Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Archive for the category “NBA”

On Charles Barkley and the value of analytics

Charles Barkley went all in Tuesday night on TNT’s Inside the NBA with a rant against the growing influence of analytics in the NBA.

The focus of Barkley’s ire was the Houston Rockets and general manager Daryl Morey, who is as pro-analytics as they come. According to Barkley:

“(They’re the worst team defensively) among teams that are going to make the playoffs. They’re awful defensively. Just because you’ve got good stats, doesn’t mean you’re a good team defense. They’re not a good defensive team. They gave up 118 points (in a win against Phoenix earlier in the night). No good team gives up 118 points.

“I’m not worried about Daryl Morey. He’s one of those idiots who believes in analytics. He went out and got James Harden and Dwight Howard, and then he’s going to tell me that’s analytics? Then he went out and got Trevor Ariza. Then he went out and got Josh Smith. I’ve always believed analytics is crap. I’ve never mentioned the Rockets as a legitimate contender, because they’re not.

“Analytics don’t work at all. It’s just some crap that people who were really smart made up to try to get in the game because they had no talent. Because they had no talent to be able to play, so smart guys wanted to fit in, so they made up a term called analytics. Analytics don’t work.”

We’re not sure what set Barkley off, and naturally the pro-analytics crowd has been out in full force since his comments (because what would a Hall of Fame player know about what it takes to play in the NBA?), and we’re really not comfortable with him calling Morey an idiot (you can criticize someone for not playing well or doing their job well, but you don’t make it personal).

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a little bit truth in what Barkley had to say.

Read more…

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Are the Cavs building a dream backcourt?

The NBA season is still a little more than three months away, but we like what we’re hearing about the Cleveland Cavaliers backcourt combination of Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters.

Irving has been making headlines in the past week for his play as a member of USA Basketball’s Select team, which is in Las Vegas helping the U.S. Olympic team get ready for the Summer Olympics in London.

In a recent scrimmage, Irving scored 11 of his team’s 14 points, leading Team USA managing director Jerry Colangelo to say that Irving is “that far advanced in terms of his talent, it appears. He’s made a good showing here. He had a terrific rookie season in the NBA and certainly he will be one of the leading candidates going forward.”

And then there is Waiters, the Cavs top draft pick out of Syracuse.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, an assistant coach for Team USA, thinks Irving and Waiters are going to be a dynamic pairing – sooner rather than later.

“I think they’ve got the possibility to have the best backcourt in the NBA fairly soon,” Boeheim told The Beacon Journal. “I’m sure some people may think they went out on a limb (in drafting Waiters). I don’t think they went out on a limb at all. I think he was clearly the best player (available). I’ll be shocked if he’s not.”

Irving is also looking forward to playing with Waiters.

“Once I started seeing him at camps, we both earned each other’s respect for each other’s games,” Irving said. “Having him on the team now is a special opportunity and I feel like this is the future of our program. He’s an exciting player. You guys have no idea what we have.”

Irving is joining the Cavs Summer League squad in Las Vegas so he and Waiters can begin working together. The team will play five games, staring with Sunday’s tilt against Charlotte.

(Photo by Getty Images)

The Randomness of the first Monday in June

Poor LeBron James.

Dude spends his entire career surrounded by inferior teammates like Dwyane Wade.

Sebastian Pruiti has a good breakdown of the final play of the Heat’s Game 4 loss to Boston on Sunday night.

Instead of running the play the right way and giving the Heat a chance to win the game and take a 3-1 series lead, Wade went through the motions and ended up taking a poor shot.

LeBron really could have used the help as he was on the bench after fouling out of a game for the first time in four years and the first time ever in a playoff game.

Too bad there’s not a way that James could pick which team he plays on so he could avoid these types of situations.

***

The Cleveland Indians recalled Quadruple A all star Matt LaPorta over the weekend after Johnny Damon went on maternity leave.

Damon expects to return to the team on Wednesday, after spending a couple of days at home with his wife, Michelle, and their newborn twin daughters. Of course with Damon hitting .180 on the year, the Tribe may want him to take his time returning from diaper duty.

As for LaPorta, we’ve all been here before. He hits minor league pitching (.307, 14 home runs, 32 RBI this year in Columbus), comes to Tribe and no so much (.238 career average, .700 career OPS). So he’ll be out of here once Damon returns, right?

Read more…

Someone should check Hollins’ gymbag

The Cleveland Cavaliers will be short a player for tonight’s game in Toronto after Samardo Samuels was unable to make the trip because he lost his passport.

