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​Cavaliers Mid-season Recap

Chad W. Lutz
​While most of the sporting world was still droning on about the Green Bay Give-It-Away Kids and the AFC Championship blowout, basketball was still quietly taking place in their midst. So, for a moment, let's forget about Russell Wilson's sleepy performance, Tom Brady setting records, or Deflate Gate, which promises to be about as entertaining as watching a ball deflate (see what I did there?). We'll have plenty of time to talk about that stuff over Super Bowl nachos.

We're a little past the halfway point in the 2014-2015 Cavaliers season. One game to be exact. Many analysts feel a lot can be said about a team heading into the midsection of the gut otherwise known as the NBA calendar. The Cavs are the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, where they've sat for a majority of the year, and hold a record of 22-20 through 42 games. We've had high ups and low downs, but a part of me feels it's still too early to glean the crystal ball just yet.

One of the main reasons I think it's still too early to call the Cavs' spade is because I still don't know if the Cavaliers know which deck they're drawing from, let alone what type of hand they want to play. The injuries sustained by this team so far this season have been historic. We've seen the early, season-long exit of our hailed energy man, Anderson Varejao, succumbing to a torn Achilles. Anderson has only played about 146 games (46% of total games) the last four seasons, and his presence (er…his healthy presence) was something the Cavs were really counting on heading into the 14/15 campaign.

We also saw the devolution of Lebron James for the first time in his entire career. Before this season, Lebron had never missed more than three games in a row due to injury or rest. But his 30th birthday changed all of that. Complaining of a sore hamstring and knee exacerbated by jumping into the crowd for a ball against the Miami Heat on Christmas Day, Lebron and the team doctors, as well as other people he "trusts" shut him down. That shutdown lasted for two weeks.

What no one told the rest of the Cavs is that Lebron being out still meant we had to play basketball. In defense of the guys in Wine and Gold, try as they might, they just couldn't get it together and what resulted was some of the sloppiest play the franchise has ever seen, even post Decision I-era, and especially with the type of talent the Cavaliers have on paper.
Meet Cleveland's newest Cavaliers: Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith, and Timofey Mozgov
(www.businessweek.com/www.bleacherreport.com)
​In deference to seasons past, David Griffin wasted no time in acquiring replacements for the ailing James and skewered Varejao. On January 5, Griffin dealt the high-scoring, sometimes locker room liability Dion Waiters to the Oklahoma City Thunder in a three-team trade with New York, which brought shooter J.R. Smith and guard Iman Shumpert to TheLand. But Griffin and Dan Gilbert weren't done there. It's been no secret the Cavs have lacked a big man presence in the middle. Anderson Varejao, with his energy, made up for a lot of that alongside Kevin Love and Lebron James. But with Andy gone, Lebron running the point, and Love ailing from back spasms and having an all-around down year, teams were picking us apart left and right.

Enter: Timofey Mozgov. And no, those aren't type-o's. At 7'1" 250lbs, Mozgov is a giant in the middle and as concerning as the spellings of his first and last names. What's even better is the fact Timofey played under coach David Blatt on the Russian national team that won Bronze in the 2012 Games. Hopefully that chemistry pans out, and in many ways it already has. The Cavs have dramatically improved since acquiring Mozgov on January 7, just two days after Griffin gave Waiters the professional boot and opened arms to Smith and Shumpert. In those games since the trades, the Cavs are back playing at least .500 ball and have pieced together a nice little three-game winning streak, including  back-to-back wins against both L.A. teams.

While the season so far has been more Mr. Hyde than Dr. Jekyll, there's still as many games left to play as we've already played. Lebron has been on another plane of athletic ability coming off of his rest, Kyrie Irving continues to dazzle and awe, and J.R. Smith already appears to be playing for more than a paycheck, which is more than you can say for his entire stint in New York. It'll be interesting to see how well these new Cavaliers gel together moving forward in the season and down the home stretch toward the playoffs. Mmmmm. The playoffs. How good it is to realistically use that term and "Cavaliers" in the same sentence.
vs. UTA 1/21
vs. CHA 1/23
vs. OKC 1/25
@ DET 1/27
vs. POR 1/28
vs. SAC 1/30
@ MIN 1/31
vs. PHI 2/2
vs. LAC 2/5
@ IND 2/6