April 23, 2014

While We’re Waiting… When sports gets complicated

While We’re Waiting serves as the early morning gathering of WFNY-esque information for your viewing pleasure. Have something you think we should see? Send it to our tips email at tips@waitingfornextyear.com.

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“Spoelstra hasn’t announced the choice yet, at least formally. But the writing is on the wall. Last week, five days before Spoelstra even clinched the spot, Heat owner Micky Arison tweeted about the history the Heat could make with Bosh in as the starter. When asked about it on Sunday, Spoelstra said: “I will tell you this, unequivocally, that my loyalties, first and foremost, are always with the Miami Heat.”

You see, there is already some wrangling going on ahead of James’ free agency that is scheduled for July 2014. One of the teams expected to have cap space and an interest in making a pitch to steal James away — at the peak of irony — is the Cavs. Their greatest recruiting tool will be the 20-year-old Irving, who has a bright future, a friendship with James and a deal with Nike. There’s an uncountable number of variables between now and next summer that make projecting James’ choice even more complex than back in 2010. But it is not too early to think about it.

So this question leaps out: Is there any way the Heat may not want to have James and Irving sharing the court and spotlight together?” [Windhorst/ESPN]

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“But the lack of predictability of the front office decisions the team makes is obvious. And kind of fun. Team construction and fake trades on the Trade Machine are part of being a die-hard NBA fan. Less fun, for me, is stressing out over Dion Waiters. He looked awful on Friday, and pretty good on Saturday. Watching closely as every time out is called to see if Kyrie and Dion seem to be getting along. Watching Kyrie closely as Dion attempts a step-back 20 footer. I am picking on Dion a little bit, and I don’t really mean to. My point is that we have no idea what we are going to get out of any of these guys on a night to night basis. One day Kyrie Irving is in God mode making Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka look silly, when the night before he grew so frustrated with his teammates’ incompetence that he became “disinterested”. Tyler Zeller basically is what he is until he can get on a weight training program. Even then, all we can do is speculate that he will all of a sudden regain his confidence in the post. We have no idea if Tristan Thompson is a serviceable big, or potentially much more than that.

Some of this stuff is fun. We get to see Kyrie go nuts. And we get the satisfaction of Tristan Thompson improving before our very eyes, and then being able to say I told you so. I really need to stop telling people I told you so about Thompson. I probably will, in 2016 or something. And while I am tough on Waiters, easily the most underrated fun thing about this season has been him pickpocketing dudes and coming down the other way with ferocious dunks. If Kyrie dunks, its a little two handed motion where he basically just drops it in the basket. Dion is having NONE of that. And it is pretty awesome. Oh, look, I just found another radical divergence in the personalities of the two guards in whom so much is invested.” [Zavac/Fear the Sword]

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“Everyone from Obama to Goodell to the $5,700,000,000/year TV networks are conspiring to construct a talk track about awareness and concern but without meaningful action. We hate being spun. It’s the height of disrespect to assume we can’t figure this one out without the help of more (NFL sanctioned) experts inveighing on the subject for us. Because the solution couldn’t be easier: you can either make targeting heads illegal or require players to sign waivers accepting that they’ll have some level of brain damage after leaving the game.” [Kanick]

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“Cleveland-Akron is now ranked the 18th-highest market in the US. In other words, had baseball started a century later in the United States, Cleveland probably wouldn’t have been one of the initial 16 franchises. But because Cleveland was an important population and cultural center back in early years of the 20th, we have inherited one of the finest art museums in the country (Cleveland Museum of Art, 1913), one of the finest orchestras in the world (The Cleveland Orchestra, 1918), and one of the original American League teams (Cleveland Blues/Naps/Indians, 1901).

I don’t bring this up as part of a post on the economics of baseball, but in terms of how this decline feeds into the Cleveland sports mindset. No one really much cares (or even remembers for that matter) that Cleveland used to be one of largest and most culturally important cities in the United States, but somehow that fact has seeped into the Cleveland sports fan’s view of things. Things are always getting worse, and if things are going well there’s always a disaster around the corner. And the sports teams have fed into that view to the point where disappointment is what everyone expects.” [Let's Go Tribe]

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“We look the other way when baseball teams win World Series even though they probably wouldn’t have made the playoffs without significant help from steroids cheats.

We look the other way when NFL players are allowed to create any excuse they want for a four-game drug suspension (usually Adderall), or when David Stern tells a reporter that he doesn’t see how PEDs would help NBA players (yeah, right).

We look the other way as the NBA keeps its own little Santa Claus streak going: Of all the running-and-jumping sports that feature world-class athletes competing at the highest level, only the NBA hasn’t had a single star get nailed for performance enhancers … you know, because there’s no way hundreds of overcompetitive stars with massive egos would ever cheat to gain an edge with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake.” [Simmons/Grantland]

  • MrCleaveland

    Ha haaaa, I can’t decide if Windhorst’s theory is crackpot or brilliant.

