LeBron felt the same way about Luke Jackson

I’m probably too excited, but the basketball dork in me is thrilled by this. From Tom Reed, Plain Dealer:

Some high draft picks do not want to attend the NBA’s summer league after they have established themselves. Irving is not in that category.

“Even if Coach Scott didn’t want me to go, I was going to be there anyway,” Irving said.

Scott believes it would be good for rookies Irving and Tristan Thompson to play together, even if it’s only for a few games. Irving went a step further: With as many as four draft picks joining the team in July, the newbies will have a chance to play with the starting point guard.

Due to the lockout, neither Irving nor Thompson took part in last year’s summer league in Las Vegas. Irving said he knows it can be an anxious time for young guys trying to make a favorable impression.

I’m going there to cool everybody down,” Irving said. “[I’ll] be the cool guy down there.”

Me gusta.

Chris Grant said he was drafting “high-quality humans” and now I see what he means. Kyrie Irving, the odds on favorite for Rookie-of-the-Year, is pumped about playing in summer league. He wants to mesh and gel with the new guys. That’s awesome.

A this point, I couldn’t be more pleased with the Cavalier point guard. Hell, even though it didn’t fall, I was giddy that Irving ‘went glass’ on his game winning attempt in Atlanta. What 19 year old calls banks on game winners? Who does that?

I have to believe that Dan Gilbert and Chris Grant are thrilled with having the face of the franchise to be not just willing, but eager to play in the summer league.  It cannot hurt for the new draftees to get early run with Kyrie and Tristan Thompson. The Cavs longterm success is going to be dictated by the on-court relationships between these young foundation pieces.  It can’t but help to start early. And if your franchise guy wants to suit up for summer league games, all the better.

This is why this upcoming draft is so important and I’m firmly in the “stay the fuck away from the 8th seed” camp. Irving has already shown that he can be a stud at the NBA level. He and Thompson, for now anyways, are saying all the right things about being ready to work taking on the responsibility of leadership. Yes, not every team can just build through the draft.  Drafting in the lottery year after year is not a guarantee for success. Some years, LeBron is picked first and in other years, it’s Kwame Brown.

But the Cavs got lucky. They got Kyrie Irving.

And I couldn’t be happier.

(And in case you were wondering, no, LeBron didn’t play in the summer league following his rookie season. And for shame! He missed out on quality time with Luke Jackson, Kedrick Brown, Dajuan Wagner and the immortal DeSagana Diop).

(Also, the linked Reed piece tells the story of the Cavs’ visit to the 9/11 memorial in New York. Really good stuff).

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We have a different definition of ‘wise’

With a record of 15-23, the Cavs are in a virtual tie with the New York Knicks (18-24) and Milwaukee Bucks (18-24) for the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race. If the Cavs were in the West, their 15-23 record would place them 14th in the conference and firmly, unequivocally out of the playoff race. But since they’re in the East, they’re in “contention”.

Fox Sports Ohio Cavalier beat writer Sam Amico has been scolding Cavs fans on Twitter this season for not being super-duper pumped at the thought of the Cavs sneaking into the playoffs as the 8th seed. Amico’s latest is titled Playoffs a Wise Push for Cavaliers and, since I’m writing this, it’s safe to say I disagree.

Amico:

 People who say the Cavaliers shouldn’t make the playoffs apparently think Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson, over even Alonzo Gee, will never get any better.

They think the lottery is the ticket to greatness — and in some cases, they might be right. But they might be wrong, too.

Ever hear of Kwame Brown, Greg Oden, DeSagana Diop, Hasheem Thabeet or Jay Williams?

Granted, those are a select few, and your odds of finding immediate help increase the higher you pick. At least, again, that’s supposed to be the theory.

