April 16, 2014

The Boots: C.J. Miles, Andrew Bynum Trade, Backup Quarterbacks, Preseason Browns Injuries

As I’ve been doing for years, The Boots are my way to assign Boot Up or Boot Downs to various items in the sports world. As a reminder, I got the nickname “Boot” from my older brothers when I was young, and thus, I continue to use this segment as my personal sports writing payback.

Boot Up: Addition of C.J. Miles — Yes, I like the move, but don’t read too much into it. The 25-year-old Miles has career averages of 8.4 points, 2.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 51.2% true shooting in his seven-year career with the Utah Jazz. The free agent signing strikes me as a low-risk, high-reward move that can only help the Cavaliers at their weakest position: small forward.

Miles is 6-foot-6, 210-lbs, and is a slasher/scorer that could be a huge complement to Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters in the backcourt. The product of Skyline High School in Dallas started all 72 of his games in 2008-09 and has averaged 23.2 minutes per game since that season, but never quite was a major part of the Utah offense led by Deron Williams and then Al Jefferson.

And, although I think Miles will be a solid contributor throughout the season, I have no idea what it means with regard to the Cavs’ ongoing negotiations with free agent Alonzo Gee. Last year’s starter at the 3 position, Gee, 6-foot-6 and 220-lbs, is also 25 years old and averaged 10.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 51.6% true shooting while playing 29.0 minutes per game last year.

Ideally, you’d want to have both young players fighting for playing time. A rotation at that position of Miles/Gee followed by Luke Walton and Omri Casspi looks much better on better than just one of the first two guys. I like the depth and scoring that would provide, as well as decreasing any type of dependence on the latter two individuals.

Boot Down: Eastern Conference Breakdown — With the Dwight Howard trade saga finally coming to an end, we can now actually rank the Eastern Conference as it should appear when the season starts at the end of October. As a reminder, the key pieces of the Howard trade: DW to the LA Lakers, Andrew Bynum to the Philadelphia 76ers, Andre Iguodala to the Denver Nuggets and a bunch of spare pieces/draft picks to the Orlando Magic.

Obviously, the East favorite will be the reigning NBA Champs in the Miami Heat. As evidenced during May and June, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh are an awful difficult group to stop come playoff time. They will be the favorites to repeat, as their biggest offseason moves were the addition of prolific sharpshooters Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis.

After the Heat, things get a bit more complicated. In my mind, the Indiana Pacers are the next-best team, although I’m still puzzled by their seemingly random offseason moves. Chicago and Boston are veteran clubs that should still contend, although who knows where they’ll be by the end of the season because of injuries to key players (Rose, Garnett, Rondo).

With the addition of Bynum, I like Philadelphia to contend for possible homecourt advantage in the first round. Shipping out Iguodala will give young Buckeye Evan Turner a shot to redeem his status as a No. 2 pick. Both New York and Brooklyn are superstar-heavy, and should be considered locks for the playoffs, but I’m not certain if they’re ready to compete for an East title.

From there, some final teams to watch in the playoff race would be Atlanta, Milwaukee, Detroit, Toronto and then Cleveland. At this point, I don’t see the Cavs as a likely team to beat out all of the squads above them to make the playoffs, although I still think they’ll be better than Orlando, Washington and Charlotte, all from the Southeast Division.

Boot Up: Backup Quarterbacks — It’s the preseason, yes. But I was still astounded by this stat from Friday’s 19-17 victory over the Detroit Lions, who, by the way, were a solid playoff team last year: Browns quarterbacks not named Brandon Weeden finished 20-for-29 for 264 yards, one TD and all posted QB ratings better than 100.0.

After Weeden played the first three series of the game, Colt McCoy entered the contest as the current No. 2 late in the first quarter. In the rest of the first half, the team only picked up five first downs, but one play highlighted McCoy’s participation: a 42-yard pass to youngter Jordan Cameron that set up a Phil Dawson field goal.

Seneca Wallace (pictured to the left) then brought Cleveland back into the game with a third quarter touchdown pass to rookie Brad Smelley. Before that drive, the Browns were trailing 14-3 and were looking pretty mediocre offensively, as usual. But Wallace drove the team 43 yards in eight plays following great punt return field position to make the game competitive.

