August 2, 2014

Is Danny Salazar back?

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It seems longer ago, but all it took was a mid-July afternoon on the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. I sat next to TD, roughly thirty yards from the pitchers mound housed within Progressive Field, as Danny Salazar made his Major League debut. I had planned to only stay for a few innings, spending what would otherwise be my lunch hour taking in some Tribe baseball. We didn’t know what to totally expect, but all it would take was a smattering of 99-mile-per-hour fastballs mixed with off-speed stuff some 20 miles-per-hour slower and it was over: The legend was being penned.

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LeBron James sends cupcakes to neighbors to apologize for pre-Decision commotion

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Pastry and LeBron James links live on for another day. In the wake of The Decision 2.0, Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James and his family have apparently decided to apologize to his neighbors in the most fitting way possible: designer cupcakes.

Recall, in the week leading up to James’ letter that stated he was returning to Cleveland, a local cupcake shop out of Canton, Ohio was one of the first to have “insider” information, posting LeBron’s impending return to their Facebook page. Not long thereafter, Bath, Ohio police were stationed outside of James’ residence, leading to an evening-long commotion on his street as TV crews and cars had parked on both sides of the street.

According to a resident who claims to live on James’ street, a package of cupcakes from the LeBron James Family Foundation was delivered to his home Tuesday afternoon with a message inscribed:

We know that things have been hectic in the neighborhood these past few weeks and we are sorry for the chaos.

We are so thankful to live in this community and we are so blessed to have understanding neighbors like you.

FOX Sports Ohio spoke with the individual who stated that the package was hand-delivered by the company, though they had no face-to-face interaction with James. Needless to say, this is a gesture that would have been nearly unfathomable during James’ first run with the Cavaliers. Also needless to say: They look delicious.

(Via Reddit)

Cavs “firmly in lead” to acquire Kevin Love

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Andrew Wiggins is one step closer to being an official member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Whether or not he ultimately reaches that destination remains to be seen.

The Golden State Warriors were long considered to be the Cavs’ lone rival in obtaining Love as they refuse to include swingman Klay Thompson in discussions given Love’s potential to leave after one season. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst report that the Chicago Bulls—one of the choice destinations for Love—have also entered into the fray1, but the Cavs remain “firmly in the lead” in a deal that would center around Wiggins. The Cavs are reportedly increasingly optimistic that they are progressing toward a trade framework that the Minnesota Timberwolves will accept in exchange for Love to pair him with his Team USA teammate LeBron James.

The Associated Press has confirmed an earlier report from Windhorst that states the Cavs’ No. 1 overall pick will sign his rookie contract with the team. Wiggins has been the topic of trade talks since being selected this past summer, the 6-foot-8-inch shooting guard being the top target of the Minnesota Timberwolves as they look to deal power forward Kevin Love before he reaches free agency. Last week, the AP cited two people familiar with the discussions in saying that the Cavs were still not willing to include Wiggins in a deal despite previous reports to the contrary.

Once the deal (said to be worth roughly $5.5 million in 2014) is inked, the Cavs would be prohibited from dealing the rookie for 30 days. Prior to being signed, Wiggins’ value in a trade was zero. If the Cavaliers do decide to part ways with the highly touted swingman, they would be $5.5 million closer to the required $12.56 million needed to acquire Love. Other players rumored to be involved include Dion Waiters ($4.06 million) and last year’s No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett ($5.56 million).

[Related: Mike Krzyzewski would trade Wiggins for Love “without hesitancy”]

(Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

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Footnotes:

  1. Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler appear to be their starting point. []

Jason Kipnis still bothered by oblique

 

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Jason Kipnis was named the American League Player of the week on Monday, but readily admitted that he has not felt the same since straining his oblique muscle back in April.

“I wouldn’t use the word progress, I’d use the word adjustment,” said Kipnis. “As far as the oblique goes, it’s going to be there all year. It’s not going to go away until the offseason. What I can do is find a swing that works for me. I thought we may have found something coming out of Detroit. It was a step in the right direction and we’re going to keep making adjustments day to day and pitch to pitch and see how it goes.”

Kipnis missed about a month after straining his right oblique muscle in late April and he’s still trying to make adjustments to his swing in order to get comfortable. He went 5-for-15 (.333) with two homers and six RBI during a big four-game series against the Tigers, but it appears that a return to last season’s All-Star form at any point in 2014 may be a pipe dream.

