August 15, 2014

Pirates acquire reliever John Axford from Indians

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Well, it was fun while it lasted. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports that the Pirates have acquired reliever John Axford from the Cleveland Indians, just a few months after signing a one-year, $4.5 million deal.

Despite the success of current Tribe closer Cody Allen, Manager Terry Francona said earlier this month that the team’s eventual goal is to have Axford return to the closer’s role. He was in the midst of a decent stretch, pitching well enough to be the team’s closer, getting his ERA down to 3.14 and recording a save earlier this month before allowing a grand slam to the New York Yankees roughly one week ago.

In his 49 games with Cleveland, Axford went 2-3 with 10 saves, two holds, 51 strikeouts and 30 walks in 43 2/3 innings of work.  It’s a straight-up waiver claim, so the Indians essentially said “Here—you guys pay him” to the Pirates, who are currently a half game ahead in the NL Wild Card standings and are now responsible for the $1.1 million left on the reliever’s deal.

Now about that “Unfinished Business…”

Mike Pettine’s Secret Weapon: Hand-written notes, history lessons

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Barkevious Mingo may not be the world’s next award-winning long-form scribe, but it won’t be for lack of note taking and tutelage. The second-year linebacker, along with 88 0ther Cleveland Browns teammates, were the recent subjects in a Wall Street Journal article that focused on the team’s use of pen and paper—as opposed to more tech-friendly mediums—under new head coach Mike Pettine.

The NFL has become an iPad-driven world, but Pettine may be singlehandedly keeping Mead and Bic in business.

Armed with science and a little common sense, first-year Browns coach Mike Pettine is stressing to his players the old-school notion of writing things down. The strategy is backed up by new academic studies that say writing by hand instead of typing improves your chances of learning something.

For an NFL team, which spends hours upon hours explaining plays in team meetings, this can be crucial. A coach, giving a broad directive about a play, must run through numerous small tasks the players must do on a single play—like watching the right guard’s left arm at the snap. Good memory is crucial.

Pettine said the players’ notebooks feature countless “graduate-level” details about the team’s plays in their basic, Browns-themed notebooks, which are something of a secret weapon. [...]

‘To write is to learn,’” Pettine said. “When you write stuff down, you have a much higher chance of it getting imprinted on your brain. We leave it up to them—their job is to write down all the intricate things, and hopefully they get out the pen and get going.”

Rookies carrying around notepads is nothing new—every member of a rookie camp can be seen in Berea toting around spiral notebooks with a pen harnessed above their ear, waiting for the next nugget of wisdom to come from coaches or teammates. For an entire team—one littered with countless veterans—to adhere to similar practice, however,  appears to be rare. The 47-year-old Pettine is old school through and through, gaining the majority of his knowledge (and how to learn) from his father. It should come as little surprise that Kyle Shanahan, despite being just 37, also prefers the handwritten ways, having utilized such a medium for years.

This “secret weapon” goes beyond just the plays themselves. When teaching a goal-line defense, for instance, Pettine will start with the history of the tactic. Then, after he tells the players all the history of the play, Pettine will reveal the changes he has made and help the players understand their role. Mingo, still a rookie in many ways, speaks highly of the practice, but so do veteran teammates Karlos Dansby and Desmond Bryant (who, as the WSJ made sure to mention, went to Harvard). “They’ll say, ‘But if you tweak this person’s responsibilities just a little bit, you’ll be able to run [the play] more effectively,’” said Bryant. What sort of fruit these history lessons bear will be seen as early as September 7.

(Photo: Scott Sargent/WFNY)

Browns finally sign Rex Grossman

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After being linked to him through much of the offseason, the Cleveland Browns have agreed to terms with veteran quarterback Rex Grossman.

Grossman is 6-1, 225 pounds and officially in his 12th NFL season out of Florida. Originally, a first-round pick (22nd overall) by Chicago in 2003, Grossman has appeared in 54 games and has compiled a 25-22 (.532) record as a starter. He has completed 863 of 1,562 career passes for 10,232 yards with 56 touchdowns and 60 interceptions. He’s also the subject of one of the sports blogesphere’s most entertaining (and meme-generating) pieces pretty much ever.

Sexy Rexy spent his first six seasons (2003-08) with the Bears and led Chicago to Super Bowl XLI during his first full season as the starter. He spent the past four seasons (2010-13) with the Redskins following one year with the Texans (2009). Last season, he was inactive for 13 games and was active but did not play in the team’s final three contests.

To make room for The Cannon, the Browns waived quarterback Tyler Thigpen.

Forbes’ most miserable sports city is…Atlanta?

