Ham’s Hoops Roundup Wednesday 1/3: Isaiah Look Who It Is

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Isaiah back – what that means for Cleveland. The Spurs roll the Knicks. And Devin Booker is cooking. It’s the Hoops Roundup for Wednesday, January 3rd. Let’s get it…


Scores from Tuesday, January 2nd:

San Antonio 100  –  New York 91
Portland 110  –  Cleveland 127
Atlanta 103  –  Phoenix 104
Charlotte 131  –  Sacramento 111
Memphis 105  –  LA Clippers 113


Portland 110  –  Cleveland 127

Portland  (19-18)
Cleveland  (25-12)

Isaiah made his long awaited return to the court last night, and from a basketball fan neutral observer human interest everything standpoint it was fucking awesome to watch. Dude is as fan to watch and as easy a guy to root for as any athlete I can ever remember. There really is nothing like watching him. And to see him come back looking like his old self after a possible career-derailing injury was really dope

On the surface, Isaiah’s return doesn’t theoretically change much. They’re the third ranked offense (111.5 OffRtg) and the second worst defense (108.7 DefRtg). You’d assume those remain the same with Isaiah.

But there’s an interesting wrinkle…

Oone of the biggest problems Cleveland has had the last four years that they tend to fall apart offensively without LeBron on the court. He led the league in minutes last year (37.8) and is third this season (37.3) because they collapse without him. It’s an odd phenomenon, but it makes sense when you realize that LeBron’s teams are just that… they’re LeBron’s teams. He’s dictating everything they do. He’s the coach and the quarterback. And it’s all build around him being able to do with nobody else can do – and that’s what it should be. Because he really is the perfect quarterback. He has every skill set and the highest IQ in the game.

LeBron is Brady in the pocket, killing defenses with passes to the three point shooters on a dime that nobody else can throw like him (Brady’s darts to his slot receivers), picking and choosing when to go to the hoop with unstoppable force when he wants to (Brady to Gronk), whipping the ball out faster than the defense can react (Brady always getting rid of it quickly), orchestrating it all to perfection in an irreplaceable way.

The problem is… now someone else with a totally different skill set is being asked to come in and run that exact same offense for three series a game. It’s like replacing Brady with Mike Vick for three series. Kyrie is Mike Vick. He can get his shot off (Vick escaping pressure) unlike anyone in the history of basketball. But he holds onto the ball. He relies on arm strength over timing. And he’ll fall back to that one skill (iso scoring/escaping the pocket) too often because in his mind, that’s the most unstoppable option on any given play. And he’s so talented that that can work.

But when your offense is built around Brady, you can’t ask Vick to come in and completely change what he does.

As insane as this sounds… Isaiah is a more suited backup than Kyrie. Isaiah isn’t LeBron Jr. But he’s at his best when surrounded by shooters and keeping the ball moving and getting to the basket. He thrives in the same type of offense LeBron has drawn up.

He’s not better than Kyrie. The Cavs are not better with him instead of Kyrie. Their ceiling is lower and their chances of beating the Warriors are slimmer. Kyrie’s iso scoring ability come Finals time is immeasurably more important.

But what Isaiah does do is offer LeBron the best option to carry the offense through the regular season that he’s ever had in a teammate. Slide Isaiah in that orchestrator spot–that QB position–in LeBron’s offense for fifteen minutes a game and it’s simply a more compatible fit than Kyrie was (and a more motivated player than Miami Wade).

Watch, there will be less of a drop-off offensively in that time LeBron is sitting and/or roaming than there was when Kyrie took over the offense. And if that results in LeBron’s minutes getting drastically reduced without sacrificing wins, that’s huge for this team. LeBron played only 34 minutes last night. It’s just the third time he’s played that few minutes in the last month, the other two coming in blowouts.

