Monday, March 1, 2010

Stuck without a center, but the timing is right

Last night came the news that many of us expected/feared... the Shaq thumb injury is indeed a serious one and surgery will be required. The big man will be shelved for the next 6-8 weeks, effectively ending his regular season. On the heels of losing Z in order to obtain Antawn Jamison, the Cavs are now stuck without a true center on their roster. And given the current slim one-game lead over the Lakers for overall homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs, this is probably a good time to panic, right? Maybe not...

As far as the schedule goes, this actually happened at a decent place. Not that I'm thrilled about losing Shaq or the prospect of him being out of action for so long, but the Cavs have reached a point in their schedule where they can afford an injury or two. After the extremely tough stretch of Denver/@Charlotte/@Orlando/New Orleans/@Boston/@Toronto (that's 6 games in 9 days, all against playoff-caliber teams), things lighten up a bit now over the next month. March (can you believe it's already March???) features 15 games, only 6 of which are against teams currently at or above .500.

Now is the time when Danny Ferry's construction of such a deep roster may truly pay off. Anderson Varejao obviously slides into the starting center role for the time being (at least until Z returns on or around March 22). Until then we can expect a big-man rotation of Andy, Jamison, Hickson, and Powe. And depending on matchups, LeBron will surely be playing some minutes at the 4 spot. A week ago I would have been shocked to think that Leon Powe would actually be playing meaningful minutes at this point, but I'm encouraged by what I've seen so far in his limited minutes. And it's nice to see JJ will not be buried on the bench again - his performance in Boston should have all but guaranteed that. Funny that no too long ago I heard some fans complaining about us having too many big men on the roster... I'm not hearing those same complaints now.

Injuries are a part of life in the NBA and we should all be thankful we have a GM that has constructed a team that is built to withstand them. We saw it earlier when Mo and Delonte were down for a while and Boobie stepped up. Now is the time for others to make it tougher on Mike Brown to decide on his playoff rotation. And remember, Shaq was obtained to outmuscle Dwight Howard and the Laker big men deep in the playoffs. The Eastern Conference Finals are still roughly 11 weeks away. Take your time big fella... just stay away from the buffet.

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