On the season, Kipnis is hitting .258 (.706 OPS) with five home runs, 14 doubles and just 30 runs batted in. His isolated power is down almost 60 points year over year, trending at a career-low mark of .110, and his batted ball distance on homers and flies has dropped 20 feet from last year to this one—both numbers unlikely to be aided by his ailing oblique.

“It’s just one of those things that’s going to be there,” Kipnis said.

Mike Pettine: Josh Gordon is a Cleveland Brown

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In a recent interview with The Akron Beacon-Journal, Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine reiterated that the team has no plans to cut maligned wide receiver Josh Gordon in the wake of his troubled off-season.

“We’re firm,” said Pettine. “We want to find that middle ground. Josh is a Cleveland Brown. We want to do what’s best for him. We have a player that potentially needs help. Whether it’s him or whether it’s anybody else that wears the uniform, if we can help, we’ll help. We want to make our decisions always, what’s best for the player, and you try to marry it with what’s best for the team. So that’s why I don’t think that cutting him, while it may have worked for some other people, I don’t know if that’s necessarily the best option here. It might be the worst option for both — for us and for him. We’re going to wait and see what happens and then act accordingly.”

Pettine would not get into details regarding how the team can, or will, help Gordon as the league is allegedly sensitive to substance abuse issues. Coincidentally, it’s the league that has yet to determine whether or not Gordon—who reportedly violated the league’s policy earlier this offseason—will miss any games for the 2014 season.

Coming off of a Pro Bowl season wherein Gordon led the league in receiving (despite missing two games), the 23-year-old was expected to be the top target for quarterback Brian Hoyer or newly drafted Johnny Manziel this coming year. The Browns added veterans Nate Burleson, Andrew Hawkins and Miles Austin to help bolster an already top-heavy unit. If Gordon misses any time, or even a full season, Pettine iterated that the team will not be able to replace such a talent, but will instead have to draw up creative schemes that will help hide their considerably weak receiving corps.

“You don’t replace him,” said Pettine. “I think you have to get creative. It’s got to be a committee approach, and I think you also have to get creative in how you run your offense whether it’s an extra tight end — that’s where adding Jim Dray and having a veteran like Gary Barnidge helps — [allowing] you to maybe move Jordan [Cameron] around a little bit and play with groupings that maybe involve less wide receivers. You don’t become as wide receiver dependent… I think we have more options there than maybe people think.”

The team believes they will hear word on Gordon’s future within the next 10 days.  The two years remaining on his contract will be tolled if he is indeed suspended. The Browns, theoretically, could have an elite talent at salaries of $825,000 in 2015 and $1.06 million in 2016. Training Camp is set to begin on Saturday, July 26.

 

 

Second-half Storylines: What are you watching?

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The Cleveland Indians started things off with a relative bang, taking three of four in Detroit. As we close in on the month of August, the Tribe stands 4.5 games behind the Tigers and will need to piece it all together heading into the fall if postseason play is to happen for the second consecutive year. There are copious amounts of storylines to look at for the second half of the season, but which ones are we watching? Take a walk with us as we plan for the next 10 weeks of baseball.

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Indians interested in reliever Joaquin Benoit

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While David Price’s name continues to be bantered about, the Cleveland Indians join the Detroit Tigers and Pittsburgh Pirates as teams interested in San Diegot Padres reliever Joaquin Benoit. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman iterates that while the Indians haven’t established themselves as ‘buyers’ heading into the deadline, they could be leaning that way.

Benoit is owed $8 million next year (which would make him the fifth-highest paid Indian) plus $8 million or a $1.5 million buyout in 2016. His 2016 option will vest if he finishes at least 55 games in 2015. Benoit has a 2.04 ERA and 0.86 WHIP with 10.4 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 39 2/3 innings with San Diego this year.

The Tigers could certainly use the help. While the Tribe’s bullpen is a strength—and they could certainly use help in other areas—they could do themselves a favor by making sure their main competitors in the AL Central don’t fortify their only weakness. It would certainly be one expensive move either way.

(Photo by Andy Hayt/San Diego Padres/Getty Images)

Kyle Shanahan, Miracle Worker? While We’re Waiting…

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It’s Monday, Monday, gotta get down on Monday….