With Samuels unavailable, Ryan Hollins will fill the backup role at center. If he gets in the game, it will be the first action Hollins has seen since opening night.

Did anyone with the Cavs think to check Hollins’ locker for the missing passport?

***

Cold Hard Football Facts threw a little cold water on Seneca Wallace’s quest to replace Colt McCoy as the Cleveland Browns starting quarterback in 2012.

According to the site:

With a chance to play in the final three games of the season, Seneca Wallace wanted to prove himself worthy of a starting quarterback position. However, he didn’t get the job done as the Browns lost those three games by a combined 13 points. Perhaps if Wallace played one level better than Colt McCoy, the Browns win a few games and Wallace gets a chance to further prove himself in 2012.

Wallace posted a weak 50.27 Real Quarterback Rating. This includes completing only two of 14 passes attempted to Greg Little or Mohamed Maasquoi.

Overall, Wallace finished with a 65.87 QBR, while Colt McCoy finished with a 75.16 QBR. Clearly, neither quarterback worked in this limited offense, and McCoy should be the leading candidate to return as the starter in 2012.

Not sure we like either option, but Wallace definitely didn’t do himself any favors over the last three games of the season.

***

Everton’s Tim Howard became the fourth goalie – and second American – in Premier League history to score a goal in Tuesday’s game against Bolton.

But just like when Brad Friedel scored, Everton ended up losing.

***

Finally, Jonah Keri at Grantland is not a believer in the Window in baseball – the short period of time in which small-revenue clubs supposedly have to compete.

Keri writes that: There is a nugget of truth behind this Window obsession. Smaller-revenue teams have a tougher time signing premium free agents, or retaining their own top players past their initial six years of team control. That puts extra pressure on these poorer teams to bring up a bunch of great prospects all at once, then hope they get good at the same time before they get expensive.

But far more often it’s a … excuse. It’s a vague, faraway goal that always seems several years out of reach. It’s a cover for cheap, greedy ownership, lousy scouting, drafting, and player development, and myopic trades. It’s a weak attempt to placate a fan base screwed over by years of management incompetence and indifference.

We think the Dolans would like to have a word with Keri.

***

Finally, today is the 31th anniversary of the Browns playoff loss to Oakland in the Red Right 88 game.

That was the day we learned what it meant to be a Browns (and Cleveland) fan. We were obviously much younger then and that was the first Browns team we fell in love with.

If only Brian Sipe had thrown the ball to Dave Logan this site would exist under a different name and would possibly have a different tone to it. But that’s not the way it worked out.

If you’re in the mood, video of the final drive is here. If you want to relive that magical season, Jonathan Knight’s book, Kardiac Kids: The Story of the 1980 Cleveland Browns, is an excellent read.

Out of sight, out of mind

The NBA announced on Friday that training camps, which were scheduled to open Oct. 3, are postponed indefinitely and that 43 preseason games have been canceled because of the ongoing labor fight between the league and its players.

“We have regretfully reached the point on the calendar where we are not able to open training camps on time and need to cancel the first week of preseason games,” deputy commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “We will make further decisions as warranted.”

The thing is, we’re not sure we really care.

It’s not that we don’t enjoy rooting for the Cavs. And we’re eager to see how coach Byron Scott works rookies Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson into the squad.

It’s just that we have a serious case of labor fatigue at this point. After going through the NFL lockout and all that it entailed, we just don’t have room any more to care about another labor issues involving millionaires and billionaires fighting over the money pie.

The league and its players don’t really care about the fans and, as fans, there is not much we can do about the ongoing labor issues. That’s also contributing to our feeling of ambivalence toward the whole lockout.

Plus didn’t we just go through this in 1999? Wasn’t that work stoppage – which caused the league to miss games – supposed to solve the problem? Why are we here again?

We admit we might feel differently if the Cavs were still a 60+ win team and a threat to challenge for an NBA title. The prospect of missing games under that scenario would be far different.

But for now, our attitude is call us when this is all over.

The only Cavs draft preview you’ll need

The Cleveland Cavaliers head into tonight’s NBA Draft in a good position, holding the No. 1 and No. 4 picks.

Who will they pick? We’re pretty sure general manager Chris Grant knows what he wants to do.

And that’s all we can really ask for as fans.

Forget mock drafts, even especially detailed ones. Don’t worry about which seven-foot European player – that most people have never seen play – the team may or may not select.

Because when it comes to drafting, the only real certainty is nobody knows.

As fans, we should expect the front office to do its homework, figure out what positions are weakest on the team, and draft the player they think best fits their team’s system.

