Tag Archives: Dwyane Wade

Stan Van Gundy: Chugging Through Doubt

“One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” Everyone has heard this phrase or experienced it in life. You see something at a thrift store, clearance pile, garage sale or even from the literal trash and think, “ I can use that.”

The sports version of this is the favorite of fans. When a player from a small school, NBDL, the end of another team’s bench or Europe rises up fans flock. See Linsanity. What about the coaching version of this? Why don’t we celebrate this? Why no Stottsmania or Whittsanity? I feel this is a good time to celebrate one coach rising out of the coaching rubble to lead a new team despite doubt and questions from the outside. This one’s for you Stan Van Gundy.

A very brief history. Stan Van Gundy came into the NBA through the Miami Heat system. Pat Riley was president and hired SVG in 2003 to run a team that featured a rookie sensation from Marquette…Dwyane Wade. A team Pat stepped away from abruptly. The next year Pat Riley wanted to win another title and relieved Stan of his duties after taking the Heat to the Eastern Conference second round and adding Shaq in the offseason.

Two years later the Orlando Magic hired Stan to lead their team or more importantly their star player Dwight Howard. His teams experienced great success with 5 playoff appearances and one Finals appearance in 5 years. Despite the success Stan was fired amidst rumors that Dwight Howard wanted a different coach leading the team. We know Dwight didn’t stay, the Magic have been terrible ever since and Stan stepped into the background.

Then the Pistons came calling in 2014. They needed a coach to lead and a President of Basketball of Operations to get the team back on track. They hired Van Gundy for both. This is his opportunity to lead a team without a President waiting to take over, a star player putting a power play on ownership or another factor getting in the way of what SVG does best…coach. The roster moves Stan Van Gundy pulled off this offseason seem to be working. Josh Smith, Greg Monroe, Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum lowlight the players gone and Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris and Ersan Ilyasova are the building blocks of the new Motown Pistons.

This team seems to represent all Stan Van Gundy has been working for since his Miami days. A big man working the post and 4 shooters ready around him. Andre Drummond is a true star in the making. A team that can win in the regular season with Reggie Jackson shooting and penetrating, but can slow it down and pound it inside when the playoffs come around. This season and this team also show Stan’s patience and silence prove his decisions and attitudes correct. Shaq could have been the most dominating player in NBA history IF he had put the work in off the court. The work Van Gundy would have pushed and Shaq would have pushed back to the point that Van Gundy was pushed out. Dwight, just like his idol, did not like Van Gundy’s pushing and also pushed Stan out.

Now Stan is the only one pushing. He is the judge, juror and executioner of the Pistons roster and philosophies. This feels like a moment most would respond with a middle finger, a nasty letter or a big, fat “I told you so” for the two franchises that previously scorned you. Stan just stands on the sidelines with his golf shirt, sport coat and arms crossed…coaching a team he can be proud of. He is just doing what he has wanted to do since 2003.

The Dwyane Wade Connection to the Cavs is Real

lebron-james-dwyane-wadeDwyane Wade probably isn’t going to be playing in Cleveland next year.

That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t want to.

Dwyane Wade’s future with the Miami Heat is murky. The most likely scenario is that his camp and the Miami Heat will come to terms on a contract extension. This is a franchise that prides itself on having a “family-like” atmosphere and they have been marketing the term “Heat Lifer” extensively ever since LeBron James decided to return to Cleveland last July. What kind of message would it send if Pat Riley played hardball with the best Heat player in franchise history? Especially when that player has helped deliver the franchise its only three championships and has done so by taking pay cuts along the way.

There is a lot of noise that Wade wants out and the obvious destination is in Cleveland. There is the infamous “when I was in Miami” nationally-televised gaffe and his dad has been seen gallivanting around wearing a Cleveland Cavaliers T-Shirt. There is also the Christmas day comment about Wade and James reuniting and doing “bigger and better things.”

Dwyane Wade, his camp and his family can want him to play in Cleveland more than anything in the world, but it doesn’t mean that it is likely. Because of the Cavs’ salary situation, they are going to be severely hamstrung in regards to options to bring Wade to Cleveland. A sign-and-trade is not possible because they are going to be over the luxury tax apron. In addition, it is very hard to imagine Pat Riley agreeing to a sign-and-trade with Wade to Cleveland given the rocky history the two franchises have.

Bringing Wade to Cleveland will have to happen in one of three ways: The first is with Wade opting in to his $16 million dollar contract for the 2015-2016 season and the Heat agreeing to trade Wade to the Cavs. The second way is for Wade to opt out of his contract and to take the mini-MLE of about $3.3 million from the Cavs. The last (and least likely) method is for him to sign with the veteran’s minimum from the Cavs, which would pay him about $1.5 million.

In other words, Wade would either have to come to Cleveland with cooperation from Pat Riley or take unprecedented pay cuts.

Dwyane Wade probably isn’t coming to play for the Cavs, but this is a great situation to be in for Cleveland. The primary reason is that the speculation is incredibly fun. I know that it is incredibly difficult to pull this off, but the fact that there is even speculation is a lot of fun. It also sends the message to Cleveland fans that this is a destination franchise for players. After watching so many desirable players pass on signing with Cleveland from 2003-2010, it is interesting to see players who want to play in Cleveland.

The most realistic reason for excitement is the most pragmatic. It is most likely that Dwyane Wade and his camp are using the Cavs as leverage to get what they want from the Heat. In the process, we get to see Heat fans completely lose their mind and turn on a guy that they held on a pedestal because he was “one of them.”

Sound familiar?

Switching places with the all-mighty Heat and Pat Riley is beyond entertaining. Every petty comment Riley makes in the media brings me more joy than the last.

The Heat will probably cave and pay Wade above market value and the threat of him taking a huge pay cut with the Cavs will have a lot to do with that. The Heat are going to be in a catch-22. They cannot market the family-like atmosphere and “Heat Lifers” and then mistreat their most beloved player in franchise history.

Think of what the Kobe Bryant contract is doing to the Lakers and take solace in the fact that this will probably be the Heat in a few years. Considering that the Heat fans are excited about the long-term “vision” of the increased salary cap in 2016, this could be felt for years in Miami.

NBA: Around the Association

Curry #2

Player Breakdowns

All-Star Synopsis:
Stephen Curry, Warriors

The rumors are true. We really could be embarking on America’s next big time super star. Stephen Curry has improved his game from all aspects including on the defensive side of the court. Curry has wowed us in year’s past, but this season could be even more special for the young upcoming poster boy of the NBA. Yes, we’re only a couple of weeks into the NBA season, so I will not try to overreact too much but here is Curry’s 2014 stat line: 27.7 ppg, 7.2 apg, 6.3 rpg, and 3.5 spg. Curry is also shooting at a high percentage from the field at 49% and just under 41% behind the arc.