I’m trying to not get excited. Last year at this time, we were discussing the merits of Norv Turner’s offense and how it was going to be night-and-day compared to that of Pat Shurmur. Gone was the West Coast; here was the vertical game that included the tight end to a larger degree. And while Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon were undoubtedly superb, the Browns’ offense was excruciating to watch—save for the few moments we got to see Brian Hoyer. This, however, is all a long way of leading into Terry Pluto’s latest that discusses the merits of the team’s new offensive coordinator, the 34-year-old Kyle Shanahan.

The pieces all appear to be in place. The strong running game. The mobile quarterbacks. The offensive line. Will it bear fruit? I want to get excited. I want to see Ben Tate rack up 1,000 yards. I want to watch Terrence West truck over would-be tacklers. I want to slice and dice defenses with the zone read. But will these happen?

It has to at least be better than last season. Right?

***

Speaking of the Browns, I thoroughly enjoyed this piece from Tom Reed on linebacker Craig Robertson. By all accounts, Robertson came into last season as a Secret Weapon and left it as one of the worst starting inside linebackers in the game. He was the subject of a Training Camp piece here at WFNY. His defensive coordinator went on to call him the Ace in the Hole. He then went on to get abused in the passing game, putting up marks that were ranked dead last by Pro Football Focus.

But kudos to Robertson for not only knowing how awful his season was, but being willing to discuss it and the challenges that exist ahead with the team adding Christian Kirksey.

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If you haven’s read enough debates surrounding Kevin Love and Andrew Wiggins, here’s a recent 5-on-5 from the folks over at ESPN.com which discusses that very matter!

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Heave those Hot Takes, here’s this week’s edition of #ActualSportswriting:

Awakening the Giant” by Seth Wickersham (ESPN The Magazine): “You remember the picture. Y.A. Tittle is on his knees in the end zone after throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown. Swollen hands on his thigh pads, eyes fixed on the grass, he is helmetless and bleeding from the head, one dark stream snaking down his face, another curling near his ear. His shoulder pads make him seem hunched over, resigned, broken down. The black-and-white photo was taken in 1964, the final year of Tittle’s career. It hangs in a silver frame at his home in Atherton, California, not with the prominence befitting one of the most iconic pictures in sports history but lost among many mementos from a Hall of Fame career.”

Pitchman: How Tom Emansky changed the sport of baseball—and then disappeared” by Erik Malinowski (FOX Sports): “Tens of thousands of times over a decade, people watching any number of sports on TV could usually expect to see one name pop up during a given commercial break: Emanski. A sweetheart deal kept the commercials on the air and the orders rolling in, thereby ensuring that an entire generation of ballplayers grew up with Tom Emanski as the coach they never met.”

…Dan Jenkins deserves some barbecue” by Sally Jenkins (Washington Post): The British Open is better in Texas because you can watch it with barbecue. This is how my father has consoled himself while missing his first golf major championship in 45 years. It seems his doctor felt the bracing air of northwest England might not be good for him, but the medical community said nothing about smokehouse ribs. The fact that Dan Jenkins, 84, stayed home from the British constitutes not just a concession, but some kind of historical event, because the last time he was absent from a major the club heads were made of persimmon, and not every Tour wife was a blonde.”

I got gored in Pamplona. But I will run with the bulls again.” by Bill Hillman (Washington Post): “It was raining off and on that morning. The cobblestones were extra slick. First-time runners were everywhere, and the crowd was roaring. I saw the long willow canes of the pastores, the official herdsmen of the run, poking out above tourists’ heads. Suddenly, a suelto, a lone bull, appeared ahead of me. When a bull has separated from the pack, he loses his herding instinct and sees all runners as predators. That’s exactly what this one did — throwing his horns at the dozens of scattering runners.”

***

A quick note about that Dan Jenkins story. First, I may have been the only sportswriting fan alive who didn’t put two and two together to realize that Sally Jenkins was the daughter of Dan. Talk about bloodlines. Second, think about this for a minute: Dan Jenkins covered every single major golf championship for 45 years. He’s unquestionably the best when it comes to covering the game of golf, but regardless of sport—forty-five years is one hell of a run to have not missed a single major event. No wonder he’s already in the Hall of Fame despite still practicing his craft.

***

These wouldn’t qualify as #ActualSportsWriting, but I wanted to share a couple other links. The first comes in the way of the New York Times where a long-time pickpocket details his life. Stories like these always captivate me. Who would’ve guessed that, amidst all of the technological progress out there, that it would be pickpockets who are being left in the cold? The second link comes from BusinessWeek, and it’s about everyone’s favorite club-thumping shill: Pitbull. BusinessWeek features are terrific on their own. This one, however, detailing  guy who wants a meeting with BitCoin only to later ask “I still want to know, what exactly is Bitcoin?” is next level. And who knew he had ties to Uncle Luke? Anyway…These are both well worth your time.

