts together a full, competent Major League season.
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