Tonight, the Cleveland Cavaliers began their newest season at home against Washington. It marks the beginning of a season steeped in optimism and hope in the post-LeBron era-certainly a welcomed departure for this franchise.
And while the opener had its share of low points, overall it was a solid success for the club.
Here is the good, the bad and the spectacular from tonight's game.
Kyrie be thy name
No matter how you slice it, the hopes and dreams of this year's Cavs squad rest squarely on the shoulders of one Kyrie Irving.
This is a team that lacks elite scorers or playmakers and will be doing their best to scrape by on points most evenings.
The wildcard in this equation is their best player, Irving. He has the potential to be not only a star guard, but a superstar at the most important backcourt position.
Tonight he showed why the future is bright in Cleveland. Irving was nearly flawless, scoring 29 points on 11 of 20 shooting from the field. He hit shots from deep, took the ball to the hoop and did everything in between.
His assists were low, but that can be expected of someone that is still trying to learn his teammates.
Dion is not Wait-ing
When I projected that Dion Waiters was going to be the starting shooting guard, most fans scoffed at this and assumed that C.J. Miles was going to get the job.
But Waiters took the job despite a sub-par preseason, and took the bull by the horns on opening night. Waiters severely outplayed fellow lottery-pick shooting guard Bradley Beal, routinely hitting big shots from deep and even picking the pocket of the Florida product and flushing on the other end.
Waiters had 17 points in his debut to the eight points of Beal and was a factor in most aspects of the game.
More importantly, Waiters seemed to pair well with Irving and especially Anderson Varejao.
Speaking of Varejao, Anderson was unconscious tonight, grabbing 12 offensive rebounds and 23 overall.
He was everywhere, grabbing boards, blocking shots and disrupting the offensive flow.
Offensively, he definitely did his job by keeping plays alive and providing excellent picks. His real value was keeping plays alive with his boards.
Thompson does it all
It is hard not to love Tristan Thompson. He has a great motor, excellent length and in an age of finesse players he likes contact. And while his player card has him at 6'9, he definitely plays a lot bigger than that.
Thompson provided excellent defensive pressure down low, and has truly improved his rebounding ability. Furthermore, his quick hands led to a number of turnovers and he showed his ability to finish plays with a few thunderous dunks.
Thompson, for those that love classic defensive-minded basketball, is just the right kind of throwback and a delight to watch.
Zeller still needs work
Tyler Zeller has a lot of potential. He is big, long and runs the floor incredibly well.
But he has a weak lower body, and is easily pushed around on the blocks. He has solid basketball knowledge that resulted in a few nice improvisational plays (like Luke Walton finding him on a roll to the hoop after a good show), but he is a long ways from being a starter.
It's easy to see where Zeller fits with this team, but he desperately needs to get stronger as he currently looks like Bambi on a frozen pond.
Gee and Miles not exactly stellar
Heading into this year, Alonzo Gee and C.J. Miles looked to be shoe-ins as solid professionals that would make this team better.
Both are slashers with solid range and excellent defensive reputations.
But after game one, both need to go to the drawing board.
Gee committed a ton of fouls, shot poorly and tended to make a lot of mistakes. He has the physical makeup to be a great defender, but tonight he struggled mightily against a sub-par group of swing men.
Miles wasn't much better. Miles looked uncomfortable in his role with the offense, and didn't provide a ton of defense. He wasn't as errant with the ball as Gee, but then again he also didn't have a nice putback when the game was still in doubt.
Overall, both were disappointments.
This game should be a mixed bag for Cleveland. On the one hand they had some excellent performances and ended up winning the game.
On the other hand they were up against a severely injured Washington Wizards team, they blew an 18 point lead and barely won despite their great individual performances.
The first unit looked great, but the second unit (outside of an excellent Daniel Gibson) was incredibly weak.
This is a team that will only go as far as the starters take them, and they had better hope that their opponents do them as many favors as they had tonight.
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