There’s a LOT of season left, and a much more difficult road looming before the Finals. Right now LeBron is looking at six or seven games of Giannis in round one, a much tougher Toronto team with OG Anunoby hounding him in round two, and seven games with Jaylen Brown, Semi Ojeleye, and a potentially healthy/rested Gordon Hayward in round three. That’s a nightmare stretch of defenders before he even gets to Draymond/Durant/Iggy in the Finals. Isaiah truly lessening the load over these next three months would make a world of difference versus having to keep this level of intensity up though April.

 

In addition to LeBron (24p/6r/8a/4s) and IT (17p/3a), Cleveland continued to get strong bench support from Wade (15p/8r/3s) and Jeff Green (10p/4r/5a/2s).

Oh hey look they play Boston tonight. 8:00 ESPN. LETS GOOOO


San Antonio 100  –  New York 91

San Antonio  (26-12)
New York  (18-19)

Kawhi (25p/8r/4a/4s) and LaMarcus (29p/6r) were awesome last night and sent the Knicks back below .500 after a big win over New Orleans on Saturday.

This is the stretch here where Knicks fans need to buckle up and just kind of expect the worst. They entered their road-heavy stretch at 17-14 off a huge win over Boston in the Garden.

Since then they’ve lost five of six and sit at 18-19 on the year, a game out of the playoffs. Tonight they start a stretch of 11 of 13 on the road in Washington again a hot Wizards team. It’s not as brutal a stretch as you’d expect from a West Coast swing… but with a 3-12 road record this season every road game seems brutal.

Best case KP is a freaking monster and they emerge around .500 with a real shot at the playoffs. Worst case they drop down into the thick of the Lottery chase and we all get addicted to Luka Doncic videos on youtube. Win Win imho.

Aspire to have the confidence of Mike Beasley grabbing this ball like it didn’t just go through the hoop. You know what let’s just make that easier. Aspire to have the confidence of Mike Beasley grabbing this ball like it didn’t just go through the hoop.

If this was Manu’s last game in the Garden, that’s a hell of a way to go out.


Atlanta 103  –  Phoenix 104

Atlanta  (10-27)
Phoenix  (15-24)

Devin Booker lit the Hawks up last night, going for 34p/5r/7a/3s on 9-17 shooting with 2-3 from three and 14-15 from the line.

 

Since returning last Tuesday he’s averaged 31 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 5.5 assists with 41/42/89 splits. Phoenix is 3-1 in the four games. On the season he’s at 25.2p/4.5r/4.3a on 45/39/88 splits.

I don’t think anyone is necessarily ignoring what he’s doing this season. It’s more of a “the Suns aren’t good so let’s keep any hard Devin Booker takes at arms length until this team actually does something” hesitation.

But they are a sneaky respectable 12-17 with him in the lineup. And if he’s healthy and playing like this it’s not like they’re that far out from the eight seed.

I’m not saying they’ll do it or even come close. But let’s… let’s just at east keep half of half of an eye on them over the next month. None of those five teams above them is any sort of a lock.


Charlotte 131  –  Sacramento 111

Charlotte  (14-23)
Sacramento  (12-25)

A thrilling Charlotte Hornets victory fueled by an electric 20p/8r night from Dwi– *falls into a deep slumber*


Memphis 105  –  LA Clippers 113

Memphis  (12-26)
LA Clippers  (17-19)

Don’t look now, but the Clippers have very quietly reeled off six of seven and climbed within a game of the eight seed out West thanks to the dominant defense of DeAndre (9p/12r) and the instant offense of Lou Will (33p/6a) playing starters minutes off the bench.

But a lot is also due to Milos Teodosic solidifying that point guard spot. They’re now 9-3 with him in the lineup this season. And even if his stats aren’t gaudy (8.9p/3.5r/5.3), having that solidifying, unifying presence there on a team that’s been surrounded in chaos and controversy for what feels like a decade now is absolutely huge.

Also helping? The return of top 15 player Blake Griffin looking like top 15 player Blake Griffin – averaging 23.3p/6.3r/6.7a in these first three games back. Last night he went for 21p/6r/8a on 9-18 shooting.

And yeah, it’s fun having good Blake back.


Around The Association

draft


Schedule for Wednesday, January 3rd:

7:00



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