A Cavalier Future, Pt. 1
An interview with Brendan Bowers about Kyrie, Baron, and the future.
by Sandy Dover / @SandSeven
The Cleveland Cavaliers have been one of the most intriguing subjects in sports for the past eight years, and especially topic-torrid in the past two years. Founder, managing editor, and lead writer of StepienRules.com, Brendan Bowers (who also contributes occasionally to SLAMonline), is a wealth of information when it comes to being in the know with the Cavs and their interests in improving their ball club, as he follows the team religiously as a Cavs insider. With great enthusiasm, I reached out to Brendan to get his opinion on where Cleveland has been, where they are now, and where they seem to be going.
SLAM: Having followed the team for the past several years, what are your general impressions of the Cavaliers up through today?
Brendan Bowers: After LeBron James left this past summer, the bottom falling out as quickly and as drastically as it did this season was the best thing possible for the Cavaliers. If somehow they managed to rally behind an injury free season from Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison, and Anderson Varejao, and competed for a playoff spot, I don’t think they’d be in as healthy a position as they are currently. The wound needed to be ripped wide open in order to begin the process of re-identifying both who the Cavs wanted to be as an organization, as well as how they wanted to get there, and that most certainly happened this season. Losing as many games as they did was painful to watch at times, but it has allowed them to both draft early on Thursday, and completely turn a page sooner than later that needed to be turned. So I feel like they are in the best position possible now one year removed, all things considering.
BB: I asked Stan Van Gundy what his impressions were of these players after the Cavs lost to Orlando in Cleveland late in the season and he answered my question by saying, “on bad teams, somebody has to score”. Stan added that it’s difficult to evaluate whether or not a guy who could average ten or twelve points for the worst team in the league could actually do so for a playoff team, and I completely agree with him. In the case of Harris, Samuels, and Harangody, I think they did their best to take advantage of the season long NBA audition they were afforded in Cleveland last season, but I don’t think they will ever develop into rotation players on a good team. I do think they played their way into an NBA roster spot somewhere for the next few years, because they did approach each game professionally, displayed effort on both ends, and showed some flashes of ability. So I expect them to hang around the league for a few more seasons as 11th, 12th, or 13th guys on an NBA roster as a result, but nothing more than that.
Christian Eyenga I view separate from those guys though. Skyenga’s athleticism and potential to be a great perimeter defender impressed me this season, despite the fact that he wasn’t activated until just about midway through. Most people remember the dunk he had on Pau Gasol when Cleveland beat LA right around the All Star break, but he also frustrated Kobe that night too on the defensive end for stretches of that game. I expect Christian to make significant developments this offseason on the defensive end specifically, and also capitalize on his ability to be a productive scorer next season by working his way into the Cavaliers’ top-7 or 8 next year. He is raw, and he did make the mistake of falling in love with the jump shot as the season wore on, but his true potential is only beginning to be tapped into. As he continues to both understand the language – he didn’t speak English when he arrived in the States – and be coached by NBA coaches, he will develop quicker than people think. His English is much better these days, and you have to think it would be easier to be coached by English speaking coaches when you, well you know, speak English.
SLAM: Baron Davis — what’s your opinion of him? What do you think he’ll bring to Cleveland throughout the duration of his expected tenure with the team?
BB: What he brought off the jump was a positive attitude and confidence that this team desperately needed last season, and that blew me away to be honest based on everything I’d heard people say about him over the last few years. The JJ Hickson‘s and Ryan Hollins’ of this Cavs team really responded to Davis, and he instilled about as much swagger as you could ever imagine would be possible for a team with the one of the worst records of all time. He really came in and embraced a leadership role on this young team, and I think that’s an important element of any rebuilding effort. He has also been a fun guy to have around Cleveland too with the way he’s interacted with fans on twitter and in other capacities like that, so you’d expect at least more of the same next season regardless of how he plays.
If he stays healthy, he can still be an at least average PG in this league, if not above average, despite his age and the injuries he’s battled through. He says he wants to be an NBA Coach one day, so I’m hoping that translates into being a guy who embraces the tutoring of Kyrie Irving. I know Baron’s name has surfaced in trade rumors lately, and as a Cavs fan you probably should want to move him considering his contract, but I’ve grown to become a Baron Davis fan at this point in his career. I think he can make an impact in helping this team move forward, and I hope he hangs around for at least another season for all the reasons I mentioned.
SLAM: Is it just me or does it feel like the fans are more unified when it comes to the Cavs right now? It seems like LeBron, in retrospect, was almost like the hero that didn’t connect, but the guy that the fans were reaching to embrace. It seems to me that the fans now have a more authentic connection to the team—is that accurate?
BB: There is a whole lot of accuracy to that point, and on a lot of levels I agree with you. There definitely is a feeling that Cavs fans are unified to a degree in witnessing what transpired this summer, which surprised me frankly as I covered the team throughout the year. Now the season tickets were sold for last season prior to LeBron’s decision, but people still showed up, and they still cheered. I figured people would just chalk it up as a loss and stop paying attention completely, but that didn’t really happen.
When they beat the Knicks in OT prior to Mo Williams getting traded, I was standing down under the basket during the extra period and it felt like a playoff game inside the Q. It probably shouldn’t have either considering their record at the time, and I think what you’re talking about had a lot to do with that level of support for a game that didn’t really matter at all.
The only area I’d disagree with is that the connection to the team is any more authentic now than it was during the LeBron years. People have always been connected to the Cavaliers in this town, and I think LeBron being both a local kid and the League MVP did intensify that connection, but it was still real to begin with. I do think LeBron embraced that too while he played here, he just might have taken it for granted in the end. Maybe he grew to think that Cleveland fans were LeBron fans first and Cavs fans second, but I don’t believe the people who continue to support the team really ever felt that way.
(Look for Part 2 of our interview soon.)
Sandy Dover is a author, fitness enthusiast, and SLAM web columnist and print contributor whose work has been featured and published by US News, Yahoo!, Robert Atwan’s “America Now,“ and now in Buckets and Playmaker magazines. You can find Sandy frequently here at SLAMonline and at Twitter and Facebook as well.