July 25, 2014

It’s time to kill these lazy comedic sports references

we're not funny nfl

Sports and comedy don’t always have a comfortable marriage. As a rule, sports guys think they’re funnier than they really are and there’s one particular tool in the Sports Guy arsenal that I think needs to be melted down and buried. I could be talking about the incessant forced laughing that sports guys do to pump up all their bad attempts at jokes like on NFL pre-game shows. I could be talking about mis-guided skits wherein a former athlete dresses up like a woman for mild comedic effect. (I’m looking at you Larry Johnson.) I’ll save those for another day. Today I’m attacking the lazy reference.

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Scott Raab discusses the return of LeBron James – WFNY Podcast – 2014-07-14

WFNY Podcast LogoYou knew it was going to happen and I really couldn’t wait to do this podcast. Scott Raab joined me this morning to discuss the return of LeBron James to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

We discussed the letter that LeBron wrote with Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated. We also discussed the sourcing frenzy that led up to the LeBron article coming out. Scott talked about what it’s been like for his son to welcome back LeBron James and also a little bit about what he’d like to see in terms of coverage of LeBron James from the region’s biggest paper, the Plain Dealer.

Check out this episode!

LeBron James strings everyone along – WFNY Podcast – 2014-07-10

WFNY Podcast LogoAndrew and Craig talk about the fact that LeBron didn’t make a choice. I write that he strings everyone along, but Andrew defends his process.

When will he make a choice?

Which source will you trust?

The practical realities of Cavs vs. Heat

Pat Riley vs. Dan Gilbert

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Check out this episode!

Matt Moore hopes the Cavs win a championship – WFNY Podcast – 2014-07-09

WFNY Podcast LogoI’ve followed Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm and CBS for years on Twitter. I’m sure I’ve argued with him a time or two, but I’ve always valued his opinion and writing. I’m really happy he agreed to come on the WFNY podcast in the midst of a very busy NBA off-season.

We talked about Twitter, his process, and his goals as a web publisher. We talked about LeBron James, NBA player culture growing up, and a whole host of other topics.

Very good iinsight into what makes @HPBasketball tick.

Check out this episode!

NBA Musical Chairs, ClevelandRox, and Losing My Voice, While We’re Waiting

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Happy Tuesday WFNY! I hope everyone had a great 4th of July weekend. Now it’s time to get back to business.

It’s July 8, 2014…exactly four years after the original Decision. I don’t expect the 2014 Decision to happen today, but I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on what it was like around this time in 2010. There were so many emotions involved in those final days of the 2010 free agency process. It’s interesting to look back at the roller coaster I went on back then. On July 7, when we found out about Wade and Bosh going to Miami, I wrote this. I still was feeling confident. I just couldn’t believe he would join Wade and Bosh in Miami.

On the morning of July 8, we woke up to the horrible reality that LeBron was going to Miami. But even then, I still wanted to hold on to hope. Even in the face of overwhelming reports of LeBron going to Miami being a virtual certainty, I just couldn’t allow myself to give up. Then, after the aftermath of The Decision, I wrote on July 9 that loyalty in sports was dead.

It’s a little tough to go back and re-read the things I thought on those days. It’s funny to see how much my perspective on sports has changed in the four years since. Of course, a lot of that is probably a direct result of everything that happened on the night of the Decision. Just remembering how raw the emotions of that night were, it makes it seem even crazier to me that there seems to be a chance LeBron could return. I have no clue what’s going to happen in these next few days. I honestly feel like all of these recent reports and optimism have all come from external sources. By all accounts, LeBron has shut himself off from everyone. I remain pretty skeptical that he’s going to come back to Cleveland. But if nothing else, this week has been fun. Unlike last time, the Cavaliers have nothing to lose. And that has been a very fulfilling point to keep in mind.

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The NBA’s game of Musical Chairs

If nothing else, the NBA’s free agent market this offseason is starting to feel like a fun little game of Musical Chairs. Or maybe “Duck, Duck, Goose” is the better game. With so many rumors swirling, you wonder which free agents and which teams are going to be safe inside the circle, and who might potentially be left out.

As of Sunday, the Knicks were pretty confident that Carmelo Anthony would be returning. They were reported to be expecting Carmelo to announce his return on Monday. However, on Monday afternoon the Rockets reportedly offered Chris Bosh a max contract. This is where things get interesting. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst was on Mike & Mike in the Morning on Monday morning, and he said that LeBron has cut off communication to pretty much everyone, including people with the Heat. He said there have been a few texts between the Big 3, but beyond that, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade are just as in the dark as everyone else regarding what LeBron is going to do.