Consider the past two drafts by the Browns: they needed help in the secondary, they draft Joe Haden and T.J. Ward. This year, defensive line was an issue and they chose Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard.

After that, it truly is a crapshoot. There rarely is ever one singular player that a team must have, so getting too worked up leading into a draft is not really productive.

Clearly there are wrong draft picks. If the Cavs had selected Darko Milici instead of LeBron James in 2003, that would have been a bad pick. But what if the Cavs weren’t picking first that year? If they had selected Carmelo Anthony or Dwyane Wade that year, would things really have been that much different the past seven years?

The thing with draft picks is you just never know.

A team can make the right pick and things can still not work out. Players can have their careers cut short by injury (think Austin Carr and Brad Daugherty), or their time with the team can be limited by bad trade decisions (Mike Mitchell, Ron Harper).

As long as the Cavs have done their homework and identified where they need help, and don’t do anything crazy (someone should keep a close eye on Dan Gilbert), then everything will be fine tonight.

Remember: if fans can figure out what the team’s weaknesses are, then the team can figure it out.

So if the picks are Kyrie Irving and Enes Kanter, or Irving and Jonas Valanciunas, or Derrick Williams and Brandon Knight, it will be OK.

Whatever they do, it will help the rebuilding process. Link

Karma is a fickle mistress

We’ve tried our best to stay out of all the hoo-haa surrounding the Miami Heat during the NBA playoffs.

Frankly, with the Indians racing out to the best record in baseball then squandering it away, the Champions League, the U.S. soccer team in the Gold Cup, Kent State’s baseball team just missing a trip to the Super Regionals and the Cavaliers winning the draft lottery, we’ve been occupied with other topics.

But we admit to feeling a sense of relief and schadenfreude after the Dallas Mavericks closed out the Heat with three consecutive wins to take home the NBA title.

The Mavericks proved, at least for another year, that a team can beat a group of individuals, no matter how talented. The Heat, primarily LeBron James and Chris Bosh, learned the hard way there are no shortcuts to success.

And that’s a rare lesson in this age of instant gratification.

Once LeBron decided to leave Cleveland via free agency, we tried to move on – what was done was done. And for the most part we did OK during the season.

But it was hard to quit James when he wouldn’t go away – most notably when he tweeted following a 55-point Cavs loss to the Lakers that, “Crazy. Karma is a bitch. Gets you every time. It’s not good to wish bad on anybody. God sees everything!”

James put out so much negative energy that it was only a matter of time before karma got back at him, and she waited until the finals to exact her revenge on James.

From Brian Windhorst at ESPN:

Just like last season in Cleveland where James’ performance in the clutch was the polar opposite of what his talent and history called for. Just like when the top-seeded Cavs got behind the Celtics, as soon as the Mavs turned the tables on the Heat midway through this series James’ swagger and game left him. When the Heat were beating the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls, series they took control of early, James was a brilliant frontrunner. At his best, really, finishing those teams off.

But as he went through another puzzling game Sunday — dishing repeatedly to Juwan Howard at the rim instead of taking the ball to the basket himself, passing up wide-open shots when the ball came his way, standing and watching on defense like it was a summer camp drill at times — it got more and more clear.

James couldn’t do it.

From Joe Posnanski at Sports Illustrated:

That’s why the sequence with four minutes left will stay with me for a long time. Miami needed a basket of course — being down eight with four minutes left is not life-threatening in the NBA, as we have seen time and again, but it is not ideal, either. Anyway, as much as the points, Miami needed a game-changing moment. LeBron James is breathtakingly good at making such moments.

Here’s what LeBron James did instead: He stood outside the arc, about 25 feet away from the basket. He did not move. And the two times the ball was passed to him, he passed it away instantly … as if playing hot-potato.

There was absolutely no other explanation that made any sense: LeBron James did not want the basketball.

I honestly could not believe what I was seeing. Maybe I should have expected it. Maybe I should have seen it coming. After all, I had seen LeBron James quit during the final minutes of his Cleveland career when the Cavaliers lost to Boston in the playoffs. I had heard him tell Cleveland fans that they expected too much of him. I had seen him take what looked like the easiest road to a championship when he signed on with Wade and Chris Bosh down in Miami. I had seen the disappearing acts he’d been pulling in the fourth quarters of this NBA Finals. Heck, throughout this game he seemed only moderately engaged. Still … I did not see this coming.

