August 26, 2014

Should the Browns take a look at Stephen Hill?

As the Cleveland Browns’ wide receiver issues continue into the fourth week of the preseason, one interesting name is bubbling up in the NFL trade rumor mill in the New York Jets’ Stephen Hill. ESPN New York’s Rich Cimini believes the Jets should and will try and trade Hill, with the player potentially being a roster casualty if a deal is not consummated.

The disappointing wide receiver is expected to play Thursday night in the final preseason game, a clear indication his roster spot is in jeopardy. Starters and key reserves don’t play in the annual Backup Bowl against the Philadelphia Eagles. Hill was granted that status is his first two years, when he was a big-shot, second-round pick with a bright future. Now he’ll be grinding with the other marginal players, trying to convince the Jets — or another team — he still can be a legit player in the league.

Ex-Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum made Hill—a player who many Browns fans coveted over their eventual second-round pick in tackle Mitchell Schwartz1—the 43rd overall pick in the 2012 draft and traded up to do so. He has since missed nine games in two seasons, and has just 45 receptions for 594 yards and four touchdowns.

The Jets and Browns do not exactly have the best relationship at this point following comments made by head coach Mike Pettine. It’s also believed that New York (while not exactly being the model franchise for offense) is looking to move Hill for a cornerback though a late pick would be more likely. Hill should not cost more than a late-round pick, and he has all the measurables, boasting a 6-foot-4-inch, 215-pound frame with 4.36 speed. Unfortunately for the Jets and Hill, the Georgia Tech product has shown terrible hands and has had a penchant for injuries.

He’s been brutal over the course of his first two seasons, but he’s still young and let’s be honest: The Browns are in no position to be picky when it comes to potential receiving threats.

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Footnotes:

  1. Alshon Jeffrey, in hindsight, wouldn’t have been a bad move, eh? []

LeBron James hints at bringing powder toss back to Cleveland

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Largely abandoning his pre-game powder tossing ritual since leaving Cleveland, LeBron James has hinted toward bringing it back for his second stint with the Cavaliers.

James, signing with the Cavaliers in July, is already bringing back his jersey No. 23 so the powder toss seems like an easy addition. If you want to see the first toss live, secondary market prices for the Cavs’ opening night tilt start at $575. No word on if The Q will be pumping Kevin Rudolf’s “Let it Rock” so we can all party like it’s 2009 once again, but it’s shaping up to be one hell of a night.

Browns Preseason Game 3: Winners and Losers

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So are we concerned yet? For the third week in a row, the Cleveland Browns were bettered by their preseason opponents. For the third week in a row, the offense left plenty to be desired. And for the third week in a row, the quarterback situation—despite a starter having been named—remains as a point of scrutiny. Let’s dig in to the winners and loser of the Browns’ Week 3 dress rehearsal.

LOSER: Brian Hoyer. If you just looked at the box score, you may be impressed by a 10-of-16 showing. But if you watched the game, especially from within the confines of FirstEnergy Stadium, you’re well aware that much of the 84 yards that were credited to Hoyer came on passes into the flat. The interception he threw into the middle of the field, with Miles Austin as the intended receiver, was ugly. Had Alec Ogletree not picked it off, one of the other blue jerseys in the area would have. Fans better hope that this is just a vanilla offense that isn’t showing much before the Week 1 contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers. If this is a sign of things to come, look out. [Read more...]

Zydrunas Ilgauskas considering a return?

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Could the No. 11 jersey be coming down from the rafters? Tony Rizzo of ESPN Cleveland (WKNR/850 AM) reports that long-time center Zydrunas Ilgauskas is considering a return to the Cavaliers, eying up a role for “10-to-15 minutes per night.”

Ilgauskas, 39, has not played in the NBA since the 2010-2011 season. His jersey was famously retired by the Cavs last season in a ceremony that included his friend LeBron James, who was still a member of the Miami Heat at the time.

The Cavs continue to be in need of a center; speculation is swirling that the newly acquired Kevin Love could see time at the five in the event head coach David Blatt runs with a small lineup. Rizzo claims that Ilgauskas has been medically cleared and has been working out in hopes of a comeback that (finally) results in an NBA Championship.

ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst believes that Ilgauskas is in shape to still play, but his immobility on defense would be one that would not satisfy the team’s need for rim protection. Windhorst also believes that while Big Z may be in play, it would not be a signing that would happen before the start of the 2014-15 regular season. It is also believed that the all-time leader in games played as a Cavalier is content with his current situation.

Image: NBATV

 

And so the Kevin Love era begins: While We’re Waiting…

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It’s Monday Funday, you guys!

Kevin Love Kevin Love Kevin Love Kevin Love. First order of business on this lovely Monday is to point you in the direction of Brian Windhorst’s latest on the Cleveland Cavaliers and their pursuit of one Kevin Love. It’s a fascinating look at the way the dominoes slowly lined up over the course of the last year and how much luck—in addition to shrewd draft pick accumulation—played such a huge role in tipping the first one over.

Twelve teams had reached out to the Timberwolves in attempt to discuss the acquisition of Love. The Cavaliers were the ones to pull it off. It’s interesting how much of a role Dan Gilbert played in all of this, and what was known when the team’s majority owner met with LeBron James before The Decision 2.0. It’s also interesting that LeBron’s decision to go with a shorter contract put a bit of a crimp in the team’s original plans—ones that involved waiting until 2015 and utilizing free agency. That said, it was also James who proved to be the ultimate recruiter—”James’ strong statement with his contract and private talks to win over Love proved to be the final grease to the skids.”—bringing two of the top 12 players in the league to Cleveland for the long haul.

This all still seems so surreal.1

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Talk about a quick turnaround. The Browns only had a few days to prepare for the St. Louis Rams, but the ultimate efficiency comes from the Cleveland street vendors who were able to churn out a slew of this shiny new take on the Johnny Manziel money gesture. Perfect timing for that back-to-school shopping!

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It’s officially fall. School’s back in, football has started and the award show floodgates have opened. Last night’s VMA’s, while not exactly The Academy Awards, were a bit of a mess, but there will certainly be plenty of headlines in the pop culture world. Front-loading the performances seems like a weird move, but when in doubt, put Beyonce on stage.

In the very least, Miley Cyrus winning Video of the Year allows me to repost this gem:

BejOqJMCUAAyFky

Monday night brings us the Emmy Awards, shining light on all of the amazing television shows over the last year. Breaking Bad cleans up, right?

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What does the future hold for Time Inc? NYMag’s Gabriel Sherman penned an in-depth profile of the country’s most storied magazine company as it operates amidst budget cuts and a murky landscape. Time, Fortune, Sports Illustrated, People, InStyle, and Real ­Simple are just a handful of the titles owned and printed by Time Inc. While they’re all still making money, earnings have fallen by nearly 65 percent since 2006.

The main misstep? Failing to implement a coherent strategy to adapt to the web, a gaffe that was only compounded by cost cuts rather than a reallocation of efforts. It’s shaping up to either be a turnaround story for the ages or a case study for media students of the next generation.

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“You can never have enough unreported opinions.” — No one, ever. Here’s this week’s edition of #ActualSportswriting

You can’t quit cold turkey” by Tommy Tomlinson (ESPN The Magazine): “Early in the second quarter of the River Monsters’ next game, Lorenzen was scrambling when a defender came at him head-on. Lorenzen got low. The defender got lower. The hit broke Lorenzen’s tibia and ruptured ankle ligaments. Now he’s got six screws and a plate in his lower leg and a long scar running down the outside. He says he’s finished, for good. He’s 33 years old, and for the first time since he was 5, Lorenzen has no plans to play football.”

How Felix Hernandez has so far survived baseball’s arm injury epidemic” by Jeff Passan (Yahoo! Sports): “His corners are his binky, especially on his arm side. Hernandez peppers the outside corner with his fastball against left-handers only to work back over the plate and bury the changeup that has become his trustiest pitch. Hernandez loves his change, which he picked up in 2009 fiddling around with grips. He made his index finger and thumb into a circle, squeezed his middle finger between the two seams and saw the ball come out of his hand and do unsavory things.”

30 Yards and a Cloud of Dust” by Seth Wickersham (ESPN The Magazine): “>Nobody has ever run a team quite the way Chip Kelly runs one. And [LeSean] McCoy is about to learn what it means to live and work in Kelly’s new system. During practice, players wear mandated heart monitors and GPS devices. Trainers carry water bottles labeled with each player’s name and after practice ask the players to pee into a cup, part of Kelly’s plan to track hydration. A monitor on a wall in the facility ranks the most hydrated players. Drinking water is now a drinking game.”

