Morning Shootaround

Shootaround (Sept. 16) -- Cleveland Cavaliers need to refurbish Kevin Love Staff

This morning’s headlines:

* * *

Cavs need to refurbish Kevin Love: Remember Kevin Love, the new-age big man who could dominate in the paint with games of 20 points and 20 rebounds, then step outside well enough to win the NBA’s 3-point shooting contest one year? When Love was the centerpiece of the Minnesota Timberwolves’ attack for at least the last four (2011-2014) of his first six NBA seasons, he averaged 23.5 points and 13.7 rebounds, had a PER of 25.0 and a usage rate of 26.9. That guy has been hard to find the past three years in Cleveland, where Love’s numbers in the same categories have been 17.0, 10.2, 19.5 and 23.6. We all know why, of course – Love took a massive step backward as the Cavs’ third wheel, deferring to LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. But with Irving gone now, ESPN’s Zach Lowe argues that Cleveland might want to dust off some vintage Love:

Playing alongside two pick-and-roll maestros transformed Love into a third wheel, just as Chris Bosh warned. He was a glorified Ryan Anderson at times, chilling along the 3-point arc while LeBron and Irving ran the show. He became a different player. The Cavs bristle at the idea that he became a worse player. They are confident Minnesota Love still exists, and they are redesigning their offense — and potentially their rotation, featuring more of Love at center — to unleash him again.

Whether an older Love weathered by injuries can still be that player in a LeBron-centric offense, against opponents who have gotten smarter about defending him, is one of the looming season’s thorniest questions. Cavs coach Tyronn Lue has talked before about giving Love the ball more, but it has never stuck for more than a few games at a time.

“Kevin is going to have the best year that he’s had here,” Lue told this week. “I thought he was great anyway. You keep bringing up Bosh. What did Bosh average in Miami? Kevin averaged almost 20 [points] and 10 [rebounds] with two other All-Stars. If you are on a championship-caliber team, you have to sacrifice. But this year is going to be a big opportunity for him. We’re going to play through him more. He’s going to get those elbow touches again.”

Love’s game was so much more diverse, and less predictable, in Minnesota. He scored more off of cuts, per Synergy. He sliced to the rim more often on pick-and-rolls instead of popping out to the 3-point arc, waiting for LeBron or Irving to pass him the ball

The Wolves in 2013-14 averaged 307 passes per game, according to SportVU data. The Cavs averaged 281 last season, 26th in the league. Love is a feel player. He likes to improvise. The more the ball moves, the more he moves. Minnesota’s system invigorated him. He was an active give-and-go player, flying through the back door to snag bounce passes from Nikola Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng.

The Cavs have tried to coax that player out. They even swiped a bunch of Minnesota set pieces, including an intricate post play Lue often uses to open games.

But those plays have a stilted, token feel to them. They certainly have not uncovered Minnesota Love. Part of that is a commitment issue: Love is still effective by the numbers whenever he gets the ball, and if he gets it more, he should thrive.

* * *

Silver puts starch in ‘resting’ issue: Adam Silver has a well-earned reputation as “a player’s commissioner” since taking over that job in February 2014, certainly in contrast to the man who preceded him in that position. David Stern, who did much of the heavy lifting to build the NBA into the popular and financial success it is today, was more authoritarian in his approach over both the players and the owners. Still, Silver has stiffened as needed – for instance, the Donald Sterling-Clippers controversy just two months into the new commish’s tenure. Now Silver appears to be flexing a little muscle again, as assessed by ESPN’’s Adrian Wojnarowski in writing about the league’s ongoing concerns over healthy players logging “DNP-rest” nights (a vote on rules related to that is expected at the Board of Governors meeting on Sept. 28):

As Silver told the board of governors gathering this summer, he had never wanted the commissioner’s office to get into the business of regulating the work of individual teams’ medical staffs. Yet, they’ll all have to find a way to make this work — and it could get complicated.

While yes, the NBA is sensitive to the ticket-buying public losing out on the chance to see LeBron James or Stephen Curry on a once-a-season trip out of their conference, this is ultimately a television-revenue issue. The network games on ABC, ESPN and TNT were punctured when the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs turned national appearances into split-squad spring training games. Silver has been hellbent on a solution.

The NBA largely eliminated back-to-back games around teams’ national television appearances. The plan to discipline teams resting players, along with NBA draft lottery reform, are both mandates the commissioner is pushing hard to get passed.

The resting rules have been met with little resistance. Silver has mostly sold it to owners as an economic issue. He has warned that the NBA’s future revenues and growth are directly tied to solving the resting issue, because that problem ultimately threatens regular-season and playoff ratings — never mind the cumulative cost of eroding interest in the sport.

In the end, the NBA’s owners couldn’t trust one another enough to honor this massive global financial partnership and simply play the best players on the biggest television nights of the season. Of course, this way, the owners also don’t have to grapple with their GMs and coaches on basketball choices. This way, they can let Adam Silver do it.

