Whew, crisis averted

October 30, 2009

 

The Cavs are better than the Timberwolves. Shaq made three whole baskets and grabbed seven rebounds.

Meanwhile, the Celtics have become nearly 30 points better than the Bulls after a seven-game playoff series against them last season. Boston is now 3-0. Orlando went to New Jersey and won. And Toronto just finished losing at Memphis. Memphis!

Oh, but at least the Knicks lost. In double overtime. To Charlotte, a team that scored 59 points in its first game.

Feel better?

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That website’s on dope!

October 30, 2009

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Cleveland.com posted a little OOOPS when it went with a picture of actor Kurtwood Smith to go along with a story about the Indians possibly hiring Washington Nationals third-base coach Tim Tolman. Posters on Cleveland.com had some fun with it, wondering where Fez was, hoping that Laura Prepon and Mila Kunis would become ball girls, and wondering if Kelso worked for the website.

A Google search shows that the picture came from a site showing celebrity lookalikes.


Playing the “What if?” game

October 30, 2009

 

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Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, the Cavs went out and lost their first two games of the season. The excuses started flying:

Seriously? Delonte West?

Anyway, this isn’t to debate which excuse has the most merit in this disappointing start. They all sound a lot better than Danny Ferry just shrugging his shoulders and saying, “Ummmmmmmmm, ooops!” But in the end they remain excuses. On the heels of disastrous Indians and Browns seasons, an excuse-filled Cavs season won’t make it in this town.

But just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, there’s always someone to tap you on the shoulder, smile, and remind you that you live in Cleveland. (And show you highlights of freaking Cliff Lee catching a freaking ground ball behind his freaking back in a freaking complete-game World Series victory over THE FREAKING YANKEES.) So consider, if things really are as bad as they could get for the Cavs.

