Joe Harris, as role grows, makes compelling case to start for Cavaliers


BOSTON – Cavaliers coach David Blatt was asked what he could say about Joe Harris, the rookie shooting guard who played the entire fourth quarter of Cleveland’s comeback win over the Celtics on Friday.

“What do I say about him?” Blatt said. “Well, I put him in there, so I guess I said everything I had to say about him. I believe in the kid.”

That faith in Harris could reportedly soon morph into a starting job for the No. 33 pick.

Shawn Marion is still starting at shooting guard, playing regularly in the backcourt for the first time since started at point guard for Vincennes, the junior college he attended before transferring to UNLV. Dion Waiters, who campaigned during the offseason to join the starting lineup and began the year there, remains on the roster. The Cavaliers could are also reportedly interested in trading for Corey Brewer.

But Harris could emerge as a starter in a lineup that also includes LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving.

Wide-eyed and talking a mile a minute, Harris – who’d been sitting alone in a chaotic locker room full of reporters eager to follow Cleveland’s big three – said before Friday’s game he was beginning to get comfortable in the NBA after his four-year career at Virginia.

“You’re just trying to soak it all in and take in as much as you can in your rookie year,” Harris said.

While Harris is doing that, he’s giving the Cavaliers quite a bit.

He hit a clutch 3-pointer against the Celtics and made all three free throws after being fouled on another attempt down the stretch in Boston. Against the Hawks on Saturday, Harris doubled his previous career high with 12 points and raised his season total to 6-of-12 on 3-pointers.

Harris is a Cavaliers-best +62 despite ranking just ninth on the team in minutes.

“Joe Harris is going to be a big piece for our team,” LeBron said. “He’s going to have his rookie mistakes. We all know that. But mistakes can be covered when you play hard, and that’s one thing that kid is doing.”

Most importantly, Harris is showing he fits with LeBron, Love and Irving – no matter whether Anderson Varejao or Tristan Thompson is playing center. Varejao starts, but Thompson has played nearly as much.

With the big three, Cleveland has played well with Marion-Varejao but not Marion-Thompson, well with Waiters-Thompson but not Waiters-Varejao. Harris-Varejao and Harris-Thompson has worked just swell.

Here’s how the Cavaliers have performed with LeBron, Love, Irving and each of the main shooting guard-center combinations on the floor:

Shooting guard Center Minutes Offensive rating Defensive rating Net rating
Harris Varejao 14 132.6 114.2 +18.4
Harris Thompson 10 140.6 113.2 +27.4
Marion Varejao 65 118.1 115.4 +2.7
Marion Thompson 20 81.7 101.3 -19.5
Waiters Varejao 47 99.1 107.4 -8.3
Waiters Thompson 18 134.7 106.8 +27.8

Of course, we’re dealing with small samples everywhere at this point at this point of the season, especially with Harris. And Harris’ increase in playing time has overlapped with the big three getting a better feel for playing with each other.

But an excellent spot-up shooter, Harris seems like a good fit with LeBron, Love and Irving. Citing stats from the Cavaliers, Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal reported Harris made 57 percent of his corner 3s at Virginia last season. Those stars will get Harris plenty of those highly efficient looks.

At 6-foot-6, Harris also has the size to play competent defense in a sound team scheme – especially one where LeBron can roam and create plays.

So, traditional scouting also says Harris fits well with the big three. In a slightly larger sample, the numbers bear that out:

With big three Minutes Offensive rating Defensive rating Net rating
Harris 30 137.2 98.7 +38.5
Marion 98 112.3 107.7 +4.7
Waiters 75 113.9 109.6 +4.3

Of course, regardless of the fit, starting for a contending team is a challenge for any rookie.

Magic Johnson famously started for the 1979-80 Lakers in his first year, but since the NBA began tracking starts two years later, just two rookies having started even somewhat regularly for an NBA champion:

  • Kurt Rambis, 43 starts for the 1981-82 Lakers
  • Marc Iavaroni, 77 starts for the 1982-83 76ers

Of course, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Harris has yet to start even a single game for Cleveland.

But as the Cavaliers search for the shooting guard who fits best in their starting lineup, it just might be Harris.

Report: NBA planning to start next season on Christmas

NBA Christmas
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The current NBA season – interrupted by coronavirus – could extend as late as Oct. 12. That means the league must delay next season. How long past the normal mid-October start? December was the popular notion, but that’s still a wide timeframe.

Now, we can pinpoint it.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

If the N.B.A. can successfully complete the 2019-20 season under this structure, it is expected that the 2020 N.B.A. draft would be moved to October, with free agency to follow shortly thereafter and a tentative plan to establish Dec. 25 as opening day for the 2020-21 season.