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And just because: You nasty, Trevor.

LeBron asks fans if he should wear No. 23 or 6?

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LeBron James took to Instagram to ask his fans what number he should wear in his return to Cleveland.

6 or 23?......

James famously retired the No. 23 after the 2009-10 season, stating that it should be retired across the NBA in honor of Michael Jordan. He then, in his move to Miami, chose No. 6. (Bill Russell, interestingly, wore No. 6 while amassing his 11 championship rings.)

There are a slew of photoshops out there with James in a Cavs jersey with the No. 6, but many fans think that should be left in South Beach. What say you?

Conflicting reports surrounding Wiggins, Love

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Welcome to last week! While it’s not the constant refreshing of LeBron James dot com, the news surrounding a potential acquisition of Minnesota power forward Kevin Love is reaching new levels. In response to Thursdays reports that had the Cavaliers being willing to include No. 1 draft pick Andrew Wiggins in a deal for the All-Star, multiple reports are now being filed in the contrary.

The latest from Withers is noteworthy as the veteran AP scribe tends to only report concrete, multiple-sourced information, refuses to report on things coming from player representatives and has had direct lines of contact with team owner Dan Gilbert.

In an interview 850AM/WKNR, Withers told Tony Rizzo’s “The Really Big Show” that there have been multiple discussions between both teams, but Wiggins has not been mentioned as being available. (Withers also hinted that it may have been the Timberwolves who leaked this news in attempt to get Golden State to increase their offer.) Discussions are wildly different than negotiations and that could obviously change. For now, however, it appears that the teams are in a staring contest.

Wiggins, despite swirling rumors, tallied 21 points (3-5 FG, 15-20 FT), five rebounds and a block in Thursday night’s loss to the Houston Rockets in the Las Vegas Summer League

[Related: All you need to know about trading for Kevin Love: WFNY FAQs]

Cavs now willing to deal Andrew Wiggins?

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So about all that ‘untouchable’ talk… It has taken a little over one week for the Cleveland Cavaliers to loosen their grip on No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins if in fact it were to net them Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love. Bob Finnan of The Morning Journal reports, citing a league source, that the Cavs are now willing to trade the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft.

Up until this point, it was assumed the Cavs wanted to hang onto Wiggins, largely because of comments made by Coach David Blatt in Las Vegas. Finnan’s source, however, said that the recently signed LeBron James wants the 6-10, 250-pound Love on the Cavaliers’ roster. James’ pull has also netted the Cavs swingmen Mike Miller and James Jones, two former teammates of James during his time with the Miami Heat. (Miller recently told ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd that he’s attempting to lure fellow shooting guard and former teammate Ray Allen to Cleveland as well.)

Finnan reports that the latest offer could include Wiggins, last years’ No. 1 pick in power forward Anthony Bennett and an additional first-round pick. Center Brendan Haywood, who was acquired on draft night, might be included in the deal to make it work contractually. USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt corroborates Finnan’s report regarding Wiggins being available.

This deal, if transacted, would be the exact opposite of what Grantland’s Bill Simmons recently coined “Don’t Do The Wrong Thing Every Time Anymore” movement.

[Related: WFNY Roundtable: Should the Cavs trade for Kevin Love?]

Wolves’ owner wants to keep Kevin Love

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As Cavalier fans debate the merits of a trade that could bring All-Star power forward Kevin Love to Cleveland, Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor is doing all he can to make the disgruntled Olympian feel wanted by the team that is bordering on becoming an afterthought.

“My preference is that Kevin will come to (training) camp — and I’m sure he will — and play with the team,” Taylor said in an interview with NBATV.

When asked about dealing Love in a trade that did not involve the Cavs’ No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins, Taylor stated that the team was going to look at everything that makes sense that would make our team better, “but we are not going to move a superb player like that without getting equal or more value back.”

Since drafting the 6-foot-10-inch Love with the fifth pick in 2008, the Timberwolves have yet to make the playoffs, finishing with 40 wins in 2013-14. Love, who has iterated that he wants to win, is matched by Taylor who believes Minnesota is right on the cusp of doing so.

