Give thanks

(Note: If you feel like you’ve read this before, you did. Last year. I cleaned some things up and moved some stuff around, but the post itself is mostly unchanged.)

While it hasn’t always been the case, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday; nothing else even comes close. How can you top a day full of football, family, friends and food? You can’t. Other holidays have their perks but none are as close to perfect as Thanksgiving.

Fourth of July comes the closest and, like Thanksgiving, it’s a holiday that I appreciate more now as an adult. So you’re telling me I get a day off to drink outside and grill with friends and family? What’s that? And we get to blow stuff up? Awesome. Fourth of July is great, but not better than Thanksgiving (I mean, how many cookouts do you go to over the summer? At least a few).

New Years Eve? Now there’s a holiday that’s burdened by too many expectations. The anticipation of this epic party night rarely pays off. When is the last time that a New Years Eve went the way you wanted it to go?

Halloween? Don’t get me wrong, Halloween kicks ass from ages 1-14 (trick or treating) and then from 18-26 (college girls). I like Halloween and all but, at this point, I feel a bit goofy dressing up (there’s only so many costumes that go with a full beard/mutton chops) and I can only get drunk in an uncomfortable costume so many times. It’s not like Halloween is bad but is it better than Thanksgiving? No.

Finally, there’s the big one: Christmas. Like Halloween, Christmas was awesome as a little kid (presents!!) but I’ve grown away from it as I’ve gotten older. There’s just too much going on with Christmas; there’s the pressure of buying the right gifts, dealing with the insanity of shopping, let alone the religious aspect that barely receives a passing mention. Hell, I’m not even religious and this offends me.

Simply put: there’s just too much Christmas. It’s gotten too big. It’s a month long orgy of shopping malls, lame television specials, sugary treats and greed (with only a token nod to the Baby Jesus). Hell, with Black Friday, we’re now letting Christmas attempt to ruin Thanksgiving weekend.

(Short aside: back in Christmas of 2004, I worked at the Barnes and Noble in Easton Town Center. At the time, I was getting emails calling me UnAmerican (I had a column in The Lantern, Ohio State’s paper, and wasn’t a fan of one George W. Bush) and the American news media still reported on the war in Iraq. Now, if you’ve never been to Easton, it’s fairly ritzy shopping plaza and I can’t even begin to tell you how elaborate the decorations were inside the actual mall. I swear to God, there entire place was drowned in silver and gold (ed. note: hyperbole) and meanwhile, I’m reading stories from Iraq like this. America: where there’s enough money for two-story Santa villages made out of high-end German chocolate but not enough to properly armor the vehicles of our troops. Priorities).

But despite our best efforts, Thanksgiving is still somewhat pure. Yes, radio stations are now playing Christmas music the day after Halloween and Black Friday is threatening to spiral out of control but you can ignore it if you choose. Despite everything, the essence of Thanksgiving is still there.

Thanks-giving. A day to give thanks.

It’s so simple, yet so beautiful. An uniquely American day to reflect on all the things you’re grateful for. How great is that? A day not to look at the negatives in life but to accentuate the positives. Be thankful for your friends and your family, your job and your health.

It’s far and away my favorite day of the year.

Every Thanksgiving day since 1999, I’ve played in a pickup football game dubbed (very originally) Turkey Bowl with various friends from High School and a random assortment of their cousins, in-laws or friends-of-friends.

Is it cold and wet? Of course (it’s Ohio in November). Are we all hung over and/or horribly out of shape? Yup. Do I hurt for 5 days after? Yes. Is it worth it? Abso-fucking-lutely.

This is the one time a year I see a lot of these guys. Some are home from college while others are simply back in town for a weekend before going back to Real Life. The games are somewhat competitive and there’s usually at least one or two dumb/awesome laterals thrown in there for good fun. It’s a couple hours of trash talk, laughing and hitting amongst old friends. What’s not to love?

After I crawl home from football, there’s the Thanksgiving meal with my extended family. Turkey, ham, potatoes, stuffing, pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce… Yes yes and yes. Seriously, sitting down for a giant meal with family members I rarely get to see is not a bad way to refuel after a couple hours cold-weather football. Plus after dinner, I can fall asleep on the couch watching even more (mediocre) football. Huzzah!

