I'd seen the ads at the Cavs' preseason opener, and it sounded like a fairly typical corporate sponsorship slash sales promotion: If you bought two eight-pack 12-oz bottles of Pepsi products at an area Drug Mart, you'd receive up to 6 free tickets for any of the Cavs' home preseason games. Not a bad deal. The Cavs can't be blamed for trying to pack the Q for matchups that no one really cares about. And they probably figure they'll make way more revenue on concessions anyway.
But to be clear, they're giving these tickets away: The two 8-packs will set you back $6.48 after tax, so if you aim to get all 6 tickets, that's a whopping $1.08 a pop.
For my part, I'd watched the opener against the Bucks from the press section and decided (after my brother's invitation) that it might be more fun to sit where I could comfortably pump my fist after a Kyrie shake-and-back and not have to worry about, you know, journalistic integrity. Most of the press folks (to their credit, I guess) dutifully type and Tweet through the whole game without so much as a high-five or celebratory whistle. It should go without saying that there's no beer involved.
So I ventured to Drug Mart, signed up for the obligatory courtesy card — that's the catch, but it takes two minutes — and emerged with receipt in hand to be redeemed for freebies at the Q.
The above photo is where they put us, my brother and I. Courtside, baby. Those leather seats you see are what constitute the "bench" these days. We were officially in Row two, and I can say with certainty that they're the best professional basketball tickets I've ever had. Thanks Drug Mart!
The promotion's final day is tomorrow, FYI. Cavs' regular season tickets tend to be pricey, so if you've got a wee child or downtrodden friend who loves the Cavs and doesn't have anything on the docket tomorrow evening, what's your excuse? The Cavs are an exciting young team to see live.
In terms of news and analysis: The Cavs handed the poor-shooting Pistons a 96-84 loss thanks to solid defensive play and key contributions from reserves Matthew Dellavedova, backing up Kyrie in place of the injured Jarrett Jack and tallying a team-high 8 assists; and Jermaine Taylor, who made his case for a roster spot with a 15-point performance and several athletic plays at the rim.
Mike Brown has hinted that rookie Carrick Felix — defensive grit notwithstanding — will likely start the season in Canton. If that's the case, there may be an available spot for the upstart Taylor, who was drafted by the Wizards in the second round of the '09 draft, traded to Houston where he spent most of his time in the D-league, traded to Sacramento, and then cameo'ed in Spain, Israel, and China before joining the Cavs' training camp roster in September. (Using Taylor in a "Globetrotter" joke is comedy of a very high order). If he makes the team, be advised: He won't get many minutes at the wing, but he demonstrated last night that he can provide a scoring spark off the bench.
Sergey Karasev, having obtained his visa in the Bahamas earlier this week, started for Dion Waiters who's out with a hip contusion and resting his pelvis. Karasev logged more minutes than anyone and found his stroke in the final quarter, knocking down consecutive threes and finding Taylor for an alley-oop which put the Cavs up 91-79 and effectively iced the game.
Andy be Nimble, Andy be Quick: Varejao impressed with 10 points, 11 rebounds (6 offensive), 3, assists and 2 steals in only 24 minutes on the floor. He continues to cement his mastery of rebounding positioning and active defense. His highlight, though, was a behind-the-back pass to Tristan Thompson for a powerhouse dunk.
Kyrie is a dribble (and turnover) machine: Kyrie looked effortless with the ball in his hands, penetrating and then dumping for a few gorgeous assists. His turnover proclivities are troubling, though. He notched 8 last night. Still, when he kicks it in gear, he's almost unstoppable. Twelve of his 15 points came in a torrent of scoring in the third quarter.
Delly generating some evocative rodent-inspred nicknames: Delly played exceptionally well in 27 minutes on the floor. Despite lacking the size and foot speed of elite guards and struggling to stay with his man on the defensive end, he never gives up, making a good habit of throwing hands in the face of shooters and scrambling around pics to wreak his scrappy brand of Aussie havoc on opposing offenses. He's also a true "floor general," as they say, on the offensive end. He took a couple of errant jumpers, but he's got poise and even gusto as a PG, always communicating effectively with his teammates and knowing generally when to take shots for himself. The stat that jumps out most is his +19 point differential (meaning the Cavs' netted +19 when Delly was on the court). His presence is an asset. He's also something of an Energizer Bunny in terms of constant motion and wired defense. That seems appropriate given that his prominent white mouth guard calls to mind the buck teeth of Bugs Bunny and other famous rodents. A grinning fan held up a sign for much of the game which read: "RABBIT GOT GAME, #9"
Who will start at small forward? Alonzo Gee got the nod last night but mired himself in foul trouble early and looked uninspired for the most part. Possibly an off-night for Gee, but it coincided with Earl Clark's strongest preseason performance to date. If Clark shoots like he did last night (5-9, without forcing ugly long-range shots) he should be the favorite. Gee just can't get it going on the offensive end.
Asthmatic Bennett has fallen in love: With his own three-point shot. The burly rookie, whom Mike Brown has announced is afflicted with both asthma and sleep apnea, has much to learn on the court. Foremost among his lessons should be letting offense develop via ball movement. (He'd be benched instantly by Gene Hackman's Norman Dale in the '86 classic Hoosiers for shooting before the offense has completed at least four passes). When Bennett gets hot, he drains those threes with confidence and absurd precision, but he's getting too comfortable with it. He's got an enormous frame and should be leveraging his size to his advantage, snagging offensive boards and scoring around the basket. (Are asthma and sleep apnea conditions that disappear once you get in shape, or no? Is that insensitive?)
Could Bynum be good to go at the start of the season? ESPN is reporting that Andrew Bynum is very close to where he'd like to be, as far as his weight and his knees are concerned. Brown has said he's impressed with how the big fella has played in 3-on-3 drills and suggested he could begin full practices with the team soon. It's not outside the realm of possibility that Bynum could be ready for the season opener. (MOUTH LITERALLY WIDE OPEN AS I'M TYPING THIS).
Bear in mind that the Cavs doused the Pistons last night with significant help from Matthew Dellavedova, Jermaine Taylor and Henry Sims (who grabbed 10 boards and shot well while Kadji wrote his own obituary with jaunty play in the fourth). Though the Pistons lacked their probable starting PG Brandon Jennings, the Cavs refused to back down from an imposing front court and stepped up when they had to.
Sub Jarret Jack, Dion Waiters and Andrew Bynum for the above three bench guys and try to name a team in the league with whom the Cavs' couldn't realistically compete.