Waiting For Next Year http://www.waitingfornextyear.com ...a tradition of hope, passion, and misery Fri, 31 Oct 2014 21:19:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 LeBron James and the Cavaliers home opener – WFNY Podcast – 2014-10-31 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/lebron-james-cavaliers-home-opener-wfny-podcast-2014-10-31/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/lebron-james-cavaliers-home-opener-wfny-podcast-2014-10-31/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 21:19:28 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=133535 Brian Spaeth and Craig Lyndall were both at the Cavaliers’ home opener against the New York Knicks. This is their account of the experience of being downtown for this monumental moment in Cleveland sports history. LeBron played a basketball game and it didn’t matter The concert on East 4th street Usher’s National Anthem and the

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Brian Spaeth and Craig Lyndall were both at the Cavaliers’ home opener against the New York Knicks. This is their account of the experience of being downtown for this monumental moment in Cleveland sports history.

  • LeBron played a basketball game and it didn’t matter
  • The concert on East 4th street
  • Usher’s National Anthem and the Cavs fan sing-along
  • The ill-fated fan-interactive “chalk toss”
  • The volume on the scene versus the volume of the crowd on TV
  • The party scene downtown

We also discussed the Cavs newsletter from today in depth. Make sure you subscribe, but if you want to read what we were talking about, click it here.

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Who wants to see LeBron James dressed as Flo from Progressive? http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/wanted-see-lebron-james-dressed-flo-progressive/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/wanted-see-lebron-james-dressed-flo-progressive/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 19:35:59 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=133519 Well, you clicked on it, so you, obviously… LeBron James (or one of his people) put this picture of the superstar up with a “Happy Halloween” message. Makes me wonder just how much LeBron might have gotten in order to make this his “Halloween Costume.” I am on record multiple places saying how much I

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Well, you clicked on it, so you, obviously…

LeBron James (or one of his people) put this picture of the superstar up with a “Happy Halloween” message. Makes me wonder just how much LeBron might have gotten in order to make this his “Halloween Costume.” I am on record multiple places saying how much I hate dressing up and how little I liked Halloween as a kid. So it really makes me wonder how many zeroes I’d need in a check in order to bust out the wig and corporate gear that Flo wears on TV.

Maybe I can tweet at Darren Rovell to find out.

LeBron as Flo

Makes me wonder where all this started… Maybe back in 2012 with some tweet flirting?

Or maybe not…

Well not until now, anyway.

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Jordan Cameron out for Browns against Buccaneers http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/jordan-cameron-browns-buccaneers/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/jordan-cameron-browns-buccaneers/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 19:06:22 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=133511 We all suspected this as a likely outcome after the hit Jordan Cameron took last week that knocked him out of the game. We all suspected it after counting them up and realizing this is Jordan Cameron’s third concussion in the past two seasons. This is where things start to get scary in and around

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We all suspected this as a likely outcome after the hit Jordan Cameron took last week that knocked him out of the game. We all suspected it after counting them up and realizing this is Jordan Cameron’s third concussion in the past two seasons. This is where things start to get scary in and around football these days.

Mike Pettine was asked about the long-term implications of the piling up of concussions

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to do it right at this time when it’s still fresh and [he's] recovering from it,” Pettine said when asked about long-term concerns. “We’ll see how long it takes and the severity of this one. If that’s something we need to address we will.”

In the meantime, even as concussions continue to be a real part of the NFL and football culture in general, I am heartened how the conversation has changed around the issue. Instead of scoffing at head injury questions and playing it off like it’s no big deal, it seems all the way from the player ranks to the coaching ranks, we might see a real shift. For every quote like Mike Pettine’s that doesn’t diminish the real danger, we might avoid one more psycho “ACT LIKE A MAN” coach somewhere else in the ranks of football coaching.

You have to hope, anyway.

I remember reading these quotes from Austin Collie, who also suffered three concussions (that we know of) during his NFL career as he was searching for a new team. When asked about the concussion issue, he was rather… um… dismissive of the dangers.

“I’ll sign a waiver, all right?” he said. “They’re not going to have to worry about me suing. I’ll hold myself to be accountable.”

As if player safety and continued brain health of a guy under contract to an NFL team should just be about not having liability for some potential permanent disability… I mean I’m sure that liability is a big issue, but I’d like to think it’s far from the primary one, at least going forward.

I’m obviously hoping Jordan Cameron is back for the game against the Bengals, and yes there are a lot of selfish reasons for that, but most of all, I hope he’s feeling better. The reports of post-concussion symptoms are scary.

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The Sights of LeBron’s Return to Cleveland http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/sights-lebrons-return/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/sights-lebrons-return/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 18:45:34 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=133463 Check out all the sights of downtown Cleveland.

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KING JAMES RETURNED AND BROUGHT THOUSANDS OF CAVS FANS WITH HIM
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Bill and Bernie’s 1993 Power Struggle http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/bill-belichick-bernie-kosar-1993/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/bill-belichick-bernie-kosar-1993/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 18:28:31 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=133472 Wherein "diminishing skills" lives on in infamy.

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Cleveland Browns fans were ready to start winning again. Head coach Marty Schottenheimer’s title-contending team was aging. The annual tinkering of the roster with the intent to beat Denver Broncos’ QB John Elway had resulted in a last-place team by 1990. The architect of the offense, Lindy Infante, was long gone. As was Schottenheimer himself—and finally, his replacement, Bud Carson.

Two years earlier, team owner Art Modell had interviewed young head coach by the name of Bill Belichick before signing Carson. In 1991, he tabbed the Bill Parcells disciple—a man in his late 30s whom some said was the brains behind the powerhouse New York Giants’ defense led by linebacker LB Lawrence Taylor—as his head coach. Noteworthy were the referrals and compliments Modell received from such luminaries as Indiana Hoosiers basketball coach Bob Knight. Public validation was at the heart of Modell’s world. It was what he was all about.

Notable football men—including his father, a former coach and scout—proclaimed that Bill Belichick was ready to be a great NFL head coach. We fans seemed to barely notice the common rejoinder: “…if preparation and hard work are how you measure it…” What we fans knew was that we had a historically bad (up to then) team, and here was the smart young coach of the best defense in the league, coming to restore greatness to the shores of Lake Erie. Through his father, he had been steeped in the ways of football his entire life. He understood our winning history, and how deeply the Browns are woven into the fabric of Ohio.

Early on, we began to see our head coach begin to behave like an ass. The media hated it, but a lot of fans like me weren’t concerned about that.1 But it was odd, the way the new coach went out of his way to show people he couldn’t care less for them. At home against the Dallas Cowboys, injuries had decimated the Browns, and quarterback Troy Aikman carved them up. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones paced the Dallas sideline, clapping and cheering. There really was nothing to be ashamed of, losing to the up-and-coming Cowboys. Then again, shame was not a trait that one would ascribe to Belichick, anyway. In the post-game press conference- a time when NFL coaches hang in there for a good while and provide thoughts and quotes for the media—he tried to escape after the third question. He earned the nickname, “Mumbles,” on that very day.

Thereafter, he willfully dissed the press. He was known to hold press conferences while riding an exercise bicycle, or while eating lunch—and belching. A workaholic, he had his coach’s television show taped at 5:50 a.m. He’d step away from his brief night’s sleep on his office cot, and tape the show wearing an old sweatshirt, even though his wife would send him fresh sweaters, in vain. He’d mumble through the show while yawning. The clear message was that the media wasn’t worthy of his time. They weren’t smart enough to understand, anyway. Same went for the fans. He reportedly once said, “I don’t give a damn what the fans think.” The media would begin to turn on him, and he didn’t care.

♦♦♦


He was known to hold press conferences while riding an exercise bicycle, or while eating lunch—and belching.

Over the next couple seasons, Mumbl—er, Bill Belichick—went about the serious business of turning over the aging Browns’ roster. Apparently, the team had grown soft, and was now suffering from culture shock under the relatively extreme physical and mental expectations of the coach. Training camp and practices were physically grueling. There was constant roster turnover, and the coach’s withdrawn nature fostered confusion within the team. But through some adequate (not great) drafting- and an infusion of some ex-Giants, the team was becoming transformed.

After a 6-10 record in 1991, and a 7-9 mark in 1992, it was time for the team to take a step up and reach the playoffs. Prior to the season, veteran inside linebacker (and one-time Buckeye) Pepper Johnson was signed away from the Giants. Oversized defensive lineman Jerry Ball was lured from the Detroit Lions, and physical, yet mobile-as-a-guard Steve Everitt was drafted out of the University of Michigan in the first round to anchor the center position. These moves were to bolster the team up the middle, which is one of the tenets of a Bill Belichick football team. (Previous Belichick first-rounder picks were fullback Tommy Vardell and safety Eric Turner.)

Also garnering attention around the league was the Browns’ signing of six year veteran quarterback Vinnie Testaverde from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was the embattled five year veteran of a bad Bucs team that was trying to lift itself out of its expansion-era doldrums (yes, very similar to the present-day Browns). The media and fans in Florida had turned on Vinnie, and the former No. 1 pick wore the label of ‘draft bust’. Vinnie was ostensibly signed to back up Bernie Kosar.

After an opening day win against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Browns remained in Cleveland for Game 2, a Monday night affair vs. the Super Bowl-contending San Francisco 49ers. The Niners had played in the NFC Championship Game the previous season, and boasted the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in QB Steve Young. His favorite target was future Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, and stopping that offense was a tall task.

Monday Night Football in 1993 may not have been more hyped than it is today, but it arguably commanded the attention of a larger proportion of the sporting world. The media flocked to the games. Even Ohio media from towns such as Columbus and Dayton set up announcer tables outside Cleveland Stadium the evening of the Niners game, running their own pre-game analysis and advertising.

On football’s biggest stage, the Browns had a chance to prove to the world that they were back. They received the opening kickoff, and on the first play from scrimmage, Kosar took the snap and dropped back. They caught the Niners by surprise, as wide receiver Michael Jackson sprinted near the right sideline past the defense and was wide open. Kosar’s pass was on target- and shot right down though Jackson’s hands, at his midsection, falling harmlessly to the field. Viewers sat there, thinking: Jackson could have caught that ball with his elbows/Maybe he should have tried that/Oh well, that was our chance to catch them by surprise/We don’t have the kind of offense that can withstand blowing opportunities like that.

Incredibly, another first-quarter touchdown was negated by a penalty. But the Browns would move the ball well all night. In fact, other than those miscues, almost everything else went Cleveland’s way. They blocked a field goal try. Jackson redeemed himself by catching a 30 yard pass for a touchdown from Kosar. Young fullback Touchdown Tommy Vardell converted fourth down and short twice, out of the “Jumbo” formation2.

The Browns defense dominated the formidable Niners throughout. Rice was a non-factor, and Young was harassed throughout the game. Safety Eric Turner, linebacker Clay Matthews and cornerback Selwyn Jones each had an interception. Jerry Ball sacked the 49ers quarterback in the fourth quarter, forcing a fumble in Cleveland territory. Linebacker Michael Dixon recovered the ball at the Browns’ 33 yard line, snuffing out a San Francisco scoring threat. It all added up to a 23-13 Browns win that wasn’t really that close.

The Browns, six point underdogs entering the game, emerged with a 2-0 record to start the season. The fortunes of the team were looking up. It was beginning to look like this Bill Belichick guy was going to work out just fine. Winning pushed aside any animosity fans may have had over his dour, acerbic manner.

The Browns improve to 3-0 with a last-second road win over the Los Angeles Raiders. Throughout much of the afternoon, it had appeared the lifeless Browns offense would be unable to muster a score against the Raiders. To start the fourth quarter, Belichick substituted backup quarterback Vinny Testaverde for Kosar. Testaverde led the Browns to a 41-yard Matt Stover field goal, but things still appeared grim. Down 16-3, Testaverde (who had also backed up Kosar at the University of Miami, and is twelve days his elder) led the Browns to two late touchdowns. The last score came on a nail-biter, with an Eric Metcalf sweep with two seconds remaining. Browns win!

♦♦♦

This story involves an instance of a football player who publicly flouts the authority of his head coach. Let’s have a little fun with that theme. We all have stories from our past that make us smile; many involve activities that ran contrary to the ‘rules’. I’d like to share with you one of mine today.

Do you remember the biggest laugh you ever had, in your life?

Once, maybe in fourth grade, we boys were seated at the portable, rectangular tables in the gym. It was lunch time. The stern directive at that time was that no blowing of straw wrappers was allowed. It was a big deal, so it must have gotten out of hand at one point. Anyway, everyone had finished eating, and the gym was getting louder and louder with shouting and other various sounds kids make. Typical stuff. Amid the din, one boy- Danny- produced a straw, with the paper wrapper intact. He tore away an end, slid the wrapper up about one inch, and twisted the loose portion. A few of us noticed, and waited to see if he had the guts to ‘do it’. We wanted him to, of course. We looked around, and no teachers were in sight. Only Larry, the quiet, easy going janitor was there, leaning against the wall in the opening to the hallway. He was wearing his typical garb, a work shirt and pants not unlike those of a gas station attendant. He wasn’t really watching us- he left us alone for the most part. He was probably just waiting for lunch to end so he could haul away the trash.

