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Shaq's injury not so bad for the Cavs

Feb 26, 2010, 11:19 AM EDT

In rolling past the Celtics in the second half last night, the Cavs unveiled something that has become a favorite of many a hardcore basketball fan this season: the small-ball lineup. The fact that LeBron James defies the very concept of position gives Cleveland incredible flexibility in assembling their on-court rotations, and the added versatility of Antawn Jamison gives them more options than ever before.

So maybe, just maybe, it’s not such a bad thing that Shaquille O’Neal might miss a few games with injury.

The terrific Brian Windhorst of the Cleveland Plain Dealer argues against the idea (to an extent), claiming that “it is a not a way to play all the time…It is more effective when used
to throw off opponents, especially when they are not prepared for it.” I couldn’t agree more with the latter; teams will almost certainly struggle against the small-ball look if they’re prepared for a more conventional Cavalier lineup. But I don’t think that means it can’t be effective on a full-time basis, especially when, as Windhorst concedes, Anderson Varejao is one of the best pick-and-roll defenders in basketball.

That’s a huge advantage to have, and while having a giant of a center that can get some easy buckets down low is quite the advantage as well, a stretch of small-ball could actually allow the Cavs to improve on their fourth-ranked offense (in points per 100 possessions) without any drop-off in their seventh-ranked defense. There’s no need to worry about whether or not O’Neal will show on the pick and get back to his man in time, because Varejao’s already been there and back.

Rebounding is certainly a concern, but if the frontcourt consists of LeBron James, Antawn Jamison, and Anderson Varejao — two forwards that rebound pretty well relative to their position and a center that’s top-20 in rebounding rate — I don’t think the sacrifice on the boards would be particularly significant. And as an added bonus, the low-maintenance Varejao would be logging major minutes alongside Jamison, allowing Antawn not only the playing time necessary to get acclimated to the new sets and his teammates, but also the touches.

The problem comes in relying too heavily on J.J. Hickson, Jawad Williams, and Darnell Jackson. None of the above is particularly accomplished as a defender or rebounder, and though each brings something to the table (be it energy, shooting, etc.), playing those three for extended minutes could poke some holes in Cleveland’s plan. The real victim of Shaq’s injury is Cleveland’s depth; these three role players could find themselves in more prominent roles over the next few weeks, and though Hickson has been effective this year, that’s not necessarily a great thing for the team.

Not having Shaq in the mix does hurt in terms of establishing consistency heading into the playoffs, but supposing O’Neal’s thumb didn’t just fall off in the middle of the night, small-ball can be a short term fix. And it can be a brutally effective one, if Mike Brown isn’t afraid to let his imagination run wild.  

  1. pooh pooh lil bro ski boo - Feb 26, 2010 at 12:21 PM

    Shaq is a FAT SHEET, Kobe should slap his bi-atch arse.
    The King has no ring, how is he the King ?

  2. Billy Hoyle - Feb 26, 2010 at 12:53 PM

    There are two schools of thought on this. One is that mixing up the looks you give to other teams are a good thing, via lineup adjustments.
    The other school of thought is that the more minutes your core groups play together (think Atl, LA) the better they are due to maximum perfection/execution of each players role in that lineup.
    So while shuffling the lineup may have some ability to “confuse” the other team, it may have the same or greater affect in disrupting your own team’s ability to execute.

  3. Unknown - Feb 26, 2010 at 2:03 PM

    First off “The King” hasn’t really had a team with the ability or depth to win a ring til now. Not saying the cavs will win it this year, but it’s lebrons and the franchises best chance they have had since james’ arrival to the league. Second, being an Ohio native no one here including most announcers refer to him as the king anymore. That was early in his career for whatever reason. Lebron is still relatively young give him a chance before you jump back on the Kobe train. I think we all need to accept as fans that it’s going to be Lebrons league in the future as Kobe moves out. That’s not just coming from a cav fan but someone who isn’t blind to what James has done the last two season. It’s easy for you Kobe whores to say he’s the best but he has had many more seasons to accomplish what he has. Let’s see where lebron is towards the end of his career before you start your bs Internet fights about Kobe being better. .

  4. redgirl - Feb 26, 2010 at 2:13 PM

    The difference between Kobe and Lebron is HEART! When Lebron gets one/some, he will win rings. Heart is never giving up, never resting, working in the off-season on post play, working on rebounding, if you are right handed, learning to use your left. Lebron is 6’8″, 240 (actually 260), if he had heart, he would be unstoppable. He does not like to post players, Kobe will post Yao Ming, Lebron doesn’t like to guard the best player on the oppositing team (all game long), however Kobe says give him to me. You see, when Lebron gets “it”, then there will be three great players ever. Kobe, MJ, …….