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Apparently Cleveland’s “letdown factor” has led to a bit of numbness as Atlanta, Georgia tops this year’s edition of Most Miserable Sports Cities as constructed by Forbes. So, just how did Atlanta—with it’s stretch of post-season play and general transient population—get the nod?

We grade the misery of major sports cities (only those with 75 cumulative years in the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball and the NHL are considered) based not so much on sheer futility as the “letdown factor.” That is, which teams have been good enough to build up fans’ hopes only to fall short of the brass ring in the end. Those that probably pop into your mind right away: the Braves (19 postseasons; one championship), the Phoenix Suns (eight trips to at least the Western Conference Finals, no championships), and the Buffalo Bills (one AFL championship in the pre-merger days, then 0-for-4 in Super Bowls). All three of those cities make our top five.

Phoenix, as mentioned above, comes in at No. 2 while our beautiful Cleveland, Ohio comes in at No. 3 with the last title coming in 1964. San Diego and Buffalo (Cleveland’s typical rival in these sort of battles) come in fourth and fifth, respectively.

Hope are, that come this June, we no longer have to bank on this kind of notoriety.

Are we dumber than ever? While We’re Waiting…

Journalism Word Bubble Over a full year later, and the war still rages on. Different, smaller battles with varying individuals being placed on the front line, perhaps, but the Good Fight still rages on.

A little over a year-and-a-half ago, I penned a rhetorical crowdsourcing column of sorts where I discussed the worth of words. Sure, said column was specific to Cleveland and the lack of worth most readers placed upon those putting forth the work, be it in the way of a beat, column or anything that resembled investigative or enterprise. Trading in content production, it would be easy for me to stand on this side of the desk and point at the cheapskate consumers who simultaneously fail to see the work involved and feel entitled to knowledge in a world where information travels quicker than Spaceball I. Demanding more from those filing copy could also be a potential fix. But the overriding problem, one that I stated back in March of 2013, was on the publishers and their advertisers.

Until someone finds an answer to this overriding problem — until companies can figure out a way to maximize returns to a point where they can afford to compensate, and quality reaches a point where end consumers are willing to pay with more than just eyeing advertisements – writing and the inherent quality of such (time spent, calls made, interviews given, multi-layer editing prior to publishing) will continue to fall by the wayside.

So where is all of this going? As Craig and Denny briefly discussed in last week’s Casual Friday podcast, Sports on Earth, the long-form, writer-focused outfit of USA TODAY and MLB Advanced Media, has given the axe to a sizable portion of it’s staff. When it launched in the summer of 2012, general manager Steve Madden stated that the project was “very much planting a stake in the ground and saying that we are about the written word.” USA TODAY, two years later, decided that it didn’t quite value quality quite as much as they thought, cutting their ties with MLBAM—meanwhile, this is still alive and well.1

Whereas I waited until this very WWW to discuss this topic—one which, as you can see, is very important to me—Elevendub’s Ramzy Nasrallah struck while the iron was hot, sharing a few words that may have very well pre-echoed (if that could even be possible) my exact thoughts.

Blaming the consumer here is easy and short-sighted. We’re not dumber than ever; we just have better visibility into our least sophisticated citizens than ever before. The biggest problem here is that we still have not yet figured out the optimal way to profitably distribute quality content. Since cognitive skidmarks like slideshows and lists are cheap to produce and humans are helpless against the charms of rubbernecking, that’s exactly what’s winning out among media assets. Quality writing and shitburgers use the same distribution channels. [...]

We need to figure out distribution because long-form journalism, stories with depth and provocative prose (not just photos) are vital to sportswriting’s biodiversity. It’s needed for the annals future historiographers will use to try and figure out what the hell we were up to. It’s nourishment for those of us who have never taken or needed Ritalin or Adderall.

We need to figure it out soon, because if we don’t – someday we’ll run out of writers like SoE’s who are all braver than me, and I’m totally uninterested in clicking on a list of reasons long-form journalism died and finding out it’s a slideshow.

Writers like Patrick Hruby and Tomas Rios and Jessica Luther have, for years, covered countless hard-hitting topics that extend well beyond box scores and cheerleaders are now unemployed while myopic jerkoffs like this guy get to continue counting on some form of paycheck hitting his checking account on a frequent basis. Wherein said jerkoff couldn’t even pick up the phone to get word from anyone impacted by the cuts (or research data, etc.), the number of pieces published that are rooted solely in commentary (as opposed to analysis, research and/or reporting) is increasing at a nauseating level. This isn’t to say that long-form writing should be the only form of writing that exists or gets a distribution-type push, but even the quick-read columns should be done with some level of pride.

