Cavaliers Season Wrap-Up

Chad W. Lutz
What began with a bang ends with an overly anti-climactic thud. Last night, the Cleveland Cavaliers wrapped up the 2011-2012 regular season schedule against the Chicago Bulls in Chi-Town in a ho-hum 107-75 loss. I watched heavy-hearted as the Cavs fought through the first half on Fox Sports Ohio before the network apparently was ready to wash their hands of the Wine and Gold for the season and flipped over to a Spanish-language soccer show, despite another two quarters of play left to go. Following the Cavaliers this season, that about sums up how the season went: “Let’s see what else is on.” We’ve seen promising highs and embarrassing lows echoing the 2010-2011 campaign. But what this season does hold is promise for a young team with the potential to contend with some of the big teams in the league, despite injury and setback.

By the end of February, I was convinced we were en route to the playoffs. A mere two games back of Boston and Milwaukee, depending on the night, the playoffs were within reach, and even without our starting center. Our losses were close, at worst, and our wins were impressive and decisive. But then disaster struck, and the Cavs hit six-game skids after nine-game skids and the parachute bay opened up and we all fell tumbling out. At one point the Cavaliers were 14-17. With the loss last night, the Cavaliers fall to 21-45.

Although our current winning percentage (.323 before tonight’s game) may look abysmal, the Cavs should walk away from this season with an optimistic look ahead to the future.
BBVA Rising Stars All-Star MVP Kyrie Irving acknowledges the crowd (Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)
Let’s take a look at the numbers, shall we?

32.6ppg... Cavaliers bench scoring average good for 13th in the league
42.3rpg… Cavaliers rebounding average good for 14th in the league
17.3ppg… Antawn Jamison’s scoring average good for 23rd best in the league
8… number of wins against playoff seeded teams
3… Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month honors received by Kyrie Irving
2… more wins this season for the Wine and Gold than last season in less contests (thru 65 games)
20… years old, Kyrie Irving’s age

Where do we need improvement?

A lot of places. The Cavaliers rank second worst in terms of overall field goal percentage and fourth worst in turnovers. The only shining beacon of light regarding the turnovers situation is that the three teams beneath them are Denver, New York, and Oklahoma City, so Cleveland can’t really feel too terrible in that department. Inconsistent minutes and injuries were the biggest plagues of the 2011-2012 campaign, and it will be interesting to see if the Cavaliers, if given the chance to overcome these obstacles, can put together a solid effort and push for the playoffs come next season.

What’s unfortunate is that the Wine and Gold will probably be without the services of veterans Anthony Parker and Antawn Jamison. Parker has already stated a number of times throughout the season 2012 will probably represent his last season as an NBA player. Antawn Jamison, in the last year of his contract with Cleveland worth roughly $15 million, will probably not return either and go on to retire or play for a contender to try and win a championship in his final years.
Anthony Parker dribbles down court against the Pacers (Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)
So what went wrong? Many will say inexperience and a lack of stability in rotation. Byron Scott appeared to be auditioning players for roles the entire season, instead of establishing set rotations. Injuries made it almost impossible to keep the same five guys in the starting lineup. A shortened season and the accelerated schedule made it almost impossible for guys to stay healthy. In total, four of the Cavaliers five starters served time on the disabled list and one of our key bench players (although you’d have to convince me otherwise after the last two non-existent seasons Daniel Gibson has played) also succumbed to season impeding injuries. The word injury probably best describes the 2011-2012 NBA campaign, as a whole. From Derrick Rose to Dwayne Wade and Kobe Bryant, everyone seemed to feel the effects of playing three, four, five times a week.

We were without the services of Anderson Varejao and Kyrie Irving for the majority of the season. Alonzo Gee and Lester Hudson stepped up in their absence and Antawn Jamison posted impressive numbers, including a nine-game stretch of 20 points or better during the month of March. Hudson eventually found his way to the Memphis Grizzlies. 21-45, that’s where the Cavaliers stand and what the record books will reflect for 2011-2012. As disappointing as it was to see a team so close to playoff contention fall so hard and without any real sign of falter or warning of waning, it was fun to watch Irving and Thompson blossom into All-Star caliber players. Kyrie is almost a shoe-in for the Rookie of the Year and Thompson averaged close to a double-double the second half of the season.

In all, the Cavaliers season was pretty prototypical of Cleveland sports. Give us hope and then send it all crashing down in a fiery display. It should come as no surprise, and to many of you reading this it probably didn’t, but I can’t help but feel like we were almost there this year. There is always next year, right?