Tag Archives: Adrian Wojnarowski

Dion Waiters Traded; Cavs Acquire J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert

With rumors swirling around him for two years, a deal was finally consummated. Dion Waiters has been involved in a three-team deal, sending him to the Oklahoma City Thunder. In return, the Cavs have received a haul of J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert from the New York Knicks and a protected future first round pick from the Thunder. The Knicks get Lou Amundson, Alex Kirk, and a 2019 second round pick from the Cavs and Lance Thomas from the Thunder.

Waiters, Amundson, and Kirk were all pulled from the bench preceding the Cavs’ game against the 76ers, creating some hoopla. Then, Woj did what Woj does.

We all anxiously waited for about seven minutes, which is an eternity in NBA breaking news on Twitter, for Wojnarowski to inform us who was coming to Cleveland.

The Knicks will also waive Samuel Dalembert, as his contract would have become guaranteed if he was still on the roster through Wednesday, as Wojnarwoski explained here.

There are a lot of variables in this trade. So let’s take a quick second to look at the main moving parts.

Dion Waiters, 23, was the Cavs’ main scoring option off the bench, but has struggled mightily this year. He started showing glimpses of promise this year, however, exhibiting more of a willingness to share the ball, improved passing, and more consistent intensity on defense. I still think he can be a really good player in this league, but he has to improve his decision-making and outside shooting (25.6% from 3-pt this year, 32.8% for his career), amongst other things. Unfortunately for him, he’s now on his 5th head coach in four years, going back to his days at Syracuse.

While the Cavs lost their main bench scorer, they gained a former Sixth Man of the Year award winner in J.R. Smith. Smith has averaged 25.5 minutes a night for the Knicks this year, compared to Waiters’s 23.8 with the Cavs. The 29 year old is also averaging 10.9 points per game while shooting 40.2% and 35.6% from 3-pt. Smith has a $6.4 million player option that he is expected to pick up next year.

The main piece the Cavs are getting back is Iman Shumpert. This is a guy that’s 24 years old and could help the Cavs now as well as in the future. I could see him starting for the Cavs in the near future, after he eases back from a dislocated shoulder he suffered in mid-December. Shumpert is known for his perimeter defense and has shown promise as a 3-pt shooter (34.8% this year), both of which the Cavs need out of their starting two-guard. The key will be locking him up after this season, as Shumpert will become a restricted free agent.

As for the Thunder first rounder, I think this is more ammunition for the Cavs to go get a rim protector, should the Cavs decide to pass on signing one in the free agent pool. Guys like Dalembert and Jermaine O’Neal could be possibilities should the Cavs fail to strike up a deal for one before the trade deadline.

I’ll have more on this trade in a couple days, but my initial reaction is this is a good trade for the Cavaliers. J.R. Smith is always a wild card, but again, the main player in this for the Cavs is Shumpert. If he can play well this year and the Cavs lock him up for the long-term, this should turn out to be a win for David Griffin.

As a side note, this will be known as the trade that broke twitter.

Get ready, Cleveland


(h/t Matt Skrajner)

Kevin Love is a Cleveland Cavalier

The Kevin Love deal is finally…

Andrew Wiggins draft day smile

https://twitter.com/TH_Da_06er/status/468447672807206912

https://vine.co/v/M9MVd97BpzU

 

…official.

 

What a long, strange trip it’s been. In the end, the Cleveland Cavaliers were able to get the highly coveted Kevin Love. All it took was the last two first overall picks in Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins and future first rounder via the Miami Heat (the Timberwolves also got a $6.3 million trade exception). All in all, both the Cavs and Minnesota Timberwolves are pretty ecstatic with what they got.

The Philadelphia 76ers were also technically involved in the trade, receiving the pick previously stated. The deal included the discarding of Thaddeus Young for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Alexey Shved.

Let’s start with the obvious; the Cleveland Cavaliers are championship contenders right away. This is something that I thought was true with or without the addition of Love. Late in July, I went into detail about why I wouldn’t have traded Wiggins for Love. Regardless of my opinion on that specific subject, I still think these next two years the Cavs are better off having Love then Wiggins (and Bennett).

I was also semi-worried about the draft pick the Cavs were speculated to have to give up in the deal, even though initially I though it was absurd Minnesota would need a first rounder when they’re already receiving more than they should. Nonetheless, the pick ends up in Philly and it was a pick the Cavs were able to shed without severe consequences. This pick (from the LeBron-to-Miami trade in 2010), is top-10 protected in 2015 and 2016 and unprotected in 2017. In short, the most likely outcome is that the 76ers get this pick after this season and it’s a mid-late first rounder. The Cavs also still have the rights to a protected Memphis 1st rounder (unprotected in 2019) and a top-55 protected Boston 2nd rounder – they really wanted LeBron James – for this upcoming draft as well as a top-55 protected 2nd rounder of the Clippers (via the Pelicans) – they really wanted to get rid of Alonzo Gee.

As the Cavs discard yet another player from last year’s team in Anthony Bennett, the roster looks dramatically different/better.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Minnesota Timberwolves

(new players in bold)

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG- Kyrie Irving

SG- Dion Waiters

SF- LeBron James

PF- Kevin Love

C- Anderson Varejao

 

Rest of the roster:

PG- Matthew Dellavedova, John Lucas III

SG- Mike Miller, Joe Harris

SF- Shawn Marion, James Jones

PF- Tristan Thompson, Malcolm Thomas, Dwight Powell, Erik Murphy

C- Brendan Haywood, Alex Kirk

With all the moves the Cavs have made this summer, there still may be one or two they are looking to execute. The three players the Cavs acquired in the Carrick Felix-to-Utah deal could be swapped for a big. Personally, I’d like them to try to keep Lucas because one, he’s the son of former Cavs head coach John Lucas II and more importantly the Cavs lack pure point guard depth behind Kyrie. If worst comes to worst, Delly wouldn’t be a terrible option behind Kyrie, though he’s thought more of an off-ball guard.

