Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Archive for the month “May, 2010”

Did Someone Really Say That?

In theory, anonymous sources are a last resort. Reporters are challenged to get people to speak on the record, but sometimes that’s just not possible. If the source remains unnamed, it must be a trade-off for candor and quality of information. Of course, there are times when information a source ardently believes to be true … turns out to be false. That’s why independent corroboration by a reporter is key. Bad sourcing or lax oversight can result in the equivalent of a journalistic drive-by shooting, aided and abetted by information cloaked in a shroud of anonymity.

This comes from Don Ohlmeyer, the ombudsman at ESPN, in his latest column about the use of anonymous sources. So using an anonymous source is a “last resort?” So we’re led to believe that ESPN exhausted all avenues with their recent reporting on LeBron James, yes? Let’s take a quick look:

This is from a May 21 article on ESPN.com:

  • Before Cuban’s entry, the most prevalent rumor had William Wesley, better known as “Worldwide Wes,” offering James and Calipari as a package deal to teams around the league. A person close to Wesley, who is a friend and advisor to James, denied the reports to ESPN’s Andy Katz earlier this week.

A person close to Wesley? His mom? His barber? Who? Seems like something the reader would want to know.

The following are all from the same ESPN story on May 18 by Andy Katz:

  • A source with direct knowledge of the Chicago Bulls front office’s plans says the team believes it has the right players in place — namely, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng — to surround LeBron James when it makes its case with the free agent-to-be on July 1. But the source said there has been no discussion of bringing Kentucky coach John Calipari in with James as part of a package deal.

  • Another league source told the Chicago Tribune that another person, described as an “unknown Calipari connection,” contacted the Bulls over the weekend.
  • However, ESPN The Magazine‘s Chris Broussard reported Monday on “SportsCenter” that according to his sources, James is not demanding Calipari coach him on whichever team he plays for next season.
  • And a source close to Wesley told ESPN.com that Wesley had not contacted the Bulls or any other team about a James/Calipari package deal.
  • A source with knowledge of the Los Angeles Clippers’ thinking denied there had been any contact with Wesley or any other inquiries about Calipari. The source called the report linking Wesley to the Clippers “inaccurate.”
  • Another Western Conference front-office executive questioned the validity of the story, telling ESPNLosAngeles.com via text message, “Nobody’s buying that.”
  • But a source close to Wesley said it was “insulting” to assume that Calipari could get an NBA coaching job only with James’ help.
  • Multiple sources close to Calipari have also recently said it would take at least $5 million a year to bring him back to the NBA.
  • The Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill., reported Sunday that according to league sources, James has contacted Rose to express interest in playing with him.
  • But the source close to Wesley said James has not made a decision and that leaving Ohio won’t be easy.

Wow, not a single piece of “news” is actually attributed to anyone in the article. But Andy did find someone to go on the record: Josh Cribbs of the Browns, who said Cleveland “wouldn’t be the same” without James.

That’s some mighty fine reporting.

Chad Ford has this game on May 13:

  • Within minutes of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ elimination at the hands of the Celtics, the speculation about LeBron James’ next destination resumed in full force. In the space of five minutes I heard from three NBA GMs via text, e-mail and phone. All three said that based on the information they have, they believe LeBron will leave the Cavs.

Three GMs, huh? Of course, Chad conveniently didn’t provide any names so we’re left to wonder if these GMs are real or not.

And let’s not forget the infamous free agent “summit” that is coming up:

  • A source told ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard that the Toronto Raptor’s Chris Bosh also will join Wade, James and Johnson when they discuss free agency.

It just goes on, and on and on.

Anonymous sources have a role in journalism, for example when dealing with government officials making decisions that impact millions of people.

But passing on rumors about athletes without proper attribution just comes off as lazy and ridiculous.

Just another sunny day in the Summer of LeBron.

Reading is Fundamental – Basketball Edition

With summer just around the corner, we’re all looking for a good book to read, be it on the beach, at the pool or on the back deck.

