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Life as a Cleveland Sports Fan

Archive for the month “June, 2010”

I Heard it through the Grapevine

People say believe half of what you see, son, and none of what you hear – Marvin Gaye

Those words are true when applied to all the hot air that has been spewed over the past few weeks concerning LeBron James and free agency. The latest in a long line of nonsense comes from Chris Broussard at ESPN:

“A modified version of the ballyhooed free-agent summit that was initially suggested and then downplayed by Dwyane Wade has indeed taken place, ESPN.com has learned.

“Sources close to the situation said Monday night that three of the biggest names in basketvball – Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James – met over the weekend in Miami to seriously discuss their futures, with a focus on the increasingly plausible possibility of those three teaming up with Wade’s Heat.”

Ooh, I bet you’re wondering how I knew about your plans to make me blue.

Wow, a plausible possibility. Pretty strong stuff. Of course, who could this mystery source be? The barber at the corner shop? The waiter who delivered room service to the summit? We don’t know.

But, we do know who the source is not: Chicago-based agent Henry Thomas, who represents both Wade and Bosh.

“Dwyane was here in Chicago over the weekend and did not meet with LeBron and Chris in Miami,” Thomas said in published reports. “Have these guys talked about their futures with one another? Absolutely, and I am sure they will talk again. However, this report of a summit over the weekend in Miami involving Dwyane is untrue. He was here in Chicago with his kids and when he left town on Sunday, he was not headed back to Miami.”

So the big free-agent summit that the mainstream media wants to occur so badly, like LeBron’s “Summer of Me Tour,” is all a myth.

ESPN also reported that unless Miami trades away former No. 2 overall pick Michael Beasley to a team with salary-cap space, so it can avoid taking salary back, the Heat can’t offer the estimated 2010-11 maximum salary of $16.5 million to all three Team USA stars.

Broussard, of course, doesn’t want to let the facts get in the way of his story. He went on air today to explain that, to make the deal work, one of three will have to take less money to sign with the Heat, especially since Wade has gone on the record as saying he won’t take a penny less than the max. He concluded that LeBron will take less money since he makes more in endorsements than Bosh and Wade combined.

I can’t help bein’ confused, if it’s true please tell me dear

Let’s think about that for a moment: no top-flight free agent has switched teams since Shaq left Orlando for Los Angeles. No free agent has ever left money on the table.

But somehow, LeBron, the two-time MVP and the most sought-after, talked-about free agent in sports history will be willing to do both so he can go play with Bosh and Wade?

Why isn’t it just as plausible that James and Bosh have agreed to work out a deal for Bosh to join James in Cleveland? Because the mainstream media, led by Adrian Wojnarowski and ESPN, doesn’t want LeBron in Cleveland and shudder at the thought of all their predictions and “confirmations” of James leaving town turning out to be false.

Here are a few more thoughts on the subject, from Cleveland Frowns and Waiting For Next Year.

Only 27 hours to go until the start of free agency.

The Real Reason Brady Quinn Failed

We love the English media. Seriously, they are the best.

After The Three Lions were knocked out of the World Cup by Germany, the diagnosis began and everyone had a reason why the team lost. But The Daily Mail may have finally come up with the answer: man grooming.

Turns out striker Wayne Rooney waxed his chest, which may be the reason why he played so poorly in the World Cup.

Really.

So that got us thinking and we realized that there may be a connection between waxing and the real reason why Brady Quinn couldn’t make it work in Cleveland.

Look at this picture. Does that look like someone who could drive the Browns down the field against Baltimore in the closing minutes of a game in 10 degree weather on the lakefront?

Of course not.

So it wasn’t Eric Mangini’s horrendous “quarterback competition” or Brian Daboll’s amateur play calling that doomed Quinn. It was vanity.

And now we know.

Brian Shaw may be what the Cavs need

With the Tom Izzo flirtation (thankfully) in the rear view mirror, the Cavs have turned their attention to interviewing actual NBA-caliber coaches.

After talking with former NJ and NO coach Byron Scott, the team is now talking with Laker assistant coach Brian Shaw. Shaw has been on Phil Jackson’s staff for five seasons; he won three titles as a player before retiring in 2003 and taking over as the Lakers’ scouting director.

There’s a lot to like about Shaw, as is evident from this 2006 interview with the LA Times.

First is his coaching philosophy: “I like the triangle offense, but every game that we play, if there’s one or two wrinkles out of (our opponent’s) offense or defensive scheme, I keep a book with all the different ideas that I like. Overall, I like pressure defense, I like an aggressive rotating defense, and I like the ball to move on the offense and for everybody to get a touch and feel like they’re part of the game.”