And Bill Simmons at Grantland:

Digging deeper: LeBron averaged 3.5 threes and 8.4 FT attempts during the regular season. In Rounds 2 and 3, he averaged 4.1 threes and 8.6 FT attempts. In the Finals, that flipped: 4.7 threes, 3.3 FT attempts. He stopped getting to the rim. You could say Dallas figured out how to defend him (to a degree, true), that the zone screwed him up (I guess), that Shawn Marion got into his head (possible), but really, he was afraid to attack the rim for whatever reason. Which, by the way, is his single greatest skill.

Everyone is looking for a reason why LeBron and the Heat came up short, and the answer is right there: karma.

After the game, James, as is his norm, was left looking for someone to blame. Last year, it was his Cavs teammates. He didn’t have that option this year because he chose his teammates, so he went after Cleveland (see what we mean about him not going away?)

“All the people that were rooting me on to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life they had before,” James said. “They have the same personal problems they had today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want with me and my family and be happy with that.”

Even though the Heat lost, this is not a victory for Cleveland, no matter how hard the national media tries to sell that story. It wasn’t a win for Cleveland when the Lakers beat Boston last season, or when they beat Orlando in 2009.

We’re not going to the team shop this weekend to pick up a Cavs 2011 NBA Champions T-shirt; our Sports Illustrated commemorative championship package won’t be arriving in the mail in 6-to-8 weeks.

There is one way Cleveland did win last night, however.

We’ve now made it through an entire season post-LeBron, we’ve gone through the heartbreak of the Decision, lived through the circus of the Heat’s first trip to Cleveland, and cheered (and jeered) our way through an injury-filled season of disappointment that became sweeter when the Cavs grabbed two of the first four picks in the draft.

It is now time for those last few holdouts to turn the page. Let’s cheer for who the Cavs are, rather than for who they are not.

Because you never know when karma is going to grow tired of hanging out in South Beach.

What is there left to say?

The Cleveland Indians lost again on Sunday, falling to the Yankees by the score of 9-1

The Tribe has now lost 14 of its last 18 games.

The offense struggled … again … some more on Sunday against New York.

The past two days the Indians have faced Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia, who are a combined 150 years old and were pulled off the scrap heap by the Yankees.

In 13.1 innings against the duo, the Tribe managed nine hits and one run, while striking out a dozen times.

Sheldon Ocker of The Beacon Journal assures us that the offensive slump will end. He’s covered the Indians for decades, so if you can’t trust the Socker who can you trust?

But it’s hard to see how the team will get this turned around.

Terry Pluto at The Plain Dealer followed our lead in wondering what the Tribe will do about Fausto Carmona, adding this nugget: The batting average against Carmona with no one on base is .212. With runners on base, .343. With the bases loaded, batters are 5-of-7. Yes, it is a matter of controlling emotions and confidence.

Luckily for the Indians, the Tigers also lost on Sunday, so the team’s remain tied for first place in the Central Division.

Worse-case scenario is the Tribe heads for Detroit after Monday night’s game against the Yankees trailing the Tigers by just one game.

With everything that’s gone wrong for the past few weeks with the Indians, that’s really not all that bad.

***

Switching to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Jason Lloyd in The Beacon Journal posits that the team may be looking to trade point guard Ramon Sessions if the Cavs, as expected, draft Kyle Irving with the first pick in the upcoming NBA draft.

Sessions’ agent, Chubby Wells (hey, he may just be big boned) hasn’t requested a trade for his client, but that could change after the draft.

The thinking is that Baron Davis will mentor Irving and keeping Sessions as a third point guard is a luxury that won’t work out.

We see one big problem with that scenario: it is highly unlikely that Davis will make it through a full season without getting hurt.

The 32-year-old Davis has only played a full 82-game season once in the past nine years. On average, he makes it through 62 games a year.

So what happens when Davis goes down to an injury this year and there is no one to share the load with Irving?

Yeah, that’s what we thought.

***

Finally, our latest on the situation the U.S. Men’s National Team finds itself in at the Gold Cup.

Turns out, their is an I in team

With their victory over the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Miami Heat continue to disprove the old adage that there is no I in team.

By making the finals in the first year of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh playing together, the Heat are creating a new model for the NBA where the individual is more important than the team.

The Heat deserve some credit, we suppose. They manipulated the system to their advantage, the players colluded to play together, and now they have been rewarded with what could be the first of multiple trips to the NBA Finals.

As for the Bulls, the writing is on the wall. They learned the same lesson the Cavs learned the past two years: one superstar player and a supporting cast of role players isn’t going to get it done in today’s NBA.

And really, how are the Bulls any different than the Cavs of ’08-’09 and ’09-’10?

They both were led by a dominant player (Derrick Rose and James), with a group of role players (Carlos Boozer/Antwan Jamison, Joakim Noah/Anderson Varajeo, Keith Bogans/Mo Williams) and a head coach that preaches defense first (Tom Thibodeau/Mike Brown).