Coronavirus can ruin the best-laid plans. Though NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said play would continue around a positive test, it’s unclear whether that would delay this season’s schedule – then the offseason then next season. It’s also unknown how the country will be handling coronavirus in December. The cold weather, pushing people indoors, could increase cases.

But it’s still interesting to know the plan, even if it’s tentative.

People fondly recall the NBA season starting on Christmas in 2011. Many have pointed to Atlanta Hawks CEO Steve Koonin’s idea of permanently opening in December to avoid overlap with the NFL, though he suggested mid-December – not Christmas.

That’s quite late.

This year, coronavirus has forced radical changes. A Christmas start might be totally reasonable for the 2020-21 season.

What about beyond?

If the NBA wants to begin each season on Christmas, this is the simplest time to shift. A different start date for future seasons would require altering the calendar to get on track.

There are plenty of issues with opening on Christmas in normal times, though:

  • Historically, TV viewership is down during the summer. That might be changing, but people might find other activities while it’s warm rather than attending or watching an indoor NBA game.
  • Would people really watch more NBA games just because fewer of them would compete with the highly popular NFL? The NBA regular season might just be too long to capture attention, no matter when it’s held.
  • By starting on Christmas, the NBA would reduce two marquee regular-season dates – opening day and Christmas – to one.
  • Many regional TV networks that carry NBA games also carry MLB games. Many of those networks already carry NHL games. But with baseball teams playing more games, there would be more conflicts.
  • With schools out, the American system is built on summer being more of a vacation time. People within the league – including players, especially those with children – might object to working during that time.

Projecting schedules for all 22 returning NBA teams

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The NBA will recall 22 teams to each play eight games.

How will the schedule work?

The new structure will reportedly be based on teams’ existing schedules, teams playing their next eight originally scheduled games against the continuing 22 teams. Of course, that doesn’t work cleanly. Some teams would reach eight games more quickly than other teams. So, whenever a team arrived at an opponent that already reached eight games, I just continued to that team’s next game.

With that assumption, here are the remaining opponents for each team:

  • Boston Celtics: Bucks, Wizards, Raptors, Nets, Wizards, Trail Blazers, Grizzlies, Heat
  • Brooklyn Nets: Clippers, Kings, Wizards, Celtics, Magic, Clippers, Magic, Trail Blazers
  • Dallas Mavericks: Suns, Clippers, Kings, Trail Blazers, Suns, Rockets, Jazz, Bucks
  • Denver Nuggets: Spurs, Lakers, Clippers, Thunder, Raptors, Heat, Spurs, Thunder
  • Houston Rockets: Lakers, Trail Blazers, Kings, Bucks, Mavericks, Pacers, 76ers, Raptors
  • Indiana Pacers: 76ers, Heat, Suns, Magic, Rockets, Kings, Clippers, Lakers
  • L.A. Clippers: Nets, Pelicans, Mavericks, Nuggets, Suns, Nets, Pacers, Thunder
  • Los Angeles Lakers: Rockets, Nuggets, Jazz, Jazz, Raptors, Pacers, Trail Blazers,* Heat or Magic*
  • Memphis Grizzlies: Trail Blazers, Jazz, Spurs, Thunder, Bucks, Pelicans, Pelicans, Celtics
  • Miami Heat: Bucks, Pacers, Thunder, Nuggets, Suns, Celtics, Raptors, Lakers or Trail Blazers*
  • Milwaukee Bucks: Celtics, Heat, Grizzlies, Wizards, Rockets, Wizards, Mavericks, Raptors
  • New Orleans Pelicans: Kings, Jazz, Clippers, Spurs, Grizzlies, Kings, Grizzlies, Magic
  • Oklahoma City Thunder: Jazz, Wizards, Grizzlies, Nuggets, Heat, Nuggets, Suns, Clippers
  • Orlando Magic: Pacers, Kings, Nets, Nets, Pelicans, 76ers, Raptors, Lakers or Trail Blazers*
  • Philadelphia 76ers: Pacers, Wizards, Raptors, Trail Blazers, Suns, Rockets, Magic, Spurs
  • Phoenix Suns: Mavericks, Pacers, Clippers, Mavericks, 76ers, Wizards, Heat, Thunder
  • Portland Trail Blazers: Grizzlies, Rockets, Mavericks, 76ers, Celtics, Nets, Lakers,* Heat or Magic*
  • Sacramento Kings: Pelicans, Nets, Mavericks, Rockets, Magic, Pelicans, Pacers, Spurs
  • San Antonio Spurs: Nuggets, Grizzlies, Pelicans, Jazz, Jazz, Nuggets, Kings, 76ers
  • Toronto Raptors: 76ers, Celtics, Nuggets, Lakers, Bucks, Rockets, Heat, Magic
  • Utah Jazz: Thunder, Pelicans, Grizzlies, Lakers, Lakers, Spurs, Spurs, Mavericks
  • Washington Wizards: Celtics, Thunder, 76ers, Nets, Bucks, Celtics, Suns, Bucks