Curry’s biggest improvement has come on defense in which he averages 3.5 steals per game. Curry has shown elite defense versus some of the league’s best including Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, Goran Dragic, and Eric Bledsoe. His defense has grabbed the attention of those who cover the sport and Curry has some big plans for himself:

Curry Tweet

Carmelo Anthony, Knicks
The Knicks are struggling out of the gate and their all-star forward cannot seem to find any rhythm. Carmelo Anthony has been no stranger to bad shots and low shooting percentages, but he always seems to get around the terror and be productive. This season is a little different. The Knicks new triangle offense does not center around the seven time all-star, yet is “supposed” to find the best scoring options based off pick and rolls and passing the basketball. Both of these new styles to the Knicks may have Carmelo in a rut. Melo pointed out the team struggles in an interview with the New York Post, “We can’t move forward until we get the basics down,’’ Anthony said. “Some nights we have it down, some nights we don’t. It’s going to be a little bit inconsistent until we get the foundation of the system down and we can add things we have to add on” (full article here).

Melo Tweet

It’s safe to say that Carmelo has to get comfortable with this new offense and that is expected. What is not expected is Melo’s awful shooting percentage and not draining open shots. Melo has had a horrible four game stretch, which could possibly be his worst stretch in his twelve now thirteen year career.

Melo Tweet #2

Rookie Rundown:
Elfrid Payton, Magic

Rookie Elfrid Payton did not have much waiting time to begin his rookie season with the offseason departure of Magic great Jameer Nelson and the injury to Victor Oladipo. Payton leads all rookies in assists per game, but still has yet to find his stroke on offense shooting just 37%. Payton’s ugly percentage is no surprise. The rookie point guard, though, continues to control the tempo of the offense and is heavy in the passing end and is constantly contributing on defense, which is a luxury for NBA rookies. Payton recorded seven, seven, nine, and seven assists in his first four games as a pro while also averaging 1.5 steals per contest.

KJ McDaniels. 76ers
KJ McDaniels flew completely under the radar in the 2014 NBA Draft falling to the 76ers in the second round (32nd pick). McDaniels could be a future gem for Philadelphia who has flirted with potential young stars, but none have reached the star power one could hope for. McDaniels has wowed followers with his ability to shoot threes with a high percentage (31.3 3P% career at Clemson). McDaniels’ ability to score and block shots as a wing makes him an asset to this degrading Sixers squad.

It’s a little shocking McDaniels has yet to break the starting lineup, but I expect the change to be made in the near future as McDaniels is the best wing defender and overall best wing player the Sixers have on its underdeveloped roster.

Flying Under the Radar:
Dwyane Wade, Heat

The moment LeBron packed his bags to head back to Cleveland the Heat have gone extinct, well, at least from a media perspective. The Heat (5-2) quietly put together a nice first season stretch with wins over Toronto, Washington, and Dallas. In those games Dwyane Wade has been on a tear playing his best basketball since maybe even before LeBron showed up. Wade has showcased what the ten time all-star is capable of when healthy. Wade on the season averages 19.7 ppg with 6.9 apg and 3.4 rpg. Wade is shooting 50.9% from the field and an even 40% from three point range (29 3P% in career). Wade’s impressive performance against Minnesota on Saturday displayed the much-improved shooter and also passer (25 points & eight assists).

He’s also breaking records:Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 5.57.04 PM

Kyle Korver, Hawks
Kyle Korver owned the Knicks Saturday night in Atlanta on every angle of the court. Korver scored a season-high 27 points (6-9 3P) and also had three blocks. Korver’s stock market indicator is soaring with three 20 point games to start the season. Korver struggled with an illness this past week, but still managed to score a combined 47 points in that stretch knocking down a combined ten three-pointers (61.3 3P% on the season!).


Team Outlooks

Top Dog:

Stephen Curry on his team and new coach a few days before the first game of the season:

http://youtu.be/ioRCDUeYHfA

Golden State Warriors
New head coach Steve Kerr has this team playing at a high level despite the turnover issues. Stephen Curry has been lights out and Draymond Green has been the man of the hour filling in for the injured David Lee. We know the scoring ability for the Warriors is top notch, but the defense is what has this team buzzing as the Warriors rank first in the league in defensive efficiency. The Warriors proved to be the elite power this past week with wins over Houston, Portland, and Los Angeles (Clippers), even though falling to the Suns Sunday night 107-95.

Gaining Some Buzz:
Sacramento Kings
DeMarcus Cousins may have finally busted the seams as he playing the best basketball of his young career. The Team USA tag team of Cousins and Rudy Gay are playing smart basketball with more focus and the whole team is buying in as Carl Landry says here: http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=espn:11839760

The Pits: 
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers are and will be the laughing stock of the entire 2014-15 NBA season. Sure, Kobe is one of the league’s biggest point getters, but the offense is insufficient and so is the defense. To be honest, the Lakers were at its best when Jeremy Lin was running the offense this past week. Yeah, that ain’t good.

Kyrie Irving Showed What He Can Do With Talent Around Him

No James, no Durant, no Love, no George, no Griffin, no problem. Cleveland Cavalier Kyrie Irving helped lead team USA to a gold medal victory in the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in a 129-93 thrashing over Serbia. Irving had a game high 26 points along with going 6/6 from three. This performance, along with others, helped earn him the tournament MVP. Not bad for a point guard that isn’t a winner, eh?

This was the first real chance we all got to see Kyrie lead the floor with competent players everywhere he looked – much like he’ll finally be able to do this year. Being awarded the MVP, averaging 12 points, 3.6 assists and 2 steals a game while shooting 14/23 (61%) behind the arc shows that he wasn’t just a guy on the team. He was THE guy on Team USA. This says a lot about his talent since he was surrounded by the likes of Stephen Curry, James Harden (kinda), Anthony Davis, and Klay Thompson.

Over the last three years, Irving has had the pleasure to play many minutes with guys like Alonzo Gee, Omri Casspi, a 35-year-old Antawn Jamison, Anthony Parker, Earl Clark, and *gulp*… Andrew Bynum. Arguably the best teammate with him the last few years has been Anderson Varejao, but he’s only played 115 out of a possible 230 games during that stretch – including the lockout shortened season in 2011-12. And Kyrie and his drafted-to-be partner in crime Dion Waiters have had trouble meshing together on the court. With all these struggles and the lack of talent, the Cavs have gone 78-152 (34% winning percentage). But because he was the number one draft pick in 2011 and was/is expected to be the next big thing, the losses have all been unfairly placed on his shoulders.

Don’t get me wrong, Kyrie has definitely committed his fair share of mistakes and he does deserve some of the blame for all the losing that’s been going on recently. But what else would you expect from a 19-year-old coming out of college with only 11 games to his Duke career? In hindsight, you would’ve probably wanted him to go through all those growing pains back then rather than right now with championship aspirations.

Unlike on Team USA, Kyrie won’t be (arguably) the best player or leader on the team. Both of those distinctions will go to LeBron James. And in terms of talent and not pure total statistics after the season is all said and done, Kyrie still probably isn’t even the next best player on the Cavs; that would go to Kevin Love. Love’s role in previous years may be reduced, but in terms of raw talent, I would think Love has the edge right now. This isn’t a knock on Kyrie either. He’ll likely have his best season of his young career, if the FIBA World Cup showed any indication.

As for Kyrie’s role on this year’s team, I expect it to change a good amount, but I don’t think his usage will decrease all that much. He’s still going to be the one bringing the ball up the court for the most part. And with all the floor spacing and defender-demanding his teammates bring to the table, this should open up more shots for Irving.