  5. k2 - Feb 26, 2010 at 2:34 PM

    yeah, yeah, yeah … we get it, kobe disciples … but riddle me this … where was “your boy” and his “killer instinct” and “HEART” (and any other nonsensical adjectives you care to throw out there demonstrating your blind adulation with kobe) during the ’04/’05 through ’06/’07 seasons when he was IN HIS PRIME (26 to 28 years old, 9th through 11th seasons in the association, highly-seasoned veteran with extensive playoff experience) and somehow managed to post thye following ugly results with lamar odom and caron butler during the first season:
    ’04/’05 … 34 wins (28 / 38 with kobe in the lineup); failed to make the playoffs ..
    ’05/’06 … 45 wins; first round exit courtesy of the phx suns …
    ’06/’07 … 42 wins, first round exit courtesy of the phx suns …
    or when he was being embarassed trying the be “the man” and failing miserably to wrest control of the lakers from shaq against the det. pistons in the ’04 finals, or being embarassed as the so-called leader of a team being blown out by 39 points in a finals closeout game in the ’08 finals against the bos. celtics …
    so, yeah … those of use with a clue don’t buy the nonsense you’re selling about kobe and his alleged leadership abilities and his fierce desire for anything other than to accumulate fools like the people that post on these message boards insisting the up is actually down and the like …

  6. k2 - Feb 26, 2010 at 2:48 PM

    forgot to mention …
    lakers all-time since kobe entered the association WITHOUT KOBE on the court … 57/34 … 62.6% winning %age …
    lakers all-time since kobe entered the association WITH KOBE, BUT WITHOUT SHAQ OR PAU on the court … 112/111 … 50.2% winning %age …
    save the chucky atkins / smush parker / whomever else nonsense … he also had lamar odom, caron butler, and a few other leftover pieces from a team that was in the finals four of the previous five seasons and had won three straight championships a few years earlier … he demanded to be “the man” and what did he do when given the chance? he failed …

  7. dc - Feb 26, 2010 at 3:14 PM

    Heart? you mean jacking up 30 shots so Kobe gets his 25 points? Posting Yao when he could pass to Pau for the easy layup? Have you seen LeBron use his left hand as well as he uses his right? Does he post up enough no. does he take too many crazy jump shots yes. But give him Kobe’s supporting cast and Phil as coach and we’ll see how many he has when all is said and done.

  8. redgril - Feb 26, 2010 at 4:03 PM

    My, you are angry, never the less, your stats are referencing a team, not an individual. Look at Kobe’s individual accomplishments, then we can talk. No one man is above the team, however, he is, and will always be, the one who will kill you and dare you to die!
    Kobe-81 pts in a game, second only to Wilt
    Kobe-62/mavs 61, only player in history, to outscore a team, (in three quarters, I might add)
    Kobe-since second year in league, started every all star game (STARTED)
    Kobe-second player in NBA history to have 4-50pt games, however only two scoring titles to his name. Michael Jordan had many more scoring titles, so hold your arguement about wanting to shoot all the time and being selfish,
    Kobe-injured shooting finger, still played 82 games,
    Kobe-Player of the decade 2000-2009
    Kobe-Black Mamba-deadly, deadly
    Look to many accolades to name, compare him to who YOU think is the greatest, and I bet you, my man is either above him or beside him! Clearly, you don’t value heart in a player, only great players have it, that’s why there is only a couple. Judge him by his body of work, not by what a team does. It took how many years for Jordan and his team to win, do you hold that against him?
    Career numbers:
    FG %-.455 3P %-.341 FT%-.840 PPGA -25.1
    Again, whether you like him or not, he is still the greatest player ever! EVER! EVER!
    BTW, why do you hate him so? Most people hate what they aren’t!!
    Example: Ugly people hate pretty people, fat people hate skinny people, girly men hate masculine men, losers hate winners!
    Don’t hate him man, appreciate him, enjoy him, wonder in his glory, be awed by him.