The Cavs were a defense first team under former coach Mike Brown, so playing an “aggressive rotating defense” should fit well. And the ball moving on offense with everyone getting a touch? Sounds good so far. And don’t forget that LeBron is reportedly “interested” in the triangle offense.

What he’s taken from Jackson: “I like Phil’s brand of doing things. He allows players to figure things out for themselves and challenges you mentally every single day. He’s not going to baby you, so if you’re not mentally tough you’re not going to be able to handle the system. And I like that because it makes you mature and it makes you responsible for your actions out on the floor.”

Letting the players work though their mistakes, with a squad led by LeBron James and his high basketball IQ, would work well at the Q.

On his relationship with Kobe, who can be somewhat difficult to say the least: “We’ve had confrontations many a time. And I think he respects the fact that we want the same thing, but I’m not gonna back down or compromise how I really see things and how I think that they should be. If I think he’s dead wrong, I’m going to tell him. And he’s going to respond because he’s an alpha male and that’s how he is. But I’m not going to sugarcoat anything. I’m going to say what I’m going to say, he’s going to say what he’s going to say. And I think he respects that.”

If Shaw can put up with Kobe, he’ll have no problem working with LeBron, who works so hard to make everyone around him better. Additionally, Shaw played with Shaq in both Orlando and LA, so he knows the what to expect if Shaq returns. Wait, let’s not think about that for now.

It seems, at least on the surface, that Shaw is an ideal candidate for the Cavs vacant coaching position. Of course, this being Cleveland, there are a couple of catches. First, no one knows if Jackson wants to come back next year and coach and, if he does retired, LA would want to consider Shaw for the same reasons that Cleveland does.

The other issue that the Cavs have to seriously consider is that the Jackson coaching tree is, to put it nicely, extremely infertile, as Kurt Rambis is the only former Jackson assistant currently with a team.

There are several potential reasons for that, with the most common one, according to Sports Illustrated, being that Jackson and his teams imbued the triangle with a mythology that has made other front offices hesitant to buy in.

“I think a lot of general managers think that what we run won’t be a good for the personnel that they have and they think that’s all the basketball we know,” Jim Cleamons told SI. “You have to look at upper management. They have to be open-minded to see what we run can produce and does produce winning basketball. But it takes time to learn if your personnel is amenable, and by amenable I mean they have somewhat of a basketball IQ.”

Say what you will about Dan Gilbert, but he’s nothing if not open-minded and willing to go against the norm of the NBA. That willingness to take chances may just pay off if the team does land Shaw as coach.

And if they do, it may just put the team one step closer to that illusive championship. Because if they can’t talk Jackson into coming to Cleveland, maybe his right-hand man would be just as good of a choice.

A Major Howler

England thought they had seen the worst when Robert Green let an easy goal roll past him in the opening game vs. the U.S.

Well, the Three Lions saved their worst for last, losing 4-1 to Germany in their first game of the knockout stage. And it wasn’t even that close.

I enjoy watching the England team because I know the players from being a fan of the Premier League. So a day after the U.S. was dumped from the World Cup, it was disappointing to see England not only go down, but do so weakly. In addition, the team’s history of painful losses is familiar enough to Cleveland fans that they have a special place in my sporting heart.

Sunday’s game probably brings an end to the Golden Generation of English football, an era that was marked more by disappointment than joy. It’s very likely we’ve seen the last, or are nearing the end, of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, David Beckham, etc., that held so much promise nine years ago.

And the English are left to wonder, once again, why they can’t find a decent goalkeeper. It’s funny, the Americans are derided as being second-class citizens on the world stage, but they usually are backed by a top-notch goalkeeper.

England’s media is out in full force, with The Sun going with the headline “Franks for nothing – Fabio’s flops are battered in Bloemfontein.” The Mirror made a dig about Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal, with the headline “Three Lions Muller-ed by Germans … and the ref.” The Daily Mail went with the wordy “At least the sun’s still shining. Germany crush toothless England 4-1 (with a LOT of help from a short-sighted Uruguayan linesman).” Finally, The Times checks in with “Abject England crash out.”

Makes me wish the local papers were as clever with their coverage of the Indians, Browns & Cavs.

And while it may not have impacted the final outcome – but who knows, really? – Lampard’s disallowed goal, which was clearly over the line – as well as the missed offside on Argentina’s opening goal in the second game, leave FIFA with egg on its face and a lot of explaining to do. (Let’s not even get started on the refs in the USA games). Somebody needs to wake Sepp Blatter up and make him understand these kinds of mistakes are not entertaining to fans and don’t make for good sport.

