Prior to Wednesday's 97-93 victory in Sacramento, Cavaliers coach Byron Scott questioned his team's heart, stressing that his players still have a reason to play hard. Mainly, according to Scott, to audition for a job with the team next season.
The Cavs possess the league's worst record (13-53) and were eliminated from playoff contention long ago.
"I really don't care about the record; I care about competing," Scott said. "I care about coming out every single night, going against an opponent that's wearing a different-colored jersey and just trying to kick their butt. Not being able to respond to that is something that's shocking to me."
The Cavs have lost five straight heading into Thursday's game at Portland. But as Scott mentioned, he's not as concerned with wins and losses as he is about effort and energy. In other words, the Cavs' final 16 games will be similar to what most teams experience in summer league, when players are auditioning for an invite to training camp.
"It really is (an audition), because it tells me a lot about you as a basketball player, and it tells me a lot about your character," Scott said of the season's final month. "It tells me if you're a quitter or a loser."
While Scott won't name any names, the scuttlebutt around the league is the Cavs will spend the offseason attempting to move all but four or five pieces on the current roster. Many of those pieces could be holdovers from the LeBron James era -- such as J.J. Hickson, Daniel Gibson, Antawn Jamison and maybe even fan favorite Anderson Varejao.
"When it's all said and done, and I get to talk to with (general manager) Chris Grant about what we have to do, who we have to keep and who we have to get rid of, I'll have a pretty good idea," Scott said.
"I'll know the guys we have to move, or the guys we should not re-sign, or the guys that we have to say, 'OK, good luck somewhere else,' because we're going to bring in some fresh talent and guys who play hard every night."
The Cavs will also likely be bringing in some high-profile rookies, considering they own at least one lottery pick in the June draft (their own), and perhaps two, should the Clippers fail to make the playoffs. They obtained the Clippers' pick in February as part of the trade for Baron Davis.
On top of the first-rounders, the Cavs also possess two second-round picks and a $14.5 million trade exception that doesn't expire until July.
CAVALIERS 97, KINGS 93: It will be unfortunate if the Kings move from their current home to Southern California, as has been reported. After all, the Cavs have won their past six games in Sacramento.
Ramon Sessions hit a driving layup with 18.1 seconds left to break a 93-all tie, and Alonzo Gee sealed it with a pair of free throws, leading the Cavs to a thrilling victory Wednesday.
The win was also a redemption of sorts for Sessions, the young point guard who had struggled considerably since the Cavs acquired veteran Baron Davis from the Clippers.
With Davis sitting out to attend his grandmother's funeral, Sessions scored 20 points on 10-of-15 shooting and passed for a team-high six assists.
"This late in the season, we know we aren't going to the playoffs, so anytime you can come out and play hard, it says a lot," said Sessions, who has been nursing a hernia in recent weeks. "I'm not one to make excuses. We work hard all season, and I want to be here until the end."
J.J. Hickson added 17 points and eight rebounds, and Luke Harangody compiled 15 points and eight boards off the bench. Gee finished with eight points, including 4-for-4 shooting from the free-throw line.
"It's amazing what competing will do," coach Byron Scott said. "I told them three or four things we need to do every night, and I think they did that."
And despite facing a taller Kings frontline of Samuel Dalembert and rookie DeMarcus Cousins, the Cavs gained a 32-14 advantage in the paint in the second half (and a 48-46 edge for the game).
"We battled and we competed," Scott said. "We're probably going to be oversized most nights. The only way we can negate that is by playing hard."
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