The Utah 3 (or 2) would most likely be dealt for a center. I mean seriously, look at the centers on this team right now. One of them is better suited as a power forward, one is 34-years-old and is more valuable as a trade piece for next season, and the other is an undrafted rookie who got this done to him. The Cavs have been reportedly talking to teams about acquiring a starting center. The departures of Spencer Hawes and Tyler Zeller have certainly left a nice gap in the roster.

All that said, in the grand scheme of things, the sparse depth at center shouldn’t be that big of an issue. Though they will lack significant rim protection if they cease making anymore moves, it’ll be arguably the only significant weakness on this team – maybe along with perimeter defense, although Shawn Marion should help in that department.

Love added to the starting lineup of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, and Anderson Varejao gives Cleveland an offensive juggernaut. Not to mention they get to call on the likes of Mike Miller and James Jones to shoot the lights out. Not only is he a great player, but he’s a fit as well. He helps spread the floor with his limitless range, offers excellent passing as a big man, has respectable defense, and rebounds like an absolute pest on both sides of the floor. He’s pretty much the culmination of everything the Cavs are as a team.

 

You didn’t think I’d leave without an Uncle Drew/Wes video, did you?

Get buckets.

http://youtu.be/TZUd9KYn_Rs

We Need To Treat Each Other Better

We need to treat each other better. Of all the things in the world that we don’t know, or that I specifically am ignorant to, this is a declaration that I’m sure holds truth. We are watching the world crumble before our eyes, and it breaks my heart.

Sports are supposed to be our escape, right? The problem is, we aren’t discussing what football team is stronger than their rivals in the trenches, how well an ace is controlling his swing-and-miss pitch, or who is playing better back-court defense. It’s become about why hitting a woman is better than hitting a joint (it’s not), a prestigious institution of higher learning falling victim to academic fraud, and whether a player’s sexual exploits conform to our personal moral code, among other things.

Seemingly, everyone has an opinion on such matters, and those opinions tend to vary based on loyalties and allegiances to teams involved, or at least teams affected by said wrong-doing. I’d be lying if I said that my Cleveland roots or my Arizona mailing address didn’t at least influence my pattern of thought. I suppose you could say it’s taken some time for me to truly become aware of my bias. When you have an opinion about one of your own, be it the home team, your favorite school, or someone from your hometown, your take is interpreted as self-loathing or without objectivity. There is no way around this.

You see it all of the time in the sports media, with Peter King, Stewart Mandel, Ken Rosenthal, and even the almighty Adrian Wojnarowski. If you say good things about my team, you’re the most credible and reliable source of information. On the flip side, you say “we” stink, then I say you’re a hack with an agenda against my favorite team. There seems to be little gray area. For those fortunate enough to reside in the spaces between, the ones who really understand criticism exists beyond the mind of one reporter or four-letter network, you find a level called reasonable.

I don’t know if I’m part of this group or not. Part of me thinks this place would give me inner-peace and be a utopia of sorts. Then again, realistic math seems to make this group a minority of an extreme magnitude. Honestly, I see myself on both sides of the fence. I’m just crazed enough as a sports fan to recall being up in arms about ESPN’s anti-Big Ten agenda (like that was a real thing), and my occasional belief that every official and umpire wants to deny Cleveland any glory in perpetuity (that generous strike zone for the Braves in ’95 though). I don’t think it’s preposterous to think the ball slipped out of Ian Kennedy’s hand and drilled Yasiel Puig, but the status quo says I’m lost with that belief.  Of course, it’s  all probably nonsense.

I don’t get caught up in the best-ever arguments too often, and that aids me in seeing some of the craziness out there. Better than Jordan? Kobe or LeBron? Could Running Back X have been better than Emmitt Smith behind those Cowboys offensive lines? See, I really don’t care, since I like to take things at face value. I don’t buy into things like “did the underdog win or did the favorite lose?” See, I don’t have interest in any of that, so I can sit on the sideline and criticize, but maybe I should consider the on-looker’s perspective when I’m playing a few innings.

I think my feelings about Ben Roethlisberger, when compared to my near-apathy towards Jameis Winston, speak volumes against my case for objectivity. Throwing out allegations of shop-lifting, something I’d laugh about before I’d raise an eyebrow over, the he-said/she-said nature of the alleged offenses do have their parallels. I feel it stings the Steelers quarterback more if I mention he’s twice been accused, though it wasn’t absolutely necessary for me to bring that up, but I feel it’s relevant. Jameis Winston gets the benefit of the doubt, simply because I don’t dislike Florida State on the level that I despise the Pittsburgh Steelers. When I stop being a fan, and start being a human being, I don’t want any of the charges against them to be true. I would just prefer the truth to be that these women weren’t raped or sexually assaulted in any way, but justice should be align with the truth. I’m not certain that it always does.