And this isn’t about on-line writing or “blogs,” necessarily. Newspapers died because they waited too long to adapt to changing landscapes. But rather than recreating the playing field as a whole, those willing to take a leap years ago—those with the foresight and balls to add electronic, engaging content to run alongside their preexisting high-quality work—are alive and well while the rest flail around like small mouth bass clutching for that last breath. The term “blog” has become even more nebulous and blurry than ever before as sites like ESPN housed their stunning World Cup work under the “blog” tag and Grantland’s blog  “The Triangle” puts out pieces like this and this. Talk about raising the bar—these guys are hoisting that bar, taking it down, clubbing the lazy square in the mug, and then ratcheting it up a few pegs higher.

Grantland works because ESPN is willing to offer resources to a word-focused arm in addition to their news distribution. Like The Mag, this website is far from the big earner that the television network is, but it continues to exist because John Skipper sees the value in quality and cross-promotion. Same can be said for VOX, SB Nation Longform, FiveThirtyEight, and their respective homes. They’ve managed to be flanked with a sales staffs that focuses on the longevity of visits rather than how many times a URL reloads.2 Perhaps Sports on Earth had to cut ties due to poor compensation planning—we don’t know if these writers were contracted, salary, at large, or paid on a per-piece or per-word basis. What we do know is that Trader Joes and Whole Foods don’t make money on milk and bread, but they continue to stock the shelves with each, obtaining larger margins elsewhere, all while the Walmarts of the world continue to exist, catering to different types of consumers.

That image above is the result of a Google search for “Advertising Journalism.” Note that nowhere in said word cloud do the words “lists” “slideshows” or “commentary” show up; “human,” “intelligence,” “content” and “story,” do. Just saying.

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While we’re on the topic of quality writing and those who are compensated for it, Scott Raab’s profile of Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine was indeed completed by it’s September-issue deadline. I don’t believe it’s on-line yet, but I also didn’t give it much effort because you can subscribe to the magazine for a full year at a cost less than a couple of non-fat Venti lattes. It’s excellent and is essentially a must-read for Cleveland fans.

The lede is terrific: “Skull shaved tight, default goatee, eyes of flint, mandatory frown.”

This quote from Pettine is also worth sharing: “Look, I know I have zero credibility. The Browns right now have zero credibility… There is no benefit of the doubt here. None.”

It discusses Doylestown, Pennsylvania as much as Cleveland, Ohio. There’s Manziel and Gordon and Pettine Sr; there’s also a boat load of football. Go get the September copy. You don’t need those lattes anyway.

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I’m sensing a theme here. Behold this week’s edition of #ActualSportswriting

The King of Roam” by Jack McCallum (Sports Illustrated): “[David] Griffin valued not only [David] Blatt’s brain but also a lower part of his body, something in the groin area. Blatt is most certainly the only coach in history who can be caught on one YouTube video conducting a press conference in flawless Hebrew; on another telling his Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv players, in unequivocally plain English, to “shut the f— up” during a timeout huddle; and on a third kicking two Russians off the squad during an Olympic game for the same offense.”

Behind Corey Kluber’s Success…” by Jeff Sullivan (FOX Sports): “The Corey Kluber story is complicated, as all of them are. He’s extremely dedicated and focused off the field. He’s changed the fastball that he throws. He’s made all kinds of little tweaks and adjustments, and he’s benefiting now from just having gotten an opportunity in the majors. But there is this one little signature of his that’s never been as good as it is today. Recently, Baseball America polled big-league managers on the best tools in the league.”

Bernie Kosar Unmasked” by Dan Pompei (Sports on Earth): “In a cup on an end table in Bernie Kosar’s family room are three teeth, knocked from his mouth by Mark Gastineau, and two screws from an ankle surgery gone bad. He shows off the cup as if it is a picture of his kids. Football has taken so much from Kosar, making his life’s journey more treacherous than any journey should be. wenty-one years after his last pass for the Browns, Kosar remains as much of a rock star in Cleveland as anyone inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”

Hunter Pence and Heckling in the Internet Age” by Ian Crouch (New Yorker): “The signs appeared during the first game of the series, on Friday, written in Sharpie on neon poster stock and held aloft deep in the right-field stands by a pair of young men in Mets jerseys. The guys were back at it for the remaining three games of the series, and, after TV cameras picked up some of their greatest hits, other people started bringing their own signs to the game. Copycats noted that Pence “hates bacon” and “prefers baths.” Meanwhile, away from Citi Field, the hashtag #HunterPenceSigns allowed users to provide their own critiques of Hunter Pence’s various innocent foibles on Twitter. Mets fans had spread a bit of humor to the sports world with their deadpan jabs, but they still couldn’t catch a break: the Giants took three games out of four. Pence was untroubled, with six hits and two home runs in the series. No one said he couldn’t play.”