Twilight The Saga: The Final Fascinating Days of a Legend” by Chris Ballard (Sports Illustrated): “The thick-armed man moves quickly, establishing a perimeter and securing the entryway. This is his seventh year on Kobe Bryant’s overseas security team, and he knows how quickly things can go sideways, especially in China. Once, four years ago in Shandong Province, a guy slept overnight on the roof of a gym, curled in the darkness, and then, when Kobe approached, leaped from a low overhang, yelling, “Kohhhh-beeee!” In one fluid motion Attila Portik—for that is the muscle-bound man’s name, of Hungarian origin—intercepted the crazed fan and hurled him aside, as if bailing out a boat.”

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And just because… A Tyler Holt web gem to start your day.

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Happy Monday, kids.

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Footnotes:

  1. An aside: Chris Grant won’t get much credit in what transpired over the last two months, but he certainly should. []

Lookin’ for glove in all the wrong places

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Whoops! There it was.

For the second consecutive series, the Cleveland Indians failed to close out the final game of a could-have-been sweep. There are bound to be games where things simply don’t click—bats go cold, an erstwhile rock solid bullpen implodes, Ryan Raburn spikes a ball into left-center field. Things happen. But during a time in the season where that number in the Games Behind column seems to be stuck at 4.5, with each game signaling one less chance at closing the gap, late-season games tend to have a larger mental impact than the ones which were completed in the late-spring or early-summer months. But what would today’s picture look like had those previous, ostensibly less important games gone differently?

And by different, it’s easy to look at the starting rotation—where would the Indians be if Justin Masterson maintained his 2013 form?—but the Tribe presently boasts the eighth highest fWAR amongst all pitching staffs. It’s also easy to look at the bats, the ones which tend to morph into blocks of ice at the most inopportune times (typically when Corey Kluber is on the mound). In addition, the lost production from key contributors during the 2013 campaign is glaring—we’re talking a 10-win swing that’s been burdened by the rest of the 40-man roster. But the Indians have scored the seventh most runs in all of baseball, more than the Orioles, the Royals, the Mariners, the Yankees–teams they all trail in the hunt for a post season berth. Cleveland has scored just 61 fewer runs (less than half a run per game) than the league-leading Oakland Athletics.

So what gives? Why are the Indians, with pitching and hitting stats among upper tier, running in place around that .500 mark? Why do they continue to find themselves four or five games out of October Baseball? [Read more...]

Browns’ Manziel fined $12,000 for giving Redskins bench the finger

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Johnny Manziel’s $4.3 million signing bonus just took a small hit on Friday as the league fined him $12,000 for the Finger Seen ‘Round the World. Per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, Manziel is allegedly weighing an appeal.

Why would the rookie appeal something that was captured on live television and retweeted at an epic volume? The fine given to Manziel is just a hair above the standard fine for such an incident.

Hashtag TheBird. Hey, did you hear? There’s a game tomorrow? There will be a football and everything.

[Related: Johnny Manziel can’t call a play?]

 

A two-QB system for Johnny Manziel? Not so fast.

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Mike Pettine isn’t buying in to the hype. With rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel losing the Cleveland Browns’ preseason competition, many throughout the league expected the team to utilize a two-quarterback system that would allow the mobile, play-making Manziel to have a package of plays designed for his unique skill set, subbing him in for Brian Hoyer when needed. Pettine, the first-year head coach, is firmly backing Hoyer, the St. Ignatius product, stating that the first portion of the season will be for his quarterback to build chemistry that he may have lacked during the first two weeks of the preseason.

“People have asked me about potentially a two-quarterback system and having a package for [Johnny Manziel]. That is on the table,” Pettine said in an interview with “The Opening Drive” on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “I don’t know if that’s anything that we want to commit to just now, because I think Brian—because of the competition—is a little behind with the chemistry and continuity in working with that first group. I think that is something that we can potentially look at down the road.”

Since awarding Hoyer with the starting quarterback spot, Pettine has been the recipient of both criticism and praise. Rather than caving to the pressure of starting a first-round quarterback, he has opted to roll with the veteran. Earlier this week, Pettine stated that he envisions a scenario in which Manziel, the focus of plenty media attention, does not play at all despite being the No. 22 pick by the Browns.