There are plenty of great (or very good) sports books out there for Cleveland fans, specifically, and sports fans in general. Here are some basketball books worth checking out; most should be familiar to Cleveland fans, some may not be. Some may no longer be in print, but if you can find a copy it will be well worth your time:

  • Loose Balls: The Short, Wild Life of the American Basketball Association, by Terry Pluto. Simply one of the best books I’ve ever read. For anyone (like me) not old enough to remember the ABA, the stories from the players and coaches who built the league are unforgettable.
  • Tall Tales: The Glory Years of the NBA, by Terry Pluto. A companion piece to Loose Balls, Tall Tales tells the story of the NBA, from its birth up to the early 1970s. The stories are not quite as entertaining as those in Loose Balls, but they are just as important in learning about the growth of the game.
  • Foul: The Connie Hawkins Story, by David Wolf. I first read this when I was in high school and I had no idea who Hawkins was. His story of rising out of poverty in New York City and the scandal that wrongly led to the NBA blackballing him during his best years is gripping.
  • The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to the Sports Guy, by Bill Simmons. While its a bit long at 736 pages and overly biased toward Boston players, go figure, this is an excellent book for fans of the game. And the way the book is organized its easy to pick it up, read a bit, and put it back down for later without losing anything.
  • Operation Yao Ming: The Chinese Sports Empire, American Big Business and the Makign of an NBA Superstar, by Brook Larmer. The story behind the Chinese government’s plan to create the next NBA superstar.Everything about Ming, from birth to first endorsement deal, was planned by a confluence of government and business interests intent on creating a superstar.
  • The Fab Five: Basketball, Trash Talk and the American Dream, by Mitch Albom. The remarkable story of Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson, and their successes and failures in the NCAA tournaments of 1992 and 1993. Has it really been almost 20 years since they came on the scene? Good lord, I feel old.
  • Forty-Eight Minutes: A Night in the Life of the NBA, by Terry Pluto and Bob Ryan. Forty-Eight minutes is the story of the Jan. 16, 1987, game between the Cavs and Celtics, told in minute-by-minute detail with insights from the players and coaches involved in the game.
  • The Jordan Rules: The Inside Story of a Turbulent Season with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, by Sam Smith. A behind-the-scenes look at the 1991 Chicago Bulls.
  • Cavs: From Fitch to Fratello, by Joe Menzer and Burt Graeff. Published on the team’s 25th anniversary, this book chronicles the Cavs from their early days at the Cleveland Arena, the glory years of the Coliseum era and the move back downtown.

If you do decide to check one of these out, you won’t be disappointed. And remember to shop at your local bookstore. If you don’t have one in your area and are in the Hudson area, it’s worth a stop at The Learned Owl.

I’ll follow up over the next few days with recommendations on football, baseball, soccer and sports in general.

Enjoy!

What’s the Next Move Dan?

“It’s a mess, ain’t it?

“If it ain’t, it will do until the mess gets here.

Now that Dan Gilbert has taken the easy path and fired Mike Brown, sacrificing him to appease the hoople heads, we’re left hoping that the next mess doesn’t arrive.

As we explained last week, firing a coach is the easy part. Terry Pluto made the same, correct point in today’s PD. Zydrunas and Mo Williams also agree.

Now Gilbert has to find the answer to the question: who are you going to hire? And if he can’t find someone who will produce better results than Brown, then what was the point, exactly? Brown was not only the most successful coach in franchise history, he was the sixth winningest coach in NBA history, percentage wise.

Read that sentence again. Only five other coaches in NBA history have had a better winning percentage than Brown. Think that will be easy to replace?

Brian Windhorst ran down a list of possible replacements in today’s PD: Other than Phil Jackson, who’s not coming to Cleveland, the list shouldn’t inspire confidence or excitement among the fan base. Consider the “accomplishments” of some of the names on that list:

  • Byron Scott, .498 winning percentage, only eight playoff wins in his last seven years as coach.
  • Dwayne Casey, .434, no playoff wins.
  • Maurice Cheeks, .498, five playoff wins.
  • Lawrence Frank, .483, no playoff wins in his last three years as coach.
  • Mike Fratello (please, no), 20-42 career playoff record, only two playoff wins in his last 10 years as a coach.
  • Sam Mitchell, .452, three playoff wins.
  • Terry Porter, .460, one playoff win.