“I think our team is just on the border,” Taylor said. “We lost too many close games last year, and having Kevin Love there as, right now, the heart of our team … I would like to have Kevin back and play under Flip (Saunders) and see how the coaches will utilize him with the other players.”

Taylor can offer Love a new contract worth $26 million more than any other team can offer, but if he is not dealt by the 2014-15 trade deadline, it is expected that Love will test free agency. The Cavs maintain that they will not discuss trade packages that involve Wiggins who has averaged 14 points per game (37.8 percent shooting) for the team during their Summer League play.

[Related: Trade Wiggins for Love? Why I’d do it.]

Keep ‘em coming: James Jones signs with Cavs

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While Ray Allen deliberates his future, James Jones has reportedly jumped ahead of him in former members of the Miami Heat to join LeBron James in Cleveland.

Jones appeared in only 20 games for the Heat last season, averaging 4.9 points in 11.8 minutes of action, but he is a very close friend of James, both players’ respective families vacationing together as recent as this past summer. The 6-foot-8-inch space-creating swingman would likely just provide depth behind James and recent addition Mike Miller, allowing the four-time All-Star to potentially slide to the ‘stretch 4′ position with David Blatt at the helm.

It’s clear that the Cavs are pinpointing players who are not just friends with James, but those who can create the space needed for the Cavs’ offense to thrive. Jones led the NBA lasts season in catch-and-shoot situations, hitting 52 percent of his attempts. This past May, James went to bat for Jones, pleading for the three-point specialist to receive more playing time.

“It’s the space that he provides, and his ability to shoot the ball,” said LeBron. “You can’t do both when he’s out on the floor: You can’t help on my drive and try to contest the threes.”

Jones fielded offers from Golden State, Washington, New Orleans and Miami before choosing Cleveland. Your move, Ray. Everybody’s doing it.

Ray Allen deciding between Cavs, Rockets and Retirement

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The Cavs may have signed Mike Miller to a two-year deal, but they may very well find themselves with another former teammate of LeBron James as shooting guard Ray Allen contemplates joining the team versus outright retirement.

Allen is still undecided whether he wants to return for another NBA season, or retire after 18 years in the NBA. He has reportedly been in talks with both the Rockets and Cavaliers, but is yet to speak with his former team. Allen is the NBA’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made with 2973, and has shot 40.0 percent from beyond the arc.

As recent as late June, reports swirled that Allen wished to continue playing despite being 39 years of age, hoping to do so alongside LeBron James, with whom he reportedly developed a close relationship with during their two seasons together in Miami, whether it is with the Heat or another team.

“I guess everything [is factored into the decision],” Allen told the Boston Globe during the most recent NBA Playoffs. “You get away from it, you sit down and get an opportunity to think about it. It depends on how my body feels. I love the condition I’ve been in over the last couple of years. It’s just a natural progression.”

With the trading away of Jarrett Jack and the loss of CJ Miles, the Cavs continue to look for floor-spacing shooters who can hit open shots in the event defenses converge upon James or point guard Kyrie Irving. Miller and Allen would both fit this mold, the former recently turning down more money from the Denver Nuggets to join James in Cleveland.

[Related: What’s Next for the Cavs in Free Agency?]

 

Erik Spolestra speaks on LeBron’s return to Cleveland

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[LeBron] seemed at peace with the decision. We don’t have any regrets. He shouldn’t have any regrets. It was a historic four-year run. This league does teach you that it’s inevitable that there’s constant change and you always have to continue to embrace change, adapt with change. This is a big, monumental change that we didn’t necessarily anticipate but you have to respect it because when you’re a free agent in this league you have the right to make a decision that’s best for you and your family. When he made that decision that was best for his family, where his heart is, all you can do from our side is respond with respect and love.

— Miami Heat coach Erik Spolestra in an interview with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, speaking for the first time since LeBron James decided to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers via free agency. In his essay that was posted on SI.com, James attempted to squash any talk of a rift between him and the coach, saying “I’m doing this essay because I want an opportunity to explain myself uninterrupted. I don’t want anyone thinking: He and Erik Spoelstra didn’t get along. … He and [Heat president Pat Riley] didn’t get along. … The Heat couldn’t put the right team together. That’s absolutely not true.”

Drake looking to buy property in Cleveland, insists he’s not a ‘bandwagon fan’

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Who didn’t see this one coming? Hip-hop star and friend of anyone who wins things, Drake, is reportedly looking to lock up some of Cleveland’s incredibly affordable real estate following LeBron James’ decision to return home.