Several teams have opted for two-quarterback systems over the last several seasons, including the San Francisco 49ers (with Colin Kaepernick) and the New York Jets (with Tim Tebow). Pettine, having ties to the Jets, was able to see first-hand how disruptive such a spectacle can be.

For now, it appears that those wishing to see Manziel take the field will have to get all they can during the final two weeks of the preseason, because if Pettine has his way, the rookie will not see the field for quite a while.

Photo: Scott Sargent/WFNY

Anthony Bennett isn’t being traded to Philadelphia after all

Anthony Bennett

As we await the final few days of the Kevin Love-Andrew Wiggins trade saga, word coming out of Philadelphia is that Anthony Bennett isn’t being sent to the City of Brotherly Love after all.

As Wiggins, this year’s No. 1 pick, and Love continue to be the focal points of what will easily be this year’s (decade’s?) biggest trade in the NBA, it was believed that Bennett, last year’s No. 1 pick, would be sent to the 76ers for forward Thaddeus Young. Bennett was atrocious during his first year in the league, averaging a meager 4.2 points, 3.0 rebounds, on 35.6 percent shooting from the field, but has since lost weight and appeared to be vastly improved during the recent Las Vegas Summer League.

Multiple other reports have since followed Zgoda’s, corroborating reports that the former UNLV star is going to be sticking in Minnesota. If he were to stay with the Wolves as a part of the Love deal, he would be heading to a team without a real power forward.

“I’m just a young man just ready to work,” Bennett recently told the Toronto Sun. “Wherever I end up, doesn’t really matter to me. I just want to play the game of basketball.”

The proposed (and allegedly accepted) trade is expected to be announced on August 23.

 

Mike Pettine says Johnny Manziel may not play at all in 2014…Sort of.

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In what is bound to be the most blown-out-of-context quote of the week, Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine stated that he envisions a scenario where Johnny Manziel does not take a live snap during the entire 2014 season. Take a look for yourself (emphasis mine).

“Give me a crystal ball and I’ll give you that answer,” Pettine said. “The season is so long. So much can happen, and we don’t want … Brian looking over his shoulder thinking, ‘Hey, I make one bad throw and I’m out.’ But over time, if you feel you need to make a change — it’s not just at quarterback, it’ll be at other positions as well. You have guys that you have penciled in that you hope can be that guy for you for the year, but that rarely works out in the league. Time will only tell.

You could see a scenario where he doesn’t play this year, and then there are other scenarios that are absolutely possible as well. It’s hard to tell.”

Which then leads to this:

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Realistically, there are two scenarios in Pettines range that would keep the No. 22 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft on the sidelines holding a Microsoft Surface for all 16 games, both of them bordering on extremes: 1) A flawless effort from Brian Hoyer and the Browns’ offense or 2) a season-ending injury suffered by Manziel during a practice session. The scenario where Hoyer keeps his job out of merit would include the Browns avoiding an 0-3 start—a tough task given the gauntlet of Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Baltimore during the first three weeks leading into the team’s bye. Even following the bye, the Browns go on the road to Tennessee before hosting the Steelers where they could conceivably be staring at an 0-5 start.

The latter scenario, the one which would have to be considered more likely given the way the team has played through the first two weeks of the preseason, would be devastating from a media and hype standpoint, and would certainly not guarantee anything in the way of wins—but it would keep the one they call Johnny Football off the field.

Every head coach, if placed in an ideal scenario where grapes are fed to you and the media doesn’t exist, would love to have a rookie quarterback take mental reps for 16 games. Unfortunately for Pettine, his rookie quarterback has catapulted over Tim Tebow on the list of global headline (and Google search) infatuations.

The quote Pettine gave will likely be cut and streamed across the bottom of televisions across the country as everyone outside of Cleveland is in a hurry to see what the Heisman Trophy winner can do at the next level. When one looks at it from Cleveland’s point of view, however—the one where said Heisman Winner still can’t call every play in the playbook—things become a lot more obvious. Grantland’s Andrew Sharp may have put it best in his latest Triangle submission, stating “LeBron is in Cleveland, the Browns aren’t being idiots, and the world is upside down. It’s crazy enough already. Now we just gotta wait for that Jags game.”