With starters like LeBron, Love, Dion (hopefully) and bench players like Mike Miller, Shawn Marion, and James Jones, Kyrie should have plenty of room to either pull up and shoot from deep or drive the lane. The former is what I think we’ll see a lot more of, considering how consistent his shot has been throughout his career, even extending to as far back as his days at Duke to as recently as his play with Team USA.

(Nice stat from David Zavac at Fear The Sword.)

His 3PT% did take a hit last year at 35.8%, but he’s still shooting a sweet 37.8% for his career. And not to just completely ignore last year’s numbers, but last year was one for the ages, in a bad way.

But let’s go back to Kyrie’s usage. In his three seasons in the NBA, his usage percentage has been at 28.7, 30.2, and 28.2, respectively. To see how much of an affect bringing in LeBron and Love will have on his future usage, I look at the Miami Heat’s “Big 3” usages individually. In this scenario, LeBron is obviously LeBron, Kyrie is Dwyane Wade, and Love is Chris Bosh. The Cavs 3 won’t have the exact same roles as the Miami 3, but their usages should be similar since they’re all high-caliber players. LeBron’s usage should stay about the same as it has for most of his career. From 2005 up to now he’s always hovered between 30.2 (2012-13) and 33.5 (2007-08).

As for Love, the past three years he’s had usages of 28.8, 28.9, and 28.8 – very consistent. When Bosh left Toronto, he did so with a 28.7 usage in his final year. In his first year with Miami, that dipped to 23.5. Overall in Miami, his average usage was 23.2, a big difference from his 28.7 in his last year with the Raptors.

This brings us to Kyrie. In Wade’s four years with Miami previous to LeBron signing, his average usage percentage was 34.9. In his four years with LeBron? 30.2, 1.2 off of Kyrie’s career usage. Looking at this data, I don’t see why there’s any reason for Kyrie’s involvement in the offense to significantly go down despite being the third best player on the floor with the starters.

With Kyrie getting so many minutes with LeBron and Love, I expect his game to improve immensely. This should be the best year of his career, especially as it pertains to his percentages. His role may change a bit, he’ll actually have a ton of competent options to pass to and he won’t be called upon as much in crunch time. But he won’t be buried just because he’s playing with two other superstars. The talented free agents/acquisitions brought in for this year should skyrocket his play, just like it did with Team USA.

The Truth About Heat Fans

DISCLAIMER: Before you bash me about sports not being that big of a deal, I completely agree. Religion, family, friends, and education are just a few of the things I find to be much, MUCH more important than sports. There are bigger fish to fry in the grand scheme of things, and that, I can completely understand. In addition, this isn’t meant to be personal. While I know many of the people I refer to in this piece, it’s not about attacking their character as human beings. Some of the most wonderful people are some of the worst fans I have ever met. One has nothing to do with the other. This is strictly about fandom, or the lack there of. That all being said, I would like to begin.

Some of you may not know, but I grew up a transplanted Ohio State Buckeye and Cleveland sports fan in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

I spent my first year of college at the University of Miami (FL), before coming home to Ohio to fulfill my dream of being a student at The Ohio State University.

Growing up as a Cleveland fanatic in Florida was tough, especially after July 8, 2010. It was maybe one of the toughest single days of my life. Of course, I’ve had tougher times, but as for days by themselves, that’s gotta be one of the top ten worst so far. Calls and texts pouring into my phone read: “WOW, CLEVELAND SUCKS.” “F*** YOU, F**** CLEVELAND, WE HAVE LEBRON NOW.” “TAKE THAT CLEVELAND HAHAHAHAHA”.

They referred to me as Cleveland, as they viewed me as a representative of the city itself; a role I gladly accepted and even cherished.

While most Cleveland fans were upset that LeBron left town, I was upset that LeBron left AND that, of course, he came right to my backyard. It’s as if he was shoving the Decision right into MY face, and no one else’s. Of course, that wasn’t true, (as far as I know), but it certainly felt that way.

I like to think that I had a more difficult situation than essentially anyone when it came to LeBron and the Decision. He spurned the city that I love wholeheartedly and came to the city right next door, a city I don’t care for.

I was shocked, mortified, petrified, and just flat out angry.

Instantly, my friends, the LeBron backers that were bandwagon Cavs fans, turned against me with a couple of words. It was now complete hatred for Cleveland and everything the Cavs stood for.

Of course, I had been used to the ridicule, however.

1997 was constantly thrown in my face.

“Who did the Marlins beat in the 1997 World Series, Hayden?” my friends would ask. “The Indians”,  I said, a frown drooping across my face.

So was the 2007 National Championship Game.

“Who did the Gators trash in the 2007 National Championship Game, Hayden?” “The Buckeyes”, I would answer in a mellow tone.

It was if my whole life was based on constant trashing from the state of Florida and their sports. I could never back it up, and still can’t.

The only thing I have, something that Miami will never have, is an unbridled fandom, faith, and belief in my teams and the city of Cleveland.

That’s what I use against them, if I ever use anything against them. I’ve learned to just let it be. There’s not much I can do to change the fact that Florida has dominated Ohio in essentially every sporting situation ever recorded.

I’m not going to become a Miami fan anytime soon, and I’ll never back down from my loyalties to Cleveland.

I’m telling you all of this just to give you my perspective and to legitimize myself as a first-hand witness of the fans and “fans” of the Miami Heat.

I’ve seen a lot of trashing and bashing of Heat fans, and some of it is absolutely warranted.

I laughed and shook my head as I saw the Vine that showed Heat fans leaving Game 6 of the NBA Finals early. Their team ended up winning the game, and they left early. I could never imagine such a thing. It’s absolutely ludicrous.

However, I have some news for you: that’s not how all Miami fans work.

You see, there is a contingent, a VERY small contingent, of legitimate Miami Heat fans. They often occupy the upper deck of the American Airlines Arena. They are the loudest section of the stadium.

There are wealthy fans too, however.

I know many Heat fans who sit very close to the Miami bench who are at most, if not all regular season, post-season, and Finals games. They’ve grown to care, win or lose. They show up, regardless of the opponent or the importance of the game. That, I can respect.

I respect these Heat fans who cared when they won 15 games in 2007-2008, and lost in the first round of the NBA Playoffs in three out of four years, from 2006-2010. There were people who showed up and cheered on their Heat until the very last whistle during those difficult seasons.

I knew kids who wore Eddie Jones jerseys like it was their job. They loved Michael Dolec with a sick, yet awesome, passion. They defended Dwyane Wade with every fiber of their fandom. They said, “Dwyane is better than LeBron, where are LeBron’s rings?”

However, the Heat have an epidemic, and it makes those fans, the real fans, sick.

When you live in South Florida, you hear essentially nothing about the Heat- unless you listen very closely- for most of the regular season. Of course, when they won 27 straight games, that was a different story.

But before LeBron came to town, you wouldn’t hear about the Heat, period. Sure, every now and then you would get a “Wade County” from a serious fan, but the bandwagon was essentially empty. Those serious fans, the Heat fans that I respect, were certainly into it, but again, they were a very, very small minority.

Then LeBron came to town and all of those people who had rode the bandwagon through the tough times, through the hard parts of town, through the treacherous forest, cold and damp, were joined by the thousands who came aboard just as the Heat got to the sunny, beautiful, and warm beach. The beach otherwise known as LeBron’s arrival.