***

And finally, FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver forecasts the Cavs as currently constructed to win 65 games. Too high? Too low? Just right?

Have a good Monday, kids.

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Footnotes:

  1. Just two weeks ago, I was speaking with a writer from SoE who referred to USA TODAY as the father who goes out for cigarettes and shows back up at the most inopportune times, while MLBAM was more of the caring, mother figure. I chuckled at the time, both of us having no idea about what train was coming down the tracks. Thankfully, it appears his job is safe—for now. []
  2. Grantland, for example, averages roughly two page views per visitor, but the average time on the site is just shy of four minutes—this, coupled with their brand loyalty, is huge in the advertising world. []

Simmons: Kevin Love is Underrated

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As we tend to do when shiny new toys show up wearing our favorite team’s colors (especially at the cost of other players), many are heading straight to the discussion surrounding value and what fans can expect on a going forward basis. In sports, it’s considerably more nuanced than adding a 2 to a 2 and expecting 4—there’s fit, chemistry, career arcs and all of those pesky human-based elements that we tend to forget when pouring through box scores.

While Clevelanders attempt to wrap their hands around the fact that last year’s All-Star game MVP is suddenly the Cavaliers’ third-best player, Grantland’s Bill Simmons digs deep in to Kevin Love, the Wine and Gold’s alleged newest player, and what he brings in the way of all of the aforementioned. And of course, as we banter about whether or not the three-time All-Star is top-12 or top-5, Simmons gives his opinion on just what Cleveland should expect to see for at least the next season from a player who has put up monster numbers but has yet to get a taste of the postseason. Spoiler alert: It’s all good.

Has Love become this generation’s Jerry Lucas, a gifted power forward who chases his own numbers without making anyone else better? Did he become a not-as-gifted, more depressing version of Barkley in Philly, a statistical marvel who wasted a piece of his prime carrying subpar teammates? Could he become a better version of Bosh, someone who submitted big numbers on bad teams before recalibrating his game to fit in with a champion? Is he doing something wrong? Or has he been wronged? Or both? [...]

When the collective personality of an NBA team is off, you can see it. There isn’t a more naked sport, especially if you’re seeing these games live. We watch the players interact on the court and in the huddles. We study their body language. We come to know their every expression. It’s like going out to a marathon dinner with another couple — you just know them better after the check comes. And anyone who watched the 2014 Timberwolves regularly, or fairly regularly, knew something was amiss. Love has always been a lead-by-example star, not a galvanizing, get-on-my-back guy. [...]

You can pick apart Kevin Love’s first six seasons in a variety of ways … just as long as you admit that he was the league’s secret League Pass MVP last year, as well as someone who needs to be seen in person to be believed. For one thing, he’s a freak rebounder — as gifted as Rodman and Moses at their respective peaks, blessed with magically soft hands and a psychic ability to read where caroms are headed. He’s just inventive enough on the low post that you probably need to send a second guy at him, and he’s good enough from 24 feet that you can never leave him alone. He’s a flat-out weapon and an underrated heat check guy. And whenever he grabs a rebound and flicks a 60-foot outlet in one motion, it’s genuinely breathtaking to watch. [...]

I see Cleveland playing Love as a small-ball 5 much like Coach K did.

I see David Blatt pushing them to run and run and run some more.

I see Love’s extraordinary outlet passes being celebrated around the globe.

I see him becoming a legitimate threat to be a 22-15-5 guy and maybe even average 16 boards a game (which hasn’t happened since Rodman).

I see my favorite Cavs lineup being their small-ball group with LeBron, Love, Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and a spread-the-floor shooter … and not-so-coincidentally, looking very ’93 Suns-ish.

I see Love thriving on the pick-and-pop with LeBron or Kyrie to frighteningly efficient degrees.

I see anyone who said this week that (a) Cleveland gave up too much, and/or (b) Love isn’t as good as people think, feeling stupid.

Rather than blockquoting all 5,000 words, we highly recommend that you give it a look for yourself. Say what you want about Simmons—the guy knows his hoops.

Don’t forget that the Cavaliers, just last season, were a Kevin Love buzzer-beater away from losing a game they had been winning by more than 20 points with just minutes left, a night where Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic (two well-compensated teammates) combined to go 3-for-19 from the floor. Simmons hammers home the point that Love is exponentially better than LeBron’s former Big 3 power forward in Chris Bosh, ratchets in some very captivating comparisons to a young Charles Barkley, and simultaneously makes me wish I can remember the details of seeing any of those early-90s players in person. He also calls Cleveland the “league’s newest signature team.”