Well ya, sure, that’s the theory. Last year the Cavs stunk, got some luck and ended up drafting first and fourth overall. They picked Kyrie Irving first and he has completely turned around their franchise (they picked Tristan Thompson fourth and he’s shown that he’s big and strong). Would the Cavs have been better served by making the playoffs last season? They could’ve blown those high picks. Ya know, Kwame Brown, Greg Oden and all that.

Amico continues:

But people who don’t want the Cavs to make the playoffs also need to be aware of another reality. Namely, that this year’s Cavs are likely to draft near the bottom of the lottery if they qualify.

Let’s say the Cavs’ record stays about the same, they miss the playoffs and don’t move up in the lottery. Today, they would be drafting in the 8-12 range. That could garner them a good player, for sure.

It could also mean the next Dajuan Wagner, Luke Jackson, Trajan Langdon or Diop — all players the Cavs selected in the lottery. None panned out.

So if I have this argument correct, the Cavs shouldn’t draft in the lottery because former Cavs GM Jim Paxson was a terrible at his job?

I can’t believe I have to do this, but let’s look at the 2012 NBA All-Stars and where they were drafted:

1st overall pick: LeBron James, Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin.

2nd: Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge.

3rd: Carmelo Anthony, Deron Williams.

4th: Chris Bosh, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook.

5th: Dwyane Wade, Kevin Love.

Other Top 10: Luol Deng (7th), Andre Iguodala, Dirk Nowitzki (9th), Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson, Andrew Bynum (10th)

Outside Top 10: Kobe Bryant (13th), Steve Nash (15th), Roy Hibbert (17th), Rajon Rondo (21st), Tony Parker (28th), Marc Gasol (48th).

Of the twenty-five 2012 NBA All-Stars, thirteen were picked in the Top 5, another six were picked in the Top 10 and six were picked outside of the lottery (including one, Marc Gasol, in the second round). So, for those scoring at home, 19/25 of the 2012 NBA All-Stars were picked in the Top 10 (that’s 76% for you math majors).

Myself, I’d like the Cavs to draft in that Top 5 again, so they could have a shot at picking an All-Star running mate for Kyrie. But Amico quotes a GM who says that may not be necessary:

But what about the philosophy that teams that barely qualify for the playoffs are destined for a lifetime of mediocrity — not bad enough to get a good player with a high draft pick, but not good enough to win a championship, either?

“Look, the Cavs’ already have an All-Star-caliber point guard in Kyrie, and he’s only 19,” said an Eastern Conference GM. “You don’t need an All-Star shooting guard, too. Honest, you don’t. What you need is a good shooting guard, a good center and a solid bench, which they already have. You can get all those things in trades, or later in the draft.”

This drives me nuts. So the Cavs should go the “one great player and a bunch of okay guys” route again? Really? Maybe I drew the wrong lessons from the LeBron years, but my take away was that the problem was the Cavs failed to add good, young talent to grow with and around LeBron.

In the three drafts following LeBron, the Cavs had just two first round picks (oops!) and used them on Luke Jackson and Shannon Browns (double oops!). By completely blowing the drafts, the Cavs were forced to build around LeBron by overpaying mediocre free agents (Larry Hughes, Donyell Marshall, Damon Jones, Ira Newble, Kevin Ollie) and then trading those mediocre free agents for other, different, mediocre, overpaid veterans (Ben Wallace, Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison, Shaq).

And then we were all shocked that LeBron decided to not-resign with a team of mediocre veterans and no capspace. Weird.

Look, of course you can find useful players later in the draft. Boobie Gibson and Carlos Boozer were drafted in the second round. Hell, Cavalier legend Mark Price was drafted in the second round in 1986. Of course, young Price came to the Cavs with two other Top 10 picks in Brad Daugherty and Ron Harper. The following year, the Cavs picked Kevin Johnson 7th overall and flipped him for Larry Nance at the deadline.

I don’t want to surround future-All-Star Kyrie Irving with other ‘good’ players, I want to surround him GREAT players. And the best way for the Cleveland Cavaliers to add great, young players is through the draft. Guys aren’t coming here via Free Agency and the Cavs don’t have the assets to trade for one (you know where they could get an asset to trade for a great player? The draft).

