Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Detroit 109, Cleveland 74

Well, that sucked. Decent first half and then... Devin Brown is starting the second half? Wah? Turns out LeBron James hurt the index finger on his left hand. Fantastic. The Cavs promptly went from trailing by 5 to trailing by roughly a billion (so if you wanted more proof that James in the MVP...). But hey, at least the starters got some rest.

The first half wasn't awful. The Cavs were obviously tired; it was their fourth game in five nights, they were coming off an emotional win against Boston (where the starters all logged big minutes) and they had to travel the night before. All the excuses were there for them to mail this one in, but to their credit, they stuck around. Cleveland was down by 10 with about 2 minutes to go in the half and they cut the lead to five at half, 48-43.

Sure, being tired isn't an excuse, but wow, could you tell. In the first half, Detroit shot 54%, they out rebounded Cleveland 22-14 and they had 16 assists (the Cavs had 12 for the game). The Cavs were simply getting beat; they let players go back door, they were at least three steps slow on defensive rotations and they had a lot of miscues on offense. But, like I said, despite all that, they were only down five at half.

Z in particular looked bad. He missed some gimme shots early on and he finished just 2-8 from the floor for 8 points to go along with 3 boards. As long as the Cavs don't have a viable back up big man, Z's minutes will remain an issue, especially on back to backs. Fortunately (I guess), once LeBron went down and the game became a laugher, Coach Mike stuck Z on the bench and Ilguaskas finished the evening with just 23 minutes.

You know what is a bad sign? LeBron led the team in scoring. Now, to be fair, most of the starters didn't play in the 4th period (and one could argue they didn't play in the 3rd either), but it isn't good that LeBron plays just 24 minutes and ends up with a team high 15 points. Sasha Pavlovic (who played decent in the first half) was the Cavs' runner up with 13 points.

In case you were wondering, the Pistons still complain after every play. Z is mugged on the last play of the first half and Rasheed Wallace sits there with a "are you kidding me" look on his face (this was after he hit a jumper and jawed at an official). Detroit also wasn't pleased that the refs weren't awarding them for their novel 'stand in front of LeBron and pray for a charge' defense.

Garbage time wasn't even fun. The Pistons just kept hitting (open) shots and the Cavalier scrubs didn't do much on either end. Shannon Brown got some long awaited court time and promptly shot the ball whenever he could. I'm sure Larry Hughes appreciated Shannon's 1-6 performance, but I'm not sure anyone else did.

and finally...

I'm not really sure what to make of this game. Ya, the Cavs stunk without LeBron, but he did leave mid- game (so it wasn't like they were prepared, mentally or physically). They played kinda well without James last season (for short periods), so I don't think they'll be helpless. I'm not sure how much you can take away from this game, besides the fact that the Cavs' bench needs to step up so the starters aren't so whipped at the end of these tough stretches (note: this doesn't mean give Anderson Varejao $60 million).

On a personal note, I won't be around for the Toronto game on Friday and I won't be able to watch the Celtics game until Monday morning (so no recap to later Monday). I'll be in Arizona this weekend for the Browns game/drinking with college friends.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Cleveland 109, Boston 104 OT

Bill Simmons is right, the Cavs probably won't make the playoffs. God damn that game was intense. The Cavs came out pissed (it's like, I dunno, that they wanted to remind people who won the East last year) and went right at the Celtics from the start, getting out to an early 9-2 lead. But Boston came back (actually took a 3 point lead at half) and from then on, we had ourselves a close, playoff-like ball game (if any NBA game in November can be called playoff like).

I was pretty worried in the 3rd period. The Celtics had built a seven point lead, the Cavs offense wasn't moving... I'll be honest, I was waiting to see if they would fold or not. But they didn't. Maybe they've learned from their long playoff run of a year ago, but the Cavs stayed focussed for the entire game and got back into it.

The biggest loser of the night? Anderson Varejao. The Cavs 3rd quarter hero was Drew Gooden, who went 8-8 in the period- he kept the Cavs in the ball game. Now, say what you will about Gooden (and I have) but he had a monster night and the Cavs don't win this game if Varejao is starting in his place. Gooden finished with 24 points (on 11-15 shooting) and 13 boards and kept Kevin Garnett off the glass (just 5 boards for KG, who averages 12 a night).

