Howard Beck: Should Be A Cake-Walk For Cavaliers

Toronto center Jonas Valanciunas will miss the rest of the Raptors’ second-round playoff series with Miami, this after spraining his right ankle while contesting a Dwyane Wade lay-up in Toronto’s 95-91 Game 3 road win on Saturday.

Whether Valanciunas is out for two games or four – or more – remains to be seen.

“It’s interesting because when a team says player X is out for the rest of this series, you don’t know how long a series is going to last,” Bleacher Report NBA writer Howard Beck said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “So they’re obviously at least charting out through what would be a potential Game 7. And so, there’s your minimum, right? It was interesting that they didn’t give it in terms of days or weeks or when the re-evaluation would be. But the impression I get is I don’t know if this guy is available for the conference finals, either. To me, it sounds very unpromising, but you also don’t know how a guy is going to recover. But teams these days, I feel like most of them are hiding behind medical privacy laws, to be honest. A lot of them give as little information as possible. I think Toronto gave very little information in this case. Miami gave very little information on (Hassan) Whiteside.”

Whiteside sprained the MCL in his right knee on Saturday.

“They didn’t say the degree of his sprain,” Beck said. “They called him day-to-day, which is the lamest injury reporting line that anybody can possibly give. You always know more than just day-to-day. It’s very rare that you don’t know whether he’s available beyond that, especially when it’s a serious injury. A sprained knee is not a small thing. That’s what Curry has, and as we know, he’s been out for a couple weeks already. I feel like they’re both withholding quite a bit, but I think it’s reasonable to think that whoever advances is probably without their starting center when they start against the Cavaliers. Then it’s a question of do they come back at some point during the conference finals?”

The other question is, would it even matter? After all, the Cavs are a perfect 8-0 in the playoffs. They look as invincible as any team in the NBA, no?

“They look that way, but they haven’t really been pressed, either,” Beck pointed out. “This is not to diminish what they’ve done so far. When you’re a dominant team, you sometimes make anybody look diminished. But look, they beat up on a Pistons team that got in the playoffs for the first time in 50 years or whatever it’s been. The Pistons were an 8-seed. Thats what you’re supposed to do. The Hawks were very good, very solid this year, but they weren’t even as good as they were a year ago when the Cavs beat them in the playoffs – and that was a pretty battered Hawks team last year, but that team was a better Hawks team when they were at full strength. This team didn’t have a DeMarre Carroll to throw at LeBron. I think overall they weren’t as fierce an opponent this year.

“The best teams are in the West,” Beck continued. “That’s been the case for some time now. That’s not a secret, and it’s not degrading anything the Cavaliers have done to say that they haven’t had to face a team like the Warriors or Spurs or Thunder yet – because they haven’t, and that won’t happen until the Finals. Whoever they’re meeting in the Eastern Conference Finals, even if the Heat and Raptors were at full strength, those teams still aren’t anywhere near the level of those Western Conference powers. And if they are at less than full strength, which it look like they will be, yeah, it should be close to a cake-walk for the Cavaliers.

“All that said, yeah, the Cavaliers are playing great. Their chemistry looks better than it’s ever been with this group. They’re moving the ball, they’re playing ferocious defense, they’re rebounding, they’re hustling – there’s nothing you can complain about with the Cavaliers now. But every good team, the true test of all those things, is how do they do under duress – and they haven’t had to face a lot of that so far.”

As for the NBA coaching carousel, Beck believes the Kings will hire Dave Joerger and the Knicks will stick with Kurt Rambis. The Rockets, Pacers and Grizzlies, however, are a little tougher to predict.

Larry Bird’s coaching search is of particular interest, especially since many around the league felt Frank Vogel’s firing was unwarranted. Rick Carlisle, a former Bird disciple, said that Bird truly believes in his three-year rule – that a coach’s voice becomes stale after three seasons.

“I guess you can appreciate his consistency or his conviction that he’s got this philosophy,” Beck said of Bird. “On the other hand, everybody league-wide would agree that Frank Vogel did a phenomenal job with that team. It didn’t make a lot of sense on that level, and he disclosed probably a little too much when he said that Frank Vogel spent a half four on the phone with him trying to talk him out of firing him. I don’t think it puts Vogel in a bad light. When you have a job you love, I think we would all probably have that conversation. In some respects, I find it endearing that a professional coach is not so egotistical or proud that he wouldn’t make the case. I think it speaks well of him that he did try to make the case. But that said, those are the kinds of things you don’t normally disclose.”

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