As you can tell, I adore Thanksgiving. Easily the day I look forward to the most each year. Too often we focus on what we don’t have rather than what we do. Thanksgiving is a day set aside to correct this oversight. I’m thankful for my loving parents, my brother and sister and our extended family. I’m grateful for my pets and for all of my friends as well as my co-workers.

I’m also quite grateful to those of you reading this right now. I’m definitely not a big blog (or, heh, your most reliable blogger) but I know more than a few of you keep coming back. I’m still very much blown away that people who I’ve never met visit this place (or give me a forum) to read my incoherent ramblings on the Cavaliers and Cleveland sports.

Thank you.

I hope everyone has a happy and wonderful Thanksgiving.

Ray Davies (of the Kinks) – Thanksgiving Day

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A Long Post About Politics That No One Will Read

I have an opinion about the election!

This post has been brewing in me for awhile now. I frequently post about politics on both Twitter and Facebook, much to the chagrin of the majority of my followers and Facebook friends. I mean, I figure if I get annoyed at the “LIKE IF YOU REMEMBER THIS ONE THING FROM THE 90s” pictures and the up-to-the-minute baby updates (she pooped! I put her in this funny box!), I’m sure folks aren’t exactly eager to click my latest “hey guys, I really don’t think Mitt Romney should be President” link.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably bummed that this post isn’t about sports. I get that. That’s what I “know” and Cavs basketball is pretty much reason anyone pays attention to me. It’s cool. I love the Cavs but I’m interested in a bunch of other stuff too.

But with the election coming up next Tuesday, I had to get this off my chest. Call me wrong. Call me uninformed. Call me a mindless, naive liberal. That’s fine. People disagree.  I’m ignorant on a whole host of subjects, this could very well be one of them.

But I needed to get these thoughts down.

My goal is to explain why I feel the way I feel. This is gonna be long and this is gonna be weird.

Continue reading

Posted in dirty hippie politics, dumb stuff, My Ego, taxes | Tagged | 6 Comments

Cavs win a preseason game, I actually write a post on my blog

Everyone can breath. For one night, in a preseason game, Dion Waiters looked like a player worthy to be drafted fourth overall.

Waiters led the Cavs with 18 points (7-12 FG, 4-4 3PT) and Tyler Zeller added ten points and four rebounds and the Cavs held on for a 86-83 win.

It shouldn’t have been taht close. The Cavs held a 50-29 edge at halftime but let the Bulls slowly chip in closer throughout the second half. It had looked like Cavs had this game wrapped up, but Chicago’s full court press over final 45 seconds really frustrated the Cavs. Samardo Samuels and Boobie Gibson and the rest of the second unit (like Omri Casspi and Waiters) failed to advance past halfcourt on six straight attempts and the Bulls cut a six point lead to two in roughly 30 seconds. After Zeller split a pair of free throws, the Bulls missed their final, last-ditch shot as time expired, for the final three-point margin of victory.

The Cavs lead the whole game and yet the ending left you feeling as if they stole a win.

Some various thoughts…

Hopefully this performance by Waiters will soothe some nerves. While Waiters has shown flashes here and there, these early exhibition games have left much to be desired. Friday night was the first time that Dion looked comfortable among his NBA peers. Friday night was the first time we’ve seen what Byron Scott, Chris Grant and co saw when they took him fourth overall.

With Gibson playing off the ball (have we all come to grips that Boobie will never be a Real NBA Point Guard? And if you haven’t, watch the final 0:45 of Friday’s game), Waiters played point and ran the offense for the second unit.   His jumper was falling, he attacked the rim and he used his quickness to set up his as well as set up his teammates (Waiters and Zeller pick & roll! Woot!). Waiters wasn’t tentative. He wasn’t rushing anything. He just played his game. It was fairly impressive.