In an interview with Complex Magazine, Drake, whose real name is Aubrey Drake Graham, says that the recent additions of LeBron and (TOPSZN Crew’s own) Johnny Manziel will lead to a new residence with a 216 (or 440) area code.

“Of course, I’m gonna go watch games in Cleveland. If not for LeBron—who I said is a brother to me, we’ve got three kids from Toronto on one team, plus Manziel who is part of our family and our brother,” Drake said “I definitely have to look into some real estate in Cleveland and spend some months of the year out there. Like I said, my teams will always forever be who they are but I will support the group who has shifted to Cleveland.”

Drake hails from Canada, so his affinity for players like Tristan Thompson and Andrew Wiggins makes some sense. But lest you think that Drake is a front-running sports fan, recently claiming he has been a life-long fan of the Kentucky Wildcats following their run in the NCAA Tournament, he would like you to think otherwise.

“I’d like to say that despite what everyone on the Internet thinks, I do not team jump. In the past I’ve always supported the player and not the institution—unless we’re talking about the Kentucky Wildcats and the Toronto Raptors; I will never stray from them. But whether it comes to soccer or football or basketball, I have a lot of friends that play for a lot of teams. I’m not team jumping. I’m a supportive friend.”

Drake already has his Manziel jersey. A new LeBron one—with a rumored new number—shouldn’t be too far behind.

“For Cleveland, a place that I’ve been to time and time again when I’ve been to touring, it’s gonna be great for them,” he said. “I’d love to see them grow.”

 

Video: Johnny Manziel pitches Nike’s new Vapor Ultimate cleats

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The Nike Vapor Ultimate Men’s Football Cleat is said to combine Flyknit and Flywire technology with “innovative design” to give athletes secure support, molding to their foot for superior traction and explosive speed. These were years in the making. And they now has “Professional” Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel as it’s first pitchman for the 2014 NFL season who says “it’s the best cleat he’s ever put on his feet.

Check it out below:

If these bad boys can help Manziel be faster, well, sorry opposing defenses. They can also be yours for a cool $250, available at NikeStore.com.

Kyrie Irving selected to join Team USA for 2014 Training Camp

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Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving will take his shiny, new contract extension to Las Vegas where he will join 18 other NBA players as members of this summer’s U.S. national team roster.

Irving will join a litany of point guards—Chicago’s Derrick Rose, Portland’s Damian Lillard, and Golden State’s Steph Curry—as some of the hand-picked talents to potentially represent the country in the World Cup of Basketball in Spain in late August.

The Americans previously announced a 28-player pool in January, though it was planned that mainstays LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul would sit out this summer and perhaps come back at the 2016 Summer Games. USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said the roster could be trimmed to 15 after the camp in Las Vegas that begins July 28, with the final 12 selected soon thereafter.

Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, James Harden and Anthony Davis were four holdovers from London Olympic Games. The rest of the roster includes Rose, Lillard, Curry, Klay Thompson, Blake Griffin, Paul George, Damian Lillard, Gordon Hayward, DeMarcus Cousins, Bradley Beal, Andre Drummond, Kenneth Faried and Kyle Korver.

ESPN.com’s Marc Stein considers Irving, who has missed 34 games due to injury over the last two seasons, to have a “strong claim” on the final roster.

(Photo: Scott Sargent/WFNY)

LeBron did attempt to recruit players to Cleveland prior to The Decision

LeBron James Carmelo Anthony Amare Stoudemire Dwyane Wade

So, remember all of that “LeBron didn’t try to recruit” talk that swirled shortly after July 8, 2010? Turns out that may have been rooted entirely in inaccuracies.

In a story from Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne (who is quietly becoming one of the best NBA reporters in the world), James attempted to recruit Ray Allen, Chris Bosh, Trevor Ariza and Dwyane Wade as potential members of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Sure, they wanted to play with him. Who wouldn’t? But not in Cleveland. James was the one with a connection to the place, not them. If he wanted to win, he would have to sever those ties and go somewhere where other stars would join him.

The entire story is a must-read and features former Cavs guard Damon Jones who remains close to James, as well as current Cavs center Anderson Varejao. Every sentence is reported. You see just how important relationships are to the four-time MVP.

The waters continue to clear up. Some of it may already under the bridge, meaning little outside of the loose ends that get tied tight. Much of it, however, exists ahead.