It was like a scene from a movie, when the noise fades to background buzz as the concentration of a few becomes focused. Danny put the straw to his mouth, tilted his head straight back, and blew. Nobody else seemed to notice. The wrapper rocketed upward, toward the high ceiling of the gym. We watched as it crested, then began its descent. The direction of its arc was toward the hallway. Toward Larry. The wrapper shot straight down- and buried itself halfway into Larry’s shirt pocket. We waited for a second; Larry had been looking the other way, and hadn’t noticed it! We looked around the table, to see who had watched this one-in-a-million shot. A couple of us started giggling. Within a few seconds, all the boys knew. Our laughter began to take on a life of its own. Nobody was laughing at Larry, but we all shot looks his way. He eyed us and chuckled some with a quizzical look. He remained leaning against the wall. Some of us were laughing so hard we couldn’t breathe, and our stomachs hurt. Finally, one of the boys looked at Larry and pointed to his shirt. Larry looked down, pulled out the straw wrapper, and began laughing as well as he crumpled the wrapper and stuck it in his pants pocket.

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Belichick’s phrase, “diminishing skills”, would echo through the annals of Browns history, perhaps forever.

The next game was in Indianapolis, where the Browns found themselves down 6-0 at halftime. To begin the third quarter, Kosar was removed in favor of Testaverde, who drove the Browns to a touchdown in four plays. Cleveland’s lead was short-lived, as they fell to the Colts.

Vinnie Testaverde was inserted as quarterback for the third straight game, against Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins. The Browns led at the half, 14-10. Their fans had relaxed a bit as Marino suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon. Unfortunately, the meter on their emotions soon would be pegged at “horror” as Dolphins backup Scott Mitchell led Miami to two touchdowns and a victory. (This game ‘earned’ Mitchell a rich free agent contract in the offseason, although he’d never play that well again.)

Bill Belichick, who liked to declare he could “only go by what I see”, was sufficiently impressed by what he’d seen in Vinny Testaverde. Kosar was benched in favor of Testaverde for the next game, in Cincinnati. Nobody could dispute the results of that game: a 28-17 win to sweep the Bengals. Testaverde had staked the Browns to a 21-0 lead as they coasted to the easy win.

But the Cleveland fans—and media—were restless. Some Browns fans’ opinion was that Kosar was pouting; many didn’t agree, and to hardly any did it matter. He’d earned the right to be ‘our’ quarterback. I will forever maintain that had the Browns focused on keeping the offensive line stocked, he could have been a Hall of Fame quarterback. He was extremely accurate, could throw it far enough, and he often rose to the occasion in a big game. And nobody ever claimed he lacked the brainpower.3

The Pittsburgh Steelers came to Cleveland for Game 7, with first place in the AFC Central up for grabs. Cleveland led, 14-0, before falling behind 23-21 in the fourth quarter. Vinnie Testaverde had two touchdown passes to his credit, but was sidelined late in the game with a separated shoulder. Bernie Kosar entered the game to a deafening chorus from the home fans.

The Browns beat the Steelers, staking their claim to first place with a 5-2 record. But it wasn’t due to the heroics of the favorite son, Kosar. The hero on this day was Eric Metcalf. Cleveland’s electric punt returner scored on two long returns, the final dagger coming with about two minutes remaining in the game. The division-leading Browns were sky-high as their bye week approached.

With Testaverde out with the injured shoulder, Bernie Kosar got the Game 8 home start against John Elway and the Denver Broncos. The Browns lost, 29-14, but the game was not even that close. With nine seconds remaining, Kosar threw a bomb to WR Michael Jackson for a touchdown – it was soon disclosed that in a move designed to defy his head coach, Kosar had drawn up the play in the dirt, while in the huddle. The Browns’ coaches did not have input into the play.

The very next day, Bill Belichick cut Bernie Kosar. He’d had his fill of the veteran starter, and had convinced Art Modell and the rest of the team brass; the decision was announced as “unanimous”. Belichick’s phrase, “diminishing skills”, would echo through the annals of Browns history, perhaps forever.

A huge problem Belichick had in cutting Kosar was that Vinnie Testaverde was still out with the shoulder. Third string quarterback Todd Philcox was tabbed to start the next game, in Seattle. The Browns committed seven (7) turnovers in a thoroughly disgusting display, and finished the season losing six of their final eight games as they staggered to a 7-9 record.

Countless Browns fans were- and perhaps remain- outraged. Belichick’s pyrrhic victory over the local icon was viewed by observers against the backdrop of the coach’s intentional, general dismissing of media and fans since his arrival in 1991. Of note, this was also done within the context of Modell’s general modus operandi of running the Browns with public relations in mind. “Bill Must Go” chants (from the stands, to outside the stadium, to the home locker room entrance) surfaced into the 1995 season, the year when Art Modell moved the team to Baltimore after having recently lobbied to keep the NFL from inserting an expansion team in that city.

Kosar would be picked up by the Dallas Cowboys, subbing for QB Troy Aikman in a key backup role for the Super Bowl champions. He later ‘took his talents to South Beach’, notably suggesting a successful ‘fake spike’ play on which Dan Marino and Mark Ingram connected for a key touchdown.

Years later, surprised fans would learn that when Al Lerner and Carmen Policy were assembling an expansion franchise in Cleveland in the wake of Modell’s move of the team, Bernie Kosar offered his opinion on whom they should hire as head coach: Bill Belichick. The incredulous braintrust declined.

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Footnotes:

  1. Personally, I could not have cared less if Tony Grossi got his feelings hurt by the leader of our next NFL playoff team. Just win.
  2. Belichick liked to ram the ball straight into the line on short yardage plays. I loved it when he removed his head set, stepped onto the field toward the offense, and punched his fist at them: PUNCH IT IN!
  3. I once read an assessment from a Kosar admirer in the league. He noted how many players squinted, or closed their eyes, at key moments under pressure. He talked about how Kosar was the rare athlete whose eyes widened in such moments.

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LeBron returns home: WFNY On Location http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/lebron-returns-home-wfny-location/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/lebron-returns-home-wfny-location/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 16:29:56 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=133443 The center of the free world was Cleveland, Ohio on Thursday as tens of thousands flooded downtown to witness the homecoming of LeBron James. The event which LeBron suggested was “one of the biggest sporting events ever” brought out all the big names as Spike Lee, Usher, Justin Bieber, Joe Haden, and of course Johnny Manziel—all were inside The

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The center of the free world was Cleveland, Ohio on Thursday as tens of thousands flooded downtown to witness the homecoming of LeBron James. The event which LeBron suggested was “one of the biggest sporting events ever” brought out all the big names as Spike Lee, Usher, Justin Bieber, Joe Haden, and of course Johnny Manziel—all were inside The Q to be homage to the king’s return. The night was more than a basketball game played for the 20,000 plus inside the arena, but was a celebration for a people and a city that sprawled from East 4th to West 25th and from man caves in Medina to lofts in Los Angeles. The boys from WFNY wouldn’t dare miss a night like this, here’s what some of the gang had to say about the night.

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Scott: About eight months ago, I wrote about my experience in New Orleans for the NBA’s All-Star weekend, one that just so happened to be during the start of Mardi Gras. The foot traffic, the parties, the all-around aura of excitement and happiness that was pouring out of every participant—not since then have I experienced an event wherein an entire city got together out of anticipation, but mostly out of celebration. There was just that feeling that so much had been lifted off of our collective sports shoulders, one that was so gratifying that standing nuts to butts on East 4th street with the mere hope that you could somehow get to the other end was completely OK. Fans couldn’t get into the Kendrick Lamar show, so they sat on the walls of near-by parking structures—that cement slab was comfortable enough.

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I’m not sure how the game looked on television or what the focus of the camera crews was, but I do know that whatever they did to show those at home what the game was like, did it absolutely no justice. The entire place stood still as the New Nike commercial played on the humongotron—HARD WORK! TOGETHER! The player introductions were simply incredible, the new 3D floor graphics are such a perfect addition to the experience. And the fan reaction when LeBron James was introduced was a sound that I will never forget.

I shot out two tweets during the entire night, one of the pre game intros and one when I got home as I wanted to soak in the entire night. But my message remains: Regardless of the loss, I’m glad I decided to go to this game as a fan as opposed to media. Anyone who felt that a win was necessary for the investment to be worthwhile is completely missing the point. No amount of money or even will be able to ever recreate the entire day as it was. It’s a day that, despite the outcome, will live on forever. I’m thrilled that I was able to be there in person.

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Kirk: Being in downtown Cleveland last night was the experience of a lifetime. I used the phrase on Twitter “indescribably euphoric” to describe my feelings during the introductions. I stand by that sentiment as I really can’t put it into words much more than that. I’m in awe of just how many people were downtown four hours before tip when I arrived, in the arena 90 minutes before tip-off, and were in their seats an hour before the game. The sea of wine and gold as well as blue and orange was truly something to behold as everybody had Cavs gear on.

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The first quarter atmosphere was very much like any game deep into the playoffs.The team’s performance quieted the crowd significantly through the middle quarters. However, when the team made the run late in the fourth quarter, the crowd got back up on their feet and made plenty of noise.

Prior to the game, the only way I could describe the scene outside was a zoo. On East 4th, it was truly bumper to bumper people. Even though the Cavs lost, it was only a minor part of what the whole night meant to a city and to a franchise.

All the in-game entertainment was fantastic. The new permanent pre game video equipment and the humongtron enhance the game watching experience for the fan even up in Loudville, which is where I was last night. It’s quite fascinating how everybody from the celebrity to the average Joe felt like they needed to be there last night, local and national. Obviously it won’t be quite like this for 40 plus home games this year, but it’s clear that every Cavs home game is going to be a city wide event.

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Ryan: I arrived downtown shortly after 5 p.m. and made my way to East 4th to check out the scene SportsCenter had been showcasing all day long. After a few steps on East 4th I was swallowed up by a swarm of people, some trying to make their way through, others looking for a place to eat or drink, but most just standing there not really knowing what to do. I liken the scene to College Gameday with the ESPN set propped up high, and hoards of onlookers standing in the background just waiting for an excuse to break out into a frenzied cheer. Although there weren’t quite as many signs in the background as there are on Game Day, the crowd was holding up giant heads of personalities from 92.3 The Fan.

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The line for the free concert outside The Q stretched for blocks upon blocks and it was clear only the truly dedicated would get in. For as amazing as the whole spectacle was downtown it wasn’t uncommon to hear complaints of “too crowded”. To me, it felt like Columbus on a Buckeyes’ game day, but packed into one or two blocks.

Unlike Scott and Kirk, I did not make it inside The Q on Thursday night, but instead watched on with hundreds of my closest friends packed into a bar like sardines. I hadn’t been at a bar that had an atmosphere this strong for a game since the USA vs. Belgium game during last summer’s World Cup.

At 6 PM, two full hours before tip off, the entire bar was partaking in the singing of Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline — a signal of the pure joy in the air. “Take Me to Church”, the soundtrack to LeBron’s latest Beats commercial, played at least five times before tip off with “Coming Home” by Diddy Money ranking number two on the bar’s top played tracks. Despite being a block from the SportsCenter set, each time the ESPN cameras showed a live shot of the city the bar erupted in cheers. It was surreal to be standing there enjoying a beer with a friend, watching him leave the bar, and then seeing him standing behind Darren Rovell on camera ten minutes later.

While I wish I could have been inside the arena, the lack of personal space a bar provides, leads way to a more intimate experience. As the crowd inside The Q stood and cheered during the player introductions, those at the bar hugged, locked arms, and leaned all over each other. Each basket scored in the first quarter garnered a reaction of a Browns touchdown. Strangers hugged, high fived, and got to know each other real fast thanks to the close quarters. If the person next to you wasn’t your friend, they became one of your besties real fast.

It was a night I’ll never forget. Sure, the Cavs lost, but the city of Cleveland won.

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Running new streets, high school bloopers, and Minus the Bear… While We’re Waiting http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/www-placeholder/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/www-placeholder/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 13:00:44 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=133350 Happy LeBron morning after folks. I have no idea if the Cavs won or not. Here’s a little inside info. I write these ahead of time. Shhh! Don’t tell anyone! Here’s hoping it’s a great day and a great weekend. “F**K! (pause) HEY!” Adrenaline dump. Tachypsychia, is the technical term, but I’ll just call it

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Happy LeBron morning after folks. I have no idea if the Cavs won or not. Here’s a little inside info. I write these ahead of time. Shhh! Don’t tell anyone! Here’s hoping it’s a great day and a great weekend.

“F**K! (pause) HEY!”

This is not me, but this approximates the jacket that I was wearing...

