July 31, 2014

Report: Lionel Hollins in running for Cleveland job, Karl remains interested

We’ve heard a lot of names tossed around as potential replacements for Mike Brown as we inch closer to the NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday night and the NBA Draft next month. Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune (Minneapolis) reports some interesting bits of information regarding the Cavaliers’ opening alongside his Timberwolves updates. Among them, Zgoda says that Lionel Hollins was interviewed by Minnesota three weeks ago but it has not progressed any furthered. He mentions that Hollins is in the running for the Cleveland job.

Hollins was the Memphis head coach for three different stints, two on an interim basis in 1999-00 and 2004-05. When he was handed the full-time job in mid-season 2009, he started a very successful run of playoff appearances. After a 13-26 finish in 2009 and a 40-42 campaign the following year where the team missed the playoffs, Hollins helped his team become just the fourth eighth seed to upset a top seed in the first run, as the 2011 Grizzlies beat the Spurs in six games, advancing to the semis where they battled the Thunder tooth and nail for seven games before losing the series. In 2012, Memphis won 41 games in the lockout-shortened 66 game regular season, but they lost in the first round in a seven-game series with the Clippers. Last season, the Grizzlies won a franchise-record 56 games, got their revenge on the Clippers with a first round series victory in six, knocked off another top seed in Oklahoma City in five, and then were swept by the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. Hollins was let go following last season.

Zgoda had this to say about two of the more popular college options for head coaching vacancies:

“Izzo was offered the same five-year, $35 million offer to coach and run the Pistons that Van Gundy eventually accepted last week. Izzo also declined when Cleveland fired Mike Brown and called for the second time in four years. Hoiberg, too, appears content to remain in college coaching, at least for now.”

It’s not hard to believe that Izzo declined the Cavaliers’ pursuit for a second time if he wasn’t going to accept the lucrative deal to run the Pistons and stay in the State of Michigan. Given the volatility of NBA head coaching ranks, Izzo has it far too good to consider the jump now. Hoiberg, however, is at a program in Iowa State that is respected but far from a perennial contender. He stands to move up somewhere in a big way, whether that’s at a more highly regarded college program or in the NBA.

George Karl’s name also refuses to go away, and Zgoda says he remains interested in Cleveland or Washington (should Randy Wittman be fired). Karl coached the Cavaliers from 1984-1986 with a 61-68 record and a first round playoff exit in 1985. He went on to win over 1,000 games at stops in Golden State, Seattle, Milwaukee, and Denver, reaching the Conference Finals in 1993 (Seattle), 2001 (Milwaukee), and 2009 (Denver) along with a Finals trip in 1996 in Seattle.

There are currently five head coaching spots open in Cleveland, New York, Minnesota, Los Angeles (Lakers), and Utah. Stan Van Gundy (Detroit) and Steve Kerr (Golden State) have already been hired this offseason.

Related: As head coaches come and go, how much longer will Cavs fans wait?

Francona drops Swisher, Santana in batting order

With the Indians’ offense in a massive funk for most of the season, the time for a change is now in manager Terry Francona’s eyes. Some would argue it’s long overdue. In today’s batting order, Francona has dropped Nick Swisher from second to sixth and Carlos Santana from fourth to seventh against right-hander Jesse Chavez as the A’s go for the sweep.

In today’s game, Mike Aviles and Ryan Raburn will take the spots vacated by Swisher and Santana, respectively. Swisher is battling to stay above the Mendoza line, hitting .203/.303/.323 (.625 OPS) with 3 homers and 16 RBI while leading the team in plate appearances. Santana is second in plate appearances, batting an appalling .156/.319/.293 (.611 OPS) with 5 homers and 13 RBI.

Francona has a reputation for sticking with his veteran and star players until it’s painfully obvious that a change is needed. One such example was last season, when Asdrubal Cabrera spent most of his abysmal season last year rotating between the second, third, and fourth spots in the order. Finally, in mid-August, Asdrubal was dropped to sixth in the order and remained there for the rest of the stretch run. With the Indians at 19-24, the assessment appears to have been the team couldn’t wait any longer for their cornerstones to turn it around in the top of the order.