That M-V-P chant at the end was a nice touch (noticed that no one cares about that Yankees cap any more, huh?). I'm not sure anyone is noticing (nationally or in Cleveland), but LeBron James is having a monster of a season. James finished the night with 38 points, 13 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks. What makes his 38 points even more impressive is that the Celts were focussed on keeping LBJ out of the lane (and for the most part, they succeeded) and the ball out of his hands. LeBron hit some absolute daggers in the face of the Celtics defense (mostly Paul Pierce) and, oh by the way, made 14-15 from the line. The man is unstoppable right now.

You know who else is unstoppable? Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Check out this line from the big fella: 15 points (6-9 shooting), 14 boards, 5 assists and 4 blocks. Both Z and Gooden were key in keeping the Celtics off the boards (the Cavs outrebounded Boston 47-40, but did give up 10 offensive boards). Z has been playing great this season and, as of now, deserves his third all-star appearance.

The Cavs won the battle at the line. The Cavaliers shot 28-36 from the charity stripe (77%) while Boston was just 20-29 (69%) including two huge misses from Ray Allen at the end of regulation that could've put Boston up two with 20 seconds to go. And while we're here talking about free throws and such, I'd just like to say that, overall the refs weren't terrible, they weren't good either. Hell, Z was hacked the first play off the game and Pavlovic's foul on Allen (before his two misses) was really tough to swallow. This is the point of the recap where I'll bitch about Pavlovic not getting calls- because he doesn't. He got whistled for two pretty weak blocks and he should've gone to the line on at least one of his drives.

Speaking of Pavlovic, he had a great game. Pavs was jawing with KG for most of the evening (to be fair, most everyone was talking trash) and he took some huge shots down the stretch and in overtime. Sasha hit the game tying 3 with a minute left in regulation and he hit a big shot early in OT to put the Cavs up four (a lead they never relinquished). Pavlovic finished with 16 points (on 6-13 shooting), 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals. His defense was a bit lax to begin the game (somehow Ray Allen kept getting open) but he picked it up in the second half and OT.

The bench wasn't much help and every Cavalier starter played at least 43 minutes. The Boston bench outscored their Cleveland counterparts 26-8. Devin Brown led the bench with 6 points (and one technical foul) and Ira Newble was the only other reserve to score. It worked out for one game, because Cleveland front court came up big, but if any of the starters were off, the Cavs could've been screwed.

and finally...

Dear Cavs fans: please don't talk trash. Don't get me wrong, I hate the Celtics. I hate the 60 win predictions, I hate the talk of them chasing the Bulls' 72 wins (only 8 more losses to go!) and I'm more than a bit peeved that pundits have basically given them the Eastern Conference title. But the Cavs play in Boston this upcoming Sunday and it wouldn't be prudent to run your mouth before Sunday night. This was just one game (and a great win) but it's just one of many. The Cavs can't get too high on this, as they finish off their four games in five nights stretch in Detroit on Wednesday night. That being said, I think I'm going to enjoy this new rivalry, the game was physical and neither team seemed to like each other. I'll leave you with this paragraph from the AP wrap up, which brings a smile to my face:
During the closing minutes, James and Garnett exchanged a few choice words and both teams played as if it were a playoff game in June. After the final horn, there were no friendly hugs shared between two of the East's powers.

Random Thoughts from the Weekend

1. Let's go Oklahoma! Man, I hate the Sooners, but I'll root for 'em if that means Ohio State can get into the title game.

2. The pundits can fuck off. Ya, maybe Ohio State didn't look great this year. Maybe you don't want to see them in the title game after last season. I get that. Hell, I'm almost sympathetic. If I had to watch Notre Dame get reamed in a title game only to come back the next season with a weaker team, I'd be pissed too. But these are the rules we have.

3. And don't give me any of this 'the whole season is the playoffs' crap. No, it's not. Kansas only has one loss, same as Ohio State. Yet their loss hurts more. Hell, Hawaii hasn't even lost yet and they're ranked 12th. If the whole season counts as one big playoff, how can we decide which one loss team gets in? And if we're going to keep the illusion that all division 1-A conferences are created equal (at least no formal tiers) then how can you let a team that wins all of it's games not play for the title.

4. Obviously, again, we need a playoff system (thanks ESPN!). And not one of those bullshit "plus one" games either. That works out for some years but not others (why should 2002 Ohio State have to play another game?). Personally, I'd love to see a 32 team playoff, but 16 shouldn't be too much to ask, should it?

5. But we're probably going to have to start small. Sure, maybe a "plus one" or maybe a four team deal, whatever. But all I know is, at some point, once we have a playoff system, we're going to look back at the BCS and the bowls and wonder "what were we thinking".