This is not me, but this approximates the jacket that I was wearing…

Adrenaline dump. Tachypsychia, is the technical term, but I’ll just call it an adrenaline dump. That’s what happened to me on what I’m going to assume is my last day running on the streets that I’ve been running on since we moved to Russell Ohio in 2008. We’re moving a few miles south in a couple weeks and one thing that will definitely change is my various paths and courses for running in the mornings, and it can’t come soon enough because I was *THIS* close to getting smashed into a million pieces by a car this morning. You never know what the appropriate response to nearly getting hit by a car might be, but apparently it’s “F**K! (pause) HEY!” screamed from the depths of your all-too-mortal soul.

In a lot of ways it’s my own fault. Sure, I do have a right to run on the roads. Sure, I was wearing a hyper-green-yellow reflective jacket made by UnderArmour while also wearing a headlamp. (Think miner’s light, except without the hard hat helmet.) Still, this time of year at 6 a.m. while it’s dark as night out, I can’t possibly expect to run on a street combination consisting of Caves Road and Fairmount Road – even in country-ish Russell Ohio – and expect perfect safety. At some point, regardless of my rights and what I should be allowed to do, I know I’m flirting with danger. Why else would I wear that jacket and the headlamp?

I spoke with TD on the podcast the other day and we were talking about the volatility of NFL crowds and all the fight videos that show up on Monday mornings throughout an NFL season. I’ve still never been punched in the face during a fight.1 I’ve been close to fights before and it always ends up with me getting emotional like uncontrollable crying. And there I was trying to finish my run after an adrenaline dump, whimpering with tears rolling down my face in the cold dark morning of October in Ohio.

Here’s to new neighborhoods with some bike lanes and sidewalks.2

The younger the players, the more I feel sorry for them when they commit bloopers

If I really really feel sorry for a guy, I probably shouldn’t post his video for you all to see, but alas, I am going to show it anyway. Most people have seen it around the web by now, I’m sure. It’s gone “viral” as the kids say. This quarterback had a brain fart. He was running out the clock to win the game and he forgot to run out of bounds or take a knee after the clock expired. Instead, what should have been a game-winning moment for the kid went awfully wrong and he fumbled and he gave away the game. I really hate to see stuff like this with high school players. Now that we live in this new ever-connected world, this kid gets the same blooper treatment that was once reserved for pros like Bill Buckner.

Your weekly moment of soccer zen…

Love the camera angle on this goal. Awesome.

Capping my month of music with Minus the Bear

I had quite the month of music here in Cleveland. I saw The Appleseed Cast, J Mascis and then capped it off with Minus the Bear. It was an even crazier Fall season for me including Deafheaven, Mineral and a bunch of others. It felt like I was living part time at the Grog Shop and I loved every minute of it. Minus the Bear came to town and played one of their EPs from ten years ago from front to back. I knew I had to go see that show because that includes what is likely my favorite tune by the band, “I’m Totally Not Down with Rob’s Alien.” It’s a song that goes back to when they still insisted on goofy song titles, but it’s just so damn pretty. It’s on the mix of songs that I put on my kid playlist that plays in my kids rooms when they go to sleep.

That’s it folks. That’s all I’ve got other than to recommend (again) Loom by Pompeii. I recommended it last week and I’m still totally enthralled by it. It gets better and better with every listen for me. Especially the song “So Close.” There’s something about the vocals toward the end of that one that just gets me every time.

___________________________________________________

Footnotes:

  1. There was that one hardcore show in Boston when I saw Candiria and a dude who was “dancing” hit me with a swinging backfist right to the bridge of the nose, but that doesn’t count.
  2. These kinds of stories are lies of omission between my wife and me. She’ll only find out about this if she reads my WWW this week. She’s scared enough for me when I go out running amongst the traffic.

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Cavs vs Knicks Behind the Box Score: Not the start we were hoping for http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/cavs-vs-knicks-behind-box-score-start-hoping/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/cavs-vs-knicks-behind-box-score-start-hoping/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 04:00:42 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=133425 New York Knicks: 95 Cleveland Cavaliers: 90 [Box Score] Post-Game Writing Music: Mark Lanegan Band – “Phantom Radio” The emotion was palpable. That’s not even the right word for it. As the cameras moved in on LeBron’s face before the game, you could read every last emotion he was feeling. The heightened empathy could move

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New York Knicks: 95
Cleveland Cavaliers: 90
[Box Score]

Post-Game Writing Music: Mark Lanegan Band – “Phantom Radio”

The emotion was palpable. That’s not even the right word for it. As the cameras moved in on LeBron’s face before the game, you could read every last emotion he was feeling. The heightened empathy could move anyone caught off guard to tears.

The start of this game was everything we thought it was going to be, and then some. The emotional intro videos, the starting lineups, the chalk toss, the crowd. All of it was a level of intensity unto itself.

The Cavaliers rode that energy through the start of the game and put on a show. They delivered on every promise of how good this offense has the potential to be. As the first quarter faded and the reality of an NBA game settled in on the second quarter, the energy began to dissipate. And with it, the Cavaliers turned into something very ordinary. Stagnant offense, exponential turnovers, lackluster defense, and a spirited opponent all came into play as the Cavaliers dropped their first game with LeBron James since 2010.

This wasn’t the script any of us were expecting. But I have a couple of thoughts before anyone overreacts and takes too much out of this game. First, the Cavaliers have now lost four consecutive season openers with LeBron James. They went 3-1 in season openers without him. Season openers are always a funny thing. Expectations weigh some teams down while the emotion of hope carry others.

Second, I want to go back to the last thing I wrote in the final Behind the Box Score that I did at the end of last season:

While I was writing this, the Atlanta Hawks came back and beat the Boston Celtics. That means it is officially over. The Cavaliers no longer have any scenario in which they can make the playoffs. It’s not surprising. The losses last weekend pretty much ended that. But it’s still pretty sad and disappointing to see the finality of it and to know for sure that all those preseason hopes will not be realized. Lottery, here we come again!

Before we fall into too much despair over one game, just remember the season we are coming out of as fans. The last time we saw the Cavaliers play, things were as bleak as they could possibly be. The Cavaliers were facing a mid-lottery pick, Kyrie’s impending free agency, and anyone mentioning LeBron James was incessantly mocked.

So yes, this game was a bummer. There are a couple of things worth worrying about and a whole mess of things that need work. But man was this game refreshing. Seeing the level of talent on the floor wearing Cleveland jerseys was such a stark contrast from where we left off. A bad game last year meant a 20+ point loss from a team that didn’t seem to care to give 100% effort and/or energy. This was a bad game, but it’s not the kind of thing we need to worry about until it becomes habitual. A one game sample just cannot tell us anything even remotely definitive about this team.

Now lets get into the numbers…

  • 22/5/7 – I want to start with a positive. Kyrie Irving had 22 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists along with 2 steals and a block. Kyrie was sensational in this game. He was patient early in the game and for the most part looked totally comfortable in the offense. He understood when the team needed him to exert himself, but he did it without ever seeming to really try to do too much himself. Not having the pressure of having to shoulder the load by himself is really going to do Kyrie wonders this season. He was facilitating when he was in with LeBron and Love and he was aggressive when LeBron was on the bench. This is exactly why LeBron wanted to come play with Kyrie. When LeBron is resting and the team needs to keep their foot on the pedal, Kyrie is going to be able to step up.
  • 2.8 – Ok, so lets get into LeBron. That 2.8 number was LeBron’s Player Impact Estimate (PIE) for this game. Basically, that number is meant as an estimate of a player’s impact on the game. The only Cavaliers with a lower impact in this game were Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, and Mike Miller. LeBron scored 17 points on 5-15 shooting with 5 rebounds and 4 assists. He had 8 turnovers and no steals or blocks. This was about as stunning of a game as I’ve seen LeBron play in a very long time. You could tell there were some serious nerves early in this game, and as the game progressed the nerves turned into frustration. LeBron was a team-worst -13 in plus/minus for this game. Some of LeBron’s turnovers were the result of an obvious chemistry issue, as several passes for teammates were misplaced. This is simply a matter of needing more time to generate a feel for where everyone is on the floor and where their movement tendencies are. Still other turnovers were the result of sloppy ball handling which could have been the result of nerves. Or maybe it was just rust. Whatever the case, I don’t think this is the LeBron James we will see all season long. I’ve been trying to preach all offseason that there would be growing pains. This will all take some time to gel.
  • 41-12 – The Knicks bench outscored the Cavaliers bench by a 41 to 12 margin. Much has been said and written about the Cavaliers’ role players and depth. So it was surprising not only to see the lack of bench production, but just the sheer lack of bench playing time period. Tristan Thompson played nearly twenty minutes and Matthew Dellavedova played eighteen minutes, but outside of those two, the minutes were sparse. Shawn Marion got ten minutes and Mike Miller got three. That’s it. LeBron and Kyrie played 43 minutes each with Kevin Love getting 38 minutes. On the front end of a back-to-back to open the season. So much for limiting minutes, huh? This was this first game for David Blatt, too, and maybe the minutes just kind of got away from him. Or maybe he was really desperate to deliver a win in his first game as coach. Whatever the case, this rotation (or lack thereof) simply cannot be the norm. The Cavaliers need more minutes from the bench, yes. But they also need better production. We can chalk this up to first game trial and error, but this is something to keep an eye on.
  • -2 – The Cavaliers were outrebounded by the Knicks 35 to 33. It’s funny, we talked about how this could be one of the best offensive teams of all time, and they scored 90 points on 45.7% shooting with just 22 assists. We also talked about how this could be one of the most elite rebounding teams. And they got outrebounded in their first game. It certainly wasn’t Kevin Love’s fault, as he brought down 14 rebounds. But nobody else had more than five. Anderon Varejao only had four rebounds and Tristan Thompson only had two. This is definitely an area that can and will be improved upon.
  • 60.6% – In the second half, the Cavaliers let the Knicks shoot 60.6% from the field. That is simply unacceptable. There were moments where the Cavaliers defense actually looked pretty decent. But in the third quarter especially, the offensive struggles really seemed to lead to a lack of energy on defense. The Cavaliers were giving up too much space, particularly in the frontcourt. The Knicks seemed to be able to generate almost any shot they wanted, and they were knocking down the open looks when they got them. The more the Cavaliers pressed on offense, the more they seemed to give up on defense. I’m sure Coach Blatt is going to have a lot to say about this to the team and there is still a lot of work to be done on defense.

This was the first game and certainly nothing to be worried about by itself. But now the Cavaliers have to go to Chicago on Friday night to play a Bulls team that just got done dismantling this very Knicks team. The Cavaliers are facing straight down the barrel of an 0-2 start. I can’t wait to see how this team responds.

I actually think going on the road right away might be a good thing. It will get the team away from the pressure and emotion of the phenomenal home crowd and allow them to galvanize a bit as a unit. There were flashes in this game of what the team can be. Kevin Love ripping down rebounds and throwing beautiful outlet passes. Love scoring from inside and outside, giving defenses fits in trying to figure out how to guard him. Kyrie Irving using his ball handling skills to create space and set up cutting teammates of getting to the lane himself. Dion Waiters hitting open shots in the flow of the offense. Anderson Varejao being a disruptive force.

The thing we didn’t really see much of was LeBron James. Not the LeBron James we all know, anyway. It’s a shame to have such an off game in this kind of environment, but it’s not the end of the world. All that matters now is how he comes back in Chicago and how the team responds. This is all still such a big work in progress. As I said earlier, there are things to worry about for sure, but I’m not really going to get into any of that until these worrisome things become the norm. For now, this is just one sample out of 82. We’ll know more about this team as every game passes. For now, it was just fun watching Cavaliers basketball again and seeing the collection of talent on the floor. Hopefully in Chicago we see better output and better results.

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Cleveland Sports: The Future is Now http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/cleveland-sports-future-now/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/cleveland-sports-future-now/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 19:00:47 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=133386 Let's do this.

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I don’t know what is going to happen tonight. More often than not, when one is looking forward to an event of some sort, there is and end game in mind. But with this—the Cleveland Cavaliers taking the floor for the first time in what is the 2014-15 regular season—all of the anticipation has been more focused around the unknown. What will the team look like together? How will the new coaching staff handle the rotation? What will the player introduction video be?

Every team is granted a regular season. Cleveland has long been a town where Opening Day is celebrated with incredible fervor as it is a restart button that immediately wipes away the records of the past. Every team gets a clean slate, regardless of what occurred a season ago or in the months that were to serve as downtime. But with the Cavaliers, these Cavaliers, this isn’t just the celebration of new beginnings—it’s the city-wide kicking down of the door that transitions us all from black and white to full-blown color. Ernest Byner may have fumbled. Jose Mesa may have blown that save. Craig Ehlo may still be in the fetal position somewhere on in Richfield. None of it matters. Not today.

[Related: The New LeBron James Nike commercial will give you chills]

Today is about the future. The entire summer—the cupcakes, the planes, the trades and the covert lunches with free agents—comes to an end at 8 p.m. tonight. From that point forward, the focus shifts, not on every sequence or quarter or half or game, but on April through June. Eighty-two steps, some bigger than others; each with their own unique outcome. The team will have it’s own trials and tribulations, and their work begins now. But you—the fans—get to soak in every minute knowing that you’ve put in your time. At 8 p.m. tonight, punch out. There’s an six-month-long happy hour calling your name.