Or what if …

  • What if on Friday night on the road against a young, hungry, up-and-coming Minnesota Timberwolves team the Cavs again come out sluggish, can’t recover, and lose their third straight? What if 24-year-old center Al Jefferson, a 20-plus-point-per-game scorer for the T’Wolves the last two seasons, schools old Shaq and old Z as panic mode over the Cavs interior defense sets in? What if the loss brings down boos during the first half of Saturday’s home game against the awful Charlotte Bobcats, as the Cavs look sluggish in the first half and take just a three-point lead into halftime? (Remember, the Bobcats set a record for the shot-clock era by scoring just 59 points in their opening game.)
  • What if the losing creates a backlash against the casino issue which Dan Gilbert is championing, and which is up for vote as Issue 3 on the Ohio ballot next Tuesday? What if many people decide Gilbert isn’t actually a great businessman but just another guy with a succesful business who was smart enough to buy a team with LeBron James? What if the casino issue fails on the same night the Cavs lose another home game to the Wizards, who gave the Cavs fits during a 66-win season last year even though Gilbert Arenas wasn’t even playing?
  • What if this awful start sends the Cavs fans out into the streets with torches and pitchforks and the Cavs front office into full-fledge panic mode? What if the Cavs decide they need something and fast and get serious about pursuing Golden State’s Stephen Jackson, who wants out Oakland so bad he’d walk to Cleveland to play with LeBron James? What if the Cavs pull the plug on Zydrunas Ilgauskas and send their longest-tenured player and the franchise leader in rebounds and blocked shots and very nearly games played (just 14 behind Danny Ferry) to Golden State in the deal, turning a possible feel-good story into one of cutthroat basketball business? What if Stephen Jackson comes to Cleveland, meshes well with LeBron James and leads the Cavs to 10 straight wins, then in six weeks is arrested for starting a fight at Christie’s Cabaret in the Flats and is suspended by the league?
  • What if the Cavs float to a 47-win season and finish behind the Pistons and Bulls in the Central Division? What if the Cavs finish sixth in the Eastern Conference and match up with Orlando in the FIRST round of the playoffs this time? What if the Magic need only five games to dispense of the Cavs in the playoff rematch?
  • What if LeBron says the hell with this and goes to New York City to join the Nets?
  • What if Dan Gilbert, who has no casino just yards away from his Quicken Loans downtown office and shiny arena, sells off the rest of his suddenly devalued basketball team to the Chinese? What if the Chinese sign Yao Ming, coming off a missed season because of a foot injury? What if Yao breaks down five games into the season? What if the Chinese owners’ new team plays to 5,000 people a night due to backlash over LeBron leaving town? What if the Chinese owners decide to gut the team for the 2011-2012 season? What if the Chinese owners prepare to move the team to Seattle to replace the Sonics as the city welcomes them with the promise of an even shinier, newer downtown arena?
  • What if a giant LeBron-in-a-Nets-jersey Fathead sticker falls off the wall of a 12-year-old girl’s Queens bedroom and nearly smothers her? What if her parents sue Fathead for an adhesive deficiency and wins a $45 million lawsuit against Dan Gilbert’s company? What if Gilbert decides he’s done in Cleveland, sells Fathead for pennies on the dollar, closes up the Cleveland office of Quicken Loans and retreats to Detroit? What if unemployment climbs .8% in Cleveland?
  • What if Quicken Loans Arena, now devoid of a pro basketball team, becomes the de facto home for job fairs, psychic conferences, and flea markets? What if upkeep falls behind because these events, coupled with a week of Trans-Siberian Orchestra shows every December, can’t cover overhead costs? What if The Q falls into disrepair, and major concerts like Bruce Springsteen, Metallica, and KISS don’t come to Cleveland anymore?
  • What if, after all this happens, LeBron leads the Nets to the 2012 NBA Finals? What if CC Sabathia shows up at the game, sits courtside, and wears a Yankees cap? What if Cliff Lee is also there and is saluted after leading the Phillies to their third straight World Series title? What if new Yankees centerfielder Grady Sizemore makes a late entrance, slaps five with Lebron, and discusses “the good old days” before sitting down next to Sabathia and Lee?
  • What if everyone reading this gouges their eyes out with a pair of scissors after contemplating the disastrous future that even the Mayans wouldn’t have envisioned for us? What if the 5,000 years ago the Mayans foresaw this future but thought it was so horrible they didn’t even publicize it?

And to think, all this could happen if the Cavs lose to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night. We could all try praying to God none of this happens, but, gee, it appears God wants it to.


Woe, Canada

October 28, 2009

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The good news is that the Knicks lost by 22 points Wednesday night.

The bad news is everything else.

Cleveland fans thought they could step away from their sports woes at least for one night and watch the Cavs instead of CC Sabathia pitch against Cliff Lee in the World Series. Ooops! Instead, the Cavs turned in another dud, falling behind the Toronto Raptors just four minutes into the game and never regaining the lead in a 98-91 loss. (That ghost of playoffs past, Hedo Turkoglu, scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds to aid the Raptors.)

It’s officially panic time in Cleveland. Maybe we don’t have to worry about LeBron bolting for New York two seconds after his contract expires next spring, but he might be willing to go just about anywhere else if this keeps up. And if you don’t believe that, you didn’t watch the Indians ruin their season with an 0-6 start and you didn’t watch the Browns blow up their campaign with an 0-4 start. (Hey, come to think of it, maybe an 0-2 start is merely a flesh wound.)

Consider:

  • Last season the Cavs didn’t lose their first home game until February against the Lakers. This time around they took care of that in the first game of the season.
  • Last season the Cavs didn’t lose two consecutive games until the game after the defeat to the Lakers this season. This time around they took care of that in the second game of the season.
  • The Cavs were 12-2 all-time against the Raptors before Wednesday’s game, the best mark of any Eastern Conference team against Toronto.