  9. k2 - Feb 26, 2010 at 4:25 PM

    that’s funny … i “hate him” and i’m “angry”, yet your post notes “killing”, “daring to die”, using excessive ALL CAPS emotional scrambling and punctuation, and of course, various shades of name calling and delusional arguments with yourself, all befitting a kobe fan …
    let’s get some facts straight … the stats don’t support the argument that kobe is as great as you claim; the only thing you clowns even have to grasp in the argument is the incidental fact that he possesses four rings (which learned folks like me blow out of the water with something like the tried-and-true “shaq was finals mvp 3x, then your guy blew it until pau showed up”) …
    but thanks for the laughs … you cannot pay for stuff like this …

  10. Anonymous - Feb 26, 2010 at 4:26 PM

    The same question you ask of Kobe, you can ask of Lebron, however, you seem to “knock” Kobe for doing it. Jordan won the scoring titles how many times in his career, do you consider that shooting alot? You will have to hoist up a lot of balls to win the scoring title that many years in a row!!
    Lets talk about Pau. When/what/did he ever do for Memphis? Where did he ever take that team? You see, he had good players on the Griz team, however he was toooooooo much of a softie to carry the load. Let be honest here, you are on Pau’s bandwagon only because he now plays with Kobe, only!
    Well, Black Mamba’s supporting cast, well let’s see:
    Derek Fisher, yea right
    Pau, I would rather have Dirk! At least he can carry the team in Kobe’s absence,
    Andrew, what the hell has he ever done? Still a project, however, because he plays with Kobe, you now think he ok,
    Artest, now well, him I will keep. I appreciate his “abilities” in crunch time, at least he will go to war with Kobe!
    I’ve never said that Lebron was not good, just that he lacks that one thing that great players have: HEART!!!!!!!He should be posting every single player in the league, every nite, all the time. He doesn’t, because he doesn’t like to be touched! Big Cry Baby, he is.

  11. k2 - Feb 26, 2010 at 4:31 PM

    but just for fun (and since you foolishly opened a door best left shut for the kobe crowd) …
    compare your career numbers for kobe to MJs and lebron’s … i am guessing you will somehow draw the conclusion that FT %age is the real metric for greatness … did i get that right?
    btw, MJ is the greatest and it’s not even close … and for the record, the chasm between MJ and your boy is broader than that between your boy and smush parker …

  12. Brian - Feb 26, 2010 at 4:32 PM

    I suspect the nickname “The King” was a derivative of the King James version of the Bible. I prefer the old Joe Walsh band name, “The James Gang.” Enough said, both players are the best in the “Association” and I too hope they meet in the Finals one day.

  13. Westlake Bruin - Feb 26, 2010 at 4:34 PM

    Reading your post makes me think you’re a moron…
    If you say there is anyone else in NBA who you would rather have on your team, then I know you’re one…

  14. Westlake Bruin - Feb 26, 2010 at 4:39 PM

    Reading your post(s) makes me think you’re a moron…
    If you say there is anyone else in the league you would rather have on your team and/or have the ball in crunch time, then I know you are…

  15. k2 - Feb 26, 2010 at 4:53 PM

    argument #1: kobe has the best statistical line / career averages … the facts are, MJ, lebron and various others in the history of the association (oscar, jerry west, larry bird, just to name a few) easily outpace kobe in every significant statistical category (and are projected to through the duration of his career) …
    argument #2: kobe has 4 rings … bob horry has seven; next …
    argument #3: kobe has “heart” and the will of a champion … go ahead and explain the disconnect between these skills he allegedly possesses and the performances he permitted his team, as the unquestioned leader, to post during his prime in the ’05 through ’07 seasons …
    argument #4: kobe is the best, the stats are wrong or don’t matter or people that point to them are “haters” … great, so we are basically distilling the conversation down to your opinion … in that case, let’s recall what they say about opinions …
    argument #5: kobe would have better career stats if he had been drafted onto a worse team … speculation and contrary to logic …
    argument #6: kobe’s the best because mark jackson, kenny smith and a horde of analysts who have never picked up a basketball say so … really? maybe these analysts, who are essentially employees of the association through its partnerships with the networks, know that absurd assertions and dramatic debate over who is best boosts ratings … maybe?
    argument #7: kobe’s the best because he’s “clutch” and is the guy everyone would want in the 7th game of a series at the buzzer to win it … here are the facts, as presented at 82games.com and elsewhere … lebron and carmelo take less of these kinds of shots (with very specific inclusion criteria) and make more … the fact is, kobe has missed nearly 3/4 of these kinds of shots in his career (it’s lower than his already low 45.5% career FG %age) … but more importantly, why does the team with the most talent always have so many games that come down to a last minute shot? could it be that kobe, who has a reputation from as far back as high school of loafing in games and trying to take over at the end to be the hero, is indirectly point shaving to keep games close so he can try to be the hero (which he does at an approx. 25% clip, mind you)?
    top 25 player of all time? yes. top 5? please, child …
    give me the other arguments and i’ll be happy to address …

