July 28, 2014

Watch: Frank Caliendo reads LeBron’s letter as Morgan Freeman on ESPN

By now, in popular culture and society at large, it can sometimes seem as if nothing in life carries any weight to it unless it is narrated by Morgan Freeman. Be honest, when reading LeBron’s letter on SI.com a couple weeks ago, how many of us heard it in Morgan Freeman’s voice inside our heads?

Well now we can actually hear what that would sound like. Voice impressionist extraordinaire Frank Caliendo stopped by the Mike & Mike set on ESPN this morning, and read LeBron’s letter in Freeman’s voice. And no matter how tired anyone might be of Caliendo’s ubiquitous impressions, this is a pretty funny listen. Enjoy!

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.

*****

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!

Busted Coverage discusses their site, and sports media culture – WFNY Podcast – 2014-07-16

WFNY Podcast LogoI’ve been a follower of Busted Coverage for a while. Even though they do things far differently than we do at WFNY, that doesn’t mean I don’t read and enjoy a site like Busted Coverage.

Joe Kinsey was kind enough to come on and tell us about the site. He told us about what it was like to start it back in 2007 and what it was like to be acquired in 2011. He told us what it was like to get sued by the Big Ten.

The athlete wedding registry bit is one of my favorites. I talked to Joe about what it’s been like to run that hysterical gimmick over the years. He recounted buying a wedding gift for Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries.

Check out this episode!

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.

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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.

 

 

Cleveland Browns Film Room: A look at Terrance West

Terrance West

Over the next couple weeks on WFNY, I will be breaking down the film on all seven draft picks of the Cleveland Browns. As fans, we often rely on mainstream draft analysts to give us certain traits and characteristics that we use to form our opinions. Rather than simply tell you positives and negatives, the goal of this series is to better inform you by showing evidence, in GIF form, of the skills each prospect possess and areas they each must improve upon.  Past film rooms: Justin Gilbert, Johnny Manziel, Joel Bitonio, Christian Kirksey

Following a season that featured Willis McGahee, Chris Ogbonnaya, and Edwin Baker taking the bulk of snaps at running back, the Cleveland Browns eyed the upcoming NFL Draft and free agency as opportunities to upgrade their backfield. Within the span of two months, the Browns completely re-hauled the position, signing former Houston Texans running back Ben Tate to a two-year contract and drafting former Towson University workhorse Terrance West.

The additions of Tate and West to the Browns backfield give new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan multiple productive backs who fit well with his new zone-blocking scheme. This type of run game greatly differs from the Rob Chudzinski and Pat Shurmur power run offenses in which premier athletes and big-bodied runners succeed. The power run game necessitates a back who can make a fast read, is able to run through a pre-determined hole in the line, and can make defenders miss by virtue of their elite size power or elusiveness. Rather than read the defense as the play happens, backs are taught to hit the hole quickly and reach the second level of the defense where they will be able to use their athleticism or size to pick up large gains. [Read more...]

Frank Robinson Arrives in 1974, Clashes with Gaylord Perry – Reliving Yesteryear

gaylord_perry6

They hated each other. It was hardly a secret, from their days in the National League in the early 1960s. Gaylord Perry had been the talented pitcher of the San Francisco Giants; Frank Robinson, the five-tool outfielder of the Cincinnati Reds.

The narrative came easily: the fiery, outspoken black child of the U.S. civil-rights era vs. the white farm boy from the deep South. But was that fair?

By 1975, each player had been at the top of his profession. Frank Robinson was a 14-time All Star who had been MVP in both leagues. He won the American League Triple Crown in 1966. It’s hard to believe that such a player is underrated, today. Once Hank Aaron passed Babe Ruth on the career home run list, a full generation of fans could recite the top four. Aaron, Ruth, Mays, and Frank Robinson. His career was one for the ages. [Read more...]

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.

WFNY Roundtable – What is Miami’s next move?

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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...]

Jim Brennan’s Colony, and the community that fosters Cleveland sports fandom: While We’re Waiting

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It’s been almost two years since I posted at WFNY regularly, but when Jacob asked if I could fill in for him on WWW a couple days ago, I said “yes” without really thinking about it. And, well, maybe I should have thought a bit more about my ability to authoritatively write about Cleveland sports, and share items I find insightful about Cleveland sports. The years I’ve spent away from home continue to grow, while adding a wife and kid have shrunk the time once dedicated to staying on top of things from afar. The enthusiasm still exists, but I’ve never felt less informed or up-to-speed on Cleveland sports and more disconnected from where I grew up and spent most of my life. Then something happened this week and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about home.

Most WFNY readers are probably aware of the news, or at least the headline, that Jim Brennan, the owner of a bar and restaurant on the near Eastside in Cleveland Heights was murdered during a robbery attempt at his Colony on Monday afternoon. Since I received a series of text messages from friends alerting me to the developing story, I’ve constantly run Twitter searches, visited all the local Cleveland TV news sites, and refreshed Cleveland.com for updates, reaction, and reflection on this tragedy. I gobbled up all things Johnny Manziel on Draft night, bought the shirt for my kid, and monitored all manner of reactions to the draft pick. But nothing has me thinking of home, reflecting on home, and engaged on what’s happened at home more than this devastating loss. Like most familiar with Mr. Brennan and the Colony, I can’t believe it’s happened.

I have had more meals at the Colony than any other place except for the home where I grew up. I know I am not unique in this regard. I learned to play pop-a-shot there some 25 years ago as a second- or third-grader, and go in and visit every time I am back in Cleveland (3-5 times/year) now. I suspect many can chart the same history. We overserved ourselves chicken fingers as kids, and Christmas Ales as adults.

