Tag Archives: Klay Thompson

Christmas in Cleveland – Cavaliers Style

I know that there is a Cavaliers game tonight against the Knicks at The Q but I am not going to discuss that matchup. I would like to delve into the Cavs most important game of the year so far which occurs on Christmas Day against the Golden State Warriors.

Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images
Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images

On Friday, it will have been 92 days since the Warriors defeated the Cavaliers in Game six of the 2015 NBA Finals. This will be the first meeting of the teams since June 16th.

A lot of things have transpired on each respective team in that time span. Some were good and some were bad.

Let us catch up with the Golden State Warriors. They are currently touting the best record in the NBA at 26-1 going into their Wednesday matchup against the Utah Jazz.  It is a good bet that their record will be 27-1 when they host our Cavs on Christmas afternoon.

They had a 28-game winning streak dating back to last year’s regular season that was spoiled by the Milwaukee Bucks a couple of weeks ago.

Stephen Curry has played like an MVP again this year, leading the league in points scored per game. It is amazing to me how many shots that kid can make, seemingly, whenever he decides to.

The Warriors have overcome some adversity though this season as well. Klay Thompson has not been 100% healthy, but the largest obstacle for them was losing head coach Steve Kerr. Kerr is rehabilitating some back injuries and has taken a leave of absence to heal more efficiently. Luke Walton (son of NBA great Bill Walton) has taken over as interim coach and obviously has done quite a good job of it.

Meanwhile, back in Cleveland, Lebron James and the Cavaliers have been eyeing Christmas Day as their day for redemption. To be honest, I think that in terms of basketball, this entire city has had December 25th circled for months and it has nothing to do with Santa Claus.

Kyrie Irving returned to the Cavaliers lineup last Sunday and played 17 minutes. He contributed 12 points, one rebound and four assists. This was not a representation of what Irving is capable of, nor was it intended to be.

He is being eased into his return, and for good reason, as the Cavs will need his skill set immensely come playoff time. I know that he has had Christmas on his mind since the NBA schedule was announced. After all, his knee injury occurred in Game one of the Finals against Golden State.

On Friday, Irving returns to the “scene of the crime” in California and is eager to replace the memory of the injury with SportsCenter highlights of the Cavaliers handing the Warrior their second defeat of the season.

Millions of families celebrating the holiday will be sitting together watching this game. What a stage for a story of redemption!

I expect our team to remind, not only Curry and company, but the whole NBA, the level of defense you can expect from the Cavs. As it was in the Finals, I believe that the Cavs need to hold Golden State under 100 points in order to win.

This is no easy task against the most prolific offense in the NBA but I feel that we are up to the challenge. My team has always played better when they are a clear underdog.

That is what needs to be tapped into in this city we call home. There is no greater feeling than accomplishing something that no one thinks you are capable of accomplishing.

After all of the Christmas music is replaced with Auld Lang Syne, and the trash bags sit on the curb stuffed with shredded wrapping paper, Cleveland will know where we stand amongst the NBA elite. Cleveland may just get one of the best gifts it has received in years.
I predict a Cavaliers 98-93 victory which would light a flame in this city that shines just as bright as the one on the first Christmas.

Stephen Curry: Easy Like Sunday Mornin’

I apologize for this article being the umpteenth article of late on Warrior superstar Stephen Curry, but I can’t just sit back and watch him play the game I love at a nearly unfathomable level, while making it look, forgive the cliche’, easy.

This is what the great ones do, no matter the sport they play. They make the difficult look easy. They make it look effortless. Their mechanics are efficiently flawless, void of any unnecessary motion.

He’s unquestionably the most highly skilled player in the NBA. He is its greatest shooter, ball handler, and one of its top creators.

He is not the most athletically gifted as we’ve come to define athletically gifted. He’s not nearly as powerful and explosive as Russell Westbrook. His foot speed is average(although he’s exceptionally quick). His leaping ability is below average. His build is slight. But, behold the skill.

When I heard Curry made 77 consecutive NBA three pointers in a summer shoot around, my initial thought was that the report can’t be true. I was stunned. Most basketball players, no matter the level, would have a difficult time standing under the basket and concentrating long enough to make 77 in a row.

Curry reminds me of the guy or gal we’ve all known, who after completing the same workout we did, didn’t break a sweat while we produced enough of it to fill a gallon milk jug.

As of this writing, Curry’s Warriors have won 18 in a row to begin the season(an ongoing all-time league record) and barring injury, as ridiculous as it sounds 18 games into a season, he’s already locked up his second consecutive MVP award. The Warriors aren’t just eking by teams, they are toying with them and eventually running them out of the gym. 13 of their 18 wins have been by double digits.

And Stephen Curry is the lead assassin, doing whatever he pleases whenever he pleases from wherever(on the court) he pleases. The license to shoot interim head coach Luke Walton has given him has no restrictions(not that it’ll be different when Kerr returns). He’s green-lighted the moment he steps foot into whatever arena in which he’s playing.