Longterm, however, it’s a little head-scratching to see Lonnie Chisenhall, he of the .353 batting average, batting behind these two today and eighth in the order against a right-hander. Some managers pride their lineup on consistency, however, and if Chisenhall isn’t deemed worthy of consistent at-bats against left-handed pitching, you’re committing to two entirely different hearts of the order. With Cabrera and Yan Gomes taking the day off today, it will be interesting to see where those two non-lefties slot in. With Jason Kipnis close to begining his rehab and potentially returning soon, that adds another element to the equation. If this is going to be a semi-permanent arrangement, I’d propose Bourn-Aviles-Brantley-Murphy-Cabrera-Chisenhall-Swisher-Santana-Gomes with Kipnis taking Aviles’s slot once he returns. The one complicating factor, of course, is that one benefit to having Swisher and Santana that high in the order as switch hitters was splitting up the left-handers.

Related: Unsolicited Observations: Cleaning up Santana’s swoon, Jesus is here, Bourn problems, and more

Indians recall T.J. House, option C.C. Lee

The not-so-dynamic duo of Danny Salazar and Zach McAllister really did a number on the Indians bullpen over the last two nights. In fact, the pen saw so much work that the Tribe made a move to replenish their NINE man bullpen. C.C. Lee is out, and Clipper starter T.J. House is in.

Lee has been with the club since April 9th when he took the spot vacated by Vinnie Pestano, who carried over his velocity woes from late last season. In that time, Lee has served largely as the mop-up man and first righty out of the bullpen. In 13 games (11 1/3 innings), he’s allowed 6 earned runs and 11 hits to go with 3 walks and 11 strikeouts. Lee had thrown three of the last four days, including 27 pitches in last night’s game as he put in 1 1/3 innings of work during the Indians’ 11-1 loss. It’s possible that Lee will return at some point, but he looked like he could still use some time at Columbus.

As for House, the left-handed starter is 1-2 with a 2.40 ERA in 7 starts (41 1/3 innings pitched). He has walked 11 and struck out 34, allowing 35 hits. He is 24 years old and is likely here primarily for insurance against a short start from Josh Tomlin tonight or Justin Masterson tomorrow.

The Indians will be making additional roster moves in the coming days as Trevor Bauer is due to face Detroit on Tuesday and Jason Giambi could return on that same day as well from the 15-day DL. Prime candidates to go down at that point would be Jesus Aguilar or Jose Ramirez and House or Kyle Crockett.

Related: Unsolicited observations: Cleaning up Santana’s swoon, Jesus is here, Bourn problems, and more

Browns reportedly sign wide receiver Earl Bennett

The Browns may have taken their first real step in adding an option to compensate for their lack of depth at wide receiver. Jake Jones of KFBB in Helena, Montana is reporting that the Browns have signed former Bears wide reciever Earl Bennett.

The 27-year-old Bennett caught 32 passes for 243 yards and four touchdowns last season, his sixth with the Bears after being selected in the 3rd round in 2008. The 6-foot wideout was on the field for just under 54% of the team’s snaps last season, but he was primarily used as an underneath option, with 26 of his 32 receptions coming from passes shorter than 10 yards. The Bears cut their third receiver after he refused to take a pay cut on March 18th.

With Josh Gordon facing a potential year-long suspension, the Browns have free agent signees Andrew Hawkins and Nate Burleson (who broke his arm in training camp) along with incumbents Greg Little, Josh Cooper, Travis Benjamin, Tori Gurley, and Charles Johnson. They also signed undrafted free agents Chandler Jones, Jonathan Krause, Kenny Shaw, and Willie Snead following last weekend’s draft.

The Browns weren’t going to replace the threat that is Josh Gordon, though a second or third round selection at the position could have provided a player that would likely make an immediate impact and ease the blow. As it stands, the Browns will likely need to continue to puruse trade options or more cap casulaties to add another veteran option. Right now, they have a bunch of capable third and fourth receivers without any proven legit first or second options.

Related: Browns Film Room: A look at Justin Gilbert

History Repeating: Mike Brown takes the Fall…Again


There was a time, not that long ago, when Mike Brown was being applauded for being one of the game’s bright young defensive minds. His coaching skills had been forged in the crucibles of playoff runs as an assistant in San Antonio and Indiana. His Cleveland teams won ugly but won, and he even managed to have three seasons with a top ten NBA offense in terms of efficiency. Without the summer of 2010 ransom note the Cavaliers had in hand, there is no way Mike Brown would have been dismissed that summer in his first term as head coach. He was quickly swooped up by one of the league’s premier franchise in the Lakers that needed a culture change and identified Brown’s ability to get results. Then, after a shortened stay in L.A., clearer heads had won out, we were led to believe, and the Cleveland front office, led by Dan Gilbert and former-assistant-GM-and-then-general-manager Chris Grant, had realized the error of their ways. The triumvirate would once again provide stability to a franchise that preached it from the top down.