They were too happy to care about these people claiming to be fans. They didn’t care. In fact, they welcomed them initially. Finally, they were reaping the benefits of riding the bandwagon for so long.

Eventually, however, those Heat fans got sick and tired of the frauds clamoring up the wagon and taking their room, just to leave as things got tough again.

After three straight Finals runs, there is now a routine in Miami.

Essentially, the regular season is the preseason, and the preseason is non-existent. So, just as in the preseason, people don’t care. They don’t show up, don’t pay attention, and think that there are only three players on the team. It’s once the postseason starts that the faint rumble of people running to the bandwagon begins.

People dust off their “white hot” shirts that they bought for the annual playoff run and, suddenly, bam! The Heat bandwagon is full and everyone pretends to care about the Heat.

“Where did LeBron go to college?”, they ask.

“Bosh is a point guard? What is his batting average?”

“Alonzo Mourning still plays right?”

These questions come about more often than not, and I sit there and shake my head until it nearly falls off.

During the playoffs, you still don’t see Facebook posts, Tweets, and the nonesuch about the Heat, because people are watching, but not paying attention. They know that LeBron will get them to the Finals, and that’s when they can begin to pay attention.

The Finals come around and the entire city of Miami, and for some reason the entire country, is on the bandwagon. It’s barely able to stand up it’s so heavy. Fortunately, the only thing that saves it, the wagon, is a Heat loss in the Finals. If the Heat lose a single Finals game, that bandwagon gets a lot lighter.

If the Heat win, however, you better watch out. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Text Messages, Phone Calls will be piling up. They’ll all say, “I LOVE THIS TEAM”, “WITNESS”, “OMG HEAT”, or “I. CAN’T. BREATHE.”.

These are, sadly, the same people that are walking out of the arena early. The ones that hadn’t watched an entire game for the whole season, the ones that hadn’t stepped foot inside the arena, are now the biggest Heat fans on the planet.

The sad part is, the Facebook posts, the Tweets, the Instagrams, and the SnapChats are literally the same ones that happen in Cleveland and Detroit. However, these social-media posts from Cleveland and Detroit fans are after a regular season baseball game between the Tigers and Indians, not the NBA Finals.

So, the majority of you are right in thinking that Miami has terrible fans, as they do. However, they’re not all terrible. There are people who genuinely care about this team each and every day of the year.

They’re season ticket holders. They know who Juwan Howard is. They know where Shane Battier went to college. They know LeBron James’ free throw percentage.

They wish that it that it wasn’t the way it is. They wish they could keep the bandwagon for themselves. It’s awfully annoying to have room for the entire season and then be cramped for a few games out of the year, when things are supposed to be the most enjoyable. They want the bandwagon all to themselves.

Unfortunately, that’s the way of the fickle fans, or should I say people, of this generation. They only want to be present during the good times, not during the offseason, when the work is hard, or during bad seasons when times are tough.

I don’t know when it got to be that way for all of America, but living in Miami, it’s the case more than maybe anywhere I’ve ever been.

So, that’s the truth about Heat fans. They exist. They are real. And they care in a big, big way. The problem is, they are microscopic in terms of the entirety of the Miami Heat “fan”-base.

It’s unfortunate for them, but it’s true. It makes championships less enjoyable than they normally would be. It makes good times seem just ok.

I really feel for those people and respect them as fans. I know a lot of them, and, whether they know it or not, I respect them. I feel for them when they lose, and congratulate them when they win.If they’re reading this, they know who they are.

For the others, however, I have respect for them as fellow human beings, but as sports fans, they will never earn my respect. I simply won’t have it. Talk to me when you’ve suffered through a 15-67 Heat season, like many of your fellow fans have. Don’t talk to me after you watched three games, (Games 5,6, and 7 of the NBA Finals) and really only watched them because there was a party going on.

Just simply don’t refer to yourself as a Heat fan, and I’ll gain respect for you in terms of sports. Just say, “I like watching the Heat in the Finals.”, or “I like it when my friends are happy, so that’s why I watch the Heat.” It’s not hard, just tell the truth, and I’m not going to judge you.

Again, and I can’t emphasize this enough, it is not important to be a fan. My father isn’t necessarily a sports fan, and he is a person I look up to, respect, and love more than anyone on this earth. However, and he would probably agree, if you’re going to call yourself a fan, you better live up to that name. And, quite honestly, many Heat “fans” don’t even come close.

This isn’t solely about Miami either. I am sure that this is the case around many other cities and with many other teams. It’s not exclusive to the Heat, in the least. It’s just that the Heat are the most publicized team in sports, and therefore, are the most open to criticism.

Don’t claim to be something you are not. That’s when I start having a problem with you, the “fans” of the Miami Heat.

NBA Finals Player Power Rankings

With only two games left in the NBA Finals, and with the Heat on the brink of elimination, I thought I would share with you my rankings of each player in the series.

Without further ado, here are my NBA Finals Player Power Rankings.

24.       Rashard Lewis –When the Heat signed the former Magic star, many people thought that he would be the icing on the championship cake. That is not the case. Lewis has disappointed the front office as well as the fans, averaging less than 2 points per game in less than 5 minutes per game in the 2013 playoffs. I can see why people would have misjudged Lewis’ potential impact, as he was a pretty solid player at one point in his career, averaging 22 points per game in the 2006-2007 season. Now, he can’t even sniff the court. That drop off is really bad; it has to be the worst for any player in these Finals…

23.       Tracy McGrady – Whoops! I spoke too soon. Technically, I have him ranked at 23, but that’s just so I don’t slight any of the other players who are, in fact, better than Mr. McGrady. Rumor has it that T-Mac has been “Lebron” during Spurs practice, and that alone tells you that the guy has still got “it”.

22.       Matt Bonner – Like T-Mac, “The Red Mamba”, is way more famous than he is good at basketball. The three point specialist is averaging less than one three pointer per contest , and is absolutely horrific on defense. He also has an ugly release on his jump shot that, coupled with his fame in the Caucasian community, could sabotage young white ballers for years. However, he does have red hair and Kobe likes him, so that counts for something.

21.       Joel Anthony – Joel Anthony is the best Canadian player on this list. Cory Joseph is from Canada? Nevermind that. Joel Anthony is the best undersized, scrappy, hustle-oriented center who is in the game for rebounding, defense, and that’s it. DeJaun Blair is on the Spurs?

Joel Anthony is the best player in the NBA who can’t make layups. Whatever. Who am I to talk? The guy hustles and tries his best, what more can you ask for? (Any amount of basketball IQ, the ability to catch passes under the basket, whatever trait you need to stop getting dunked on.)

20.       DeJuan Blair – DeJuan Blair is one of the more likeable players in the NBA. He doesn’t have an NBA body (shorter and fatter than most) and he doesn’t have an NBA anatomy (missing his ACL on both legs). What he does have is heart and determination, and he is just a little better than Joel Anthony, so that’s why he finds himself at this point on the list.

19.       Cory Joseph – I don’t really know all that much about Cory Joseph. I know that every once in a while he will steal major minutes away from Tony Parker, and will look a lot like Tony Parker, which is saying a LOT. I also know he doesn’t play a lot and hasn’t done enough to be higher on this list.