But unlike one of his closest(in ability) contemporaries, the previously-mentioned Russell Westbrook, no matter the degree of difficulty in his shot-taking, rare is the time that I can say he took a bad shot. He’s the guy who shows up on the playground courts that no one wants to guard. Curry makes defenders look foolish trying to keep him in front of them, but when they do, he consistently makes shots from places on the floor most players don’t typically have to defend. He’s on course for what will likely be the first of multiple 50-40-90 seasons and has a league-leading player efficiency rating(PER) of 34.73.

But make no mistake, although he is the most deadly shooter in the league, he’s so much more than a brilliant marksman. Remember, his team is on the cusp of achieving a tier in the NBA we haven’t seen since Jordan’s Bulls won 72 in the 1995-96 season.

But this feels different. It seems 70 wins are a forgone conclusion for the Warriors. They may have 30 by the end of the year-30 wins by the end of December! And Curry is the head of the snake, which includes venomous, life-killing fangs. He’s averaging nearly twice as many points as Klay Thompson, who’s second on the teaming in scoring. He runs this Globetrotteresque offense which is averaging a mind-blowing 115.8 points per game while allowing only 99.8 per game. He is Geese Ausbie. And Warrior opponents, nearly all of them to date, have resembled the Washington Generals.

Championships don’t come easy though. No team will allow Curry and the Warriors to waltz to a repeat. The Spurs will have something to say. The Thunder will have something to say. LeBron will have something to say.

But it isn’t playoff time. Heck, we’re all still digesting our Thanksgiving gluttony. Christmas is nearly four weeks away. The regular season is barely a quarter of the way through.

So enjoy the Warriors. Enjoy watching Curry making it look easy while simultaneously ripping the will out of not only his defender, but also his opponent. Enjoy watching the difficult look easy.

The Kevin Love Saga; It’s Complicated

Where to begin? The rumors about the Cleveland Cavaliers possibly trading for Kevin Love have preceded LeBron James’s signing. The trade rumors have been discussed in just about every possible way up to date, becoming a polarizing debate in Cleveland and around the basketball world. Of course, acquiring a player like Kevin Love would be a great get for General Manager David Griffin, but who it would take to get him is a completely different discussion. Over the past week, the Love rumors turned into Andrew Wiggins rumors, with conflicting reports leaving fans wondering whether or not the Cavs would even entertain the notion that they’d give up the number one overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.

Here’s where it gets difficult for me. First of all, Kevin Love has been probably my favorite non-Cavalier for a few years now. I’ve daydreamed about him somehow coming to the Cavaliers and playing alongside the likes of Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao.

That said, there’s not a chance in the world I’m trading Andrew Wiggins, especially at this point in time. (And full disclosure, it shouldn’t even be a discussion of “Love or Wiggins” and yet, here we are.)

Let me get this out of the way: Love is the superior player to Wiggins right now. But there’s a lot more to this trade than looking at these players’ talents in a proverbial vacuum, as people from both parties seem to be doing. I’ve seen people on Love’s side say that the pro-Wiggins people are “overthinking” this, but the truth of it is, they’re underthinking this. On no planet can you say, “Well, Love is the better player, so let’s just give away Wiggins.”  There are so many things that go into this trade that creates a domino affect with how the Cavs build their team; this is a fact many people seem to forget.

The Salary Cap Matters

First of all there’s the salary cap dilemma – something that few people are experts at talking about, including myself. Let’s be honest, most people think talking about the cap in any sport makes for boring talk; but it’s necessary in this case and shouldn’t be ignored.

Here’s a graphic made by WFNY’s Jacob Rosen, reflecting the projected cap for the Cavs (doesn’t reflect moves after July 12 i.e. Mike Miller). Since Andrew Wiggins hasn’t been officially signed yet (though he’s expected to this week), his contract numbers are just a projection right now.

After having a brief conversation with him, this salary cap sticking point with the pro-Wiggins camp has been a bit overplayed (including by yours truly).

Having Wiggins is not only great for on the floor, but it gives the Cavs a little bit more flexibility in terms of their finances. Of course, we don’t know yet how Wiggins will perform on the court, but he was the number one pick in a loaded draft for a reason. Given he lives up (or somewhat close) to expectations, having him under contract for the next four years at $4-$6 million helps out the Cavs as it pertains to bringing in other pieces.

As an aside – should Wiggins be signed before a potential trade, he wouldn’t be able to be moved until 30 days until after the contract is signed.

As for Love, he’s slated to make $15.7 million this upcoming season and is expected to opt out of his current deal and be offered a max contract by the team he signs with/gets traded to. This is/will be considerably more than Wiggins’s current contract, and while Love is the better player right now, it could still somewhat limit the quality of players beyond James, Irving and Love that the Cavs bring in. There’s no question that a “Big 3” of those guys is extremely enticing and undeniably tough to beat, but who else fills out the roster beyond those three shouldn’t be overlooked.