Chris Trotman/Getty Images For Nike

 

You Guys are the Best: While We’re Waiting

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Man, did I pick one hell of a week to go on vacation… Anything happen while I was out? Oh, you don’t say…

Many of the takes on LeBron James returning to Cleveland appear to be rooted in storybook-like happiness. Josh Levin over at Slate referred to The Decision 2.0 as the antithesis of the first one—this time, things were heartfelt and, well…right. “We evaluate athletes as much on their self-presentations as their statistics,” he writes. “We want star players to say the right thing, and we want them to say it in the exact right way.” The way that The Return unfolded—rumors and cupcakes and flight-tracking notwithstanding—was perfect. The Decision, the first one with Jim Gray and the Boys and Girls Club, was a product of James’ management team and ESPN collaborating to ultimately provide one of the biggest debacles in live sports television. This time around, he did it his way.

Two of the best pieces I’ve read to this point on the very matter come from Cleveland-native Joe Posnanski over at ProBasketballTalk

There is something about the city that gets inside you and never lets go, something about what it feels like the first day you can see grass poking through the snow after a long winter, something about Cleveland blue skies, something about the way the streets intersect and the many accents you cross, something about the way the restaurants and bars are given first names like “Eddie’s” and “Corky and Lenny’s,” something about the sports mix of hope and gloom that swirls like gin and tonic. [...]

Of course I’m happy he’s coming back to Cleveland. I’m happy because he instantly makes the Cavaliers a serious playoff contender in the weak Eastern Conference and good things can and should build from there. I’m happy because my hometown gets a win, something Cleveland doesn’t get enough of. I’m happy because NBA fans — not just Cleveland fans — are in love with this story; I received countless texts and emails from people saying, essentially: “I love LeBron James now.”

I’m happy because as a sportswriter this is an incredible story, perhaps even unprecedented, a superstar at the height of his game coming back home to try and win a championship for a city that hasn’t had one in a half century. There will probably be movies about it. This says so much about the man LeBron James has become that he could see the opportunity in Cleveland for him to do something singular. This sentence in his essay speaks to how LeBron thinks now:

“My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio.”

It is almost enough to make a Clevelander cry.

But more than anything, I’m happy because James is happy. “The more time passed,” he wrote, “the more it felt right. This is what makes me happy.” People will talk about hard feelings and who forgave who, they will talk about Miami’s missteps that might have caused this, they will form theories about it all. But maybe, just maybe, it came down to this. LeBron James is from Northeast Ohio. And he is one of us.

… and Jay Caspian Kang over at the always-spectacular New Yorker.

The sportswriting scolds of America have had their Red Weddings over the past ten years at the hands of the quants, the über-scolds, and the sort of writer who feeds sports (and everything else) through the postmodern machinery of his or her liberal-arts education. (As someone near the last of these camps, I would like to say that I miss the old scolds. Vive le Mushnick!) And so, while I’m sure there will be some column space filled about how Cleveland fans should not “accept” LeBron back and some catastrophic metaphors/cosplay-narratives about jilted girlfriends and dignity, the overwhelming mood among basketball fans waiting for LeBron’s announcement felt both anxious and celebratory. Fans of the underdog couldn’t help but root for Cleveland, a city that hasn’t won a championship since 1964. Lovers of family, small towns, and happy endings must have teared up a bit at the thought of the embattled hero, still stinging from a humiliating defeat at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs, limping back home.

Conversely, there’s this from CBSSports.com’s Matt Moore, who attempts to pin all of the unfortunate things that have happened to the Cavaliers on majority owner Dan Gilbert where the role of the unfortunate—as if decades of losing is anything but—is played by the general manager of the Houston Rockets, Daryl Morey.

He took shortcut after shortcut trying to get back to the playoffs. There was no patience, no rebuilding plan. Drafting Dion Waiters, trying to nab a transcendent surprise talent. Signing Jarrett Jack. Keeping Anderson Varejao. The Cavs spurned a methodical, well-planned rebuild in favor of a win-now-at-all-costs approach. And it was catastrophic. In a system like the NFL, where the worst team gets the No. 1 overall pick and so on, the Cavaliers would have been stuck in neutral, trying to find their way out of mud Gilbert put them in.