When the news came out Monday, my Twitter timeline and Facebook feed were populated with people saying they “grew up in that place” or were “raised there,” and I kept seeing the neon script “Colony” sign show up as the profile photo for folks on Facebook. Everyone knew Mr. Brennan in one way or another, whether it was personally outside of or before the Colony or just through interaction at the bar. There were an estimated 1,200 people who showed up for a vigil on Tuesday night. A t-shirt design spread around as a way to benefit all the affected Cedar-Lee merchants, and a crowdfunding effort was quickly started to help cover the staff while the restaurant is closed (it sailed well past the halfway mark and was closing in on its goal on just the first day — Update: just over 24 hours in, it’s at 650 donors and $11k past its goal).

This was obviously a shocking, sudden loss — we lost someone who meant so much to so many at a place that means so much to so many more. There were countless kids who went there for dinner after CYO games and ended up going for beers there regularly, or even food with their own kids, years later. I saw the head basketball coach at Shaker, the rival high school of Heights (down the street from Colony), tweet that he would go there after every Shaker home game. A wide-ranging and diverse crowd from across the eastside made and make it their default spot, but whether you wanted to or not, you’d always run into or know someone there when you walked through. I’m sure they exist but I’ve never been able to find something like it in various places in more than a decade away from Cleveland. The places I’d go to around me now in suburban DC are many of the same ones popping up in the several “shopping villages” back home, and usually if it’s not a chain, it’s the latest trend in a regular cycle of turnover. Places like the Colony persist in fewer numbers, and are almost impossible to start and cultivate anew now.

This is a Cleveland sports blog, and it’s silly to try and somehow shoehorn sports into this tragedy. But I will say that Jim Brennan’s Colony (and all the time spent there) is exactly the kind of place that makes us so fiercely proud of where we come from, and the most often way we wear that pride on our sleeve is through our sports teams. After spending years away, I’ve not seen a city or fanbase, for better or worse, wear their pride on their sleeves more than Cleveland — when we go away to college, or are relocated, or move away, we’re quick to let everyone know where we came from, and who we’re rooting for in an often too overwhelming way. In reality, the sports teams are secondary to and a part of the larger community. The pride in the community comes first, and the expression is so often through sports. And there’s no better community than the one that the Colony, led by Jim Brennan, has created. There are equals, I’m sure — you have your place in your part of town. But none are better, and none that has been such a part of so many peoples’ lives.

So when a Cleveland sports team does win a championship, thousands will go out to celebrate, thousands of Cleveland expats will return home, and the places they’ll gravitate to are the ones they know best and have most been a part of their history in that community. That may be on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights, Detroit Road in Lakewood, East 185th, somewhere in Columbus or wherever it is where you’re from that made you a Cleveland sports fan. For me, it’s the Colony, and I’m just sad the man mostly responsible for it won’t be there.

(Photo: Marvin Fong, The Plain Dealer)

Kyrie’s staying, Klinsmann’s “American-ness”, and The Leftovers, While We’re Waiting

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Happy Tuesday, WFNY! And Happy July!

Sometimes July can be a bit of a dull sports month for me. I’m not exactly the world’s biggest baseball fan, so sometimes the month can be a bit of a drag for me. But not this July. The World Cup has been the most exciting World Cup in my memory, and it lasts through July 13th. Then we have the NBA’s Summer League. The Cavaliers will once again participate in the Vegas edition of Summer League. It runs from July 11th through the 21st. In fact, the Cavaliers play the Bucks on the first day of Summer League, which means we’ll get to see the first Andrew Wiggins vs Jabari Parker matchup. Finally, the Browns start Training Camp on July 25th, just four days after Summer League wraps up. Not to mention NBA free agency will be ongoing all month.

So there will be no shortage of things to occupy my sports interest this July.

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Kyrie is one loyal Cavalier!

Well, he’s a rich one, anyway. I had pre-written a segment last night about Kyrie for this morning’s WWW. When I woke up and saw the news that he had already agreed to sign, I was naturally ecstatic, but it also meant I had to completely scratch my Kyrie section and write a new one from the start. And you know what? I am perfectly fine with that.

I happened to still be up at midnight for the official start of free agency, and I decided to be smart ass and tweet:

I figured there was a very good chance that this would drag out a bit as both sides worked out some details. Boy was I wrong. Just a couple hours later came the tweets from Dan Gilbert, Adrian Wojnarowski, and my favorite one of them all, this tweet from Kyrie Irving:

Look, far be it from me to try to put a damper on anyone’s jubilation. Nobody is a bigger Kyrie fan than I am, and today is one of the happiest mornings I’ve had as a Cavs fan for a very long time. A 22 year old two-time All Star PG just decided to sign the longest contract possible to stay in Cleveland. The cynics will say “of course he did, it’s just about the money and now that he has the contract done he can try to force a trade out of Cleveland”. I’m cynical about a lot of things, but Kyrie Irving is not one of them. Despite all the external speculation about his relationships with coaches and teammates and his burning desire to get out of Cleveland, the fact is he has always said the right things and, outside his one big mistake on Fan Night a couple years ago, he has done the right things and represented the Cavaliers in a way that we should all be proud of.

There’s a good portion of the fan base that has never warmed up to Kyrie and has chosen to blame him for most of the Cavs problems. Maybe they’re right. Maybe it is mostly his fault. I can’t say anyone is right or wrong, it is only my opinion that the Cavs problems have been much more with the players, front office, and ownership issues than with the one really good basketball player this team has actually had.

I feel like some fans have kept Kyrie at a distance in part because of latent feelings of mistrust and heartbreak over LeBron leaving. It takes time to let someone back in after getting burned like that on national TV. But I hope now that Kyrie has shown he means it when he has always said he wanted to be here long term, some of those fans will start to loosen up and just enjoy Kyrie Irving for what he is rather than judge him for who he is not.

We don’t always get good days being Cleveland sports fans. But today is one of those good days!

And now back to my debbie downer stuff that was written before Kyrie agreed to sign…

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Will the Cavaliers be free agency players this summer?