Finally, Love, as good as he is, would be a third option on this particular team. With LeBron and Kyrie, his role offensively would be a bit limited and wouldn’t have as big of usage with the Cavs as he had in Minnesota. So basically – in this vacuum – you’re either paying your third option the max deal after this year (Love) or $4-$6 million (Wiggins).

Who Fills Out the Roster Beyond the “Big 3”

For a trade with Wiggins to work, other players from the Cavs would have to be included for the salaries to line up. The Cavs can’t just take on the extra 6 million this year that makes up the difference between Love’s salary and Wiggins’s (projected) salary. This has led to the belief that a third team would have to help facilitate this deal and players like Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett, and Dion Waiters have come up to help match the salaries. Example here– this hypothetical trade would also involve the Cavs giving the Timberwolves (a) pick(s). This was the possible deal that the News-Herald’s Bob Finnan reported.

Just getting the salaries to match in this scenario means giving up Wiggins, Bennett, and Brendan Haywood (not only is he the only true center on the roster, but his contract is extremely valuable next year, basically the reason the Cavs acquired him on draft night). On top of all that, Minnesota’s likely to want a first rounder, possibly multiple, in return. I think it’s likelier Haywood’s left out of the deal, but that means giving up a guy like Waiters or Thompson, which makes more of a negative impact on the floor. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not losing sleep trading either of those two for Love, but when they’re included with Wiggins, it affects your ability to surround your team with quality players.

The Value of Love vs. the Talent of Love

This is something that gets mixed up and confused a lot when talking about this trade. Love’s offensive talent cannot be denied. And in that vacuum we all desire to talk in, including Wiggins in this deal wouldn’t be that big of a deal – though I’d still personally be a bit heartbroken. However, as I’ve been trying to pound this point home, it’s not just about Love’s talent. It’s about the leverage Minnesota has, or lack thereof, when dealing with the Cavs and other teams.

The only other consistent team being seriously connected with Kevin Love has been the Golden State Warriors. The Boston Celtics have also been loosely linked to Love but they’re scarce in the amount of assets they’d need to get him. Currently, the two teams who have the best shot at getting Love are the Warriors and Cavs. However, Golden State’s reluctance to give up Klay Thompson has prevented a deal between them and Minnesota from getting done. As it stands, their rumored best offer has consisted of some combination of David Lee, Harrison Barnes, and picks. If that truly is the Warriors best offer to this point, there’s no point in the Cavs offering up Wiggins, especially right now.

The Timberwolves are obviously going to be in rebuilding mode by moving their franchise player in Kevin Love. If the Warriors aren’t going to budge on an offer involving Thompson, than neither should the Cavs with Wiggins. Offering Wiggins far and away blows any offer that doesn’t include Klay Thompson. At this point, without Thompson being offered, the Cavs are bidding against themselves.

Klay Thompson, the player of Minnesota's affection, hasn't shot under 40% from 3 in any of his three seasons.
Klay Thompson, the player of Minnesota’s affection, hasn’t shot under 40% from 3 in any of his three seasons.

The Wolves want young players in return and that doesn’t at all fit the description of David Lee, an aging and expensive player. The Cavs offering some combination of Bennett/Waiters MAYBE Tristan Thompson (at the discretion of his and LeBron James’s agent Rich Paul) and picks should be more attractive than what the Warriors are offering. Not only that, but should the Cavs decide to wait this out and let these guys play alongside LeBron, there’s a good chance the best player in the game is able to elevate the way his teammates play the game (see: J.J. Hickson) and therefore increasing their trade value.

 

Of course, waiting it out until the deadline has its risks as well. Perhaps the Wolves stick to their guns and still demand Wiggins, and the Cavs stick to theirs and don’t offer. The worst-case scenario is the Cavs keep Wiggins – I know, how horrible to keep the first pick in a draft like this. Meanwhile, the Wolves would have to hope the Warriors offer up Klay Thompson or else they’re staring down compensation of Barnes/Lee or letting Love walk in the offseason.

OR

Love is traded to the Warriors. This is where it gets tricky. Love hasn’t expressed interest in signing an extension with any team besides the Cavs given they sign LeBron James; which happened. Therefore, if Love stays true to this, he would become a free agent, enabling the Cavs to go after him in free agency with him still most likely being interested in playing with James and the Cavs. Even if in the unlikely scenario Love signs an extension with the Warriors, again, the Cavs keep all their assets and Wiggins. Not a bad “consolation prize.” By the way, these assets could be used to trade for another player down the road (i.e. Ryan Anderson).

The Timberwolves have very little, if any, leverage in terms of demanding Wiggins right now, and that only diminishes with each passing day that the Warriors aren’t willing to give up Klay Thompson.

