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It's hard to believe the Cleveland Cavaliers are nearly one month into their 2021-22 campaign. So far, the Cavaliers have shattered every preseason expectation and have been one of the hottest teams in the league. But, more on that in just a few sentences. The Cleveland Charge, the Cavaliers' G-League affiliate, finally got their first win in the franchise's Cleveland history and the main club's new uniforms made their debut and should be a look they adopt primarily going forward. Today, we'll break all that down in the latest edition of takeaways from the last week of Cavaliers basketball. Also, the Dylan Windler breakdown will be coming soon. It just needs a little more time to bake.
Don't count out these Cavaliers anymore.
For those of you who are into gambling, prior to the season, according to Las Vegas oddsmakers, Cleveland was slotted to win 26.5 games this season. They've also been the underdog in every single game this season, also according to the oddsmakers in Las Vegas. Well, as of their Saturday win over the Boston Celtics, the Cavaliers are sitting pretty at 9-5 overall and are currently one of the best teams record-wise in the Eastern Conference.
More impressively, if they keep playing at their current rate for the rest of the season, Cleveland is on pace to win 44 games, according to Cleaning the Glass. The Cavaliers are shattering every preconceived notion about them and are also one of the hottest teams in the NBA. It's become clear that Cleveland has embraced this underdog mentality and it's a reason why they keep winning.
“There’s something special brewing in that locker room,” said Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff. “Everybody wants to be a part of it.”
Not only are the Cavaliers thriving as underdogs, but they're also firmly believing in the next man up mentality. So far this season, key rotation pieces like Lauri Markkanen (COVID), Kevin Love (COVID) and Isaac Okoro (hamstring) have all missed extended time for Cleveland. But, the Cavaliers have weathered that storm as well and Cleveland is doing well, even after Collin Sexton (meniscus) was sidelined for the foreseeable future.
But, it's not just typical sports cliches that are helping the Cavaliers win in such convincing ways. They're currently scoring 107.2 points per 100 offensive possessions per game, which ranks sixteenth in the league. Defensively, meanwhile, Cleveland is allowing 104.2 points per 100 possessions per game, which is the sixth-best in the Association. Sure, the determination the team shows through adversity but a lot of this credit should go to Bickerstaff as well. He has his finger on the pulse of his team and they keep finding ways to win every single night.
“We’re some dogs,” said Cavaliers point guard Darius Garland. “You’re not just about to come to Cleveland and roll over us anymore. We’re going to show some fight, show some grit, show some competitiveness and that’s what we’re trying to do every night.”
Again, this Cavaliers squad keeps bucking the trend of what oddsmakers in Vegas are saying. But, if you were to place any money on anything, Coach of the Year honors for Bickerstaff, especially if his team keeps up this effort, feels like a safe bet. Right now, Cleveland is playing better even while missing one of their best players. They're hanging tough with teams that have serious playoff ambitions and beating league bottom feeders by a considerable margin. It's special to watch.
The Cleveland Charge, the G-League affiliate of the Cavaliers, were able to get their first win on Thursday. Big man Tacko Fall marked his Charge debut with 23 points, 12 boards and three blocks in 29 minutes of action.
The Cleveland Charge finally get their first win in the franchise's Cleveland history
The Cleveland Charge, the Cavaliers G-League affiliate, were finally able to get their first Cleveland win in franchise history. Technically, they have won in the past whenever the team played over at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, but, this is their first win at Cleveland State's Wolstein Center, their new permanent home.
In a Thursday night tilt, the Charge under new head coach Dan Geriot defeated the Windy City Bulls 105-88. Tacko Fall marked his Charge debut with 23 points, 12 boards and three blocks in 29 minutes of action. Fellow Cavaliers Two-Way Player R.J. Nembhard scored 14 points and grabbed 13 boards in 35 minutes. Mitch Ballock hit 4-of-7 threes on his way to netting 16 points for Cleveland. Kyle Guy posted a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds in 34 minutes. The Charge led by as many as 24 and for the entire second half.
"It's great. I think we've been competing. We've been doing a lot of the right things," said Geriot. "I feel like we've been failing correctly, that's how I kind of think about it. If you're doing the right things but you're failing at the right things, that's what you can grow. And I think that's what we saw tonight."