You really want one of them running the team for the next three years – because, let’s face it, that’s about how long one of them would last if they were hired. Is there anyone on this list that gives fans any reason to hope that they will be the ones to lead the team to a championship?

And let’s not even go down the road that would end in disaster if the Cavs hired a college coach.

But I guess it’s not all bad. We still have Manny Acta (.385 career winning percentage) and Eric Mangini (.438) in the Cleveland coaching fraternity. That will put an extra hop in your step.

So now the search is on and Dan Gilbert faces the latest in a seemingly never-ending list of “most important decisions” facing the franchise.

“The expectations of this organization are very high,” Gilbert said Monday in published reports. “Although change always carries an element of risk, there are times when that risk must be taken in an attempt to break through to new, higher levels of accomplishment. This is one of those times.”

We have to all hope that Gilbert is correct. Who knows, maybe he is the owner that can break the championship drought that has hung over Cleveland for almost 46 years.

If not, there’s no telling what kind of mess the Cavs will find themselves in.

Why So Angry?

We were was listening to Chris Russo’s Sirius radio show this afternoon and he went off on a rant about a subject – the upcoming World Cup – that hit all the usual cliches and was filled with ignorant statements.

The thing we don’t get is, why? Why is soccer, and the possibility that someone might actually want to watch a match and enjoy it, so threatening to so many people, primarily members of old media?

We first noticed this in the run up to the 2006 World Cup. We stumbled across Greg Brinda on WKNR – this was pre-satellite radio – and he was on a tirade about how he “wasn’t going to watch the World Cup just because it’s on TV. No one cares about it.”

As with most of the things that came out of his mouth during his radio career, Brinda was wrong. TV ratings in the U.S. for the tournament were strong, with the final being watched by 16.9 million viewers – which was more people than watched that year’s NBA Finals and on par with the World Series and the NCAA men’s basketball championship.

We kind of understand Brinda’s fear of the World Cup as he is trapped in a 1950s view of America, where baseball and horse racing are the dominant sports in the country and kids gather on sandlots to play pick-up baseball games. There’s not room in his tiny world for anything else.

Fast forward to today. We’re once again on the eve of the World Cup and Russo decided to unload his insecurities about the tournament. He hit all the usual, tired points:

The games are boring because there is little or no scoring.

But somehow, we’re supposed to be orgasmic over a 1-0 baseball game where one team only gets three men on base and none of them ever advance past second base? May want to rethink that one.

The team that scores first almost always wins.

That’s one we don’t understand. Sure, scoring can be at a premium, but that assumes that a team trailing doesn’t generate any scoring opportunities.

There are never any “bottom of the 9th” comebacks or “late drives” to win a game.

If you say so. But you are so, so wrong.

Too many teams make the knockout stage of the World Cup – 16 out of 32.

In the NHL and the NBA, 16 out of 30 teams make the playoffs and I don’t hear anyone complaining.

The final game is decided by penalty shots and that’s not fair.

You mean like an NFL playoff game being decided in overtime when only one team gets the ball?

Americans don’t watch the tournament. ESPN can hype it all they want.

We’ve already blown that myth out of the water, but here are two additional points on that nonsense:

Sports Illustrated‘s Grant Wahl was on the phone and he rightly pointed out that Russo should expand his definition of “Americans.” With the number of Spanish-speaking Americans on the rise, Americans do watch. Maybe not in Russo’s WASPy Greenwich, Conn., neighborhood, but in plenty of other places.

The second point is the nonsense of the argument “just because it’s on TV I don’t have to watch it.” Well no kidding. That’s true of any sport and there are far more sports we don’t watch and have no interest in than we do. Such as:

  • Golf
  • Tennis
  • Bowling
  • NHL
  • MSL
  • Auto racing

But do we care if anyone watches those sports? Of course not. Why would we or anyone else? But for some reason, soccer threatens the old school media in this country.

Look, if you don’t want to watch it’s not a big deal. We can’t get too preachy because we’ve only been a fan since the 2006 World Cup. With all the hype surrounding the U.S. team that year we decided to give the tournament a shot. The U.S.-Italy game was the first time we’ve ever watched a match in its entirety and we were hooked. Now, four years later, we can’t wait for the tournament to start. It sure beats watching the Indians lose again.