The fact that Kevin Love, a guy coming off of a 26 and 12 season, may very well be underrated—well, that’s all an added bonus.

(AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Video: What will the Cavs offense look like with Kyrie, Love and LeBron?

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As if the addition of head coach David Blatt wasn’t enough, the 2014-15 Cleveland Cavaliers will (by all accounts) feature substantial upgrades and small forward and power forward as well. So how will all of this work? Coach Nick from BBALLBREAKDOWN takes a look at the Cavs’ summer league (coached by Blatt) in addition to some of the rookie NBA head coach’s former teams as to how he can best utilize three of the league’s top 30 players.

LeBron at the four? Kevin Love as a shifty, pick-and-pop five? Wide open corner threes? Do enjoy.

ESPN suspends Dan Le Batard for LeBron billboards

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What started out as a fun, attention-grabbing prank has apparently gotten Miami’s Dan Le Batard into some hot water. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports that Le Batard, host of a nationally aired radio show and ESPN’s Dan Le Batard is Highly Questionable, has been suspended from the air for two days. The four-letter network is reportedly none too pleased with the long-time columnist spearheading the “You’re Welcome, LeBron” billboards that have been popping up around Akron, Ohio in advance of LeBron James’ “Homecoming” which is planned for Friday.

Per Jackson:

An ESPN statement says Le Batard’s recent stunt does not reflect ESPN’s standards and brand Additionally, we were not made aware of his plans in advance.

As The Big Lead points out, Part of LeBatard’s rise at ESPN over the last few years is precisely because of bits like this—more intelligent and clever than a trolling hot take—so the suspension comes as a bit of a surprise considering all of the other items (countless ones, in fact) the company could hand pick out the grab bag of could-be punishable offenses.

Le Batard is scheduled to return to television and his (very entertaining) radio show on Monday. No word on if he plans to make use of his free time by heading north for the weekend.

Could Kevin Love actually improve with the Cavs?

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Carrying a fledgling team in the Western Conference can be a tough task. Kevin Love, for all of his incredible box scores and proclamations of being the best power forward in the NBA, has yet to yield a playoff appearance. Since being drafted in 2008, Love’s game has not only allowed for year-over-year improvement, but it’s also provided fans of the game with one of the more eye-opening evolutions—from back-to-the-basket rebounder to floor-stretching three-point shooter—over the past few years. But how will this translate to Cleveland, where the wealth will undoubtedly have to be shared?

Grantland.com’s Kirk Goldsberry digs deep into Love’s tendencies within his latest blog entry, discussing the pros and cons of a power forward who tends to drift beyond the arc.

There are reasons why more power forwards don’t shoot nearly as many 3-point shots as Love does. First of all, most can’t hit them. Love deserves credit for developing deep range at such a young age. Even older 4s, like David West and LaMarcus Aldridge — both wonderful jump shooters — have yet to add 3s to their arsenals. Many teams prefer to keep their bigs inside the arc to help set screens and grab rebounds, the idea being that every time a big spots up beyond the arc means one less play in which he’s a factor inside of it, especially on the glass. After all, power forwards are the primary rebounding vultures in the NBA ecosystem — it’s generally their role, whether it’s on offense or defense, to clean up the corpses of failed field goals down by the rim.

The fact that Love is one of the best rebounders in the game only compounds this issue. He’s not just “technically a power forward” like Channing Frye. This guy is way more Barkley than Bargnani. He’s a true interior force, and every time he shoots one of those 3s, one of the league’s top rebounders becomes a rebounding spectator.

Every Kevin Love 3-point attempt introduces a sneaky hidden fee, and when you evaluate his 3-point value using only his shooting percentages, you don’t even see it.

All in, this sounds like Love has grown into a player who has become less efficient. As his box score and per-year averages have climbed, could Kevin Love actually have regressed in terms of economy? In a way, yes. But also, it appears that this transition has largely stemmed from the Timberwolves having to count on him in every facet of the game. Ricky Rubio and Corey Brewer—his starting point guard and small forward, respectively—are not exactly the beacons of offensive prowess. Coming over to Cleveland, thing will change—considerably.

Love’s 3-point shot is impressive, but it’s also fair to ask whether the addition of a mostly average (at this point) long-range game to his shooting repertoire is a smart addition for his team’s overall offensive portfolio. It’s also important to note that on a Minnesota team lacking strong perimeter shooting from its guards and wings, Love naturally assumed a greater perimeter role than he might alongside different teammates, guys like Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, and Mike Miller. [...]

Alongside James, open shots are easier to come by, there are fewer double teams, and there are more fast-break points. Lastly, and perhaps most relevant to his perimeter habits, a move to Cleveland will also put him alongside Miller, Irving, and Waiters. Relative to Ricky Rubio and Corey Brewer, these guys are all sensational jump shooters, and would likely represent the best 3-point shooting corps that Love has ever played with.

