Now Tweet This: Are the Cavaliers still an elite NBA team?

THE LEADOFF

It’s not always Steph Curry and Klay Thompson or James Harden and Chris Paul, you know. Snuggled in that group very comfortably in terms of efficiency is the Portland Trail Blazers duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, who are also third in three-point percentage.

Truth is, the pair was actually the third-fastest group of teammates to make 100-plus three-pointers this season behind the Golden State Warriors’ Curry and Thompson and Rockets’ Harden, Eric Gordon and Trevor Ariza. They are two of the nine guards in the NBA averaging 21 points, four rebounds and three assists – the only teammates on that list.

Good players to ask, then, to put DeMar DeRozan’s evolution into context after DeRozan tied a career-high with six treys against them on Friday.

“He was already a handful: his size, athleticism, drawing fouls … shot-making ability,” said Lillard. “And now you’re chasing him over the top of screens – and he’s pulling up for three off the dribble. Like it’s always been his shot.”

Added McCollum: “You need to realize now that in transition he’s going to run to the line instead of always running for the layup. He was an all-star without a three-point. Now he’s just that more effective.”

Lillard and DeRozan share the same agent, Aaron Goodwin, and while they aren’t always in the gym together in the summer, Lillard also uses the same off-season workout regimen. “I know the type of work he’s putting in,” said Lillard, the second player in NBA history to make 100 threes in each of his first six seasons. “I know the type of people he’s around and pushing him to become the player he is. Not surprised.”

NOW TWEET THIS

In which we consider locusts, pestilence and end times at a World Cup for these Trumpian times; another record held by Glenn Healy that bites the dust (sort of); get to name-drop original outside bombers, ‘Downtown’ Fred Brown; think about the Cavaliers continued slide to mediocrity … and keep our sports soul pure by avoiding even mentioning in passing the Super Bo … dammit! All this in 280 characters … or less.

Clippers trade-bait Lou Williams has scored 20-plus points off the bench in his last 14 non-starts going into Monday’s game against the Mavericks, the longest streak since Fred Brown’s 16 in the 1975-76 season.

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More signs that end-times are here: concern that a locust plague might destroy pitches in Russia during the World Cup, fitting on many levels.

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Those back-to-back shutouts last week by the Leafs’ Frederik Andersen and Curtis McElhinney were rare: it was the third time in team history different goalies recorded consecutive shutout wins, the first since Glenn Healy and Curtis Joseph in October 1999.

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The demands of modern-day scheduling: Chelsea faces Watford in a Premiership match this afternoon on Sportsnet after coming off their first four-day break since Nov. 8. Chelsea has had five regulars suffer hamstring injuries since Jan. 1.

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Coincidence that disgraced ex-FIFA president Sepp Blatter requested a re-opening of his six-year ban for financial misconduct on the same day the IOC turtled and overturned 287 bans against Russian Olympic athletes?

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After their loss to the Rockets on Saturday, the Cavaliers are 1-8 in games against the top eight teams in the NBA – that win coming on opening night against the Celtics. Their average loss has in those games is just under 17 points. Maybe TV should drop them.

Live stream 41 Toronto Raptors games, over 100 other marquee NBA matchups, plus select playoffs and NBA Finals games.

THE END GAME

Paging Donald Fehr.

Brodie Van Waganen’s news release on Friday — in which the CAA-ROC Nation agent referred to the 1994 Major Baseball League strike — noted how this year’s free-agent market “feels coordinated, rightly or wrongly,” and held out the possibility of a spring training boycott. This worse news for players’ union chief Tony Clark than it is owners or fans.

My guess is there’s a better chance Clark’s gone by the all-star game than there is of disruption in the season. Although, I wonder if there will be some sort of work-to-rule campaign by players that will see them be less inclined to attend team functions and deliberately slow down the game even more and things of that nature, particularly in spring training. Remember this: players salaries do not kick in until Opening Day.

It’s clear by now that the current collective bargaining agreement, the first negotiated since the passing of Michael Weiner – the successor to Fehr and, by extension, Marvin Miller – has set back the players association by years. Clark, a former player, has been criticized by current and former players for paying too much attention to creature comforts in the deal at the expense of a nuanced approach focusing on financial matters; for thinking like a former player.

Look, we need to see what transpires with next year’s free-agent class before jumping to a conclusion that the market itself is broken and not just frozen. But as Craig Edwards points out in this piece from Fangraphs, so far this off-season nearly a third of all major-league teams have cut spending by 20 per cent. There is a chance that the Blue Jays’ Opening Day payroll is less than last season. That overall figure will likely change when the big names still out there sign contracts, but there’s no way payroll spending reaches the annual average increase of six per cent since 2009.

This at a time when revenue is going up, franchises are being sold for US$1 billion and each team has just received $50 million from the sale of MLBAM, the games advanced media arm. How times have changed: Bud Selig worried that taking MLBAM public would result in his owners spending foolishly. But then, my guess is he never foresaw the gift that has been Tony Clark, or the fact the players — entitled, cozy, conservatives that they’ve become — would forget the lessons of history before the owners.

Jeff Blair hosts The Jeff Blair Show from 9 a.m. to noon ET on Sportsnet 590 The Fan.