6. That being said, West Virginia scares me. You mean a running quarterback? Like James Locker and Juice Williams? Really? The last thing I want to see is OSU get killed in the title game again, but the prospect of facing Pat White scares me just a tad.

7. So, is he the hotdog guy or the guy from Usual Suspects? Which one is it Cleveland sports bloggers? I think we need to come to a consensus before spring training.

8. Joking aside, I like the deal. Do we really know what we're going to see from him? Not really. But it's a cheap deal and it could really work out. But, as Terry Pluto says, we really don't know.

9. More Pluto. He also wants to trade Jhonny Peralta for a corner outfielder who can hit. I dunno, the fan in me likes Peralta a lot. He's been here for awhile now, he showed up in the playoffs and he always seems like the little brother to CC Sabathia, Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez. However, the Tribe does need to shore up their outfield corners...

10. But let's not count our chickens before they've hatched. Like Pat at the DiaTribe says, Barfield and Cabrera aren't nearly established enough to simply hand them the middle infield.

11. I would like to see some rumors however. I love baseball rumors, they don't have to be even remotely credible and I'll eat 'em up. I want to open up the ABJ or PD and see the Tribe pursuing some big name pitcher that they'll have no chance at. Can we at least get the juices flowing?

12. The Browns look good, don't they? I'm not gonna lie, I did not see this coming. I had absolutely no faith in Derek Anderson (and he still scares me a bit). Hopping on this bandwagon doesn't seem like a bad plan.

13. I didn't hate that Livingston column as much as others did. Some people (*cough* Joel) just took it apart. Now, I'm not saying that it's a good column (it's not) but this one didn't piss me off nearly as much as half of his shit. Also, for the record, I like Dick Feagler.

14. Kellen Winslow is a beast. I've been holding off on buying a new Browns jersey for awhile (I have a personal one for a few years now) until I could figure out a player. Sgt. Winslow it is. The guy catches everything thrown his way and he plays hurt, what more can ask for (also, it takes roughly six guys to bring him down). There's a lot of balls that Anderson throws his way that are into double coverage but Winslow always manages to make the catch.

15. Oh Mistake by the Lake. The only place where you'll get recaps of Josh's Cribbs.

16. Leigh Bodden, Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald? The kid had a huge game (and it would've been a good day even without his late INT). The Browns haven't been that lucky in the late rounds of the draft (hell, they haven't been lucky in the early rounds) and it'd be great to find a gem.

17. Was I aware of this? It seems that Sean Taylor (RIP) was nearly a Brown. Part of me thinks I knew this, but the details don't seem all that familiar.

18. Did anyone not enjoy that Monday Night Football game? Sure, the final score was 3-0, but I loved watching everyone slip and fall in the mud. Reminded me of last Thursday morning....

19. Alright, about this Anderson Varejao business. The guy is an idiot. These aren't bad deals:

Several other teams told they would have offered Varejao their full midlevel exception (starting at $5.356 million per season), but Varejao has not been willing to sign for that amount because he believes (a) the Cavs would match, and (b) he's worth more.

The Cavs' popular forward wants considerably more than the team is offering. He turned down the Cavs' one-year, $1.2 million tender offer. (To retain a restricted free agent, a team must make a tender offer.) He also refused Cleveland's opening offer of five years, $20 million, and then its latest offer of five years, $32 million, with a starting salary slightly below the midlevel exception.

5 years, $32 million? Are you serious? How is that not a fair deal? As far as I'm concerned, that deal should the Cavs final offer.

20. I mean, he's screwed himself. He's at the Cavs mercy here. If he goes to Europe and plays, he'll still be a restricted free agent when he returns. Him holding out is only making things worse. There's no way the Cavs will give him a 1-year deal at this point.

21. Windhorst smacks him down. This is ridiculous:
They are trying to put public pressure on the Cavs by angling in the media, first saying they’ll take a one-year, $5 million contract, then saying they’d bel willing to go to arbibitration, now saying they demand a sign-and-trade.

That’s all sounds so good, but no team in the NBA would give Varejao a one-year deal right now. Varejao would never give up position for a rebound, so why would the Cavs give up their refusal rights to an aribitrator? Nobody in the NBA would. As for a sign-and-trade now, who is fooling whom? The summer is for sign-and-trades, the summer is for doing contracts. You don’t think Fegan has been working on sign-and-trades since July? Of course he has and there is no deal to make. There one coming now just like there wasn’t then. See, so much of this is common NBA sense, which is why so much of this is nonsense.

