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Cavs lose opener

Cleveland Cavaliers Alonzo Gee saves the ball from going out of bounds along the sideline during the second quarter of their NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors in Cleveland, December 26, 2011.REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

It wasn’t the best opener for rookie Kyrie Irving, as he only managed 6 points on 2-12 shooting. Three of those points came from a meaningless 3-pointer at the end of the game. Irving has not shown much with his outside shot in the two exhibition games. It’s early of course but it would be nice to see some flashes there. That said, he had 7 assists and only one turnover in 26 minutes, so the other parts of his game looked solid.

Meanwhile, Ramon Sessions had a great night. He seems to have discovered a 3-point shot as he hit two tonight, and he was excellent in every phase of the game as the second teamers led by Sessions got the Cavs back into the game

The other rookie, Tristan Thompson, had a great night with 14 points in 17 minutes as he was active in all phases of the game. The kid is a gamer and he’s opening up some eyes.

Here are some more thoughts:

Omri Casspi wasn’t very impressive in his Cavs debut with only 2 points on 0-4 shooting.

The Cavs need scoring, but Antawn Jamison was forcing up too many bricks from the outside.

Alonzo Gee continues to look great. The kid has a ton of energy and he’s a scorer. I wouldn’t be surprised if he fights his way past Casspi into the starting lineup at some point, or becomes the main scoring option off the bench.

I like seeing some more aggressiveness out of Anthony Parker. He has a nice shot and might be able to take on more of the scoring load.

It still blows me away that some Cavs fans think Anderson Varejao is overrated. He hustles like nobody else!

It’s a year for learning, so hopefully we’ll see some nice progress from Irving and the rest of the team over the course of the season.

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Kyrie Irving gets start in Cavs opener

Kyrie Irving. REUTERS/Chris Keane (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Head Coach Byron Scott just announced that Kyrie Irving will be the starter tonight as the Cavs open the season against the Toronto Raptors. Scott said he wanted Irving to get his playing time with the veterans to speed his development, and Ramon Sessions can lend his experience to the youngsters in the second unit.

The Kyrie Irving era begins tonight!

Legitimate optimism for the Cavaliers

Kyrie Irving smiles after being selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers as the first overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft in Newark, New Jersey, June 23, 2011. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

I have no idea how the Cavs are going to do this year in terms of wins and losses, but after watching the two exhibition games, there’s certainly cause for optimism for the long-term prospects of the franchise.

First, Kyrie Irving looks like a player. Just watching him on the court you see a player with all the tools. While he has struggled with his jump shot, he looks like a natural point guard. He handles the ball beautifully and he can finish near the basket. His teammates are still getting used to the passes he zips in there. He knows how to drive to the hoop and get to the foul line. He’s very quick and also seems to have a second gear that helps him blow past people. He’s also smart and steady. With Irving it looks like the Cavaliers have a legitimate building block for the future.

Tristan Thompson has also shown some flashes. When he first walked on the court in Detroit he looked lost. He doesn’t have much of an offensive game and he was making dumb fouls on defense. But when he came out in the second half he got a couple of dunks and then some wicked blocks, and all of a sudden he looked great out there. The kid runs the floor very well and he has a high motor.

Omri Casspi looks like a nice addition. He’s another high energy player that will fit in well on a team that will be relying on defense and fast break points. Coach Byron Scott made a revealing observation last week, calling Casspi a “pit bull” and implying that the team last year sometimes had the attitude of less aggressive canines. I think he was referring to J.J. Hickson, who clearly had talent but often seemed to disappear.

Scott wants an aggressive team this year, and it looks like they have a bunch of players who will put in the work and effort. Getting Anderson Varejao back is a big part of that. He’s looked great in the preseason games and he sets the tone for the entire team. Guys like Samardo Samuels and Alonzo Gee bring that same attitude.

This will be a high-energy group that plays like a team, so I don’t expect this team to be embarrassed like they were last year. They should be competitive and start the process of building for the future.

Mel Kiper talks Browns draft needs

University of Alabama running back Trent Richardson (3) runs for a first down against Louisiana State University during the second quarter of their NCAA football game in Baton Rouge, Louisiana November 6, 2010. REUTERS/Sean Gardner (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Mel Kiper posted his thoughts on what the top 10 teams in the likely draft order need going into the 2012 NFL Draft.

Here’s his take on the Browns:

Top needs WR, DE, RB, QB

Scenarios: Greg Little has shown flashes, but the Browns could use another threat in the passing game. Jabaal Sheard has been as good as I hoped he’d be when I talked up that pick back in April, but they could really use someone on the other side of the formation to balance the pass rush. Then it gets really interesting.

I agree with Todd McShay that the Browns could be the rare team that is willing to pick a running back high in the draft, with Alabama’s Trent Richardson the obvious name. Peyton Hillis is likely to play somewhere else in 2012, and Richardson fills that hole. But besides that, there’s a real question regarding Colt McCoy and how committed to him the Browns are. Although I wouldn’t predict it now, the Browns could be in the picture for Griffin.

I agree with everything here. It all revolves around McCoy and whether the Browns want a QB in the draft with their top pick. I can see them going with Richardson as a running threat can open up the offense and take pressure off of the quarterback. Mike Holmgren had his own stud running back from Alabama with Shaun Alexander.

I think they will naturally take a hard look at Robert Griffin III, but I think he might not be there when the Browns pick.

Paul and Clippers Change Western Conference Dynamics

New York Knicks point guard Chauncey Billups (4) talks with referee Brian Forte (L) as New York Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni (R) questions a call against the Charlotte Bobcats during their NBA basketball game in Charlotte, North Carolina March 26, 2011. REUTERS/Chris Keane (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

It took a while for NBA commissioner David Stern to nod his approval and sort it all out to his dictatorial whims but Chris Paul is now a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, who will now emerge as a much more popular choice with the NBA betting lines for the 2012 season.

Paul arrives in Los Angeles from the New Orleans Hornets, who are struggling in a weak market with league ownership and without the ability to sustain picking up the tab for All Star point guards such as Paul, who is expected to make the Clippers a perennial contender with Blake Griffin on the front line. The Clippers, who have put together just one winning season in the past 19 years, are going “all in” as they have also added Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler to bring a presence of veterans who know what it takes to earn a NBA championship ring.

Billups nearly retired but decided to go ahead and suit up for his fourth team in five seasons. That being said, although Billups knows his role as a backup point guard, the Clippers have a third point guard in Mo Williams that may want more playing time than what is possible now that Paul has arrived. Paul himself isn’t concerned at all about the overload of point guards simply stating that there will be two guards and that nobody should be worried about titles and such. Meanwhile coach Vinny Del Negro says Billups and Paul will start with Williams getting plenty of playing time is supporting both starters with an active role off the bench.

The big fixation of course is with Paul feeding alley-oops to Griffin, who was the NBA Slam Dunk contest champion after leaping over a car last year at the Staples Center. Paul said that he expects his relationship with Griffin to be similar to that of what he had in New Orleans with Tyson Chandler. Paul fed Chandler many memorable alley-oop jams in the Crescent City. Griffin has downplayed the hype simply stating that he is glad Paul is there to help and that the team is better and should win more with his presence.

There is even talk of the impossible, which is that the Clippers can overtake the glamour and glory of the Lakers and win the hearts of LA. Now that would be a longshot in NBA betting lines but a shot they seem to have nonetheless.

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