LeBron’s Prime Window

This is one of the more sensible arguments from the pro-trade-Wiggins camp. The thought is by having Andrew Wiggins, you have to wait at least 4 years to get him into his prime. But by then, LeBron will be 33/34 years old and with his prime likely behind him. Wouldn’t you rather have a 25-year-old Love to team up with 22-year-old Kyrie Irving and 29-year-old LeBron James?

If I’m forced to choose between Love and Wiggins in this category, the safer bet is to me is Wiggins. Granted, I’m really high on Wiggins’s potential, so this is more of a subjective stance, but I think he’ll start being a massive contributor on both ends of the floor by year three. Some think that Wiggins’s defensive potential/ability has the chance to extend James’s career, and perhaps his prime, by allowing LeBron to not always be the go-to defender. Love can’t do this as he’s more of an offensive player and obviously doesn’t have the same set of skills defensively.

While Love’s talent may be greater to pair with LeBron in the first couple years of LeBron’s dwindling prime, Wiggins’s talent should be plenty enough in that time plus help LeBron limit his mileage as his career gets longer.

Context Matters

This is the culmination of my big point in the whole Wiggins-for-Love debate. There’s a reason the Timberwolves are looking to trade their 25-year-old, 3-time All Star franchise player. Love’s been underwhelmed with the lack of talent put beside him and with the contract extension he got in 2012. I bring this up because a popular argument of the pro-trade-Wiggins-for-Love camp has been the question: “If Love was on the Cavs would you trade him for Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett?”

First of all: OF COURSE NOT. Then again, if Love were on the Cavs right now, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t be pining to leave a team with James and Irving. Again, there’s a reason the Wolves are trading Love. You can’t just switch the players around to prove your point of getting the better talent. By doing this, you show that your ignoring the context of the situation, which is just blatantly ignorant. Furthermore, the Cavs and Wolves are in completely different situations right now. Minnesota is in rebuild-mode and the Cavs are in win-now mode. If the Wolves had done a better job of building around Love, they’re not trading him for Wiggins right now either. Of course if I’m a Cavs fan I wouldn’t trade an established-but-young All Star for a rookie (albeit a great one) and a second-year player. That said, you have the chance to have Love and Wiggins. The Cavs aren’t being forced at all right now between one or the other.

Who would want to trade this face?
Who would want to trade this face?

There are a lot of sub-topics being ignored in the grand scheme of the Wiggins-for-Love debate. Just saying “Wiggins can be a great player, Love already is a great player” isn’t enough to move the needle on trading a deal that involves Wiggins for Love. It’s extremely shortsighted and the different parts of this debate have to be recognized.

If the Cavs eventually make this move, I’m not going to complain about having Kevin Love on the team. But when they make the move will be key. I’ll understand their process better if they were to make this deal at the deadline.

In the end, having a roster with Kevin Love would be great and having a roster with Andrew Wiggins would also be great. But having a roster with both of them would be the best. That’s not being greedy, that’s just being smart and not forcing a dumb trade that you don’t have to right now. The Cavs need to wait this thing out instead of bidding against themselves.

The 216: Past, Present, and Future

I don’t have much interest in what you would do if I sang out of tune, because it’s going to happen a lot, so stand up and walk out on me right now. If you wondered why The Wonder Years came to mind, it’s because I’ve been watching the series on Netflix, in lieu of taking in the games of winter night after night. It’s a period piece, one that references a period before my own, but it’s grabbed my interest a lot more in the present than it did in 1988.

In the beginning, the show went back 20 years to the end of summer in 1968, and chronicled the life of a young man entering 7th grade, with what I assumed was supposed to be the man looking back at his own adolescence, narrating two the events two decades later. What’s funny is how it’s dated, but it really isn’t; watching in 2014, a 12-year old Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage) is the past, a 30-something Kevin (voiced by Daniel Stern) is the present, and we watch from the future. 1968 is still 1968, and hindsight is the same, but the difference between looking back 20 years and 45 years changes the perspective.

Time is the same, 24 hours in a day, 365 of those in a year, yada yada yada. However, it’s hard to believe that certain periods of time, say 15 years, are of the exact same length when put into certain context. Next weekend, the Denver Broncos will participate in their first Super Bowl, since defeating the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII, which was fifteen years ago this month. It was the last NFL game played, sans the existence of the Cleveland Browns.

The last time the Browns played in an NFL Championship, they won it. Granted, it wasn’t called the Super Bowl in those days, but it was still the game you wanted to win when you started building a team, and frankly the best you could do at the time. In the fifteen years that followed, they lost three semi-finals, and finished 9-7 in that fifteenth year. The next year, Sam Rutigliano, Brian Sipe, and company had Cleveland believing in the Kardiac Kids. I was young, so I’m guessing, but 1964 couldn’t have been too much of a concern, even at the end of the ill-fated Red Right 88 play versus Oakland.

