LeBron James and the Cavaliers cruised to a 100-91 victory over what seemed to be a (already!) decidedly disinterested Knicks team. Indeed, the most notable thing that came of this night seems to be the vast number of 2010 articles that have since popped up on ESPN.com. Please stay LeBron. It's really fun to watch you play basketball.
I will preface this review with the following: It's become increasingly difficult to judge a team's offensive development when watching said offense operate against the New York Knicks. It's a safe assumption that the Cavaliers had more trouble finding their way through the revolving door of the Ritz Carlton then they did weaving through Knick defenders. The point there being twofold: The Knicks suck, and sometimes those revolving door can be tricky.
Notes on the game...
- LeBron put on a show (and it was a show)...quite obviously loving every minute of playing in the Garden. While some seem to see this as a negative (i.e. LeBron has a thing for attention), I see it as a major plus. Most importantly, I believe this ease in/thirst for the limelight is what makes LeBron a really good (and somewhat overlooked) big game player. And not as importantly...as a basketball fan, it's kind of amazingly fun to watch LeBron "go showtime." It's not always the best thing for the Cavs, but provided it's not costing them any games, it's hard to complain about the MVP throwing down a few showpiece games throughout the course of the regular season. Had the Knicks put up more of a fight, we might have been looking at something more along the lines of 50, 10, 10. As it were...33, 8, 9.
- Perhaps the most interesting non-LeBron development of the night was Mike Brown inserting J.J. Hickson into the starting lineup. Kind of a ballsy move considering Andy Varejao has been the second best player on the team through 7 games of the season. That said, I'm excited to see where this goes. J.J. didn't blow the roof off the place tonight (really he didn't even play particularly well), but he did show glimpses. Very early, J.J. was able to get a couple quick buckets (and display his freakish athleticism) by taking advantage of the attention paid to the rest of the first unit. When all J.J. has to do is finish, the Cavs are putting him in a position to get comfortable in a specific role. Which is really step one for him.
- Better yet, the lineup change didn't seem to hurt Andy's momentum at all. He continued his torrid start (8 points, 14 rebounds, two blocks), and proved he can play just as well with Z as he can with Shaq. Through 7 games, Andy's sizable new contract is really looking like money well spent. And be it a result of his familiarity with Andy or the Knicks atrocious defense, Z was able to play far more effectively tonight as well.
- Nice to see Jamario Moon work his way back into the rotation. I feel like most of what happened during this game will be difficult to replicate, but the bench was really strong tonight. Just take a look at the +/- of the core reserves. Big Z (+19), Delonte West (+15), Daniel Gibson and Andy (both +6). That hasn't been happening much yet this season, and it will be key as the Cavs move forward. I think a lot of their success tonight had to do with Mike Brown's (slowly) improving rotations. The lineups seemed more compatible then they have thus far. Everyone seemed in better position to succeed. Yes, again, the obligatory "the Knicks play no defense"...but nevertheless, the bench was strong.
The Cavs will have four days off before they travel to Orlando, and to be honest, I have no idea what to expect. The team is obviously struggling to gel, but Mike Brown and staff have to have been fixating on this spot in the schedule. After a busy start, the Cavs will finally have a chance to string some practices together (perhaps even four days worth?), and I'm hoping we'll see the results on the court.
And then of course, ready or not, Wednesday will come. LeBron and the Cavs return to the site of their premature dismissal last May. And just as importantly, the Cavs get their first chance to see how their new toys fare against Dwight Howard and his 3 point assassins.
Even this early in the season, it will be telling to see how everyone responds. Orlando has looked unbeatable from the season's opening tip, but the Cavs will have vengeance on their side. And while granted, this isn't a ninja movie, I'm hoping that will be enough to see the Cavs make this season's first statement.
The Orlando Magic. If there's anything to learn from last year, it's this: It doesn't matter if the Cavs enter the playoffs with the eighth seed...provided they had proved themselves able to handle the big boys prior. This is their first chance to do so. The Cavs haven't won in Orlando in 3 years. Thus (and because openers don't count), the first real test of the season comes Wednesday.