Kyrie Irving just "needed a pause." Kevin Porter Jr. will get more than that.
Welcome to the continuing soap opera that is the NBA.
And part of that, up until last week, was the half-ass effort James Harden was giving in Houston until the Rockets felt compelled to trade him sooner rather than later.
Harden is with the Brooklyn Nets now, and everything is beautiful. How long it will stay that way is anybody's guess, but Harden, Irving and Kevin Durant should all be in action when the Nets face off against the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Quicken Loans Arena on Wednesday night.
Tip-off time is 7:05 PM ET, and BetAnySports allows customers to get reduced juice on this game, with real-time wagering through Sports Betting Prime.
BROOKLYN NETS at CLEVELAND CAVALIERS, 7:05 PM ET
NBA Betting Odds: Nets -10.5, Total 226
It's interesting that even though the Nets have a roster where some guys are going to have to get to know each other a little better, this Cleveland squad needs a disk de-fragmenter.
First of all, they were a part of the trade that sent Harden to Brooklyn, which means that they have received Taurean Prince and Jarrett Allen from the Nets.
And even though they have seen the phenomenon of Irving's disappearance (for reasons we'll explore some other time), they come into a situation with drama of its own. Kevin Porter Jr., a first-round draft pick in 2019, has been unhappy in any number of ways, and recently threw a fit in the locker room that will have him head out the door, either by trade or release.
The Cavs might also be missing some players. The two young backcourt stars - Collin Sexton (ankle) and Darius Garland (shoulder) are questionable. Kevin Love is out, obviously, with his calf injury. There actually might be quite a veteran crew on the floor, when you consider the newcomers, with JaVale McGee, Andre Drummond and Larry Nance. Does that help them?
Well, not if they are relatively short on personnel. One of the things you might be able to do with the Nets is force them to go deep into their bench, because there's not a whole lot there. But we don't know that the Cavs will be able to test that.
It is also hard to tell how much Irving will actually play, and if he does, how much time he'll get with the first unit, after two weeks away from action. As far as we're concerned, the less time the better, because after watching Durant and Harden together, they've got a pretty good two-man game going, and Harden can draw people to him and find shooters like Jeff Green and Joe Harris.
Will Kyrie be the point guard on this team? We would tend to doubt it. He doesn't fit badly into a shooting guard role, because he does think about scoring first. But these guys can't BOTH be the point, because someone has to bring the ball up the floor.
Irving may eventually turn out to be an unneeded distraction, instead of one of the components of a "Big Three." But right now, do the Cavs have what it takes to exploit that?
When you look at Cleveland's numbers, they are second in the league in "Defensive Rating." But when they are able to keep scores down, it is usually directly related to the tempo. They are 28th in the league in "Pace." But they are surrendering 45.7% from the field, which is middle-of-the-road, and 39.5% from three-point territory, which places them among the three most permissive teams in the NBA. They don't do a real good job on the defensive boards either.
The Nets, at least when Durant and Harden are on the floor together, might be able to force some tempo on Cleveland. And the Cavs have reached 100 points just once in the last ten games.
At the same time, we caution you - if Sexton and Garland comeback, there could be trouble for Brooklyn's attempt to pull away. The Cavs had games postponed Sunday and Monday, so their two leading scorers have had a chance to heal a little, and Allen and Prince have had the opportunity to practice with the team.
As we mentioned, you've got a veteran crew out there. And they've got some discipline as well. Remember that even on a night when Harden debuted with 34 points and a triple-double, with Durant adding 43, they only beat Orlando by four points at home.
Closer to full strength, we may feel compelled to take points with the home team.
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