The next fifteen years saw Bernie Kosar win the town over quickly, by manipulating the Supplemental Draft process to land in Cleveland, then taking this Cleveland Browns team to the playoffs more often than not. It also came with a lot of heartbreak on the doorstep to greatness, three conference championship losses, all to John Elway’s Denver Broncos, highlight the misery of period that some us look back upon as glory days. I take that back; the entire conversation of miserable starts and ends with Art Modell uprooting our beloved franchise to Baltimore.

That led to the most recent fifteen years. So many coaches, so many forgettable names, but above all, so many losses. That’s the only thing you really have to say, that it’s lost. Hopefully, the next fifteen years will allows the early days of expansion to be lost in the annals of NFL history. If you don’t think what’s done can be un-done, just take a look at the Pittsburgh Steelers prior to 1972, which was Chuck Noll’s fourth season. You aren’t just looking at 15 years of being inept in their case.

What we’re going to do in this space is have some fun with the area code in Cleveland-proper. It’s 216, so you’ll get two things to think about, one major idea, and six little tidbits or blurbs, but they’ll all be tied together, sometimes very loosely, depending on my mood. This week, we’ll tie everything together with the past, present, and future.

Two Haunting Thoughts

Window of Opportunity

Here’s what bothers me. Well, here’s one of the many things that bother me, but this weighs heavy on mind, and has for a while. It’s something I consider worthy of sharing. The Browns have whiffed at the top of the draft, on levels varying between “they could have done better” and “JESUS H CHRIST!”, but it’s hard to argue that they could have done better than Joe Thomas with the third overall pick in 2007. Argue Adrian Peterson all you want, and I won’t deny that he’s done some amazing things for the Vikings, who took him four picks later. However, his numbers were comparable to what Jamal Lewis did for the Browns with the benefit of having the rookie Thomas in front of him; the Vikings already had Steve Hutchinson and Bryant McKinnie to pave the way for the rookie from Oklahoma. The point being that they didn’t whiff on Thomas, but the clock is ticking to determine whether they’re going to whiff on his behalf, a la what the brand has done or not done for Phil Dawson.

Even if you ignore the double-digit win total in 2007, that year was somewhat of a perfect storm for the Browns. The sure thing from Wisconsin turned out to be a sure thing, and you can bet he learned a thing for two having the newly acquired Eric Steinbach playing to his right. Over the next two seasons, you could see those two picking each other up when the other had a bad game. In the four years that the two anchored the left side of the line for all but two games (Steinbach missed two games in 2008), it was probably Thomas that put Steinbach on his back more often than the other way around, but Thomas noticeably struggled at times in his second season. After Steinbach, it was Jason Pinkston on the left side with Thomas, a late-round pick who played very well in his rookie season before suffering some setbacks. You have to believe Thomas, and Alex Mack at center, had something to do with the solid start for Pinkston in Year 1.

It didn’t stop him from making the Pro Bowl, something that he’s done every year he’s been in the league, a streak that’s now at 7 years. A lot of the criteria for the invite to Hawaii is based on reputation, especially with interior linemen. You know, that’s an excuse you hear from people who believe their guy got snubbed, but since Joe is reaping the benefits, we can look at it a different way, and say there’s a reason his reputation precedes him. He’s not necessarily an overpowering player, his technique is just that damn good, and everyone notices. He’s also the antithesis of how the consensus views the Cleveland Browns; he’s reliable and consistent, he hasn’t missed a snap in seven seasons.

The Browns locked him up with a 7-year deal before the 2011 season, so he’ll be buckling the chin strap on that orange shell through the 2017 season, as long as he’s still playing and the Browns still want him at that point. You can’t count on much more than that from the Browns left tackle after that. That’s four seasons that the Browns have to put a winning team around him, something we probably don’t think about too often with these linemen types, but this lineman type might be the best at his position. Here’s hoping he spends these next four seasons playing for the same head coach, his fifth in eight years, and in the same type of offense. More importantly, let’s hope it’s with the type of coach and offense that can win in the playoffs.

I worry about that window closing on Joe Thomas in Cleveland. I worry that he either won’t see the postseason, or we’ll be rooting for his new team vicariously, when he’s shell of what he was in Cleveland. That’s sad, to already think of Joe Thomas in the past tense.

Suspended Belief

I don’t care to beat a dead horse, but we are admittedly talking about the past. There isn’t any point in beating around the bush with this one, this Cleveland football team is exponentially better with Joe Haden and Josh Gordon on the field. When they miss time, the team misses victories and the fans miss their presence on the field for that reason. You certainly can’t put this all on the two exciting playmakers or any individual on the current roster, but the Browns have won just one single, solitary time in Week 1 since coming back to the league in 1999. However, we haven’t seen both Joe and Josh on the field in Week 2 (Haden wasn’t suspended until Week 2 in 2012, but the point stands) in Gordon’s two seasons for reasons I’ll simply refer to as “cloudy piss”.