But if you’ve never been a fan, why not give it a shot? You never know what you might see.

Look Before You Leap

Dan Gilbert is a smart man. We know this because he didn’t listen to the hoople heads and fire Mike Brown on Friday in an emotional, reactionary decision. Instead, Gilbert came out and said he will take his time and evaluate everyone before making a decision.

And really, what’s the rush? Do the Cavs have a game this week that we don’t know about? Or course not. Plus, it’s not like the list of available coaches is long or distinguished: does Mike Woodson, Lawrence Frank or Vinny Del Negro get anyone excited? Well, those are at the top of the list of the current coaches who are looking for work.

Thankfully Gilbert is acting like what he is – the responsible adult in the room. What would the Cavs gain by firing Brown now? The only reason would be to find a scapegoat to appease the mob.

Brown deserves his share of the blame for the Cavs loss to Boston – but just his share, no more no less.

Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy hit the nail on the head when talking to ESPN:

“Mike Brown’s one of the most successful coaches that there’s been in this league for a long time,” Van Gundy said. “But it becomes scapegoat time and you’re not going to see many people other than coaches stepping up and taking the responsibility. The players are absolved. It’s sad, but it’s the way it goes. None of it is surprising.

“Mike’s been in a very difficult situation, again because the media created the expectations that that was a team that couldn’t lose, and so when they did, he pays the price. Instead of people maybe just saying, ‘The media was wrong.” … the inevitability of it. The ‘Win a ring for the king,’ and everything, it just made it inevitable that if it didn’t go well, Mike would be the one to pay the price. I don’t know if that’s fair, but that’s the way it is, that’s business.”

So we really have to question if the Cavs should fire Brown at all.

Here’s a small sampling of what Mike Brown has done:

  • Won the third-most games in team history with 272 wins;
  • Won the most postseason games in team history with 42 wins;
  • Coached the team to the playoffs five straight years;
  • Coached the team past the first round of the playoffs every year;
  • Posted at least 45 wins five straight years, the first time in team history;
  • Posted back-to-back 60-win seasons;

And here’s an even smaller sample of what Mike Brown hasn’t done:

  • Won an NBA title

If that’s enough to be fired, then just about every coach in the NBA should be canned immediately. Since 1984, only eight coaches have won NBA Championships: Phil Jackson, Pat Riley, Chuck Daley, Gregg Popovich, Rudy Tomjonavich, Doc Rivers, Larry Brown and KC Jones. That’s it. Eight guys in almost 30 years.

As we’ve learned all to well in Cleveland, firing a coach is the easy part. Just look at the Browns. And if the Cavs do fire Brown, then what? The national media has read the tea leaves and come up with the ridiculous conclusion that John Calipari should be the Cavs next coach.

Oh really? Pop quiz, hotshot: What do the following have in common?

  • Lon Kruger
  • P.J. Carlesimo
  • Rick Pitino
  • Tim Floyd
  • John Calipari
  • Leonard Hamilton

They are all college coaches who moved to the NBA and failed, miserably. The last college-bred coach to win the NBA championship was Paul Westhead, who as an NBA rookie led the Lakers to their 1979-80 title after taking over the team in midseason.

Do you really believe a team based in Cleveland is going to buck those odds? Are you ready to gamble the next 3-4 years of the franchise on that?

Thankfully, the Cavs are run by a highly successful businessman who doesn’t make decisions based on emotions, or fear or to appease the mob.

As fans we couldn’t ask for, or stand for, anything less.

Rats!

Everything in Cleveland sports ends badly, otherwise it wouldn’t be Cleveland. – Coughlin’s Law

Less than 24 hours after the Cavs season ended prematurely in Boston, a feeling of numbness still envelopes Cleveland. I still can’t believe when Sunday afternoon rolls around there won’t be a Cavs game on.

On one hand, for long-time fans this is reality. If it says Cleveland on the jersey then, ultimately, something bad is bound to happen. On the other hand, why? Why does this always seem to happen?

How did the Cavs become the first NBA team to post 60-win seasons and not make it to the NBA finals?

Why us?

The answer is both simple and complex. The Cavs – both the coaches and the players – just didn’t get the job done. That’s the simple answer. The other answers are harder to find.