“It is often the case that, even after slow-motion replay, 10 different experts will have 10 different opinions on what the decision should have been,” Blatter has said. “Fans love to debate any given incident in a game. It is part of the human nature of our sport.”

Sorry, Sepp, but that ain’t right.

You have to wonder how Jorge Larrionda was even on the field as an official, as this is not the first major error he’s made. He was suspended by his country’s Football Association for “irregularities in a match between Brazil and Columbia; in this year’s World Cup he failed to catch Tim Cahill’s handball for Australia which ended up keeping Serbia from advancing; and he has the highest red card per match ration in international matches.

In other words, this guy is no Jim Joyce.

Finally, if losing wasn’t bad enough, a French politician is blaming England for Les Blues’s exit in the group stage.

You gotta love the World Cup.

The World Fights Back

Well, that was disappointing.

The U.S. fell to Ghana in extra time and their World Cup has come to a close.

It’s hard to believe it’s over; after two weeks of exciting play, bad calls, comebacks and last-minute goals, it all ended today.

The U.S. fell back into their bad habit of conceding early goals, as Ghana got on the scoreboard less than 5 minutes into the game. Not only was it the first goal Tim Howard conceded in more than 135 minutes, it was the first goal Ghana scored in free play during the entire tournament.

Of course it was; the team just can’t lose, it has to lose in surprising, painful ways. As a Cleveland fan I should be used to it but it never gets easier. Maybe that’s why this team was so much fun to watch. Cleveland sports fans are used to rooting for underdogs and understand the sun doesn’t shine on the same dog’s rear every day – or any day in the case of Cleveland.

Maybe all the comebacks, the roller-coaster ride, the fighting against refs and a governing body that didn’t want them to advance finally became too much for the Americans to overcome. Maybe they finally ran into a team – Ghana did win the African Cup of Nations this year – that was their equal. Going four games without your forwards scoring a goal certainly didn’t help. Whatever the case, it’s over now.

“The finality of it is brutal,” Landon Donovan said in published reports. “When you realize how much you put into it, not only for the last four years but for your whole life. There’s no guarantee there’s another opportunity. It’s disappointing.”

And the US team is left to wonder what could have been, as the path to the semifinals may never be this easy again.

Hopefully the team can take both the good and the bad from this tournament and build on it. Hopefully this year’s performance was not an aberration, but the beginning of the norm. The faces will certainly change, as you have to wonder how much longer players such as Donovan, Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey and Carlos Bocanegra can continue in international duty.

We’ll find out in 2014 in Brazil.

I can’t wait.

Cancel those dinner plans & tour bus

ESPN’s Chris Broussard is reporting that LeBron James will not be going on tour when free agency starts July 1. Rather, he will speak with teams at a neutral site, cutting down the circus atmosphere that has been fueled by non-stop speculation on his next move.

According to Broussard:

All the elaborate recruiting plans for LeBron James will have to change. James will not go on a recruiting tour, his longtime business manager Maverick Carter told ESPN.com Friday.

“LeBron is not going on a tour,” Carter said. “He never planned to go on a tour and has not been a part of any team’s plans for a recruiting trip.”

Instead, James will visit with individual clubs at a neutral site once the free-agency period begins July 1.

James’ decision throws a monkey wrench in the plans of several clubs that hoped to sell him on non-basketball-related enticements such as the vibrancy of their city, the social life it may afford or the A-list celebrities that support their teams.

James, the most coveted player in this historic free-agent class, wants the focus to be on basketball and doesn’t want it to turn into a spectacle.

Clubs were made aware of James’ decision on Wednesday and many went into scramble mode. The New York Knicks, who were planning a spectacular, celebrity-laden dinner cooked by a world-renowned chef for James on July 1, quickly cancelled it and held an emergency Plan B, according to two sources.

Plan B? More like Plan Z for the hapless Knicks. What a joke.

But if the Knicks really have their hearts (and stomachs) set on food, they can always pick up a pizza at Luigi’s on the way to their meeting with LeBron.

Of course, the mainstream media will find a way to turn this around and make James look like the bad guy for acting like the only responsible adult in the room. But that’s been the norm ever since the Cavs season ended; no matter what happens it’s somehow James’ fault or reveals some type of character flaw.

