August 26, 2014

Woe are quarterbacks for Ohio teams: While We’re Waiting…

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Happy Tuesday WFNY!

Why did the Browns even have a QB competition? I found myself thinking about that question this morning. Perhaps a good deal of it is hindsight, in having seen a couple of preseason games now, but Johnny Manziel doesn’t look like a QB who is ready for the NFL right now.

Which of course doesn’t mean he won’t eventually be ready. Or that he won’t eventually be a star for his on-field performance and not just his off-field antics. But when the Cleveland Browns selected Manziel in the draft, why did that entitle him to compete for the starting job day one?

It’s not even that Brian Hoyer is an established starting NFL quarterback. He is anything but that, with only three career starts to his name. But Hoyer has been around the NFL for a few years. He’s at least used to the speed of the game, the routine of weekly preparation, and understanding what needs to go into pre-snap reads at this level.

I think above anything else this morning, I find myself mostly disappointed in how poorly Hoyer has looked this preseason. I’m disheartened in general with the offense. But last season, in his limited sample size, Hoyer at least made good, decisive reads and got the ball out of the pocket in a timely manner and showed pretty decent accuracy. So far this preseason, he has looked so much more unsure of himself. It seems, from the outside looking in, like the competition with Manziel has really affected Hoyer. I know a lot of people wanted Manziel to be the starter, but I wanted Hoyer to grab ahold of the starting job and hang onto it for most, if not all, of this season. Unfortunately for both Hoyer and the Browns, that hasn’t happened at all.

The problem the Browns face is that neither guy looks like they’re ready for Week One. I’ve felt all along that a tie between the two QBs would go to Hoyer. Some of the things I’ve seen and heard over the last few weeks had me questioning that. I’ve felt recently like the Browns were giving Manziel every chance to just take the job. But he’s fallen short, too. So now, who’s the starter? Now I’m leaning toward Hoyer getting the nod. Hopefully that would clear his head and allow him to get back to playing at least at an average level like he was last season. If he doesn’t break out of this funk, though, I think his tenure as starting QB will be a short one and we’ll be seeing Johnny Football before we know it. For better or worse.

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A bad night for Ohio QBs

As though sitting through a penalty-riddled preseason game in which your team’s two best hopes at QB completely falter isn’t bad enough, during the game we also got word that Ohio State QB Braxton Miller hurt his already ailing shoulder in practice last evening. Braxton initially hurt his shoulder in the Orange Bowl against Clemson last year, requiring him to have off season surgery. Unfortunately, the repaired shoulder was still bothering Braxton all summer and after throwing a downfield pass in a 7-on-7 drill, the shoulder finally gave out.

This is the ultimate gut punch for the Buckeyes who, with an incredibly weak schedule, were eyeing a run at the new NCAA playoff. Barring a Friday Night Lights-esque miracle run, those hopes are now shattered. JT Barrett will now have to do his best to channel his inner Matt Saracen and lead a team shaken to their core over the loss of the two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year (an award only Braxton and Purdue’s Drew Brees have won multiple times).

Speaking purely as a fan, this is one of toughest things to happen to Ohio State in my lifetime. It really feels like the season is over before it even started. If something like this had to happen, you wish it could have happened last season when Kenny Guiton was still around to take over. This is nothing against JT Barrett (or Cardale Jones, should he wind up the starter at some point this season), but Guiton was incredibly experienced and had a phenomenal grasp on the offense. I don’t know what happens now, but with Carlos Hyde in the NFL and Braxton sidelined, the Buckeyes have to replace like 99% of their offense from last season (that percentage is not the real one, just an exaggeration). There will be growing pains with a Freshman QB. We saw it with Terrelle Pryor and Braxton Miller, and I fully expect we’ll see it with JT Barrett.

The good thing for OSU fans is that thanks to parity-less Big Ten conference, the Buckeyes will still be favored in most of their games and they should have enough talent from top to bottom to win a bunch of games and to go to a bowl game. It’s just a bitter pill when this season had higher hopes. Unless Barrett is better than anyone could imagine, the dream of an undefeated season sure feels like it’s now over.

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The most overrated Cavalier?

As always, I feel the need to preface this by saying that I’m glad the Cavaliers signed Shawn Marion. I think he can possibly help this season. However, after reading a few reaction pieces, some of which were particularly inaccurate (Marion a career 49% shooter from three? I think not. Try 33%), I feel like we need to slow down a little bit with Marion.

We saw a similar thing happen last year with Jarrett Jack. Now, Marion is a much better player than Jack, so it’s not apples to apples, but last year the Jack signing was so overhyped by Cavs fans, including yours truly (although I did at least recognize before the season that we were over-hyping him). I hope fans can keep expectations with Marion somewhat tempered.

Marion fits an obvious need for the Cavaliers with his ability to defend wings and to fit in small lineups for the Cavs. He’s been a fairly durable, steady, reliable player for a long time. But that last part is the kicker. For a long time. He’s been around the block a few times and has logged a lot of career minutes.

Marion wasn’t brought here to be a shooter, although he has actually improved his three-point shooting in each of the last three seasons. Instead, he’s always been a guy capable of scoring without being the focal point of an offense, which is ideal in Cleveland. He brings playoff experience and veteran leadership. It’s a good signing for the Cavaliers. But at 35 years old, I just want Cavs fans to be aware that this is not the same Shawn Marion you remember from his days with the “Seven Seconds or Less” Phoenix Suns.

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New music Tuesday

Finally, we end this WWW as we do every Tuesday with my selection for best new album of the week.

My choice this week is a no-brainer and one of my more anticipated albums of the month: Benjamin Booker’s self-titled debut album. Booker is a New Orleans-based blues/soul/rock musician.

Modern blues music is a funny thing. For a while, it felt like blues music was a dying art form. When I was in high school, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Johnny Lang were a couple younger musicians playing some decent blues music, but it’s just been hard for me to find blue artists that I can connect with.

Enter Benjamin Booker. His intensity and fire on stage, in his vocal delivery, and in his frantic guitar playing is everything I’ve been looking for in this kind of music. He brings almost a punk rock edge to his New Orleans-style blues.

The whole album is really, really good for people who enjoy an eclectic brand of music that brings in a multitude of styles and genres and blends them seamlessly.

*****

That’s all I have this week. Hope everyone enjoys the rest of their week!

 

Cavaliers to host Knicks in season opener, play in Miami on Christmas Day

Cavaliers vs KnicksThe 2014-15 NBA schedule hasn’t been officially released yet, but reports have slowly been leaking out with information about some of the league’s marquee matchups. After initial reports that the Cavaliers were going to have to open the season in San Antonio to face the Spurs, Yahoo’s Marc Spears is now reporting that the Cavaliers will actually host the Carmelo Anthony and the Phil Jackson-led Knicks on opening night.

We also have word that the Cavaliers will be playing on Christmas Day for the first time in five years when they travel to Miami where LeBron will square off with former teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

The full schedule is expected to be released Wednesday at 6:00 pm.

[Related: LeBron makes first comments at his Welcome Home Party in Akron]

Report: Former Bucks Coach Larry Drew to Join David Blatt’s Staff

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With all the excitement over LeBron James’ return to Cleveland, along with all the talk of the impending Kevin Love trade, one of the overlooked stories surrounding the Cavaliers is the makeup of new coach David Blatt’s staff. Tyronn Lue was hired to be Blatt’s Associate Head Coach, but other than rumors of mutual interest in Larry Drew, no word has come down on the rest of the staff.

On Wednesday afternoon, however, Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe tweeted that the Cavaliers have indeed hired Larry Drew to be on David Blatt’s staff:

Drew was rather infamously and shamefully replaced as head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks as part of the fallout of Jason Kidd’s failed power play in New Jersey, which landed Kidd in Milwaukee and left Drew unemployed. Drew is regarded as a coach who designs playstyle to the talent of his roster, as opposed to forcing his roster to play his preferred style. This mentality should be a good fit with David Blatt who also coaches with this adaptive style.

As for the rest of the staff, Bernie Bickerstaff, Jim Boylan, Igor Kokoskov, and Bret Brielmaier are all still listed on the Cavs’ official website. No further information regarding their future has been reported as of this time.