7AFDAF3877054B0BB251BD56D52D176C

On a more capital level, there’s the issue of termination of life. Ray Lewis was wrapped up in a murder investigation, involving two young men from Northeast Ohio as the victims back in 2000. He played for the Ravens, the name Baltimore gave my Browns after they pilfered them from Cleveland. Less than a year after sloppy prosecution in Georgia allowed him to walk free, he was winning a Super Bowl, because life isn’t fair. I could sit here all day and pretend to mourn the deaths of Richard Lollar and Jacinth Baker, but it wasn’t the young men from Northeast Ohio that were slain on that cold street in Atlanta that really ate at me, but that Lewis was the ambassador that represented the murder of the NFL in Ohio.

Sure, I cherish human life, even those who I’ve never met and wouldn’t associate with, but don’t we all act as judge, jury, and executioner in the court of public opinion? Have I ever demonstrated contempt for Leonard Little or Donte Stallworth, NFL players who ended someone’s life after getting behind the wheel intoxicated? The answer is no, and some may tell me it’s because I want to conceal the negative about Stallworth’s employer, my beloved Cleveland Browns, even though Stallworth never played another down in Cleveland. Then there’s Little, who played for the Rams before and after his vehicular homicide, or Josh Brent, who killed a Dallas Cowboys teammate in an alcohol-related incident behind the wheel.

Maybe, it’s because deep down, I believe those are accidents. So many of us do; we believe the neglect is a simple absence of thought, of which good people are capable. Of course, most of us would consider it accidental, and not neglectful when we take out a bus full of nuns when prioritize our texts and tweets over watching the road from behind the wheel.  The “risk” always seems to be about getting caught, and not harming others, which lends itself to the them here, we need to treat each other better. At the very least, can we stop the intentional harm, even when we’re intoxicated? It amazes me, someone with a first-hand knowledge of how substance-abuse changes people, how society lets “the influence” mitigate terrible behavior, like child or spousal abuse.

That brings us back to the Ravens, a team whose existence might not anger us in Cleveland (or folks like me, with Cleveland roots) if the we had a watchable product on Sundays, but that is really neither here no there when it comes to Ray. To clarify, I’m not talking about the guy who was barely held accountable for the deaths of two young men 14 years ago, but the one who hardly saw any consequence for knocking his fiance unconscious in an elevator six months ago. It probably helps that Ray Rice’s battered victim ignored her wounds, swallowed her pride, and took his hand in marriage, but that’s none of my business, I suppose.

As if we needed another reason to dislike the Baltimore fans, the ones who drowned in their own tears over Indianapolis stealing their Colts, they cheered the man who was caught on video dragging his knocked-out lady friend from an Atlantic City elevator. My outrage was not of the faux-variety on this; I even wished he didn’t play in the AFC North, where my Browns bias would be perceived as a factor in my feelings. With Rice’s case, or lack thereof really, the Ravens thing eggs me on a little bit, but men need to keep their hands off of women.

Do not hit a female.

It was a lesson engrained in me, right along the lines of don’t put metal in the microwave and respect your elders. In fact, I don’t remember being implicitly told to respect my fellow man (read: my fellow human being), but it was always implied. For the record, I didn’t always comply, and I was punished justly by my parents for those misdeeds throughout my childhood. Eventually, we no longer concern ourselves with the wrath of our mothers and/or fathers, as society takes over. Society doesn’t forgive, whether it sentences you on the street with an ass-kicking or it institutionalizes you for violating the letter of the law. It’s all supposed to serve as rehabilitation, in addition to justice, but do the rehabilitated learn to treat each other better. I doubt it; for many, that “time” just serves as justification to piss on the law itself.

That brings me back to Cleveland and our fan-base. We don’t have any respect for the law criminalizes marijuana, if not other drugs as well. We are pissy that Josh Gordon could (and likely will) miss more time for a positive urinalysis than Rice will for the incident with his then-girlfriend. This is an incident that has set us off on social media, but the anti-Rice demographic had their voice there as well. We get surly on social media sometimes, and arguing over punitive action from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s office towards a Cleveland Brown and a Baltimore Raven is really harmless, but any social media discussion inevitably gets ugly and reveals one thing.

We need to treat each other better.

I glance at current events, and I lose hope. We’ve all become so numb to the violence in the Middle East, but it’s happening. The air-strikes, the suicide bombers, and the debate over the United States getting involved barely draw our attention any more. How soon do we begin to feel that way about body counts in Chicago and Cleveland? Or, are already immune to that news, provided it’s not happening in our backyard? Speaking of backyards, it sure seems like suburban St. Louis just became everyone’s backyard in this nation of ours.

Maybe these are waters that I ought not tread, but the situation in Fegruson, Missouri demonstrates just how far we are from our destination, the time and place where we do treat each other well. Though we might see black and white people standing together in a peaceful demonstration for justice, and even civil discussions between disagreeing parties, we see a lot more ugly than pretty with this, both on-site and online. On one side, you have people without facts blindly calling a white police officer a hero, while calling the deceased a thug and labeling the protestors “animals” and many other choice words that I won’t type. On the other side, you have people without facts calling that same officer a murderer, labeling a black republican an “Uncle Tom” for supporting police, and the lunatic fringe encouraging the assassination of white police and their families on social media.

I’ve watched friends from high school, people who were teammates, classmates, and even good friends, get very heated with each other over this incident. With a quick snap of the fingers, friends stopped being friends and became tribal. It was more civil than comments among strangers on a newspaper article or the cesspool you’ll find under any YouTube video, but still devastating to watch. Whites will never walk a mile in the shoes of a black man or woman, so we will never understand their plight and they will never trust us. For them, racism awaits around every corner, and it doesn’t matter that we’ve broken bread and gone to the same parties together.