Finally, fourth-stringer Thaddeus Lewis out of Duke earned the highlights as he led the team to two final scoring drives and the eventual victory. Lewis had three straight clutch third-down conversions to lead to the Browns’ second touchdown and then had back-to-back long passes on the game-winning drive.

No, this won’t mean anything in the long-term as Weeden is the starter, barring any type of injury. But after Weeden struggled early on and had two turnovers, you have to enjoy how the other signal-callers went out there, scored some points and showed determination in earning the victory. There’s likely no way the Browns will carry four QBs on its final opening day roster, so someone will have to exit eventually, but kudos to these guys for showing some skills on the field.

Boot Down: Early Browns Injuries — As if we needed more of these? In the preseason, wins don’t matter, so teams are just mostly trying to survive the injury bug. That couldn’t have been more true of the Browns, who already have been riddled by injuries and suspensions so far this offseason: Phil Taylor, Chris Gocong, Scott Fujita and possibly Joe Haden all could miss significant time.

The injury list from Friday’s game read the following: CB Dimitri Patterson (ankle), WR Mohamed Massaquoi (head), TE Jordan Cameron (back) and DT Scott Paxson (knee). We had the latest on Massaquoi yesterday, as he declared he doesn’t have a concussion, although I’m sure we’ll learn more soon as the young receiver has had a history of head injuries.

Patterson and Paxson both are projected possible starters with the absence of Taylor and Haden. They both left Friday’s game under trainer supervision, and after practice today, I’m sure there will be more information about their possible status for this coming Thursday’s game against Green Bay.

The other injury was to Cameron, the much-hyped young tight end who also caught the huge pass from McCoy in the second quarter. Injuries and competition at that position limited the USC product last season to very little playing time, so it definitely was not a welcome sign to see him begin another season on the wrong foot.

Much has been written about how several media outlets have the Browns targeted as one of the worst teams in the NFL this season. They could ill-afford several major injuries during the offseason, especially all to one unit, like the defense over the past few weeks. Taylor, Haden and Fujita are three of the team’s best defensive guys and could all be out at least three games, so the backups will need to stay healthy the rest of the preseason to make up for their absence.

Photos above via Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE/Getty Images and AP Photo/Duane Burleson

  • LaundroMat

    As if preseason Browns injuries would call for a Boot in any other direction…

  • Harv 21

    I don’t know, Jacob, I’d save preseason statistical astonishment regarding a 32 year old veteran QB playing against 22 year olds and bubble guys, especially when even against these guys he still throws deep sideline passes his customary 5 yards out of bounds. After 10 years Seneca is Seneca, better to examine the competition. If Heckert is auditioning to keep his job, he’s gone anyway, as there’s no longer a reason for him to keep one of Holmgren’s expensive teacher’s pets.

    Also, Fujita is one of the best three defensive players? No, sir. Maybe most media friendly, best-dressed, or most likely to have wisely invested his signing bonus. But on the field, he hasn’t done much of anything since 2009. Maybe once the best of a nightmarishly bad LB group.

  • mgbode

    ugh on the LB group to be sure. JMJ didn’t impress, and really the whole group was awful. other than a few overpursuits, the DL looked okay and the DBs were playing well (Skrine sure is scrappy even though he got thrown by Calvin a couple times). But, that LBer group actually showed why Fujita is still on this team. Hopefully, the young guys get much better over preseason there.

  • mgbode

    on the Eastern Conference: you might as well have said the East threw in the towel and gave the conference to the Heat.

    even the 76ers (which I completely understand taking the shot on Bynym) as Iggy is one of the few guys who can defend LeBron.

  • BenRM

    MoMass is killing me.
    I expected Weeden to look a little better than he did…so I’m a bit disappointed.

    Colt/Seneca should look better, they have much more experience and played against more 2nd string players.

  • WFNY_DP

    IMHO, Jordan Cameron got hurt because of how late McCoy’s throw was. Any QB who could anticipate–which Colt did, to his credit–that Cameron was about to uncover past the LB before the safety could get there should have gotten the ball to him in stride over the LB. Colt waited too long, and his arm isn’t strong enough to make up for that time gap. Thus, he had to throw it high to avoid the safety help, and was bailed out by a tremendous catch by Cameron, which ultimately led to his injury (ya know, falling six feet parallel to the ground and landing squarely on your back while being piled on by defenders).