[Related: Charlotte joins Cleveland in running to host 2017 or 2018 NBA All-Star Game]

T-Wolves owner: Love likely traded Aug. 23 or 24

kevin love cavs

The Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers trade rumors are getting stronger every day. This time the news comes from a direct source, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor. Taylor told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that Kevin Love will likely be traded on either August 23 or 24. Taylor told the Pioneer Press, “It’s most likely because Kevin has made it pretty clear that that’s what he wants to do.” It just so happens that August 23 is 30 days after Cavs’ number one pick Andrew Wiggins signed his rookie contract and is allowed to be traded.

The Cavaliers have been one of the leading candidates for Love ever since the team signed LeBron James. Other suitors included the Golden State Warriors and the Chicago Bulls. Cleveland became the leader over these two teams once they started including Andrew Wiggins in trade talks. Wiggins is said to be the top target for Minnesota in trade discussions, even over the Warriors’ Klay Thompson. ESPN reported Wednesday that the Cavs were the only team left in the trade talks with Minnesota. It is still unknown what else would be included in the trade for Love, but rumors of Anthony Bennett and a first round pick have been floating around. The only known fact seems to be that Kevin Love will not be a member of Minnesota Timberwolves for long.

(Photo by: AP Photo/Jim Mone)

ESPN redesigns Cavaliers jerseys

The Cavaliers have had a lot of big changes this offseason. They have added LeBron James, coach David Blatt, and maybe soon Kevin Love. So should the Cavs change their look on the court too? Cleveland made changes to their jerseys and added a new logo in 2010 after LeBron left for Miami. ESPN had fans send in their ideas of what the Cavs should do to upgrade their look on the court. All of these fan jersey ideas are courtesy of ESPN’s Uni Watch.

Skyline Jerseys

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Redesign of Current Jerseys

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Detailed Jerseys

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Advertisement Jerseys

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Wild Designed Jerseys

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There are a lot of cool looking jerseys! I like the first set of the jerseys the most. What is your favorite and what would you recommend the Cavs do with their look?

Cavs only team engaged in Love trade talks?

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Since the return of LeBron James, the Cleveland Cavaliers have been talking to the Minnesota Timberwolves about Kevin Love. The Cavs have been in discussion to land Kevin Love to pair with James and Kyrie Irving. Over the past several weeks, there have been talk of the Chicago Bulls and Golden State Warriors engaging in the trade talk for Kevin Love. But, ESPN is reporting that the Cavs are now the only team talking trade with Minnesota. The report says it is a matter of when the trade will happen rather than if. The package would be centered around the 2014 number one pick Andrew Wiggins. The Wolves are said to be interested in Wiggins the most among all other players the three teams could offer. That includes Klay Thompson who the Warriors have still not offered the Timberwolves.

The trade can not be made until 30 days after the date Andrew Wiggins signed his rookie contract, which happened last Thursday, July 24. This time table could give other teams time to sweeten their deal for Kevin Love. But even with this delay, Minnesota seems to be centered on getting Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins appeals to them not just because of his huge upside, but also his friendly rookie deal. They can control him for longer and at a much cheaper price then they could with Klay Thompson. The report says the framework seems to be Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, and a first round pick. But, the question still remains about what the Cavs will send along with this framework in the package for Kevin Love. ESPN states that this part of the deal is still evolving and could change from now until the 30-day delay is over. The trade could involve a third team and could also involve other players from the Timberwolves including J.J. Barea. The trade discussions are still ongoing, but it seems more likely then ever that the Cavs will end up getting Kevin Love.

(Photo by: AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Kevin Love withdraws from Team USA, demands a trade to the Cavs?

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Amid all of the trade rumors surrounding his status with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Kevin Love has decided to not play this summer with Team USA. Love was supposed to report to Team USA’s training camp for the FIBA World Cup in a couple days. He has been the topic of the biggest NBA news over the past few weeks.

The Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls, and Golden State Warriors are the strongest suitors for a Kevin Love trade. According to ESPN, The Cavs are said to be very optimistic that they will acquire Love from the Timberwolves. Reports say the Cavs are offering Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, and a first round pick. There have been conflicting reports about what the Cavs offer is and if they have even offered Wiggins yet. Another possible advantage the Cavs may have is the report by FOX Sports Ohio’s Sam Amico. According to his sources, Love has conveyed his desire to be traded to Cleveland. Amico goes on to say that it is unclear if Love has formally asked the Timberwolves for a trade. If this happens, Cleveland could get him at a cheaper price.

The Bulls have reportedly offered Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott, and Nikola Mirotic for Love. The Warriors have supposedly offered Harrison Barnes and David Lee, but it still remains to be seen if they have also included Klay Thompson. The Timberwolves are insistent about getting Thompson from the Warriors. But even with him in the trade, ESPN reported the Timberwolves, more specifically their ownership, prefer Wiggins rather then Thompson. It is still unknown whether Cleveland will acquire Love, but it seems almost certain that he will not be with Minnesota for much longer.

(Photo by: AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Bulls offer Gibson, McDermott and Mirotic for Love?

kevin love cavs

The Cavaliers may have a lot stronger competition in Kevin Love sweepstakes then previously thought. According to Chris Sheridan, The Chicago Bulls offered Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love.  He states that the the Timberwolves are very intrigued by the package.  Taj Gibson is a 5-year veteran who averaged 13 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks last season for the Bulls.  He plays well on defense and can score in the post and in the mid range.  Doug McDermott is a rookie from Creighton University.  In his senior season, he averaged 26.7 points and 7 rebounds.  He is a lethal shooter who can shoot from any spot on the court.  The Bulls signed Nikola Mirotic this offseason from Real Madrid in Spain.  He is a young sharp shooter who has really intrigued NBA teams over the past few years.

The Cavs have reportedly offered Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, and a first round pick for Love. Andrew Wiggins was the number one pick in this past draft from the University of Kansas.  He is an athletic player with a huge upside.  Anthony Bennett was selected number one overall in the 2013 NBA Draft from UNLV.  He had a subpar year last season averaging only 4.2 points and 3 rebounds last season.  The Cavs own three first round picks next season including a Miami and Memphis’s picks.

The race to get Kevin Love is in full gear and it may not be decided for quite a while.  The Cavs made a trade yesterday to better their offer by getting three non-guaranteed contracts from the Utah Jazz.  The Bulls and Cavs seems to be the leaders in the clubhouse for Kevin Love, but anything can happen in the NBA.

(Photo by: AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Is there a difference between lucky and good? While We’re Waiting

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Happy Tuesday WFNY!

I have to be honest, for sports fans like myself, the period from MLB post-All Star break to the start of the NFL season can be a bit of a drag. It’s not that I dislike watching the Indians. In fact, I have them on right now as I am writing this (yes, I write these on Monday nights, not Tuesday mornings). But in terms of really exciting events in sports, there just isn’t much.

NBA free agency has mostly wound down. Sometimes there are still some big trades, but August is typically the time most team executives take their vacations. NFL training camp is starting, and that’s fun, but it’s not always the most exciting thing in the world. English Premier League soccer doesn’t start until August 16th. These next couple weeks can be somewhat slow on the hard hitting headlines outside the annual Browns QB Competition.

I say all of this not to be a downer, but more to serve as a pre-emptive explanation/apology for today’s WWW being a little shorter than what I normally do and a little more outside the Cleveland Sports box. I just don’t have a ton of Cleveland Sports related things to talk about at the moment.

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What does it mean to be a “well run” NBA team?

I’ve been thinking about this a little bit lately. I’ve seen some talk about how lucky the Cavs are to have LeBron back and how it’s unfair that the Cavs are rewarded for their incompetence. I can’t sit here and say those people are wrong. I said last week that nobody in the Cavs organization deserves credit for LeBron’s return. Heck, we all know that if LeBron was from Omaha, there’s no way he’d be on the Cavaliers right now.

Scheiner and MoreyBut there can be a fine line between perception and reality within the confines of being a well run team. The Spurs are often credited as being the best run franchise in sports. Very few people would disagree with that. But the Spurs haven’t had to deal with losing Tim Duncan yet. The Detroit Red Wings were considered the best run NHL franchise just a few years ago. But after Nicklas Lidstrom’s retirement, the Red Wings have struggled to regain their status as an elite franchise. Now some are question both GM Ken Holland and head coach Mike Babcock. Being a well run franchise is so much easier when you have that superstar anchor.