With the uncertainty of LeBron’s future, Chris Bosh is now said to be at least considering taking the Houston deal, even though his preference remains to return to Miami with LeBron. But now Carmelo has held off on announcing anything. Some speculate it’s because he remains torn between the Lakers, Bulls, and Knicks, but others have suggested that perhaps Carmelo is now waiting to see if Bosh takes the Houston deal. If he does, then Carmelo could see if he could sign with the Heat and bring LeBron back.

Of course, knowing this, Bosh seems likely to wait and see what LeBron does first before deciding what he’s going to do. But what if in the meantime Carmelo goes back to Houston and, seeing how much they offered Bosh, says he’ll take that deal? In that way, Carmelo could actually put pressure on Bosh to act first or risk losing out on the Houston deal and possibly seeing LeBron sign somewhere other than Miami.

Phew. Did you get all that?

I’ve said from the beginning and I continue to maintain that I think these rumors have gotten out of hand and that the odds of LeBron returning to Cleveland are being blown way out of proportion. In reading the tea leaves, it just seems like the source of all this speculation comes from external sources on the periphery of LeBron’s inner circle. In other words, some of the Akron/Cleveland people who want LeBron to return are using the media to put pressure on LeBron to do just that. By all accounts, LeBron has gone completely ghost. So I just don’t trust all these reports. Windhorst said there’s only three people he believes when it comes to info about LeBron’s future: one is LeBron and the other two are unnamed sources presumably in his extreme inner circle. Windhorst said he hasn’t heard anything about LeBron returning from any of those three.

I fully admit there seems to be something weird going on. I think when Bosh and Wade opted out, they fully believed that they were working with LeBron. But there have been reports that Wade and Bosh are a little confused by LeBron’s silence and isolation. There are reports that Miami is starting to feel a little uneasy and unsure. But at the end of the day, Pat Riley is going to get his face to face with LeBron, and I have a feeling Riley will get the job done and secure LeBron’s return. I think LeBron will have a hard time saying no to Riley and perhaps to a greater extent, a hard time saying no to Dwyane Wade after Wade opted out of $42 million just to facilitate keeping the Big 3 together. From there, Bosh and Wade will return, as will Ray Allen most likely. That gives them a core of LeBron, Wade, Bosh, Allen, Norris Cole, Josh McRoberts, Danny Granger, and Shabazz Napier. Udonis Haslam would probably return as well.

That’s not the greatest team to project going forward, and the Heat will always have trouble finding cap space to sign free agents. But it’s good enough to walk through the pathetic Eastern Conference the next couple years, and from there, the Heat would be playing for a Championship every year. There are plenty of good reasons for LeBron to return to Cleveland, but Dan Gilbert continues to be one gigantic reason for LeBron not to. And you better believe Pat Riley will spend a good portion of his meeting with LeBron making that exact point, while illustrating the obvious differences between himself and Dan Gilbert. I want LeBron to return to Cleveland, but as long as Gilbert owns the team, I just don’t see it happening.

*****

Guess who’s back?!

One of the most beloved Cavaliers of all time is finally back in the NBA…sort of. Delonte West has seen his shares of ups and downs. Recently Slate.com ran this amazing feature on Delonte, asking the question ‘Why isn’t Delonte West in the NBA?’. Well, it appears Delonte is being given a chance:

Now, obviously, being on a Summer League roster isn’t the same thing as being on an NBA roster, but it’s a start. And this is the beautiful thing about the Summer League. In addition to rookies and undrafted free agents trying to make their way into the league, the Summer League also offers a chance at redemption for players who have somehow found themselves adrift from the league.

I think I speak for almost all Cavs fans when I say I wish Delonte the absolute best of luck and I truly hope that this can lead to a future back in the league for Delonte.

*****

#ClevelandRox!

I think this is one of the more interesting PR campaigns I’ve seen in quite some time. For anyone who may have missed it, the Indians and Rockies are teaming up to ask their fans to vote for Corey Kluber and Justin Morneau for the final All-Star spots in the AL and NL, respectively. The campaign is using the hashtag #ClevelandRox.

The Cleveland Indians and Colorado Rockies have teamed up to get Tribe starter Corey Kluber and Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau into the All-Star Game through the All-Star Game Final Vote.Fans can vote online at Indians.com or MLB.com/vote through Thursday, July 10 at 4PM ET. Votes on Twitter will count on Thursday from 10AM-4PM; fans are encouraged to use #VoteKluber, #VoteMorneau and #ClevelandRox.

I don’t know if it will be effective or not, but it’s just fun to see these two small market teams combining efforts to try to get their guys voted in.

*****

Album of the Week

Finally, we have our new music release of the week. Now, I know this is going to look like favoritism, but my vote for new album of the week goes to WFNY’s own Craig Lyndall, whose new album “Losing My Voice” is out today under his band’s name, The Company Line.