Kyrie was off. Just a bit. Irving finished with 8 points on a sterling 2-15 shooting with 0 assists. Yikes. However, I wouldn’t be too alarmed, considering Irving was playing at about half speed (if that). To say Kyrie looked disinterested would be an understatement. Things got so bad the (not very intelligent) Bulls announcers forgot that Irving was a good shooter and commented that he had needed to fix his jumper (which is patently ridiculous, condsidering his rookie stats). And hey, I can’t even blame them. Rarely did Irving look balance when he released his shot. He never seemed to have his shoulders squared and it always looked awkward.

CJ Miles likes to shoot. After Irving and Waiters (15 and 12 shot attempts, respectively), Miles had the third most attempts, with nine (making just three). With Antawn Jamison mercifully gone, the Cavs have a lot of shot attempts up for grabs. Plus, the Cavs are starting Alonzo Gee (who looked subpar), Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao; someone asides from Irving is going to have to shoot, might as well be Miles.

Luke Harangody has nine first half points. Gody a magnificent 3-3 from the floor (including a trey) and 2-2 from the line. Unfortunately, his only other recorded stats were a turnover an a foul. It’s nice seeing him knock down those jumpers, but he’s gonna have to board if he wants any non-garbage PT.

Expectations for Skinny Samardo Samuels: tempered. Dumb fouls? Check. Lack of rebounds? Check (17 minutes, one board). Plus, he was heavily involved in the final inbounding debacles. Multiple times his man went to double and Samardo left the ball handler no outlet. The Bulls announcers even remarked that the rookie Waiters was yelling at “the veteran Samuels”. Samardo Samuels is a veteran, folks. Yeesh.

Tristan Thompson… meh. At some point the Cavs will have to realize that they can’t start both Varejao and Thompson. They need big man with an offensive game; some one teams fear in either a post-up or a pick-and-pop situation. I’d be at some point this season, Varejao will move back to his natural four position and Zeller will start at the five, moving Tristan to the bench.

Omri Casspi looked not gawd awful. I’m not sure Casspi will ever be starting SF in this league, but he can be a useful player if his jumper is falling, as it was on Friday night. Omri finished with nine points (3-5 FG, all threes), three assists and zero(!) boards in 25 minutes. If Casspi’s jumper can be somewhat consistent, it will help alleviate a lot of pressure that will be focused on Irving and Waiters.

The Cavs next preseason game is Saturday night against the Washington Wizards at 7:30 at The Q.

Posted in Cavaliers | 2 Comments

Final Draft Thoughts

I participated in the WFNY Cavs draft round table, so you should go check that out.

think I’ve settled on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as my choice for the Cavs. I’ve changed my mind on this roughly every 45 minutes, but I that’s where I’m at as of 5pm on the day of the draft. I wouldn’t exactly be mad if they ended up with Harrison Barnes or Bradley Beal, but I’m drawn to MKG’s crazy work ethic.

I would prefer the Cavs to not swap picks with the Bobcats. If they reall like Beal that much, then fine. Go get your guy (and I’d rather them take on salary than throw in tons of picks). But I’d much prefer them to stand pat at 4 (grab Barnes or MKG) and then use their assets (including Anderson Varejao & Dan Gilbert’s wallet) to move back into the late-lottery/mid-first round.

Ending the night with something like MKG/Lamb or Barnes/Drummond would be fairly spectacular (I’m also cool with trading back up for Austin Rivers).

But I’m probably getting my hopes up. If they just end up drafting someone like Fab Melo with the 24th pick, I’ll be mildly shocked. The Cavs have been rumored in so many deals that I’ve just assumed that their second first round pick gets packaged in a trade (and I hope Chris Grant’s front office is leaky on purpose).

The Cavs could really set themselves up for the long haul tonight. They could find one, if not two, starters to fit with Kyrie Irving. Let’s hope Chris Grant knows what he’s doing.

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He didn’t ride Dwyane Wade’s coattails

If you watched and appreciated LeBron James while he played for the Cavaliers, you shouldn’t be surprised that he won this title. If the dude can drag Drew Gooden and Eric Snow to the NBA Finals, I’m pretty sure he can win a ring with two other All-Stars.