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Counterpoint: Passing on Johnny Manziel in pursuit of Pro Bowl talent

Manziel texans

Other teams’ fans have PhotoShop too!
(Photo illustration by Kara Wahlgren)

Quarterback is a pass-fail position. Sure, there are two or three on every team, but out of those 80-90 guys, there are 60 or 70 of them who are just around because every team needs one on the field; the others are insurance in case that one guy gets hurt. Half—and probably more—of the teams in the NFL are in the perpetual pursuit of that top-flight signal caller. Which brings us to the Cleveland Browns and Thursday night when Ray Farmer and his staff may very well select a quarterback. I’m OK with that. More than OK. In fact, they MUST take one by halfway through Day 2. What I don’t want them to do, however, is sacrifice their draft board and pass up a Pro Bowl talent in the never-ending pursuit of a franchise player under center.

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Cavalier Offseason Wishlist: Frontcourt

spencer hawes grizzliesThis will be the first in a few posts from me about my post-season Cavalier thoughts. Before I dive in, be sure to check out the great work from Ben, Andrew, and Jacob in their varying post-season thoughts and breakdowns.

It was only this past weekend that I sat down and watched the majority of a NBA playoff game. That’s truly a shame for many reasons. First and foremost, we’re having a crazy bonkers playoffs thus far in terms of road teams winning, eight seeds with series leads over one seeds, multiple overtime games in the same series, and thrilling game-winners. The second reason is because for as much as NBA regular season ball has its warts from critics, the playoffs are everything you could ask for in most cases. It had me thinking back to the way I watched the playoffs from 2006-2010. I lived and died with every playoff game, not just those involving my team, because it all meant so much with a team chasing a title.

Well, back down here on planet Earth, the Cavaliers are not doing any such thing. While they improved by nine wins over last year, we all know that so much more was expected with the major additions that transpired. So, with the disappointing season finally over and with nearly two weeks to digest it, I offer the first installment of my offseason wishlist (at least at this point), with the hopes that I’m back to living and dying with every playoff game come next April.

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Bourn, Bullpen, and Bitter Cold: Tribe edges Royals late

Bourn Hit 4/23/2014In a rotation where Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco are struggling mightily to the point of removal or demotion, the fact that Justin Masterson’s fifth start came and went with the team’s supposed ace remaining winless may be a snippet of catastrophic news. Rather, it only reinforced how worthless pitcher wins are as a metric on their own. Masterson turned in his third good start of the season against two poor ones. Add in Michael Bourn’s bat coming to life, the Indians coming through in the late innings in the clutch, and the sign-off from a better-by-the-day bullpen, and it amounted to a 5-3 win over the Royals.

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South-praw-blem? On the Indians’ early struggles against left-handed pitching

Jose Quintana mowing down the Tribe

An early story-line in the 2014 campaign has been the Indians struggles with left-handed starters. In the last six games alone, the Tribe has seen Eric Stults, Robbie Erlin, John Danks, Chris Sale, and Jose Quintana all of the southpaw persuasion. In Detroit, they’ll see Drew Smyly on Wednesday night. With a 12-man hitting arsenal, the Indians currently house five hitters that bat only from the left side, yet they have amassed an OPS of just .623 against lefties. The Tribe has struck out more often against lefties (40 vs. 38) despite having 71 fewer at-bats. Is this an overreaction of some early season hitting scuffles or the exposition of a larger problem? Let’s dig into the numbers a little bit.

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Buckeyes add transfer Anthony Lee for next season

The 2014-15 version of the Ohio State Buckeyes is going to look much different than the squads of the last two seasons. First, the starting backcourt of Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. has graduated. Then, junior LaQuinton Ross and sophomore Amedeo Della Valle both chose to pursue professional opportunities and leave Ohio State early (Della Valle for pro ball in Europe with Ross looking to be drafted in the NBA). Now, coupled with the incoming top five recruiting class headlined by D’Angelo Russell, Keita Bates-Diop, and Jae’Sean Tate, Thad Matta added transfer big man Anthony Lee today, per ESPN Insider Jeff Goodman.

