Part of the Process
“The Process” is something that head coach Byron Scott has often cited during his club’s recent struggles. A veteran Cavs fan, Melissa is confident in the Process, and it helps her simmer down Section 126’s fans – and me – when the going gets tough. (It doesn’t hurt that she also hands out candy on Halloween, bakes cookies for Christmas and wears bunny ears on Easter.)
The Process continued on Tuesday night, when the Cavaliers losing streak hit 18 games in Beantown. And whether his squad understands the Process or not, Byron Scott knows that even the 112-95 defeat to the East-leading Celtics is part of it.
The Celtics are stockpiled with Hall of Famers and led by a coach who might one day join them in Springfield. They’re the only team to ever boast four 20,000-point career scorers. Meanwhile, the average age of Cleveland’s top three scorers on Tuesday – Ramon Sessions, Manny Harris and Christian Eyenga – was 22.3 years old.
Add in 22-year-old J.J. Hickson – who is now averaging 16.6 boards every other game for the past two weeks – and you get a general idea of the Process.
Byron Scott and Chris Grant know more about the Process than I do. After all, it’s theirs. But I’m going to take my own crack at it here …
1. Postbellum Period – Emotional issues aside, removing a two-time MVP off of any team immediately puts it into the red. But the Cavaliers didn’t simply lose their All-Star forward. They lost four players to two teams – LeBron James and Zydrunas Ilgauskas to Miami and Delonte West and Shaquille O’Neal to Boston – who accounted for 59.7 points per game last year and 401 games of playoff experience alone.
The departure of Shaq and Z was a loss of two players who’d combined for 2,018 career games. When the Wine and Gold shut down Anderson Varejao for the year on January 9, their lone true remaining center, Ryan Hollins, had 34 career starts under his belt.
The Cavaliers vets have been solid this year, especially the consummate professional, Antawn Jamison, who’s averaging 20.7 ppg as a starter. Mo Williams is currently nursing a hip flexor and Joey Graham just returned from a 17-game stretch on the shelf. Varejao is down for the season and Leon Powe is still a ways away.
So far this season, the Cavs have lost 81 player games to injury.
Great teams and players do it every night and every night for 48 minutes. On Tuesday night, J.J. put up numbers not seen since Larry Nance in 1989 and did so without playing the fourth quarter. The third-year player blocked three shots in the first quarter. In the third quarter, he went 5-for-6 from the floor and grabbed 11 boards.
For the first time this year, all three Cavaliers rookies notched double-figures on Tuesday, but moreover, are slowly gaining confidence. Next year, for example, a 22-year-old Manny Harris will have logged big minutes against the likes of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Kevin Martin. Often, these vets have gotten the best of the former Wolverine, but his on-the-job training his been invaluable.
Samardo Samuels is an undersized bruiser who’s been asserting himself lately, battling Big Baby to a second-half draw on Tuesday.
Right now, rookie No. 3 – Christian Eyenga – is probably the club’s most intriguing player. Athletic and intelligent, the No. 30 overall pick in 2009 has gained confidence with each passing game and led the squad in scoring in just his fourth career start. The high-flying swingman gets from Point A to Point B in a hurry and the game seems to be slowing down for him.
As the roster stands now, Antawn Jamison, Jamario Moon and Anthony Parker are the only players over 30. Daniel Gibson and Ramon Sessions will both be 25 when next season tips off. Mo Williams will be 28, Varejao, 29.
The rookie triumvirate will still be the age of college kids at the start of next season – except with a wealth of NBA experience.
3. Great Scott – Some fans are wondering how Coach Scott has remained calm in the face of an 18-game losing streak. He answered that question following Tuesday’s defeat in Beantown.
By now, Cavalier fans have heard about Bryon Scott’s penchant for reclamation projects.
In 2000, his New Jersey team lost 56 games. The next year, they added Jason Kidd, traded Eddie Griffin for Richard Jefferson and Jason Collins on Draft night and got some players healthy. Later that spring, Scott led the Nets to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. The next year, Scott’s squad swept the Celtics and Pistons to reach the Finals for the second straight year.
Despite being atop the Atlantic Division at the time, Scott was let go by the Nets 42 games into his fourth season.
Scott’s next stop was New Orleans, where he took his team from 18 wins in his first year to 38 the next. By year four, the Hornets were a 56-win club and gave the defending Champion Spurs all they could handle in that year’s postseason.
Many new-era Cavalier fans aren’t accustomed to losing, and for most of Scott’s younger players, they’ve already lost more games this year than they’d lost in their college (and maybe high school) careers combined. Both parties are eager and edgy. But Byron Scott has patience in the Process.
4. The Future – It would take an epic run for the Wine and Gold to continue their string of postseason appearances. Realistically, what they do now has to be with an eye towards the future.
The Cavaliers have some cap relief coming and are stockpiled with draft picks. They’ll have all their own picks in the coming Drafts as well as Oklahoma City’s 2011 second rounder, New Orleans’ 2012 second rounder and Minnesota’s in 2013. Of course, Cleveland owns Miami’s first rounders in 2012, 2013 and 2015.
As the Cavaliers roster is consisted now, they have five former first-rounders, six second-rounders and four players that went undrafted. The Minnesota Timberwolves, at 10-38 at the bottom of the Western Conference, have 12 former first-rounders on their roster, including seven top-ten picks.
The Cavaliers have a plethora of options for the future, and – unlike in recent years – those options involve improving through youth. And that responsibility will fall upon Cleveland’s front office and coaching staff.
Austin Carr speaks frequently about going “through the wars” and what players “you’ll want to go to war with” in the future.
Those wars are part of the Kid Cavaliers current growing pains.
One of the squad’s senior members, Daniel Gibson, has seen almost every battle. He canned the three-pointers to send Cleveland to the 2007 Finals. He missed the three-pointer that could’ve snapped a 16-game losing streak.
Painful, yes. But it’s all part of the Process.