The newest member of the Cleveland Cavaliers is Channing Frye, who joined the team after a three-team deal that went down a couple hours before the trade deadline. Frye wasn’t available for Thursday’s game against the Chicago Bulls, of course, but it didn’t matter: the Cavaliers gave the Eastern Conference a firm reminder that they’re on top, anyway.
Cleveland beat Chicago, 106-95, in a game that felt like a Cavaliers win pretty much the whole way. LeBron James was casually great, scoring 25 points on 19 shots with nine rebounds and nine assists. Kyrie Irving scored 19, Tristan Thompson had 16 and Kevin Love put up 15 points and 15 rebounds. When the five Cavaliers starters were on the floor together, the Bulls were thoroughly outmatched in every aspect.
To be fair to Chicago, it is missing Jimmy Butler and Joakim Noah. The Bulls weren’t expected to win this one — obviously not. But there were moments when it felt all too easy for James and (insert any fast break partner James has ever played with here). No wonder he’s dancing.
The NBA may have been gone for a week, but the Cavaliers haven’t changed. The Eastern Conference isn’t suddenly going to look different. The only viable threat to the Cavaliers might be the Raptors, a team that Cleveland crushed, 122-100, in the last meeting between the two.
Before the trade deadline, the Eastern Conference was consumed by a strange jumble of non-trades and swirling rumors that have officially passed us by as of 3 p.m. ET on Thursday. The Celtics were buyers who refused to offer anyone actual money, while the Hawks offered up most of their key pieces for sale before yanking them off the market at the last minute. The Heat are dealing with more uncertainty about Chris Bosh’s health, while the Pacers are middling in inconsistency just three games over .500. Cleveland’s opponent Thursday, Chicago, strangely refused to blow up a core that is taking it nowhere.
The Eastern Conference revolves around Cleveland. Channing Frye is a curious fit. He felt like a Kevin Love replacement, except the Cavaliers did not trade Love despite swirling rumors. But regardless of how he is used or where his minutes come from, the Cavaliers will be at the top of the league, and now they have another weapon that can shoot threes.
We really already knew that, All-Star break or otherwise. But for anyone who wasn’t caught up, Thursday should be all the convincing you need.
3 other things from Thursday
The Spurs couldn’t get into gear against Los Angeles
Maybe they spent one day too many in Cabo, or maybe the old Spurs just stiffened up during the long break. Regardless, San Antonio did not look good playing the Clippers on Thursday, falling 105-86 in one of their worst games of the year.
The Spurs have earned the benefit of the doubt a thousand times over. They dominated the beginning of the season — and if we’re being honest, the verb dominate isn’t strong enough — and they’ve shown their championship mettle time and time and time again in the past decade and a half. This is just a bad game, and they’ll be back on track in no time.
If anything, Thursday’s game shines a light on the Clippers and how well they’re playing without Blake Griffin. This was Chris Paul at his “point god” finest, dropping 28 points and 12 assists with ease. How Jeff Green impacts the group will be interesting. It’s safe to say he’ll replace Luc Mbah a Moute, and honestly, that’s a needed change.
Washington won without Markieff Morris
The Wizards made a trade for Markieff Morris at the deadline, which means Thursday should be the final day this season that they’ll play without him. Morris has clearly not had the best time in his career, and a lot of his ugliest moments are not ones to be celebrated. Still, Morris is talented, young and under team control with a reasonable contract for several years to come. If the Wizards can revive him and restore the good things he brings to a team, it gives them a dangerous starting five that, on paper, can beat teams like Utah much more frequently like they did Thursday, 103-89.
Even boring trade deadlines are frantic
The NBA trade deadline was, by all accounts, a dud. But even during a week when all the major stars — Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Al Horford, Love, Griffin and others — stayed put, there was still plenty of action. This graphic helps show the absurdity of all the different moves involving 17 different teams. And as always, there were still winners and losers. You can watch Mike Prada and friends recap the deadline right here.
For all other 2016 trade deadline coverage, including our team sites, go here.
Play of the night
This move is unbelievably quick. And Wall had already done it earlier in the game, too!
3 fun things
The Clippers tweeted a photo of Blake and the trainer he punched, which feels like pure PR.
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