18.       Shane Battier – I’m pretty sure Shane Battier is the only human being on the planet who could handle what’s been happening to him with so much class, grace, and professionalism. For those who live under a rock, Shane Battier went from averaging 25 minutes a game and being an important piece for the Heat, to being benched and averaging less than 10 minutes a game in the NBA Finals. Battier hasn’t complained and has acted like a real pro through it all. As a hooper, he just isn’t what he used to be. The historically great lockdown defender isn’t quick enough to stay in front of guys and isn’t big enough to bang with the big boys. He can shoot three-pointers, but not at the level of Ray Allen and Mike Miller. Battier has been great, but is on the wrong side of 30 and isn’t going to get any better from here.

17.       Udonis Haslem – UD is a fan favorite in Miami and for good reason. He grew up there, went to the University of Florida, and returned to his city. He is scrappy, plays with a chip on his shoulder, and is absolutely automatic with his short to mid-range jumper. He’s tough, smart, and and brings a nice pick-and-pop game to Miami.

16.       Boris Diaw – I was struggling with how to rank Diaw/Haslem, but gave Diaw the slight edge. Diaw’s Player Efficiency Rating (PER) was about 2 points better than Haslem’s and his True Shot Percentage was a whopping 7% better. He is a quality shooter who knows his role and does it well.

15.       Norris Cole – I absolutely love Norris Cole. How many guys could shoot as much as he does while on the same court as LeBron James and Dwayne Wade? Seriously, that level of confidence and self-righteousness is uncanny. But, guess what? Cole isn’t really wrong in taking the shots. He deserves them, as they often go in. (Side note: Norris Cole is the only good young player on the Heat. That’s kind of scary,)

14.       Chris Anderson – The number one player on the “Players Who Your Mom Has the Most Questions About” list is also the single greatest offseason move the Heat have ever made, outside of getting the Big Three together. Birdman has been a game changer for the Heat, shoots at a very nice percentage, plays defense, and can run at essentially any pace. He is a really valuable asset to this squad.

13.       Ray Allen – Ray Allen’s release is remarkably quick and his shooting is on point. I cringe every single time he steps inside the three-point line, but he often proves me wrong and makes a little runner or leaning pull up jumper. All in all, Jesus Shuttlesworth is still a quality baller and an ideal sixth man for Miami.

12.       Mario Chalmers – Mario Chalmers could be the most underrated player in the series. He can quietly go off for 20+ points in one game and silently help the Heat win in the next. He is insanely clutch, (see his last college basketball game), and is a great defender. When Mario Chalmers goes to play for another team, don’t be surprised to see him breaking out as a quality NBA player.

11.       Mike Miller – Mike Miller’s new role has been a game changer. He is a high-energy player with the purest jump shot in Miami (Ray Allen is quicker with his release but isn’t as pure as Miller). He’s been contributing at a level that is pretty remarkable for a guy with a broken back.

10.       Gary Neal – Who is Gary Neal and why is he the best shooter in the NBA?

9.         Danny Green – Who is Danny Green and why is he the best player in the NBA? I don’t understand where Danny Green or Gary Neal came from, but they are making it rain. Danny Green is shooting 54% from the floor and 66% from beyond-the-arch in the last 5 games. Neal is shooting 46% from the field and 52% from deep in the same stretch. When you have role players producing the way these two guys have been, the Spurs are going to be tough to beat.

8.         Kawhi Leonard – Leonard has done a spectacular job when faced with the single hardest task in the NBA: guarding LeBron James. No one can stop LeBron, except for LeBron himself, but Leonard has certainly slowed him down. Leonard’s freakish wingspan, hand size, athleticism, and upside make him the best young player in this series. The Green/Leonard/Neal threesome could be pretty formidable in the future.

7.         Tiago Splitter – Yeah, he got blocked really badly by Lebron. Yeah, Steven A Smith would laugh and call me names if he saw me putting Splitter this high on the list. Splitter is actually really good. He has a great PER and is a quality low-post center. He catches the ball and finishes well at the rim. I know that putting Splitter above Leonard may be controversial, but I gave him the nod due to the fact that he is a center and quality center’s are more rare, and therefore more valuable, in the NBA. Defense and three wings like Leonard are a dime a dozen, (granted Leonard is a good one).

6.         Manu Ginobli – Here’s a secret about Manu that most people don’t notice. He is a great ball-handler and passer, as the backup point guard for the Spurs. That’s why he can’t start. He is still killing it at his old age. Also, if you have some free time, watch a YouTube video of Manu’s best passes. They are phenomenal and fun to watch.

5.         Chris Bosh – I’m going to hold off on the dinosaur jokes and go straight to the “Chris Bosh isn’t the type of player I would want on my team” jokes. He is a power forward who doesn’t bang and, as a result, kills the Heat with his lack of rebounding. He is really good, even though I don’t see why, so we can call it a push.

4.         Tim Duncan – Timmy Duncan is incredible and doesn’t get near the praise he deserves. He won an NBA Finals MVP 14 years ago. Kawhi Leonard and Cory Joeseph probably didn’t see it because they were 7 and had to go to bed. His game is the ultimate “old-man game” and I’m pretty sure that he could play for another 20 years. A real basketball fan has to love Timmy.

3.         Dwayne Wade – I was one of those people who said Dwayne Wade had lost his edge. Too many years of banging and recklessly throwing his body around finally caught up to him. A player who had, for so long, relied on his athleticism to get to the basket and score had lost that athletic edge. Due to age and injury, he was no longer the elite basketball player he once was. I was very wrong.

2.         Tony Parker – Parker is the best point guard in the NBA and there is a lot you can say about him. I will focus on the fact that he got hit by a bottle thrown by Drake at Chris Brown. Imagine if Parker’s injury had been worse. That could have been a top 10 craziest sports story of all time.

1.         LeBron James – Its Lebron. He’s the best player in NBA history. He scores at will. He is unstoppable. He will win the NBA Finals. And be Finals MVP.

Tell me your thoughts on my list!

Do I have someone ranked too low? Too high? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @Tiboofy!

What Happened to Believeland?

More Than A Fan has lost it’s second Tweeter in June.

Damien Bowman is giving up Twitter for the month of June, and I’m joining him… sort of.

I am quitting Twitter until the Indians get back to .500.

It’s not just a slump-buster, although if it served as a slump-buster I certainly wouldn’t mind. I am done with Twitter because I am upset with the Cleveland fan-base, at this very moment.

Cleveland is supposed to have a tough-nosed, weathered, and loyal fan-base. We’ve experienced the lowest of lows, yet we survived and continued to love our teams anyways. Our passion is supposed to surpass that of any other city, even to a fault.

Lately, however, the Cleveland fan base has upset me greatly.

When did we become so whiny? When did we become so soft? When did we begin to give up so easily?

Cleveland fans on Twitter have seemingly given up, already, on two things that I can’t seem to understand.

First of all, the Indians. Two games under .500, 5 games out in the division, and the season is over. Never-mind that there are 100 games left. Never-mind that there are three months left. Never-mind that we have a two-time World Series winning manager.

The Indians are done, so they say.

Let me ask you a question, all of you Tribe “fans” that are “done”. Are you kidding me?

