Hawks vs. Cavs: Q&A with Fear the Sword

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Conrad Kaczmarek of Fear the Sword discusses how rookie Anthony Bennett has fared in his early career, the Cavs' highly publicized backcourt dispute, and the health of their frontcourt mainstays, Andrew Bynum and Anderson Varejao.

The last time the Cavs played the Hawks, Kyle Korver shot his way into the NBA history books. This time, there aren't the same sort of historical implications (not that the implications were all that important anyway) awaiting the Hawks every time they pass the ball. Instead, they're looking to bounce back from Monday's heart-breaking loss to Miami (in which they were jipped at the end of regulation).

Instead of focusing on Korver this time around, we brought in Cavs blogger Conrad Kaczmarek of SB Nation's Fear the Sword to answer some questions on the team's season so far.

Question (Daniel Christian): The Cavs selected Anthony Bennett with the first overall pick in the draft. At the time, it came as quite the surprise, but most people didn't have a real problem with it. Bennett's been struggling so far this season, however, and now people are starting to wonder: What's wrong with Anthony Bennett and did the Cavs make a mistake?

Answer (Conrad Kaczmarek): I don’t know if you can say that the Cavs made a mistake yet and that’s mostly because…who else should they have taken? People love Victor Oladipo but his numbers aren’t exactly off the charts and the Cavs are getting similar production at the SG spot from Dion Waiters. I really think you have to give these young players at least a few seasons before we declare them "busts."

It seems like Bennett really struggled coming off of his shoulder surgery that he had this summer. He came into camp pretty out of shape and without having played basketball for several months. That right there is a bad start to your rookie season. The other problem is confidence. He couldn’t get any shots to fall early in the year and that basically made him stop being aggressive and stop playing with purpose. You could see him thinking through every single move he made on the court and he looked nothing like the player that we saw at UNLV.

The other thing that probably didn’t help him is the fact that the Cavs are trying to win and make the playoffs now. They aren’t shamelessly tanking, so they can’t afford to run him out there 30 minutes a game and get him the reps that he probably needs. So once he started off poorly, he basically just got benched for a while because he was hurting the team. I think there’s some hope for Bennett this year still. He’s a skilled player and has a unique skill set. Its taking him a lot longer than people expected, but I think he’s gradually finding his role on this team.

Q: There has been some publicized, uhm, disgruntlement between Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. Can these two co-exist as backcourt mates, in terms of on and off-court chemistry, for a team hoping to make the playoffs?

A: I think they can co-exist. Before Waiters went down with this recent wrist injury, they had seemed to find a combination of minutes that was working. They weren’t playing together as much, but they were typically both on the court late in the fourth quarter. I really believe in a dynamic young backcourt that has two guys who can create off the dribble, but it’s going to take time. People who thought these two guys would develop chemistry overnight were delusional. Both guys need to mature a bit, work on playing off the ball, and buy into the idea that they can win together.

I think it can work, but they have to really work at it for it to have a chance.

Q: There was a growing sense of skepticism about Cleveland's frontcourt coming into the season, primarily because of injury concerns related to Andrew Bynum and Anderson Varejao. How have these two held up health-wise and how have they performed on the court so far this season? Is it on par with, better, or worse than what you expected?

A: You know, it’s funny — we thought health was going to be the Cavs’ biggest issue coming into the year. Up to this point, they’ve been about as healthy as we could have hoped for and they’re still sitting at 10-17. Bynum is playing pretty substantial minutes on most nights, but he’s been brutal. Sam, one of my contributors, just wrote a big article about how bad Bynum has been. There’s hope that he’s knocking off the rust from missing an entire year, but it’s been hard to watch thus far.

Varejao is healthy and amazing. The Cavs are limiting his minutes to a certain degree, but he’s been very productive when on the court.

Q: If I told you that the Cavs won this game by 10 points, what would have to be the difference? In other words, what match-up are the Cavs looking to exploit or what team trait are they hoping to capitalize on to knock off the Hawks?

A: It would probably mean that the Cavs got a good game out of Andrew Bynum and that Kyrie Irving went off. The Cavs’ defense has been pretty decent-ish on some nights and downright awful on other nights. If they play defense like they’re capable of doing, then they have a chance to win most games with Kyrie Irving on the team. It’s just a very young team that is super inconsistent —so you never really know which Cavs team you’re going to get on a given night.

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