When the Kevin Love trade finally came down today, sports reporters sought comment from any place where they could find it. That included Team USA practice where they pestered several players, including Kenneth Faried and Derek Rose. Faried was guilty to just being available, while Rose played on a team that now was going to deal with Cleveland team many times per year.
Reporters tried to push the rivalry angle on Rose, the last MVP not named James or Durant. Rose more or less blew them off with this answer- “Y’all are trying to start this rivalry up quick, huh? …It’s fun. [James] going back, doing what he wants to do, you can’t get mad at him. Just for the East, it should be interesting. You have to think about the other teams — like Charlotte, teams like that — that have good players and are trying to find their identity. I think the East is going to be better next year.”
Rose’s subtle suggestion was twofold. One angle was that Rose viewed several teams in the East as threats and not just the Cavs. The second suggestion, one that Rose probably did not intend, was that the Charlotte Hornets might be a more appropriate rival for the Cavs.
Charlotte and Cleveland have both been through big off-seasons that were meant to make them contenders in the East. Both teams are used to having the same ceilings that they have reached in the past. On a personal level, LeBron James does not acknowledge questions asked about Lance Stephenson. Stephenson famously tried to blow in LeBron’s ear to psyche him out during the Eastern Conference finals last year. Cleveland also does not remember Hornets owner Michael Jordan too fondly either.
Rivalries are not just suggestions, they have to have passion and a history of hard games. That was what made Indiana-Miami a rivalry when there is no obvious closeness between the two teams like, say, Indiana-Detroit. Those factors also made Pacers-Knicks a rivalry in the nineties. Who the Cavs decide their rivals are will be decided on the court. It might happen or it might not.
Cleveland will now present matchup problems to most teams who play them. That includes Charlotte. There is no natural matchup for Kevin Love as things currently stand. The default would be Cody Zeller or Marvin Williams. An interesting matchup to try would be to slide Michael Kidd-Gilchrist onto Love and Stephenson onto James. Stephenson can’t stop James, but no one can. You can force him to work, however. That decision would force you to go small offensively, with Gerald Henderson slotting in at the two guard.
On the offensive end, the Hornets would be best served trying to screen Anderson Varejao off Al Jefferson and force Kevin Love to try and guard Jefferson in the post. However, the Cavs could easily put Love on Kidd-Gilchrist to hide Love’s defensive issues. The Cavs could also put Dion Waiters or LeBron on Kemba to pressure the ball and hide Kyrie a little. Since the Cavs can’t hide both Kyrie and Love, it would be critical for the mismatch to come through. Don’t forget about Shawn Marion either.
We got time. I am sure Steve Clifford has been thinking about this one.
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