Lee comes to Columbus via Temple, where the big man played three years as an Owl before completing his undergraduate degree. Last season, he averaged 13.6 points and 8.6 rebounds and just under a block while playing over 31 minutes per night. At 6’9″ and 230 pounds, Lee likely slots into the starting center role, displacing the incumbent Amir Williams, who has been an overwhelming disappointment after being a highly-touted recruit and McDonald’s All-American. Williams, fellow junior Trey McDonald, and Lee will all be gone at next season’s end, leaving a large opening in the OSU frontcourt for Thad Matta to recruit some new bodies. Thad’s already working on that with another traditional transfer prospect in Virginia Tech’s Trevor Thompson.

As someone who can step in immediately by NCAA rules that permit transfer to a graduate school program not offered at the current institution, Lee was highly sought. After saying he wanted to play in the Big Ten, ACC, or Big 12, he received interested from several schools, including Indiana, Iowa State, Lousiville, Notre Dame, and others.

Returning to the rotation next year will be juniors Sam Thompson, Shannon Scott, Williams, and McDonald along with sophomore Marc Loving and redshirt freshman Kam Williams, who sat out last year due to mononucleosis that delayed the start of his year. Russell, Bates-Diop, and Tate rank 13th, 21st, and 27th respectively in the 2014 class. Russell is considered a five-star per ESPN as a 6’4″ shooting guard out of Louisville, KY. Bates-Diop is a 6’7″ small forward prospect from Illinois that will likely play some power forward in Matta’s system despite weighing just 190 pounds currently. Tate is a local recruit out of Pickerington and is a 6’5″ small forward. It’s possible (though unlikely in the beginning) that Ohio State could start four newcomers along with Scott at the point.

The Buckeyes will look to return to their period of sustained success that included a Final Four in 2012 and Sweet Sixteen appearances in four straight seasons prior to their first-round exit1 at the hands of the Cinderella Dayton Flyers.



  1. I refuse to call the games following the “First Four” the “second round”. []

Report: Indians sign Yan Gomes to long-term contract

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported this evening that the Indians have locked up their surprise young backstop Yan Gomes for the foreseeable future. The deal is a reported six years and worth $23 million. The deal includes two club options that could keep the Yanimal in a Cleveland uniform into his mid-thirties. This contract, per Jon Heyman, marks the largest given to a catcher pre-arbitration, breaking Carlos Santana’s record.

Gomes, 26, was arbitration eligible following the end of the 2015 season and would have been heading to the open market potentially following the 2018 season. This move effectively “buys out” his three arbitration years and his first year of free agency (plus an additional two years if the team so desires), a move that the Indians have used countless times in this era, including with Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana, and Michael Brantley (which actually could buy out two of his free agency years if they pick up his $11 million club option).

After playing both corner infield slots, outfield, and catcher for Toronto, searching for a positional home, Toronto was willing to part with Gomes. He was acquired from the Blue Jays along with utility infielder Mike Aviles in exchange for middle reliever turned starter Esmil Rogers, Gomes hit .294/.345/.481 (.826 OPS) with 11 homers and 38 RBI in 88 games behind the plate as he became the Indians full-time catcher in the second half playoff stretch run. Aviles and Gomes formed one-half of the “Goon Squad” along with Ryan Raburn and Jason Giambi that gave the Indians one of the most versatile and talented benches in the bigs, helping them win at the margins and finish the season on a 10-game tear.

Ironically, it was Yan’s play that forced the Indians to move Carlos Santana to a primarily 1B/DH role late in the season to put the best lineup on the field both offensively and defensively. Gomes was an assassin behind the dish, throwing out a phenomenal 41% of base-runners (the league average last season was 26%). This year, with Carlos Santana committing himself to a position change to third base, the door is wide open for Gomes to be the everyday catcher with Santana the only other catcher on the Opening Day roster to spell him.

With talks with starting pitcher Justin Masterson over and the Tribe ace all but certainly heading to free agency, the Indians’ next goal is to sign All-Star Jason Kipnis to a similar (albeit more lucrative) team-friendly deal.