It’s always “us versus them”, whether it’s race, creed, gender, or economic class.  Is it too much to ask to phase out those heinous words, to not violate women, and to preserve human life whenever possible?  At the end of the day, we tend to fail.  We aren’t mourning the loss of Michael Brown’s life in Missouri, feeling for the women in Lake Tahoe, Georgia, and Tallahassee that feel certain quarterbacks ran through the stop signs, or concerned about the well-being of Mrs. Ray Rice.  It’s all about agenda for too many of us.

How can we fix this? Can we fix this? I definitely insist that we need to treat each other better, but I really tend to wonder whether or not we really want to. That’s what breaks my heart.

(Postscript: I am taking a sabbatical from More Than a Fan and CFB Roundtable for an indefinite amount of time. The timing is terrible, I know, but this measure is being taken with my well-being and the best interest of the site(s) in mind. I am confident that my colleagues, my online family of sorts, will pick up where I left off with the various project I’ve been involved with to minimize the impact of my departure. Gratitude is due everyone who provided me opportunity to share my thoughts in the form of writing on the web, and to those who helped me along the way. To the readers and listeners, I only hope that I entertained you or provoked thought with my words and sentiments; thank you very much for stopping by. As the great Hal once said, “Stay well and I hope to see you somewhere.”)

Love, The Matrix, and Moore

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst first brought it to our attention that the Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers had a deal set up to send Kevin Love to the Eastern Conference. Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarwoski then backed this up last Thursday morning – though this deal didn’t include the Philadelphia 76ers as a third team. What does this mean? Well, basically we can’t celebrate or mourn this trade until August 23, 30 days after Andrew Wiggins signed his rookie deal and when the Cavs are officially allowed to involve him in a trade.

A semi-important detail to think about is this trade could possibly be blocked should the NBA find evidence of an agreement between the Cavs and Timberwolves before the 23rd. The Cavs also can’t have any evidence of the Cavs and Love agreeing to an extension after this season, which was in Wojnarowski’s report. No need to worry though, this is something that is pretty rare and hasn’t happened since 2000 when the Timberwolves promised – on paper – Joe Smith a future big contract after he signed one for less money for salary cap relief for the short term. One would think Owner Glen Taylor has learned his lesson and Dan Gilbert and David Griffin are too smart to do something like that.

Anyway, I wrote about my feelings on a Kevin Love trade involving Andrew Wiggins. I still wouldn’t do this deal. Though Kevin Love has been my favorite non-Cavalier to watch since 2012, I’m okay walking away from the deal with Andrew Wiggins because that’s how good I think he’ll be in a short amount of time. Wiggins may not be at his peak in a few years, but that doesn’t mean he can’t contribute heavily by then, which I think he can.

Nonetheless, I’m starting to come to terms with this happening and trying to forget about the possibilities of what Wiggins could have done on both sides of the floor for the Cavs. Getting Kevin Love perhaps gives the Cavs the best [catchy nickname for a trio of three redacted] in the NBA with him, LeBron James, and Kyrie Irving. Love also gives the Cavs a unique skill set of both a perennial rebounder and three-point shooter. The latter is something that’s been a focal point for the Cavs this summer, signing guys like James Jones (career 40.3% 3-pt shooter) and Mike Miller (40.9%). Even LeBron has come on into the late peak of his career, shooting 39.1% from deep in his last two years. Rookie Joe Harris should be able to bring some floor-stretching ability as well – 40.7 career 3-pt shooter in four years at Virginia – even if he spends part of this year with the Canton Charge. Two other players the Cavs have been rumored to be interested in are Shawn Marion and E’Twaun Moore, guys that have had some success stretching the floor in their respective careers.

Shawn Marion dunk

Shawn Marion, aka “The Matrix,” was seen in Downtown Cleveland last week at a restaurant with David Griffin and Head Coach David Blatt, among others.

Marion is a somewhat surprising name to come up for the Cavaliers, but one that’s welcomed. He could go to the in-division rival Pacers and make more money, but he’s reportedly leaning toward Cleveland for obvious reasons.

Marion has had inconsistent success throughout his 15 seasons shooting the long ball. Last year was the first year since the 2007-08 season, when he split time with Phoenix and Miami, in which he had at least 100 3-pt attempts. Last year with the Dallas Mavericks he shot 35.8% from deep and is a 33.2% career long-range shooter.

One of Marion’s best assets as a player has been his defense and versatility on that end of the floor. Though he’s 36 years old, he still has enough juice to make him a reliable perimeter defender and can also guard power forwards with his 6’7 frame. This will be much needed since the Cavs are on the precipice of trading Wiggins. And defense on this team is important, no matter how much people want to downplay it. Though our projected starting lineup should score a lot of points, the defense may be a slight problem with LeBron being the only player that’s above competent in that area. Older guys like Marion and Mike Miller are welcomed defensive players on the bench that can also offer some offensive ability.

E'Twaun Moore shot

Another player that could add depth to the Cavs’ bench is combo guard E’Twaun Moore who they reportedly have serious interest in.

(He added in the comments that he meant Kevin Love instead of LeBron.)

So, where to start with Moore? Well, about the only thing I know about him without having to look him up on Google is that he was a really good three-point shooter in NBA 2K13. In real life, he’s a career 35% 3-pt shooter and shot 35.4% with the Magic last season. He’s an okay defender, but the Cavs are gleefully still looking for shooters and should get one around the time they (probably) get Kevin Love.

How LeBron Coming Back Affects My Fandom

We’ve all heard by now. Even if you had been living under a proverbial rock, you have heard the news that LeBron James agreed to a deal with the Cavaliers that sends him to Cleveland for the second time in his career. The first time was bookended by the infamously known “Decision.” We all know how that has impacted how Cavs fans viewed LeBron after that moment.