*To reach eight games for each team, I had to create three games not on the schedule:

  • Lakers vs. Trail Blazers
  • Lakers vs. Heat or Magic
  • Trail Blazers vs. Heat or Magic

Los Angeles would face whichever of Miami and Orlando that Portland doesn’t face (and vice versa).

The Lakers could also play the Trail Blazers twice, and the Heat could just play the Magic. But that’d mean five Lakers-Trail Blazers games and five Heat-Magic games this season. Generally, teams play each other four or fewer times.

I wouldn’t get too caught up in the order of the games. That almost certainly must be adjusted. Otherwise, teams would finish at significantly different times. For example, the Bucks’ eighth game in this format is against the Raptors. But that’s just Toronto’s fifth game.

The NBA might also use a different method altogether. Again, the reported plan can’t work exactly as reported.

But want the best guess at each team’s remaining games? This is it.

*Thanks to Kevin Pelton of ESPN for providing a handy spreadsheet of originally scheduled games.

LeBron James to Drew Brees: You still don’t understand why Colin Kaepernick kneeled

Colin Kaepernick and New Orleans Saints Drew Brees
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Colin Kaepernick’s protest worked.

Just by kneeling during the national anthem, Kaepernick shined a light on racism – specifically through police brutality – plaguing the United States. Whether or not you agreed with his methods, Kaepernick made it difficult to avoid discussion of the very important issue. Kaepernick’s simple demonstration made society far more sensitive to police misconduct, particularly toward black people. That set the stage for these incredible nationwide protests in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.

Of course, work remains. Kaepernick suffered far too great of personal cost to deliver his message. Racism and police brutality continue.

So, expect some people – including NFL players – to keep kneeling during the national anthem.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees explained why he objected to that. Lakers star LeBron James then objected to Brees’ explanation.


I do think not standing for the Star Spangled Banner disrespects the United States. The societal norms are clear: Standing is the way to show respect during the national anthem.

But know what else disrespects the United States? Police brutality, which disproportionately harms black people.

At some point, you have to decide which disrespect bothers you more – racism that damages and ends lives or symbolic protest of a song and piece of cloth.

Brees also brought up the military, on which I share LeBron’s disagreement. The Star Spangled Banner represents our entire country, not just our military. It’s weak to use the military as a shield while criticizing Kaepernick. In fact, Kaepernick specifically altered his protest – from sitting to kneeling – to honor the military.

Brees can ignore Kaepernick’s message on that.

But Kaepernick’s larger message rings loudly.

Report: NBA restarted season to follow existing schedule, with tweaks

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It’s been one of the big questions for the NBA’s 22-team restart at the Walt Disney World complex in Orlando:

How would the schedule be put together for those eight regular-season games?

It turns out, the answer is modifying the old schedule, reports Vincent Goodwill at Yahoo Sports. The idea is just to use the old schedule, taking out the teams not in Orlando.

This provides a starting point for the league’s schedulers.  For example, the Pelicans schedule would be: Kings, Jazz, Clippers, Spurs, Grizzlies, Kings, Grizzlies, Magic. The Pelicans would play the Grizzlies twice in this format, giving them a real chance to make up ground toward the eighth seed. Portland also is well positioned to make a playoff push.

The challenge with following the old schedule becomes this: the Thunder’s eighth game in this scenario is the Clippers, except L.A. already played eight. Next for the Thunder then is the Lakers, except they will have played eight. Then the Nets, but again they have played eight. Multiple teams face this scenario, so the league will need to schedule some “made up” games just to balance things out.

While there would be tweaks to be made, using the existing schedule as a base makes sense.

The teams most interested will be the teams battling for the nine seed, particularly in the West. New Orleans had a particularly soft remaining schedule and the Grizzlies had the hardest one in the league, which is why gave the Pelicans a 60% chance of making the playoffs. With the eight worst teams in the league out of the picture, how does that change and how much do the schedules flatten out?

Considering everything that has gone on with the league this year and the great lengths needed to start up games again, don’t expect teams to complain about the schedule. They’re just happy to be playing.