But perhaps the most fascinating case study falls with Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently after reading Matt Moore’s take on the Cavs’ “petulance” being rewarded with LeBron. In particular, Moore writes:

The big winners of the 2014 NBA offseason are the Cleveland Cavaliers and the big losers are the Houston Rockets. Except Houston has been run well, and Cleveland has been a disaster. Go figure.[…]

Meanwhile, on the other side, here’s Daryl Morey. He turned Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and picks into James Harden. He cleared space for Dwight Howard and successfully pitched him after years of building a competitive team while also accumulating assets. He found takers for Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, contracts he signed because at the time, they were major talent upgrades. He offered Chris Bosh the chance to compete for a title now, in a role preventing him from having to bang down low and would maximize his talents in a tech-savvy organization with no state income tax.

Instead, he got Trevor Ariza.

The NBA’s not fair. And you can ask Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant, Greg Oden … or former Bucks owner Herb Kohl, who tried to build a winner the right way during his tenure. But the events of the past four days reveal more than just that simple imbalance. It reveals a legitimate flaw in the NBA’s design.

These are points that most people across the NBA would probably agree with. But not everyone is buying into this line of thinking, especially when it comes to Morey. Last week in a post on Medium.com, T.D. Williams wrote a scathing rebuke of Morey’s reputation among those in the media.

Whereas Moore listed the great moves Morey has made, Williams looks at it a little differently:

A close examination of Morey’s signings and trades raises as much skepticism as reason for praise: when the Rockets were forward-heavy and in need of a point guard, he traded Kyle Lowry and let Goran Dragic leave, only to replace them with an overpaid Jeremy Lin — a player the Rockets had on their roster the season before, at league minimum salary, before they waived him. He traded Nicolas Batum — a do-it-all small forward who might be an even better piece on a title contender than Parsons — for Joey Dorsey and a draft pick that became Sam Young. He overpaid the offensively limited Omer Asik, then gave max money to Dwight Howard, whose presence made Asik redundant. He wasted a mid-first-round draft pick on Royce White, a red-flagged prospect who provided Houston more headaches off the court than minutes on it. He has boasted about advanced strategy while employing a coach who is known more as a player favorite than a tactician. Houston’s supposedly revolutionary offense of driving and shooting 3s has often looked disorganized and short-sighted down the stretch in playoff games.

So which one is right? They probably both are. To paraphrase Pat Riley, “this stuff is hard”. Building a team requires a lot of things, some of which is scouting talent, but a lot of which is luck. Daryl Morey is hardly faultless as a GM. And yes, I would argue he is pretty severely overrated as a front office executive. He makes a lot of moves that look great on paper, but his big picture plan is never really in focus. He cycles through player acquisitions at an insane rate, endlessly searching for that magical fit that will work. However, most teams would absolutely be thrilled to have Morey working for them.

As for the Cavaliers and their plan, well, up to this point the post-Decision plan hasn’t been working at all, and there are plenty of fingers to be pointed and plenty of deserving recipients of said pointing. However, if I have a point of contention with the likes of Matt Moore and Bill Simmons who have questioned a system that they feel rewards teams who are run poorly, it’s that I think the system is actually kind of doing what it is supposed to.

Basketball is a funny sport where teams like the 76ers and Celtics who try to lose and succeed at it are perceived as doing things right while teams like the Cavaliers and Bucks who have tried to win and failed are perceived as the ones benefitting from a flawed system. The NBA Draft Lottery was designed to be a safety net for teams that fail. The whole purpose of using a lottery instead of a pure record-based draft order is to prevent teams from tanking. The fact that the Cavaliers won the lottery from the ninth position this time or from the eighth spot with the Clippers pick in 2011 should be a sign that the system is working. Now, it’s bizarre that the same team keeps winning, but there’s nothing strange about teams jumping up to win the lottery. That’s how it is supposed to work.

Again, none of this is to say the Cavaliers have done things right. Their plan was not to finish outside the playoffs and then jump up to the number one slot. They got insanely lucky. And they are lucky that LeBron James is from Akron, Ohio. And they are lucky that LeBron is willing to stop chasing rings to instead try to bring that elusive title back to Cleveland. This isn’t a defense of the Cavaliers last few seasons, but rather, a defense of the system and a closer look at what makes a team a well run team. Morey’s reputation has been largely untouchable, but what separates him from RC Buford in San Antonio? Is it all structural and organizational, or is some of it luck that the Spurs have had Tim Duncan, a once in a lifetime kind of player and person? What happens to the Spurs when he eventually retires? Will the Spurs continue to be the class of the NBA, or, like the Red Wings in the NHL, will they become a franchise that flounders through continuous seasons of mediocrity and early playoff exits? Only time will tell.

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Kyrie Irving’s adjustment

I said on Twitter last week that in some ways, I kind of feel sorry for Kyrie Irving. Sure, he just signed a massive long term contract extension and now he gets to play with LeBron James and thus, for the first time in his NBA career, not be the sole point of focus for opposing defenses. So maybe feeling sorry for him is a bit strong.

kyrie editHowever, after everything he went through last season, all the insane levels of criticism, the doubting of his desire to be in Cleveland, the constant string of article after article questioning his commitment to the franchise and his commitment to winning, the fact is that Kyrie took all of about five seconds to agree to an extension with the Cavaliers. And he did so well before the LeBron rumors had really heated up. He answered at least that aspect of his critics’ questions about his commitment to Cleveland.

Sure, some will say “of course he signed right away….nobody else was going to offer him that kind of money”. But you can’t have it both ways. You can’t criticize a guy all season and say there’s no way he’s going to stay in Cleveland, but then turn around when he does sign and say “well of course he did”. For many, maybe even most, Kyrie staying in Cleveland was not a certainty. So on a certain level, Kyrie deserves some credit for doing what so many thought he wouldn’t do.

And for a day or two, he did get the credit and recognition he deserved for it. But then the LeBron avalanche started and suddenly Kyrie’s commitment was an afterthought. No longer is Kyrie answering questions about himself, but instead it seems like every question he is asked is about LeBron. So where I feel sorry for Kyrie a bit is in my fear that fans are overlooking how important it was for Kyrie to buy in.

But now come the questions about Kyrie adjusting, and those are certainly fair. For the last couple years, despite being just 20-21 years old, Kyrie has been asked to be a leader on this team. Everything has been about building around Kyrie. The Cavaliers were his team, and when he signed his extension, we assumed it would be his team for the future. All of that changed when LeBron decided to return.

Now, this will immediately become LeBron’s team again and Kyrie will have to adjust to not being “the guy”. In late game situations with the game on the line, the ball will start in LeBron’s hands, not Kyrie’s. If Kyrie embraces this adjustment, though, it can be a huge thing for him. LeBron’s presence can finally give Kyrie a veteran mentor who can show him how to lead, and how to win, and how to deal with being the focal point of a team. LeBron’s presence could be and should be positively liberating for Kyrie.

And eventually, as LeBron gets older and starts to slow down, the team can transition into Kyrie’s hands when he’s more ready for it. Similar to how the Spurs slowly morphed from purely being Tim Duncan’s team into Tony Parker’s team. The same kind of mentorship program can exist in Cleveland. It’s going to be a lot of fun to see how Kyrie accepts his changing role on the team.

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Dare we talk about prison on a sports site?

Ok, I’m going to go way off topic here. When we initiated the change in format to WWW with Scott, Rick, Craig, Jacob, and myself each taking a designated day of the week, I wrote that one of my goals for this change was to allow all of our personalities and interests to carry through. Some of that will extend beyond sports. Obviously sports will always be the main topic of WWW, but sometimes we like to show some of the other sides of our personalities and the things that interest us. So, with that being said, why not try talking about something quite different here?

By now you guys who read WWW every day know that I am an enormous fan of John Oliver’s work on HBO’s phenomenal “Last Week Tonight”. This week, his main segment touched on America’s broken prison system:

This was a pretty coincidental topic, because another one of my favorite forms of entertainment is listening to NPR podcasts and, in particular, one of my favorite shows “This American Life”. In Act Two of this week’s show, “Mind Your Business”, they talked about the recent scandal involving Los Angeles County’s abuse of inmates. So, with two of my favorite shows talking about incarceration this week, I thought I would share these links and encourage everyone to watch/listen.