If you know me in real life or follow me on Twitter (shameless plug: @dano708), you know what I’ve thought about LeBron. If not, let me sum it up a little bit… LeBron made his first decision on my 17th birthday, before I even ate my birthday cake. From then on, I shared with countless other Cavs fans the taste of disgust for LeBron. Even as more and more fans started to come around I could not shed my angst towards him. Soon, the outsiders that told us to “get over it” were now fellow Cavs fans saying the same. For me, it was a shocking development. We once called out other fans that showed loyalty to LeBron. Now the tables were turned and if you couldn’t accept LeBron you were lying to yourself or an “idiot,” the former I thought being more disrespectful. I found myself in unfamiliar territory when it came to how to felt about LeBron. I was on the outside looking in, in the dreaded vocal minority.

And I was vocal, regrettably calling out other Cavs fans in an inexcusable way for wanting him back and pounding my gavel when someone mentioned LeBron coming back in mid-season (the latter I don’t feel sorry for). There’s been back and forth at least since November 2013 when the embarrassing “Come Home LeBron” t-shirts made their debut. People looking down on others wearing the neon green were now hashtagging the phrase the second the Spurs crushed the Heart in the finals.

The LeBron coverage around Cleveland after he opted out of his deal with Miami became too much for me. I even had to take a twitter hiatus for a few days and stop listening to sports talk radio for an extended period of time. As much as I fought against the volume of LeBron talk, I knew it was only going to get bigger after he made his decision. I had to take a step back so that, even if I wasn’t LeBron’s biggest fan (which is putting it nicely), the information, jokes, and rumors were fresh to me and I could engage in conversations with other fans rationally. It definitely helped as I was able to partake in those jokes, converse with my fellow Cavs brethren, and look at things from a basketball perspective.

I intended on writing about how LeBron coming back is a negative for me, and actually, I had a draft prepared for just that. But hours after LeBron signed with the Cavs, I felt differently then I thought I would.

 

The Story Break

 

I was at work getting ready for my lunch break when I got Adrian Wojnarowski’s alert on my phone that LeBron agreed to join the Cavs, and my heart raced – not necessarily of excitement or anger, but because I knew this was a historic moment. A few minutes later, I was a bit upset, a feeling I figured I was going to feel. For four years I stood steadfast, knowing in my heart I didn’t want him back under any circumstance. There were things beyond The Decision that made me reluctant to welcoming LeBron back. First and foremost is the sports talk radio in this town. Some will laugh at this and just say to give it up, but it’s hard for me. When I was in middle school, every day when my mom drove to and from school we’d listen to the radio. Back then, I spent most of my time listening to “Mike and Mike” with Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic in the morning and “Happy Hour” with Kenny Rhoda in the afternoon. Listening to those guys, along with the likes of Jim Rome, Tony Rizzo, and Darren McKee, had me hooked to the radio. As I grew older, I thought that sports talk radio in this town wasn’t as great as I thought, my interest in different hosts started to shift, but I still listened to it any chance I got. For me, the train went off the tracks when Johnny Manziel was drafted to the Browns and that’s all that was ever talked about. It’s been written about how LeBron is a fan of Manziel – who is represented by the same agency as LeBron. The last thing I’ve wanted this sports town to become is one popular clique where just a few names get talked about and other guys get left behind. With LeBron coming back, even if I loved him and Manziel, sports radio would be especially redundant and exhausting. With me having a less than favorable attitude toward LeBron, it’d be unbearable.

Then I read this. I sat down for lunch and began to read. My thoughts before delving into LeBron’s essay was this is just another “brilliant” PR move by him and his supporting cast, as usual. I thought it was just one journalist interviewing LeBron with generic cliché quotes sprinkled here and there, made for his Cleveland loyalists to drool over. But after I read it, it didn’t feel that way. It felt honest and heartfelt and he answered questions that I’m sure a lot of people wanted answered. Any summing up I do of the article won’t give it justice, you’ll just have to read it yourself, if you haven’t already.

The pessimist in me wants to believe what I previously thought his essay would be about; just covering his image and warming the blow for whomever didn’t want him back or for whomever in Miami felt betrayed (lol) by him. A part of me hopes it came 100% from his heart and another part of me buys everything he says and was hooked by every word. LeBron expressing his excitement to play with Anderson Varejao again made me feel great. In reality, I want to believe it without skepticism, but I’m just too scarred from his first stint to buy it all the way. His actions will speak louder than his words. And that should be an okay stance. While I don’t completely buy what he says (yet), I’m also not saying he’s going to screw his fans over again. I just want to see what Cavalier LeBron James 2.0 looks like first-hand.

As time went on and I got home from work, I just wasn’t excited as everyone else was. But I wasn’t a mad, bitter fan either, like I thought I was going to be. I think I’ve come to realize that perhaps I’m starting to turn the corner. I once fought the good fight of not accepting LeBron back, taking a moral stand. And even though this was out of how I felt and my respect for Cleveland fans, sometimes I didn’t always express it in the right way. After LeBron decided to come back, I realized that battle was lost and it’s time to stop fighting and accept it. I may not have the utmost joy for this move, but I’ve conceded being a jerk about it and am just amped to watch the Cavs actually play basketball, no more talk. I’m anxious to see how things play out this year.