Last season, the Cavs built a team to beat Boston. But then they didn’t face Boston and lost to Orlando.

This year, the Cavs built a team to beat Orlando. Of course, they never made it to Orlando.

In hindsight, it’s easy to say that trading for Shaq was a mistake. Same with Antawn Jamison. That’s the thing about hindsight, it’s easy to be right after the fact.

Maybe a better approach would be to just build a solid team, not worrying about matching up with just one particular team in the league. I don’t know, but it seems like in the coming months we’re going to find out the team’s new strategy.

Mike Brown has taken way more than his share of the blame for this loss, even for him. The hoople heads are missing the bigger picture when they call for his head. Firing the coach is the easy part; hiring a new coach is far more complicated. Just ask the Browns. But we’ll cover that another time.

Probably the worst part about the Cavs early exit is it unleashed the national media’s quest to have LeBron leave Cleveland. If the Cavs had advanced, we would have been spared the nonsense for a few more weeks. Sadly, that’s not the case, so already today we’ve been treated to “analysis” such as:

Fallout from Megaflop: LeBron needs new team


Oh no, LeBron took his jersey off – after the game – there is symbolism there, I tell you!

LeBron’s playoff exit means John Calipari watch

Yes, let’s hire a college coach who failed miserably in his previous NBA job.

LeBron James’ flirtations with free agency will leave some cities feeling scorned

So New York won’t buy any LeBron jerseys if he’s not a Knick? Oh, poor you.

And let’s not forget the “experts” at ESPN.

I swear, when LeBron resigns in Cleveland ESPN may actually just shut down, with all the hot air they’ve wasted talking about how certain they are that he just has to leave.

And on, and on, and on: LeBron Media Recap

Look, this isn’t easy and it’s certainly not fun. But this is Cleveland. We’re not Chicago, where they cry because the Cubs can’t win. We’re not Boston and the formerly “tortured” Red Sox fans. We deal with disappointment every year, every sports season. It’s what we do, but it’s not who we are.

Just remember this Chinese proverb:

The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.

That sums up the Cleveland sports fan pretty well.

All Together

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. – Winston Churchill

For better or worse, we’re all optimists tonight.

This can’t be the end. Not this way. Not against this team.

It won’t be easy. It may not be fun to watch. But, if the Cavs can pull this out tonight, all the pressure shifts to Boston.

A win tonight. That’s all we as fans want.

Is that really too much to ask?

All Together.

Has it Really Come to This?

“I hope I can put a lot of smiles back on the faces of the people of Cleveland. I’m not going to guarantee a championship. But we will get better every day, we will be a better team than we were last year.” LeBron James in 2003 after the Cavs won the draft lottery.

How has it come to this? How, after seven years of highlights, excitement and the return of Cavaliers basketball from the NBA wasteland, have we reached the point where so much anger is being directed at LeBron and the Cavs? How has it turned so negative in less than a week?

Why do I have to hear some clown call Chris Russo’s Sirius Radio show on Wednesday and say the LeBron is a bum because he won’t give an interview to WKNR? Seriously? LeBron doesn’t have time to do an interview with a radio station who’s 100 listeners are comprised of shut-ins, hoople heads and Dumplin’ and this makes him a bum?

Are our memories really that short? Have we forgotten what it was like pre-LeBron?

  • Prior to drafting LeBron, the Cavs were losing $1.5 million a month, playing in a downtown arena that no one wanted to go to.
  • Fans were stuck watching Ricky Davis, DeSagana Dop, Chris Mihm, Trajan Langdon, the list goes on and on. How about the Shawn Kemp era?
  • At the end of the 17-win, 2002-03 season, the Cavs had about 2,000 season tickets. This past season, they sold out every game.
  • The team had employed Randy Wittman, John Lucas and Keith Smart as head coaches. Not exactly Red Auerbach, Phil Jackson and Hubie Brown.

Have we forgotten?

Now, after a bad playoff series that isn’t even over yet, we’re going to turn our backs on him and the team?