Amico quotes another GM:

“Fans who root for failure deserve what they get,” says a Western Conference GM. “Building through the draft doesn’t mean tanking a season. It means making the most of the picks you have, regardless of where they fall. Why is that so frowned on in today’s society?”

On the other hand, making the playoffs usually helps in areas of building confidence in young players and developing a winning culture.

This is one of my pet peeves. That fans (like me!), who think making the 2012 playoffs as an 8th seed isn’t in the Cavaliers’ long term interests, are “rooting for failure” or aren’t “real fans.” Amico has tweeted bunk like this in the past but I also hear this a lot on the guys on FM 92.3 The Fan, namely on The Bull and the Fox.

Look, this is a Cavs team (filled with non-longterm pieces like Jamison, Anthony Parker, Sessions) who’s ceiling, if everything goes right, is the 8th seed. That’s best case scenario: the 8th seed. The 8th seed is also where they’ll face either LeBron and the Miami Heat or Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls. The Cavs are 0-5 against the Bulls and the Heat this season and have lost by an average score of 107-85. Man, can’t wait for four games of that!

(And I’m sure that the media would love a Miami-Cleveland first round match-up. Cleveland fans… notsomuch).

Getting Kyrie Irving playoff experience and developing a winning culture are both good things. But you know what helps develop a winning culture? Great basketball players. What’s the best place for the Cleveland Cavaliers franchise to find Great Basketball Players? The top of the draft.

You can disagree with me here. That’s fine. That’s what’s fun about sports, the arguments. But just because I happen to think the Cavs would be better served long term by trading Ramon Sessions and/or Antawn Jamison (two guys who won’t be here next year) for first round picks doesn’t make me a worse fan or that I’m cheering for losing. Check my twitter feed next time Ryan Hollins does something monumentally stupid and see if I’m happy and “rooting for failure”. I just think watching the Cavs get their asses kicked by LeBron and the Heat in four games of “playoff experience” isn’t worth going from drafting in the 8-12 range to drafting 16th.

At 15-23, Cavs are in the mix for the 8th playoff spot in the East. And at 15-23, they’re also four games out of the 4th pick in the draft (the Kings currently sit fourth with a 14-27 record). Thursday’s trade deadline will tell us a lot about the Cavs and where they’re going for the rest of the season.

If I had my way, it wouldn’t be the playoffs.

But I’m a bad fan.

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Cavs face a playoff team, don’t get blown out

I mean, they still lost, of course. But by not-as-much! The final was 92-85. Single digits!

This meeting with LeBron and the Heat felt a little different. Instead of some CLEVELAND vs LEBRON battle (that some folk just can’t get enough of), it was just a mid-winter NBA game between a playoff team and a lottery team. Cavs vs Miami/LeBron will never be ‘just’ another game, but this wasn’t a Big Event, just mediocre basketball.

And mediocre it was. Miami looked like the old LeBron Cavaliers, sleeping walking against a bad team, only to win in the end through sheer talent.

The score at halftime? Tied at 37. The Cavs finished with a whopping 22 turnovers but somehow Miami scored just 4 fastbreak points. Now, part of that was the Cavs’ good transition defense (and it was pretty solid) but part of it was also the fact that many of the Cavs turnovers were so bad, the ball went out of bounds rather than to a Heat player. It’s hard to start a fast break when the ref is holding the ball.

Surprisingly, it was Chris Bosh, not LeBron, who ended up torching the Cavaliers. Bosh finished with a season high 35 points and he got it in all kinds ways. He was 10-16 from the floor and it was easy to see why; when he was outside, the Cavs left him open (pick and roll defense… still not good), when he was inside, he was guarded by Antawn Jamison and Ryan Hollins (Hollins: 4 fours in his first 5 minutes- that stat is not made up). And when it inevitably turned out that they couldn’t guard him, Bosh made the Cavs pay from the line, going 14-14 from the stripe. Dude even hit a trey. Bosh demolished the Cavs.