I want to say yes. I really do. The Cavaliers have plenty of cap space as is, and they can more or less create as much cap space as they need. They have an exciting young core in Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggins, Dion Waiters, and Tristan Thompson (I guess). They have an intriguing new coach. They have incredible facilities and an owner who is more than happy to spend. And they have a pretty great fan base, too (if only that was a bigger factor….or even a factor at all). So why shouldn’t they be a free agency player?

The problem is, right now, it’s hard to find any information on any players being linked to the Cavaliers. I searched the web all over for rumors of any player having any interest in Cleveland whatsoever1. I found nothing.

That’s the hardest part of being a Cavaliers fan sometimes. It’s fun to fantasize about big free agency moves the team can make, but the reality is, free agents just aren’t interested in Cleveland unless the team is willing to overpay them to a degree that other teams won’t match. It’s just a brutal and harsh truth to swallow.

On Yahoo! Sports’s list of the Top Ten NBA Free Agents, not a single one is linked to Cleveland. NJ.com made a list of the Top 25 Free Agents and listed the top three most likely destinations for each of them. The only ones that had Cleveland in the list of three potential destinations are Lance Stephenson and Andray Blatche. ESPN.com did a roundtable discussion of the top free agents, and Cleveland wasn’t mentioned once anywhere. Lance Stephenson was mentioned as one of the most likely to be overpaid, so maybe Cleveland is inherently implied there. Finally, USA Today released their list of Five Teams to Watch When Free Agency Starts. No mention of Cleveland.

We’ll see what happens. I’m sure the Cavaliers will sign someone, but it just might be more of an Earl Clark type signing than a Chandler Parsons type deal. I hope I’m wrong. I hope David Griffin can succeed where Chris Grant failed and really bring in some exciting free agent targets. But history is not on Cleveland’s side.

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But at least the Cavs have Andrew Wiggins!

Last week I had WWW duties on Tuesday before the draft, so I still didn’t know who the Cavaliers were going to take. And while I was heartbroken over Joel Embiid’s injury, I had decided that I just wanted the Cavaliers to do the safe, smart, and relatively boring thing and take Andrew Wiggins. So I was ecstatic when they did just that.

When I say it was the boring move, I mean comparatively. In recent years the Cavs’ drafts have been an adventure. It was so enjoyable to have a nice, calm, relaxing evening knowing the Cavaliers had the player who was the consensus #1 pick for most of the previous year.

I don’t know how good Wiggins will be. Projecting potential is tricky. But I saw a photoshopped image of Wiggins next to 18 year old LeBron. I was struck by how similar their body types were. Not to say Wiggins will be even close to LeBron, but the photo got me thinking, what would have happened to LeBron’s draft stock had he been forced to go to college and then played in a system that maybe wasn’t exactly a perfect fit for him? Would playing in the slow constraints of 35 second shot clocks and deliberate offenses have hurt his stock at all like it did Wiggins? Perhaps.

I mean, there’s no reason to think LeBron wouldn’t have destroyed college players. He’s the best player in the world. But even thinking back to LeBron’s rookie year, as exciting as he was and as bright as you could see his future was, he wasn’t anything close to the dominant player he is today. These things can take time. So I hope fans can be somewhat patient with Wiggins as well. If Wiggins can grow into his body even to a degree half of what LeBron did it will only help his game. Wiggins may never be the physical presence LeBron is, and it’s silly that I keep mentioning their names together. It’s completely unfair to Wiggins. I just wanted to point out that Wiggins is an incredibly exciting prospect and the Cavaliers organization is unbelievably lucky to have won the lottery and have him. Now it’s up to the team to both be patient with him and also develop his skills and put him in the best position to succeed.

Anyway, check out Scott’s incredible Wiggins profile from yesterday. No matter what happens in free agency, this is a time to be excited about the Cavs and to allow ourselves to have a little hope.

*****

USMNT will win in whatever way is necessary

Today is a big day for another reason. The US team will face Belgium in the first knockout round of the World Cup today at 4:00 pm ET. I’m more nervous and excited for this game than I was for the Ghana game four years ago at this same point in the tournament. I feel like last World Cup the US felt a little lucky to have advanced thanks to Landon Donovan’s incredible late goal. This year, I feel like the team is more on a mission, making a statement by advancing out of the Group of Death.

I really want the team to capitalize on this opportunity to show the world that US soccer is on the rise and that Jürgen Klinsmann is changing the very perception and definition of what “US Soccer” stands for. I’ve made no secret of my personal admiration for Klinsmann and what he is trying to accomplish for the sport inside this country. But he is leaving behind a trail of scorned doubters along the way.

I’ve seen some criticism lately of Klinsmann’s philosophy of going out and recruiting multinationals to play for the US. It’s this idea that Klinsmann’s German heritage is an affront to what being a “real” American is all about. But this was a country founded on principles of inclusion. This country has been and continues to be far from perfect in that goal, but the American Dream stands for something real.

I suppose in a perfect world it would be nice if the USMNT only featured “true blue” Americans. I guess. But where would this team be without those multinationals? It was John Brooks who put in the winner against Ghana. It was Jermaine Jones whose incredible strike turned the tide against Portugal. Fabian Johnson has been one of the most consistent players for the US in the World Cup, flying down the sides and keeping possession for the US in attacks. When Jozy Altidore went down against Ghana, it was Aron Johannsson who stepped in and did the best he could. All of these players have one thing in common….they are all American citizens. They may not live in the US, English may not be their first language, they may not “look like us”. But they all have at least one American parent and they all are citizens of this country.

Klinsmann is dreaming big. People may not have liked his comments about it not being realistic to think the US can win the World Cup, but I think they missed the point he was trying to make. He’s trying to grow something special in the US Soccer establishment, and he’s not just trying to win this World Cup. He’s looking even bigger picture than that. And his first step was to raise the talent level of the entire team by looking at all Americans, not just those who are “real” Americans.