How long before Rose decides, rather than looking for help, that he can’t beat the Heat and leaves Chicago? Does anyone really think that in a couple of years, when Kobe Bryant is done in LA and Dwight Howard and the Lakers come calling, that Rose won’t head out west?

The Heat haven’t won the title yet; the Mavericks still have a say in this.

But we’ve seen the future and it doesn’t look pretty, at least in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.

***

Former Cleveland Indians catcher Ray Fosse, who suffered the most inexcusable injury in baseball history, feels sorry for San Francisco catcher Buster Posey but doesn’t join the hoopleheads in calling for a rule change to protect catchers.

“The game has been around more than 100 years, and now they’re going to start protecting catchers?” Fosse told The San Francisco Chronicle. “I can’t see anything that can be changed. In high school, you can’t run over a catcher. But that’s high school. This is professional baseball. The idea is to score runs. If the catcher has the ball and he’s standing there, the runner has to stop? Is that the protection?

“I can’t believe anything can be done, and I don’t see how you could regulate something like that.”

***

The football season comes to and end on Saturday when Manchester United takes on Barcelona in what should be an exciting final of the Champions League.

Will the game by the last hurrah for Barcelona and Spain?

Can Manchester United learn from the mistakes of 2009?

Can Edwin van der Sar go out a winner?

Finally, six of the best matches between the two teams.

And just think, with a 2:45 p.m. kickoff from London’s Wembley Stadium, we’ll be able to watch the final and only miss a couple of innings of the Tribe game vs. Tampa.

Could Byron Scott be one and done?

It’s just speculation at this point, but could Byron Scott leave the Cavs after only one season as coach?

According to Marc Stein at ESPN, writing in Saturday’s Weekend Dime, it’s a possibility, depending on if Phil Jackson decides to retire as Lakers coach after this season:

The persistent word out of Lakerland is that Phil Jackson, at 65, is serious when he says that this will be his last season coaching Kobe Bryant. Far trickier is figuring out who sits at the front of the line to replace him.

Veteran assistant Brian Shaw is the only member of Jackson’s staff in the mix, but Shaw (who appeared to be a front runner last summer for the Cavs job), according to one team insider, might have “a better shot than anybody else” purely because of proximity. Rumbles also persist that Lakers alumnus Byron Scott has an out in his contract with Cleveland should the opportunity to come home and coach L.A. arise, but Scott and the Cavs have steadfastly denied it.

Again, this is all just speculation on Stein’s part, but if Scott does have an out clause in his contract and he did use it to take the Lakers job, we’d really have to start questioning how Dan Gilbert is running the team.

After firing the most-successful coach in franchise history, and then flirting with certain disaster by courting Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Gilbert finally hired a veteran coach in Scott.

But why give Scott an option to get out of his contract? Was he such a must have coach that the Cavs had to give him the out, especially knowing the Jackson is closer to the end of his coaching career than the beginning?

Gilbert gets a bit of a free ride in this town because he bought the team just as LeBron was maturing and he’s willing to spend money, albeit in a sport with the smallest roster size of the three major sports.

People will always criticize the Dolans because they won’t have a $200 million payroll with the Indians, and Randy Lerner because he doesn’t sit behind a desk in Berea every day.

But what if it turns out Gilbert is really the one we should be worried about?

(h/t to Waiting for Next Year)

***

It’s probably a good thing the Cavs have only 14 games left in the season, especially after a knife-wielding man had to be subdued by police at the Staples Center because Cleveland’s game with the L.A. Clippers.

No confirmation on whether the man was a season-ticket holder just looking to get his money back.

***

We already knew Lonnie Chisenhall was not going to be the Indians Opening Day third baseman. Now it turns out Jason Donald won’t be either.

Turns out what the Tribe thought was a bone bruise is actually a cracked bone at the base of Donald’s left middle finger.

“It’s disappointing, but I’m looking at it as just a bump in the road,” Donald told The Plain Dealer. “I want to get the hand healthy and strong for the season.”

Manager Manny Acta said Jack Hannahan, Luis Valbuena and Jayson Nix are candidates for the third base job. The Indians don’t think prospect Cord Phelps, who is still in camp, is ready. Adam Everett is being viewed as a utility infielder, not an every day starter.

Indian fever, baby. Catch it!

***

It’s probably a good thing the Browns don’t let fans bring flares into Cleveland Browns Stadium.

Of course, seeing Hines Ward lit up like this does have it’s charms.

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