It just sucks it didn’t happen here. But I’m more disappointed than pissed. I wish he would have chosen to stay home and win it in a Cavalier uniform. I know why he left (can’t argue with teaming up with in-their-prime All-Star teammates and sunshine & beaches), but bringing a title to Northeast Ohio would’ve been so so special. The Cavs were inching closer and they would’ve broken through at some point. You could tell LeBron was going to figure it out eventually. He was too good not to.

The way LeBron left was inexcusable in my mind. The no-show against Boston (with the phantom elbow injury) followed by the middle finger to Cavs fans that was “The Decision,” was not a good look. He needlessly and selfishly added “taking my talents to South Beach” to the ‘Cleveland sports misery’ montage that ESPN fucking shows every time we might actually be enjoying a Cleveland playoff moment. I fault no one for holding that against him.

(But at the same time, I recognize that having the entire region of Northeast Ohio worship him since he was 17 years old might result in an inflated sense of self).

LeBron James earned this title. There’s no asterisk to this ring. And while I think the refs stunk, I don’t don’t think that they were the deciding factor in this series. The Thunder are young and I expect we’ll hear from Kevin Durant and company again.

That LeBron and the Heat lost to Dallas last season, coupled with the fact that the Cavs have Kyrie Irving (and a lot of options on draft day) certainly deadens this blow. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a punch to the gut, but at least James didn’t win a ring in his first post-Cleveland try. See, it’s not that easy. It wasn’t like Wade was getting 30, Bosh was getting 25 and LeBron was sitting back throwing assist after assist, letting Wade take all the clutch shots. James had to lead. He had to do the things we always wanted him to do (play hard every play, stop taking stupid shots, go in the post, etc).

LeBron dominated James Harden on the block. Dominated. As a basketball fan, I can’t help but tip my hat (and I also can’t help but wonder if and when Thunder GM Sam Presti calls Phil Jackson). Miami smelled it during Game 5. They knew they were close and they took it.

I’m not one to hold James to his “not six, not seven” prediction. As far as I know, he never repeated that prediction during a situation where he wasn’t speaking in front of thousands of screaming fans. But as far as dynasties go, I do wonder how long Miami’s window remains open. These Thunder will be back. Maybe Miami will strike gold with a Brandon Roy or Greg Oden signing. But Dwyane Wade is on the wrong side of 30, their cap situation is less than ideal and they don’t have draft picks (though I’m not exactly enamored with the other contenders in the East. Chicago is still a piece away).

By the same token, I never held Dan Gilbert to his stupid “Cavs will win a title before LeBron” heat-of-the-moment prediction either. It was a dumb thing to say and I really hope Gilbert handles LeBron’s Finals victory with class. He does a lot of good things as an owner, I’d rather not him be a national punch line.

It is my sincere wish that Miami’s win closes the book on the “LeBron vs Cleveland” era (though I know it won’t- I’m already bracing for the inevitable “could LeBron come back?!” 2014 rumors). The Decision is two years old and while LeBron won his title, he got his comeuppance first. He paid for his hubris. We’ve even, as far as I’m concerned. It’s time to move on. The Indians are in contention for the Central, the Browns have Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden and the Cavs have Kyrie Irving and the 4th pick in a loaded draft (less than a week!).

Things are looking up in the Cleveland sports world.

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Random NBA Finals Thoughts

This Thunder-Heat series has been absolutely mesmerizing and you best believe that I have an opinion on some of this.

1. Before I get started: the refs. Yes, they stunk. I think if one cared to, they could make a fairly damning highlight reel of calls that went against OKC (I can think of a few off the top of my head: Westbrook’s foul line jumper where he got shoved, Westbrook getting Haslem to bite on the pump fake but not getting the whistle (like Wade did a play or two before), Durant getting fouled coming across the lane by Battier and Wade, Durant getting fouled by Wade on a base line jumper (ESPN’s Mike Breen commented on the fouls of both Durtant plays) and James Harden getting fouled by Wade in the open court before he missed a layup).