Now, Bosh’s 14 freebies are interesting, as they’re just three less than the Cavs’ team total. The Cavaliers shot 11-17 from the line and only Ramon Sessions got the stripe more than once (he was 4-4). Watching the game, I didn’t feel like the Cavs were getting particularly hosed by the refs (non-Bosh Miami players were 9-12 from the stripe), but it’s hard to look at that box score and not be a little miffed.

And it’s not like the Cavs weren’t aggressive – they were (they even had three straight dunks during a stretch in the first half) – but too often the aggressiveness led to offensive fouls or turnovers. I have a hard time bitching about fouls when the Anthony Parker attempted an alley-oop to Omri Casspi and Casspi, after seeing how well that turned out, decided to try to throw one to Antawn Jamison (GUESS HOW THAT WENT).

If there’s anything to bitch about, it’s not the refs, but Byron Scott’s rotation. Specifically, the minutes of one Kyrie Irving. Irving had 8 of the Cavs’ first 14 points to start the second half (and assisted on 2 of the other 3 baskets). Scott took him out with 3:18 to play in the third period (Cavs trailed 57-51) and Irving didn’t check back in until there was just 5 minutes left in the fourth (Cavs were behind 72-67). Roughly 10 minutes without their best player. No me gusta.

As annoying as this, I’m not overly concerned about Irving’s lack of minutes. This is just his 16th NBA game (after missing most of his college season and with a shortened training camp), I’m fine with Scott leaving us wanting more of Irving than overexposing Kyrie to too much.

Now, is it frustrating as all hell? OF COURSE. I’m not subjecting myself to these crappy games because I want to watch Anthony Parker. I want to see the number 1 overall pick, I want to see how he handles facing LeBron and the rest of the Heat. Plus, it’s pretty clear that said number 1 overall pick is the best player on the team (Irving finished with 17 points, 4 boards and 4 assists), so it’s kinda mind boggling that Irving played only 26 minutes while Alonzo Gee and Anthony Parker each finished with 28.

Makes sense.

I’m cool with Scott doing the ‘tough love’ thing. I agree with making Irving earn his minutes through defense or taking care of the ball (Irving had 3 turnovers). Hell, I’m even fine with them trying to showcase Ramon Sessions for a trade. It’s just, when your team needs a shot and we’re sitting here watching a lineup from last season, when we know Kyrie is better than anyone out there, it’s pretty goddamn frustrating watching Sessions miss layups or Boobie try a floater.

Of course, you could argue that Tuesday’s loss was the best longterm outcome. The Cavs competed for 48 minutes, they played well defensively and Kyrie Irving looked great. That’s pretty much what we’re looking for, no? They didn’t look like crap, they boosted their lottery chances and Irving looking like a future all-star.

I’ll take it!

Random Thoughts

- We saw LeBron go to the post a few times and man, he could not wait to pass that ball. That LeBron (18 points, 8-21 FG, 1-4 FT, 5 boards, 5 assists) didn’t take advantage of Anthony Parker says mores about his lack of trust in his post game than AP’s defense.

- Though I thought AP and Alonzo Gee did a decent job making LeBron work for his points.

- Antawn Jamison: 2-6 FG, 5 points, 2 boards, 4 assists, 0 free throw attempts.  Anthony Parker: 3 points,  2-6 FG, 3 boards, 1 assist, 0 free throw attempts. That’s some veteran leadership right there.

- Omri Casspi looks slow. His shot is slow, his driving is slow… Casspi finished with 6 points, 0 boards, 0 assists and 4 turnovers in 18 minutes. Yikes.

- The only other non-Irving starter who looked like a Real NBA Player was, of course, Anderson Varejao. Andy finished with 11 points and 11 boards in 31 minutes.