And Frank Isola did just that in today’s NY Daily News:

There was an Internet report Friday that James had come to his senses and had decided not to make a spectacle of his much anticipated entrée into free agency. In other words, LeBron’s “Summer of I Love Myself” tour will not happen. Instead, prospective teams will have to visit James at a yet-to-be-determined location.

If this was Carter’s idea, then give the young entrepreneur credit for recognizing that his celebrity client was starting to alienate fans. It was getting to the point where James as well as Chris Bosh were celebrating their free agency with more verve than Kobe Bryant showed in winning a fifth championship.

So let’s follow this logic: the media speculates non-stop that LeBron will go on a cross-country tour once free agency starts, which will alienate fans (which fans we don’t know); now that LeBron has said he won’t be doing that – and in fact he never said he would in the first place, it was the media that assumed – it’s LeBron’s people keeping his ego in check.

OK, then.

Taking on the World

“People should know when they are conquered.”

“Would you Quintas? Would I?”

As the US waits for its Round of 16 game vs. Ghana on Saturday, the Americans face a favorable draw and a real chance to advance, not just past Ghana but into the final four.

“The USA never gives up,” Spain’s Cesc Fabregas said in published reports. “That’s why I believe they can go much further because they fight to the end and work so hard. So, I can see them reaching the semifinals, and then who knows what happens?”

The team’s last-minute win against Algeria revealed the squad’s true heart. The Americans had every opportunity to give up – they had never won the third game in group play (0-6-0 all-time), yet another bad call from the ref denied them a rightful goal, their shots kept finding the cross bar or the post, rather than the back of the net, and they were moments away from being eliminated in the group stage for the second World Cup in a row.

But they wouldn’t accept being conquered. That’s not the American way.

While Landon Donovan received much of the attention for scoring the game winning goal, the win vs. Algeria was truly a team effort. Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley, among others, continued to pepper the goal with shots, while Tim Howard was a rock in goal for the Americans.

The World Cup’s motto is One Game Changes Everything, at that was certainly true for the US, as ESPN’s Chris Jones points out:

In those 12 seconds between Tim Howard’s throw and Landon Donovan’s finish, in those 12 seconds when the U.S. team managed to go from elimination to winning its group, a massive psychological shift occurred. That goal against Algeria changed everything. The Americans went from disappointments to heroes; Bob Bradley went from being the wrong man for the job to a strategic genius; Donovan himself saw stories about his missed potential erased and hastily rewritten, turned into stories that instead celebrated his gifts, his stone-cold ability to finish when his team, his country, needed him most.

Now the world’s biggest fear – the American team advancing through the knockout stages – is right there for the taking. The US has a chance Saturday to avenge the group stage loss to Ghana in 2006 that knocked them out of the tournament. Ghana hasn’t played well so far this year, their only goals have come on penalty kicks, they don’t have their best player, Michael Essien, and their keeper is the shaky Richard Kingson.

If the US can get past Ghana, they will most likely face Uruguay, who emerged from a weak group that included South Africa and the French. Not exactly something to keep the team up at night. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

The Americans have to take care of business starting Saturday. If they play with the drive and pace they displayed against Algeria, there’s a very real chance they will advance.

The world is theirs for the taking. Whether the world likes it or not.

The Strange Tale of "Slow" Joe Haden

Media personality* Mike Lombardi had an interesting notebook item in his latest column on NFL.com:

“According to coaches around the league, Browns first-round pick Joe Haden has not been very impressive in camps and might not have enough speed to play corner. Maybe all that talk about some in the organization wanted to take Kyle Wilson over Haden was true.”

So Lombardi has talked to other coaches in the league, who somehow have witnessed or seen film from Browns practices, which are private, and have determined that Haden is too slow to play cornerback in the league. And they were able to do this without seeing him perform in pads at full speed.

Very impressive.

This shouldn’t be surprising coming from media personality* Mike Lombardi, as he was critical of Haden prior to the draft, writing that:

“Florida corner Joe Haden has had some top-10 visits, but I keep hearing he’s not a top-10 pick. Hard to pick a speed-deficit corner in the top 10 and pay all that money. Remember, the rookie pay scale overpays the players from the first to the 12th pick in the first round; the rest of the salary structure is effective.”

Apparently the talk the Lombardi is hearing doesn’t take into account what Haden did at Florida, where he played well enough to be a starter on a national championship team that played in the toughest conference in the nation.

Or that Haden improved his 40-yard dash time from the 4.6 he ran at the NFL Combine to the high 4.3 to low 4.4 range he ran at his Pro Day at Florida.

We don’t know, Haden looks like he knows what he’s doing here.

