Posted: Monday April 18, 2005 3:27PM; Updated: Monday April 18, 2005 3:27PM
For all his knowledge of X's and O's, coach Brendan Malone has had trouble guiding his Cavaliers into the win column.
Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images
But in creating a no-account, coachless, team, owner Dan Gilbert inadvertently created an uninspired, lottery-bound monster (that is, if they hadn't dealt their draft pick already). The Cavaliers have lost 10 of 16 since Brendan Malone took over, and they'll have to win out (with games against the Celtics and in Toronto) just to have a chance at the playoffs.
This shouldn't surprise anyone. When you fire a coach on March 21, an almost unheard-of late date, you give your team an excuse to look to next season. Teams can't tank for a half-season with an interim coach -- even Minnesota turned things around with a substitute in place -- but they sure as hell can tank for four weeks.
The Cavaliers have .500 talent, so their 40-40 record seems about right, but that doesn't make their play over the last few weeks any more palatable. Interim chief Malone is highly regarded as a man who knows his way around the huddle, and yet he hasn't acquitted himself spectacularly well in his time in Cleveland. If Malone is the Xs and Os guy his reputation suggests, than he should be able to find a way to give LeBron James more room to work in the post, or allow him to run up and down the baseline and use his athleticism to make things happen.
And even if the Cavs are only as good as their record suggests, it doesn't hide the fact that even mediocre teams should be capable of pulling off upsets every once in a while. Cleveland has beaten the Pistons, Mavericks and Suns this season, but the great bulk of their 40 wins have come against the NBA's great unwashed.
The Week Ahead
Both the Rockets and Kings will get a chance to try and secure the West's fifth seed against a pair of potential patsies on Monday; Houston hosts the Clippers while Sacto flies into Salt Lake City. Though a meeting with a banged-up group of SuperSonics is the reward for winning the sixth seed, Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy and Sacramento jefe Rick Adelman would probably tell in you private that they'd have a better chance against Dallas novice Avery Johnson in the first round. They're probably wrong.
The Wizards travel to New Jersey on Tuesday, and their tilt with the Nets will be the only game in the offing that presents teams with actual playoff positions to lose. Washington has already defeated the Nets three times this year by an average of 19.3 points per game.
Fourteen games fill Wednesday's slate, the last night of the regular season, which is always perverse fun. The last hurrah for lottery teams (and some playoff participants) always allows for some interesting stat lines, and very little defense. The night should also offer the chance to see some of the league's more unheralded talents handed the opportunity to prove their worth with extended minutes. Who could forget Brad Miller and Ricky Davis, as 11th and 12th men for the Hornets, coming alive while the 1999 season ticked away? OK, most of you could, but Wednesday is still entertaining in a roundabout way.
"Gilbert Arenas, here's a guy who is a poster child for staying in school: he almost came out after his freshman year, stayed for his senior year, and now he's a superstar for the Wizards." -- ESPN talking head John Saunders on Gilbert Arenas, who stayed at Arizona for one season. Perhaps John was talking about high school?