In fact, over the last two seasons, we’ve seen the tandem miss six total games for an abuse of one NFL policy or another. The Browns have gone 0-6 in those contests, which has made it difficult to reach that break-even point at any juncture in the season. Even a 1-1 mark would be somewhat inspiring at this point. I’ve said it in the past; their selfishness has cost the team in the past. Now, because of their talent, they have to assume leadership roles. They have to see how important they are to the team. Suspensions aside, the Browns are 0-10 when Haden or Gordon has been out of the lineup in their careers, but I understand there isn’t much that can be done about injury. Though the age obviously isn’t an immediate factor with these guys, as it is for Thomas, that ticking clock does need to be acknowledged. You only get so many opportunities to be great.

One Comic, Sans Triumph

The Cavs have lost me. They just aren’t appointment viewing these days, so it’s a rare occasion that you’ll see me give them the bandwidth, but we’ve reached the point where it’s fair to judge, have we not?

I suppose I can admit now that it was spite, more so than any claim I can make about being a die-hard, but I was all-in on the horrible teams that have taken the floor at the Q since Danny Ferry was relieved of his general manager duties in 2010. As an out-of-market fan, I’m not sure I was given much of a choice; the national TV was gone, so I was going to have to pay too much for a subscription to watch them to ignore them.

In other words, I was locked and loaded for the Byron Scott era with the requisite level of patience. That team wasn’t going to win with Mo Williams. Anderson Varejao was supposed to create match-up problems, but no matter how many silver linings you could identify, and some tried to call Mike Brown’s pink slip something to the effect of addition by subtraction. Trying to label things, whether it meant cherry-picking the good or bad to fit that label proved pointless. Whether you wanted to call it tanking or letting nature take its course, losing and building through the draft was the answer.

I didn’t know the ways of Chris Grant particularly well, and the same could be said for 29 of his counterparts around the Association, but as a casual observer of the game, I tend to trust that these guys know what they’re doing. Dan Gilbert didn’t win the lottery; he acquired his fortune through some level of business savvy, so if he trusted Grant, then I trusted Grant.

After all, he empathized with us in Comic Sans. Of course, I recognized then, as well as I do now, it wasn’t truth. It was hope, but you thought his confidence in Grant was based on more than hope. Hope turned into some good fortune when they turned Mo Williams into the #1 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, which became Kyrie Irving. For their own awful season, the fourth pick netted them Tristan Thompson, the first sign that this new front office was going to be “cute”. We saw more of that same “cute” approach to the draft after another pair of dismal seasons, how else can you explain Dion Waiters and Anthony Bennett?

I think it’s hard to say whether they were genuinely aggravated with Byron Scott or if he just wanted out after the 2012-2013 season. I think either is plausible. I also find it plausible that Mike Brown was the best guy they can get to babysit this situation. Right now, at 16-27 in Year 4 after the departure of Lebron James, it doesn’t seem to matter who the coach is. The players aren’t good enough, they lack chemistry on any level, and the front office can’t execute any earth-shattering move that can return outstanding results.

That isn’t to say that they’re doing anything and everything wrong. It just isn’t returning outstanding results. There’s the Mo Williams and Jamario Moon for Baron Davis and (eventually) Kyrie Irving trade, that’s a win. Taking Irving with the first pick, despite the fact he only played 11 college games, there’s no way they don’t regret that if they go in another direction with that selection. They got a draft pick for Ramon Sessions and a draft pick for JJ Hickson; one of those trades worked out better than the other, but why dwell on losing an expiring Hickson?

Thompson has shown glimpses, even though we’d probably rather see Klay Thompson or Kawhi Leonard. But, who is to say that the chemistry problems don’t exist in the locker room with any of them? I think we all need to admit, for whatever reason, that the atmosphere in Oakland and San Antonio probably takes measures against anything getting out of hand like we’ve heard about in Cleveland. I’m not going to stare at the TV and tell you it isn’t on, Waiters was a bad pick, but my hindsight is 20/20. I believed in Waiters as much as I believed in Grant 18 months ago. By then, I was already in “don’t tell me, show me” mode.

I couldn’t have told you Damian Lillard or Harrison Barnes was far and away a better pick, but the status quo was clamoring for Barnes. Grant got too cute. He was so much smarter than the status quo, and it’s hurt the enitre plan for a rebuild…

…unless the plan was to be terrible and stock-pile young assets, before putting all of their eggs in one basket with free agency. If that’s really the case, and I wouldn’t exactly rule out some truth in that theory, as crazy as it is, I can’t really put the energy or emotion into this team.

I guess that brings it all full circle, so this isn’t an outright surprise. I opted not to re-up my League Pass subscription this year, for a number of reasons. Part of me thought there might be enough commercial appeal in this team to get them onto the national slate, but the more realistic part of me saw the writing on the wall. Of all the bad seasons we’ve seen from the Cavaliers since their last playoff appearance. It was supposed to be better, the conference is dreadful around them, and Year 3 of Kyrie and Tristan would lead one to believe this is where Top 5 picks are supposed to take that next step.