To the surprise of many, staffers and fans included, Darius Garland, Collin Sexton, Isaac Okoro and Lamar Stevens were in attendance to watch Geriot, their former coach, as well teammates like Fall and Nembhard get their first win leading the Charge.
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"That's what this is about," said Bickerstaff. "I want to make it clear too; the Charge are part of what we're doing and will be a part of whatever successes this organization has. It's important to us that we are blending that together and it shouldn't be seen as a separate unit. Myself and Dan, we stay in constant contact about how we want to look stylistically. The things we want to do offensively and defensively because we want it to be a mirror. We want transitions to be seamless for our guys.
"The culture is the same way. How we treat one another. How we act towards one another. It's all the same. So, it shouldn't feel like the, you go up there, you go down there, right? There's none of that. If anything, it's back and forth, but there's no separation between the two because that Charge team is going to prove in the long run to be just as important when it comes to development."
Following their first win over the Bulls, the Charges kept it up the following night. Cleveland came back from a 14-point second half deficit to down Windy City, 111-110, at the Wolstein Center on Friday evening to sweep a two-game set. The Charge were led by Kyle Guy’s 33 points on 5-of-9 from three-point range with eight rebounds and five assists in 41 minutes. R.J. Nembhard had a double-double of 28 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in 37 minutes. Justin James netted 18 points with five rebounds and four assists in 31 minutes off the bench. Josh Huestis also came in relief to provide 15 points on 5-of-9 from three-point range in 29 minutes.
Mind you, Cleveland was able to accomplish this without Fall, who was with the main club throughout the weekend. In the Cavaliers' win over the Detroit Pistons, Fall logged nearly four minutes of action, scoring 2 points and 1 rebound. Against, Boston, meanwhile, Fall didn't play due to it being so close down the stretch. Despite playing four games in four nights, Fall had the right disposition about it all when asked about the possibility on Thursday.
“I’ll be ready," said Fall "Besides, what do I have to complain about? I play basketball for a living. I’m blessed.”
On Saturday night against Boston, the Cavaliers debuted their Mixtape City Edition uniforms. The team will be wearing them eleven times this season but should make them permanent.
The Mixtape City Edition uniforms make their debut and should be Cleveland's primary look going forward
On Saturday against Boston, Cleveland debuted their Mixtape City Edition uniforms, along with their special edition court. This year's kit is a collaborative effort between the Cavaliers, the NBA, and Nike to commemorate both the history of the organization as well as the league's 75th anniversary. It contains details from the Miracle at Richfield all the way to the team's 2016 championship and is arguably one of the best overall looks in the league this season.
This fit that Cleveland is rocking will only last for eleven games but they shouldn't be a one-off thing. Ever since Nike became the official uniform supplier of the NBA, the Cavaliers went from one of the best looks during the second LeBron James era to one of the worst overall kits in the league. Sure, there are staples to the organization but it's just the team's wine (but not the proper shade) and gold as well as a black uniform that pays slight homage to 2016. But, it just feels so generic and corporate. Yes, the angular numbers and font do somewhat feel attached to the idea of an actual Cavalier. But, it feels more like good branding for a leader head rather than a basketball team with such a beautiful, and diverse, uniform history.
That's why this year's City Edition uniform feels like a breath of fresh air compared to what Cleveland usually wears. Nike did wrong by the Cavaliers and their fans, as they did with the Browns as well. Similarly enough to the Browns, Nike should embrace the uniform history of the Cavaliers and give them a fresh new look. This year's Mixtape City Edition kit gives them a good template but there should still be a few alterations to truly complete the look.
Uniform designer Conrad Burry gives a good idea on Twitter on what direction Nike and the Cavaliers can take with a possible new identity.
See @conradburry's post on Twitter.
Sure, the swashbuckling Cavalier is iconic due to it being the franchise's first primary logo. But, it feels clunky at the center of the uniform. If anything, it could move to the buckle on the shorts but the wordmark from the first LeBron-era Cavaliers feels almost too perfect across the chest. But, more than anything, Cleveland just needs to adopt their kit as their primary look going forward. They always say if you look good, you play good. Well, the Cavaliers are already playing pretty great so refreshing their look would push them to the limit.
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