- We had a Samardo Samuels sighting and it made you wonder where he’s been hiding. It was nice to see Samardo overcome his addiction to score 15 points (7-10 FG) off the bench.  Assuming he doesn’t fuck up some more, he should be ahead of Ryan Hollins and Semih Erden.

- The Cavs will try to get their first win on the second night of a back-to-back on Wednesday when they host the Knicks at The Q at 7:00pm.

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Toronto 104, Cleveland 96

Same shit, different year.

Before I get all ranty, I’ll point out that this is just one game and it’s way too early to draw any real conclusions about this team or any particular player. And yes, the Cavs losing isn’t the worst thing in the world, as this year is a rebuilding season. I get that and I agree with that. Hell, losing to a team like Toronto probably helps, those guys are lottery competition.

I don’t and won’t expect the Cavs to compete, let alone win, on a night-to-night basis. But they were facing the Toronto we-don’t-play-defense Raptors as their home opener. This game wasn’t a gimme (no games will be a gimme for this team) but it was certainly winnable. Seeing the poor defensive effort and stagnant offense was disheartening.

Did you know that last year the Cavs were the worst team at defending the three-point line? It wasn’t even close. The Cavs allowed opponents to shoot 41.1% from behind the arc last season, the second worst teams (Utah and Toronto tied) allowed 37.6%. On Monday night, Toronto made 9 of 21 from downtown for 42%. Not good.

But it wasn’t just treys. The Raptors finished the night 53% from the floor and had a whopping 35 assists on 42 field goals made. That’s fucking nuts. The Cavs got repeatedly beat on the high pick-and-roll and the help side D was non-existent. Every time the Cavs got it close, Toronto seemed to answer with a layup. It was frustrating, to say the least.

So turns out I still hate Moondog. That stupid dog scared the crap out of me by banging his drum right in my section… during a Cavalier free throw. Nice job, way to pay attention. But we know how I hate the ‘game day experience'; I think it takes away from the game and I don’t think it’s necessary (want fans to have a great ‘game day experience’? Field a winning basketball team). Short aside: over Christmas my cousin told me how he brought his 4-year son to the Cavs-Pistons preseason game and how much he loved it…. except for all the dancers and extra crap. It was just too much (“aw, dancers again?”). So, my research tells me that not only do cranky adults like myself, Terry Pluto and Joe Tait hate that crap, but so do little kids (sample size of one, related to me). Clearly, the people have spoken.

The big story of the night will be how Kyrie Irving stunk it up in his pro debut. And he kinda/sorta did. Irving finished with 6 points on 2-12 shooting, with 7 assists (good!) while going 1-5 from downtown (bad!). His shot wasn’t falling, guys weren’t finishing off of his passes (he caught both Anderson Varejao and Ryan Hollins by surprise) and he had a hard time defensively. I’m glad Irving started, but I can certainly see why Scott was hesitating on naming him the starter. Kyrie showed some flashes (I love love love LOVE his passing) but he never really looked comfortable.

On the flip side, Tristan Thompson has won over the home crowd. In just 17 minutes, Thompson finished with 14 points and 5 boards. Yes, his free throws will be an adventure (although he finished a respectable 6-8 from the stripe) and I’m scared to death when he catches the ball outside of 10 feet (but that can be said for too many of his teammates) but he’s very strong and he was aggressive. Thompson’s put-back with 10 minutes to play brought the Cavs to 82-78 and the crowd to their feet (Cleveland had trailed by as many as 15). Twas far and away the highlight of the game for me.

Then, for some reason Byron Scott decided Antawn Jamison needed to come back in. At the time, Jamison was 5-18 from the floor and a clear liability on the defensive end. Now, I like Coach Scott, but it’s stuff like this that drives me nuts. Jamison is out there chucking every chance he gets and getting killed on the defensive end and he subs in for the one kid working his ass off. Bah. Also, Samardo Samuels was a DNP-CD while Ryan Hollins was allowed on the court for a full 15 minutes.