1a. Personally, I think they need younger refs (Game 4 refs: Mike Callahan: 53 years. Scott Foster: 45 years old, Bill Kennedy: 44 years old. Joey Crawford reffed Game 3 and he’s 61). Guys in their 50s and 60s are being asked to referee a game between basically Olympic athletes at the peak of their athletic ability. They might miss a few calls.

2. That being said, if you thought the Thunder lost Game 4 because of the refs, we must’ve been watching different games. Miami played harder and smarter (yes, they were physical. They were seeing what the refs let them get away with, turns out, is a lot. They learned that from the Celtics. OKC looked rattled by Miami’s pressure).

3. With the game tied at 90 with about 4 minutes left, Derek Fisher went 1-on-4 (following a LeBron turnover) and got his shot rejected, leading to an easy bucket by LeBron (who had just started to cramp) at the other end. That’s some veteran leadership right there.

4. James Harden has sucked this series and was a main reason OKC lost Game 4. He’s too small to guard LeBron and LeBron simply smother’s him on the offensive end. It’s just a bad matchup for Harden. And Scott Brooks, if I see Harden guarding LeBron in the post one more time, I’ll lose my mind.

5. “If I see Harden guarding LeBron in the post one more time.” LeBron was in the post! And it worked beautifully. Weird.

6. It’s crazy to me how similar this Miami team is to LeBron’s Cavs teams. Shaky second scorer? Check (I have not been impressed by Wade at all). Bench full of spot up shooters? Check. Defensive minded coach who’s offense sputters? Check. Big man who is more comfortable shooting outside and who’s biggest contribution is offensive rebounds? check. LeBron having to do it all? Check.

7. The difference? LeBron. He IS doing it all. He’s not taking bad shots. He’s attacking the rim consistently. He’s going to the post and abusing people. If he’s gonna do that… well… There’s a reason why he’s the three-time MVP.

8. Kevin Durant has to get open more easily. Run him off some picks. Maybe do some misdirection. He can’t be allowing himself to be pushed to outside the 3-point line by the likes of Wade and Battier. The Thunder spend like 8-10 seconds trying to get Durant the ball, and when it fails, Westbrook has to create with the shot clock winding down.

9. Russell Westbrook is a beast. 43 points on 20-32 from the floor. WOW. While he only took just three free throws (made ’em all), I’m not sure how many more times he actually deserved to get to the line (he took a lot of jumpers). But it’s probably more than just three.

10. Thabo Sefolosha, the guy who actually makes LeBron work on offense (and who can smother D.Wade) played just 27 minutes. That is stupid.

11. Also stupid, Thabo not staying up on LeBron and making him drive late in the game. After sitting out due to cramps, James hit a back breaking three with with the shot clock winding down. Why Thabo is giving him the jumper and playing back is beyond me.

12. I don’t like Kendrick Perkins in this series. If he’s not going to be fouling LeBron when James goes inside OR box out Chris Bosh for offensive boards, what is Perkin’s role?

13. OKC still has a shot. Not a big one. Yes, down 3-1 is extremely rough. But they’ve been very close in all of these games. I don’t think they’ll wilt away in Game 5 (though they very well might). They have to get on the plane and fly back to Oklahoma City anyways, might as well play a game (in front of an effing craaazy fanbase) when they get there.

14. That being said, I fully expect Miami to close out in Game 5. But if they somehow have to go back to OKC… wow wouldn’t that be sweet.

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Random Thoughts on Browns draft and Cavs season

– The Cleveland Browns have a new starting running back and quarterback.  I’m cool with this. I wanted Claiborne, the corner from LSU (I liked the idea of stacking the defense) but I can’t fault them with upgrading their shitty offense.

– The Browns, in classic Cleveland Browns fashion, traded up one spot to draft Trent Richardson at No. 3 overall. Unlike Butch Davis, who gave up a 2nd to move up a spot to draft Kellen Winslow, Holmgren only gave up a 4th, 5th and 7th to get Richardson.

– I get the arguments against Richardson: you don’t take a runningback that high, you can always find one later, by the time the Browns are actually good he’ll be on the downside of his prime, which SuperBowl teams have a top flight RB, etc.

