LeBron, after Cavaliers lose by 23 at home to Pistons: ‘Right now we are not very good. In every aspect of the game’


The Cavaliers have gotten off to a slow start this season, at least when compared to the wealth of talent on the roster that had preseason expectations in Cleveland at an all-time high.

Things got even slower on Sunday, when the Cavs dropped a home game by 23 points to a Pistons team that came into the contest with a record of just six wins against 23 losses to this point of the season.

Cleveland recently lost Anderson Varejao for the season due to injury, and was without Kyrie Irving for the second straight game thanks to a knee injury he reaggravated in the Christmas Day loss to the Heat. But things started fine in this one, with the Cavaliers getting out to a lead of 15 points early in the second quarter — before the wheels came off completely, the offense became stagnant, and the Pistons seemingly couldn’t miss.

Playing without 40 percent of your starting lineup, as it turns out, is no easy task. Detroit set a franchise record for three-pointers made with 17, and shot 54.8 percent from three-point distance while moving the ball consistently, and well ahead of the Cavaliers rotations. Cleveland, meanwhile, clearly missed Irving’s playmaking — he averages 37.9 minutes per game as the team’s point guard, and without him, the open looks were few and far between as Cleveland made just 17.2 percent of its shots from three-point distance, while launching 29 beyond-the-arc attempts.

With Varejao gone and no other real bigs to speak of, Andre Drummond had his way inside for most of the game, and finished with 16 points, 17 rebounds and five blocked shots. And with Irving gone, Brandon Jennings had one of his best outings of the season, finishing with a game high 25 points on 10-of-18 shooting — this from someone who came into this one shooting a little better than 37 percent from the field on a per-game basis.

LeBron James was far from even average, finishing just 5-of-19 from the field with 17 points, to go along with seven turnovers. And he had no trouble stating the obvious when discussing the loss afterward.

From Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com:

#Cavs LeBron James: “Right now we are not very good. In every aspect of the game”

That about sums it up.

Now, we probably shouldn’t take too much from a December loss, even one as painful as this. The missing pieces matter, and as long as Irving is back to full strength sometime soon, that will solve a lot of the problems offensively that were evident in this one.

But a bigger concern might be the lack of big man depth inside. Cleveland is going to have to try to make a move to add someone at some point this season, if indeed it wants to play deep into the postseason as was expected when this so-called super-team was assembled.

James took a knee to the quad before halftime, and was seen leaving the arena with a slight limp. His health is obviously paramount to his team’s chances, but so is his level of aggressiveness on the floor. And he simply has to bring it offensively on a regular basis (i.e., no more chill mode), especially on a night when the team’s second leading scorer was forced to sit it out.

Lakers claim Tarik Black off waivers, create roster spot by waiving Xavier Henry


Tarik Black wasn’t selected by anyone in the 2014 NBA Draft, but caught on with the Rockets at Summer League and made the roster after strong performances in both the Orlando and Las Vegas offseason events.

He’s shown some promise as an interesting big man prospect, and averaged 4.2 points and 5.1 rebounds in 25 regular season appearances for Houston this season, while averaging 15.2 minutes per contest.

But once Josh Smith became available, the Rockets were in need of a roster spot, and waived Black to get what the team believes will be an instant upgrade in Smith instead of waiting to see how the rookie’s long term development may ultimately play out.

The Lakers, in need of exactly these types of players, claimed Black off of waivers.

From Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

The Los Angeles Lakers claimed rookie center Tarik Black off waivers on Sunday, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The Lakers waived injured forward Xavier Henry to clear a roster spot for Black, sources said. …

Black has a non-guaranteed deal of $500,000 owed him for the season, and the Lakers will possess a team option of $845,000 on his deal for the 2015-16 season.

It’s a shame about Henry, who showed flashes of athleticism with the Lakers last season. But injuries have made him unavailable, so it makes sense for L.A. to take a chance on a different young talent instead.

As the Lakers look to rebuild their roster, promising young players on non-guaranteed, small-scale deals are inexpensive, low-risk options — especially if they end up turning into guys who can play meaningful minutes in the rotation.

The Charlotte Hornets were also ready to claim Black off of waivers, but the Lakers had the priority thanks to having a worse record in the standings.

Rodney Stuckey says Pistons’ downward spiral began with Chauncey Billups trade


Seemingly overnight in the late 2000s, the Detroit Pistons went from perennial title contender to…well, what they are now. There were plenty of factors that led to this, including the disastrous signings of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva in 2009 and the recently-waived Josh Smith in 2013. But former Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey, now with the Pacers, says the biggest factor in the franchise’s decline was trading 2004 Finals MVP Chauncey Billups to Denver for Allen Iverson in 2008.

From Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

“I wish they wouldn’t have traded away Chauncey, to be honest with you,” Stuckey said. “I wish they would’ve took the San Antonio Spurs philosophy of keeping all their vets and get younger guys around their vets and doing it that way. You see how successful they are.”

“After Chauncey left, that’s when everything went downhill. Chauncey was the glue that held everything together and held everyone accountable,” Stuckey said. “When you trade away that you see what happens. Everything was just a domino effect after that. If I’d say one thing that would be my thing.”

The Billups/Iverson trade was a disaster from the start. Iverson checked out as soon as he got to Detroit. He bristled at coming off the bench behind Rip Hamilton and had his worst statistical season to that point. Billups, meanwhile, led the Nuggets to that year’s Western Conference Finals, their deepest playoff run of the Carmelo Anthony era.

That trade took place during Stuckey’s second year in the league, when he was still developing and looked up to Billups as a mentor at the point guard position. There are few better people to learn from as a young guard than Billups, so it’s no surprise that Stuckey was shaken up by the trade.

There were a lot of terrible moves made by former Pistons GM Joe Dumars. That trade was near the top of the list.

Josh Smith makes Rockets debut, throws down two-handed dunk (VIDEO)


After officially signing with the Houston Rockets, Josh Smith made his debut with his new team about halfway through the first quarter of Friday night’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies. It didn’t take too long for him to make his first highlight play:

This is what Smith in Houston has the potential to be, if he plays smart. The last few years in Atlanta and Detroit, he has—deservedly—developed a reputation as an erratic shooter who takes too many jumpers from midrange and the three-point line. But he still has a lot of athleticism and is a very skilled post player, and if he plays to his strengths, he gives Houston another weapon in the frontcourt.

Smith finished the night with 21 points on 9-of-21 shooting, including going 7-of-15 inside eight feet and 2-of-6 beyond that range. The Rockets leaned heavily on him down the stretch and in overtime because of a mismatch — the Grizzlies covered Smith with Vince Carter — and he had some key late offensive rebounds and the dagger free throws in OT.

Rockets officially sign Josh Smith, who will play Friday night; waive Tarik Black


We told you it was coming but now it is official: Josh Smith is a member of the Houston Rockets.

And he will be available to play Friday night against Memphis.

The Pistons were so frustrated with Smith’s play they were willing to pay him more than $27 million just to go away. They outright waived a guy with a guaranteed deal. He did not fit with Andre Drummond and Smith wasn’t making shots (neither near the basket nor with his ill-advised jumpers). He wasn’t Stan Van Gundy’s guy.

But the Rockets — still without starting power forward Terence Jones — see in Smith a guy who is just 29 and was scoring almost 18 points a game a few years ago, is athletic and can defend well. They see a guy strangled by the situation in Detroit who can help them out. They see a guy who has a great relationship with Dwight Howard, as they played AAU ball together. They see a player who can be part of their rotation as they try to win a title.

When the Pistons waived Smith the Rockets went after him hard offering the bi-annual exception of just more than $2 million, and they officially got their man on Friday.

Smith said before he was excited to join this team. He’s on board. And if it doesn’t work out here, it was not a big loss for the Rockets. It’s a low-risk gamble, they can start Smith for now and if this doesn’t fit they get Terrence Jones back from a nerve issue in his leg and can give him key minutes.

But if one guy is in on a full roster, another is out, so the Rockets waived Tarik Black.

Black had the physical tools to be an NBA four coming out of college — he spent three seasons at Memphis and one at Kansas — but went undrafted last June because he lacked polish. He was on the Rockets’ Summer League team and from there got a camp invite then made the roster because of his rebounding and athleticism. There was potential.

Then Terrence Jones and Dwight Howard were injured and Black’s role grew — he actually started 12 games for Houston and was a regular part of their rotation. He averaged 4.2 points shooting 54 percent plus grabbed 5.1 rebounds a game, pulling down a very respectable 18.1 percent of the available rebounds while on the court. He played solidly for a rookie.

Then Howard returned and Black was struggling to get on the court. Now the Rockets have signed Smith, which means Black is out and being waived, something first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports and later confirmed by the team.

To clear a roster spot to sign free agent Josh Smith, the Houston Rockets waived center Tarik Black on Friday, league sources told Yahoo Sports…

Black had been a training camp and preseason surprise for the Rockets, an undrafted center out of Kansas who showed an ability to play in the NBA. More than one NBA team told Yahoo Sports they will have interest in claiming him on waivers. Black’s $500,000 owed him for this season has a partial guarantee. There’s a team option of $845,000 on his deal for the 2015-16 season.

That’s pennies in NBA dollars and worth it for Black, who showed promise in his time in Houston. Some team will roll the dice and claim him off waivers.

You can’t blame the Rockets, they are in “win now” mode as they should be and a rookie just isn’t going to play a big role. But they gave Black a chance and he will stick in the NBA.