However, I’m fine with Scott bringing Irving back for crunch time, even though Kyrie was struggling. Ramon Sessions had a great game (18 points, 6 assists, 4 boards) and was instrumental in the bench-fueled comeback, but Scott brought the starters back to finish the game. Which is fine, to a degree. Scott had Sessions and Daniel Gibson on the court together, so I don’t see why Irving and Ramon couldn’t share crunch time (defensively, Sessions/Irving is a wash compared to Sessions/Boobie).

And if you’re going to bring the rookie PG back in, why not leave the rookie PF on the court too? While I’m not too upset that Tristan didn’t get crunch time minutes, I am kinda peeved that we didn’t see Irving paired with Thompson at all. I also would’ve liked to see what Thompson and Varejao could do together. Yes, offensively it might be rough, but Thompson was usually paired with Ryan Hollins (0 points, 1 rebound in 15 baffling minutes), so it’s not like the it would’ve made a difference.  It might’ve also helped Kyrie to play with an athletic big who can finish at the rim…

Omri Casspi, you played? Casspi’s final tally: 21 minutes, 2 points, 0-4 FG, 2 assists, 1 rebound. Yikes. Gonna need more from the starting small forward position. If he’s not careful, it wouldn’t shock me to see Alonzo Gee (who nearly killed himself on a dunk attempt) take Casspi’s minutes. I’m not sure I’d say Gee played great, but he was certainly active, finishing with 13 points (5-7 FG), 3 boards, 3 assists, and 3 steals in his 28 minutes.

Also, Anderson Varejao (14 points, 10 boards) is still really good. Andy had his usual solid game. Defensively, he ‘showed’ on those high pick-and-rolls, which is fine (he’s quick enough to do it) but that left Cleveland’s only decent post defense/rebounder 20 feet from the rim. Having Varejao show on those high screens with the Jamison-Casspi-Parker trio protecting the rim is not good. Again, this is why I’d love to see Andy paired with Tristan (and I’m sure we will eventually. This is only one game, after all).

and finally….

Let the screwy schedule begin! The Cavs aren’t in too bad of shape schedule-wise early on. They next play Wednesday versus the Pistons in Detroit (probably a L), and follow with the Pacers in Indiana on Friday (almost definitely a L). They then return home to face the Nets on Sunday and the Bobcats on Tuesday (both of those are winnable, me thinks).

(I’m so happy basketball is back! No joke, I received as many “Happy return-of-the-NBA” texts as I did “Merry Christmas” texts on Sunday. Sounds about right).

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Thanks For Making Ryan Hollins Try Hard That One Time

also for Kyrie Irving:

 It’s unclear when or even if Baron Davis plays again this season, but it definitely won’t be as a member of the Cavaliers.

The club released the 32-year-old point guard Wednesday night through the amnesty clause, allowing it to clear $28 million of salary cap space over the next two seasons and put the offense in the hands of rookie Kyrie Irving. The Cavaliers must still pay the sum to Davis, who likely is headed to free agency with a bulging disc in his back.

The move places the Cavaliers roughly $7 million under the $58 million salary cap — assuming they don’t use a trade exception set to expire on Friday. That savings could become significant at the trade deadline, rumored to be March 15.

Expected move is expected.

Not gonna lie, I’m kinda sorta sad to see Davis let go. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the move and hell, I even agree with it. But I like the Cavs and I like watching Baron Davis play basketball. Watching Baron Davis is fun. I enjoy it. But this year’s Cavs need to stink. Davis was too good, too expensive and he plays the same position as #1 overall pick Kyrie Irving. This isn’t the team for Baron Davis, pure and simple.

The only argument I could see for keeping him around was that he at least knows Byron Scott’s offense. With the Cavs having a seven day training camp followed by just two preseason games, the offensive learning curve is going to be pretty steep. It would’ve been nice to have a veteran PG with knowledge of the offense, but all that was moot once it was obvious Davis was going to miss significant time.