Yes, Craig is a good friend of mine so I’m hardly objective here, but in case you guys haven’t figured out by now, I take music discussions seriously. I wouldn’t recommend this album if I didn’t think it was up to par. To begin with, you need to read Craig’s backstory on how and why this album came to be:

During that consultation the surgeon casually mentioned that part of the surgery would temporarily relocate a nerve connected to my vocal cord and that one of the risks of surgery was that I could lose my voice.As a singer and songwriter, this was terrifying to me. I am not prolific as a songwriter, but I always go back to it when I have something I really want to say. It was eating me alive that I had unrecorded songs that could be lost forever so I decided to do something about it. A week before surgery, I recorded these six songs to document that moment in time when I thought I might lose the ability to ever sing again.

And that’s my favorite thing about this album. I absolutely love music that carries a purpose, and Craig delivers on allowing that sense of urgency to carry through. There’s a great dichotomy between the fragility of the future of his vocals and the way he pushes his vocals to the limit on some of these songs.

Thankfully, the surgery was a success and Craig’s worst fears weren’t realized. But there’s still a very real and raw power in this songs. Despite his simple setup of just an acoustic guitar and his voice, you can hear his resolve in his delivery and the lyrics themselves.

I hope you guys at least read the backstory and then listen to some of the songs. I hope some of you will enjoy it, and if you guys want to learn or hear more, you can check out the following links:

Backstory | iTunes | Amazon MP3 | Spotify

*****

Anyway, that’s it from me this week. Between the Cavs Summer League games starting on Friday and the free agent market coming close to reaching it’s resolution, I have a feeling we’ll have some more good stuff to talk about next week!

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...]

On LeBron’s potential return to the Cavs

Joshua Gunter/The Plain Dealer

So, how’s everyone’s holiday going? Paying attention to the news?

There isn’t any real news yet, of course, but that hasn’t stopped Twitter and sports talk radio from exploding with the idea that LeBron’s return to the Cleveland Cavaliers is feeling imminent. Obviously nobody knows what’s actually going to happen and we here at WFNY know all too well that just because sources are saying one thing doesn’t mean that it will eventually come to pass. Until LeBron is sitting in a press conference with a Cavaliers jersey in his hands with media firing questions at him, it isn’t real. But damnit if it doesn’t feel pretty fun to potentially be on the cusp of relevance.

Whether we’re talking about Dustin Fox, Chad Zumock or The BSK Kendall Lewis, it appears that everyone’s hearing the same things. LeBron is talking seriously about coming back to Cleveland. Did someone overhear a conversation that Dan Gilbert had with someone else? Are there specific conditions that have been laid out to the Cavaliers by Rich Paul, LeBron’s agent? Nobody knows for sure, or at least for sure for sure, but there’s just no denying that there is smoke even if it never gets the requisite oxygen to become a full-fledged fire. [Read more...]

Top Ten Most Popular Posts of the Last 30 Days on WFNY

fireworks

As we embark on the July 4th holiday, the WFNY crew is taking some time off to be with their families like the rest of you. I thought I’d schedule this post to let those of you who need something to read on the web see if you missed anything. Here are the most popular posts from a traffic standpoint of the last 30 days.

10. Cleveland Browns Film Room: A look at Joel Bitonio

Comment via mgbode: I was a huge Bitonio fan before the draft and am extremely happy that I get to cheer him on wearing the Orange hats for us. I fully expect him to man an OG spot for the Browns for the next 10+ years.

9. No, it’s not that difficult for the Cavs to have max contract space

Comment via Ezzie Goldish: Nobody really seems to suggest this so perhaps I’m missing something, but what about picking up Bosh?

8. NBA Trade Rumors: Cavs and Nets looking to swap guards

Comment via BenRM: I am Jarrett Jack’s dying career.

7. VIDEO: LeBron James harassed by Heat fan about free agency, with an interesting guest

Comment via boomhauertjs: Welcome to our world, Heat fans.

6. NBA Free Agency: Analyzing stats of top available wings for the Cavs

Comment via WFNYBen: Good stuff, Jacob. I rescind my booing.

5. Joel Embiid’s physical did not go well according Tony Rizzo’s sources

Comment via Harv21: Embarrassed for Rizzo. Either a willing shill or a guy too stupidly pompous to wonder why it would be in the Cavs’ interest to share their evaluation with talk show guy. Or he’s just making this up to goose ratings.

4. Nate Burleson on Browns-Lions preseason game: “I’m going to get a fine.”

Comment via Hopwin: I like the humorous swagger, especially in a meaningless contest. Don’t do that crap in a regular season game though.

3. Listen: Tom Hamilton’s call of Nick Swisher’s Walk-off Grand Slam

Comment via HeySwanSong: I was craving Hammy’s call as soon as I heard about this, thanks for posting!