None of that matters because media personality* Mike Lombardi is hearing things. Very bad things.

This is where he loses us. As a media personality, rather than a reporter, Lombardi is in the business of stating his opinion, which is fine. We all watch these guys play football in college and think that this player or that player would be a good fit for a particular team.

If he thinks Kyle Wilson is/will be a better player than Haden, that’s OK. But once the pick is made, why do you have to continually try to discredit someone just for the glorification of your own ego? Why not just say, “if I had been making the pick, I would have picked this player and here’s why”?

But to continually manufacture items with no sourcing to stand behind it, that just comes off as childish.

For all his faults, we think Eric Mangini knows something about defense. We’re sure Rob Ryan knows defense. And Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert know the type of players a team needs to succeed in the NFL.

If they say Haden’s the man, that’s good enough for us.

*We refuse to refer to Lombardi and his ilk as journalists. As someone with a journalism degree who worked in the newspaper business for more than a decade, we still believe in proper sourcing, having people go on the record and standing behind their comments. WI don’t put much faith in stories that are attributed to “league officials,” “people close to the situation” or any of that nonsense. That’s not reporting, it’s just throwing crap against the wall and hoping something sticks.

Not Exactly Plan A

I don’t think the New York Knicks understand this whole free agency business.

According to Brian Windhorst in the PD, the Knicks are embracing their inner Martha Stewart and hosting a dinner party July 1 to try and lure LeBron James to New York:

“According to a source, the Knicks are making plans to host an elaborate meal and meeting with James in a high-end location in Manhattan during the afternoon and evening of July 1, which is next Thursday. The tentative plan is for Knicks management and officials to host James and his various agents and friends for a large dinner party catered by a celebrity chef.

“There is no confirmation that James plans to be in New York on July 1 and the Knicks aren’t technically permitted to contact him until that day. However, it is clear the Knicks are preparing for that contingency.”

A dinner party? Seriously? That’s the plan? Well, I guess if you can’t sell free agents with your on-court success – the Knicks haven’t won more than 40 games in a decade – you have try to sell something else.

And if you don’t have to clue how to draft players, then maybe linen tablecloths and fine china is an option.

Of course, if the way to LeBron’s heart is through his stomach, why would he need to leave home? You got me.

The Myth of New York City

With only a week to go until the start of the NBA’s free agency season, much has been written and spoken about the future home of LeBron James.

New York City and the Knicks have long been considered by the mainstream media as front runners for the two-time MVP, with three reasons always being cited: the chance to play in Madison Square Garden, increased endorsement opportunities and the history of the Knicks.

But if you look behind the curtain just a little bit, you realize the allure of the Knicks franchise and playing in New York City is long on myth and short on reality.

As for MSG, when the 2010-11 season opens this fall, the arena will be the second oldest in the league. The 41-year-old arena is allegedly going to be renovated, but like most things in NYC, you never know exactly when that will occur and how long it will take. Contrast that to playing home games at the Q and practicing at the team’s new facility in Independence.

What about endorsements? The mainstream media acts as if the streets of New York are paved with gold. Taking a closer look, however, shows a different story.

Consider the New York Yankees, probably the biggest sports franchise in America. You’d think if you were a star on a successful team playing in the largest market in the country, you’d be rolling in piles of cash from commericals. Well, think again:

  • CC Sabathia made $250,000 in endorsements last season.
  • Mark Teixeira made the same.
  • Alex Rodriguez made $6 million.
  • Derek Jeter made $8.5 million.

LeBron? He pulled in $28 million in endorsements playing in Cleveland. So it would appear that companies are finding LeBron just fine here on the north coast.

Finally, the biggest laugh is the talk of the Knicks’ “great” history. Sure, the Knicks have two titles to zero for the Cavs, but NY’s last championship came 37 years ago in 1973. Not exactly recent history.

Since the start of the 1973-74 season, the Knicks have won 10 more games than the Cavs (1,473 vs. 1,463), although over the past 20 years the Cavs have won more games (861 vs. 813). The gap is even wider over the past decade (Cavs 437 vs. 327).

Both teams have won three division championships, with the Cavs most recent coming this year while the Knicks haven’t won their division since 1994. Both teams have also made four appearances in the Eastern Conference Finals, with the Cavs last appearing two years ago while the Knicks haven’t made it that far since 1999.

So there’s really nothing separating the teams on the court.

But somehow we’re supposed to believe that LeBron will give up everything he has here at home to play for a franchise that, by every measurable statistic, is inferior?

Fuhgeddaboudit.

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