Griff dropping subtle hints? In the 24 hours immediately following the NBA Draft, Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin was carefully selecting his words, seen by many to be verbal warning shots. When the Cavs used the No. 1 pick on Andrew Wiggins, Griffin—in what was a change from previous years—immediately addressed the pick via conference call. During said address, he made sure to mention that Wiggins wanted to be in Cleveland, which was seen by many to be a jab at Jabari Parker, the player taken with the No. 2 pick, who allegedly tanked his workout with the team.
But was this a shot at a player he didn’t draft? A day later, Griffin used the term “all in on Cleveland” to describe Wiggins, a descriptor he used to describe himself just weeks earlier when he won the team’s general manager job. In his Sunday column, Cleveland.com’s Terry Pluto iterated that Griffin’s word choice may in fact be aimed in the direction of one of his current players in Kyrie Irving.
Irving is reportedly on board with the selecting of Wiggins. He was one of the first to usher in David Blatt as the team’s new head coach. The Cavs will offer him the maximum contract extension allowable by the Collective Bargaining Agreement. If Irving is “all in,” he’ll accept the deal. If he tries to be cute, Pluto believes the team will try to trade him. This leads to an intriguing, if not potentially agonizing, topic that has gone a bit under-discussed: The extensions signed by John Wall and Paul George last season were not inked until July 31 and September 22, respectively. Just because Irving doesn’t sign on July 1 doesn’t mean that he doesn’t want to be in Cleveland.
The two-time All-Star has a crazy summer ahead of him—Team USA responsibilities will keep him in Las Vegas (OMG LAS VEGAS!?) in late July, Chicago and New York (OMG NEW YORK!?) in mid-August, Spain in late August through the middle of September. Sure, Jeff Wechsler (his agent) will be the one doing the bulk of the work, but it’s not like Irving will be sitting in Independence deliberating until a decision is made. These things take time—just enough for the rumors to swirl in countless directions, whether he’s “all in” or not.
Bringing back the ground and pound? The writing is on the wall for the Cleveland Browns to pull a 180 this season and become a run-first team. Several local papers focused an ample amount of coverage on Ben Tate and what he brings to the fold (we’ll throw the ABJ a bone here) as the team reverts away from being one that led the entire NFL in passing attempts a season ago. Browns OC Kyle Shanahan’s offense will reportedly be “predicated on being able to run effectively while mixing in the pass,” which means that Tate and his colleagues (Terrence West, for starters) will be seeing plenty of work while Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel will be asked to keep the defenses honest. After a season of having nary a run game, the zone-blocking scheme mixed with talented running backs could make for an interesting season on the lakefront.
The Browns’ offense will never be confused for the Broncos or Saints, but if things go according to plan, there will be some methodical movements of the ball as they wear down the opposition and strike when the time is right.
So remember that “fan advisory board” the Browns were putting together? Apparently they sounded off during their first meeting. Topics of disdain? The lack of care for season-ticket holders (compared to the Cavs and Indians, the Browns are AWFUL when it comes to taking care of their top clients), the constant turnover within the franchise, and the way FirstEnergy Stadium is constantly overrun with opposing fans. There are some interesting tidbits that err on the side of vague regarding the Dawg Pound—a concept that it appears the team would like to have transcend just one section of the stadium. The Browns appear to be “all in” on modeling themselves after the Seattle Seawhawks and their incredible fan base. We’ll see if this initiative helps.
Flush those listicles, folks. Here’s this week’s edition of #ActualSportsWriting:
“How Scott Kazmir came back” by Tim Keown (ESPN The Magazine): “He needed silence as an asylum from judgment and expectation. He needed to be alone with his doubts and embarrassment and confusion, to retreat from the well-meaning cacophony of advice, away from the Angels’ stadium parking attendant who told him he needed to keep his front side closed a bit longer, away from the usher who thought his stride was too short, away from even his father, who said he’d be every bit as proud of his son if he never threw a baseball again. Yes, Scott Kazmir needed the noise — the infinite chirping of an infinite number of birds — to cease. He needed the only voice in his head to be his own.”
“From St. Louis to Recife in search of “the spot” by Chris Jones (ESPNFC blog): “A man called simply The Mustache unlocked the gate for Steven Lange, and he took his first few steps onto the grass, still wet from Thursday’s calamitous rain. By Friday morning there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the high sun lit every quiet corner of Estadio Ilha do Retiro, the storied home of Sport Recife, a local first-division side.”
“Astro-Matic Baseball” by Ben Reiter (Sports Illustrated, with bonus points for production): “It is one thing to commit to only making decisions that will lead to a long-term goal, and another to figure out how to make those decisions. Blackjack is an exercise in hard probabilities. Evaluating baseball players is something else. Some information you can gather about a baseball player is hard: how fast he can throw a fastball, how quickly he can reach first base. But much of it is soft: how diligently he will work, how his power stroke might develop, how likely he is to become injured.”
“A century of American Soccer anxiety” by Ian Crouch (The New Yorker): “Haven’t we reached a point where it is enough simply to watch the games? Millions of people do, taking pleasure in seeing top-flight soccer and in the tournament’s distinctive global drama. For newcomers, it can be met with curiosity, even wonder, rather than contempt dressed up as national pride. We can be shy about soccer, but we don’t need to be afraid.”