By bringing in some multinational Americans to elevate the play of the USMNT, Klinsmann is banking on elevating the national awareness of the sport as well. The US team has now made it to the knockout round in consecutive World Cups for the first time ever. That’s a huge achievement. But they can’t stop there. It’s time to start making some consistent noise in the knockout rounds as well. So today is a huge day for the team and the sport in general in this country. But even if they lose, I don’t think it’s the end. I think it’s only the beginning for future opportunities for this team. Those who only tangentially follow the sport may not care for all of Klinsmann’s antics, but I get what he’s doing and I’m really happy he’s in charge of US Soccer. I just hope he can follow through on his vision, and a big part of that starts today against Belgium.

This piece is a little old, but I loved what Aaron Gordon wrote for Sports on Earth on the topic of Klinsmann and his perceived “American-ness”:

American soccer differentiated itself from the European game only because it had to. Italy could have played an attacking style at any point, but it chose not to until recently. In the 1950s, Brazil adopted an individualistic, talent-driven style, because they had five of the best forwards in the world on the same team. England typically has deployed a rough defensive style, relying on long balls, because it fit their talent pool. Likewise, American soccer has relied on physical prowess and lots of running, because that’s what you do when you don’t have the instincts and skills to be in the right place at the right time. The team developed its identity not to align with American ideals, but because it was not very good at soccer.

But we are getting better, and as a result we are evolving. Largely due to an influx of continental players, the U.S. team has options now and is reaching beyond its previous identity, the way a toddler goes from a crawl to a walk. It’s a natural progression of a growing, improving entity, and here again, it has very little to do with a national identity.

We are not that different from Europe, but we are very different from what we imagine ourselves to be. The German journalist Josef Joffe once said that America is “less a country [than a] canvas, a continent-size Rorschach blot, on which to project their own preoccupations.” His observation holds true for American soccer. We can look at the same manager and come to two diametrically opposed conclusions as to whether he is a representation of American ideals, because America is whatever you want it to be.

*****

The Leftovers

Time to wrap up WWW with this week’s pop culture segment.

I don’t know if Lost is my absolute favorite drama of all time. But it’s Top Three for sure, right up there with Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones. I was on board with Lost from day one through the finale. I loved every second of it (with the exception of some of the middle parts of Season Three before the writers had set an end date for the show). As a result of my love of the show, I’ve been anticipating the new HBO drama The Leftovers for quite some time.

The Leftovers is based on the book by Tom Perrotta, and the show is being run by former Lost show runner Damon Lindleof. The show debuted last Sunday and….well…I don’t know how to feel about what I saw. Keeping this spoiler free, the premise of the show is that suddenly 2% of the world’s population just disappears in an instant. And nobody knows why. Was it the rapture? Was it something scientific? Was it something supernatural or alien? Nobody knows. And the show doesn’t really care, either.

You see, the show starts three years after the disappearances. Rather than focusing on the mystery of what happened, where those people are, and whether or not they’ll ever return, the show instead deals with those still living and how their lives have changed in dealing with the unexpected losses. The world of The Leftovers is dramatically different from the real world, but those still there try to masquerade their world as normal. To varying degrees and using dramatically different methods, everyone is just trying to cope.

And that’s where my issue with the show’s debut was. This was hands down the most wholly depressing pilot I have ever seen. I thought The Walking Dead was bleak, but that show has nothing on the soul-sucking emptiness of hope, happiness, and fulfillment we see in The Leftovers. There are no signs of redemption, no indicators that life is going to get better. In fact, there are clues that things are only going to get worse.

The show was directed by Peter Berg (of Friday Night Lights fame) and Lindleof and Perrotta are working together on the show’s script and direction. So there’s no reason this show shouldn’t be a success with those three guys leading the project. But I don’t know. I just don’t know if I can take a whole season of this show’s emptiness. I want to like this show, I really do. So I’m going to give it the whole season to win me over. But at some point I hope there is something to cling to. Some kind of chance for redemption for these characters. Otherwise, watching these zombie-like shells of human beings just wallowing their way through abject misery just might be a little too much even for me.

But I’d love to hear from you guys. If you watched the premiere, what did you think? Are you excited for more, or are feeling the same apprehension that I am? Let me know in the comments.

That’s it for me this week. I hope everyone has a safe and happy 4th of July, and I’ll see you guys here next Tuesday!

I believe that we will win! Go USA!

 

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Footnotes:

  1. with the exception of a certain someone who I do not believe will really consider coming back []

According to AP report, the Cavaliers have traded Alonzo Gee

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On Thursday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers decided not to draft Joel Embiid, the center prospect with the fractured foot. However, that doesn’t mean the Cavaliers weren’t still in the market for acquiring other centers with fractured feet.

According to the AP, the Cavaliers traded much maligned Alonzo Gee to the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for Dwight Powell (who was taken with the 45th pick in Thursday night’s draft) and center Brendan Haywood. Powell was a first-team All-Pac 12 power forward for Stanford last season who possessed excellent athleticism and will try to bring a face up game to the Cavaliers. Haywood missed all of last season with a stress fracture in his foot.

As for Alonzo Gee, this ends his roller coaster time with the Cavaliers. Initially brought on as an undrafted free agent in 2010, Gee won over the team and many fans with his hustle, effort, and defensive ability. Gee carved out a role for himself on the team, playing 24 minutes per game his first season with the Cavs. But as expectations for Gee grew in Cleveland, his performance began to decline into a bit of an inconsistent period of frustration. After averaging over 30 minutes a night the previous season, Gee saw his minutes dwindle to around 15 per game under Mike Brown this past season.

Gee finishes his 4-year period in Cleveland averaging 8.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.0 steals per game.

[Related: Cavs draft sharp-shooting Joe Harris with No. 33 pick]

Photo: Scott Sargent/WFNY

“So this David Justice is Albert Belle’s Replacement?” Reliving Yesteryear

David JusticeAfter forty seasons, all of Cleveland was awash in the excitement of playoff baseball.