The Cavs are starting to look like a team that 1) is old and slow despite having only three players over 30 years old, 2) read waaaaaaaaaaaay too many NBA preview issues, 3) has a fifth-year head coach who looks like he’s coached his first two games, 4) has absolutely no interior defense (28 points on 11-for-15 shooting by Toronto center Andrea Bargnani, a career 12.4 ppg scorer), and 5) desperately needs Delonte West.

Oh, sure, Optimist Prime will tell you the Cavs started 1-2 last season before vaulting to the best record in franchise history. It’s true. But that’s not the point. The Cavs have simply booked bad in two games. They haven’t held a lead in the second half. Key acquisition Shaquille O’Neal, a career 58% field-goal shooter, has made just 11-of-23 shots in two games while opposing centers have made 17-of-25 shots. Zydrunas Ilgauskas looks like he left his game in Lithuania. Any other big free agent signing, Anthony Parker, looks like he should be playing about 20 minutes a game instead of 40. Coach Mike Brown looks like he needs former assistant coach John Kuester to bring back the offensive playbook that he took to Detroit. (Oh, the Pistons started their season with a 22-point win Wednesday night.)

At the top of the excuse list is that the Cavs will take time to gel what with all the new players they’ve added. Just give them time to figure out their roles. All fine and dandy, except that the Lakers won their first game, the Celtics won their first game (you remember that one), the Magic won THEIR first game, and the Spurs won their first game. All the contenders did what they were supposed to do — win.

You could probably say the Cleveland team did what it was supposed to do as well. Disappointment is soooooo Cleveland.


The times that try Tribe fan’s souls

October 28, 2009

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It’s one thing to have your heart ripped out by your favorite sports team. But to lose your soul …

That’s exactly what will happen tonight when Cleveland fans watch CC Sabathia pitch against Cliff Lee in Game 1 of the World Series — if they dare. You know who they’ll each be pitching for. (Hint: It’s not the Indians.) Just two years ago they were both ours, on the cusp of winning Cy Young awards and heralding a bright future for the Tribe. Now it’s just one long, dark winter.

We used to have both those guys. Now we have Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley, Rob Bryson, Carlos Carrasco, Lou Marson, Jason Donald, Jason Knapp. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesh.

Sabathia went 19-7 for the Indians in 2007, pitching a league-leading 241 innings while posting a 3.21 ERA. He won the Cy Young. Then he lost Game 5 of the ALCS to the Boston Red Sox when the Indians had a chance to clinch the pennant. Sabathia won only six more games in an Indians uniform. He was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers on July 7, 2008 for LaPorta, Brantley, Bryson, and the since-departed Zach Jackson. Then he (of course) signed with the Yankees for the 2009 season.

Lee, meanwhile, was an Indians for barely another year. The Tribe traded him to the Phillies on July 29 of this year, receiving Carrasco, Marson, Donald, and Knapp. Fans are still howling.

Sabathia was a foregone conclusion to leave. His contract was up at the end of 2007. The Indians weren’t going to be in on the bidding. They had missed their chance years earlier when they chose to give the money Sabathia would have commanded to Jake Westbrook and Travis Hafner. Once Sabathia hit free agency, his marriage to the Yankees was inevitable. His seven-year, $161 million contract was the richest ever signed by a pitcher. It’s the Yankee way. It will be heartbreaking to see Sabathia in Yankee pinstripes for Game 1 of the World Series.

Watching Cliff Lee oppose him, though, will be soul-sucking. It didn’t have to be this way. The Indians didn’t have to trade Lee. The 2008 Cy Young winner (22-3, 2.54 ERA) was under contract via a 2010 club option for a very reasonable $8 million. You might as well have asked Indians owner Larry Dolan to pick up Terminal Tower with his bare hands and carry it to Euclid. The Indians traded Lee (and Victor Martinez), didn’t call it payroll shedding, and marched to a tie with the Royals for the worst record in the American League.