I feel good about this right now. I’ve gone from a guy thinking about not even watching basketball anymore to saying “I’m good” about this over and over. In my mind, the way I know myself, that’s a pretty big leap in a couple of years. Maybe I’m not ready-to-streak-down-my-neighborhood-drunk excited, but my vitriol feels like it has faded into oblivion. I won’t wear my old LeBron jerseys, and not just because I don’t fit in them anymore. I won’t participate in or recreate the chalk toss anymore. I’ll still have moments where I dislike something LeBron does or he rubs me the wrong way, but each Cavs fan has had their own timetable to forgive LeBron completely and I’d ask for the same in return. I’m trying. And for what it’s worth, this time having LeBron feels different. Maybe it’s because no basketball has been played yet, but I feel like he’ll be more committed than he was the first time around, thanks to the letter he wrote. And Cavs fans deserve that. In LeBron’s first stint with the Cavs, we called him “The Chosen One.” This time around, we’re the chosen one’s.

LeBron James Signs with the Cleveland Cavaliers

The wait is finally over and a decision has been made. After over a week of conflicting reports (real and fake), plane tracking, and posturing, the Cleveland Cavaliers landed free agent LeBron James. This will be James’s second stint with the team after spending the last 4 with the Miami Heat, reaching four Finals and winning two championships.

On Wednesday, the day started off with a bang when it was reported that the Cavs cleared cap space by way of a three-team trade with the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets. This trade enabled the Cavs to get maximum space to sign James (eventually) and then some.

A quick recap of the trade: Thank goodness Jarrett Jack is gone. Nothing personal, but he was infuriating to watch most of the time last year. Karasev is extremely unproven but he could could have been a good shooter that the Cavs need right now. I’m sad Zeller is leaving as well. It looked like he was starting to turn the corner lat year and probably would’ve had even more success this year under David Blatt.

There were three popular conflicting dates and times for when James would make his announcement, all of which passed without knowing where he would be playing basketball next year. Chris Sheridan of Sheridan Hoops didn’t know exactly when the announcement would be made, but he knew the jersey James would be sporting before anyone else knew.

A couple days later, it officially happened.

Obviously this is the best kind of signing a team can get. It’s not often you’re able to sign the best player in a given sport, which is what the Cavs were just able to do. I expect the starting lineup, as it stands right now, to look something like this:

PG- Kyrie Irving

SG- Andrew Wiggins

SF- LeBron James

PF- Tristan Thompson

C-Anderson Varejao

(Dion Waiters is poised to be the sixth man at this point, but there’s always the chance he gets traded)

The roster is extremely thin right now, and it’d be better to have Varejao coming off the bench – especially as a power forward. While the three-team deal saw the Cavs give up their best rim protector in Zeller, leaving the frontcourt even thinner, they were able to clear enough space to sign more free agents.

Like many, I thought it was only a two-team race for LeBron, Miami being the other. I had a feeling he’d go with Cleveland if he opted out of his deal with the Heat. With the way both rosters are constructed, I think the Cavs give him the best shot to win for a long time, not just for a couple years. With a young core led by Irving and Wiggins, even if LeBron starts to inevitably break down as he gets into his 30’s, he has help around him to win a lot of games for the long haul.

The only big thing left now to ponder is whether or not a deal for Kevin Love will be made – if it involves Andrew Wiggins, hopefully not. Either way, the Cavs just made a humungous leap forward and can taste playoff basketball once again.

Dan Gilbert is Becoming a Problem

To say the Cleveland Cavaliers organization is in a bit of a turbulent state right now only begins to describe what’s going on. The front office has recently been overhauled, there are question marks around several key players (most notably Kyrie Irving and his future with the franchise) and they are still trying to find a new Head Coach – which will make their third Head Coach in three years. At the helm of this ship is owner Dan Gilbert. The majority owner since 2005, Gilbert endeared himself to many fans with his blistering open letter to Cavs fans following the LeBron James Decision. Up to that point, and even in the year or two after, Gilbert was a beloved owner by many Clevelanders. He invested in the city, his Cavs team was winning games and he was active, often sitting courtside for games. Life was good for Cavs fans. Life was good for Dan Gilbert. It’s now 2014 and we might be realizing something, Dan Gilbert is a problem.

I’ll follow that up by saying I absolutely loved Gilbert, and to some extent still do. I was absolutely on board with him when he worked to bring a casino to Cleveland. I loved his willingness to spend money on the team. I loved that he invested money into the City of Cleveland. To borrow a phrase from his son Nick, “what’s not to like?” Then Gilbert lost his biggest asset, a northeast Ohio kid who happened to be one of the best basketball players in the game, and things started go downhill for Gilbert and the Cavs. The aforementioned letter guaranteed a Cavs championship before LeBron would win one. In the first year post-LeBron the Cavs went 19-63, including a streak of 26 consecutive losses, under new Head Coach Byron Scott. Scott was brought in to replace Mike Brown, his hiring viewed as a dramatic overcorrection of Brown’s defensive focused system and thought of as the first of many potential moves to try and bring home LeBron. Meanwhile, the Heat made it to the NBA Finals in their first season as a super team, eventually losing to the Dallas Mavericks. Since then the Cavs have continued to lose, the Heat have continued to win (championships now), and Dan Gilbert has increased his meddling.

Especially recently, rumors and reports have been circulating that Gilbert is taking a Jerry Jones approach to ownership. He is supposedly in on draft picks, player decisions and coaching decisions. I get it, he’s a very rich owner of a professional sports franchise. He’s going to have an opinion. If I owned a professional sports franchise I’d have an opinion as well. Gilbert needs to realize something – he’s not a general manager and he isn’t a “basketball guy”.