John Hart had completed what Hank Peters had begun. In the late 1980s, working under the anonymity of yet another Indians rebuild, Peters began collecting the building blocks of a true big league powerhouse. He and Hart famously identified a pool of young players who they considered worthy of long-term contracts. The players forfeited free agency in return for multiple years of guaranteed money. The franchise gained some cost certainty and multiple seasons of player control.

Not all of the Indians players during the early seasons of that era actually panned out as ‘core players’. For every Albert Belle, Carlos Baerga and Sandy Alomar, Jr., there was also a Carlos Martinez, a Mark Lewis and a Wayne Kirby.

But of course, they had way more ‘hits’ than ‘misses’. They augmented the roster with veterans, star players on the back end of their careers who plugged holes in the lineup while assuming leadership roles in the clubhouse. The first wave of these vets included pitchers Jack Morris and Dennis Martinez, and position players such as Eddie Murray and Dave Winfield. [Read more...]

Diamondbacks 9, Indians 8: Five games within a game

Indians vs Diamondbacks

In case you missed it—judging by the time of night the game had finish you probably had—the Cleveland Indians, once again, played a game in which they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory not once, not twice, but three times. The game 9-8, 14-inning loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks was marred by bad defense by both teams and some horrific managerial decisions by a guy who has been off his game all year. Oh and if you watched this game start to finish, one thing was abundantly clear: These were not exactly two World Series caliber teams at play here.

“Both teams stranded runners, both teams got to the starters early,” Tribe manager Terry Francona said. “The game mirrored each other a lot.”

I really could write an epic about this game. [Read more...]

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

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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 []

Cavalier NBA Draft Film Room: Andrew Wiggins

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In my second of three NBA Draft options for the Cavaliers with the top pick, I take a look at Kansas forward Andrew Wiggins. Last week, I analyzed film for Duke forward Jabari Parker, who impressed me immensely with his diverse offensive package. Next week, stay tuned for a breakdown of Kansas center Joel Embiid.

Wiggins is an incredibly talented player with plenty of still untapped potential to grow into a perennial All-Star type. When you see him glide around on the basketball court, one can see his ability to effect the game both offensively and defensively, inside and outside, at the line and on the glass. But, is taking him with the top pick a compromise for an all-around player rather than taking a potential game-changing defender (Embiid) or a scoreboard-shattering offensive scorer (Parker)? Does Wiggins’ game potentially gel more with the Kyrie-Dion backcourt? Does position play a role into the selection? We’ll talk about all this and more. [Read more...]

Learning from the Spurs, While We’re Waiting

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Happy Tuesday, Cleveland!

Not a bad couple of days, eh? First we got to enjoy a little Schadenfreude on Sunday night as the Spurs won the NBA Championship over the Heat. The Cleveland Indians have now won three straight games and are 2.5 games behind the Tigers. Then last night we got to experience the incredible US victory over Ghana in their opening game of the World Cup! It was two of the most fun sports days I’ve had in quite some time. For the USMNT, though, that was theoretically supposed to be the “easy” part. Now the US has to move on to play two of the top four teams in the FIFA World Rankings in Portugal (No. 4) and Germany (No. 2). Joe Mastrantoni will have more on this later today, but Portugal surely didn’t look like the No. 4 team in the world in their 4-0 loss to Germany yesterday. If the US can muster a draw against Portugal, they will be in decent shape to advance as long as they don’t get blown out by Germany.

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When will it be our turn?

As fun as watching the Spurs beat the Heat was, I found the feeling a little bittersweet as well. Watching Tim Duncan hug his kids and seeing all the emotion in the players, I found myself reflecting on how much fun winning Championships are. I was in Tempe when Ohio State beat Miami, and I’ve seen my beloved Red Wings hoist four Stanley Cups in my life, so I know the feeling. But I so desperately want to experience the feeling with a Cleveland team. I don’t care if it’s the Cavaliers, Browns, or Indians. Any of them will suffice.

Yesterday Terry Pluto some notes on what the Cavaliers could learn from the Spurs. I thought it was a pretty good piece, as the only way to be the best is to learn from the current best and to try to find ways to achieve and surpass their level. One thing is abundantly clear, though. The Cavaliers are so far away from playing at a level even half of what the Spurs showed in that series. Of course, then again, even the Heat couldn’t achieve a level half of what the Spurs brought. But the point is, the Cavaliers have some work to do.

It starts at the top. I talked a little about Dan Gilbert last week, and I continued to be conflicted about the Cavs owner. Yahoo;s Adrian Wojnarowski talked about the Cavaliers’ coaching search this weekend. In it, he wrote:

Cleveland has narrowed its known field to three candidates, including Los Angeles Clippers assistant coaches Alvin Gentry and Tyronn Lue, but owner Dan Gilbert has continued to pursue high-profile college candidates in a far less public, far more clandestine process, sources said.

So, yeah, that’s still going on. This was put into stark contrast with the Spurs owner Peter Holt two nights ago. After being awarded the Larry O’Brien trophy, Holt was asked what his secret was to the team’s prolonged success. His answer was pretty simple. “My secret is these guys behind me [the players], Coach Pop, and [GM] RC Buford. That’s my secret. It doesn’t start at the top, it starts with them.”

Well, he’s half right, there. It does start at the top, but it starts by hiring the right people (not the “flashy” people, but the “right” people) and then staying out of their way and letting them do their job. If Gilbert doesn’t trust David Griffin to hire the coach, then he never should have given the job to Griffin.

Anyway, this will be a big week for the Cavaliers. They are interviewing David Blatt on Wednesday, and there are rumors of a second interview for Mark Price this week. The Cavaliers will also host Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker for workouts this week. Ideally the coaching search will conclude this week, and then next week the Cavaliers will have to either make their #1 overall pick or else find a suitable trade. It kind of feels like the first step in trying to get to the Spurs’ level starts this week.