I’m far from qualified to offer up any kind of solution, but it’s clear to see we have an issue in America. Our prisons are becoming increasingly overpopulated, creating an increasing burden on tax payers. And while some feel the solution is the privatization of jail services, these cost cutting businesses open the door for severe human rights issues. The treatment of prisoners is pretty alarming in some situations, particularly with what happened in Los Angeles County. And while I know some people feel that we shouldn’t care what happens to people in prison, that they deserve whatever happens to them there, I struggle with that line of thinking when these kind of studies exist.

At the end of the day, like I said previously, I recognize that I don’t have the answers. Yet I feel like turning our backs on issues because they don’t personally affect us isn’t the best way to find answers. There are so many bleak stories on the news and we are trending toward apathy. I’d love to exist in a world where issues like this, and the environment, and energy, and equality would transcend politics. I get disheartened when conversations boil down to liberals and conservatives rehashing tired party lines. I’d just like us to at least be able to agree on what the problems in America are. It’s hard to figure out answers when we can’t even agree what the issues are.

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Anyway, that’s it from me this week. Hope you all enjoy the rest of your week, and I’ll be back next Tuesday where we might have some actual Browns stuff to talk about! Cheers!

Cavaliers planning to sign Wiggins next week?

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The Cleveland Cavaliers are close to signing first-round pick Andrew Wiggins, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. This is a complete turnaround from all the talk about Wiggins being in trade discussions for Minnesota Timberwolves’ Kevin Love. Once a rookie signs, the team cannot trade him until 30 days after he signs the contract. Windhorst reports that the Cavs are waiting to sign Wiggins in order to have more flexibility in their cap space. Most believed the Cavs were waiting to sign Wiggins because they were looking to trade him for Love. This report will shut the door on the Wiggins for Love trade talk for at least 30 days.

Windhorst says the team is still deciding on what to do with their remaining $1.4 million of cap space. The Cavs are considering long-term contracts for second-round picks Joe Harris and Dwight Powell as well as the possibility of bringing in Ray Allen. Windhorst says that once the Cavs use up the remaining cap space, they will use the $2.7 million “room” exception to sign Mike Miller. This report clearly shows the Cavs are focused on keeping Wiggins for at least the near future. It is a completely different tune from the one heard last week that they were willing to trade Wiggins.

(Photo by: AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

What’s Next for the Cavs in Free Agency?

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The Cleveland Cavaliers have already won the offseason by winning the services of the best player in the NBA, LeBron James. The whole direction of the team has completely changed in the past week. James makes everyone on the team better and his unselfishness gets his teammates a lot of open shots. He is a physical freak, who can dominate on both sides of the ball. He will be the leader of a young team with a lot of potential. Kyrie Irving is already an All-Star caliber player, who can team up with James and be part of one of the best duos in the league. He is a talented scorer, who is a dual threat with his shooting and driving to the basket. We have already seen in the NBA All-Star Game that these two can make the Cavs an exciting team. James and Irving give the Cavs the makings of a top team in the NBA.

[Read more...]

LeBron, Wiggins, Love, While We’re Waiting

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Happy Tuesday WFNY!!!

I hope everyone had a great weekend. If you’re anything like me, it would have been awfully hard not to. I had some things not go as planned over the weekend, and had it been any other weekend, it might have been a fairly miserable one. But just the knowledge that LeBron James was coming back to Cleveland carried me through. I can’t recall the last time I watched as much ESPN as I did over the weekend. I just couldn’t seem to get enough of watching people talk about the Cavaliers and the return of Mr LeBron.

In so many ways, it still doesn’t feel real. I remember feeling the same way when he left. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that my favorite basketball player ever wouldn’t be playing for my team anymore. Like an idiot, I watched the Heat celebration live when they introduced LeBron and Chris Bosh. It wasn’t so much like watching a car wreck, but it was more of just trying to affirm that I wasn’t dreaming and that this was real. But when I saw him turn around on the stage in the Heat uniform, it became real. It was over.

Over the last four years, I probably only watched LeBron play in the regular season less than five times, outside of when he was playing against the Cavaliers. It never got any easier. I wasn’t angry these last couple years anymore, but I still just didn’t enjoy watching him play for another team. But I watched almost all of his playoff games, and while I rooted against his teams from afar, I was constantly reminded of what it was the Cavs had lost and just how far they had to go to get back to that kind of level of play.

Now, he’s back. And this time the thought of seeing him play in a Cavs uniform again doesn’t seem real. In many ways, because I avoided watching the Heat play so much, it feels a bit like a long lost best friend moving back into the neighborhood. Sure, you saw each other a couple times over the years, and you saw the Facebook photos through the years, but you had mostly lost touch. Now you’re back to seeing each other all the time again. In so many ways you’re excited to resume your friendship, but things are a little different. Your friend has changed a bit, and you’ve changed a bit as well through the years. You’ll always share a common nostalgia and you’ll both want things to be like they once were, but the truth is time moves on and nothing stays the same. It’s going to be different this time. It has to be. I just hope things can be even better than they were the first time.

*****

So how did this happen?

I’m fascinated by the Butterfly Effect. Not the movie, but the theory. Well, actually, I kind of thought the movie was sort of interesting, too, I’m ashamed to admit. But I love contemplating how the smallest things can set a course of events into motion. I love reading about American History, in particular, the American Revolution. There are so many things that happened just right to allow the colonies to outlast the mighty British military and secure freedom from the crown.

For example, in 1777 the British were advancing to Philadelphia. They sent a group of sharp shooters to hide in the woods outside Philadelphia in an attempt to take down George Washington’s unit. Eventually a couple American officers came riding through the woods. The British sharpshooters were led by Captain Patrick Ferguson, one of the best marksmen in the British army. Ferguson had one of the officers in his sights, but couldn’t bring himself to shoot an unsuspecting officer in the back without warning. He called out to the officer, who just looked back quickly and then rode away. That officer was none other than George Washington. Had Ferguson just taken the shot, who knows how history would have been changed. But he let Washington ride away, and it was George Washington who did his best to keep the American army together and who kept forcing the British to chase them throughout the rough terrain of the American wilderness.

So what’s the point? I keep going back to that 1.7% chance the Cavaliers had to win the lottery. By all reason and logic, the Cavaliers shouldn’t have won the lottery. 1.7%! Are you kidding me? How does that happen? For a rough approximation, imagine putting the numbers one through fifty into a hat. How many times do you think it would take for you to pull, say, the number 21 (Wiggins’ number) out of the hat? Probably a lot. But what if you could only pull numbers once. Just think about how crazy it would be to pull the number 21. That’s what the Cavaliers did.

What if a different number was pulled out of the hat. Any of the other 49 numbers. Would LeBron still be a Cavalier? Would David Blatt still be the Cavaliers’ coach? I just keep going back to an alternate timeline, the darkest timeline, where the Cavaliers had the ninth pick in the draft, Alvin Gentry was the coach, Kyrie Irving was refusing to sign a full extension, and LeBron just didn’t feel the Cavs roster and situation was compelling enough to return to.

Maybe it wouldn’t matter. Maybe this solely was an emotional decision to come home. But I can’t fully believe that. I think this was a long term basketball decision as well. But again, going back to Butterfly Effects, what if Ray Allen misses that three pointer in Game 6 of the 2013 Finals and the Spurs win the Championship? What if that fuels the Heat to come back and beat the Spurs instead of the other way around? Would LeBron still be leaving the Heat.

I just can’t shake the feeling that literally every single thing that had to happen for LeBron to come home did happen. Call it luck, fate, karma, serendipity, coincidence, whatever you want. When the Cavaliers’ ridiculous Season of Huh came to an end back in April, there was no chance LeBron was returning. None. But so many things fell into place, and now LeBron is back.

Make no mistake, nobody on the Cavaliers’ side deserves any credit for this. Not Dan Gilbert, not Chris Grant, not David Griffin, not Kyrie Irving. The only person who gets credit is LeBron. He’s the one who made the unprecedented decision to return to his roots. I said in last Friday’s podcast that in so many ways his decision was a validation of home. If him leaving was a reflection of Cleveland’s deepest insecurities, his return is a tip of the hat to the fact that there really is power in the idea of the hometown hero and prodigal son coming back to reclaim his birthright. This is truly one of the most remarkable sports stories to happen in my lifetime, and I can’t wait to get the next phase of this journey started.