Related: Setting the lines on the 2014 Indians

Imperfect finish to an imperfect season: Bucks fall to Dayton

craftmissIt was the opener to the wall of games yesterday afternoon. In the in-state matchup that doesn’t happen very often, “little brother” Dayton had nothing to lose against the Buckeyes, and they played like it. The Ohio State Buckeyes showed their warts as they have all season long, and they went down just as they have in nearly every loss this season, looking like a team without a leading scorer. Former Buckeye Jordan Sibert and the Flyers provided the first upset of the tourney with a 60-59 stunner as Vee Sanford provided the game-winner with 3.8 seconds remaining, sandwiched between would-be game-winners from Buckeye heart and soul Aaron Craft. One unbelievable make and one heart-wrenching miss. The Buckeyes end the season 25-10, a far cry from many of the early season expectations. Now, they have to say goodbye to one of the most polarizing figures to don the scarlet and gray in the last half century.

The same things that plagued Ohio State all season long manifested again today: their lack of consistent play from the center position, the uneven shooting of their two leading scorers LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith Jr., the lack of outside shooting from Shannon Scott, and turnovers. But, the things that kept giving you hope all season long that they could turn it around were on display too: a surprise performance from one of those inconsistent players (Sam Thompson), clutch and gritty play from Aaron Craft, and tenacious defense that racked up stop after stop after stop. [Read more...]

Buckeye Senior Day completes long strange regular season trip

craftdivesrdayBasing your analyses of the Big Ten basketball season on anything other than pure randomness has seemingly been a fruitless task. There’s no better example of this than the current campaign for the Ohio State Buckeyes. Let’s recap just a bit: Two losses to Penn State, the first two in Thad Matta’s tenure; wins at Iowa and Wisconsin, two of the biggest threats in the upcoming Big Ten conference tournament; losses at Lincoln, Minneapolis, and Bloomington. The Buckeyes won twice to open the conference slate and followed that with losses in five of six, followed by wins in six out of seven, then inexplicable losses at Penn State and Indiana. Fans of the scarlet and gray have surely been up and down the Columbus roundball roller coaster. Then, Sunday happened.

On Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr.’s Senior Day, a tall task stood in the way of a happy ending in the Michigan State Spartans. The two had squared off in a top-five showdown earlier in the season with Ohio State putting forth a miracle sprint to force overtime only to fall just short. This time, the Buckeyes used their vice-like defende to hold on for the win despite stalled offense and a parade of missed free throws in crunch time. The 69-67 Buckeye win kept the hopes of a Big Ten tourney first-round bye alive (these were ultimately dashed by the Huskers), but more importantly, it was a positive finish to a whirlwind year, sending out the seniors properly.

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#CavsRank: At No. 5, it’s Zydrunas Ilgauskas

Editor’s Note: Yes, we realize that Anderson Varejao, the ninth-ranked Cavalier of all time (per #CavsRank) was unveiled on Thursday. Today, however, we flip the script and give one man his just due on the eve of his monumental night.  Join WFNY, along with the rest of the #CavsRank participants, as we pay homage to the man in the middle, Big Z. Please take some time to check out the entries at Fear The Sword, Real Cavs Fans, Cavs: The Blog, and Stepien Rules.

zreturnOn Saturday night night, along with 20,561 other ticket-purchasing fans, I will be in attendance as my all-time favorite Cleveland Cavalier, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, has his No. 11 jersey raised to the Quicken Loans Arena rafters. It’s been a long road for the Lithuanian center, full of crushing defeats, obstacles overcome, and moments of glory. For reasons of longevity, skillset, leadership, and his sentimental place in the hearts of this city, retiring his number and in such short order should come as a shock to nobody that’s a Cavaliers fan. 

When Ilgauskas was drafted in 1996, I remember being at his friend’s house to watch the NBA Draft with my dad. It was an exciting time for the Cavs in having two first-round picks in what was a deep draft. They beefed up their frontcourt, adding a pair of centers in Vitaly Potapenko (aka “The Ukraine Train”) and Ilgauskas with the 12th and 20th picks, respectively1.  It’s strange to look back on those frozen snapshots in time and see the lanky 21-year-old Ilgauskas in the electric blue and orange Cavs hat. I remember watching Z in those early years and thinking that I had never seen anyone with his particular skillset as a 7-footer. Some of the younger Cavs fans may not remember that Z, prior to the extensive operations on his feet, was a more mobile rim-runner that still popped shots on the perimeter with frequency.