  • JNeids

    For every homeristic Boston-centric article Simmons writes that makes me tell myself I’m gonna stop reading him, he writes one like this that draws me right back in. I read that article over the weekend and shared it with my friends, which led to this exchange:

    My friend: God I hate and love sports at the same time.

    Me: this 1000 times. Sports had always been my biggest passion in life but lately it’s getting harder and harder to justify to myself.

  • mgbode

    “Tyler Zeller basically is what he is until he can get on a weight training program”

    He is exactly as advertised. We all knew that he was a skilled big man that needed to add a bunch of bulk. You can go back through the pre-draft discussions here with Andrew, VP, and Shamrock (and others).

    I’d say the bigger part of the speculation is if his body will allow him to add the necessary bulk. If it will, then I see no reason why he won’t become a strong, skilled pivot man. It’s why I had him as a top10 pick last year.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Truth. I still love how he projects for the future. I don’t think his body will ever be able to look like Dwight Howard’s, but it should be able to take on another 15 lbs of muscle over the next couple years. FYI, Zeller’s listed weight is 250 and Tyson Chandler’s listed weight is 240. I’m calling BS on that… maybe Chandler was 240 coming into the NBA?

  • MrCleaveland

    There was a time when great minds wondered if dominant centers would ruin the game of basketball. Now they’re endangered species.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Which has me kind of excited about the things that Tristan Thompson is doing. There aren’t too many centers with the bulk to keep Thompson from muscling his way into the paint and the height/hops to stop him from jumping up over them and dropping in his baby-hook. He’s showing the kinds of post moves that old-school centers used to have, and it doesn’t seem like there are many players out there who can stop him consistently without help from a double-team.

  • mgbode

    yeah, I don’t think they update those weights very often. Chandler is a great example for Zeller though as he too was of a similar build. Now I’m going to be projecting Tyler to become the next Tyson :)

  • mgbode

    and also how Chris Grant is building this team. we are not grabbing a bunch of the slow-plodding centers who take up space. we are grabbing a bunch of nimble, athletic centers who can run but (hopefully) can add enough strength to keep their own in the paint.

    right now, Memphis, Utah, and LAL are the only teams that could really take full advantage on the inside but they would each have issues keeping up with them running as well.

    yes, they need to figure out how to play better defense, we need to get more consistent offensive sets, etc. but it is easy to see the long-term projection for how Grant wants to build this team.

    and, Horton would be happy with these big guys that can run.

  • mgbode

    yeah, the days of Olajuwon,Ewing,Robinson,Shaq,Parrish,Divac, and even Smits patrolling the middle are long gone.

    i do still wonder what would have happened to the NBA had Yao been able to stay healthy.

  • mgbode

    never underestimate the seediness of Pat Riley.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Haha, possibly in McWorld? That’s right, I went with a 90′s commercial tagline… deal with it.

    What’s a good comparison for how Zeller projects if everything goes right? Pau Gasol?

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Don’t forget Greg Ostertag!

  • mgbode

    surprised you didn’t go with Manute Bol or the GREAT George Mureson!

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Haha, I would have bought Mureson’s cologne… even if it did smell like cabbage, chicks dig it!

  • mgbode

    Pau was never great at running the floor though. That is one of Tyler’s specialties.

    Vlade Divac actually may be an apt comparison.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I like that… think Divac is a good projection.

  • boomhauertjs

    From Windy’s article:

    “Don’t expect Spoelstra to even entertain the question. Of course it has crossed both his and Heat president Pat Riley’s minds. Don’t think they weren’t plotting their recruitment of James back in 2009; in fact, Riley and the Arison family enacted a long-term plan aimed at getting James’ attention for years before they gave their free-agent pitch on July 2, 2010. It was an effective plan.”

    I will always believe that getting the Kyrie pick was the Cavs payback for the obvious tampering that the Heat and Riley were guilty of.

  • mgbode

    I think it is a bit optimistic (Divac’s per36 #’s even early in his career were off the charts), but I’m willing to be optimistic with Zeller :)

  • Harv 21

    what’s exciting about Tristan is that his confidence has just switched on, like he knows that little hook/push thing will drop in. And his free throws improved at the same time. And he’s suddenly very vocal and leader-like with Andy out.

    I’ve said before that he needs something on offense to start with, one go-to move, a hand-hold to build on. Previously thought his improvement after last off-season would clue us as to whether he was a bust. Now I think that with his work ethic he might be a different player at the beginning of his third season, now that he has confidence and some NBA skills to build on.

  • mgbode
  • Steve

    Of course, the only reason Simmons wrote the article is because an alleged PED user beat his team. If Garnett was the one busted for PEDs, the article is very, very different.