*****

A quick thought on that two-year deal

I realized immediately when LeBron’s two-year contract was announced that all he was doing was making sure he maximized his earning potential. I read LeBron’s letter, of course. I believe him when he wrote “I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there.” After crafting such a beautiful letter with SI’s Lee Jenkins, it’s hard to imagine LeBron leaving Cleveland again.

But this is Cleveland. Strange things happen in Cleveland sports. Unimaginable things. The future is bright now, but what if Kyrie doesn’t mesh with LeBron and regresses? What if the Cavaliers decide not to trade for Kevin Love and Andrew Wiggins turns into a bust? What if LeBron and David Blatt don’t get along? What if Dan Gilbert and LeBron find it too hard to coexist? What if all of those things happen and a situation presents itself where LeBron and Kevin Durant can go play for the Lakers together?

We hope LeBron never leaves again, and I’d say the smart money is on LeBron retiring as a Cavalier. But I’m not willing to say there is zero chance he ever leaves again. There’s a bit of an unknown to all of this because we are in some seriously uncharted waters here. I thought ESPN’s Bomani Jones made some great points on this subject on Twitter over the weekend:

I think it’s easy to say “Hey, LeBron and Dan talked it out and they’re all good now and everything is going to be ‘happily ever after’ in the end!” But we don’t know that. The odds of LeBron leaving in a year or two are slim, but it is a possibility. This isn’t anything we should be freaking out over, we just have to hope the Cavaliers’ front office can make the right moves to keep the team competitive moving forward and that Dan Gilbert can mostly stay out of LeBron’s way.

*****

What is Love worth?

Because it’s so important for the Cavaliers not to squander this second-chance opportunity with LeBron, it makes the Kevin Love trade situation so fascinating. The Cavaliers must do the right thing here. But what is the right thing? Some would say the Kevin Love is a known quantity and the Cavaliers should just trade Andrew Wiggins for him right away rather than risk Wiggins being a bust. Others point to the salary difference between Love and Wiggins and the potential for a long term title run with a young potential superstar like Wiggins.

The truth is, there is no obvious right or wrong answer here at this point. The only certainty is that at this point in time, right now, the Cavaliers absolutely should not trade Wiggins for Love. There’s no reason to even entertain the idea. The Wolves don’t have a quality offer on the table from another team that the Cavaliers need to be worried about. The Cavaliers can be patient, wait until the trade deadline, see what other players that we’re not even thinking about right now become available, and then decide based on seeing Wiggins play a couple months whether or not they want to trade him.

Make no mistake, though. Kevin Love is an incredible basketball player. Very few bigs are as skilled as Love. He can shoot, pass, rebound, handle the basketball, etc. He’s been an All-Star in three of his six seasons. He has won a three-point shootout. The Cavaliers are always said to have failed to deliver a Pippen to LeBron’s Jordan, well, on Basketball-Reference’s ’Similarity Scores’, the second comparison to Love is Pippen. You put Love on a team with Kyrie and LeBron and you would like to think the Cavaliers are absolutely the favorites to win the East and compete for an NBA Championship. And that’s what this is all about.

But you had better be sure about that. You have to be absolutely certain that Love’s defense won’t be too much to overcome, especially when you also have Kyrie on the floor at the same time. You have to be certain Love won’t fracture either of his hands again (he has fractured his left hand once and his right hand twice already in his brief career). You have to be certain that Kyrie, LeBron, and Love are good enough to win a Championship.

Why? Because the moment the Cavaliers trade Wiggins for Love, that’s it for the team building exercise. With the contracts of Kyrie, LeBron, and Love the team will basically be in the same situation the Heat were in, being able to only sign players using Mid-Level and Bi-Annual exceptions and veteran minimums. There’s something scary about just jumping into the deep end like that.

If it were up to me, I would do exactly what the Cavaliers are doing right now. I would be patient and wait. I would tell the media every day that Wiggins is going nowhere. I would keep the pressure on the Wolves. Because the Cavaliers are in the better position here. If no trade happens, the Wolves lose Love and get absolutely nothing back in return. But for the Cavaliers? Life goes on with Kyrie, LeBron, and a bunch of really young, developing players. And like I said earlier, the Cavaliers can still make another trade. It’s not Love or bust. Other really good players will become available at some point in the trade market.

If the Cavaliers traded Wiggins for Love today, yes, they would be a better team this season. But they would lose all flexibility. Keeping Wiggins for now not only keeps the team’s salary more flexible, but it gives the Cavaliers four (FOUR!) young, developing players who should benefit from playing with LeBron and Kyrie and can eventually be used in trade offers. Wiggins, Waiters, Bennett, and Thompson can all grow into nice looking trade pieces if needed. Or maybe they develop into a young core of supporting players on a dynastic run of NBA Finals appearances.

The point is, there’s a fine line between going for a title now and maintaining flexibility. You can’t have flexibility forever. At some point you have to strike and maximize assets to go after the title. There’s plenty of time for the Cavaliers to figure this stuff out. There’s no reason to do anything right now. The longer the Cavs wait, the more pressure there will be on Minnesota to get a deal done. If the Cavaliers can eventually make a deal where they get Love and also keep Wiggins, well, the future will look brighter than it ever has for any Cleveland sports team in my life. If they trade Wiggins for Love, this upcoming season has potential to be special and the future will still be pretty exciting. If they make no trade at all, the future looks good to me, as the team still has young players, flexibility, and the tools to make other trades. It’s a pretty nice position to be in.

*****

That’s it for me this week. No new music to really talk about as we’re still stuck in the annual July rut for new releases. I’m enjoying The Leftovers still, but I don’t have much to say about it right now. I’m still trying to figure out what exactly is all going on. In truth, the LeBron news pretty much put me into a pop culture hiatus for a few days.

I hope everyone has a great week, and maybe next week I’ll have a more diverse set of topics to discuss.

 

 

Cavaliers 3-team trade officially announced

new Cavaliers Primary Logo

The reported deal between the Cleveland Cavaliers, Brooklyn Nets, and Boston Celtics was official announced.  The biggest part of the trade for the Cavs was for cap space.  They cleared enough room to give LeBron James a max contract of about $20 million a year.  Their cap space is estimated to be around $22 million after this trade.  Along with the cap room, the Cavs acquired Boston’s 2015 second round pick (top 55 protected), the rights to Ilkan Karaman, and the rights to Edin Bavcic.  The 2015 second round pick will not extend into future years even if the Cavs do not receive it in 2015.  In the trade, the Nets received Jarrett Jack and Sergey Karasev.  The Celtics received Tyler Zeller, Marcus Thornton, and the Cavs’ 2016 first round pick (top 10 protected).  The Cavs’ 2016 first round pick sent to Boston is top 10 protected in 2016, 2017 and 2018, but will be unprotected in the 2019 draft.

This trade was all about cutting big contracts and making cap space for the team to be active in free agency this offseason.  According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the trade was not done for the sole purpose of making room for LeBron.  The Cavs received rights to Ilkan Karaman and Edin Bavcic in this trade, too.  Ilkan Karaman, 24, was selected by the Brooklyn Nets with the 57th pick of the 2012 NBA Draft.  He most recently played in the Turkish Basketball League for Fenerbahçe Ülker.  Edin Bavcic, 30, was originally selected by the Toronto Raptors with the 56th overall pick of the 2006 NBA Draft.  He currently plays for KAOD in Greece.

LOL we really are waiting hardcore now, While We’re Waiting

The nest.Hello. Scott asked me yesterday at 3:44 pm to write his morning post for him so that he could spend another day on vacation with his family (see image). It seemed reasonable to do so because I am not on vacation and Scott is a good friend.

As of the scheduling of this post (10:50 pm EST), something may or may not have happened regarding the Cleveland Basketball Cavaliers and LeBron James. There will be no breaking or recently broken news contained in this post, just meandering and navel-gazing thoughts about sports and LeBron and life and etcetera. Don’t worry: I’m not “writing mean” this time.