It doesn’t surprise me that the national media would churn out garbage like this “gem” from Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Of course, some national writers actually realize that even great players can have bad games: LeBron James played poorly in a big game? So did Jordan

And, apparently, lost is all the nonsense about how James doesn’t have the same desire to win as Kobe Bryant, people have forgotten some of these no-shows from Bryant’s post-season performances:

  • 2003: Lakers eliminated by San Antonio in a 32-point loss. Kobe has 20 points and 7 turnovers.
  • 2004 Finals: Kobe shoots 4-for-13 (Game 3), 8-for-25 (Game 4) and 7-for-21 (Game 5) as the Lakers lose the title.
  • 2006: Lakers eliminated by the Suns in a 32-point blowout. Kobe selfishly refuses to shoot in the entire second half to “teach” his teammates a lesson.
  • 2008 Finals: Boston comes back from 25 points down in Game 4 to win as Kobe shoots 6-of-19.
  • 2008 Finals: Boston eliminates the Lakers in a 39-point blowout. Kobe shoots 7-of-22.

But none of that matters because LeBron is the only high-level player who has ever had a bad game.

Go back and read the quote from LeBron again. Hasn’t he delivered on those words?

Look, I’m as shocked and disappointed as anyone over what has transpired the past two games. But I’m not ready to give up on this team. And the reason comes from LeBron himself:

“They’ve got me.”

That’s all I need to hear.

What Did We Just Witness?

Was it really just four days ago that the Cavs left Boston for dead, rolling over the Celtics in Game 3 in the worst home playoff loss in Boston’s history?

It sure seemed like a lot longer than that Tuesday night as the Celtics returned the favor and put the Cavs season on the brink.

We’re now left to wonder what went wrong, how did the Cavs lose control of this series, and what’s next with Game 6 looming Thursday night?

Maybe the Cavs believed they broke Boston’s will after Game 3. If that’s true, the last two games should have told the Cavs that they need to do more than just show up to win this series.

The Cavs now face a must-win game in Boston to force a Game 7 and salvage the season. They were in the same spot last year against Orlando and we all remember how that turned out.

The team is also faced with the possibility of being the only team in NBA history to post consecutive 60-win seasons and not make it to the NBA finals. Just another feather in the cap of Cleveland sports. We can put that one up there with the Indians being the only team to lose a World Series to Atlanta.

Can the Cavs win two consecutive games against Boston? Sure. Will they? Well, here are two trends to ponder:

The Cavs are 0-4 when they trail 3-2 in a seven-game series.

The Celtics are 31-1 when they lead 3-2 in a seven-game series.

Since T.I.C., which trend seems most likely to continue?

This is Fun, Yes?

Cavs fans were left disappointed after last year’s playoffs. But it wasn’t so much because the Cavs lost in the Eastern Conference Finals, but because the team had so few home playoff games.

With homecourt advantage for the entire playoffs, just like this year, Cavs fans were looking at a potential 16 home playoff games if the team went to Game 7 of the finals. But thanks to sweeps in the first (Detroit) and second (Atlanta) rounds, and the eventual loss to Orlando, fans were only treated to seven home games.

Well, the Cavs are working on fixing that problem this year.

Following the Game 4 loss to Boston, the Cavs are heading home for Tuesday’s Game 5 – the sixth playoff game at home already this postseason. And more home games means more opportunities to appreciate a team coming off its second consecutive 60-win season and featuring a two-time MVP in LeBron James.

At least I think that’s the plan, right?

When the Cavs have come ready to play in this series, they have shown they are clearly a superior team to Boston. Even with all the hysteria over the play of Rajon Rondo, that’s not why the series is tied 2-2. In both Boston wins, it was bench players Rasheed Wallace (Game 2) and Tony Allen (Game 4) who had once-a-year games that made the difference.

Wallace hit the Hot Tub Time Machine in Game 2, scoring 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting. In the other three games, he’s scored a total of seven points.

Allen scored 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting in Game 4, after scoring just 19 total points in the first three games.

Safe to say that neither of them are going to match that output the rest of the series.

And, before this series ends, someone will deliver a playoff foul on Rondo to slow him down.

And Mo Williams (31 percent) and Delonte West (33 percent) are certainly going to start shooting better than they have over the past three games.

There are plenty of more home games left before this postseason comes to a close.

Right?

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