– However, if the Browns think he’s the best guy available (ie, he’s a better RB than Justin Blackmon is a WR), then fine. I’m in. It’ll be fun to have a dynamic player in the backfield.

– At 22, the Browns took 28 year old QB Brandon Weeden. This pick is a bit dicey. Pre-draft, it seemed like the Browns could’ve gotten Weeden in the second round at 37. And taking the QB who spent some time playing minor league baseball at 37 is more palpable than at 22, I get that.

– The knock on Weeden isn’t his ability or arm strength, it’s his age. If NFL QB’s take a year or so to ‘get it’, can you really afford to wait on a guy who might not be ready until he’s 30? I mean, Weeden is a year older than Brady Quinn.

– However, if Brandon Weeden’s age actually ever becomes a factor, that means he’d have turned out to be the most successful Browns quarterback since their return in 1999.  This team seemingly has a new starter every five weeks. If this guy sticks around with the Browns and retires at 36, he’d have given them more run than any of the other schmucks brought in here.

– And if you don’t think I’m gonna love all “Brandon Weeden is old” jokes and all the pot puns you can make with his name (“I’m high on Weeden!”) then you’re kidding yourself.

– Adios, Colt. It’s been real.

– I’m so happy I didn’t read a single NFL mock draft. Sure, I’m interested to see which analyst has the Browns picking what player, but I just can’t bring myself to care. There were a boatload of trades during Thursday’s first round, making nearly every mock from the past four months a complete waste of time.

– I still prefer the NFL draft to be Saturday and Sunday. Thursday night prime time is fun and all, but this isn’t exactly exciting television. I don’t care about most of the picks, just the Cleveland’s and the teams drafting around the Browns. That’s it. The draft is perfect lazy Saturday viewing.

– I have to say, I couldn’t be more pleased with the Cavaliers’ season. Kyrie Irving looks like a stud, Tristan Thompson looks like… something that could be useful, the team showed flashes of competitiveness (beating OKC, Boston and Denver) and they should still end up with a Top 5 draft pick (and a 15% shot at Anthony Davis!). Not much more you could ask.

– If the Cavs were healthy for the entire season, they’re a .500 team. Varejao and Kyrie (and Antawn Jamison’s offense) are too good for a team to be really bad. Somewhat fortunately, Varejao’s injury (and Antawn Jamison’s defense) opened the door for their second half slide and now they’re in a great position for the future (two firsts and two seconds this year, two firsts next year).

– I won’t miss Jamison at all, but the Cavs might. I got sick of watching him but the Cavs have no one else who is a legit NBA scorer. Sure, Jamison is full of bad habits and his defense drives me nuts, but he was the only guy who could drop 30 in a game and you wouldn’t be surprised. If Alonzo Gee or Tristan dropped 25+ I’d crap myself with joy.

– Scoring or no, the Cavs need veterans who aren’t only good locker room guys (which, by all accounts includes both Jamison and Anthony Parker) but also guys with good winning habits. I agree that you need locker room guys to set a tone, but your Veteran Leaders can’t all be former Raptors and Wizards. You need guys who have been through the playoff wars and know how to win. While I think Luke Walton is washed up, at least he’s out there making the correct pass at the correct time. All of those little things matter.

– Not that this should surprise anyone, but the NBA playoffs are my favorite postseason. I love the early rounds where there are games every night for about a month. I love when the series goes deep and teams start to hate each other. When players end up knowing the other guy’s moves and then they’re just playing ball. Love it.

– That being said, I can’t wait til I know where the Cavs are actually drafting. I’m pumped for these playoffs, but I’m a Cavs fan first. I need to know where they’re picking. Badly.

– I highly suggest you read this Jason Whitlock column on the NBA Union fight between Derek Fisher and Billy Hunter. Good shit.

– Finally, if you aren’t watching Game of Thrones (or downloading it illegally), I can’t recommend it enough. This came across my Facebook feed (and trust me, you can’t imagine how the librarian in me hates sourcing it like that) and I just thought it was brilliant. [click to embiggen]

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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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