It isn’t better. They aren’t a playoff team in the awful conference. Kyrie is an All-Star, but a lot of fans are looking at that sideways because the team is 16-27. Do we trust Tristan Thompson? Do we trust Mike Brown? How about Chris Grant? I know we don’t trust Dan Gilbert on the whole. So, is there any reason to believe this re-build hasn’t been an unmitigated disaster?

Like I said, they’ve lost me. If you believe there’s any reason for my continued patience on this track, feel free to email [email protected], I have an open mind and would love some positivity on this subject.

Six Ways To Berea

What They Say…

They say it’s a joke. They have good evidence to back that up. They won’t back off that stance until they are given a reason to do so. We might not care what they think or say, but at some point we need to admit that they aren’t lying. Whether we give them the time of day or not, we know it needs to get better.

Nobody wants to come here because the situation is obviously toxic, as evidenced by the quick dismissal of Rob Chudzinski. That’s all they need to sell the toxicity or radioactivity in Berea. Jimmy Haslam’s other interests are under federal investigation, and he does seem borderline unapologetic, candidly, through all of his sorries. Joe Banner is abrasive and a lot of people are still trying to understand what Mike Lombardi has been doing since he left his place in the media. The hot coordinators, the recycled Head Coach, the successful college coach, and Pat Shurmur have all failed in the role.

The judgement is fair. The search didn’t seem clean. You might even aruge that the destination felt panicked. I really don’t want to believe that personally, but with a gun to my head, I wouldn’t bet my life against that. We hear the word “settle” a lot as fans of this team. We ourselves have settled for this poor organization because they’re the only organization we’ve got room for in our hearts. I don’t want to look at Mike Pettine as the guy the Browns settled for any more than he wants to think that’s how he got the job. For what it’s worth, I don’t know that rolling the dice on Dan Quinn accepting the job after the Super Bowl was a prudent gamble. That’s not exactly selling any level of confidence in Mr. Pettine, I know.

From the Foyer to Hoyer

A lot of people have pointed out how Brian Hoyer greeted the new boss in Berea before Pettine even took his coat off. The question was asked and acknowledged at his introductory presser, the quarterback position is important. It isn’t important because the fans want a name at the position. It isn’t important because the head coach paid the question lip service either; he wasn’t going to get away with hemming and hawing around the issue on Day 1. It’s important because this is the NFL in 2014, and I couldn’t find a playoff team with a quarterback worse than Andy Dalton, who is 0-for-3 in the post-season, so that caliber has to be the lowest common denominator on a potentially successful team.

As far as the Hoyer, the Ignatius product is concerned, the thing he’s got going for him is that no can definitively say he stinks. He may not be good, I’d be fairly certain that being local doesn’t make him the next Bernie Kosar, but it does put him in Berea on January 23rd, so that helps his cause. We all have to figure that he won’t be alone in camp, but this someone that the organization can sell to us with some level of confidence, which isn’t to say their confidence equals our approval, but it’s a step.

Statistically, it’s easy to join the naysayers on Hoyer, but the fact remains, they won every game he started. Granted, one of those games came at the hands of Brandon Weeden making an extended relief appearance out of the bullpen, a game against Pettine’s defense, so pick your poison on that one. Never you mind that Travis Benjamin returned a punt for one score, that TJ Ward returned an interception for another, or that the Bills defense was on the field every time Buffalo’s rooke third-string quarterback Jeff Tuel failed to get first downs or give the visiting team the advantage in field position. Just look at the 37 points the Browns scored in that one, and bury your head in the sand when the mitigating details come out in Pettine’s favor. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

 PettineHoyer

Anyway, back to Hoyer. If he has to be a place holder for Bortles, Manziel, or whatever next big thing the brain trust plans to go with, with any one of their five picks in the top 83, so be it. You could do worse than a guy who has learned offense from Chico Kyle, Josh McDaniels, Todd Haley, Ken Whisenhunt, and even Norv Turner. Five years in some pretty good systems might make for one of those coaches on the field type of deals. I have no question in my mind that Hoyer can accept the role without losing the fire to be a starting quarterback, the jury is still out on whether that fire can actually add up to a regular job, but he definitely has his fair share of people pulling for it to be so.

Not a Suit, Able For Work

So, he’s not comfortable wearing a suit and he’s not interested in winning the press conferences. That’s cool in my book, I’m not interested in those things either. I’m glad that he’s telling us that he knows the obvious. Without saying it, it’s clear to me that Mike Pettine knows and expects everyone to expect the worst until he shows them a reason not to. He doesn’t earn that faith on Draft Day, at OTAs, or Training Camp. Goodwill is earned from September to February.

I think he knows the score. If you look at the bright side of being the guy after the one-and-done, you get a guy who understands there is no grace period. After 2013, one cannot assume anything less than winning in Cleveland will be interpreted as an acceptable result. To me, that’s 7 wins, come hell or high water. There are too many worst-to-first occurrences to believe that’s impossible. If the need is indeed a shift in attitude, the man who despises the suit and tie might be the man for the job. The number of players representing the orange and brown in Hawaii has been brought up to much for us to not think of the Chiefs turnaround in 2013.