When the Yankees finished off the Angels in Game 6 of the ALCS Sunday night it put Sabathia’s name on the marquee across from Lee for tonight’s game. For Cleveland fans, it was like receiving an invitation to you ex-fiance’s wedding. Do Tribe fans REALLY want to subject themselves to this?

Let’s face it, if someone told an Indians fan at the beginning of the season that Cliff Lee would be pitching in Game 1 of the World Series, the reaction would have been, “For what team?” Now we know the answer: The Phillies. Against CC Sabathia and the Yankees. These are the times that Tribe fan’s souls are extinguished.

——

Lorain Morning Journal Tribe beat writer Jim Ingraham thinks Cleveland fans have suffered enough.

Indians GM Mark Shapiro is one part excited and one part bitter.

Cleveland.com offers fans a chance to vote on who they will root for, who they believe will win, and whether they’d prefer to poke their eyes out with a sharp stick.

Kevin Kernan of the New York Posts writes that it’s not easy for Indians fans to watch this World Series. Really, Kevin?

Rich Hoffman of the Philadelphia Daily News says it’s only Tribe fans who could hate Game 1’s pitching matchup.

Carl Willis tells Yahoo.com’s Tim Brown all about Sabathia’s ascent.

CBSSports.com’s Scott Miller can see Cleveland cringe.


Shaq old, same old

October 27, 2009

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It was supposed to be the Cavs home opener for the 2009-2010 season against the Boston Celtics. Instead it looked more like Game 7 of last season’s Eastern Conference Finals against the Orlando Magic as the Cavs lost 95-89.

There were the Cavs opening up a huge early lead only to watch it vanish like every good intention a Cleveland sports fan ever had. The Cavs led by 14 early but allowed the Celtics to take the lead into halftime with a 30-17 second-quarter advantage. The Cavs never again lead. Against the Celtics the collapse started even earlier than it did in the Eastern Conference Finals. At least then the Cavs waited until the third quarter to blow their big leads.

There were the slow Cavalier defenders on the perimeter, allowing the Celtics to make 9-of-19 3-pointers. At one point Boston had hit 12-of-15. That overall 47% success mark on threes is even better than the Magic’s 41% in the playoffs last season.

There was Mo Williams running around like a little kid looking for his lost mother. Williams scored just 12 points on 3-of-8 shooting. He dished out three assists and committed two turnovers. He averaged 3.7 assists and two turnovers per game against the Magic while shooting a dismal 37%.

There were the Celtics big three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen doing what they do. The trio combined for 49 of Boston’s 95 points and grabbed 23 of 38 rebounds. Just like the Cavs couldn’t stop Orlando’s Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, and Hedo Turkoglu in the playoffs last season, they couldn’t do a thing to the Boston stars either. Orlando’s threesome averaged 61.3 points per game against the Cavs in the playoffs, which was 59% of their team’s points.

There was LeBron James doing it all once again, despite all the team’s new additions. LeBron scored 38 points while the rest of the team scored 51. Against the Magic in the playoffs last year LeBron averaged 38.5 points. At least the rest of the team chipped in a few more. Shaquille O’Neal scored just 10 points and didn’t even hit half his shots despite shooting every one of them from the paint. He looked as if he were lacking a step in 28 minutes against the Celtics big men. And Zydrunas Ilgauskas off the bench was a disaster — just six points and five rebounds in 24 minutes for the former starting center.

And there were Cleveland sports fans, heads hung low, voices muted, hands balled into fists. No different than while watching the series against the Magic last year. And really, no different than watching any Cleveland sports team anytime ever.


Cavs — or Cav nots?

October 27, 2009

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Many experts are picking the Cavaliers to win the NBA title. That’s a good thing for Cavalier fans.

On the other hand, many experts are picking a Cleveland team to win the NBA title. That’s never a good thing for Cleveland fans. Or people making predictions.