This team was built to compete now and in the near future.The Dolan’s didn’t spend the money just to spend it. He spent the money, brought in the players, and brought in the manager, to compete. You think that just because this team is struggling that he won’t continue to improve it? Even if the Indians continue to struggle, (and they won’t), this front office and ownership group is going to continue to add pieces to make this franchise a contender again.

So why would you be done? With so much time, so many possibilities, and so much fun left to be had? It baffles me. Of all the times to be fickle, and you seemingly never have, why now? Why on the cusp of a great summer?

I understand the frustration, but I can’t understand the quitting.

I know you’ve all heard this before, but keep this in mind. The Indians have a very easy schedule in July, August, and September. That’s when they’re going to compete. Not now. Not in the midst of a nine-game road trip to three of the toughest places to play in baseball. I wouldn’t expect them to win many games. The schedule-makers, while screwing us now, set us up for success near the end of the season. That’s when I expect us to pull within a couple of games of the AL Central and Wild Card. Ultimately, that’s the goal: to compete.

I don’t think anyone expected the Tribe to be World Series contenders this season. I, like many, thought that they could contend for the division and wild card, but they would ultimately fall short and miss the playoffs.

Next year, I fully expect them to compete for the World Series.

The expectations are what baffles me. Many of you expected the Tribe to be a .500 ballclub, and yet, at two games under, the season is over. You’re done. You’re in Milwaukee or Detroit for the rest of the season.

I don’t understand.

You can leave the bandwagon now, but their may not be room come August and September. I would advise, and hope, that you stay on.

The other thing that upsets me greatly about Cleveland fans lately, is the thoughts on the return of LeBron James.

There are those that want him back and those that don’t. I happen to be in the former category, but I can certainly understand the feelings of those in the latter.

What I don’t understand is the sentiment that LeBron James WON’T come back.

Again, I ask, are you kidding me?

Are you really tangled that deeply your cynical and pessimistic web that you are now blind to the facts?

LeBron James has been playing with a team that resembles his old Cavaliers in 2007. Dwyane Wade is a shell of his old self. Chris Bosh has become more like Zydrunas Ilgauskus than anyone would ever like to see. (Love you Big Z, no offense man.) Ray Allen, Mike Miller, Shane Battier, and Birdman are all about ready to hit the retirement home.

LeBron didn’t go to Miami to live the Miami lifestyle. LeBron went to Miami because that’s where Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh wanted to play. LeBron wanted to play with them, and that’s what brought him to Miami. You think that LeBron didn’t want to bring Wade and Bosh to Cleveland? You’re crazy.

Now that LeBron is seeing that Wade and Bosh weren’t as he expected, (not one, not two, not three…) he’s already planning his escape from South Beach.

The Cavaliers are, by far, his number one option, and why wouldn’t they be?

They have the number one pick in this year’s draft, some intriguing cap-space, and a gaping hole at the small forward position that LeBron could over-flow. The Cavaliers hold a special place in his heart, regardless of his “hatred” for Cleveland.

Yet, Cavs fans can’t see it. They are so blinded by their love-for-misery that they fail to see the facts. They remember their heart-break and will never trust again. What kind of life do you live if one heartbreak will deplete your trust in another human being? Not a very happy one, that’s for sure.

Of course, I shouldn’t compare your sporting interests to your reality, but more often than not, they mirror each other.

Yesterday, Nick Camino tweeted this:

 

And it put Clevelanders in an uproar. Cleveland fans began attacking Camino. Saying that he did this just for ratings, (which don’t count on Sunday, might I add), mentions, and publicity.

 

 

They want to be miserable, so they don’t believe a word he says.

I listened to his show on WTAM 1100 after the Tribe game, and this is what he had to say:

“This individual is close to LeBron James. The person is in the know in LeBron’s camp. If I didn’t trust this person, I wouldn’t have tweeted about it, I wouldn’t risk my job, I wouldn’t risk my credibility. I’m not trying to get listeners, this is simply what I heard from someone with knowledge of LeBron’s future. Being the nice guy that I am, I figured I would share this with you.”

“When I got this news, I was surprised. I trust this person with my life.”

I trust Camino, and I don’t believe he would do this for personal gain. He’s been right about these things before, so I doubt that he would deliberately put this out there to throw fans in a frenzy.

I understand that LeBron is the most polarizing player of all-time, but I don’t understand how his return to Cleveland can cause such a negative uproar. Sure he betrayed us, but he was ignorant. He didn’t understand the heartache and humiliation he would cause. He didn’t understand that we wouldn’t understand. He made a mistake, but we all do.

Why not forgive? Why not try again? What’s the worst that happens?

He stays in Miami and doesn’t sign here. That’s the worst that happens.

Then, LeBron becomes the biggest villain in the history of sports. If he tempts us again and leaves us empty, the, THEN, all of your hatred towards him will be FULLY understood.

If he lures us in with all of this talk and then, at the last minute, leaves us at the alter, your hatred towards LeBron can bubble, boil, and flow through your veins. You can even spur that hatred towards me, the one who told you to give LeBron another chance.

That won’t happen. Either he’ll come back, or he’ll stay far, far away and let  us know that he’s staying far, far away.

I’m not going to debate on why you should want LeBron back, because you absolutely should, but I will implore you to believe that LeBron wants to come back.

Anything else is just ignorant.

As I ponder these two topics, I wonder. What happened? What happened to the greatest fan-base in sports?

The passion is still there, but when did we become like the people in Miami?

When did we star to arrive to the game late, and leave when there is still LOTS of hope at hand?

My Twitter profile says: Believeland: Believe in God. Believe in Christ. Belive in Family. Believe in Friends. Believe in Dreams. Believe in Cleveland.

That last part is what is missing. People say that Cleveland is “Believeland”, but who honestly believes anymore? When the going gets tough, Cleveland fans get going.

I know I believe. I will believe until the season is over, the game is over, or the play is over.

People need to start believing again, no matter how hard things get.

This is Believeland, not believe-until-it-gets-bad-land or believe-only-when-things-are-going-well-land.
Believe, no matter the circumstances, that Cleveland will prevail. Maybe a change in attitude could change the fortunes of this city.

Just believe fans.

What reason is there to not?

With your help, maybe this city can truly become Believeland.

The Depressing Truth About LeBron James

Instead of last night being epic, it sucked.

The Indians lost, the Pacers lost. The Heat won.

I’m not all that mad that the Heat won except for it could mean the worst thing possible for Cavs fans.

For every game the Heat win, Lebron’s chance of leaving becomes less and less. With every Miami victory, the chances of LeBron returning to Cleveland become worse and worse.

I truly believe that LeBron will not lose a seven game series within the next three to six years. Whichever team he is with. That means anywhere from four to eight championships. Believe it.

The matchups say that San Antonio should win. Parker is better than Chalmers. Ginobli can lock up Wade. Kawhi puts up a small obstacle against LeBron. Duncan will dominate Udonis. Splitter can handle Bosh.

But, LeBron, in his greatness, will say no. The matchups won’t matter, the officiating won’t matter, none of it will matter. His name is LeBron James, and that’s all that matters.

Ryan Isley, @Isley23, trolled me a little bit after a flopping tweet, but later we came to a mutual agreement. An agreement that haters will absolutely despise. It’s a truth that can’t be ignored by any Cavaliers fan or NBA fan in general.