  16. k2 - Feb 26, 2010 at 4:58 PM

    westlake is for tools who cannot afford to hang in the ‘bu … also, the bruins look ripe for the NIT (maybe) … enjoy NYC! you surely put some thought into that moniker …
    finally, to your repetitive, poorly written point … i’ll take lebron or carmelo today, jordan or magic in the past (just off the top of my head) … your guy couldn’t walk their respective dogs …

  17. k2 - Feb 26, 2010 at 5:11 PM

    i cannot stop laughing … i’m supposed to take a guy to build my team around who is 32 years old this year, will have 14 seaons under his belt, a lifetime of tread on his tires with over 1,200 games played and 43,000 minutes played already (feel free to read the peer-reviewed literature on the decline of the human body in athletics at or before these milestones …) … and for all of that gametime, he has somehow only managed to win ONE regular season MVP and ONE Finals MVP, and the undeniable fact exists for all to see that he could not win anything without a stacked roster around him … oh yeah, and his team has won at a greater clip (57 / 34) with him sitting on the bench than with him as “the man”, leading a team with lamar odom and caron butler (112 / 111) …
    are you serious? really?

  18. redgirl - Feb 26, 2010 at 5:36 PM

    One question, If you were building a team, name your players.
    These players would be from the last twenty years. (you can’t have Kobe, by the way). Here’s my team,
    4 Kobe’s and 1 Dennis Rodman (they both have that trait, heart)
    You see, Dennis doesn’t have great stats, however, he will leave everything on the floor, every nite, same as Kobe. Again, judge the man, not the team. Tell me, what’s the difference between Jordan and Kobe? What separates them? Do you say Jordan is nothing without Pippen? No, you give Jordan his dues, so man up, and give them to Kobe also. Again, it doesn’t matter if you personally like him or not, who cares, doesn’t change the fact that he is a great player. Numbers don’t lie.
    If you didn’t get the comment, “he will kill you and dare you to die”, is directed at how bad Kobe is, how he will take your will, and dare you to ask for it back. The sign of someone who knows their job. Get it?
    As for as Shaq goes, great players don’t get traded (4x’s), they get built around!
    Answer the ? why don’t you like Kobe? Better yet, love your player more than you hate mine! You spent tooo much time trying to explain your hatred of Kobe, so who is your favorite player?

  19. k2 - Feb 26, 2010 at 6:05 PM


    from the past twenty years or so, i’ll take magic at the 1, MJ at the 2, lebron at the 3, kevin garnett at the 4 and shaq in the middle … that team would eviscerate your team of four kobe bryants and a dennis rodman … 100 games, 100 wins …
    “heart” is just a word; if it was actually something tangible, you would have spent a minute or two over the past few hours attempting to spin some b.s. to explain the ’05 through ’07 seasons away … and jordan was 6 /6 in nba finals appearances, with 6 finals mvps … don’t compare kobe to michael jordan; it’s not just blasphemy to any sane person who has watched them both play the game, but it shows that you cannot get past your emotional attachment to kobe and command your thoughts rationally …
    for the record (not that you appear to care for facts, but still) … shaq has been traded three times (he signed with LAL as an unrestricted free agent) …

  20. Killer's Krew - Feb 26, 2010 at 6:10 PM

    Let’s keep it real. Kobe is a rapist. He settled out of court with the woman he raped.
    Lebron does not have to rape woman to get affection.
    Thus ends the comparison to Lebron.
    Lebron is class personified. Kobe is a rapist.
    One on one Lebron would eat Kobe for lunch.
    One elbow from Lebron and Kobe would go running to Shaq for protection.
    Kobe could shoot the ball, but he falls short to the king in every other facet: Defense, assists, rebounds, steals, oh… and yeah…
    $$$$$$.