In addition to Gilbert staying out of the way of his basketball people hired to make basketball decisions, the Cavaliers can learn a couple things from the Spurs. For starters, a franchise big man goes a long way. To expect any big to have the kind of career Tim Duncan has had is probably a fool’s errand, but still, the Spurs have shown the value of having an anchor to build around in the front court.

A lot has been said in recent years about the declining value of big men. I don’t quite see it that way. Just because we haven’t seen many franchise centers in recent years doesn’t make them any less valuable. I’m not saying Joel Embiid will definitely be a top 3 center, but having a top 3 player at any position in basketball is so valuable. Kyrie Irving isn’t there among PGs yet, but if he continues to learn and adapt his game, he has the talent to be close to a Top 3 PG. If Embiid can grow into the player I think he can, he’s got a great chance to be a Top 3 center. We just haven’t seen many (any) players quite like Embiid in such a long time. Yes, the back is a question mark, I realize this. But if you want to model yourself after the Spurs, locking up a big man like Embiid might be a good idea.

Then, if Kyrie signs his max deal, you can go to work with Irving and Embiid. You need a couple guys who can defend and rebound, you need some floor spacing shooters, and you need a coach who can get the players to run a system, buy in, and sacrifice good shots for better shots with quality ball movement. That’s where David Blatt comes into play. I didn’t know much about Blatt other than his name prior to him being discussed as a candidate. But I’ve been watching some videos of his teams, and I love the offense he runs. He emphasizes movement and passing in a way that isn’t totally unlike the Spurs.

Look, I don’t know for sure how good any of these guys will be. I’m not a scout, I’ve never interviewed any coaching candidates. So I’m not saying these are for sure the best moves for the Cavaliers. I’m just saying if you want a blueprint to follow, I think Embiid and Blatt are the best guys to try to replicate what the Spurs are doing.

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Yes, I really, really, really want the Cavaliers to draft Embiid

This isn’t a new article, but back in January the Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy had an excellent profile on Joel Embiid. It’s remarkable when you reflect on just how new Embiid is to the game of basketball and how incredibly far he has come in his short time playing it. He is such an impact player already, but he hasn’t even scratched the surface of what his real potential is.

I also love that he learned basketball by studying tapes of Hakeem Olajuwon. Olajuwon is one of my favorite centers I’ve ever seen play the game. He had such control and grace for his size, and he was capable of dominating opposing centers of all shapes and sizes. While everyone was reflecting on how dominant the Spurs were in this NBA Finals, I was reminded of when Olajowon’s Rockets faced off with Shaq’s Magic in the Finals, and Olajuwon absolutely ate Shaq alive.

Again, in the interest of slowing expectations, none of this is to say Embiid will be what Olajuwon was. I’m just saying that if there’s anyone I would want someone with Embiid’s size, athleticism, and coordination to emulate as best as he could, it would be Hakeem. I just think Embiid is the player most capable of impacting games equally on both ends of the court. And he seems like a really great kid and the kind of teammate and worker I would want on the Cavaliers.

*****

Were LeBron’s teammates worse in 2014 or in 2007?

The 2007 Cavaliers are sometimes cited as one of the worst teams to ever make the Finals. After getting swept by the Spurs, the team was recognized as being little more than LeBron James carrying a bunch of other players who couldn’t pull their own weight.

The 2007 team was a lot different than the 2010 team that LeBron turned his back on, but it was still said that LeBron had to leave the Cavaliers because he had to do too much by himself in Cleveland. He needed his superstar teammates in order to find Championship success, they said. But by 2014, those superstar teammates are starting to resemble the 2010 Cavaliers more and more. But is it possible that in reality they have been playing even worse than that 2007 team that got swept by the Spurs?

Deadspin thinks so:

Here’s how bad it was: Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined to post a game score of 18.5 (7.9 and 10.6, respectively). In 2007, when LeBron and the Cavs were swept by the Spurs, Drew Gooden and Boobie Gibson combined for 17.5. This is not flattering company, obviously. If you expand to the teams’ top seven non-LeBron rotational players, the ’07 Cavs actually pull ahead, with a combined Game Score of 42.2 to the ’14 Heat’s 36.2. (The average cumulative game score average for the numbers 2 through 8 players in a Finals is 47, because generally, teams in the Finals are good. The Spurs 2 through 8 combined for 66.) Which is to say, LeBron had more help in the Finals in 2007 than he did this year.

Obviously the 2014 Heat have more talent than the 2007 Cavaliers had, but this year’s Heat team has easily looked like the worst iteration of the super team that assembled in 2010. LeBron finds himself in a tough spot. If he leaves Miami, he will earn a bit of a reputation as a guy who kept changing teams and chasing glory rather than bringing glory to his teams. But on the other hand, staying in Miami will probably still guarantee the Heat an annual trip to the Finals thanks to the pathetic Eastern Conference, but winning Championships will get increasingly more difficult every season.

Whatever LeBron decides to do this summer1, there’s a certain irony in finding himself looking at a scenario not all that unlike the one he left in Cleveland just four years ago.

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Red, White, or Blue?

Have you ever wondered how teams in the World Cup decide which color uniforms to wear? Well, it turns out, they don’t. FIFA makes the first choice, and then it’s up to the officials to confirm the pick of colors. I’m not the biggest uniform guy in the world. We have Rick and Kirk here at WFNY who cover that stuff much more closely than I do. But I found this piece on how US Soccer’s equipment is handled to be a really fun and interesting read.

In a tournament the size of the World Cup, there are just so many little details that you don’t even realize that people are thinking about. This is just one small part of it, but it sort of puts into perspective just how much work goes into making the World Cup run as smoothly as possible. This article handles the individual team’s equipment, but there are issues of accommodations, safety, fan experience, contingency plans, etc, etc, etc.

*****

Album of the Week

Some pretty decent new music coming out this week, and my absolute favorite album coming out this week is the debut album “If Anything” by the Canadian band Greys. Coming from the Toronto scene and having a very similar sound to Metz, the comparisons are only natural. But whereas Metz has a consistent sound throughout their whole album, Greys push the envelope a little and try to color outside the lines a bit more and perhaps take a few more chances.