This time, too, the commissioner of the National Basketball Association isn’t taking no for an answer.

* * *

Meschery’s fascinating life before, during and after the NBA: Here at Shootaround HQ, we probably don’t pay enough attention to the old school, the players and coaches who laid the foundation for the splendor and show biz we see now throughout the NBA. To plug the void at least temporarily, writer Ed Odeven caught up with and penned a piece on Tom Meschery. Who’s Meschery? He’s a former first-round pick who was a teammate of Wilt Chamberlain in the Big Dipper’s mythical 100-point game. He was an inaugural member of the expansion Seattle SuperSonics. He was a one-time All-Star in his 10 NBA seasons, a Warriors alumnus and a big fan of the current Golden State crew, and a fellow brave enough to once try to fight his old pal Wilt. Then there is his story before and after his playing days. These excerpts are just a taste, so click through:

Take a typical Hollywood script and add several more twists and turns to the plot. That would help give you a vivid picture of the life that Tom Meschery has lived.

Immigrant. War survivor. College basketball star. NBA standout. Poet. Bookstore owner. High school English teacher.

Meschery was born in Harbin, Manchuria (in present-day China). His parents had emigrated to Harbin to escape the 1917 Russian Revolution in their native land.

“The Bolsheviks shot most of my relatives,” he told Sports Illustrated.

His father had served in the White Russian Army, and distant relatives on his mother’s side of the family included the gifted writers Leo and Aleksey Tolstoy. That rich Russian literary tradition helped shape his future intellectual pursuits.

Spending time in a Tokyo-area internment camp during World War II had a profound impact on Meschery’s life (a topic that will be explored in a few weeks for the third installment). From age 3, some of his earliest memories were the sights, sounds and smells of the war and intense aerial bombardment of Tokyo.

Asked how the trauma of war affected his life, Meschery said, “It’s hard to say. I’m pretty sure that one of the results of the camp was a long-abiding sense of insecurity that I’ve always had.

“In basketball, it helped me a great deal because I always thought that I was about to lose my job and that every season I had to battle,” added the No. 7 overall pick in the 1961 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia Warriors by phone from his home in Sacramento, California. “And that’s just the way I’ve kind of always lived my life. I was always looking over my shoulder, and I think that must have come from the camp.”


On the basketball court, he was always in the thick of things. He was known for his toughness, his hard-nosed style of play. As a rookie, he led the NBA in fouls (330) in the 1961-62 season.

That, of course, wasn’t his most memorable fact of the season. The March 2, 1962, game in Hershey, Pennsylvania, gets top billing. In Warriors center Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game, Philly topped the New York Knicks 169-147, with Meschery and fellow starting forward Paul Arizin both scoring 16 points and backcourt mates Al Attles and Guy Rodgers putting 17 and 11 on the board. Wilt had 31 fourth-quarter points to set the single-game scoring standard before a crowd of 4,124.

Nothing about that contest surprised Meschery, who was inducted into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame in 2003.

“They tried to do everything, but the Knicks were not a very good team,” acknowledged Meschery who averaged 12.7 points and 8.6 rebounds in his 10 NBA seasons and was the first foreign-born player to appear in an All-Star Game in 1963. “You have to remember that, and that’s not any kind of asterisk. . . . But they had their own pride. They knew what was happening.”

Once while suiting up for the Sonics, Meschery got ticked off at ex-teammate Chamberlain, who was then with the Lakers.

Bad decision.

Meschery started throwing punches at the 216-cm Wilt, a scene described in Sports Illustrated as “like right out of a comic book.”

“Wilt was literally holding my head. I was trying to hit him and I was of course moving towards him, and so my forward motion was impeded by his hand. So he had his hand on my forehead, so imagine the pictures.”

* * *

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Want to see action highlights, player info and lots of other NBA content on your smartphone? Don’t go hunting and pecking through social media or a browser. Just tap your phone on the “jock tag” on your new NikeConnect jersey. Yes, as in, your shirt. … If you set up the standards just so, redlining around 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, 250 blocked shots and 100 3-point field goals in each of a fellow’s first two NBA seasons, you’ll get an idea of why New York’s Kristaps Porzingis is considered a basketball unicorn. … He might not soar as high anymore, but the man they call JET – 40-year-old Jason Terry – will bring his bravado and veteran presence to Milwaukee for one more year. … Cleveland guard Iman Shumpert, a friend of Kyrie Irving, said he wasn’t surprised by the All-Star point guard’s trade to Boston. He shared more from inside the Cavs’ world, too. … Some around the Chicago Bulls think a buyout of veteran Dwyane Wade won’t come until we flip the calendars to 2018, even pushing toward the All-Star break. For now, it seems both sides – the decorated but non-essential star on a rebuilding team and the Bulls’ front office – are waiting for the other to blink. …