This post will serve as your open thread for tonight’s action. Many of us will be in house to watch the new era of Cavaliers basketball tip off in person, but many more of us will have to watch from various locations across the world. For those not at the game or one of the 40-plus watch parties across the region, let’s have our own right here. We don’t do these often, but some events—like those that bring in Kendrick and Jay and Justin and Beyoncé—are simply bigger than others. I don’t know what will happen tonight, once the pre-game parties have come to an end and the chalk has been tossed. But I do know that, one way or another, it’ going to be special. Let’s soak it all in together.

The future is finally here. Go Cavs.

 

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Four months after “The Letter”, LeBron’s return becomes reality http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/lebron-james-letter-cleveland-cavaliers/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/lebron-james-letter-cleveland-cavaliers/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 17:15:00 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=133233 It’s around 9 a.m. on July 11, 2014 and I’m in Seattle, WA. I’m passed out, face down, drool hardening on my chin as I lay on a couch that belongs to the cousin of my college roommate, Jack. My eyes peel open as Jack’s phone buzzes across the room on the floor next to the air mattress on

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It’s around 9 a.m. on July 11, 2014 and I’m in Seattle, WA. I’m passed out, face down, drool hardening on my chin as I lay on a couch that belongs to the cousin of my college roommate, Jack. My eyes peel open as Jack’s phone buzzes across the room on the floor next to the air mattress on which he’s hibernating. Having only gone to sleep a few hours earlier after spending the wee hours of the morning singing renditions of Third Eye Blind’s “Jumper” and the Eagles “Lyin Eyes” to an empty karaoke bar, I am at the very least, a bit foggy.

I’d spent the week leading up to our trip glued to my phone, regurgitating every cupcake maker, personal trainer, and smidgen of a source that was linking LeBron James back to Cleveland. But the day before “The Letter”, while sitting on a beach, sipping IPA’s out of growlers with the Cascades as our backdrop, Jack and I decided it was time to cut off communication back in the CLE until an actual decision was made.

It felt refreshing to free ourselves of LeBron speculation as the night turned into a blur, stopping at microbrewery after microbrewery. Anyone who has indulged in more than a few IPA’s in one evening can testify to the impending headache that awaits the morning after. And sure enough, as I lay there the morning after, my head is pounding.

The room is bright. The sun has begun climbing its way up through the unusually clear Seattle skies and a cool, morning breeze wafts in through an open window.The phone vibrates again.

My first thought is that our friends back east are carrying on a group chat full of the usual nonsense that comes into ones head around lunch time on a Friday. Other than the vibrating, the room is silent as Jack and I pray the phone will shut up so we can go back to sleeping off our first night in Seattle hangover. Then the phone keeps vibrating. And vibrating. And vibrating. Finally, Jack and I both emerge out our zombie state, sit up, look over at each other and realize IT’S HAPPENED.

We scurry to our phones to read the dozens of messages piling in and find our way to SI.com where we digest the letter that will forever change the course of the city we love.

“In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.”

Talk about the ultimate cure for a hangover. Now we’re fired up. We bypass the mid-day hike we had planned, and decide to head downtown Seattle to start toasting to the return of The King. Our Uber driver quickly learns that he has a couple Clevelanders in his Prius and by ride’s end he can’t help but embrace the enthusiasm we’re spitting his way. We high five strangers, we chat up bartenders, we even click our heels in the crosswalk as if we’re posing for the ending freeze frame of an 80’s sit com. We run around Seattle with the exuberance of two Ralphies who had just received one hundred Red Ryder BB Guns under the Christmas tree. Pure nirvana.1

I believe in twenty years most Clevelanders will be able to tell you what they were doing the day the prodigal son decided to come home. Whether you were in a meeting at work when your phone started buzzing or sitting in the back of an Accounting 221 class hitting refresh on your Twitter page—we all have memories that will not be forgotten.

Over the next few months I, like countless others, have logged some serious minutes on YouTube soaking up all things LeBron. I’ve sat there and listened to Don Draper tell me over and over again how nostalgia in Greek literally means the “pain from an old wound”. How “nostalgia is a carousel, letting us travel the way a child travels. Around and around and back home again to a place where we know we are loved.”

I’ve laughed at just how ridiculous the decision was and the blowback that followed, most notably summed up in this NWO spoof.

I’ve done cable pulls with my shirt off as “Take Me to Church” pounded out of my ear buds and into my ear drum.

And let’s not forget the half dozen or so times I was driving alone at night when Skylar Gray came on my stereo, massaging tears out of my eyes with the first notes of “Coming Home”.

Four months have passed and the dream that LeBron will one day play basketball for the city that raised him is about to become reality. LeBron James is a Cleveland Cavalier. He’s hosted a “Welcome Home” event as a Cavalier. He’s taken part in media day as a Cavalier. He’s played in pre-season games as a Cavalier. All the while I continue to pinch myself, hoping, praying this isn’t a dream. On Thursday night, in front 20,562 in Quicken Loans Arena, thousands more inside Cleveland bars, man caves, living rooms, and kitchens, and millions more around the world—the ball will be tipped and we will all bear witness to a new beginning.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to describe how I feel when it finally happens—when the chalk clears, “O Fortuna” is ringing through The Q, and LeBron James is officially playing basketball for the Cleveland Cavaliers. It will bring out emotions that adjectives do no justice. The only thing that I believe to be comparable would be if I had been born deaf and on my 21st birthday Chrissy Teagan handed me a special hearing aid, placed some headphones over my ears, gave me a hug, and then as the first sounds I’d hear in my life she played for me the Hawaiian version of “Somewhere over the Rainbow”.

Unfortunately since I was born with hearing my Chrissy Teagan fantasy will have to stay just that, but the dream that the king would return one day is quickly becoming reality. The day is here. Just as I’ll never forget laying in a Seattle apartment on that July morning, reading “The Letter” for the first time, I’ll always remember where I was the day the King made his return a reality.

I’m ready, the city is ready, the world is ready. I just hope Cleveland Hopkins Airport is ready, because Flight No. 23 is clear for liftoff.

___________________________________________________

Footnotes:

  1. Pun intended

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The new LeBron James Nike commerical will give you chills http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/video-lebron-james-nike-cleveland-cavaliers/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/video-lebron-james-nike-cleveland-cavaliers/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 16:02:24 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=133389 It's incredible.

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What exists above is the brand new LeBron James Nike commercial. What exists above may be the best sports-related commercial I’ve ever seen.

One team. One city. One goal. Together.

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The Cavs’ Quest to Outrun History http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/cleveland-cavaliers-history-1964/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/cleveland-cavaliers-history-1964/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 16:00:03 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=133300 Make no mistake: 1964 is coming, and there's nothing you can do about it.

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Not since Y2K sent the technology-fearing masses scrambling to their homemade bunkers to swim amongst canned goods and astronaut food has a lone year on the calendar had the potential to bring a people to their knees like what’s about to unfold.

Sadly, no Clevelander has a chance to escape it.

This very minute, ESPN graphics teams are putting the finishing touches on Jim Brown highlight reels. Network interns are spending their days sifting through dusty back-rooms searching for footage of old Cleveland Municipal Stadium. And, most predictably, announcers across the nation are recommitting the phrases Red Right 88, The Drive, and The Fumble to memory.

Make no mistake: 1964 is coming, and there’s nothing you can do about it. The number 50 is just too round to ignore. The 365 days during the Lyndon Johnson Administration that coincided with Cleveland’s last championship will be looming over every nationally televised game, radio show and each column written about the Cavs over the next seven or so months.

The real pros are already getting a jumpstart on it.


You’re playing a different game than the rest of the league. You’re playing against history.

If you’ve lived in Cleveland for more than five minutes, you’ve seen this narrative 1,000 times before, but not like you’re about to. Not like when your city becomes the center of the basketball universe overnight and the “Prodigal Son Returns Home to Break the 50-Year Curse” narrative is in play.

But the real problem with the national obsession over 1964 is that it’s not only whipped to death more than an Austin Carr catchphrase, it’s short-sighted to boot. Of course the Cavs are title contenders with a real shot at snuffing out the whole haven’t-won-a-title thing — that’s not news. What’s not being talked about is the big picture of what this team is on track to become.

When you have the best player since Jordan in his prime, two other young All-Stars jockeying for No. 1 status in the league at their respective positions, dedicated role players, and a bench full of ring-toting veterans. You’re playing a different game than the rest of the league. You’re playing against history.

During the Mike Brown era, Cleveland fans were asked to look the other way when Larry Hughes and Mo Williams were dressed up as leading men — it was a cubic zirconia team pawned off as a diamond.

This year’s different. There’s no counterfeiting required. Instead of Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters being shoehorned into roles they never fit (no, Thompson is not morphing into Hakeem on the low post, and Dion is an offensive spark plug, not its motor), role players can simply do what they do behind the Big Three.

And the Big Three? ESPN might have to put a 25-cent peep show booth at its headquarters showing Kevin Love pick-and-rolls to satiate the number of former coaches and analysts lusting over this team’s prospects on offense.

Doug Collins’ marriage might not survive.

Over the next few years, not only does this team have a shot to wrestle the record books from Jordan’s Bulls, Bird’s Celtics, and Magic’s Lakers, but they have a chance to do it in style. Some teams are talented, some teams are fun to watch, some teams are fundamentally sound: The Cavaliers should be all that rolled into one. David Blatt’s versatile offensive philosophy coupled with the Cavs multi-faceted roster is expected to present a pick-your-poison ultimatum for opposing defenses on every play.

With the truly great teams, there’re always multiple ways to skin a cat.

The Miami Heat’s Achilles heel, and assuredly the reason LeBron moved back north, was the team’s inability to stretch the floor with reliable scorers once Dwyane Wade suddenly became 58 years old. LeBron’s four-year hiatus in South Beach did provide more than a few glimpses of what a James-led team was capable of with a real supporting cast, though.

Cleveland is going to see that in the flesh for the first time this year.

Yet, for all the anticipated fireworks on offense, the question of whether the Cavs can actually manufacture a good enough defense will be a pertinent one after last year’s strategy to play dead and pray for the best didn’t pan out as one would hope.

However, the trade exception garnered from moving Keith Bogans last month could still yield another rim protector or wing defender over the next few months, LeBron is an All-NBA defensive talent rolling out of bed, Varejao always does more than what shows up on the stat sheet, and Shawn Marion still should have a little gas in the tank as a defensive stopper coming off the bench. It’ll be up to guys like Kyrie and Dion to parlay their athleticism into something that remotely resembles effort on D for concerns to dissipate.

If they buy in, it’ll all but guarantee a long handful of years for the rest of the league. Lord knows it’s heresy to chalk up a championship, let alone a dynasty, before a season even starts in Cleveland. As with any newly constructed team, there will be a million variables that could hamstring them along the way — injuries, contracts and coaching chief among them.

But if the chips fall into place like logic dictates, the formation of this Cavs team, in this city, at this moment, could mark the start of something life-changing.

Like seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan in 1964 or something. After all, that was a hell of a year—remember?

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Return of the King — LeBron James: Game Illustrated http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/return-king-lebron-james-game-illustrated/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/return-king-lebron-james-game-illustrated/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 15:15:19 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=133325 Spoiler Alert: This guy may have a future in this league.

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I feel a little bit silly writing about LeBron James. He’s the best basketball player there is right now. I’m pretty sure I’m not the best writer there is right now. There’s a gap here.

But that’s the beauty of sports, and especially the NBA, and especially this NBA season. You don’t have to be the best anything to enjoy it. You don’t have to be the best writer, or statistician, or analyst, or even the best at sitting on the couch drinking beer. You can just lay back and lap up all of the hardwood and goodness.

And what more is there to say about LeBron, really? We know he’s a great player. We know it’s cool that he came back. We know he’s trying to have enough offspring to field his own NBA team.1 My plea to you for this season, Cavs fans, is this:

Enjoy it.

It’s going to be really, really fun. LeBron is going to do awesome things and Kevin Love is going to do awesome things and Kyrie will too and Dion and Andy and Delly and everyone else. Enjoy it as much as you possibly can. You only get to see so many teams in your lifetime. Will this one be the best—I don’t know. But it’s going to be among the most fun. LeBron is a gigantic reason for that. Let’s explore why:

LeBron James Game Illustrated

Vision Quest

LeBron is an amazing passer. We know this. It was a focal point of his very first Sports Illustrated cover story back in 2002, and it is rightly discussed among his greatest attributes. That said, I don’t know if we realize just how brilliant a passer he really is. He has been top-15 in assists per game in every one of his NBA seasons, which is absurd for a forward. Even Larry Bird didn’t do that.