With Love’s move to Ohio, it’s hard to imagine anything but upticks in efficiency and downticks in his perimeter shooting.

The Cavs, as Goldsberry iterated, have added outside shooting to compliment the offensive threats already on the roster. Spacing the floor will be integral for Cleveland’s overall suceess, but it’s It’s scary to think that a guy who averaged 12.5 rebounds per game a season ago could actually see improvement in this category due to less reliance on his seven three-point attempts per night.

Video: Listen to Tom Hamilton discuss the history of and changes occurring at Progressive Field

By now, you’ve seen updates and renderings of the changes happening at Progressive Field. Fewer seats, more social areas, more ties to downtown neighborhoods and a two-story, indoor-outdoor bar. But have you heard Tom Hamilton discuss them?

Now you have.

Cavs to aquire Love, sign to five-year contract extension

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That sound you hear is the most recent detonation of a Woj Bomb. Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reports a confirmation of sorts, stating the Cleveland Cavaliers have acquired All-Star power forward Kevin Love in a deal that includes No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins. As if that wasn’t enough, Cleveland is making the deal with Minnesota with a firm agreement Love will opt out of his contract in 2015 and re-sign with the Cavaliers on a five-year, $120 million-plus contract extension.

The deal, as has been reported elsewhere, has been in place for some time, but cannot be finalized until August 23 when Wiggins’ 30-day trade window closes. Joining Wiggins will be last year’s No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett and a protected first-round draft pick for 2015 (reportedly the one acquired from Miami in the LeBron James trade in 2010).

The three-time NBA All-Star averaged 26 points and 12.5 rebounds for the Timberwolves last season. For his career, he’s averaged 19 points and 12.2 rebounds. Per Wojnarowski, Love, 25, will join superstar LeBron James and Kyrie Irving to create the most devastating trio in the NBA and will instantly make the Cavaliers frontrunners to win the NBA championship.

Soak it in, Cavs fans. It’s going to be a fun ride.

[Related: Watch highlights of soon-to-be Cavalier Kevin Love]

(AP Photo/Jim Mone)

 

The LeBron-trolling ad appears to have found a home

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Remember that Miami-based advertisement that was turned down by The Plain Dealer? It appears to have finally found a home. Courtesy of Twitter user JeremyinAkron, we have a billboard that is allegedly housed on west-bound Tallmadge avenue near Route 8 in Akron, Ohio.

Miami’s Dan Le Batard was reportedly behind the original idea, and based on his Twitter feed, this one as well. LeBron James’ “Homecoming” is set for this Friday in Akron, so this Comic Sans-laced stealth move was well-timed on his part. Per the Miami Herald, this is the first of what will be several billboards to be placed around the city. There are rumors of an additional tier of the ad-assault that remains top secret, perhaps to be revealed on Friday.

“I’m just getting started,” tweeted Le Batard, who is no stranger to otherwise outlandish acts that grab the attention of the media.

Brian Hoyer to start Browns’ first preseason game under center

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By many accounts, rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel “won” training camp on Wednesday, but Brian Hoyer will be getting the start on Saturday when the Browns and Lions lock horns for the 2014 Great Lakes Classic.

Manziel’s playbook wrestling has him behind Hoyer for now, but this competition is far from over. The man they call Johnny Football has begun to earn more first-team reps in practice lately, and is not ruled out to be starting the second preseason game.

Browns head coach Mike Pettine is expected to name his starting quarterback before the team’s third preseason game, at home against the St. Louis Rams. Browns players have gone on record to say that they believe Hoyer will be under center, but Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau believes the No. 22 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft will get the nod.

For now, the Battle of the Barge will be up to the St. Ignatius product. WFNY will have more on Wednesday’s Training Camp later today.

(Photo: Scott Sargent/WFNY)

LeBron James’ recruiting gets tangible

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For weeks, Cleveland has heard about the recruiting efforts made by LeBron James, a guy who, just last week, met his new head coach for the first time since agreeing to terms with the Cavaliers on July 11. For weeks, James has reportedly been a part of the discussions surrounding Kevin Love joining him in his quest to bring a championship to the lakefront, if only on a player-to-player basis. For weeks, names like Mike Miller and James Jones were bantered about, cagey veterans who would fill the role of winners who just so happen to efficiently force a piece of inflated leather to splash through a nylon net hoisted 10 feet into the air.