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  1. This draft also included Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Allen Iverson, Ray Allen, Derek Fisher, Stephon Marbury, Peja Stojakovic, and Jermaine O’Neal to name a few. []

Cavs vs. Jazz Behind The Boxscore: A single triple double!

kyrietripledoubleIf the Cavaliers have done one thing consistently this season, it’s give fans anxiety with their inability to handle any sort of success. They came out in this home matchup against the Utah Jazz incredibly flat on offense and slow on defense. Then, the Utah Jazz started missing and they never stopped for the rest of the game. In the process of pulling away from the Jazz late in the third quarter and early in the fourth, Kyrie Irving inched closer and closer to a triple double. He finally got it, marking the first Cavalier to do so since LeBron James in 2010. With the 99-79 win, the Cavaliers have won two straight as they prepare for a trip to Memphis tomorrow night while still incredibly short-handed. Here’s a look at some of the easy on the eyes stats from this big win.

48 – Irving was the star of this game, but the Cavalier frontline deserves equal credit. Those two elements combined to the tune of 48 points in the paint for the Cavs, completely dominating that category 48-22. Tyler Zeller continues to confidently cut to the basket and finish strong, and Spencer Hawes’s spacing has opened up more driving lanes for Kyrie (more on Hawes in a second). No one has confused the Cavaliers for being a team that consistently takes it strong into the paint, but that improved spacing is reducing the number of blocked shots (just six for Utah tonight) as the defense collapses. The 22 points allowed in the paint (on 11-of-25 shooting) is probably even more impressive with the Cavs closing off the paint and making the shots that did occur in there a higher degree of difficulty. Which leads quite well into…. [Read more...]

Cavs vs. Thunder Behind The Boxscore: HUH?!

kyriethunderOn the second night of a back-to-back against the best of the West following a tough loss to the Raptors, I gave the Cavaliers virtually no chance of competing tonight, let alone winning. But, they did exactly that, it was a star-studded effort for Kyrie Irving, who trumped the duo of Durant and Westbrook with plenty of help from the other four starters to pull off a fourth quarter stunner, capped by a 40-23 run in the fourth that turned a seven-point deficit into a 10-point lead on the way to a 114-104 victory in Oklahoma City.

There were so many highlights late in this one: Alonzo Gee’s steal and power thump on a breakaway, Kyrie’s out-of-state three point answer, Spencer Hawes’s pair of floating left-handed hooks through the lane, Tyler Zeller zipping through the lane on multiple dump-offs, and Tristan Thompson’s bounce pass feed on a backdoor to Kyrie that extended the lead from six to nine with under two minutes to play. But, the takeaway from this one is that the Cavaliers did not back down when Oklahoma City hit them in the mouth in the third quarter and looked to pull away. Let’s dig into some noteworthy numbers. [Read more...]

#CavsRank: No. 15 Andre Miller

andremillerA guy like Andre Miller can get lost in the shuffle. A four-year player out of mid-major-at-the-time Utah. Drafted 8th in a deep 1999 NBA Draft class that included the likes of Lamar Odom, Steve Francis, Baron Davis, Richard Hamilton, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, and Elton Brand. Drafted into an organization that has had some great point guards in its history such as Mark Price, Terrell Brandon, Kyrie Irving, Mo Williams, and yes, rookie LeBron James to name a few. Playing for the Cavs at one of the low points in franchise history following the mediocre Fratello era, Miller may always be remembered as the last good player that preceded a great player and era in Cleveland. However, as difficult as it was at the time, without Andre Miller being traded, there would’ve been no LeBron James, no Eastern Conference and pair of Central Division banners hanging in Quicken Loans Arena for the Cavaliers. [Read more...]

Cavs vs. Wizards Behind The Boxscore: Depleted backcourt rears its ugly head

BtBS Wizards

The warm and fuzzy feeling associated with the Cavaliers’ recent six-game win streak seems like a distant memory. After dropping a Friday night matchup in Toronto, the Cavaliers began a new losing streak tonight at the Q, dropping one to the Wizards 96-83. There were some good moments in the first half, including a sick throwdown by Anthony Bennett. However, the absences of Anderson Varejao, C.J. Miles, and above all, Dion Waiters are starting to take its toll.