  21. WIZARD OF OZOLA - Feb 26, 2010 at 6:14 PM

    IN SUPPORT OF K2 : KOBE THE CRY BABY WANTED TO BE TRADED TO CHICAGO WHEN THE LAKERS RECORD WAS POOR. HE NEEDS A HEART AND A BRAIN. IF HE THOUGH THAT THE FREEZING COLD WINTERS OF THE MIDWEST WOULD SOLVE ALL HIS PROBLEMS , HE WAS AND IS A FOOL.LAKERS LOST TO THE SPURS AND THE PISTONS BECAUSE OF KOBE’S INSANE NEED TO JACK 25-30 SHOTS A GAME.GO READ PHIL JACKSON’S BOOK, REDGIRL, KOBE IS A BOY IN A MAN’S BODY.EVEN MAGIC JOHNSON WAS SICK OF KOBE ‘S ATTITUDE.FOR MY MONEY , KOBE CAN GO TO CHINA AND PLAY WITH STARBURY, ANOTHER LOSER. THEN WHEN KOBE RAPES A WOMEN THERE, HE WILL DO HARD TIME IN A CHINESE JAIL.CHINESE WATER TORTURE.NO DIM SUN.JUST RICE, RATS AND MAO’S LITTLE RED BOOK.

  22. k2 - Feb 26, 2010 at 6:21 PM

    yawn …
    i failed to address one of your questions: the difference between mj and kobe?
    let’s start with the following examples (a partial analysis):
    – five more finals mvps
    – 6 / 6 in finals (wins)
    – 6 / 6 as finals mvp
    – four more regular season mvps
    – 4.8 points more per game
    – 0.9 more rebounds per game
    – 0.7 assists more per game
    – 0.8 more steals per game
    – 0.2 more blocks per game
    – 0.2 less turnovers per game
    – 0.1 less fouls per game
    – better fg%age: 49.7% fg%age (vs. 45.5% for kobe)
    – slightly worse ft %age: 83.5% (vs. 83.9% for kobe)
    – worse 3pt fg %age: 32.7% (vs. 34.1% for kobe)
    and jordan’s numbers account for a decline in his later years that kobe’s numbers don’t yet reflect …
    is that enough?

  23. vf1rj - Feb 28, 2010 at 12:43 PM

    Hahaha! LOL! I like the discussion so far…I just wonder how an article about Shaq turned into Kobe vs MJ…
    I side with the one defending MJ…I mean, come on…a team of Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kevin Garnet, and Shaquille O’neal will win 100x in 100 games against 4 Kobe Bryants and 1 Dennis Rodman, in any reality…
    I don’t want to be too involved, but I will answer the comment regarding Shaq being traded 4x,….first, Orlando didn’t want to give him up (they even flew to him personally to offer him a max deal), Shaq became a free agent, so he was free to sign with anybody (Lakers). With the Lakers, he asked to be traded, because he felt (along with Phil Jackson) that the Lakers management will bend over backwards for Kobe Bryant, so Shaq simply asked to be let go (it’s not like they wanted him gone)…Miami,when Dwyane Wade was injured, and for some silly reason, Shaq was not being given the touches he used to get when they won a championship with him, they thought it best to rebuild, and they got offers for Shaq (which Phoenix took), and Pat Riley’s reason is to give Shaq another shot at a championship, which clearly, they couldn’t do (Miami is still in the toilet, BTW). In Phoenix, contrary to a lot of negative comments, Shaq played extremely well, and according to Alvin Gentry, he was wonderful for them, he has done everything they asked him. Unfortunately, their owner could no longer afford Shaq’s (or amare’s, apparently) huge contract, so he had to go if they will not win a championship this year (and Phoenix clearly will not). And here we are in Cleveland….so….Shaq changed teams 4x…one he became a free agent, one he asked to be traded (after LA offered a contract extension), one Miami was in rebuilding mode, one Phoenix had monetary problems….so, it’s not like Shaq was garbage to his teams…..Take note, Shaq led the Magics to the Finals, he won multiple championships with LA, he helped win Miami’s only championship in history, and he led Phoenix in 4 statistical categories (scoring, rebounds, blocks and FG%). As far as the inuendo that Shaq was garbage who was always traded…shows us how little you comprehend things.

  24. vf1rj - Feb 28, 2010 at 12:49 PM

    Lots of luck to Shaq! Hope he gets better soon! I am sure his fans (like me) are looking forward to him dominating in the playoffs, getting his 5th ring, winning it all with Clevelanf this year!

  25. Potato Beetle - Mar 1, 2010 at 12:23 AM

    Heya i got to your site by mistake when i was searching bing for something off topic here but i do have say your site is really helpful, like the theme and the content on here…so thanks for me procrastinating from my previous task, lol

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