Craig wrote a piece this weekend that got me thinking about LeBron and a potential return. Craig’s writing has, in general, seemed to me to shift focus over the past year and a half or so and taken a wider view of sports and their impact on the community writ large, and I have enjoyed the result. But what hit me in his piece on Saturday was this paragraph, a much more introspective bit:

But that was a long time ago. My four-year-old was just three months old at that time. I remember because I recall not caring if I woke him up when I cursed at the top of my lungs. But I’ve changed a lot since then. I’ve re-learned a ton about not only apologizing but to accept apologies. There’s something about being a dad and teaching your kids about grace and humility that you can’t help but remember to try and be a decent example for them, at least to some approximation of your own capabilities.

The notion of ‘I’ve changed a lot since then’ struck a chord with me. (I suspect the parts about apologizing/children will resonate more when my daughter is older than six months. Also I think the chord was Fadd9.) I don’t follow sports like I used to. There are reasons behind that, and those reasons are essentially a Gordian knot; it seems better to commit to non-fandom than to dip my toe into non-fandom and seeing how it feels. So now I’m at a point where I’m trying to figure out how exactly I feel about all of this LeBron business. This makes me no different from most people, except that I also am trying to figure out ‘sports’ as a thing in my life.

Before I read Craig’s post, I knew there was potential for LeBron to return, but I hadn’t really thought about what that may or may not mean to me. Craig’s piece was written Saturday, before Cleveland sports things generally devolved into chaos. Since then, I have only tangentially payed attention – too much is “happening” too quickly for me to have the energy to keep up. (Plus, my daughter just started eating solid food, and one of my dogs has some sort of stomach bug, the weather and holiday last weekend were marvelous, and I’m spending a lot of time reading about dual fuel ranges.) I’ve been thinking about what LeBron James playing basketball in Cleveland might mean to me and how it may effect the way I view sports. That last point is a really hard thing to pin down.

In 2010, LeBron James left Cleveland. On the same night (and on a much, much smaller scale) I left writing about Cleveland sports after publishing a half-drunk piece that I am somehow still mostly satisfied with four years later. Looking at what I wrote, it’s clear that some previously-important thing broke in me that night. I’m pretty sure it was the part of me that was invested in individual professional athletes (also broken was some of my remaining naivety–but not my optimism).

It’s also clear, looking at the tail end of that piece, that I’ve failed in some ways of living up to what I had hoped to accomplish. To wit:

[I]t’s never a good thing to be that old, frumpy, joyless person who thinks that it’s their job to poop on everyone’s parade. Bitterness and cynicism rarely accomplish anything of note. I sincerely hope that I won’t become such a person. If that happens to me, I imagine that I will view this as a failure to live a happy life. I hope that none of us become severely embittered because of this – living in a downtrodden, angry place is not any sort of way to live our lives.

My tendency to piss in other people’s Cheerios over sports has not subsided, even though I live a generally happy life. The amateur etymologists in the room will tell me that “fan” is derived from “fanatic”, as though that in some way justifies taking pictures of an athlete’s young children at an airport because it might mean something about sports ball. There are many, many facets of fandom that I feel deserve to be mocked. Reading over how I felt immediately after LeBron left in 2010, I can’t say that I’ve lived up to what I wrote. I’m trying, but maybe I need to try harder.

What’s remarkable about this whole free agency thing, at least on an existential level, is that this LeBron free agency extravaganza is an instance that so very closely mirrors the first time around. The only thing different is that we all are a little older. You, me, LeBron, Chris Broussard, Chris Broussard’s Multiple Sources. All of us. Amin Vafa alluded to that point at HP yesterday:

Again, I can’t speak for him, but I can speak for myself as a 29-year old who’s more self-aware than he was at 25. It’s likely that James wants to do what’s right by him, what’s right by his career, what’s right by his family, what’s right by his friends, and he wants to hurt as few people as possible in the wake. There’s no “right” answer to his choice here.

And so taking that self-awareness into account, we get to this point where we can look at the outcomes from the first time around (and our personal reactions to the outcomes) and really reflect on them. How did we react, and how can we look at that reaction and use it to better-prepare ourselves this time around? How will our own personal reactions in 2010–and our subsequent feelings—inform our reaction in 2014?

In 2010 I lost a lot of my love for the NBA. That was the first of many steps that’s gotten me to where I am now: circumspect of fandom in general and not really even watching the World Cup, which is my favorite sporting event of them all. Some of missing the World Cup has to do with work scheduling, some with having a six month-old, some of it has to do with not having cable, some of it has to do with planning home renovations. But underlying all of that is the fact that I don’t care as much as I used to, probably because I don’t want to allow myself to be hurt by sports like I was when LeBron left.

It’s been difficult caring about all of the trickle of  ‘information’ surrounding the tightly-held decision-making process that LeBron is going through. The absurdity of Twitter dot com has grown exponentially by the day, to the point where trying to follow anything related to NBA free agency is more tiring than anything else. If I wanted to chase short little serotonin bursts derived from steady input and ever-increasing desperation, I’d start mainlining heroin.

LeBron is a grown-ass man, and it’s his decision alone to make. He’s not leading anyone on at this point. Nobody is entitled to his services, nor is anyone entitled to force him into making his decision before he’s ready to.

I can’t guarantee how I’ll react to whatever LeBron chooses. Maybe I’ll give the NBA another shot. Maybe I’ll shrug and keep on going as I have been. I just hope it doesn’t drive me further away from sports, because I want to enjoy them. Especially if LeBron is part of those sports again. He’s really damned good at shootyhoops, and it’d be a shame for me to miss out on that.

Random thought-like substances:

  • As mentioned, I am currently in the late planning stages of a kitchen remodel. The stages or planning, as I see them, are as follows: 1) Early: you think ‘oh, a new kitchen would really be nice’, as the whole thing is an abstraction; 2) Middle: events happen and that kitchen work becomes far less abstract and almost tangible. This is the exciting stage; 3) Late: You’ve spent way too much of your life trying to figure out just what needs to line up and how things are going to work, and really you’re mostly there and just wish it were over with. To the point where I’m waiting on other people to get to where I want things to be, and they’re just standing in the way and my GOD why can’t they just get it over with already?
  • Designing a row home kitchen is a really fun challenge, except for the part where you realize you’re going to hate aspects of it and only have yourself to blame.
  • Trying to figure out what parts of the kitchen work you’re willing/able to do yourself is even more challenging.
  • As part of kitchen renovation we are considering buying a new cookware set, likely all stainless. This is exciting but also leads to a lot of probably unnecessary research into pots and pans.
  • It seems like I’m always about three weeks from really having the time to start running again. Just need the baby to sleep through the night better, is all. Not running is all the baby’s fault, not my own.
  • I really liked Brendan’s piece last week on The Colony. If you missed it over the holiday weekend, be sure to check it out.
  • Okay. Go Sports.

The meeting that didn’t happen yet

LeBron

Well today was full of misinformation and reading too much into things.  The day started off with multiple reports from different “sources” that LeBron James would meet with Pat Riley today to discuss free agency.  It escalated when the AP’s Tim Reynolds reported about a meeting that LeBron was attending.  Reynolds was reporting live about a meeting that lasted three hours, containing LeBron and his “brain trust.”  Twitter was abuzz reacting to every tweet coming from Reynolds.  After the three hour meeting was over, LeBron walked by Reynolds saying only,”No complaints. I have no complaints.”  This really confused everyone and so no one had any idea what was going on.  What did this mean?

Well minutes after Reynolds’ tweet, ESPN’s Chris Broussard made the whole situation even more confusing.  Broussard reported that the meeting between LeBron and Riley is tomorrow in Las Vegas and that no meeting had happened yet.  This was later confirmed by other news outlets, too.  Reynolds also reported that he never saw anyone from the Heat organization there.  So for about ten minutes, everyone was confused about what the meeting was about.  But luckily, Yahoo Sports’ Marc Spears cleared up the confusion.  Spears reported that the meeting was with Nike and not the Heat.  So the whole day was really full of misinformation and confusion.  But guess what?  We will have at least another day of the LeBron James free agent saga.

LeBron meeting with the Heat today?