Don’t Hurry to the Tee Box, Just Yell Four

I am nothing, if not agnostic on Johnny Manziel. Hell, I’m on the fence about the legitimacy of the rumors we’ve been bludgeoned with about the club’s interest in the dynamic Texas A&M sophomore; it could be real and it could just as easily be a smokescreen. If it’s the latter, I find it to be silly, since I’m sure the people around the league who matter would see right through it. Lies like that only affect how the media reports this perceived nonsense; ultimately, it’s the fans who lose out in the end. If true, fine. I think I’d be okay with an athletic quarterback who can extend plays in their current position, the 4th pick in the draft, but I can’t sign off on surrendering additional assets to improve their position.

We’ve been through that with Trent Richardson, have we not? They were shut out of making a similar move Robert Griffin III, but that’s looking like a pretty solid loss for the Browns as I type this. I’m struggling to find a precedent, where moving up from a place already in the Top 5 has paid off in a big way. Doing what the Jets did in 2009 or Atlanta did in 2011 as trade partners with the Browns, moving up 10 spots or more to #6 for Mark Sanchez and Julio Jones respectively, made a lot more sense. There aren’t any Andrew Lucks in this draft and Richardson wasn’t an Andrew Luck type of sure-fire thing either.

Been There, Done Tate

The scuttlebutt regarding Gary Kubiak as a candidate to be the Offensive Coordinator on Pettine’s staff has fueled the overwhelming speculation that Ben Tate, Arian Foster’s understudy in Houston, would be a free agent target. Tate played with broken ribs last year in his walk year to prove his worth on the open market, so he won’t come cheap, and I believe there’s some type of Cleveland tax that comes with free agents demanding to be overpaid to take on the stigma of the Cleveland Browns. Recent history supports the myth of that, while the Browns can open the checkbook on defense, we haven’t seen too many offensive skilled players, sane ones anyways, committing to the Browns.

The Kubiak talk has lost momentum, and I’d personally hope that Kyle Shannahan isn’t really in the mix. With those rumors going by the wayside, it might be time to consider that Tate will not be house-hunting in Bill Cowher’s Strongsville neighborhood either. Tate will be 26 when the season starts, and he comes with a price tag. Now, it’s true that the Browns have cap space, and four seasons is a good get before that dreaded NFL running back expiration date hits on Tate’s 30th birthday in August of 2018. Unfortunately, Tate and any good agent knows that too, so this will be the contract that gets negotiated with the Auburn product’s nest-egg for 2020 and beyond in mind. Only once do I recall a home run being hit at running back in free agency, and that was a few good seasons of Lewis. This is an area the Browns should look to fill at the draft in May.

Catch and Carey

We could have just as easily titled this section “Hyde and Seek”, I suppose. Even Mike Pettine didn’t seem to know exactly what type of system this offense is going to run, but it’s clear that he plans to have his hands on whatever the plan is. By the way, you can put me on the list of people support the words he offered about making the system fit the players, as opposed to doing it the other way around. There’s a lot of Banner behind those words, which is anti-Holmgren, and anything that goes against our Seattle friend can’t be all bad.

Looking for a gamebreaking back in this quarterback-friendly NFL requires a certain skill-set, since there are only so many Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch types, and they aren’t available in every draft. The people I monitor on various sites (Brendan Leister, DraftBrowns; Josh Finney, DawgsByNature) seem to be in agreement that the draft is the route to go to upgrade the backfield, and the prerequisite for that upgrade should be a physical runner that can catch the ball out of the backfield.

Carlos Hyde’s name rolls off the tongue easily, but anytime you start tying the Buckeyes to the Browns, the assumption of homerism comes to mind. Brian Robiskie and Craig Powell scare off the casual fan, because it’s just been so long since Paul Warfield set a positive precedent. Really, none of those Buckeyes/Browns have anything to do with each other, let alone Carlos Hyde. People need to understand that Carlos Hyde is a viable name, and that this isn’t going along the same path as suggesting Lombardi take Kenny Guiton at #4, or worse yet, bringing Troy Smith back to the States.

Let me throw a real name out there, at the risk of having homerism towards Arizona implied, how about Ka’Deem Carey? Scouting reports knock his ability to run away from NFL defenders, but he has the explosiveness to run between the tackles, and he can catch the ball out of the backfield. He can run in the open field, and though he’s a little undersized at 5-10, he’s 21, so he can still bulk up and play at 215 with the same skills. I think he’s the player to get if he falls, but he’ll be competing with Charles Sims (West Virginia) and Lache Seastrunk (Baylor) and everything changes after the combine.

It’s a long way to May, and an even longer way to September. However, Opening Day is right around the corner, so expect some Tribe talk in this space next week. Enjoy the time you have to kill between now and next weekend.