David Blatt had a team meeting before the game in Chicago last night looking to get more energy out of the team, particularly on offense. He was rewarded with his first NBA victory, an overtime 114-108 notch over the Chicago Bulls. But Anderson Varejao’s agent probably deserves even more credit.
Yesterday the team announced that 32-year old center Anderson Varejao had signed a two-year $10 million contract extension. While Varejao had a good game (10 pts, 6 boards), it was backup big man Tristan Thompson who was the game’s difference maker (aside from a focused, attacking LeBron James redeeming himself after the opening night stinker).
Thompson had 16 points and a team record 13 offense rebounds, giving the team plenty of second opportunities. This was crucial as the Cavs only shot 39%. Thompson played with more passion and intensity than anyone on the court.
“See the ball, get the ball, that’s my motto,” he told reporters after the game.
That aggression that might be linked to the fact that while Varejao got paid, Thompson was not offered an extension before the deadline and will become a restricted free agent if that doesn't change. Thompson was reportedly seeking a four-year $10 million year contract, but lost his starting power forward job this off-season after Kevin Love was acquired.
There’s always been some question about Thompson’s ability to play center. He doesn’t block many shots – but he’s shown a lot of tenacity on the block. It’s hard for a championship team to land players as skilled as Thompson, even if he projects more as a role player. While that’s a lot of money for a bench player, Varejao’s long-standing injury issues must also be considered.
If he continues to play like this, someone will undoubtedly pay him. There is a saving grace in that the salary cap is about to leap in size. In two years when the NBA’s new $2.7 billion television contract goes into effect, team caps are estimated to increase by more than $14 million. (The cap goes up such that players receive 50% of annual league revenues.)
ESPN made a big deal about the team meeting, though seemingly that is Blatt’s job. “He said what was important was competing every night,” Irving said in his post-game interview. “He wanted us to compete for 48 minutes… he felt we were too comfortable at this point.”
A little Knute Rockne is always nice, but “show me the money” works well too.
Pick & Roll Troubles Continue:
Since the preseason, the team’s been trying to come together defensively and it appears to be their greatest challenge. The pick and roll, the NBA’s bread and butter play, continues to bedevil the Cavs. None of their three main guards – Waiters, Dellavedova or Irving – has shown a lot of ability to keep their man in front of them consistently.
Rose ran wild against the Cavs, beating all of them off the dribble. Blatt showed some confidence in Waiters putting him on Rose, much as he put the mercurial shooting guard on Knicks star Carmelo Anthony the night before.
Waiters has the physicality to play small forward and the quickness to stay with point guards, but gets lost on defense. On a couple occasions he doubled on Gasol leaving Kirk Hinrich for open jumpers.
Here Dellavedova gets sucked into the middle despite three Cavs in the paint, leaving Dunleavy open for a three.
The Cavs play a very aggressive defense like that of the Heat. The big man flashes out to cut off the ballhandler, allowing his man time to recover from the pick before the big man returns to his man. The other three defenders cover the three players closest to the ball. Rose found the open Snell on the court’s far side, exploiting the defense and allowing Snell time to launch his three-pointer before help could rotate.
Fortunately for the Cavaliers, Rose went down in the 4th quarter with a sprained ankle and did not return, reducing the pressure on the defense, and allowing them to close out the Bulls in overtime.
The Cavaliers ability to cover the pick and roll could very well determine how close they get to holding the championship trophy.