The biggest concern currently with Gilbert was the pursuit of University of Kentucky coach John Calipari. There are conflicting reports about the timeline, which you can read here and here. There are concerns, however, no matter which guys sources you believe (for the record, and with all due respect to Joe Lull, I’ll go with Adrian Wojnarowski all day).

Coach Calipari, who recently signed an extension with Kentucky and reportedly rejected a Cavaliers contract offer.
Coach Calipari, who recently signed an extension with Kentucky and reportedly rejected a Cavaliers contract offer.

Let’s start with Lull’s contention that Dan Gilbert offered Calipari the Cavs coaching job (and a co-title as President) before David Griffin was made the full time GM. This is clearly not very meddling, however it’s valid to question the intelligence of this move. John Calipari is a fantastic college coach, no disputing that. However he failed as a Head Coach in the NBA with the New Jersey Nets. The bigger concern is what makes Dan Gilbert think Calipari is qualified to be a Head Coach and team President in the NBA? There is no indication that Gilbert has any sort of NBA intelligence that would allow him to assess whether or not Calipari is qualified for such a position as President – a position he has absolutely no experience with. Recruiting five star high school prospects is much different than being the General Manager of a professional basketball team (Calipari wouldn’t be GM in title, but would’ve had final roster say). Furthermore, how can Dan Gilbert evaluate whether or not Calipari has the tools to be a successful NBA Head Coach, especially after he failed once already? Simply put, Dan Gilbert has zero business offering anybody a Head Coaching position. For proof, on Gilbert’s watch Mike Brown has been hired twice and fired three times by the organization. He’s fired four head coaches (Paul Silas, Mike Brown, Byron Scott, Mike Brown) and three GMs (Jim Paxson, Danny Ferry and Chris Grant). The majority of those firings have come within the past five years. Go ahead, find the common denominator.

Now, we go with Wojnarowski’s contention that the offer to and rejection from Calipari was much closer to the present day, and was done without the knowledge of General Manager David Griffin. This is a something that the Akron-Beacon Journal’s Jason Lloyd echoed. If this is true, it’s obviously the bigger concern. Look at it this way, David Griffin has already been made the General Manager. Then, Dan Gilbert goes out behind Griffin’s the front office’s back (according to the report) and offers Calipari a contract to be the Head Coach and President of the Cavs. This would cripple Griffin’s ability as a GM as Calipari would have the final say on the roster. There is also absolutely no consideration given as to whether Griffin and Calipari could work together philosophically. If this report is true (and again, I’ll believe Wojnarowski over Lull) then this is a huge problem for the Cavs. What they have is a Jerry Jones type of owner, a guy with all the money, all the power, some success, a gigantic chip on his shoulder and minimal knowledge about the sport in which he owns a team. Dan Gilbert is unqualified to make these moves.

And in either scenario, well let’s just call it what it is. Gilbert is going after higher profile, recognizable by name coaches (Tom Izzo, John Calipari, Byron Scott) with LeBron James at least in the back of his mind. Put any bias you have for James aside for a minute. You’re flat out kidding yourself if you don’t recognize he’s one of, if not the, best player in basketball right now. There are 29 other NBA teams that would love to have James. But for Gilbert to make a coaching move that even slightly includes the potential plans of James, or any other NBA player not on the Cavs roster, is asinine and a disservice to the players currently on the roster.

The best professional sports owners are the ones who don’t move the team, spend money and get involved only when required than step out of the spotlight. Dan Gilbert seems to be failing to understand this. It’s easy to love a guy (Gilbert) when his team is successful. Winning covers up a lot. But right now, Gilbert is not doing himself any favors.

Cavaliers Draft Prospect Profile: Joel Embiid

A lot has been circulating around the Cavs this past week, ranging from possible coaching hires to veterans they could be targeting via trade. Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowksi had a busy day on Monday breaking somewhat (unsettling) Cavs news (that has since been refuted). But one thing remains constant: they still have to figure out who they will take number one in the draft later in the month.

Last week, I took a look at Duke freshman Jabari Parker as a possibility for the Cavs top choice. This week, I’ll be going over the first of two Kansas freshman: center Joel Embiid. I’m going to do things a little different this week, with more clips from actual games to highlight his strengths and weaknesses. With that said, let’s get into it.

Kansas center Joel Embiid
Kansas center Joel Embiid

2013-14 stat line: 23.1 Min., 63% FG, 20% (1-5) 3PT, 11.2 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.4 APG, 2.6 BPG, 0.9 SPG, 3.4 PFPG, 2.4 TOPG

The one thing that almost always came up when watching Kansas play last year was the story of how Joel Embiid came to play basketball.

Until about the 18 minute mark, you’ll hear ESPN’s crew talk about how Embiid was integrated into the sport of basketball.

 

Offense:

The comparisons to Hakeem Olajuwon have been constant ever since, and for good reason. Starting basketball at such a relatively old age, he’s been able to limit the amount of bad habits one could pick up from playing a lifetime of basketball since middle school. Here’s a big reason why Embiid draws some Olajuwon comparisons:

Hakeem Olajuwon explains his patented “Dream Shake” (goes until about the 1-minute mark)

http://youtu.be/5Irvvb7Y4-w?t=3s

Embiid fakes twice and gets his man to hesitate (watch the defender’s head turn every which way). Embiid finishes him with his smooth, quick feet and his length allows him to under the rim and finish on the other side. Another thing I noticed on this, and other plays, was Embiid’s awareness of the rim, no matter where he was at – which is crucial for someone who does his scoring in the paint. That’s not to say he doesn’t have a good jumper, because he does.