So far, Cloud Nothings’ “Here and Nowhere Else” has been my unquestioned favorite album of 2014. Greys is the first album that I think can legitimately give Cloud Nothings a run for their money for my top spot. Yes, I think this album is that good. Anyone who likes punk influenced music that tips its hat back to the glory days of grunge with a little Fugazi mixed in, all while still sounding modern will enjoy this album.

Other albums coming out today that I’m looking forward to checking out include:

  • Boris – “Noise”
  • Cerebral Ballzy – “Jaded and Faded”
  • Lower – “Seek Warmer Climates”
  • The Antlers – “Familiars”

That’s all I have for you guys today. I hope everyone has a great weekend and hopefully next week we’ll have a new Cavaliers coach to talk about.

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Footnotes:

  1. for the record, I think he stays in Miami. I just don’t think he says no to Pat Riley and Dwyane Wade []

WFNY in Spain as defending World Cup champs get routed by Netherlands

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SEVILLE, Spain — I do not write well enough to explain what soccer (or more accurately, fútbol) means to the country of Spain. To understand the significance of La Furia Roja for Spaniards, I recommend you watch John Oliver’s takedown of FIFA and the World Cup1.

With that description in mind, let us consider the unqualified national disaster that was Spain’s first World Cup match against the Netherlands on Friday.

[Read more...]

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Footnotes:

  1. Skip to 0:35. []

Mayor Frank Jackson is Keith Olbermann’s “Worst Person in Sports”

We’ve talked about what a sham I think Ed FitzGerald’s “Win Tax” is on these pages already. We also talked about the Sin Tax before the election. Now that Ed FitzGerald’s “Win Tax” proposal has had a chance to leak into the national news space, Keith Olbermann took his turn on the topic. While acknowledging FitzGerald’s plan is “pretty weak sauce,” before calling Mayor Frank Jackson’s opposition “inexplicable.”

See the clip below.

(Shoutout to Vince and the folks at Scene)

LeBron talk a blight on the fans and the franchise

James Jersey DecisionI can’t believe I even have to say this at this point, but Cleveland really needs to stop talking about LeBron James.

Stop hanging onto every little scrap that gets pushed out in the media that reinforces there is some sort of miniscule chance he comes back to Cleveland in the next two or three years because he’s not. Stop analyzing every move the Cavaliers make under the lens of whether it increases or decreases the chance he returns.

I love LeBron the player. He’s 80% of the reason I write about basketball and watching him suit up in the Wine and Gold was probably the most fun I’ve ever had being a sports fan, but it is over. Sometimes I like to blame the media for fueling non-stories like this, but a decent chunk of the fan base can’t let it go either. As our own Ben Cox loves to say, in twenty years we’ll be reading stories of “Is LeBron going to buy the Cavaliers?” As much as I think he means it as a joke, I honestly would not be surprised if these stories actually surface down the road.

“But Joe, if there’s even a small chance that the best player on the planet could come back to your team you just have to pursue it. You just have to, man”

I’ve heard the above statement in one way or another way too often when debating the merits of even entertaining the potential of LeBron returning. The problem is that it assumes there is no downside to this never-ending narrative when in actuality it might have been one of the root problems with the Cavaliers organization over the past few seasons. Most evidence points towards Chris Grant gambling heavily on convincing LeBron to reverse “The Decision”. [Read more...]

Dissecting Dan Gilbert, While We’re Waiting

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Happy Tuesday everyone!

I know everyone hates hearing about other people’s fantasy teams, and I’m not going to try to bore you with too many details. But three weeks ago my team was in 11th place (out of 12). I had high hopes for my team this year, but it just absolutely sputtered out of the gate. However, after huge wins of 15-3, 13-5, and 14-3 over the last three weeks, my team suddenly finds itself in second place.

In many ways, my team is like the real life Cleveland Indians. On May 19th, the Indians stood at 19-25. They were dead last in the division and 10.5 games behind the Tigers. As of Tuesday morning, the Indians are now 33-31 and just two games back. It’s been a remarkable turnaround, and a welcome one at that. I don’t expect the Indians to catch Detroit, nor do I expect them to make the playoffs again. But summer is just so much more fun when your team is playing good baseball, both in real life and with your fantasy teams. And if the Indians can keep riding this hot streak, who knows, maybe they will even exceed expectations for the second year in a row.

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Are we still with Dan Gilbert?

withgilbert-237x300There’s been a lot of weird news coming out of the world of the Cleveland Cavaliers lately. First we heard from media out of New York that the Cavaliers might be giving second thought about offering Kyrie Irving a max extension next month. Then Terry Pluto reported that not only are the Cavaliers going to offer Kyrie the max, but they never even hesitated for a second. Then we heard about Dan Gilbert offering a monster contract to John Calipari to become both coach and President, despite already hiring David Griffin as full time GM. But then later Monday the Akron Beacon Journal’s Jason Lloyd had a rather confusing report with conflicting information about the timing of Gilbert’s discussion with Calipari. There have been wide-spread reports about Gilbert’s overbearning and heavy-handed approach to this coaching search, yet there are other reports that he didn’t even talk to candidates in the first round of interviews and that he will be meeting with Tyronn Lue and Alvin Gentry this week for second interviews.

Did you get all that? It’s a lot to take in. So what’s going on here? Is the franchise really this dysfunctional that nobody is on the same page? Or is this just some misinformation being spread to protect the secrecy of the team’s plans? I have no idea. I’ve stood with Dan Gilbert since the night of The Decision. As I’ve said on many occasions, while I understand why people took exception to the infamous letter, as a Cavs fan, I loved it. For the most part Gilbert has been exactly what I want an owner of my team to be. He’s passionate, ambitious, willing to spend money on the team, and above all else, is desperate to win. But is that desperation starting to become a problem?