So Davis is gone, but Anthony Parker remains. Sweet.

For what it’s worth, with Davis gone, I still don’t think Kyrie Irving opens the season in the starting lineup. I’m betting we’ll see a opening night starting five of Ramon Sessions-AP-Omri Casspi-Antawn Jamison-Anderson Varejao. This will be Irving’s team soon enough, I just doubt Coach Scott gives him the keys right away.

I’ll miss Davis. For how often we focus bad Cleveland trades (Rocky Colavito, Ron Harper, Brian Giles…), Davis was one the town’s best acquisitions. Mo Williams and Jamario Moon for Baron Davis and Kyrie Irving. Not bad.

Plus, he gave us this:

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Cavs to pursue Anthony Parker

Awesome.

From Sam Amico:

Sources have indicated the Cavs are likely to offer free agent Anthony Parker a two-year deal. Parker, 36, started the majority of games at shooting guard last season. “They want to keep him,” one source said. “They like him as a leader and mentor.”

Scott at WFNY:

Parker, who would have to agree to the multi-year deal, was the team’s player representative during the recent NBA labor impasse.  When a  Twitter follower asked who I thought would be the team’s starting shooting guard roughly one week ago, I said “AP” without hesitation as it has long been a belief that the team would opt to bring back the copacetic vet for his locker room presence and willingness to be a mentor for the younger players.  The addition of Omri Casspi, who shares Maccabi Tel-Aviv ties with Parker, only served to further solidify this belief.

I’m probably not totally rational on this, but this news blows me away. Why why why WHY do you need to give a 36 year old shooting guard a multi-year deal? Leadership?! LEADERSHIP? Well that sure makes sense. Could you imagine last year’s Cavs squad without Parker’s leadership? Man, they could’ve been really awful. The season could’ve been a complete clusterfuck without his leadership.

*Sigh*

This just really kills me. First of all, if you’re making roster moves based on mentoring and leadership, that’s a bad sign (or if a certain small forward fits with a certain segment of Cleveland’s population). I’d rather you make roster moves for actual basketball reasons.

But I’m weird.

Second, I’m not completely opposed to adding players for chemistry reasons. For instance, I just finished Joe Tait’s book (review forthcoming) and at one point he talks about how much the addition of Nate Thurmond helped the team.

The Cavs were a team full of young players fighting for touches as well as playing time. The players weren’t really listening to Coach Bill Fitch. Then Thurmond came on board, acted professional (he didn’t start but played at the end of halves) and everyone began to accept their roles. Sure, he was saying most of the same things Coach Fitch was saying, but it meant more coming from a future Hall of Famer.

Note: Anthony Parker is not a future Hall of Famer. And the Cavs are not a veteran leader away from contention. I’m totally fine with having non-knuckleheads on the team for leadship purposes, it just helps if they can still play or command the respect of the young guys.

I admit, I’m not completely rational regarding AP (and certainly not regarding Antawn Jamison). Parker drove me nuts during his year with LeBron (“oops, stepped out-of-bounds on the corner trey again, my bad guys, not paying attention. Only a 34 year old vet here”) and watching him have to create his own shot last season was somehow even more painful than watching the rest of that shitty team create their own shots.

Parker seems like a nice enough guy, someone who I’d probably like in Real Life, but I see no reason why the Cavs need to resign the 36 year old shooting guard. If he’s so good with the young guys, hire him as a coach. And it’s not like the Cavs didn’t have locker room issues last year (or the fucking longest losing streak in the history of North American goddamn professional sports). Could things have really been that much worse without AP’s leadership?

Remember when the Browns had Ken Dorsey ‘mentoring’ Brady Quinn? How Dorsey was like a coach and a good sideline presence? He knew Rod Chudzinski’s offense! Then when Ken Dorsey was forced to play, it turned out he was absolutely horrid. Good use of a roster spot! Is this all that different?

