Between injuries to J.R. Smith and Kevin Love and having to incorporate many new pieces, LeBron James and the Cavaliers have had a bumpier road this season than we’re used to seeing (Keith Allison/Flickr).
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Most listeners are aware that LeBron James has consistently guided his teams to NBA Finals appearances (six straight, to be exact), yet this season’s Cavaliers continue to be tested by a number of key injuries that threaten to derail their hopes of repeating as champions. Issues stemming from these injuries have resulted in the team’s recent mediocre play, as Eastern counterparts like the Wizards and Celtics angle for the No. 1 seed currently occupied by Cleveland. Justin Rowan of SB Nation’s Fear the Sword is here to break down those struggles and also illuminate how the Cavaliers can reasonably overcome them. In addition to LeBron James’ MVP case and the importance of the Kyle Korver acquisition, Justin speaks about Larry Sanders rumors, Tristan Thompson’s underrated contributions, J.R. Smith’s outsized role and more.
5:17-5:56: “[Larry Sanders is] definitely going to bring a lot of personality to the team, which can be a good thing. I think they have the right type of culture for that. They also have a history of dealing with players who have suffered with mental illness issues. Delonte West had some public issues with the Cavaliers and has talked recently about how LeBron is still a big part of his life and supporting him and helping him work through that. So having LeBron, who is familiar with having a teammate with those issues and what’s involved there, it could be a supportive situation for him.”
8:46-10:09: “It’s tough because…the extensive pre-game routine that [LeBron James] goes through, which is hours of physical preparation, if he doesn’t play at least 34 minutes, he views it as if he shouldn’t even have played at all. He views it as a waste for the all the preparation he goes through. Continue reading
23-year-old shooting guard Bradley Beal has nearly equaled his age in points per game, as the Wizards continue their stellar play (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
While nine teams held the same ranking from our previous edition, six squads rose or dropped at least six spots. Leading the way among most improved from last edition, the Washington Wizards jumped from 22nd to 12th. Thanks to lethal 3-point shooting, the Rockets continued their ascent to fourth even as starting center Clint Capela will be sidelined for the next month at the very least. The Nuggets also impressed the panel, playing extremely well in their first stretch as a completely healthy unit. The returns of Danilo Gallinari and Gary Harris have Denver fans feeling as high as their city’s altitude. The Lakers, however, continue their slide and can no longer use injury as the lone excuse for dropping 11 of their last 12 games. Since our second edition, which was published four weeks ago, the Lakers have dropped from 13th to 27th or seven spots every two weeks.
Biggest Jumps: Washington Wizards (+10), Denver Nuggets (+7), Dallas Mavericks (+6)
Biggest Falls: Los Angeles Lakers (-7), Portland Trail Blazers (-7), Detroit Pistons (-7) Continue reading
Now a member of an injury-ravaged Mavericks squad, Barnes is often expected to carry the bulk of his team’s scoring load (Matthew Addie/Creative Commons).
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This special Harrison Barnes-themed episode draws upon the perspectives of Dallas Mavericks fan Jason Gallagher, who currently serves as a multimedia editor at The Ringer, as well as Andy Liu of Warriors World, to try to determine Barnes’ ultimate potential in the NBA. After four years with the Golden State Warriors, including the final two that resulted in NBA Finals appearances, the 24-year-old forward signed a four-year max contract with the Dallas Mavericks. While Kevin Durant has taken his starting spot on the league’s most dominant team, Barnes has been tasked with carrying the injury-riddled Mavericks on his shoulders. So far, the individual results have been mixed, while the team has struggled badly. Without further ado, enjoy the show, and check out some excerpts from the episode if you’d like:
Jason Gallagher at 3:57-4:12: “They’re kind of playing in a nothing-to-lose sort of mentality at this point, and so I think that him learning to develop these skills of leading a team without the pressure of having to win games is good for a young player.”
6:17-6:44: “I really like Harrison on defense…and specifically Harrison when he plays the 4 he’s found a lot of success as well, especially on defense, in exploiting bigger players. He’s showing himself to be a versatile guy, and you really have to start thinking that way with Dirk [Nowitzki] on his last legs.” Continue reading
By Joshua and Aaron Fischman:
While Embiid is still a work in progress, he dazzled Philly fans on Wednesday night with his skills and swagger (Brent Burford/Creative Commons).
A slew of noteworthy player and team performances over the past two days make it difficult to be exhaustive, so we’ll present some developments that caught our attention. By including these, we are not arguing that they are more important than those we omitted. With the disclaimer over, let the notes begin:
Two former Nets stars drank from the fountain of youth, as Deron Williams dropped 25 and dished seven for the Mavs in an overtime loss to the Pacers and Joe Johnson poured in 29 for the Jazz on Tuesday night. With Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors sidelined with injury, Johnson and his teammates George Hill and Rodney Hood combined for 51 field-goal attempts.
Joel Embiid finally played in a regular-season NBA game and he did not disappoint, posting 20 points, seven rebounds and two blocks in just 22 minutes. His rookie teammate Dario Saric just managed 2-12 from the floor. While Embiid wasn’t the most efficient himself (6-16) and appeared out of control at times, he showcased an ability to shoot the 3 and provided much-needed optimism and excitement for the 76ers fan base. Unfortunately for the home fans, the Thunder outscored the 76ers by 12 in the final period and came away with the road victory. Continue reading