81863032Remember 1987? Young Indians outfielders Cory Snyder and Joe Carter on the cover of Sports Illustrated? The headline, “Indian Uprising: Believe It! Cleveland Is The Best Team in the American League”? Sure you do. You probably remember the Tribe was actually the WORST team in the American League that season, finishing with 101 losses. Snyder and Carter got theirs, combining for 65 homers and 188 RBI, but the pitching staff posted a 5.28 ERA. Not a single pitcher won 10 games.

Remember Browns training camp last season? Fans were chanting “Super Bowl! Super Bowl!” as camp opened. Sure, they were just Browns fans, but league officials thought enough of the Browns to give them three Monday Night Football games. Oops! The Browns are still falling off a cliff and looking for a branch to grab onto.

Remember back to the beginning of baseball season? The Indians were a popular World Series pick. For some reason. No one can really remember them now after the Indians posted their worst record since 1991. Something to do with Kerry Wood and a lot of left-handed slop throwers.

The track record’s just not there for picking a Cleveland team to win it all. Heck, the track record’s just not there for a Cleveland team to win it all. Don’t pick one, and you can fell pretty safe.

With all that in mind, here are 10 reasons NOT to pick the Cleveland Cavaliers to win the NBA title this season:

1) SHAQ IS FAT
— ESPN.com’s Bill Simmons is correct when he writes that Shaquille O’Neal is fat, although he tempers it by saying he doesn’t look THAT fat. Not Shawn Kemp fat. But Shaq is definitely bigger than he was last season. At 38, that’s not a good thing. Heck, it’s not good at 28.

2) DELONTE IS NUTS
— Before last season shooting guard Delonte West admitted he suffered from depression. Then he went out and played the best season of his career and provided the Cavs with stellar defense. So far this summer he’s already a) filmed himself sitting in his car and freestyling for 20 minutes while waiting for KFC to put “hot sauce in my bag”, b) been pulled over alongside a Maryland highway while carrying three guns on his three-wheel motorcycle, and c) had his wife file a domestic-violence charge against him. The Cavs signed Anthony Carter and Jamario Moon for defensive depth, but reason 1B for signing them might have been as Delonte West insurance.

3) MO IS NOT CONFIDENT
— After turning in a dismal performance during the Eastern Conference Finals last season (down 1½ ppg, down 12% in field-goal shooting, down 6% in 3-point shooting, down in rebounds, down in assists … well, you get the idea), it’s important for point guard Mo Williams to get off to a good start this year. It might not immediately erase the memories of last season’s finish, but it would certainly restore his confidence. With Shaq as a new option on offense and LeBron James playing more in the post, Mo might be asked to do more passing and less scoring. It remains to be seen how the new wrinkles affect his state of mind.

4) VINCE IS CONTENT
— Vince Carter joined the defending champion Orlando Magic, replacing Hedo Turkoglu. Now, while Carter has never led any of his team’s anywhere, he’s also never played with as many good players as the Magic have. With Dwight Howard manning the middle, Jameer Nelson holding down point-guard duties, and Rashard Lewis launching 3s galore, Carter will be free to do what he does best, score. For his career, Carter’s averaged 23.5 points per game. Turkoglu averaged 19.8 points per game at his best, and that was two years ago. And he was never known as a premier defender.

5) MIKE IS STILL OFFENSIVELY CHALLENGED
— Much of the credit for last year’s offensive output went to former assistant John Kuester, who now coaches the Detroit Pistons. Cavs head coach Mike Brown named Kuester the de facto offensive coordinator, and the Cavs went from 96.4 ppg on 43.8% shooting to 100.3 ppg on 46.8% shooting. It marked the first time the Cavs broke 100 ppg since the 1993-94 season of Mark Price, Brad Daugherty, Hot Rod Williams, and Larry Nance. With a lot of new faces but without his offensive coach, Mike Brown needs to find a way to keep the Cavs scoring at 2008-09 levels.

6) CLEVELAND IS HATED BY GOD
— Isn’t this obvious? After all, there’s a blog dedicated to it and everything.