LeBron’s vision, his basketball IQ, his court sense—whatever you want to call it—is off the charts. He has an incredible ability to recall previous games and events,2 and he uses that when reading whatever situation he finds himself in. As he plays more with his new team in David Blatt’s offense, his teammates will better learn where to be and what to expect. This chemistry won’t be fully formed tonight, but LeBron is the catalyst to accelerate that process. There’s a reason one of his first commercials was based on his passing:

More than his crazy court vision, it is the execution of his passes that is truly exceptional. No matter what type of pass he throws—a pocket pass off the pick-and-roll, an over the top skip to the corner, a kick out from the post—the ball goes right into his teammate’s shooting pocket. This makes for simple catch-and-shoots on the perimeter and easy finishes at the bucket. Fancy passes are no good if the receiver can’t do anything with the ball. Watch how many simple chances LeBron sets up for his teammates3:

Yeah, I think Kevin Love and company can learn to play with this guy.

FINISH HIM!

Breaking story: LeBron is really, really good at finishing at the hoop. Really, really, really, ridiculously good. He made 75% of all shots within eight feet last year,4 tops in the league. Part of this is his post game, which one (anonymous) scout called the best in the league last year. The area around the basket on his shot charts looks like the Red Wedding from Game of Thrones.

LeBron James Shot Chart

He’s even better on fast breaks. Per NBA.com’s fancy new stats page, LeBron made 87.1% of shots released within the first two seconds of the shot clock. Shooting that quickly means that the shots came off of a turnover and/or on a fast break, situations in which LeBron is almost literally unstoppable. There won’t be a ton of these opportunities—such shots accounted for less than five percent of his field goal attempts last year—but they’re money in the bank when he gets them.

Related statistic: It takes about two seconds for Kevin Love to chuck a full-court outlet pass. Again, this season is going to be fun.

Jumper

Everything about LeBron has improved since he entered the league. Few things have improved more than his jump shot. Consider this: his field goal percentage has improved every single season since 2006-07.5 The main goal of basketball is to put the ball in the basket, and LeBron has gotten better at that for seven years in a row.

Now, much of that increase is due to his efficiency around the rim. A glance at the numbers from his first tour in Cleveland and his time in Miami tell more of the story. His field goal/three-point/free throw percentages during Cavs: Take One were 47.5/32.9/74.2. In Miami, they were 54.3/36.9/75.8.

He has improved from virtually every area of the court. In Cleveland, he shot 40% between 3-10 feet; in Miami: 49%. From 10-16 feet, it was 32% in Cleveland, and 44% in Miami. He still has a little fade on his jumper, but it’s more up-and-down than it once was. He shoots with greater arc and follow-through than he once did. In short, his jumper has improved as his mechanics have become more consistent.

Perhaps most impressive is his catch-and-shoot ability. LeBron shot 47.9% on such threes last year, an elite number that put him in the company of specialists like Kyle Korver, Jose Calderon and Stephen Curry. He only averaged 1.6 catch-and-shoot threes last year, but with Kyrie Irving shouldering more of the ball-handling load, he’ll get more spot-up chances.

There will also be a couple games a month in which LeBron is just feeling it. That’s when we’ll see him launch a few heat checks—if you’ll pardon the pun—firing up jumpers from just across half-court. That’s when we’ll see him score 20 in a quarter or a dozen straight. That’s when we see his shoes glow bright green like it’s NBA Jam. That’s when we’ll remember games like this:

La Fin.

There isn’t much left to say, gang. LeBron is awesome, and if we’re lucky, he’ll get awesomer. He’s a smart player, a fast player, a strong player, a talented player. He can be a touch lazy on defense, but he can also be a lockdown defender for a few possessions at a time.

What I’m most looking forward to is the LeBron Moments. He creates plays that you remember, which is all that sports are about. You remember where you were when you saw LeBron Moments, and whom you were with. You remember the looks on your friends’ faces when LeBron dunked on all of Michigan. You remember leaping off the couch when he hit the game-winner against Orlando. You remember the pop of the crowd when the phenomenon took over in 2004:

Those moments are back. We want this team to do well, and we have high expectations, and we’re going to get upset with them from time to time because of that. We’re going to harrumph about shot selection and substitution patterns and mental lapses. We’re going to shout at the TV and throw stuff now and then. We’re going to say things out loud that no human being should ever say about another human being.

But please, please, please: remember to enjoy it. Enjoy it! Enjoy it for your fathers. Enjoy it for your friends. Enjoy it for Joe Tait. Enjoy it for yourselves. It is going to be something worth enjoying.

Go Cavs.

Previous Editions of Game Illustrated:
Kyrie Irving | Dion Waiters | Kevin Love | Anderson Varejao | Tristan Thomspon | Matthew Dellavedova | Shawn Marion | Mike Miller

___________________________________________________

Footnotes:

  1. That’s my theory, anyway.
  2. As described in this Windhorst piece
  3. Apologies that these are Heat highlights
  4. I could maybe make 75% of open layups on a Fisher-Price hoop.
  5. The numbers, in order: 47.6, 48.4, 48.9, 50.3, 51.0, 53.1, 56.5, 56.7

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Cleveland Browns Film Room: How the defense has improved http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/film-room-browns-defense-improved/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/film-room-browns-defense-improved/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 14:30:12 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=133273 The Cleveland Browns are 4-3 on the year after beating the Oakland Raiders 23-13 on Sunday. The game was a close match throughout with the Browns able to push away in the fourth quarter. The Browns have struggled on offense over the past few weeks, but in the wake of these struggles the Browns defense has

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The Cleveland Browns are 4-3 on the year after beating the Oakland Raiders 23-13 on Sunday. The game was a close match throughout with the Browns able to push away in the fourth quarter. The Browns have struggled on offense over the past few weeks, but in the wake of these struggles the Browns defense has stepped up. The unit was the key to the win versus Oakland, holding the Raiders to 13 points and forcing them to turn the ball over three times. The Browns defense struggled in the first few weeks of the season, but over the last couple weeks the defense has played closer to the people’s preseason expectations. So what have the Browns done to improve their defense? The pass coverage, third down efficiency, and rush defense are three of the improvements the defense showed in the win versus the Raiders.

Take a seat and enjoy this week’s film room! After you’re done reading, talk about what you see different with the defense in the comments.

Cleveland Browns Film Room

Pass Coverage

The Browns secondary is probably the number one improvement over the last couple weeks. On Sunday, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr completed 34 of 54 passes for 328 yards and one touchdown. This was a lot of yards, but he threw 54 passes on the day averaging only six yards per pass attempt and also threw 20 incompletions. The Browns were able to limit the big plays in the passing game, allowing only three passes over 20 yards. Here is an example of the improved pass coverage.

good-pass-coverage-compressor

This was a 1st-and-10 play late in the fourth quarter with the Browns up 16-6. This play ends up being a one yard gain in situation where the Raiders were looking for bigger chunks of yards. Here is how the play went down.

preplay good coverage assignments

The Raiders lined up with four receivers and a running back next to Carr in the shotgun. The Browns are in cover two with three corners in man-to-man coverage on the outside routes. The two deep safeties are covering the backend of the secondary, while linebacker Karlos Dansby and safety Jim Leonhard are in zone covering the underneath routes. The Browns rush four on this play.

everyone covered

As you see in this shot, the Browns are completely shadowing every single target available to Carr. This shut down coverage makes Carr have to throw the ball to his checkdown Darren McFadden. But even with him, Dansby is right on him, bringing him down immediately after the catch.

The Browns coverage has been very good over the last couple weeks. It seems like almost every player has improved his overall performance in the secondary. I think the biggest key to this upgrade in pass coverage is the play of number one corner Joe Haden. Haden has played at the shutdown level he has shown in the pass. Also, the young Justin Gilbert is playing better and growing more confident.

Third Down Defense

The Browns defense is starting to get off the field more often after third downs. The team struggled during the preseason and most of the regular season on being able to stop teams on third downs. On Sunday, the Browns held the Raiders to just 6 of 19 on third downs for a 32% first down rate. Here is an example of how the Browns are getting off the field after third downs.

full-3rd-down-stop-compressor

This was 3rd-and-2 play early in the first quarter of the game. The Raiders were driving on their second drive of the game and just needed less then two yards for the first down. The Browns were able to force an incompletion with a tip at line of scrimmage by Ahtyba Rubin. Here is how it went down.

routes on third down play

The Raiders design a quick pass to gain the first down. They line up with one receiver on the right with three tight ends on the end of the left side of the line. The three tight ends branch out to try to clear space for the underneath route by receiver Andre Holmes running left.

3rd down coverage assignments

The Browns are in a cover one with almost every player at the line of scrimmage. The Browns play man-to-man on every target in the passing game. Linebacker Karlos Dansby is in zone covering the underneath area of the passing game. Safety Donte Whitner is covering the backend of the secondary.

all covered on 3rd down

This shot shows that every target is covered tightly by the Browns secondary. No one is open for Carr. Carr attempts to throw to Holmes underneath, but the ball is tipped by Rubin at the line of scrimmage.

rubin-tip-pass-compressor

Rubin does what he is taught to do by raising his arms if he could not get to the quarterback. He was able to tip the pass causing an incompletion. This shot also shows how good the coverage was. The only player who looked open was Holmes underneath, but as you can see here, Karlos Dansby was covering the underneath route in zone and was in position to pick off the pass if it had not been tipped. The third down coverage was completely tight throughout the whole defense and allowed the defense to get off the field.

Third down defense is a lot of the times based on how good your pass coverage is. As noted earlier, the Browns pass coverage was pretty good this week. It also relies on what you do in the previous two downs. It is much easier to stop a 3rd-and-long rather then a 3rd-and-short. The Browns were able to force a few 3rd-and-longs throughout the game that allowed the defense to have an easier chance to get off the field. In order to force a long third down, a defense usually must have solid run defense and that is something the Browns had on Sunday.

Run Defense

The Browns have had a pretty horrendous run defense all season. The team gives up the third most rushing yards per game in the entire NFL. But this week versus the Oakland Raiders, the Browns only allowed 71 yards on the ground in the game. One of the biggest reasons the Browns were able to stop the Raiders run game was because of the performance of the linebackers and secondary. With the thin defensive line, the rest of the defense must rally to stop the run and versus the Raiders the team showed this ability. Here are two examples of the secondary helping out in the run game.

full-whitner-stop-compressor

This play is a 3rd-and-1 play early in second quarter. The Raiders were at midfield and driving when Whitner made a huge stop to force the Raiders to punt. Here is how the play was made.

whitner-blitz-compressor

This play was stopped because of a perfect blitz up through the right B gap. Whitner hits the gap perfectly at the right time and makes the stop on the run by fullback Jamize Olawale. The run was stuffed by Whitner with no gain and forced the Raiders to punt.

full-haden-stop-compressor

This is another play where the secondary and linebackers help make the run stop. It is a 2nd-and-3 play in the third quarter of the game. Haden tackles running back Darren McFadden for a three-yard loss. Here is how Haden made the stop.

haden-tackle-compressor

The run play is a designed counter run to the left by running back Darren McFadden. The key to defending this play comes at the end of the line by corner Joe Haden and linebacker Barkevious Mingo. They are in charge of contain and controlling the edge. On this play, both players stay true to their assignment and are in position to make the tackle. Haden shoots off the edge quickly and makes the tackle for a loss. Another key is Ahtyba Rubin is eyeing McFadden in the middle of the line and is line position to get of the block and fill the hole McFadden could have tried to run through.

The Browns run defense must be a team effort because of the lack of depth on the defensive line. The linebackers and secondary will need to keep helping out in the run game and make plays at the line of scrimmage. Hopefully this improvement is something the Browns can build on for the rest of the season.

Defensive Highlight

My defensive highlights are Paul Kruger and Joe Haden. Kruger had an exceptional game versus the Oakland Raiders. He had three sacks, five tackles, three tackles for loss, two hits on the quarterback, one pass defended, and one forced fumble. That is one of the better lines you will see all season. He made plays all game and was truly a playmaker for the Browns on Sunday.

kruger-sack-compressor

Joe Haden was very impressive in coverage versus the Raiders. According to ProFootballFocus, Haden was graded with the third highest grade on defense. Haden was targeted 13 times and allowed only seven receptions for 64 yards, according to PFF. He also had nine tackles, two passes defended, a tackle for a loss, and a fumble recovery. Haden is starting to return to his Pro Bowl form and in turn making the secondary a lot more difficult to throw against.

haden-tip-pass-compressor

Defensive Lowlight

My defensive lowlight is Jabaal Sheard. Sheard has been pretty invisible for most of the season and this week was no different. Sheard tied for the lowest grade of the week of the entire Browns defense by PFF. He has only two sacks on the year and has struggled in run defense especially with containment. He was supposed to be one of the big playmakers for the defense.