2-for-18 – The Cavaliers were ice cold from outside the arc. Missing two of their best outside threats in Miles and Waiters, the wine and gold missed plenty of open looks, including a 0-for-7 combined for the small backcourt running mates of Kyrie (Jarrett Jack and Matthew Dellavedova). Delly is just 4-for-28 from three point range in the month of February after showing the capability to knockdown the open shot in the first half of the season. Jack meanwhile is shooting just 31% in the last 16 games, and while his insertion into the starting lineup has helped free up offensive movement a bit and increased his assist totals, his defense and shooting is just killing them. [Read more...]

Orioles sign Ubaldo Jimenez to 4-year contract

With pitchers and catchers already in camp for Spring Training, it was only a matter of time before Ubaldo Jimenez finally got a lucrative contract. The Baltimore Orioles gave him just that when they agreed to terms with the former Indian on a 4-year, $48 million contract, per Ken Rosenthal and MASNSports.com’s Roch Kubatko.

Several teams were reportedly interested in Jimenez, one of the last high-profile free agent starters on the market. There had been talk that the Toronto Blue Jays were in on him, and Baltimore had to give Ubaldo the fourth year to get the deal done. The Indians as a result will receive first-round draft pick compensation (the 30th pick) for the loss of Ubaldo Jimenez. The Orioles meanwhile will forfeit the 17th pick and corresponding pool money in this summer’s draft. There was some outside hope that the longer that Jimenez remained on the open market, the greater possibility he could return to Cleveland at a discount. However, news broke last week that the Indians had not spoken to Jimenez’s representation in “weeks” and ended realistic hopes of such an event.

Jimenez was one of the most polarizing figures on the Tribe since his July 2011 acquisition from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for prospects Drew Pomeranz and Alex White. He was a huge disappointment in 2011 and 2012, but his 2013 effort from May through the end of the season was one of the single most critical contributions to the Indians’ surprise playoff run. How huge were his contributions? Here’s an excerpt from my nomination of Ubaldo as WFNY Sportsman of the Year 2013.

He struck out more batters per nine innings than at any point in his career in 2013, and he greatly reduced his walk rate to within the same range as he was at when he was an All-Star and Cy Young contender in 2010. Cleveland went 21-11 in his 32 outings and 8-2 in his no-decisions, including one loss where Ubaldo left with the lead.

Jiménez allowed more than two earned runs in a start just ONCE after July 14th. In his six September starts, the Indians were 6-0, and Ubaldo earned four of those wins himself, allowing just 4 earned runs in 41 1/3 innings (0.87 ERA) while walking just 7 and striking out 51. In Game 162, needing a win to guarantee a wild card spot and not just a home play-in game or a wild card berth that could have potentially taken them on the road, Jiménez was brilliant. He kept the Twins’ bats silent for 6 2/3 innings, allowing a lone run on five hits while striking out 13 batters. Ubaldo Jiménez cemented October baseball being played in Cleveland, Ohio for the first time in six years.

With Jimenez officially out of the picture, the Indians head into the spring with Justin Masterson, Danny Salazar, Corey Kluber, and Zach McAllister as four near-locks for the rotation. The fifth starter spot will be a competition between youngsters Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin, and Trevor Bauer as well as non-roster invitees Shaun Marcum and Aaron Harang. A couple starter options do remain in free agency such as Chris Capuano, Joe Saunders, and Ervin Santana.

Related: The Diff: Looking at extension examples for the Indians and Jason Kipnis

Cavalier Film Room: A window into the Anthony Bennett skill set

When we were last in the film room, we took a look at the Cavaliers over-helping on three-point shots and the resulting consequences. As always, if you have any ideas for film room topics, contact me at kirk@waitingfornextyear.com. This week, we’re going to look no further than Anthony Bennett’s performance against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night and how it showed a preview of what Bennett can become as a player. You can find my NBA Draft film room on Bennett here.

WFNY Cavaliers Film Room

By now, you’ve seen the stat line: 19 points, 10 rebounds, and 6-of-9 shooting in 30 minutes to lead the Cavaliers’ to their third straight win at the time, a 109-99 victory over the Kings at home. It was much more than Bennett’s first career double-double, however. In this game, we saw a decent chunk of the skills and potential that made the now-terminated Chris Grant choose him with the first overall pick. We’re seeing a slimmer, more confident Bennett, and we’re going to take a look at a few of those instances. [Read more...]