LeBron James Miami Heat

According to Fox Sports Ohio’s Sam Amico, sources say that LeBron could be meeting with Pat Riley sometime today.  Also according to Yahoo Sports’s Marc Spears, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade had dinner in Las Vegas late last night.  Amico goes on to say that sources tell him that LeBron is leaning towards staying with the Miami Heat.  These nuggets of news are signs that he may not take the jump to Cleveland like many have believed over the last couple days.  But as we have seen from LeBron lately, nothing is official until he makes the announcement.  At this point, this is all conjecture and no one truly has any real idea of what he may do.  He has the whole NBA universe at his fingertip, just waiting to see what he does.

 

Irving Courting LeBron to Cleveland?

lebron and kyrie

The full court press is on for the services of LeBron James.  The Cleveland Cavaliers could be getting help from their newly signed star.  According to Fox Sports Ohio’s Sam Amico, Kyrie Irving is making a pitch to LeBron James about joining the Cavaliers.  Amico goes on to say that ESPN reported Irving saying to LeBron that the Cavs will get all the help he needs.  This could be a welcoming development in the race to sign LeBron James.  Irving can pitch to LeBron that the Cavs are a young team that can grow together and sustain winning for more years then the Heat can.  The Cavs’ biggest draws are their youth, cap flexibility, and playing at “home.”  The Heat have their two championship rings and Pat Riley to entice LeBron back to South Beach.

The battle to get LeBron has been a social media explosion.  There are so many rumors floating around about what he will do and when he will decide.  The only real concrete information is that LeBron will meet with Pat Riley in the next couple of days to discuss free agency.  After that, it is anyone’s guess (and I mean anyone) on what will happen after this reported meeting.  For now it looks like a two horse race for Lebron, Cleveland and Miami.  Many inisders have stated that the decision should come sometime this week, but no one really knows for sure.  All I can say is that we all hold on tight and keep refreshing twitter every second.

(Photo by: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports)

WFNY Roundtable – What is Miami’s next move?

WFNY_roundtable

 

Hey, did you guys hear the news? LeBron is coming back!!!!!!

Well, ok, that might not be true. It’s probably not true. But somehow we find ourselves in a world where there seems to at least be a realistic possibility of The Return happening. So naturally, we decided to discuss the issue in one of our Roundtables. Specifically, Craig wanted to find out everyone’s thoughts on what the Heat can realistically do to improve their roster.  [Read more...]

Coach Blatt, NBA Draft, and Soccer in the USA, While We’re Waiting

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Happy Tuesday, WFNY!!!

I spent much of Monday pretty down. It took me a long time to recover from the most gut-wrenching draw I have ever felt. Going in to the USMNT’s match-up with Portugal, I was just keeping my fingers crossed for a draw. But I wouldn’t have been hoping for that if you would have told me the US would be up 2-1 in the 95th minute. No, I would have told you to take your draw and shove it. That one hurt deep, but it was a meaningful hurt. For a World Cup loss to hurt this much, it means that the US was actually playing for something. That the team actually matters and is a legit player in this tournament. Today is a new day, and I’m feeling so damn proud and excited for the USMNT. I cannot wait for Thursday and to see what our future in the World Cup looks like.

I know you guys didn’t come to WFNY originally for soccer, though, so I promise I shall try my absolute best to not go overboard in talking about the World Cup today. But I do have some things to say about the US team, the sport in general, and outlook of the game in the United States. So I’ll get to that in a minute, but first let’s take care of some house cleaning. A lot has happened with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the week since my last WWW, so lets talk about the Cavs!

Fate is not an eagle, it creeps like a Blatt

If nothing else, all the easy puns will be fun. The Cavaliers hired David Blatt on Friday and will be introducing him to the fans and media at a Wednesday press conference. As I said last week, Blatt was the coach I wanted. Recycled coaches like Vinny Del Negro and Alvin Gentry just didn’t excite me. I was somewhat intrigued by Tyronn Lue for no other reason than he would at least be something new and really smart basketball people seemed to like him. But to me, Blatt was the combination of experience and winning pedigree that I cherished. Now, granted, that experience and winning happened overseas and not in the NBA, but I refuse to believe that someone who has won everywhere he’s ever coached is incapable of adapting and adjusting to the NBA.

This was something that was years in the making. Indeed, fate is not an eagle. It takes dedication, perseverance, and hard work. All of those qualities led Blatt to this moment in his life, where he finally gets a chance to showcase his coaching skills on the world’s biggest and greatest basketball stage, the NBA. And it might take time for him to fully adjust and to figure out which parts of his style work and which ones do not, but I sure hope Dan Gilbert gives him the time he needs to do so. Because when he gets it to click, I truly believe he is going to be a successful NBA coach, and I’m pretty happy that he’s going to try to figure it out in Cleveland.

I also think that hiring Lue as an associate head coach was another really nice move by the franchise. It’s obvious the Cavaliers think quite highly of Lue, and having him be there as a resource on today’s NBA for Blatt should help smooth the transition from European basketball to NBA basketball. To get your top choice as head coach and then to get your second choice to come in as an associate head coach is a pretty nice luxury.

So……what now???!?!?!?

Joel Embiid. You have got to be freaking kidding me. My dream scenario was to hire David Blatt and to draft Joel Embiid, and everything looked good last Tuesday. I felt like everything was lining up for the Cavaliers to get my favorite center prospect in many, many years. And then we find out that he has a fractured foot. [Insert profanity bleep here]

It’s funny because I still believe Embiid will end up being the best player in this draft. But to do that, he has to be able to stay on the court, and the risk is just too great for the Cavaliers to use the #1 overall pick on him. If the Cavaliers stay in the No. 1 spot they’ll choose from either Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins. I’m probably going to change my mind a hundred more times before Thursday, but on this Tuesday morning, I’m a soft-lean for Wiggins. I saw limited amounts of college basketball this season, but I never saw Andrew Wiggins look better than Jabari Parker. To me, Parker looked like one of the best college basketball players all year. He had a level of consistency that Wiggins couldn’t touch.

So why am I leaning Wiggins? I don’t know. I don’t like the reports that Parker is overweight, I don’t like that he doesn’t play defense, I don’t like that he’s a bit of a SF/PF tweener. I am far from convinced that Wiggins will be a great NBA player. But I see the upside. I like that Wiggins feels like a more natural SF than Parker does (to me, anyway). I like that Wiggins will defend. I like Wiggins’ athleticism and the room he has to grow.

I don’t like Wiggins or Parker near as much as I like Embiid, but I have to let that go. Unless the Cavs trade out of the #1 spot, that is…

The Cavs almost certainly are not going to trade out of the #1 spot

This is the time of year when rumors run rampant and fans all freak out and assume the worst. Most of the information we’ve heard so far has come from Sam Amico1, and he notes that the Cavaliers have talked with the Jazz, Sixers, Timberwolves, and Magic in the last day alone.

But it was this tweet that got most of the attention:

There seems to be a sense that the Utah rumor is the one that has the most legs. On Twitter, Cavs fans began freaking out about the Cavs trading out of the top spot in the theoretical best draft in about five years.

NBA draft rumors definitely fall under the Candy Corn Principle. You know, the theory that every fall you try candy corn, somehow inexplicably forgetting just how awful it really is. The same thing happens with the NBA draft. Every year there are a million rumors and everybody panics and freaks out about them all, but then none of the rumored trades ever seem to actually happen. Oh, there are lots of trades during the draft. But they are almost never the trades that were rumored just days before.

This is simple. The Cavs will float all kinds of stuff out there. They are going to talk to as many teams as they can, and each time they’re going to try to get the other team to up their ante. If the Cavs get some kind of unreal, absolute home run of a trade offer that guarantees them more success in the future, sure, then maybe they would do it. But until that happens, this is all just posturing in preparation of Thursday’s big event. Unless something crazy happens, the Cavaliers will pick someone at #1.

Now, having said all that, the Utah offer is somewhat intriguing. If I was the Cavs, I would consider moving down to find myself in a position where it’s acceptable to draft Embiid. But you can’t risk the player you want not being there at No. 5. So I would draft Wiggins or Parker No. 1, then wait and see if the player I wanted was there at No. 5. If he is, then I tell Utah we can do the trade. Otherwise, you just hang on to the guy you picked and you move forward.

