MAKING MOVES

Joel Blank: There is one man in Cleveland who might get the Cavs back to the Finals

LeBron James got some much-needed help at the deadline. NBA.com

If the Cleveland Cavaliers do what I predicted they would do at the start of the year and win the Eastern Conference, there is one man and one man only to credit. Of course, most of you will say that man is LeBron James and you would not be wrong, to a certain extent. However, this year, there is someone that has been more important to the team and franchise than even the King himself.

In his first full year on the job, Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman thought he had it made. He had the best player on the planet and a loaded roster of All-Stars and talented role players. Even after the departure of Kyrie Irving—in a trade that he was forced to facilitate at the request of owner Dan Gilbert—he had a talented team capable of being the best team in the conference and maybe the entire league. Regardless of how that trade would work out, he would have no pressure and no blame as it all happened and went down while he was still settling in to his new job and position. The owner pulled the trigger and all he had to do was orchestrate the pieces coming back. On paper it looked as if they got as good a deal as they possibly could have gotten and in doing so kept the team strong and capable of another trip to the NBA Finals.

Well, what a difference a few months can make? The Cavaliers were expected to struggle early in the season as they built chemistry and camaraderie getting used to their new pieces joining an already-established nucleus of playoff veterans. The struggle was real and in fact the reality check was, it never got better and in fact got considerably worse.With each passing day, it seemed as if LeBron was inching closer and closer to skipping out the door, while the rest of the team seemed to be bickering and in a power struggle of their own, trying to fight for enough playing time to get their individual numbers while completely disregarding any team goals or accomplishments.

On the day of the NBA trade deadline, with less than 24 hours on the clock, Altman was faced with the daunting and seemingly impossible task of transforming his entire roster. That, or face the very real possibility that his team would implode and his best player would exit stage left for greener pastures and the sunny skies of LA, Houston or another city. In professional sports, when teams and general managers know you are in desperation mode, their first thought is to try and rob you blind and steal your best players, while giving back nothing substantial in return. That was definitely the scenario for Altman in Cleveland and with that, it seemed even more impossible to believe he could pull off any substantial deals that would help turn the team around and give them a chance at another Finals appearance. Critics were waiting to pounce on the collapse of the Cavaliers, while the city of Cleveland and its entire fanbase braced for what looked to be the end of an era and the departure of their beloved native son.

It was make or break time for the young general manager, and to his credit he dug in and started swinging for the fences. By the time the dust had cleared and the deadline had passed, Altman was four for four with a couple of home runs and a few extra base hits. He was able to take six players who just did not fit the team and the culture and flip them for three young studs and one seasoned veteran point guard that has been through the wars of playoff basketball and knows how to facilitate for a team full of superstars. Gone were Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose, who never really fit the Cavs culture or system, along with holdovers Channing Frye and Iman Shumpert. Joining the Cavs were talented young players Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr from the Lakers, along with Rodney Hood from the Utah Jazz. Three very talented young kids, two of which had never sniffed the playoffs, let alone a chance to play for a ring. George Hill, who made appearances in the postseason with the Spurs and Pacers, also arrived in "The Land" shooting 45 percent from behind the arc.

If their first game together was any indication, the Cavaliers are going to be a force in the Eastern Conference once again and look to be as strong as ever. Sunday, the Cavs absolutely demolished the Boston Celtics and Kyrie Irving and in doing so sent a message to not only the rest of the conference but to the entire NBA that before all is said and done Cleveland will be heard from again, as they are once again having fun. Three of the four newcomers were in double figures and Nance Jr played 21 minutes scoring 5 Points, grabbing 5 rebounds and adding 3 assists. They played with passion, the bench was supportive and excited and LeBron seemed as happy and animated as he has been all season long. If that trend continues, the Cavs will have pulled off one of the most improbable and impossible mid-season transformations and turn arounds in league history. Trading six players at the deadline and getting better? Obviously a lot is still to be determined, but if it all plays out in Cleveland's favor, Koby Altman should be the one to get all the credit and he might want to consider a run for mayor. As KG once said, "Anything is possible!!!"

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TEXANS HAVE ZERO DEPTH AT CORNER

Here's what Davante Adams' big day against the Texans really proved

Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images

Seven weeks into the season, Bradley Roby has been the sole bright spot playing for a secondary that has been subpar at best. He entered Week 7 against the Green Bay Packers trailing only Eric Murray for the most tackles as a defensive back, while owning the Houston Texans' only interception of the season.

During his media availability on Thursday, Roby spoke about having the Texans' confidence to trust him as the primary defender shadowing the opposing team's best receiver.

And with Davante Adams coming to NRG Stadium with Aaron Rodgers on Sunday, Roby had an opportunity to illustrate why Houston's coaching staff have so much faith in him.

Three plays into the game, Roby sustained a knee injury that sidelined him the rest of the afternoon. In his absence, the Texans felt his importance competing with a depleted secondary.

Adams would go on to have a career day against the Texans. He recorded a career-best 196 receiving yards on 13-of-18 targets and two touchdowns — as the Packers handed the Texans a 35-20 loss on Sunday.

Had the Fort Worth native avoided the injury, would it have resulted in a victory for the Texans? Perhaps not. It is always hard for a team to come away victorious after going scoreless during the first half, but Roby would have limited the destruction caused by Adams. Rogers completed four deep passes where he recorded 28 or more yards, with Adams being the recipient of three.

Not only did Houston have to deal with the effects of not having their best corner shadow one of the league's premier receivers, but the team was not prepared to battle without Roby, according to Michael Thomas following the loss.

"When you lose your starting corner like that, it's going to affect [the team]," Thomas said. "Anytime you have to make adjustments. If you're not prepared, and you don't have the right mindset, then you're probably not going to get the right results you want. Maybe we could have done it a little sooner, but you definitely miss a guy like Roby. You plan on having your number one guy go against their number one guy all the time."

Roby's premature exit left the Texans with a gaping void to slowdown Rodgers and the Packers without two of their projected starting corners. Gareon Conley — who revived his career during the second half of last season — has yet to play a single snap for Houston in 2020 as he continues to recover from offseason ankle surgery.

Their lackluster performance on Sunday showcased the lack of depth and talent the Texans have in the secondary. And with the trade deadline a week away, it may be in the Texans' best interest to invest in a young defensive back they can build around in the future — especially considering the timetable on Conley's return remains unknown.

Interim head coach Romeo Crennel said on Monday that the team is hoping Roby's injury is short-term and hopes to have their top corner make his return following the bye.

At 1-6 on the year, all the Texans have left to play for is pride as they close out the remaining nine games of the season, and the best way is to prevent another receiver from recording nearly 200 yards in a single game.

For this vulnerable secondary, it is a feat easier said than done. And with the talents of Jarvis Landry, T.Y. Hilton, and A.J. Brown remaining on the schedule, it is only best for Roby to make his return to the field sooner rather than later.

"I take pride in it. It's an opportunity that not a lot of guys get throughout the league, and I'm thankful for that. Just to be able to go against the best and try my best for the team and see how I match up. I'm very thankful for that." — Roby.

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