 

http://youtu.be/lvx20ZejUyU?t=39s

He shot a respectable 69% from the free throw line, and could get better. He has a sweet stroke and showed off his soft touch wherever he shot from on the court – including the three-point line.

In the 4 games I delved into this past week (v. San Diego State, v. Oklahoma State, v. Baylor, and at Baylor), Embiid got doubled, if not most of the time, then every time. He usually did a good job of dribbling out of it and was able to show off his great court vision in distribution ability. Sometimes though he wasn’t convictive enough and would turn it over or get called for a foul.

 

Embiid gets doubled and dribbles to the outside to force one of the defenders to cover his original man. From there, he takes advantage of his quickness and destroys his man, drawing the foul.

 

This is downright impressive. Embiid gets doubled and as he dribbles out, he takes a peak across court to point guard #10 Naadir Tharpe. He takes another dribble to clear space and fires an accurate pass across court to set up Tharpe for the three and an assist for himself.

 

Embiid is too far outside to dribble any further, especially while being trapped in the corner like that. In this instance, he should’ve quickly passed it to #31 Jamari Traylor on the post but instead commits an offensive foul.

 

Embiid has to know with three guys on him to get the ball out. He had #1 Wayne Seldon next to him on the 3-point line or #34 Perry Ellis across the court from him – a difficult pass, yes, but one he’s made before. Instead, he tried to dribble out of it and gets it stripped.

Embiid committed a lot of turnovers even though he just averaged 23 minutes per game. Something that will help him is that if the Cavs were to pick him, he wouldn’t see as many doubles. Even still, at times he needs to be more decisive on what to do with the ball and utilize his great court vision.

Embiid is an athletic freak – not an understatement – for his position. He runs in transition exceptionally well and can dunk over just about anyone and catch just about anything.

Granted, this dunk is over 6’3 guard Marcus Smart, but it was heavily contested and he slams it home like there’s no one in front of him.

 

Defense:

Embiid also has the potential to be a great defender as well as offensive player. His athletic ability alone enables him to do a lot of things that some big men struggle to do. This includes things like hedging on pick-and-rolls, recovering to his man, and leaping to block shots. While he still has some polish left to be done on this side of the court – i.e. better positioning, timing on blocks – his athletic ability is good enough to where at worst he’ll be a solid defender.

 

Embiid’s ball denial in the backcourt is astounding here. No matter where his man goes, Embiid is there to prevent him from getting the ball. He shows off his athleticism, quickness, and intensity.

 

Here’s Embiid covering ground on an inbounding play underneath the basket. As soon as he sees the guard cutting free to the basket, he’s right behind him and his able to use his length to block the shot. It’s an impressive play that Embiid makes look easy.

 

For all the great plays Embiid makes, he makes some fixable mistakes as well. A lot of his mistakes are due to either cheating inside the paint/on a hedge or jumping on a pump fake, allowing an easy bucket.

 

Embiid’s man fakes a screen and Embiid cheats to hedge Oklahoma State’s guard. Embiid’s man cuts to the basket and Embiid is caught out of position, giving his guy an open lane for a dunk.

 

Embiid comes off his man, who cuts to the post, to cover another Aztec cutting to the paint and getting the ball. Ellis comes to help, but Embiid jumps on #22 Josh Davis’s pump fake, leaving his original man open for a dunk.

 

Embiid is also a good rebounder. You would think I wouldn’t have to say that since he’s a 7-footer, but Ryan Hollins played for the Cavs so I feel like I should say it just to make sure. Sure, Embiid gets a lot of these rebounds because of his length, but he also puts effort into boxing out as well, something many NBA players don’t pay enough attention to.

 

Embiid is alone in the paint when the shot goes up. Some guys just feel around for the opposition when the shot goes up, but Embiid goes and searches for someone to put a body on. While he didn’t get the rebound, he prevented his man from possibly cutting into the paint and getting it.

 

Embiid powers through three San Diego State players to get the rebound and has the strength to go right back up and fish through contact to get the and-1.

 

Bottom line: One last thing I noticed about watching Embiid with Kansas is he set a lot of screens, both off the ball and on the ball. When he would set a screen for the ball handler, he would rarely be passed to.

 

Embiid is ready for the ball after he sets the pick, but Tharpe drives into 3 defenders and gets swatted.

 

The problem with Kansas’ offense was a lack of a consistent distributor. Tharpe was more interested in making a game-breaking play than setting up his teammates. This limited the amount of time Embiid got to see the ball, especially outside of the paint. With the Cavs, I would image whoever is brought in to coach would capitalize on Embiid athleticism and shooting promise, letting him star as a pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop player, along with being a lethal threat on the post. Embiid would also give the Cavs a legitimate rim protector, something they haven’t had in a long time.

If the Cavs pick him, the fan base will have to be patient with his progression. While he’s one of the more advanced big men to come out of the draft, it still takes time for his position to find their place in the league. Also, Embiid was in foul trouble quite a bit and will more than likely have to go through a growing period in this area. He only averaged a bit more than 23 minutes per game at KU, so don’t look for him to get more than that as a rookie.

The big issue with Embiid is his health. In early March, he suffered a stress fracture in his back that kept him out of the Big 12 Tournament and NCAA Tournament. There’s been huge speculation and argumentation about how serious this will be with Embiid in the future, but only the Cavs will truly know (insiders only) how serious or not serious it is. If they think it’s 100% sure it will be a problem going forward, then they can’t pick him. Anything less than that, he has to be heavily considered to be the pick for the Cavs at number one with Andrew Wiggins. Speaking of Wiggins, I will dive into why he could be the top pick next week.