(Photo: Scott Sargent/WFNY)

Young Jim Harbaugh peed his pants to meet an Indians player

St. Louis Rams v San Francisco 49ers

Picture Jim Harbaugh, the headset-throwing, pleated pants-wearing, Sharpie-toting head coach of the San Francsico 49ers. Now picture him as a five-year-old child, taking in a Cleveland Indians game with his family, including a seven-year-old brother, John. The Harbaughs, Toldeo, Ohio natives, get the fortune of getting in line to meet in Indians player after the game. But Jim had a few too many carbonated beverages during the game and, when the duo was roughly 20 people from their turn to take a picture, was forced to make a decision.

I know we entered the field from the first-base side, just to get a picture with him. Just to get a Polaroid picture.

And I had to go to the bathroom really bad. So I had to make a decision: Me and my brother were like 20 people from actually being able to go on to the field and take a picture with [the player] right by the first-base bag.

And it was either go to the bathroom and not get a picture, or do it right there in my pants. So I chose to go in my pants and my parents have this picture of a big ring right here (points to an obvious place on the front of his pants).

I just want that picture for some reason. I really want that picture.

When Jim was five years old, assuming his math is correct, the Harbaughs were taking in a 1968 season, a roster littered with players like Sam McDowell, Luis Tiant and a 21-year-old Ray Fosse. It’s tough to tell who would’ve been worth the pants peeing—Tony Horton led the team with 14 home runs; the team’s best hitter was s 33-year-old Lee Maye who hit .281. Hopefully Harbaugh can procure that photograph as it would not only end the mystery, but would be one of the most-shared pictures on the Internet.

(h/t SBNation; Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Nick Swisher’s (brutal) season comes to an end

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Is age catching up to Nick Swisher? The Tribe first baseman was evaluated on Tuesday and was found to have medial meniscus wear in both of his knees. Less than 24 hours later, Swisher will undergo arthroscopic debridement surgery to repair the chronic pain. He will subsequently miss eight-to-ten weeks for recovery, effectively ending his 2014 season with the team.

Swisher was placed on the 15-day Disabled List with knee soreness on August 10. He was also on the DL with similar discomfort from May 27-June 11 of this very year.  Prior to today’s season-ending surgery, Nick hit .208 (75-360 in 97 games) in with 20 doubles,  eight home runs and 42 runs batted in. In the field, Swisher was charged with nine errors on the season. According to Baseball-Reference’s calculations on runs saved, he was the second-worst fielding first baseman (to amass at least 50 games played) in all of baseball1.

The 33-year old is due $15 million in 2015 and 2016, respectively, with a $14 million vesting option in 2017.

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Footnotes:

  1. Only Houston’s Jon Singleton has ‘saved’ fewer runs []

David Blatt won’t commit to starting Dion Waiters

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Flexibility is typically a benefit, but the Cleveland Cavaliers’ current options could prove to make Dion Waiters’ goal of being the team’s starting shooting guard a bit difficult. Waiters’ desires are well known by this point, and while Andrew Wiggins may very well be on his way out, but Cavs have added Mike Miller and could very well be in the mix for Ray Allen—both players who are taller than Waiters and could instantly add flexibility and floor spacing. With options abound, during a recent interview constructed with the help of David Pick, Cavs head coach David Blatt would not commit to Waiters as a member of the team’s starting five.

Dion is a lot of things to this team. I’ve never seen any particular importance to the emphasis of starting or not, I see an emphasis on playing and helping the team win. That’s not to say he will or won’t start, that’s not the point. I think his and every player’s motto and desire needs to be to help the team win. That’s what’s important.

Waiters, who averaged over 18 points per game as a starter for the Cavs in 2013-14, has lost approximately 10 pounds since the start of the offseason.

If Waiters has anything going for him, it’s the fact that Blatt referred to Kyrie Irving as the team’s “multifaceted point guard” and, as a coach, is a fan of small lineups. If the first-year head coach opts to run with Kevin Love (who is expected to be announced as a member of the Cavs on Saturday) at the center and LeBron James at power forward, it would be expected that Miller, Allen or Shawn Marion (the shortest being 6-foot-5) would play small forward with the 6-foot-4-inch Waiters getting plenty of run at the shooting guard spot. Whether or not this has implication on who starts, however, remains to be seen.

(AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Mike Pettine calls out Josh Gordon for lack of effort

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Spending much of his career teetering a delicate balance of lethargy and effortless excellence, Josh Gordon’s act has worn thin. Following the Cleveland Browns disappointing outing in their second preseason game, head coach Mike Pettine called out the Pro Bowl receiver for a lack of effort that led to multiple dropped passes.

There were a couple plays where I think — we just came out of the personnel meeting and talked about it — that we would have definitely wanted better effort,” Pettine said of Gordon. “We would want regular season effort to match preseason effort. I think that’s important for all of our guys.”

Gordon, who is awaiting word from the league on a potential suspension for violating its substance policy, played well into the fourth quarter on Monday, a rarity for first-team players. He is coming off of a season where he led the league in receiving yardage (1,646) on just 87 receptions in 14 games. He could be suspended indefinitely, but the team is hoping for a reduced ban due the claims of second-hand smoke.

[Related: Everything you need to know about the Josh Gordon saga]

 

Braxton Miller to return to Ohio State in 2015

Urban Meyer, Braxton Miller

Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller will miss the 2014 season after reinjuring his shoulder, but the Heisman candidate said he intends to return to Columbus next season to finish out his last year of eligibility as a fifth-year senior.

“I love Ohio State and Buckeye nation, and my goal is to come back from this injury stronger and better than ever,” Miller said in a statement. “I am on course to graduate in December and I want to attend graduate school, and then return to lead the Buckeyes next season. In the meantime, I want to give all the support I can to my coaches and teammates as they chase a championship this season.”

Miller had an MRI on Tuesday to determine his status after The Columbus Dispatch reported that Miller had reinjured his right throwing shoulder at practice on Monday. He was attempting a short pass and was not hit on the play. Ohio State confirmed that Miller’s injury would require surgery to repair a torn labrum. The third-year quarterback threw for 2,094 yards and 24 touchdowns and ran for 12 more scores in leading the Buckeyes to the Discover Orange Bowl last season.

Redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett is Miller’s top backup and likely be the starter when the Buckeyes open the season on Aug. 30 against Navy at Baltimore. Barrett completed 17 of 33 passes for 151 yards with no interceptions and no touchdowns in Ohio State’s annual spring intrasquad scrimmage. (For more on Barrett, we highly recommend heading to Eleven Warriors.) Coach Urban Meyer recently stated that redshirt sophomore Cardale Jones is the third-team quarterback.

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Complex reimages the Nike LeBron line as if he never left Cleveland

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While many Cleveland sneakerheads await the release of the LeBron XI in a Wine and Gold colorway, Complex went ahead and redesigned the last few years of Nike LeBrons under the pretense that he never took his talents to Miami. Taking the LeBron VIII, LeBron XI, LeBron X, and LeBron XI, Complex’s Rajah Allarey gave each a lot of wine, a lot of gold, and a dash of navy blue.

Uniform wonks will quickly point out that the Cavs abandoned the navy blue for what was exclusively wine, gold and white under the “New Expression,” but the redesigns still look pretty cool. Check them out for yourself.

Kyrie Irving: “I haven’t been a leader”

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Though many yearned for Kyrie Irving to lead an otherwise fledgling franchise through a time of disarray, the two-time NBA All-Star admits that he was anything but.

“Everybody asks me if this is my year to be a leader … I haven’t been so far though, not at all,” Irving said in an interview with Real GM. “I’ve just been a kid trying to figure it out. There’s no perfect way to be a leader, and coming in as a 19-year-old kid and having everything bearing on your shoulders, there are a lot of ups and downs. Now it’s about being the best every single day and not being afraid.

“I’m more than excited with our new veterans. I’m really excited just from the standpoint of how the locker room is going to go and how to really be a professional. I’m not saying that the veterans that we had weren’t professionals themselves, but we didn’t have enough. Given the right and wrong things to do in the league, I’ve had to learn on my own and that’s what some of us been doing.

“Now, we have guys who’ve been in the league for years, guys who’ve won championships and have had to give a piece of their game for the greater good of the team. It’s something I admire and something I’m going to learn from.”

Possessing the ability to manicure box scores and highlight reels by the truck loads, the Cavaliers, and Cleveland, had asked the now-22-year old to be more than a basketball player. As the team was struggling, all focus pointed in the direction of a kid who didn’t appear to have the ability to take a team, put them on his shoulders, and carry them through turbulent times. Good news was that despite all of the losing and poor body language, Irving re-upped with Cleveland to the tune of five years and $90 million.