2. Did Jabari Parker “tank” his Cleveland workout?

Comment via maxfmnloans: I’m going the other way with this…he showed up as a fat, out of shape tweener forward with breathing issues? And the Cavs have recently drafted a fat, out of shape tweener forward with breathing issues at #1? Well played, Jabari. Well played indeed

1. Gordon Hayward is not a fan of Cleveland

Comment via Harv21: Like TJ Ward, like all athletes: just shut your mouth or go all Crash Davis cliche. So idiotic to burn potential bridges with cities.

So now go out and enjoy some BBQ and fireworks. And do me a favor? Leave the fireworks to the professionals. :-)

The crazy NBA off-season and what it could mean for the NBA

Lebron James Dwyane Wade Chris Bosh Miami Heat

I‘ve never been more confused about the NBA than I am right now. Watching LeBron James opt out and then somehow get Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to follow suit is creating the strangest NBA off-season in the history of the league. I don’t know if I can come up with a cohesive all-encompassing narrative about it all, so let’s look at some of it a bit at a time.

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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.

*****

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

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

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Happy Tuesday, WFNY!!!

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

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

Fate is not an eagle, it creeps like a Blatt

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

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

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

So……what now???!?!?!?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ok, so lets talk soccer for a second

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Album of the week

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

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

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

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

 

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Footnotes:

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

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

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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 []

LeBron James, NBA Finals, Edge of Tomorrow and more with Ben Cox – WFNY Podcast – 2014-06-15

WFNY Podcast LogoBen Cox wanted to get in on the movie podcast with Brian Spaeth, but we couldn’t get the scheduling worked out. That’s OK, because Ben’s a great guest all on his own too. So, I took an hour out of this Father’s Day to chat with Ben.

We talked about:

  • The NBA Finals
  • LeBron James
  • Edge of Tomorrow
  • X-Men Days of Future Past
  • Cable TV and sports networks
  • World Cup
  • Music

I also mentioned on the podcast that I have a new album called Losing My Voice coming out on July 8th. For more information about that, click here.

 


Check out this episode!

Brian Spaeth talks Edge of Tomorrow and X-Men – WFNY Podcast – 2014-06-13

Brian Spaeth gives advice in a new bit called Advice with Brian.

After that we talked about movies and a bit about sports.

Edge of Tomorrow starring Tom Cruise and X-Men Days of Future Past

Check out this episode!

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...]

THE CAVS WON THE 2014 NBA DRAFT LOTTERY – WFNY Podcast – 2014-05-20

WFNY Podcast LogoThe Cleveland Cavaliers won the 2014 NBA Draft lottery!

So, at the last minute I fired up the old podcast and Andrew and I discussed the Cavs’ ridiculously good fortune.

What should they do?

Kevin Love?

LeBron James?

Does this change the thoughts on the Cavs coaching search?

Also, just for fun, we discussed the new album “Boys” by Herzog. Cleveland band on a Cleveland night. Such a great night!

Check out this episode!

So, Mike Brown was fired: While We’re Waiting

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Farewell Mike Brown….again – For the second time in his life, Mike Brown has been relieved of his duties as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Acting GM was also given the job on a full time basis, and it appears his first move was to let Coach Brown go.

There are so many ways to look this. It’s deeply nuanced on so many levels. I’ve never held my admiration for Mike Brown a secret. I think he’s a pretty good coach with one of the best defensive schemes I’ve ever seen. With the right kind of players, his coaching style and philosophies can be really successful. However, Mike Brown’s successes and failures in large part depend on him having exactly the right pieces. He’s never been one to adapt his philosophy to the players he has. Rather, he asks his players to bend to his style. Unfortunately for him, that’s not how the NBA works. It is the ultimate players’ league.

There are plenty of reasons why this is a good move for the Cavaliers. Most importantly, the team massively underperformed to their massive expectations. Mike Brown was charged with getting this team into the playoffs, and he failed on that level. The “offense” was maddening. He was unable to reach these players and get them to buy into his system 100%. The inbounding issues were stunning. Nobody would look at this year’s Cavs team and feel they were seeing a well coached team. [Read more...]

The NBA Edition: While We’re Waiting

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My kingdom for a GM! – It’s really not a big deal that Dan Gilbert still hasn’t made any decisions regarding the Cavs’ coaching or front office situations. With the playoffs still going on, the draft is still a long way away and free agency is even further away. No trades can happen right now. For Gilbert, it probably makes a lot of sense to be patient and wait and see what GM and coaching candidates are out there and which ones might yet still become available.

But that doesn’t make it less frustrating for fans (and presumably for acting GM David Griffin). You have to believe Griffin would like to know his fate as soon as possible so he can make appropriate plans. From the fans’ point of view (and by no means should Gilbert take fans’ feelings into account), it’s just tough to look forward and think about what moves the team could make when you don’t know what kind of philosophy the team will have this offseason. [Read more...]

Video: Kyrie Irving’s top ten plays of the season

The NBA put together a top ten plays of 2013-2014 video for Kyrie Irving.