By the way, Varejao trying to indict the Cleveland media saying he never asked for a contract averaging $10-$11 million a year is rich. One of the worst kept secrets in the NBA is that Fegan asked for six years and more than $60 million a few days before training camp. Executives all over the league have been taking to each other and to media members about that figure. It’s not even inside information anymore, everybody knows it. Maybe that is not what they are asking for now, but they asked for it then.

22. More BW. This entire situation blows my mind:

The real crazy thing about this is they all this agony is over a non-starter. A key bench player and a key player in the playoffs, but at the end of the day he is a complementary big man who is good at taking charges. He’s valuable to the Cavs, they want him back, and all that stuff. They have offered him a pile of money. They have said they will put incentives in there that will pay him millions more if he becomes an All-Star or First Team All-NBA or whatever. They just don’t think he’s worth more than the $6.4 million they are paying Drew Gooden, a player averaging a double-double, this year.

Exactly. There's no reason for the Cavs to pay Varejao more than Gooden. End of story. I like Varejai and I think the Cavs could use him but they don't need him.

23. BTW, fuck ESPN. Was Bill Simmons a part of this reporting?:

On each side, the frustration level has been rising the past few weeks, as Varejao is left in limbo in Brazil, and as the Cavs have struggled coming out of the gate in training camp and the regular season.

If anyone has had a problem with the Cavaliers start, they're an idiot. So far the only game that I would say they should've won was the Milwaukee game. The Orlando game... maybe (and if you include the refs...). But I don't think the Cavs have struggled at all this season. This team wasn't perfect last season either (despite their trip to the Finals).

24. Check out the comments section. Quite entertaining.

25. It's great that LeBron supports Andy, but who cares? Is anyone really surprised by this:

Varejao says that the Cavs' players support him, and that his conversations with James have been positive.

"He just says, 'We love you and we're waiting,'" Varejao said. "He keeps telling me he wants me back but to get the best deal I can and to take care of my family. He's a great teammate. He always supports us on and off the court."

That sentiment was confirmed by a source close to James, who said, "LeBron wants Andy back. He wants him to get a fair deal. I think his frustration isn't with Andy, it's with the fact that for the past two years, he's been waiting for more help and he hasn't gotten it. This is just a step in the wrong direction."

What is LeBron supposed to say? "I agree with Ferry and there's no way that we should pay Andy $10 million a season, it'd kill our cap"? The Cavs' management has to do what's best for the team long term and short term. The threat of LeBron leaving hangs over them, but the last thing they should do is panic and overpay bad players just to show James that they're trying (see Hughes, Larry and Marshall, Donyell).

26. More LeBron. From Free Darko:
LeBron's silhouette started looming over the league a couple years ago, when NBA-pundits were begging and prodding Michael Redd to ditch his faithful Bucks to sign with the Cavs and be LeBron's hypeman. Since losing Carlos Boozer and failing to sign Redd, Cleveland has made a series of questionable front office moves that didn't seem to faze LeBron much last year ... but give him time. People are so concerned with LeBron's daily mood that certain Cleveland contract hold-ups have already generated a barrage of "OH MY GOD HOW COULD THE CAVS NOT THROW MILLIONS AWAY TO SASHA PAVLOVIC AND ANDERSON VAREJAO" stories. As good as LeBron has been playing, it's almost as though he is preemptively sticking it to the Cavs to say, "Man, you guys sure would love to see 30 and 12 and 12 for the next ten years wouldn't you ... Wouldn't you?"
I'm all for the Cavs trying to improve. But there's making moves and making smart moves. The key is to not panic. If they can to a sign-and-trade with Varejao for Andre Miller? I do it. If the only deal is trading for Marko Jaric (and his terrible contract)... no thanks. If the Cavs have to sit on this roster for an entire season, I'm OK with that. It won't be great, but it will be better than making panic moves that will haunt them in two years.

27. BTW, LeBron is going to win the MVP. No loafing this year. Also, LeBron got player of the week.

28. Question my fanhood all you want. But when it comes to watching NBC's Monday lineup versus Monday Night Football... I'm choosing NBC 9 times out of 10. Chuck is quirky and fun, Heroes is finally improving and Journeyman is turning out to be really good.