Now, with a litany of veterans and a head coach who appears ready to run his entire offense through the wildly talented point guard, it appears Irving is finally more comfortable in his role of 1A (or even 1B) behind LeBron James as the team looks to once again rule the Eastern Conference. Admission is the first step.

(Photo: Scott Sargent/WFNY)

#ESPNForecast thinks highly of LeBron James, Cavs

Kyrie LeBron Love Cavs Photoshop

This may come as a shock, but the folks at ESPN.com continue to think highly of Cleveland Cavaliers small forward LeBron James. Garnering 230 votes, James tops Kevin Durant and (a bit of a surprise) Derrick Rose in ESPN’s poll to predict the 2014-15 MVP.

The “yawn” bit, while harmless at this stage, can be a bit worrisome for those who care about the MVP award and it’s potential to reward storylines over season-long output. This said, is there any bigger storyline than James, Cleveland and the potential swing in win-loss fortune?

Not if you ask ESPNForecast, who gave 215 votes to the Cavs as “Team Turnaround” for the upcoming season. And it wasn’t even close—the New Orleans Pelicans were second with just 47 votes. The Wine and Gold are currently expected to win the East with a record of 56-26 (Note: This is pre-Kevin Love).

And if this wasn’t enough, James and Love are ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, when it comes to the league’s “Best Newcomers.”

Sport and Style Collide in Nike’s Maison LeBron release

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If you don’t dig sneaker and don’t care about style1, I’m sorry to say that you may not be the target of the upcoming LeBron James release from Nike. Nike’s latest collection, the Maison ​LeBron (or “House of LeBron”), features this year’s LeBron 11 models decked out in fashionable patterns and prints which are said to be inspired by James’ love of clothing and off-court style. LeBron’s no stranger to the cover of GQ or the focal point of any pre- or post-game style piece, and this impending release aims to take this to next level.

The three silhouettes—the XI, XI Elite, and XI Low—all feature unique colorways and patterns which will be in demand for only the most daring of the fashion-forward and sneakerheads looking to add some color to their collection. (The lows are pretty sweet, but I’m biased.)

Check them out below:

Releasing Saturday (Kevin Love day!), August 23 at 8 a.m. EDT, the LeBron 11s will cost $220, the LeBron 11 Elites will cost $295, and the LeBron 11 Lows will cost $190. Looking for all three? The entire collection will run you over $700. Start saving.

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Footnotes:

  1. Read: Most of Cleveland. []

Indians almost acquired Josh Willingham…Again

Those are Josh Willingham's legs as he slowly rounds the bases

Those are Josh Willingham’s legs as he slowly rounds the bases

It wasn’t that long ago that the Cleveland Indians front office would not give Josh Willingham an extra year on his contract, ultimately losing him to a division rival. Earlier this month, the Minnesota Twins waived the right-handed slugger and traded him to the Kansas City Royals—the team that now sits in first place in the AL Central—in exchange for RHP Jason Adam. Terry Pluto of The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that, once again, the Tribe (a team that can’t seem to find a right-handed power bat) was close to a deal for Willingham, but didn’t quite pull the trigger.

In 2012, the Tribe had a chance to sign Willingham but he wanted three guaranteed years on a $21 million contract. The Indians offered two. Willingham signed that three-year deal with Minnesota, and was outstanding in 2012: .260 (.890 OPS) with 35 homers and 110 RBI. The Tribe feared that Willingham’s body was breaking down, and that seems to be the case. When discussing Willingham (and adding $1.8 million to the payroll), the Indians decided they’d rather look at [Zach] Walters and some of their other prospects.

Walters, acquired in the deal for Asdrubal Cabrera, was the hero earlier this month when he hit placed a walk-off home run into the visitor’s bullpen against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Pluto also iterated that the Indians want Walters to play every day, leaving less playing time for a guy like Willingham.

Over the last week of play, Willingham is 6-for-23 with two home runs, three doubles and seven runs batted in. Walters was 2-for-4 with a solo home run Friday in a win over the Orioles. The Tribe is currently six games out of first place and five games out of the second Wild Card slot in the American League.

(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)