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Cleveland Cavaliers 2014-15 Predictions: WFNY Roundtable Part 2 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/cleveland-cavaliers-season-predictions-roundtable-part-2/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/cleveland-cavaliers-season-predictions-roundtable-part-2/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 13:45:37 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=133315 And we’re back! (in more ways than one!) After a season of huh and a whirlwind summer, we’re about ready to embark on the Peak Cavs era. As always before a Cleveland sports season starts, the WFNY brain trust gathers to give their thoughts on some of the key elements of the upcoming season. We also

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And we’re back! (in more ways than one!) After a season of huh and a whirlwind summer, we’re about ready to embark on the Peak Cavs era. As always before a Cleveland sports season starts, the WFNY brain trust gathers to give their thoughts on some of the key elements of the upcoming season. We also do our best to prognosticate, which can lead to both eerily accurate or humorous results. The group assembled may break a site record for most voices in one article, which I think speaks well to what you can expect from us as a Cavs coverage team this year. Be sure to check out Part 1 from earlier this morning where we discuss the biggest bench contributor, our greatest fear, and other topics. Without further ado, I’ll be your moderator for three more questions in the second half of our predictions about the 2014-15 Cleveland Cavaliers. Let’s continue.

Who will benefit the most from LeBron, Love, and Kyrie: Tristan Thompson or Dion Waiters? Who are you more comfortable putting into the team’s long-term plans?

Will: This one is tricky for me, as both players’ lives are going to be way easier this year. I think Dion has the greater long-term upside, but Tristan’s contributions will be seen more readily. He’s guaranteed a lot of minutes, and all he really needs to do is be athletic out there and he’ll get a couple big dunks per game.

Dion has a tougher learning curve. He’s shown that he can be a spot-up threat, but it would be foolhardy to neuter the driving bulldog within him. He likes the ball in his hands, and it will take him some time to figure out how to leverage the players around him into good shots.

Forced to pick one, I choose Dion. I don’t feel especially comfortable with that choice, as I only know what the word “mercurial” means because of him, but he has the potential to be a top-five NBA shooting guard. Tristan has valuable skills and I think he’ll be good on this team, but his best-case scenario is something along the lines of a more athletic P.J. Brown.

Ben: Dion. Thompson was already a hard worker. Dion had raw talent but not the best practice habits. Having Dion see LeBron be the first guy in and last guy to leave, well, that’ll do wonders, methinks. I’m not quite sure if either of them are longterm, like looooongterm, guys. It wouldn’t surprise me if neither are here in two seasons.

Ryan: Dion should benefit the most from his new superstar teammates. Not only should Waiters be wide open for oodles of catch and shoot opportunities, but once he receives the ball there should be little in his way in terms of help defense, leaving Dion just one man to beat. I’ve said before that Tristan Thompson is no more than the 7th or 8th guy on a really good team and stand by that statement. Tristan’s agent Rich Paul is planting stories in the papers clamoring over Tristan’s value to this team as he’s due for a new contract, but to me Thompson’s skill set is replicable and replaceable.

Scott: If Dion listens to LeBron, he stands to benefit the most simply due to playing time and role. Tristan will never have a play drawn for him and will only benefit from defenses collapsing. Waiters has plus catch-and-shoot abilities which should only serve to keep him on the floor. Thompson will thrive in clean-up duty, but Waiters has the potential to be an All-Star if he plays his cards right.

Jacob: Can I answer neither? Neither, as of now, appear to be the ideal fit. Perhaps I’ll go with Waiters. He showcased some very good catch-and-shoot efficiency last season. If he can learn to act as a secondary bench creator and mainly as a spot-up shooter, he could transform his entire game. With Tristan, I see his long-term fit and I’d love to keep him for many years to come. But his non-sexy skill set (no rim protection, no spacing) doesn’t make him an ideal fit next to the 4-like LeBron.

Kirk: I’m having trouble answering my own question. I think the easy answer is Thompson benefits the most from the Big 3 on the court. Absolutely nobody will have time to pay any attention to him on offense. He will take the vast majority of his shots at the rim or finishing in transition. But, Dion has a unique opportunity. If he doesn’t care about the stats and can stifle his alpha-dog instincts, he can become universally known as the best supporting player in the league and a top tier shooting guard. If Waiters chooses to only take primarily what the defense gives him, he’ll still get the opportunity to shoot it from deep, take it to the rack, and get to the line. The only difference will be that those should be much higher percentage looks.

Long term, Ben and Jacob’s notion make me sad, but they’re probably more than likely correct. Money isn’t an issue for Gilbert, but they may flip one of these two in a trade for a better fit: a bigger big or a shootier shooting guard. I’ll shoot for the moon and hitch my wagon to Waiters over Thompson.

Craig: Tristan Thompson is the easy choice here. It could be Dion, but there’s nobody who’s set up more to clean up statistically than Thompson. He doesn’t demand the ball. He doesn’t create well. He’s going to go crazy as nobody pays any attention to him and as the stars pass to him out of double teams, etc.

Joe: I think Dion Waiters will benefit the most by the Big 3.  Waiters will have the ability to get past his man and get to the basket at will because of the attention Irving, James, and Love will get for their perimeter shooting.  Also, I think Waiters could lead the team in fastbreak points.  He should be able to leak down court with Love or James making quick outlet passes.

Kyle: Short answer: everyone. I like Thompson long-term more right now, even if the Cavs will have to overpay him somewhat.

Verdict: Waiters 7-2

WFNY_roundtable

How much should the Cavs push the pedal to the floor in the East? Is rest more important to you than momentum and home court in the Finals potentially? Should LeBron, Love, and the vets get some nights off?

Joe: I think the win total in the regular season is irrelevant.  All that matters is getting the number one seed in the East.  I say this because I think there are three elite teams in the East: Chicago, Washington, and Cleveland.  So, if the Cavs can grab the one seed, they can most likely avoid either team until the Eastern Conference Finals.  In terms of resting veterans or injury prone players, I am in favor of that but not to the extent of what the Heat had to do with Dwyane Wade. Giving LeBron, Varejao, Irving, and Love days off will be key to keeping them fresh for the deep playoff run.  But, getting the number one seed should be the primary goal in the regular season.

Will: It depends on how well the rest of the conference plays. I’m inclined to say that David Blatt should exercise caution and rest the stars, but homecourt throughout the playoffs—at least the Eastern Conference portion—should be a priority for this team. The crowds at the Q will be bananas all year long, and there’s a chance that an opposing player gets vaporized by the flaming sabers. The Cavs should capitalize on all of that.

Jacob: Listen, I think the Cavs are a shoo-in for a top-4 seed, certainly. Beyond that? I don’t think it matters that much. With a player like LeBron, the playoffs will be a grind. I’d lean on the side of regular season rest a la the Spurs in order to maximize energy levels and health for April-June.

Kyle: It will depend on team health, injuries, and comparative records. But, if there’s any way to get the top seed in the East or overall, then they have to go for it.

Ryan: The emotional part of me wants the Cavs to gun it from game one all the way to game eighty-two, but the smart play is to just get into the playoffs with the team at optimal health. Ideally Blatt’s system catches on and even the nights where the vets take a game off, the team still functions at a high level.

Ben: I don’t think home court advantage means that much (see, 2009 and 2010). The Cavs have LeBron for the long haul and it would be in their best interest to monitor his minutes and keep his body fresh. Mike Brown ran LeBron down. The Heat rested Wade but leaned heavy on LeBron. The Cavs have enough talent that they can afford to give their stars rest (all the blowouts should help as well).

Scott: I don’t think they will. I wouldn’t mind if they did, but I think we’re looking at a 50-something-win season with all focus set squarely on April-through-June. And yes—if this means going the G-Pop route and giving his stars some rest on road trips, or four-game-five-night stretches, I’m all for it.

Craig: I’ve been taking this into account with my idea for how many wins the Cavs could have. Obviously you don’t want them flirting with the bottom half of the playoff seeding. You want them to be in the top half and it’d be nice if they are the number 1 in the East. Still, I think that’s pretty overrated, so I’m going to say the Cavs should probably pace themselves on the way to the playoffs.

Kirk: I’m actually surprised that some of the panel is only confident that the Cavs will play well enough to be a top-half of the conference playoff team. Barring significant games missed from multiple key members, I don’t see the Cavs falling outside the top two seeds in the East. I do think homecourt up to the Finals is important to go for, but there is a point where the risk isn’t worth the reward. Homecourt isn’t everything, but if it comes down to a Game 7 scenario late in the playoffs, the odds are stacked against a team going in and grabbing a win. I think Blatt and staff can be smart about it, resting the guys on the wrong side of 30 while staggering it such that the team should have a really good chance to go out and win each night.

Verdict: Rest/pace themselves over momentum/seeding 5-4

 

Is this ‘next year’? Do the Cavs end the drought? Who stops them or who is their biggest threat? You can add record and playoff matchups here if you so desire.

Scott: Yes. Unless the injury bug bites them hard, this is the year. Chicago, San Antonio and the Los Angeles Clippers will threaten, but these guys have all the talent in the world and an incredible fan base and storyline behind them. They may not win the East, but they’ll take a record of 56 or 57 win into the playoffs where they turn it up to levels unforeseen. The Wait Is Over.

Craig: The Cavaliers will stop themselves this year. I don’t think it will be demoralizing, but the Cavs are going to flirt with it this year and truly be ready to challenge for it the following year. Their biggest challenge will be the Bulls, but I think there’s a chance the Wizards and Heat could be right there as well.

The players change, but the Cavs have had a rivalry with the Wizards in the past. They’ve had a rivalry with Paul Pierce who (oddly) is a Wizard now. Kyrie vs. Wall. LeBron vs. Pierce. Love vs. Nene and Andy vs. Gortat? You have to like the Cavs in that matchup, but that could be a really tough team.

Joe: I think this is “the year.”  As my dad has said over the last couple weeks, this is the best team the city has seen in his lifetime.  I believe the Cavs win 60 games this season and gain the number one seed in the East.  I think their biggest foes will be the Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs.  These two teams are defense oriented and so they could be able to slow the Cavs down a bit.  Cleveland’s key is to get their defense to the level that it is not a hindrance.  The Cavs do not need to be defensive stoppers like the Bulls.  They just need to be able to make stops at the end of the game to put a game away.

I think this is the year because of how outstanding the team’s offense will be.  The Cavs will be able to score with ease because of the multiple scoring options.  The second team will not miss a beat because of the likes of Marion and Miller.  NEXT YEAR IS FINALLY THIS YEAR!

Kyle: I refuse to predict that the Cavs will win the title; that will only end disastrously. If I have to pick a “most likely” team to eliminate them, I’m going to pick the Bulls. Sorry to be boring, but even the improved teams in the East may not be good enough to push the Cavs deep in a series.

Jacob: I like the Cavs as having about 60% probability to advance to the Finals. In the Finals, I’d place them as the underdog compared to any of the Western contenders (Clippers, Spurs, Thunder, etc.). So yes, the Cavs will not be favored there, but they’d still have the largest individual championship odds of any team. The East is just that easy. My prediction is a 57-25 record, 1st place in the East and a loss in the Finals to the Clippers.

Will: The Bulls have long been trumpeted as their only real competition in the East (unless you want to include the Wiz), and I agree with that. They’re a tough bunch of basketballing bastards, and they will do all they can to prevent the Cavs from getting to the Finals. Even if Rose gets hurt again, playing against them is like wrestling a porcupine—not even a little bit fun.

I tend to shy away from predictions because the possibility of looking stupid is astronomical, but: I really think the Cavs can do it this year. There are a lot of great teams in the NBA—Bulls, Spurs, Clips—and the Cavs will be one of them. That’s all you can ask for, to be among the handful of teams with a real shot. I see them sniffing 60 wins and being in the hunt for best record in the league.

There’s a world of evidence suggesting that you need to lose before you can win in the NBA. The Cavs are breaking in a rookie head coach and stars who have never been in the playoffs. Their defense could be suspect. The expectations will be crushing. The noise will be deafening.

But they have LeBron. We have LeBron. Why not us, and why not now? 98-0 or bust.

Ben: I’m not as concerned with the Bulls a lot of people seem to be. Yes, they have size and that’s going to give both LeBron and Love some problems. But when it comes down to the end of games and Blatt sticks LeBron on Derrick Rose… well, who’s running that Chicago offense? Who’s getting them a quality look? That’s even assuming Rose is still healthy by that time.

But to answer your question if this is The Year… no. I don’t think so. I could see them making the Finals, but winning it… no. Kyrie and Love will both be making their playoff debuts this year, I feel you’re asking a lot of them to win a title during their first playoff go-round.

Ryan: While the Cavaliers are more than capable of winning it this year, I think it takes a year of playoff experience as a group to get over the hump. The Spurs, Mavs, Clippers, and Bulls are all veteran groups with continuity in their rosters and have an elite coach working the sideline. The Cavs are on par with all those teams so I wouldn’t be surprised to see them win it, but ultimately I think the champ comes out of the West.

Kirk: All summer long, I told myself I was not going to get roped into expecting this team to put it all together and win in its first season. The Spurs, Thunder, Bulls, Clippers, Warriors, Wizards, etc. all have much more time together than this Cleveland does. But, that’s the key, the playoffs don’t start now, they start in April.