As for who should start at the 2 for the Cavs… I don’t know. The 2011 free agent class is abysmal (though I might take a flyer on Chris Douglas-Roberts), Christian Eyenga isn’t ready and I’m not particularly enamored with either Joey Graham or Alonzo Gee. But I see no point in this particular Cavs squad starting Parker at this stage in his career.

What’s that you say? He won’t start? HA. Byron Scott loves his vets (or doesn’t like playing young guys). If you don’t think Davis-AP-Casspi-Jamison-Varejao is the opening day starting five, you’re kidding yourself.

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BenBlog Book Review: ‘Pass the Nuts’ by Dan Coughlin

This book is fun.

Full stop.

Filled with stories of Cleveland sports history, local media nuggets and a dash of drinking shenanigans, Pass the Nuts was quite simply a bunch of fun to read.

The book’s subtitle is “More Stories About the Most Unusual, Eccentric and Outlandish People I’ve Known is Four Decades as a Sports Journalist” and you really can’t ask for a more apt description. Each chapter is a self contained 3-8 page story on some goofy character or situation related to Coughlin.

I found the book interesting because, as a child of the 80s, many of Coughlin’s stories were before my time (I only know of Coughlin through his his Fox 8 gig, not his Plain Dealer years). Stories of former Browns Gene Hickerson knowing Elvis Presley or Dick Schafrath running 62 miles on a dare were great and the all of the Cleveland media gems were fascinating to me (What? Cleveland papers covered softball?! And people gave a shit?!?).

A few stories stuck out to me, but mainly this nugget on covering high school football with Fox 8’s chopper and Tony Rizzo taking most of the flights:

“That’s because the helicopter and I came to Fox 8 together in 1997,” Rizz rationalized. “I never knew what it was like to be a Beatle, but after the first night in the chopper, I knew. We’d land right next to the stadium and a thousand kids would surround us, trying to touch us. I felt like a rock star. What a rush! Some schools would beg us to fly there”

Cameraman Doug Herrmann’s favorite stadium was Hudson. He pleaded to make it a regular stop on the Friday night tour.

“Because the first time we were there a woman was so wasted that she lifted her shirt and flashed us her headlights – no bra,” Rizz explained. “Dough wanted to come back every week and look for her”

What? Hudson? 1997? Boobs?! I was at every Hudson football game from 1997-2000 (yay marching band!) and I’ll be damned if I remember the Fox 8 chopper coming to a single game (or having a reason to). Not to mention I can’t recall a crowd rowdy enough to have chicks flashing people.

The book is full of little anecdotes like that. Fun accounts of ethic violations of Cleveland State hoops, college pranks (stealing a train) and 40 years in the the sports media. There’s also bits on interviewing LeBron as a freshman (and how LeBron would never use the first names of the Cavs beat reporters), George Steinbrenner, and whole of slew of people I’ve never heard of.

If there’s one complaint about the book it’s that, at times, Coughlin’s familiarity with his subjects made it confusing to read. Many of the stories mentioned the wives or girlfriends of these wackos and Coughlin would simply use their first names (like he was the story to you in person) and every now and then I’d have to go back and double check to make sure I knew who he was talking about.

But that’s really a minor quibble. Coughlin’s casual prose and sardonic wit make Pass the Nuts a fun, quick read. The chapters breeze by, whether they’re about LeBron James or about Dan fighting a whip-wielding bar tender. The language is clean, even though some of the stories aren’t, and again, most are pretty funny.

I haven’t read Coughlin’s first book (2010’s Crazy, with the Papers to Prove It), so I can’t really compare the two, but after enjoying Pass the Nuts, I’m going to pick it up. You probably won’t get much out of either book if you aren’t a Clevelander or at least a fan of their sports teams.

But if that’s the case, why the hell are you reading this?

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