With the Cavaliers officially signing Miller and Jones, and promptly introducing them to the city’s media contingent on Wednesday morning, all of those talks immediately became real. James, who was criticized for his inability to get players to come to Cleveland during his first act in the town, has taken his off-court game to the next level. Jet-setting around the world, stopping in places like Rio De Janero, Brazil and various cities in China, the four-time MVP has found time to reach out to friends, those who not only helped him win during his time in Miami, but those whom he feels can take marry their winning résumés with their infallible work ethic as the Cavaliers transition from NBA Lottery fixtures to the game’s marquee attraction.

[Read more...]

Tristan Thompson featured in Grantland’s look at NBA big men

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Is it possible that Tristan Thompson’s best asset is being represented by LeBron James’ childhood friend Rich Paul? Consensus around the league (as iterated by Brian Windhorst in his latest appearance with Bill Simmons) is that Thompson, the Cavs’ starting power forward for the last three seasons, is in line for quite a pay day despite not showing flashes of being much more than a 10-point, 10-rebound player.

In his latest feature for Grantland.com, NBA writer Zach Lowe discusses Thompson as the archetype of players NBA front offices are moving away from—guys who don’t protect the rim defensively and cannot consistently hit mid-range jump shots or corner three-pointers.

The price of shooting at all positions has gone up. And one player type has become less and less desired, to the point it may already be a market inefficiency: the power forward who can’t shoot 3s and can’t protect the rim or provide real fill-in minutes at center.

There are good reasons behind the price drop. Protecting the rim is a necessity for any team with championship ambitions. If one big man can’t manage, the other has to carry the load, and real rim protectors tend to be large humans who hang near the rim on offense. That means any big man who can’t protect the rim defensively had better be able to get the hell out of the way on offense, working as a long-distance threat around the pick-and-rolls that dominate the NBA.

Lowe states that players like Thompson (and Denver’s Kenneth Faried) have a fit deemed “unclear.” Cavs general manager David Griffin has long discussed “fit” as a code-word way of describing an offense that incorporates ball movement and spacing of the floor. Thompson has thrived as a rim runner at times, and cold very well get plenty of open looks at the rim as double- and triple-teams find their way toward James and point guard Kyrie Irving, but this skill set (converting due to being open) is one that the Cavaliers will have to give thought to come contract time.

Add in that Thompson could very well be the back-up power forward behind Kevin Love, and things get that much more interesting.

(Photo: Scott Sargent/WFNY)

Sources: Chauncey Billups visits with Cavs

Boston Celtics v Detroit Pistons

Could Chauncey Billups be the next veteran to join the Cleveland Cavaliers? Multiple sources tell WFNY that Billups, a five-time NBA All-Star, spent Tuesday in Cleveland with Cavs head assistant coach Tyronn Lue, ultimately finishing up his trip with a Warehouse District dinner meeting alongside Lue, Cavs general manager David Griffin, head coach David Blatt. This, of course, comes one day after the Cavs contingent met with free agent small forward Shawn Marion.

The nature of any discussions with the Cavs are unclear, but it is believed that Billups, who will be 38 years old by the time the 2014-15 season tips off, is interested in eventually moving into a coaching or executive role once he officially retires. Retiring is the operative word, however, as the 2004 NBA Finals MVP was believed to be in search of another contract as recent as early July, working out in Las Vegas and reportedly looking good despite his age and recent run of injuries.

Billups signed a two-year, $5 million deal to rejoin the Pistons last summer, but played in just 19 games (averaging 3.8 points per game), undergoing surgery to reapair the meniscus in his right knee this past February. He has not played in more than 22 games since his 2010-11 season with the New York Knicks and on June 30, the Pistons announced that they would not be picking up Billups’ team option, making him an unrestricted free agent.

“You don’t want to end the way that my last couple of seasons ended,” Billups told 9News.com this past June. “But I’m back from that now. Just getting older.”

Recently announcing the signings of veteran swingmen Mike Miller and James Jones, the Cavs now have 16 players on their roster, so any addition in a player capacity would likely be delayed. Cleveland is believed to soon be on the receiving end of a trade that would net them Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star power forward Kevin Love, with multiple players being sent to Minnesota. The Cavs were interested in adding Billups to the fold as recent as last season.

Billups’ name was also loosely discussed in Cleveland this past summer as the team was in search of a head coach following the firing of Mike Brown. He was reportedly pursued by Flip Saunders and the Timberwolves to serve as an assistant coach. Cleveland Cavaliers majority owner Dan Gilbert has reportedly long been a fan of Billups—those Detroit connections run deep—but belief amongst NBA executives is that the long-time Pistons point guard, who was one of the league’s most outspoken players during the 2011 NBA lockout, has desires to one day be in a league front office, following in the footsteps of friend and idol Joe Dumars.