During this season, I expect LeBron, Love, and Kyrie to form the type of chemistry that will be needed deep in the summer when things get tough. The role players will know their spots and their situations. Blatt will have that coaching feel down. Perhaps the Cavs add a role player vet to the mix (Seriously, come on, Ray Allen.)

But, I started saying, “Why not the Cavs?” The Cavs have a roster built to weather some injuries better than Chicago, Washington, or anybody in the East. I also think the “Kyrie and Love haven’t played in the playoffs” hand is being overplayed. Love and Irving have both played huge FIBA/Olympic games, and they’ll have a season’s worth of meaningful games, high profile matchups, and national TV exposure. I think the Clippers, despite my deep respect for Doc Rivers, are being overrated. OKC won’t have Durant until Christmas. It really comes down to the Spurs to me. The Spurs will have their point of no return very soon. It could have happened last year, but it didn’t. It could happen this year, but they may also have one last power-drive in them.

If it doesn’t happen this year, it’s not the end of the world, but I’m saying 60-22, 1st in the East and overall as the West elite bunches up in the 53-59 win range. The Cavs beat the Nets in five, followed by the Wizards in six. Then, the much-predicted showdown with Chicago in the ECF. The Cavs take the series in six, but it’s a fantastic series. Then, the Cavaliers square off against the Spurs, and Tim Duncan’s “next time, it will be your turn” prophecy for James and the Cavs rings true eight years later. The Cavs beat the Spurs in seven and capture the Larry O’Brien in Cleveland. #LOBOB (Larry O’Brien or Bust)

Verdict: NO 5-4

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Cleveland Cavaliers 2014-15 Predictions: WFNY Roundtable Part 1 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/cleveland-cavaliers-season-predictions-roundtable-part-1/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/cleveland-cavaliers-season-predictions-roundtable-part-1/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 13:00:53 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=133299 Well, here we are. After a season of huh and a whirlwind summer, we’re about ready to embark on the Peak Cavs era. As always before a Cleveland sports season starts, the WFNY brain trust gathers to give their thoughts on some of the key elements of the upcoming season. We also do our best

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Well, here we are. After a season of huh and a whirlwind summer, we’re about ready to embark on the Peak Cavs era. As always before a Cleveland sports season starts, the WFNY brain trust gathers to give their thoughts on some of the key elements of the upcoming season. We also do our best to prognosticate, which can lead to both eerily accurate or humorous results. The group assembled may break a site record for most voices in one article, which I think speaks well to what you can expect from us as a Cleveland Cavaliers coverage team this year.

Without further ado, I’ll be your moderator for four pointed questions in the first of two installments today about our 2014-15 Cleveland Cavaliers. Let’s jump in.

What particular statistical area will this Cavs team be elite?

Scott Sargent: Is “offense” too general? I think this team could set a record for offensive efficiency if they gel as quickly as needed. I do fear that teams will try to slow down the pace on defense, so breaking the points-per-game barrier like the Steve Nash-led Suns will be tough, but they’ll be pretty damn close.

Craig Lyndall: The Cavaliers will be elite in terms of wins. I can’t pretend to be an advanced statistics guru for the NBA. I know a bit about that stuff, but I don’t have any truly deep insight into the Cavaliers in a way that can project their elite status in any specific category, so I’ll cop out and just say wins.

Jacob Rosen: I think there’s no doubt that this offense is going to be very, very good. It could be the best in the NBA immediately, it could be one of the best all-time (that concept was the basis for my Cavs Zine article). But I’ll be particularly intrigued by the pace of this team. LeBron has never played for a top-10 pace team. Can Blatt push the pace with Love and Irving as great transition players? That could make the offense even more great.

Ben Cox: Is “least number of dribbles in a possession” a statistical category? The Cavs are going to be a beast to handle offensively, but their transition game could be downright transcendent.

Ryan Jones: This team’s offensive efficiency is going to be off the charts. LeBron is one of the most efficient players the league has ever seen and he’ll quickly break the bad habits of Dion and Kyrie. Last season, some thought LeBron would try to shoot 60% for a whole season which would be ABSURD but actually not impossible for LBJ. Add in David Blatt’s cerebral basketball mind, a big who can shoot and pass like Love, the shooting of James Jones and Mike Miller, and this team is going to fill it up in a way that NBA nerds will forever remember.

Joe Gilbert: The Cavs will be elite in scoring the basketball.  I believe they will be in the top three of the highest scoring teams in the NBA.  The team should be dominate in the fastbreak and get easy buckets to drive up their scoring average to over 107 points per game.  They will be elite in making baskets this season.

Kyle Welch: ORtg – The Cavs may score less points per game than the Clippers or Warriors, but the Cavs will score more points per possession.

Will Gibson: Defensive rebounding. Kevin Love rebounded 29.5% of available defensive rebounds last year. Anderson Varejao was good for 28.2%, Tristan Thompson snagged 21.5%, LeBron grabbed 18.9%, and Shawn Marion hauled in 17.4%. If I understand statistics correctly, and I believe I do, then the Cavs will rebound the ball before the other team even shoots it.

Really though, they’re going to be great at cleaning the glass. Love is a box-out wizard, Tristan and LeBron can soar over foes, and Andy will plow through a brick wall, rebuild it, and plow through it again if it means getting the ball. Rebounding was the Heat’s bugaboo during LeBron’s tenure in Miami, but it should be a strength in Cleveland. Best of all, rebounding will kick start those beautiful fast breaks.

Kirk Lammers: Most of you went with an offensive efficiency metric, so I’ll back up Will on the rebounding. Not just defensive rebounding though; what about offensive rebounding? We know how good Thompson and Varejao are at chasing down loose balls and getting putbacks (11.4% ORB each last year playing together). Kevin Love was at 8.5% last season, which has decreased each year from his rookie total of 15.1% as he’s moved to more of a perimeter player. Heck, even Lou Amundson and Brendan Haywood have career marks of 14.1% and 12.7% respectively. Despite their relative lack of size, this team should own the boards on both ends.

Verdict: Offensive efficiency (4), Transition/pace (2), Rebounding (2), Wins (1)

WFNY_roundtable

What single aspect of this team scares you the most for this season?

Craig: Injuries, injuries, and injuries. While the Cavaliers are a deep team, I don’t really want to find out what it would be like for any two or three of their key players to go down for an extended period or (gasp) at the same time.

Will: The possibility of a major injury to an important player terrifies me. I don’t even want to talk about it. Let’s move on.

Kyle: Depth. An injury in either the frontcourt or backcourt could make for some real ugly rotations.

Scott: Injuries. The skill is there. The coaching is there. The top-down message is there. The players appear selfless enough that playing time won’t be an issue. The fans are amped. Defense is something that can be improved upon with an addition or two. Injuries are uncontrollable, and, to me, are the only thing that could really derail this Cavalier team hoisting the Larry O’Brien.

Jacob: Most folks will answer defense, certainly. I think, specifically, I’m intrigued by the number of three-point shot attempts that teams attempt against the Cavs. Last year, teams out-scored the Cavs by 6.6 points per game on threes alone. A main factor was simply that the Cavs allowed a gigantic number of attempts. Threes are worth more than twos. Can Blatt instill defensive principles into guys like Irving and Waiters to actually close out on these and prevent them from happening?

Ben: Non-LeBron wing defenders. I’m more than a little concerned how big of a role Shawn Marion is expected to play. After LeBron and Marion, the Cavs wings are Irving, Delly, Dion, and Mike Miller. Who’s the best defender out of that group: Delly? Of course, both Kyrie and Dion have the physical tools to be competent defenders, but they’ve got to prove it.

Joe: I second Ben in that the Cavs perimeter defense scares me the most.  Because of the lack of a true shot blocker, the Cavs need to be strong on the outside to not allow easy drives to the basket. Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, and Matthew Dellavedova will need to play better defense than they have ever played in their careers.  The guards must be stronger at keeping players in front of them and not allowing open drives to the basket.

Ryan: The interior defense is a big concern. Whether Varejao can stay healthy is a big concern as is whether or not the Cavs realize Brendan Haywood wasn’t in the league last year. I think LeBron and Marion end up guarding the other team’s fours quite a bit with Love or Tristan Thompson bodying opposing centers. These small lineups may be some of the Cavs’ most productive lineups offensively, but the interior defense will be a point of contention.

Kirk: Size and interior defense. Obviously, catastrophic injuries can derail this team’s pursuit, but as long as they are relatively healthy come mid-April, things will work out. I think the Cavs have ample depth with the bench weapons in Miller, Marion, and Thompson able to fill-in the starting lineup without much of a dropoff. To me, it’s those matchups with Chicago (Pau and Noah), Houston (Howard), the Clippers (Blake, Jordan, and Hawes), Spurs (Duncan), and Memphis (Marc Gasol and Randolph). Some of those teams don’t have enough ammo to go toe-to-toe with the Cavs in a series, but some of them certainly do. Any of those teams, however, pose a tough matchup on a given night for which the Cavs are going to have to compensate. Haywood or Amundson MUST be able to provide 15-18 effective minutes bare minimum on those nights to absorb fouls. Otherwise, a deadline move will have to be made for insurance come late May and June.

Verdict: Injuries (4), Perimeter defense (3), Interior defense (2)

 

What should the big man rotation look like? Would you rather Andy or Tristan start? Will a fourth big consistently crack the rotation without injury?

Will: I would rather Tristan start, which is actually an endorsement of Andy. Wild Thing’s smarts, screening, and passing would help keep bench units organized, and he even flashed a workable post-up game in the preseason. More important than starting, I expect Andy to get most of the crunch time minutes at center.

I expect two of Love/Andy/Tristan on the court most of the time, and there is room to get creative with LeBron or Marion at the power forward spot. Brendan Haywood and Lou Amundson will get some minutes here and there, but I wouldn’t expect either to be a significant contributor. Unless the Cavs sign or trade for another large human, I don’t expect a fourth big man to be out there consistently.

Kyle: I would rather see Varejao start. It just feels right with him starting next to LeBron. Thompson should definitely get more minutes, though. Haywood is going to get a lot of minutes; it will be interesting to see how effective he is.

Scott: I would prefer Andy, simply for his pick-and-pop abilities—he’s borderline automatic from the elbows. I like Tristan’s game and he surprised me a bit during preseason, but I think this starting five unit is just that much stronger if they deploy another shooter (term used loosely). Tristan will obviously be the first big off of the bench (if not the first player). If you’re talking “fourth big” you’re looking at Alex Kirk (who should be in Canton), Lou Amundson (who’s shorter than Tristan) or Brendan Haywood (who may or may not be ready to roll). I can see Haywood getting some time in the event David Blatt needs a stopper for a few minutes, but that’d be the max. Lou would get that role if Haywood’s inactive.

Joe: I think the rotation will consist of mostly Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, and Anderson Varejao with Brendan Haywood coming in when they play big teams like Chicago and Houston.  I think Varejao will start the entire season at center barring any injuries.  Tristan will be a good player off the bench because he can help make the bench get out on the break and be a rebounding machine for the scorers like Shawn Marion and Mike Miller.  I think a key could be LeBron James moving down low to play the power forward for a stretch in games.  The team could go small with him at the four and be more explosive on the break.

Ben: I’d prefer Andy to start, because he can make the defense pay with his mid-range jumper, plus he’s a better/craftier finisher around the basket. As for the rotation? No idea. LeBron is so versatile that he can fit with just about anyone. And Love’s skillset is so unique that he offers different looks with both Thompson and Varejao.

Ryan: I prefer Tristan getting the start at center and Andy stabilizing the second unit. Varejao is more skilled than Tristan and a better passer. I fear a lineup on the floor that includes both Tristan and Brendan Haywood will take the beautiful David Blatt offense and turn it into a whole lot of dribbling and chucking from the guards. The Cavs will make a move at some point this year for another big — they have to.

Jacob: Personally, I think I’d rather Tristan start. I’m moderately concerned about Andy’s durability, and I’d want to conserve him for later in the season. In an ideal world, I’d try to be creative and limit Andy to 18-24 minutes per game. But considering that’s unlikely to happen, you can easily see 36 for Love, 30 for Andy and 26 for Tristan. That would only two minutes or so for LeBron at the 4 or Amundson/others off the bench. I don’t think the Cavs will really need a fourth non-LeBron big because their advantage will be in playing small, going fast and being versatile.

Kirk: For me this isn’t about merit, it’s about fit. I would rather pair Tristan, the less superior offensive player, with four incredibly talented offensive players in James, Love, Irving, and Waiters. Let Varejao freelance more and have some more of those mid-range shots in a second unit with Miller, Marion, Delly, James Jones, Haywood or Amundson, etc. The fourth big storyline will continue to interest me. I’ll play Jakey’s minutes game and say Love will play more like 32 minutes, 26 for Andy, and 26 for Tristan as Blatt will diligently work to keep Andy’s minutes lower. That leaves 12 minutes for either LeBron/Marion minutes at the 4 or the fourth big. On most nights, I think it will make sense to play a 8-9 man rotation and the fourth big doesn’t play a significant role. We may even see some hyper-small lineups with two of Marion/LeBron/Love manning the 4 and 5 for short bursts. But, I do expect to see certain games where due to matchups Haywood or Amundson (or Kirk, as a long shot) grabs double digit minutes. You might as well figure out if these guys are viable fallback options.