The Cavs won’t win without LeBron, if only because they’re going to have to face him.

This depresses me greatly because I sit here and think: “Great. The Heat just reached their third consecutive NBA Finals. Dwyane Wade returned to Dwyane Wade. Bosh sucked, but he wasn’t bad enough to derail the Heat. Why would he leave?”

If the Heat lost, maybe my hope could shine through. LeBron loses two out of his three years with the Heat, this time not even making the Finals, there’s no way he doesn’t leave.

That’s not the case. LeBron wins, again, and along with his win, the Cavs and the city of Cleveland lose.

Why, again, does our hope lie with a man who spurned us once and will certainly spurn us again. Why does everything we have as a basketball town rely on him and his devotion to our city? He’s proved that he’s devoted to nothing but himself and winning. Why do we think that is going to change?

Don’t tell me that the Cavs are going to beat LeBron, either. LeBron will take his posse of talent wherever he goes and that posse will always beat Kyrie, Dion, Nerlens, or whoever the Cavs go about acquiring.

Sometimes, I wish LeBron never had anything to do with Cleveland, just so the pain wouldn’t be so much every time he wins without us.

That being said, if he has a change of heart, Cavs fans can’t turn him away. If a championship would truly mean that much to this city, there is no option that involves turning him away. It’s either grin and bare it just to get the ring, or turn him away and throw out all of the hopes of a championship, because this city’s ego and sense of pride is far too large.

With every game LeBron wins, his chances of coming back to Cleveland dwindle. We as Cavaliers fans, because of this, should be rooting, for the sake of LeBron’s return, that the San Antonio Spurs sweep the Miami Heat mightily.

Thoughts on the Pacers, the Indians, and How They Connect.

Tonight could be epic, so this piece I’m writing is going to be, well, epic… at least in terms of length. (I’m sorry, I like to write, ok!)

Anyways, tonight there are two things on my agenda:

  1. Cleveland Indians vs. New York Yankees on ESPN at 7:00.
  2. Indiana Pacers vs. Miami Heat on TNT at 8:30.

I will be flipping vigorously back and forth between games starting at 8:30, and I am more than excited about it.

While the night could potentially end in disaster with both the Heat and Yankees winning, I would CERTAINLY take a win in one and a loss in the other. No way do I believe that the Pacers and the Indians will win tonight. That would just be far too good.

Anyhow, I’m going to take on these two topics, so here goes nothing.

Tonight could be historic in terms of the NBA. The Indiana Pacers, potentially, could defeat the Miami Heat and take their place among the greatest upsets in the history of sports.

Tonight, not only are the Pacers preparing to battle the Miami Heat, they are preparing to battle forces beyond their control as well. No, not the half-empty crowd in the American Airlines Arena at tipoff. Not the “all-white-everything” that has become the motto for the Heat throughout their playoff runs. Not the distraction of a 75,000 dollar fine that was completely unnecessary, (“no homo” simply means, “I’m not gay, though”. If he would’ve put it that way, it would be a non-issue. But, I digress.) No, no, no.

David Stern, the NBA, and the media would all be facing a nightmarish scenario if the Heat lose tonight.

I can assure you, right now, that the NBA is doing everything it can to set up a Miami Heat victory tonight. David Stern is calling up the refs, “reminding” them that “this is a superstar’s league, so call it that way”. They already set up a diversion for Indiana by fining Hibbert. I’m sure if an Indiana Pacer looks at LeBron the wrong way he’ll be given a tech. These things are already in the works, and they are all in the way of an Indiana Pacers NBA Finals appearance.

With San Antonio already in the Finals, the NBA NEEDS a big market team like the Heat competing for a championship so it can bring in some money. If Indiana magically pulls out the win tonight, you might as well kiss the cash goodbye because nobody, (most people now-a-days are front-runners), will watch. Period, end.

Could you imagine a Spurs vs. Pacers NBA Finals? For those of us that enjoy basketball at it’s purest level, it would be glorious. No egos, no attitudes, just plain, solid, fundamental basketball. For the rest of the front-running world, it would be torture.

But it won’t happen, unless the Pacers pull off some sort of miracle.

LeBron will most likely go crazy, a-la last year’s Game 6 in Boston, which is difficult enough to beat by itself. Then, the refs will call ticky-tacky fouls all night long against the Pacers. Finally, close game or not, someone is going to get ejected on the Indiana sideline for something asinine like standing on the court or making an illegal substitution. The Heat will win easily, just like David Stern wanted.

While the Heat have a legitimate chance of getting swept in the Finals by San Antonio, that doesn’t matter. As long as the Heat get there, Stern will make his money and be more than happy.

While the Heat losing in the Finals would provide amazing amounts of hope for LeBron’s 2014 return to Cleveland, which I understand many of you would not enjoy, for reasons beyond my wildest imagination, it would offer so much more hope if they didn’t even have the chance to compete. With Wade losing a step each time he touches the court to Chris Bosh inability to make any sort of physical contact with an opposing player, LeBron is already by himself. Remember that he left Cleveland to have “help” to win an NBA Championship, or “nine”. If they fail this year, things should only get worse next season and LeBron’s 2014 departure will be imminent. And glorious.

The NBA, however, will provide the help that LeBron has always yearned for, so the Pacers challenge awaits them tonight.

Beat the Heat, beat David Stern, beat the front-running world, beat the best player in the world while he’s in “beast mode”, beat the refs, and beat big markets and your in. It’s as difficult as that.

They won’t do it, but it’s always fun to dream right?

Before all of this happens, the Indians game will be on. Nasty Masty will be taking the hill against veteran Andy Pettite in Yankee Stadium. It will be the first return to the Bronx for Nick Swisher since he joined the Indians and will most likely be an emotional night for him.

When thinking about the Indians, I think of something that the infamous Hiram Boyd brought up on a weekly radio show I put together with Jake Dungan for the Indians Baseball Insider Radio Network.

Hiram brought up a trade that the Indians should explore that sends Tribe prospects Francisco Lindor, Danny Salazar, and Shawn Armstrong to Kansas City for James Shields.

While I hate this particular trade for some reason, I think Hiram brings up a valuable point. The Indians need to sacrifice the future in order to win now.

In Cleveland, draft day is one of our favorite days of the year. It brings us hope for a bright future, something that has always alluded our beloved city for so many years.

Finally, I think the Indians have arrived at that future and we’re staring at it so hard, that we’re almost missing it.

The Indians farm system, outside of Lindor, is essentially depleted. The talent simply isn’t where it used to be. I don’t think we’ll be seeing any Vinnie Pestano’s or Carlos Santana’s making their way to Cleveland anytime soon.

The Indians roster is the best it has been since the 90’s, (If you want to argue about 2007, contact me on Twitter @H_Grove. I’ll be glad to tell you that 2007 was a fluke.). The Indians spent money that they have, quite literally, never spent before. They didn’t spend that money for the future. They spent that money for now.

While the Indians are certainly a decent team, I don’t think anyone would consider us legitimate World Series contenders as of right now. The starting rotation has been surprisingly good, the runs come and go in what seems to be a wave-like pattern, but our supposedly “tremendous” bullpen has been lackluster.

The Indians desperately need a good left-handed reliever. They would also benefit greatly from an elite starting pitcher and an added bat.