(Photo by Dan Lippitt/NBAE via Getty Images)

Looking for a $1,395 Johnny Manziel jersey? You’re in luck.

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Happen to have $1,400 burning a hole in the pocket of your cargo shorts? You’re in luck as Cleveland’s own NEXT has some options for you.

Renzo Cardoni, the designer who has proclaimed to have reinvented sportswear jerseys with premium lambskin and suede as well as python leather, has released a Johnny Manziel jersey with lambskin instead of the standard mesh and the rookie quarterback’s name and number stitched with the high-end snakeskin.

If Manziel isn’t your type, fans of the animalistic jerseys can opt for Cleveland’s own Donte Whitner or Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden, each in home brown or away white. All of these jerseys have been made exclusively for NEXT and can be purchased in store or online. Have at it, kids.

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Brian Windhorst joins Bill Simmons to talk LeBron, Kevin Love on BS Report

lebronjamescom

As if LeBron James couldn’t get lean enough. Brian Windhorst joined Grantland head honcho Bill Simmons to discuss all things NBA—and what’s an NBA conversation without discussing James and the Cavs?

Per Windhorst, James has had such a packed schedule this summer (trips to China and Brazil among others) that he’s 10 or 12 pounds lighter than he was when the Spurs officially bounced the Heat out of the NBA Finals this past July. He’s allegedly spent the offseason taking a page out of Ray Allen’s book, completely cut out complex carbohydrates. All of this leads into plenty of discussion surrounding James’ time in Miami, the whole reported fallout between James and Kyrie, and the impending (alleged) addition of Kevin Love to Cleveland.

Take a listen for yourself. If you’re one of those Cavs Only types, all you have to listen to is the first half hour or so (though I highly recommend the entire show). Enjoy.

Tribe releases Nyjer Morgan, recalls Josh Tomlin

Nyjer Morgan

Could the Tribe be adding a player via trade or waivers in the near future? Nyjer Morgan, one of the Indians’ early-season feel-good stories was released on Tuesday afternoon amidst a series of moves made by the team’s front office.

In addition to activating Morgan from the 60-day disabled list and immediately releasing him, the Indians optioned outfielder Tyler Holt to Columbus and recalled starting pitcher Josh Tomlin. Tomlin begins his second stint with Cleveland for his start tonight against the Cincinnati Reds in Progressive Field.  He was in the rotation from May 6-July 25, going 5-7 with a 4.47 ERA in 15 games/14 starts.

Morgan had been sidelined for nearly three months with a sprained PCL in his right knee. The 34-year-old batted .341 (14-for-41) with one home run, six RBI, and three stolen bases over 15 games with the Indians, stepping in for an injured Michael Bourn during the first few weeks of the 2014 season. His release seems to signal that a non-roster player could be added to the team in the not-so-distant future.

At least we’ll always have this.

(Photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)

Indians games crush summer TV ratings

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Attendance may be down, but numbers don’t lie: Indians fans are tuning in. Since the start of the 2014 MLB season, Cleveland Indians telecasts on FOX Sports’ SportsTime Ohio are the highest-rated and most-viewed programming on television in Northeast Ohio. Per STO (by the way of Nielsen), Indians telecasts are averaging an 6.73 household rating and 100,000 households in prime time (7-11 p.m.), 60 percent higher than the No. 2-ranked CBS (4.21) and whatever CSI they have running during the same period.

The Indians also have the 5th highest local TV ratings in all of Major League Baseball, including afternoon games.

The highest rated game of the 2014 season to date is the Tribe’s home opener vs. the Minnesota Twins, which garnered a 14.77 HH in simulcast with WKYC (over 219,000 households). The highest rated non-simulcast game of the season so far is the July 9 game vs. the New York Yankees which went from 7 p.m. to midnight and produced a 10.24 HH average (over 150,000 households). Monday night’s 7-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds became the 2nd highest rated non-simulcast game of the season with a 9.39 HH rating (over 138,000 households).

“Fans are passionate and excited about the Indians, and we’re proud to bring them the most in-depth and high quality coverage each game,” said François McGillicuddy, senior vice president and general manager of SportsTime Ohio and FOX Sports Ohio via press release.

The month of July is the third best month ever for the Indians on STO, the best since August, 2011, boasting a 6.9 HH average (over 102,000 households). In 23 games this July on SportsTime Ohio, the Indians were either No. 1 or No. 2 for the entire day 18 times (78 percent of games) and were No. 1 in 16 of them. Overall, the Indians are averaging 6.3 HH which is 17 percent ahead of last year’s pace.

As of Monday night, the Indians (57-55, fresh off of their fourth victory in a row) sit 2.5 games out of the AL Wild Card.