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Cavaliers trade Sasha Kaun to Sixers (who waive him); Cleveland signs Chris “Birdman” Andersen

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We had told you before that Chris Andersen was headed to the Cleveland Cavaliers to be a backup center.

But Friday a little salary cap maneuvering had to happen for the Cavaliers to pull that off. From Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Free agent Chris “Birdman” Andersen agreed to a one-year, veteran’s minimum deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers, league sources told The Vertical.

To clear the roster spot for Andersen, the Cavaliers sent center Sasha Kaun and cash to Philadelphia on Friday. The Sixers plan to waive Kaun, league sources said. Cleveland also gets a $1.33 million traded-player exception for the Kaun deal, a source said.

To put it simply, the Cavaliers sent the Sixers cash to use their cap space. The cash the Cavs sent to the Sixers certainly covers Kaun’s $1.3 million salary, plus a little. Also, the Sixers got the rights to Chukwudiebere Maduabum.

Andersen is a lower cost replacement for Timofey Mozgov (who was overpaid by the Lakers). The way Lue wants to play, smaller and faster, the backup center spot is going to get limited minutes anyway, and at this price Andersen will be a good fit.

LeBron, Cavs clinch top seed in East with win over Hawks

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CLEVELAND (AP) LeBron James scored 34 points in three quarters, Kyrie Irving added 35 and the Cleveland Cavaliers clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs with a 109-94 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night.

James scored 19 in the third quarter and only sat for four of the first 36 minutes as the Cavs ensured they’ll have home-court advantage until the NBA Finals.

James shot 13 of 16, made all five free throws and added six rebounds and six assists – another dazzling statistical line for the four-time MVP who switched into playoff mode weeks ago.

When James finally sat down late in the third, Irving made sure he didn’t have to come back in by scoring nine points in the first four minutes. Kevin Love added 14 rebounds for Cleveland.

Kent Bazemore scored 23 points and Jeff Teague had 21 for the Hawks, who came in holding the East’s No. 3 seed. Atlanta has lost seven in a row to Cleveland, which swept the Hawks in last year’s conference finals.

James has been saying his body feels as good as it has in years, and that he’s primed to make another run at ending Cleveland’s 52-year pro sports championship drought. In his past 10 games, James is averaging 28.4 points and shooting 63 percent from the field – nearly 52 percent on 3-pointers.

Data curated by PointAfter

With just a two-game lead over Toronto, which held the tiebreaker over Cleveland, there was no margin for error and James made sure there was nothing to worry about until the postseason starts.

The 31-year-old will likely get another well-deserved day’s rest as Cavs coach Tyronn Lue is expected to sit most of his regulars in Wednesday’s regular-season finale against Detroit – a possible first-round opponent.

The Hawks, who are 15-5 in their past 20, couldn’t do anything to stop James in the third. He was stellar inside and out, making 7 of 8 shots and imposing his will at both ends.

With Cleveland leading 65-62, James made a 3-pointer, converted a three-point play and dropped two free throws to put Cleveland ahead by seven.

James finally grabbed a seat with 1:46 left in the quarter, but he jumped from it early in the fourth after Irving made a 3-pointer to make it 100-81.

TIP-INS:

Hawks: Bazemore scored Atlanta’s first eight points and had 21 at halftime. … Coach Mike Budenholzer downplayed the importance of playoff seedings. Atlanta was No. 1 in the East a year ago, but that didn’t do them any good against the Cavs. “We just want to be playing well and healthy,” Budenholzer said. “You’re going to have to beat good teams in the East. The depth and quality of the East is better. It’s obviously reflected in everybody’s records. When you play night after night you can feel it and see it.” … Atlanta’s nine-year streak making the playoffs is the longest in the East.

Cavaliers: G Iman Shumpert had his left knee drained over the weekend. Lue said he’s been told that Shumpert, who has been slowed by a variety of ailments the past two seasons, should be fine for the playoffs. Shumpert signed a four-year, $40 million contract last summer. … G Mo Williams made another visit to see Dr. James Andrews about his troublesome left knee. Williams was sent back from last week’s road trip for further medical evaluation. Surgery is possible. … The injuries to Shumpert and Williams prompted the team to recall C Sasha Kaun and G Jordan McRae from Canton after they were sent to the D-League team earlier in the day.

UP NEXT

Hawks: At Washington on Wednesday.

Cavaliers: Host Detroit on Wednesday.

Report: Cavaliers players were ‘highly pissed’ team didn’t re-sign Kendrick Perkins

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The Cavaliers didn’t re-sign one of their worst players last summer. Instead, they signed a more-talented, younger replacement – paying more money, including a higher luxury-tax bill, for the upgrade.

Here’s how Cleveland’s players interpreted the Kendrick Perkins-for-Sasha Kaun swap.

Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com on The Dan Patrick Show:

They were highly pissed. I knew this for a fact. They were highly ticked off, this team, when the team didn’t re-sign Kendrick Perkins and they ended up picking up over the summer Sasha Kaun – a 29-, 30-year-old rookie who has not really played at all and I don’t really think is ready for the NBA.

So, he’s collecting about $2 million right now a season and not even playing. Kendrick Perkins would’ve been brought back for the veteran’s minimum.

Players – I know for a fact, I talked to them – they were highly ticked off about that, not bringing him back. Because it wasn’t about his numbers. It was about the intangibles, the emotional leadership and the enforcer, the enforcement role he brought to the team.

