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).

Posted in Cavaliers, game thoughts | 4 Comments

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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Etan Thomas and the 99%

With it looking more and more likely that the NBA players will reject the owners’ latest offerEtan Thomas took to the pages of ESPN to explain the players’ side. I found the piece very interesting, especially how Thomas chose characterize the debate.

Thomas deliberately uses phrases from the Occupy Wall Street movement to make his case for the players’ side. He’s not wrong exactly, but I’m not sure it’s the right move for the players.

Continue reading

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On Penn State

It’s really a shame (in every sense) what’s going on at Penn State right now. I really like that school. One of my best friends went to that school. Watching Ohio State lose there in 2003(?) was one of the most fun sporting events I ever attended (plus, I mooned an entire Taco Bell full of PSU kids on the walk home. I miss college).

There’s a lot of interesting articles out there about this tragedy that I wanted to share:

College sports can warp values.

An open letter from a Buckeye fan to Penn State fans.

The original district attorney in the Sandusky case has been missing for 6 years.

The predator, Jerry Sandusky wrote an autobiography called “Touched.”

There’s probably going to be most ugliness coming out.

Joe Posnanski has an excellent piece on Joe Paterno.

Jerry Sandusky’s son, Jon, works for the Browns.

I don’t have much to add on the Joe Paterno mess, other than the kids who rioted on Wednesday night were being dumb kids and rallying around their school, rather than, you know, supporting child rape. When you’re young, bored and drunk, you do stupid shit. Plus, after this OSU mess, I completely get the bunker mentality and the “us vs the world” state of mind. Doesn’t make it right, but I get it.

Also, kinda getting sick of OSU fans preening “now THIS is a REAL scandal” bullshit not to mention “how come ESPN took so long to lay into PSU, they went after OSU right away!!” If what you take away from this Paterno mess is that ESPN hates Ohio State, you need to reevaluate some things.

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Hey! Look over there!

In case you didn’t read the post directly below this, I’ve been writing over at WaitingForNextYear.com all weekend. Some NBA, some Buckeyes, some NFL and some interesting links. Go check it out.

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Cavs hire new announcer, I’m still alive and other news you don’t care about

First things first, I know there are at least three of you who still check this site to see what I have to say. I thank you for that and I’m sorry I haven’t updated recently. Normally, I take my summer blogging fairly slow; I take some trips, see some shows, play some disc golf and then post about whatever ill-advised moves the Cavs make. But when you combine the NBA lockout with my love for Twitter (follow me, @BenCox83!) and my general laziness, well, things have been pretty sparse around here.

So if you’re itching for more Ben blogging, I have some good news.

The fine folks over at WaitingForNextYear.com saw my lack of blogging and thought to themselves, “hey, let’s hire that guy!” and offered me a gig at their site. And of course I said yes. So it is with great joy that I announce that I’ll be joining the boys over at WFNY as a weekend blogger, starting this very weekend.

In all seriousness, I’m pretty pumped about this opportunity. If you’re not familiar with WFNY, well, I dunno what to tell ya. They’re the biggest and best Cleveland sports blog around and pretty much a daily read for the online savvy Cleveland fan. I’ll be over there once or twice a month, keeping things updated and posting various ramblings throughout the weekend.

Finally, in actual news, the Cleveland Cavaliers have decided who will replace Hall of Famer Joe Tait as the radio voice of the Cavs.

*drumroll*

John Michael.

Ya. I dunno who he is either, but apparently he was the radio voice of the Lake Erie Monsters. Now, there’s two ways of looking at this: either A) Dan Gilbert hired a young (just 39), up-and-coming talent over some more experienced guys or B) Dan Gilbert hired a guy from down the hall (Gilbert owns the Monsters too, lest you forget) with no basketball experience.

Since I haven’t exactly been tuning in to Monsters games (to put it kindly), I have a hard time forming an opinion on John Michael (he’ll be calling games with Jim Chones, who I do enjoy). Michael could be good, he could suck, or most likely he’ll be somewhere in between; we won’t know until the games start (it’s exactly this type of sterling insight I’ll be bringing to WFNY). But it’s not like I had a specific guy that I wanted to replace Tait. I’m okay with the hire.

Hopefully, we’ll be able to judge John Michael’s work sooner rather than later.

Posted in Cavaliers, Explanations for Lack of Updates, Hockey?, My Ego, NBA | Leave a comment

Or like literally any phoenix.

In a Grantland.com article about how the Indians were built:

The 2011 Indians are like Fawkes, the phoenix of Harry Potter fame — they’ve sprung back to life from the ashes of their previous incarnation.

Sigh.

The rest of the article is interesting, if a bit depressing:

The Indians’ performance in the draft has been every bit as bad as their trade record has been sterling. In 1998, the Indians selected Sabathia with their first pick. Cleveland hasn’t signed an above-average draft pick since.

Quick: Who are Will Hartley, Corey Smith, Dan Denham, Jeremy Guthrie, Michael Aubrey, Jeremy Sowers, Trevor Crowe, David Huff, and Beau Mills? They are the Indians’ first picks in every draft from 1999 to 2007. If you recognized them, you must be a Tribe fan. Also, you need to put down the Xanax.

The best player in that crop was Guthrie and Luke Scott, who was 28 by the time he established himself in the majors.. By then, the Indians had long given up on them. For nearly a decade, the Indians have received hardly any help from their farm system. When you look at the franchise from that perspective, it’s no wonder they had to hustle on the trade market to survive. What is a wonder is that they’ve been so competitive.

As the author goes on to note, things look to be changing on the draft front with Alex White, Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis progressing quite nicely through the Tribe’s system.

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Now this, I can get behind

Sam Amico, if he ran the NBA:

• Anyone who played AAU ball would be ineligible to enter the draft until they turned 21. Anyone who didn’t play AAU ball could enter the draft straight out of high school.

• Trust me, most of the NBA’s problems aren’t because of what takes place in the NBA. Most are because of the butt-kissing buddy system at the lower levels. It’s why guys constantly shrug during interviews (losing is no big deal when you receive a pair of free Nikes at 15), and why LeBron James left Cleveland to play with his friends. Under my plan, the system producing such evils would be squeezed to its knees.

• Every player drafted outside the lottery would be forced to spend his rookie season in the D-League. Not only would it aid player development, but it would give fans a reason to pay attention and increase revenue in the NBA’s farm system.

Of all the various proposals by writers, this is the first I remember that brought up the AAU.  Not that Sam’s idea will have any bearing on reality, but it’s a nice thought.

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