Craig: I would rather see Andy start. I am fine if Tristan even has more minutes and I know some will prefer Andy off the bench, but for whatever reason it is my preference for Tristan to come off the bench.

Verdict: Varejao 5-4

 

Who will be the most significant bench contributor?

Ben: Heh. Dion Waiters. *runs away*

Kyle: Well, it should be Dion Waiters. Otherwise, the odd man out of the three main bigs, but Marion is going to be huge.

Jacob: I’ll go with Mike Miller. Yes, there’s no chance he plays all 82 games like he did last season (for the first time since his rookie year). Yes, he was a major defensive liability on the Grizzlies last season. But, putting Miller on the court with players like Irving and LeBron opens up the court in ways the Cavs haven’t experienced in years. I’m really excited to see how Blatt staggers lineups to maximize spacing while limiting three-point attempts for the other team.

Ryan: I’m really high on Mike Miller. Although Miller is 34 years old, he played in all 82 games last year for Memphis while shooting over 45% from deep. His shooting and the floor spacing that comes along with paired with his exceptional basketball IQ will make life a little bit easier for everyone on the offense side of the ball.

Will: I’m not counting whoever doesn’t start out of Tristan and Andy, as they’re both going to play big minutes. Shawn Marion is my choice. It’s dangerous to lean on a 36 year-old whose game has been predicated on athleticism, but he seems smart and savvy enough to thrive in his NBA golden years.

His defensive versatility is what makes him most valuable. He can play the 3 in big lineups or the 4 in small ones. He can make guys like Carmelo and Durant work for their shots. He can be paired with LeBron, he can hang in the post, he can survive switches onto guards, and he’s a solid rebounder.

Joe: I think the most significant bench contributor is Shawn Marion.  Marion will be a key scorer off the bench because he can create his own shot and help get others shots.  He also is a great offensive rebounder, which can make the second team tough to stop on offense.  His biggest contribution will be on defense, though.  I think he will play heavy minutes late in the game because of his ability to defend on the perimeter.  He could be one of the five on the floor when the team is finishing off a close game.

Scott: Shawn Marion, easily. But it will largely be on defense (not showing up in the box score) and in transition. The Matrix having a better season than Andrew Wiggins is not out of the question.

Kirk: I don’t think you can go wrong by saying Marion, Miller, or Thompson (assuming he stays on the bench). I will go with Marion because he has the most unique skillset of the trio. He’s going to be asked to do a lot on the defensive end, and anything he provides on offense is gravy.

Craig: I’m going to say Delly because I want it to be Delly. I really want him to develop into that guy who doesn’t miss a certain three pointer and can also man up on defense. That being said, it’s definitely going to be Mike Miller.

Verdict: Shawn Marion (4), Mike Miller (3), Dion Waiters (2)

 

That’s it for now. Be sure to check in for the second half of our predictions later this morning.

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LeBron’s return highlights offseason of Cavs oddities: While We’re Waiting… http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/lebrons-return-highlights-offseason-cavs-oddities-waiting/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/lebrons-return-highlights-offseason-cavs-oddities-waiting/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 12:30:27 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=133330 It's heeeeeere...

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Yes, LeBron James is back and he makes his return to Quicken Loans Arena tonight as a Cleveland Cavalier. But it’s quite stunning to look back at all of the happenings of the last 6.5 months since the Cavs last played a game of basketball.

Coach – Change from Mike Brown (part 2) to European legend David Blatt (who had a great Q&A with Grantland’s Zach Lowe)

Return – LeBron James announces his return, signing a (very logical) short-term deal as a free agent

Draft – Win lottery, draft Andrew Wiggins and trade (with Anthony Bennett and more picks) for Kevin Love (who is quite good at basketball)

Purge – Other players gone from the massive roster transition: Alonzo Gee, Jarrett Jack, Tyler Zeller, C.J. Miles, Spencer Hawes and Sergey Karasev

Additions – Other veterans added to the fold: Shawn Marion, Mike Miller, Louis Amundson, Brendan Haywood and James Jones

So yeah, a decent amount has happened. The Cavs are in a whole new world. After consecutive seasons of 19, 21, 24 and 33 wins, they’re now suddenly the favorites in the Eastern Conference. It all begins tonight. It’s going to be one hell of a ride.

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Cavs links from around the web:

Cavs: The Blog founder John Krolik returned with a year-by-year look at LeBron’s growth and development. This was a really engaging read. Great to have you back writing, John.

Similarly, RealGM’s Jonathan Tjarks took a look at LeBron at (almost) 30. How much longer will he still be one of the game’s very best players?

Fear The Sword boss David Zavac, a good friend of the site, finished the FTS player previews with his look at some fresh LeBron storylines.

SLAM Magazine’s Brendan Bowers, a former writer of this site, spent some time at the West Side Market with Matthew Dellavedova.

Cleveland Scene’s Vince Grzegorek, a long-time WFNY supporter too, profiled Jack Sanders (aka @WayneEmbrysKids) and his weird passion for the Cavs Zine series.

Washington Post’s Michael Lee had a nifty graphic on how LeBron’s decision impacting summer transactions around the rest of the NBA.

Analytics Game’s Justin Willard predicted the Cavs as the NBA champions. His detailed team preview will be coming shortly.

Sports Illustrated’s NBA preview included four writers predicting the Cavs to lose in the Finals and two writers predicting an Eastern Conference Finals loss.

FiveThirtyEight’s extensive NBA modeling gave the Cavs a 26.1% probability of winning the title, yet only a 56-win outlook. I think that makes logical sense. Anything more than 56 is probably a stretch.

BBall Breakdown’s Coach Nick went through a video update of how LeBron, Kyrie and Love will combine for offense in David Blatt’s system.

Forbes’ Patrick Rishe wrote about the positive externalities that LeBron helped create for Fox Sports Ohio. This is good for all of you media nerds out there.

Northeast Ohio Media Group’s Joe Vardon spoke with Maverick Carter and several LeBron sponsors about his business model as a superstar athlete.

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Top Cavs memes/videos/GIFs/etc from the offseason of yay:

I know I’m missing many, many other quality multimedia entries from the past 6.5 months. So if you have remember something that should also be included, give me a shout on Twitter or in the comments.

July 18: (The First Iteration of) The New Big Three (real source unknown)

July 26: “What is Love?”

Aug. 5: Kevin Love Actually

Aug. 5: Love-influenced Cavs logo

Sept. 30: “Men lie women lie buckets don’t”

Oct. 12: The Cavs offense will be scary good

Oct. 14: Blatt to the Future

Oct. 17: Tristan Thompson’s Kiss

Oct. 21: The Dion SI mug

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Mike Evans: Johnny Manziel is a “team player” http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/mike-evans-johnny-manziel-team-player/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/mike-evans-johnny-manziel-team-player/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 01:16:18 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=133268 Bros before Ho-yers.

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It’s the ultimate in biased quotes and nobody’s denying it. Tampa Bay Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans spoke to the media about his time with Johnny Manziel and didn’t hide the fact that he’s in the tank for his friend. That being said, after reading his quotes, you don’t get the sense that Johnny Manziel is being anything other than forthright when he’s saying all the right things. Mike Evans’ quotes are full of all those same “right things.”

[Also See: Johnny Manziel's funny Heisman House commercial]

On how it eats Manziel up not being able to play:
“He’s the ultimate competitor. I know he wants to be out there bad, but he’ll do whatever the team needs him to do – sit back and learn or whatever they have him do, he’s going to do it. He’s a team player.”

On how good Manziel was in addition to having him as a good receiver:
“He was one of the best players in the country coming out, and some of the things he did were spectacular if you watch the games. Playing with him, people underestimated his arm strength. He throws a great ball, and he’s a student of the game. He’s very smart.”

On how Manziel’s skills will transfer to the NFL once he starts playing:
“I think he’ll transition well. The game hasn’t really seen a quarterback like him, I don’t think. They say Doug Flutie and guys like that, but he can throw just as good as the 6-5 prototypical quarterbacks, and he can run like (Jets QB) Michael Vick. He’s a great player, and when he gets his shot I think he’s never going to come off the field.”

On saying he thought Manziel should be the starter at the rookie symposium and if he stills feels that way after seeing what QB Brian Hoyer has done:
“I said that because that’s one of my best friends, and I’m going to choose my best friend. That’s their team’s decision because they’re winning now. I can’t talk too bad about that.”

The key quote for me in the whole thing is that when Manziel gets his shot, “I think he’s never going to come off the field.” Now, it will be awkward to see Manziel playing defense… Get it? But really, this is the one place that I kind of agree with Mike Evans. I think that given a bit of time to learn, absorb and prepare, Johnny Manziel can absolutely shock everyone with his brand of play on the field. He’s guaranteed to be a wild contrast in comparison to almost every other QB in the league with his athleticism, playmaking potential and under-hyped arm strength.

These are the things that had me so excited for Johnny Manziel during the draft, and the longer we get into the season and Manziel hasn’t been thrust out there too soon, the more excited I get about the prospect. Even if I have to wait until next year to see it.

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Dan Gilbert: Luxury Tax Will Never Be an Issue http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/nba-news-dan-gilbert-cavs-luxury-tax/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/nba-news-dan-gilbert-cavs-luxury-tax/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 18:19:36 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=133239 Winning an NBA Championship: Priceless

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When LeBron James called Cleveland home prior to his exit in July of 2010, the Cavaliers, led by team majority owner Dan Gilbert, were frequent violators of the NBA’s luxury tax. Prior to James’ return, the league changed their rules, as collectively bargained, punishing tax-payers even more, making it that much more onerous on teams opting to put together a roster of multiple superstars. Fast forward to October 29, 2014, the eve of Cleveland’s Big Three taking the floor for the first time, and Gilbert says that despite the altered rules and his outflows in the city of Detroit, his message to fans has not changed.

“I almost think it’s kind of silly when you invest in so much into a franchise and have such high costs already,” Gilbert told WFNY in his Wednesday address of the media. “ I know it’s a lot of raw dollars by itself, but relative to everything that’s invested… I always a little surprised when owners of franchises stop right there. To me it’s like you’re getting to the 2-yard line and you’re done. It’s not smart business/smart financially.”

Gilbert’s comment has been viewed by some to be a verbal sub-tweet aimed at Miami’s Mickey Arison who used the amnesty clause last summer on sharp-shooting friend of LeBron, Mike Miller. The Heat opted to keep the less-expensive forward Shane Battier and were effectively demolished by the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals.

The Cavaliers will undoubtedly benefit from the impending hike in the NBA’s salary cap, but with Kyrie Irving locked up long term, the team will have to extend longer-term deals to James, power forwards Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson (who Gilbert reiterated that the team wants to re-sign) as well as rumored interest in extending veteran center Anderson Varejao.

The amount of tax a team pays depends on the season, the team salary as of the team’s last regular season game, and whether the team is a “repeat offender” where costs rise exponentially. In 2011 the NBA introduced another level above the luxury tax line known as the “apron”. This is a line $4 million above the luxury tax line. If a team’s payroll is above this level, they essentially lose access to several salary cap exceptions. If a team is under the apron but uses certain salary cap exceptions, they will be hard-capped at the apron until the following June 30. Specific to the Cavaliers, hitting the salary apron would prevent them from trading center Brendan Haywood’s expiring contract in addition to preventing them from using their mid-level exemption in 2015-2016.

In July, 2012, two years after James had left for Miami, the Cavaliers were still among the top six in the NBA in luxury tax dollars paid. With James and a few of his friends back in the fold, it appears this will become common ground.

“Clearly, the cap will be going up these next few years,” said Gilbert. “But that message is still there. When the decisions are ours and they’re regarding financials, it will not stop us from being able to deliver a championship-caliber basketball team.”

 

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LeBron’s first game, Browns winning at home, NFL fan volatility – WFNY Podcast – 2014-10-28 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/lebrons-first-game-browns-winning-home-nfl-fan-volatility-wfny-podcast-2014-10-28/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/lebrons-first-game-browns-winning-home-nfl-fan-volatility-wfny-podcast-2014-10-28/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 18:10:31 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=133251 I apologize in advance for the technical difficulties. After trying to edit some out and trying to fix others, I chose to give you new content at the expense of a professional sounding broadcast. We strive to be better, but Skype just wasn’t cooperating today. We talked about LeBron James and the Cavaliers and the

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I apologize in advance for the technical difficulties. After trying to edit some out and trying to fix others, I chose to give you new content at the expense of a professional sounding broadcast. We strive to be better, but Skype just wasn’t cooperating today.

We talked about LeBron James and the Cavaliers and the value of the various sports tickets in town. We talked about Browns fans and the volatility of NFL fans. We talked about fan fights and the fight videos that seem to hit every Monday morning from the previous Sunday’s extra-curricular action.

We talked about a lot more. Always good to chat up TD.

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