    And does he say anything that anyone who is paying attention doesn’t already know? Athletes from the beginning of sports have been looking for a way to gain even the slightest edge on their competition, and the viewing public is more concerned with the final product, the entertainment that is, than how the sausage is made. Unless of course, your boyhood heroes are getting their records broken. Then its the tragedy of the century.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Zeller is doing just about what I expected/hoped.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Amen Harv… I’ve been saying for a while that with Tristan’s work ethic and his athletic ability, there was basically no way he was going to be a failure. He may never be elite, but I don’t see any way he doesn’t progress further unless he stops working at his craft. I almost don’t want him to start working on developing his jump shot… sometimes post players can fall in love with that shot a little too much and stop shooting the high percentage stuff around the basket.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    A thousand times, yes.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Chandler was a tall lanky fellow when I believe Chicago drafted him. He’s really matured and muscled up which is what has allowed him to be so strong defensively. I give him credit because he learned he’d never be an offensive threat instead he’d make his $$$ by rebounding and playing defense and that’s exactly what he’s done.

  • Steve

    It would really help the “skilled” argument if he weren’t 48th of 51 C’s in TS%. 43rd in REB%. Already 23, I had hoped he would be a bit more polished from four years at a top tier program.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I’m hoping Zeller will continue to work on that 18 foot jumper. That shot is available for him just about any time he wants it as defenders have to be extremely careful about Kyrie and Dion getting to the basket. If he can get to the point where is almost automatic with that shot (a la Kevin Garnett), that’d be a sweet boost for the offense. He takes it and makes it at a decent clip right now, but it could be better and I think he almost always passes on that shot unless he’s got a ton of room to operate.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Before the season I said Thompson needed to show me something otherwise I’d continue to have my doubts. Well after a slow start to the season he’s shown me alot. He’s definitely progressed much faster and further then Hickson had in his second season. I don’t think Thompson will ever be a jump shooter his game is attacking and slashing using that little push/hook/whatever you want to call it shot as he slashes across the lane.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I don’t take it that far, but I do believe Riley is guilty of some tampering and I think Windy was hinting to that before he took off for his ESPN gig (no judgment there, who wouldn’t). I think one day he might write a book about all of this… just not while he has to be friendly with LBJ for his job.

  • Steve

    *if he wasn’t*

    wow.

  • Steve

    .306 efg% on jumpers so far this year. He’s not making them at a decent clip.

  • mgbode

    okay a few things.

    1. He is never going to have a great TS% because he is going to take more jumpers than alot of 5′s. That’s just the nature of the beast.

    2. He needs to have a quicker trigger on those jumpers to shoot in rhythm and knock them down (I have faith he can do it as he was good at UNC and his FT% is still up. He just needs to get used to the NBA size/speed).

    3. Alot of his issues in the paint and getting rebounds have been that he gets muscled out too easily. Exactly the point we are saying he needs to improve on.

  • Steve

    Sure, I’m optimistic that he can get better too. But he just has so far to go. Even if he can pack on 15 pounds of muscle without losing any quickness, and hit a couple more jumpers, he’s still a below average big.

    There’s no way to wash away that awful TS%. He can’t hit those jumpers (see above) and his efg% around the rim (.524) isn’t any good either.

    And he’s not just getting outmuscled, he’s getting outpositioned too. He looked skilled when he was on the court where only one other guy was above 6’8″, but with legit athletes out there, those skills vanish pretty quickly.

    He is what he is, a guy with no outstanding abilities that would make him a key contributor in the NBA. He’s a whatever rotation big who you hold onto because 7 footers don’t fall from trees and their potential is too high to give up on (ahem, Drummond).

    Like I said, I’ll be optimistic too, but he hasn’t shown much to hang his hat on (the defense has been lousy with him on the court too). Even with vast improvements, I don’t see how he’s much of a player.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Don’t forget he is one of the best in the league in drawing charges, which is a nice factor. I think he’s got way more potential than you are giving him credit for.

  • Steve

    Sure, the extra 0.4 possessions a night doesn’t hurt, but that’s something you really have to dig for to find a positive.

    And if we’re talking about potential, then fine, he’s got all the potential in the world. But he’s far from even an average player, and in a league where specialization is increasingly important from your role players, I’m not seeing what he does to be more than a whatever bench big.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Yeah I don’t really have any stats to back up my projections for his growth… I’m just going by what my gut is telling me.

  • http://twitter.com/tompestak Thomas Pestak

    yeah almost everything he talks about: players peaking late – Steve nash is the poster child of peaking late. But he LIKES Steve Nash.

  • mgbode

    well, it’s not like Steve Nash went to some NBA city with a magic training staff and was able to continue elevated play into his late-30s despite extremely few players of his style being able to do that in the past.

    and it’s not like his play fell off a cliff once removed from that magic training staff.

    naw, it was just his avoidance of sugar (no seriously, that is one of the big things he credits).