I understand the basis for Moore’s thoughts—I’ll be the first to admit that winning three NBA Lotteries in four years is teetering on absurd. But to pin all of the bad on the shoulders of Gilbert borders on confirmation bias. Yes, Gilbert penned a letter following James’ departure; yes, he wanted to get back into the playoffs as soon as possible. But it was Chris Grant who drafted Dion Waiters and Anthony Bennett, and signed Jarrett Jack and Andrew Bynum. But it was also Grant who, with the backing of Gilbert’s wallet, traded Mo Williams for the pick that ultimately became Kyrie Irving. It was also Grant who, with the backing of Gilbert’s wallet, traded John Leuer for what will be a first-round draft pick from the Memphis Grizzlies. (These two moves were mysteriously omitted from the owner-versus-GM referendum.)

Dan Gilbert is far from the Patron Saint of the NBA. He’s vocal. He can be overbearing. He may not deserve anything. But you can’t have it both ways.

***

Media-curious fans will find this interesting: A day-by-day diary of life at The Plain Dealer, wherein graphics people were constantly wrestling with the what-to-do decisions that came with a will-he-or-wont-he rumor mill in addition to how they came up with the “HOME” cover.

***

Catapult that commentary, kids. It’s time for this week’s edition of #ActualSportswriting

Nothing to see here” by David Fleming (ESPN The Magazine): “On the far left side of the locker room, in front of his stall, Michael Sam wrapped himself in a towel, grabbed some shampoo and walked across the room that during OTAs can reach nearly twice its normal capacity. Then he arrived at a pattern of tiny gray-and-blue linoleum tile, thereby breaking the ultimate taboo in men’s team sports: an openly gay man showering with his NFL teammates.”

The Rio the World Cup didn’t show” by Wright Thompson (ESPNFC): “On the surface, there has been no unrest or unhappiness during the World Cup, but beneath there’s been a hidden battle to make sure nothing got in the way of the party Brazil was throwing for the world. There was an alleged shootout in a favela between drug traffickers and the Brazilian army a few hours after the Brazil match on Tuesday. Did you read about it? Did you see it on the news? Today, maybe there will be a big protest — one is scheduled for the afternoon — or maybe it won’t escalate beyond a few hundred marchers because movement leaders are sitting in jail cells.” 

Adam Wainwright, the Elite Bridesmaid” by Shane Ryan (Grantland): “It’s a thing of absolute beauty, slow and wonderful, breaking nine inches to the left (fourth-best among starters) and nine inches down (seventh-best).”

Inviting the Nightmare (Donte Stallworth seeks redemption)” by Robert Klemko (MMQB): “Stallworth took the podium in an amphitheater at the Bertram Hotel four times last week, flanked each time by the president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. He delivered the talk he’d rehearsed in the hotel room. It has been nearly a year since he was last on a roster (Washington cut him last August), and he’s five years removed from March 14, 2009, the morning that delivered him here.”

 

***

First off: I could really link to every entry in Wright Thompson’s “blog” that ESPN FC has been publishing during the World Cup. The work that those guys allocated toward this event was second to none. Between Wright, Chris Jones, Pablo S. Torre and a handful of others, they wrote in a way where one didn’t have to be a soccer fan to fully enjoy the time, effort and care put into their words. If you haven’t read their stuff, go do it—you’re only cheating yourself. The fact that they considered his work a “blog” should only stand to raise the bar for everyone else who does the same.

Secondly: This.

I’ve been a longstanding member of #TeamUncensored. It always strikes me as odd when reporters choose to self-edit quotes, especially in instant mediums like Twitter et al., when disseminating such to readers. We have a long-standing policy of being “Family Friendly” here at WFNY, which I still stand by in many regards, but I also couldn’t agree more with Richard in this instance—that lede would simply have not been the same had “shit” been supplanted with any other form of the word. (Especially “poop.” Who says that?)

There’s a chasm between egregious and effective. Any ill-constructed, lazy sentence is, in many instances, worse than one that is carefully crafted with some form of word choice that could be considered “swearing.” Kudos to Jay Lovinger, assuming he was the one to push Wright’s words through the flimsy, arbitrary filter that I can only hope is evaporating with every piece of quality work that requires it.

***

And finally, a big thank you from me to all of you—for sticking with us through the last four-plus years of miserable sports, where posts that discussed the doldrums were not only more frequent, but received way more attention. It’s beginning to look like those days are slowly coming to an end. It’s Cleveland, so sure—there will be some downs with our ups. But with the Browns appearing to be on the rise, the Indians heading into the break at .500 and the Cavaliers having one of the biggest off seasons in all of professional sports, the Waiting looks like it’s starting to pay some dividends.

Cheers, kids.

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