Regardless, I still think the chances of the Cavs trading out are awfully small. I fully expect the Cavs to keep their pick, whoever it ends up being.

Ok, so lets talk soccer for a second

The World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the world, mainly because almost everywhere outside of the US and Canada, it is everyone else’s favorite sport. For so long the US have felt like outsiders in the World Cup, impostors who who show up to the concert wearing the shirt of the band who is playing that they went out and bought that day just to wear to that show. For the first time since I started paying closer attention to the sport in 2002, I feel like that’s starting to change.

The match against Portugal, while wholly deflating, was also an eye opener. Yes, Portugal is an overrated team and they obviously have some serious issues. I fully expect them to lose to Ghana on Thursday. But still, this is one Europe’s elite teams and the US didn’t just hang in there against them. For most of the match, the US took it to them. They looked like they belonged. They had real soccer credibility.

One of the best things about following soccer in America is that we are lucky enough to have the Men In Blazers who, if you’re not familiar with, are two Englishmen living and working in America who have one of the absolute best podcasts in the world. During the World Cup they’ve been doing video blogs of the events, and I just loved the post-Portugal episode:

That video is kind of long, but I encourage people to at least watch the first few minutes. In soccer, you never want to overreact to any single match. It’s not that kind of sport. Developing momentum takes a span of many, many matches over many months. But under the leadership of coach Jürgen Klinsmann, team USA really does feel like they are at last starting to develop an identity.

But more importantly, there are just so many positives to take out of the Portugal match. The US has never fought back like that when trailing in the World Cup before. They weren’t scared or intimidated by Portugal. They weren’t star struck by Ronaldo. The US didn’t just feel like they belonged, they believed that they were the better team and that they were going to win.

Every year when the World Cup comes around people mistake American nationalism for American interest in soccer. While World Cup success certainly helps maintain American interest in the sport, the more important part is what happens when the World Cup is over.

NBC Sports did an amazing job covering English Premier League soccer last season. If they continue to do what they’re doing, they will continue to grow organic interest in the sport. “An MLS”2 has more talent than ever before. I’d like to see the league raise its television profile a bit. But the biggest thing happening for the sport inside America is Klinsmann’s vision.

When Klinsmann was hired, he wasn’t hired because he had some strategic idea of how to win with the current players. No, he was hired because of his vision for what soccer could be in America. More importantly, he had ideas on how to capitalize on and achieve that vision. It starts with building brand identity and delivering a style of play at the top that is inspiring and fun to watch. He’s not all the way there, but over the last 18 months we’ve seen that vision come more and more into focus with this team. From there, it’s about building from the ground up with youth academies and spreading the philosophy grassroots-style at a young age. Call it the indoctrination of American soccer, if you will, but Klinsmann is not just a coach, he’s a visionary for where soccer is going in America.

It may not ever be on the level of the Big 3 sports in the US, and that’s fine. But soccer fans in America will be happy seeing some more elite athletes starting to not just play soccer, but play it in a style that fits into Jürgen’s plans. Klinsmann has taken a ton of heat from the press and even some fans in recent months. Not taking Landon Donovan was highly controversial. Saying that the US can’t win the World Cup this year ruffled some feathers. His comments about US athletes being rewarded for past success rather than what they bring in the present really made some people mad.

But for all the hand-wringing over his comments, Klinsmann has kept his team together and continued to get them to buy into his vision. Time and time again Klinsmann has seen his substitutes come into the game and make a huge impact on the outcome of the game. He is acutely tuned into his team and he absolutely knows what he is doing at every step on this journey.

The US may not advance out of the Group of Death. I don’t expect them to secure a point against Germany and like I said, I expect Ghana to beat Portugal. So the US’s fate is really up in the air as far as I can tell. And I don’t want to just be satisfied with a nice showing in the brutal group. No, I want the US to advance. I want them to win a game or two in the next round. But if Thursday should be their last match, I’m still pretty proud of this team and I’m excited about the future.

Album of the week

Finally, we wrap this up with this week’s selection for new album of the week. This week is a no-brainer for me. Mastodon’s new album “Once More ‘Round the Sun” is out and once again Mastodon shows why they are one of the absolute best bands on this planet today.

There just aren’t many metal bands that really excite me these days. And while Mastodon are certainly considered a metal band, they absolutely transcend metal with their versatility and musicality. Make no mistake, this is one of the most technically proficient bands you will find, but they balance it with a firm grip on excellent songwriting. From rhythm to melody, no stone is left unturned and no aspect is overlooked. This new album has been streaming on iTunes for the last week, and it’s once again another predictably great album. I can’t say enough great things about this band.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuMjmQMZu5A

And that’s it for me this week. We’ve got the draft on Thursday, and I have a feeling we’ll be discussing it more on WFNY this week and for sure in next Tuesday’s WWW. Have a phenomenal week everyone!

 

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Footnotes:

  1. Amico can be a polarizing figure, but with the Plain Dealer having an open spot on the Cavs beat, they could certainly do a lot worse than Amico. He has been pretty much the only consistent source of information coming out of the Cavs media this offseason []
  2. that’s a Men In Blazers inside joke []

David Blatt advised not to take Cavs job, but to take assistant job with Golden State

blatt

On Wednesday, the Cleveland Cavaliers finally sat down with former Maccabi Tel Aviv head coach David Blatt to discuss the team’s vacant position. But how did it go? According to David Pick, it went well.

But who is David Pick, you ask? According to his Twitter profile, he is a Senior Correspondent with Eurobasket.com and ONE.co.il, as well as a contributor to Sportando.com. But more importantly, Pick is the guy who has been on top of the Blatt situation from Day 1.

It was David Pick who spoke first-hand to Blatt to ask him about interviewing with the Cavaliers. It was Pick who announced that Blatt was holding a press conference to announce he was leaving Maccabi Tel Aviv for the NBA. From the start, Pick has been all over the Blatt story. Having covered him so much for European basketball, it’s clear Pick is well connected on this story.

So why am I going so far out of my way to prop up Pick and defend him against doubters? Well, because right after he tweeted about how well Blatt’s interview went, he followed it up with this tweet:

Ouch. Remember, Blatt is 55 years old. He’s not exactly a spring chicken with plenty of time to find a head coaching job. If he were to get a head coaching job today, he would already be the eighth-oldest coach in the league1.

It would be easy, then, to discount Pick’s report as nonsense. How could anyone possibly tell Blatt he should take an assistant job rather than a head coaching job? Well, it all goes back to the Cavalier organization. I said from Day 1 that, regardless of whether Mike Brown deserved to be fired or not, removing a coach after one season carries consequences. On top of all the other talk about Dan Gilbert meddling with team affairs and having unrealistic expectations of his basketball people, you have the simple reality that the Cavaliers do not resemble a stable, professional organization. They are, quite frankly, a mess.

That doesn’t mean Blatt won’t take the job (or that the Cavs will even offer it to him, for that matter). It just means that it’s abundantly clear just how poorly outsiders view the franchise. While Dan Gilbert is running around behind Griffin’s back trying to lure big-name high-profile college coaches (and getting rejected left and right no matter how much money he throws at them), Griffin is left interviewing the reasonable candidates.

But what if Griffin wants to hire Blatt, and Blatt turns him down because of the advice of his advisors? Gilbert is playing an extremely dangerous game here if all the reports are true. He is undercutting his GM’s authority and tarnishing the reputation of the franchise.

As a fan, it’s just extremely disheartening to see that advisors to a 55-year-old highly successful Euopean basketball coach are telling him it would be better for him to go be an assistant for another team (where he would be working under a rookie head coach none the less) rather than be a head coach for the Cavaliers.

Cavs fans are now stuck hoping either a) the reports about Gilbert’s meddling in the coaching search are untrue, b) the report of Blatt’s advisor’s are untrue, or c) Dan Gilbert will finally acquire some self-awareness and realize that despite what I’m sure he feels are best intentions, he is hurting this franchise. Otherwise, it’s a long, bleak road ahead of the Cavaliers this summer.

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Footnotes:

  1. The seven coaches currently older than Blatt are Gregg Popovich, Flip Saunders, Dwane Casey, Tom Thibodeau, Larry Drew, Terry Stotts, and Kevin McHale []