The problem with Perkins, who signed with the Pelicans, is that he’s a great teammate and has become a liability on the court. He lacks polish offensively, and his declining athleticism prevents him from defending effectively.

Maybe the Cavs would be better off with Perkins riding their bench rather than Kaun, who has played just 14 games and is actually making just $1,276,000 this season. But remember, Tristan Thompson didn’t sign until shortly before the season. Cleveland couldn’t afford to waste a roster spot on an unproductive big man.

The Cavaliers’ problem isn’t that they lost Perkins. It’s that they believe losing Perkins was a problem.

They’re one of the NBA’s most veteran teams. LeBron James, Richard Jefferson, Mo Williams and James Jones can’t instill a culture of accountability and toughness? Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving still need their hands held by someone like Perkins?

The players need to accept responsibility, not get worked up about the loss of Perkins.

Of course, this also leaves Kaun in an uncomfortable spot through no fault of his own. He might not be NBA ready, but it’s at least possible he becomes a helpful low-post threat once he acclimates to the league. He’s under contract for next season, too.

But maybe before that happens, he’ll take the brunt of the blame for the Cavs’ problems and get cast aside – just like his former Russian national team coach.

Report: Cavaliers shopping Timofey Mozgov in trade talks

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The Cavaliers were reportedly rebuffing trade inquiries into Timofey Mozgov a couple weeks ago.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Nevertheless, the Cavs have started to make calls on the market for Timofey Mozgov, who could appeal to Western Conference contenders.

Mozgov’s production has regressed majorly this season, but he remains a solid interior player on both ends of the floor. He finishes well at the rim offensively, protects it defensively and rebounds well at both ends.

He’s helpful against big lineups and ineffective, sometimes disastrously so, against small lineups.

The Cavaliers might seek to reorganize their roster for a Finals matchup with Warriors, and Cleveland could target another wing. Mozgov, nearly unplayable when Golden State goes small, is a somewhat valuable trade chip. He makes $4.95 million in the final season of his contract.

A contender could rent him for the stretch run without surrendering a key highly paid player. But the Cavs are also a contender. For whatever reasons he’d help another team, he’d help them.

The Cavs shouldn’t just look ahead to a Finals rematch if they deal Mozgov and limit their ability to play big. Will they definitely get past Eastern Conference challengers like the Bulls (who have Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson), Raptors (Jonas Valanciunas), Heat (Hassan Whiteside), Pistons (Andre Drummond) without Mozgov? What if they face the Spurs (Tim Duncan and LaMarcus Aldridge) or even the Thunder (Steven Adams and Enes Kanter) or Clippers (DeAndre Jordan) in the Finals?

Cleveland would still be favored to win the East, but there’s value in the ability to play multiple styles. Mozgov allows the Cavaliers to succeed while playing big.

Tristan Thompson is more versatile and a better fit against small teams, and Anderson Varejao and Sasha Kaun would still provide depth. But unless they’re getting a good enough wing in return, the Cavs shouldn’t rush to trade Mozgov.

That could leave them in a tough spot this summer, when Mozgov becomes a free agent. Will they offer him a huge contract when they already have the younger Thompson signed long-term and Varejao also on a big contract? They’re already facing a big luxury-tax bill.

But that’s the cost of contending. The Cavs need helpful players – including Mozgov – now. They’ll just have to handle offseason dilemmas when they reach them.

Any potential Mozgov trade should be about maximizing Cleveland’s short-term championship potential.

Cavaliers center Timofey Mozgov out 10-14 days

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What will keep the Cavaliers, who are an East-best 9-3, from winning the conference?

Probably nothing short of injury.

But we’re going to see whether injury is enough. Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert have yet to play this season, and J.R. Smith missed a few games.

Now, Timofey Mozgov and Mo Williams will also miss more time.

Cavaliers release:

Center Timofey Mozgov experienced a strained right deltoid during the second quarter of last night’s game against Milwaukee at The Q. Additional examination and MRI today at Cleveland Clinic Sports Health confirmed the strain. Mozgov will be OUT approximately 10 days to two weeks.

Guard Mo Williams missed last night’s game vs the Bucks and received additional examination and MRI today at Cleveland Clinic Sports Health, which showed posterior right ankle inflammation, along with continued soreness. He is listed as OUT for tomorrow’s game at The Q against Atlanta and doubtful for Monday’s contest vs. Orlando, also at The Q.

If Mozgov returns on schedule, he’ll miss four to five games. Cleveland’s upcoming schedule:

  • Saturday: vs. Hawks
  • Monday: vs. Magic
  • Wednesday: at Raptors
  • Nov. 28: at Hornets
  • Dec. 1 vs. Wizards

Tristan Thompson could move into the starting lineup, and as last year’s playoffs showed, he can handle a bigger role. Thompson (24.8) was already playing more minutes per game than Mozgov (20.8). Anderson Varejao will likely receive more playing time, and he might start if David Blatt wants to keep Thompson coming off the bench. Sasha Kaun could also join the rotation.

Williams had done a stellar job replacing Irving in the starting lineup. Matthew Dellavedova, who started against the Bucks last night, will likely start as long as Williams as out. Dellavedova starting points to Thompson also starting, because those two share such good chemistry. When Dellavedova sits, Jared Cunningham likely relieves him.