So my question is this: why not get these pieces and get rid of guys like Lindor, Salazar, and Armstrong?

Francisco Lindor could be a stud elsewhere, but who cares? If the Indians can get a top of the line guy for him and in turn become a legitimate contender, then who cares? Don’t you think that it would be worth it to make a World Series run without Francisco Lindor than to watch Francisco Lindor sit in a lineup of crap a la Jim Thome in 2002?

If you get the right piece, Lindor, Salazar, Paulino, or any other minor league prospect should be dispensable. That’s the nitty gritty of it.

The problem becomes who that missing piece should be. Maybe it’s a bunch of smaller pieces that bring us to contention. Maybe it’s one stud. Who knows, but I know that piece is out there somewhere.

Maybe the Indians should consider bringing back Cliff Lee for a final-go-round as a member of the Cleveland Indians? Maybe Shields is the guy like Hiram said? Maybe, it’s Derek Holland from the Texas Rangers or Matt Moore from the Tampa Bay Rays?

Maybe it’s a couple of hitters, like Aramis Ramirez and Norichika Aoki from the Brewers? Maybe it’s a couple of lefty relievers to fill out the ailing bullpen. Who knows?

The point is that the future should not inhibit the present, especially in this case.

The front office has built this team to compete this year, next year, and maybe the year after. There are key guys that could stick around, like Mark Reynolds and Ubaldo Jimenez, if a couple of moves are made in order to help this team move itself into “legitimate contender” status.

Can you imagine being in October for the next couple of years. It could be magical. This team is like any we’ve seen in Cleveland for a very long time. We have a brilliant, energized, and experienced manager. We have high-profile stars and under-the-radar professionals. We have role players that are making the most of a second chance and formerly overrated guys who are living up to the hype.

It’s time. We can worry about the future when it arrives. Let’s live in the present and seize the opportunity in front of us.

We must sacrifice the future to win now, or we, as a collective Tribe Town, will always regret it.

So as you watch the Tribe and Pacers tonight, give this piece a little thought. Remember that, in both cases, you could be watching the future unfold right in front of you. With a Pacers W, LeBron could be well on his way back to Cleveland. With a couple of moves, the Tribe will be back in World Series contention.

The Pacers might not have a chance, thanks to the greed that is the NBA, but the Tribe certainly does.

In both of these cases, the future is right now.

Some Thoughts on the NBA Playoffs

I really didn’t know what to write about this week. I have some big things happening on other sites, and last week I spent the week telling you what I wanted and didn’t want in Cleveland sports. Today, however, I figured I’d pick the most high-profile happening in sports at the moment: the NBA Playoffs.

First, I would like to comment on the imbecile that didn’t vote LeBron James as the NBA MVP. You sir, or ma’am, should have your vote taken immediately. Either you had a grudge, don’t take your vote seriously, or are flat-out unequipped for such responsibilities. I don’t think there has ever been a player more deserving of the NBA MVP than LeBron James this season, and that is evident by the historic number of votes LeBron received.

Unanimous or not, LeBron won the MVP by the most votes in the history of the award and garnered his fourth career NBA MVP Trophy. With that being said, here are some thoughts on LeBron and the Heat.

People believe it is a foregone conclusion that the Heat will win the NBA Title and I believe that they are essentially correct. I truly don’t see any team beating the Heat four times in a series, (or maybe even once for that matter.) Rather than watching to see whether or not the Heat will make it, we should be focused on who will give the Heat the best run, who will take a stab at shutting down the league’s best player, and who can stop the Heat from sliding through the postseason undefeated.

I know the Bulls ended the Heat’s winning streak, but the Cavs almost did too. It’s hard for me to see Chicago winning a game in this upcoming series. With Hinrich on the mend, Deng fighting a horrible flu, and Derrick Rose trolling the free world, I just don’t see Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer beating the Heat. It’s too hard to fathom. We’ll see if they can squeak a game out, but I find it doubtful.

When it comes to the other NBA Playoff series, the matchups are MUCH more interesting.

I am absolutely intruiged by the Pacers and the Knicks series. The Knicks have struggled through the first round and the first game of the second round, but I can still see them putting up a fight and making this series against the Pacers a close one. I wasn’t old enough to remember, but back in the day, the games between Reggie Miller and the Pacers and John Starks, Patrick Ewing and the Knicks were incredible. It was a rivalry like any other, with Reggie’s constant chirping and his incredible shooting backing up his talking. I think this Pacers and Knicks rivalry is starting to heat up again, as I believe these two teams will be facing each other in the playoffs for a few years to come.

In the Western Conference, you have two great matchups as well.

First of all, in what I find to be the lesser of the two series, you have the Grizzlies and the Thunder. While I said it was the lesser series, it is a phenomenal series nonetheless. In last night’s game, Kevin Durant and the Thunder were able to squeak by Memphis, thanks to a few missed free throws by Quincy Pondexter, but I could see Memphis squeaking by and winning games like that at home as well. The only thing I don’t like about this series involves Russell Westbrook.

As we all know, Westbrook went down with a torn muscle in his knee and could be out for the remainder of the playoffs. This is a TREMENDOUS blow to the Thunder and the chances of any team beating the Miami Heat. Many Clevelanders, and NBA fans alike, are comparing Durant’s Westbrook-less Thunder to the Cavaliers team LeBron James took to the Finals. It’s a fair comparison and it doesn’t bode well for the Thunder. LeBron played the most dominant playoff series of his career to get to the Finals, and once he got there, he was swept by a tremendously better San Antonio team.

If Durant can get his team to the Finals, I don’t see how they would compete against Miami without Westbrook. If Memphis wins this series, Miami will have a cakewalk to another ring.

The most intruiging matchup of the playoffs, thus far, is the Spurs and the Golden State Warriors. It’s a matchup of two teams with the opposites in terms of mantra. For Golden State, it’s shoot, shoot, shoot. For San Antonio, it’s rely on fundamental, defensive basketball. Golden State has a great young coach trying to prove himself. San Antonio has one of the best ever trying to add to his collection. The Warriors are a bunch of young guns. The Spurs are bunch of old veterans who know the game better than anyone. The opposite styles of each team will create a great matchup. San Antonio has the edge, just in terms of experience and coaching, but Golden State has the athleticism and the best player on either team in Steph Curry. I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen in this series. Can Golden State shoot their way to an appearance in the Western Conference Finals? Can San Antonio defend the perimeter and wear down the Warriors with their experience? It’s a matchup more than worthy of watching.

Here’s my prediction as to what will go down in the semi-final round:

Heat beat the Bulls 4-0.

Pacers beat the Knicks 4-2.

Memphis beats Oklahoma City 4-3.

Golden State beats San Antonio 4-3.

This is the worst case scenario in terms of a battle against the Heat, as neither Golden State nor Memphis have a chance in the NBA Finals, but it would create a tremendous opportunity for a Finals run for the three great fan bases in Memphis, Oakland, and Indianapolis.

Obviously, anything can happen. LeBron could tweak an ankle and be ill-fit to play the rest of the way. Steph Curry could have a playoff run, worthy of legendary status. The Spurs could drink from the fountain of youth and take home another NBA Title. You just never know

I’m just hoping that the Playoffs are more exciting than they should be.