There’s been a lot of talk about Gilbert on Twitter lately. People are losing their patience with him and feel he’s becoming a burden on the franchise. For many, the tipping point was the playoff proclamation last year. On one hand, I totally get it. The last thing we want to see is the team sacrifice long term success for short term meaningless gratification. But I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a small part of me that feels conflicted about killing a guy for wanting to win. The Cavaliers have been atrocious for four straight seasons now. I’m tired of it and I’m ready for playoff basketball again. But what’s the best way to get there?

There’s some talk that the Cavaliers very well could draft Jabari Parker and hire someone like Vinny Del Negro or Lionel Hollins to chase that short term gratification. VDN and Hollins are coaches with playoff experience who have experience turning around long-term losing franchises. Jabari Parker is considered the safest of the top three prospects and the player who can probably help the most in year one.

But on the other hand, VDN and Hollins have their issues and there’s a reason they were let go from moderately successful teams. Nobody think Parker’s ceiling is as high as Joel Embiid or even Andrew Wiggins. Perhaps the better route is to get a young, fresh, hungry coach like Lue and to draft the player with the highest ceiling of all in Embiid, and let everyone develop for a year or two before the franchise can become a perennial playoff threat. And that’s where the consternation with Gilbert comes into play.

We all want to win. That goal is in complete alignment. But most fans don’t want the team to chase a year or two of low seeded early playoff exits. Most of us want to see the team build something that can last several years and have a chance at real contention.

It’s unfortunate to see Gilbert, by default the most popular owner in town, begin to lose the fan base. But even more troubling and unfortunate is the persistent talk of Gilbert’s ever growing influence on basketball decisions. When David Griffin held his press conference after being given the gig full time, he said that Gilbert had given him full control of basketball decisions and that he would be carrying out the coaching search. But if the things Adrian Wojnarowski and Jason Lloyd have written are true (and there’s no reason to think otherwise), then it seems Gilbert is running his own coaching search separate from what Griffin is doing. And that is a huge (HUGE) problem.

When coaches and GMs screw up, they can be replaced. But there’s no replacing an owner1. For better or worse, Dan Gilbert is the owner of the Cavaliers and he’s free to do whatever he wants to make as many mistakes as he cares to. And I’m not even saying I want Gilbert gone. For the most part, I’m still supportive of him as an owner. I’ve seen what lethargic, disinterested, absentee owners look like. I’ve seen what happens when an owner is hesitant to spend money. Gilbert is the kind of owner I want, I just want him to trust his basketball people to make their own decisions.

And maybe he will. Nothing has been done yet. Perhaps the Cavaliers will allow Griffin to name his own coach and the Cavaliers will pick the best player in the draft who gives the team the best chance at long term greatness. After all, this year’s coaching search is already about a million times better than last year’s. There’s nothing wrong with Gilbert doing his own due diligence. This is his team and that’s his right as an owner. Everything will come down to the degree to which the basketball folks get to make the basketball decisions. That will be Gilbert’s real test.

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Hey Donald Sterling, please just go away

Late last night, word broke that Donald Sterling has changed his mind (for about the 800th time) and now is going to pursue his lawsuit again. Whatever, Have fun suing yourself. When Shelly Sterling took control of the Clippers after two neurologists deemed Donald unfit to conduct his own business affairs, any leverage he had was gone. It was made even worse for him when Shelly indemnified the NBA against any lawsuits, including from Donald. So, if Sterling were to win the lawsuit2, it would be the Sterling Family Trust who would pay.

This is all just a lame attempt for Sterling to keep his name in the media and on the front page. He’s clinging to the last bit of relevancy he has left, and it’s both sad and annoying to watch. Even if he somehow succeeded in winning his lawsuit and blocking the sale of the team, he’s still banned for life. This is just a bunch of noise about nothing.

*****

It’s about time someone put FIFA in its place

Ok, while I may be a pretty big fan of soccer, I’ve always found it hard to get too excited about international soccer. I love watching the various professional leagues throughout Europe, and in my opinion, the Champions League offers some of the best drama, passion, and excitement in sports. But I’ve just never been as big on international cups. Of course, the one exception is the World Cup. Everyone who cares about soccer whatsoever gets excited for the World Cup. But one of the reasons why I have always been less interested in international cups has been because of FIFA, one of the worst sports governing bodies in existence. I knew they were bad, but I didn’t realize just how bad they truly were until this week’s episode of Last Week Tonight.

Now, I promise, I’m not going to post a John Oliver clip every single week. I hesitated posting this one since I just posted a clip last Tuesday, but with the World Cup starting this week and with WFNY’s World Cup coverage this just seemed too topical not to share. Enjoy:

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Forget about new music releases this week

This may be the one and only time that sentence is ever written by yours truly, but this week there is a much more important new release – the first season of HBO’s True Detective on Blu-Ray and DVD. If you missed the show on HBO, or if you don’t have HBO or access to HBO Go, this is your chance to catch up one of the absolute best seasons of a show in TV history. While I have no reason to doubt future seasons of this show, I also cannot fathom any way it will ever be able to top the epic performances of Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in this first season. The story telling was phenomenal both in method and execution, the acting performances were great all around, and the directing and cinematography were insanely great for a TV show.

And in truth, this show sort of transcends the idea of television. It’s not the first or last to do this, but there are things being done stylistically in TV shows that we never could have imagined even just ten years ago. Calling True Detective a “TV show” somehow seems disingenuous. It’s not really anything. It’s not a TV Show, a miniseries, or a movie. It’s a self contained story, told in the best way possible.

Anyway, that’s all I have for you guys this week. Hope you all have a great Tuesday, and here’s to the Cavaliers hopefully making the right coaching hire and the right draft pick for the right reasons!

*****

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Footnotes:

  1. well, ok, Donald Sterling probably disagrees….but you know what I mean []
  2. which he probably won’t, considering the sale was conducted by the sole trustee of the Sterling family trust []