Random thoughts on the Cavaliers 108-104 loss at Orlando on Friday:
If you want perfection from Dion Waiters or the Cavs, youd better grow up. Because Waiters and the Cavs still have to do it themselves. But this game showed a lot of things -- namely, that Waiters has loads of potential and when hes on, the Cavs have a fighting chance.
Does Waiters have to mature, basketball-wise? Of course. Hes 12 games into his NBA career, for Petes sake. He probably shoots too many three-pointers. He doesnt defend as well as coach Byron Scott would like. He sometimes dribbles too much without really going anywhere. But guess what? Hes a rookie whos 12 games into his NBA career.
Memorize the above, repeat it over and over, then think about this: Waiters played 37 minutes Friday. He spent a good portion of it handling the ball and trying to generate some offense. And he didnt commit a single turnover. Not one. Instead, he scored a game-high 25 points and was the biggest reason the Cavs had a shot to win a road game they had no business winning.
Yeah, I know. Dwight Howard doesnt play for the Magic anymore, and Stan Van Gundy is no longer their coach. Theyre supposed to be bad -- and for the most part, theyre living up to expectations. So what? For the Cavs (3-9), this was still a road game without Kyrie Irving. They still started a rookie shooting guard and a guy whos like rookie point guard in second-year man Jeremy Pargo. They still started a second-year power forward in Tristan Thompson and they still used a rookie in Tyler Zeller as the first big man off the bench.
You can say theres no such thing as moral victories, the Magic are lousy, or the Cavs simply didnt defend well enough in allowing Orlando to hit 50 percent from the field. But youd be nitpicking and you know it. Truth is, the Cavs did a lot of things right on this night. Yeah, they did more wrong. Obviously. Otherwise, they wouldnt have lost. Still, again, they had a good shot. Yes, were tired of potential in Cleveland. Yes, were tired of high draft picks and oversold promises. We want results. Thats fair. But youd better be looking for something else from this particular team, something deeper. If so, maybe then you wont feel disappointed.
Or how about this: Fans and media seem to love the rumormongering game of Lets Trade Anderson Varejao. Of course, all Varejao did was finish with 19 points and 17 rebounds for his third straight double-double (and seventh of the year). Varejao never complains, never wavered after LeBron James kicked Cleveland in the groin, never does anything but shrug, smile and bring it -- every single night. Trade him? For what? Someone who doesnt really want to be here for a retooling process? Yeah, thatd be a great idea.
This isnt to say its all sunshine and rainbows with the Cavs. At some point, they have to finish the job. But we have a tendency to overreact, to point the finger at Scott, to act irritated with a rookie who plays his butt off and is therefore bound to make mistakes. We expect the Cavs to win games like these. And they really want to win. But the people who are begging for Varejao to be traded are often the same who yell the loudest when the Cavs lose.
On the down side, the Cavs arent getting what they hoped from Thompson. Hes still too indecisive around the basket, he still takes too much time to get off a shot, and he still possesses almost no touch. Its either a dunk or a prayer. Theres still time, and Im not saying GM Chris Grant blew the pick because not many big men drafted after Thompson are exactly tearing it up, either. But he has to get better, and fast, because he was drafted with the idea of being something more than a bit player in mind.
Meanwhile, Alonzo Gee remains hit-or-miss on offense. Scott has told Gee its not necessary to take more than three dribbles in a halfcourt possession. Gee still takes way more than that, and when he does, you can see what Scott is talking about. That said, the guy is invaluable defensively. He can contain even the best opponents on the wing, and because of that, its hard to justify taking him off the floor. Of course, all most fans notice is his inconsistency on offense, and thats a real shame.
Bottom line: Enjoy the Cavs. If wins and losses are your thing (and theres certainly nothing wrong with that), youre going to miss a pretty good show. OK, maybe the show isnt always great, but the process hasnt been too bad. We're just trying to take baby steps," Scott said at practice earlier in the week. "The record is not my main concern. The main concern is to continue to get better. If we continue to get better, the rest will take care of itself. Its a good philosophy, and one you might want to take to heart.
Follow Sam Amico on Twitter @SamAmicoFSO