29. Joke Line and FISA. Wow, this just keeps going and going...

30. Music thoughts. I saw Sondre Lerche at the House of Blues this past Wednesday and he was quite good. I'm really digging his music from the soundtrack to Dan in Real Life (which I have yet to see) and the songs worked really well live. Here's 'To Be Surprised' from Sondre's appearance on Letterman (though I like album version a little better).

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Cleveland 111, Indiana 106

The Cavs are not shy about shooting the 3 ball. They followed their 13-30 performance against Toronto by hitting another 13 (in only 24 attempts). Everyone who shot a 3 made one and most of them made two (LeBron was just 1-6). Ira Newble and Devin Brown were both 2-2 and Pavlovic hit 4-8. I'm not totally comfortable with the Cavs relying so much on the long ball, but it's worked for the last two games at least.

All those 3s helped James get another triple double. James had another ridiculous game, going for 30 points, 11 boards and 10 assists. He's playing on another level right now. He's hitting step back fade aways, he's grabbing misses and running the full length of the court and he's even breaking out a surprisingly effective finger roll. Free throw woes plagued LeBron as he went just 9-15 and a lot of the misses came late in the game (though they weren't really pressure shots, it kinda seemed like he may have lost some focus at the end).

Can we get Drew Gooden some stickum? I don't want to bash the guy after he had such a productive game (23 points, 12 boards) but he lost at least two passes off his hands. He misplayed a couple passes near the rim against the Raptors as well. Drew's played really this season, but he could've had another 4 points this game if he could've just caught the ball.

I did not care for the refs. A lot of people will point to the free throw discrepancy (Indiana shot 41 freebies to Cleveland's 28) but I'd chalk that up to the Cavs' offense (and their tendency to shoot -and make- jumpers). Pavlovic continues to get hosed by the zebras (he was clipped on a runout with no call) and he never seems to get the benefit of the doubt. Gibson's sixth foul was pretty brutal and Z and LeBron both got hit while shooting more than once (Z was particularly frustrated). You'd think the Cavs (LeBron especially) would start to get some whistles here and there... but guess not.

Sasha had his best game of the season. Pavlovic had 22 points (on 7-18 shooting), hit four 3s and dished out 5 assists (but a day after recording 8 boards, had just 1). Sasha ran the floor well, passed well out of his drives and played pretty active defense for most of the night. If he starts to play like he did last season, I think the Cavs have a very nice shooting guard combo with him and Devin Brown.

Teams continue to go at Daniel Gibson. It was pretty obvious that Jamaal Tinsley had the green light to take Gibson whenever he wanted (and he did, going for 24 points). Marquis Daniels also gave Boobie some trouble and the Pacers exploited that matchup down the stretch (until Gibson fouled out). To be fair, no one on Cleveland guarded Daniels all that well; the former Maverick shot 9-12 from the field and 7-8 from the line. Gibson also added to the Cavaliers' long distance attack as he shot 2-3 from beyond the arc.

Take your time Larry. Raise your hand if you miss Larry Hughes? Anyone? Eric Snow can play the defensive stopper, LeBron shares the PG duties with Gibson, Pavlovic and Brown do a lot of little things (like going inside) that Larry doesn't and Damon Jones is hitting his treys (2-3). I'm not saying that the team plays better without Hughes... but... things definitely seem to be going... um... smoother.

and finally...

This should be a fun stretch. The Cavs are in the middle of a four games in five nights stretch and they'll face Boston at home on Tuesday and then travel to Detroit on Wednesday. Then they go to Boston on Friday and Toronto on Sunday. That's not an easy stretch but at least the Cavs are playing well (3 game win streak) and who knows what could happen with LeBron playing at such a high level (averaging 30-8-8 for the year and posting back to back triple doubles).

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Cleveland 111, Toronto 108

Live by the 3... um... live by the 3? The Cavs hoisted 30 treys and hit 13 of 'em. LeBron set up the Cavs' drive and kick offense beautifully and found his shooters when the defense collapsed on him (especially in the second half). Daniel Gibson knocked down 4-8 from beyond the arc and Damon Jones was 5-9 (LeBron was 2-8). The offense didn't have a whole lot of movement, but guys got open enough to get the shot off and they dropped (and Toronto kept giving them looks).

LeBron James is ridiculous. With all the coverage that Boston has been getting, LeBron and the 7-6 Cavaliers have flown a bit under the radar. He's not getting the pub, but James is playing like an MVP right now. He posted his third triple double of the season and went for 37 points, 12 boards, 12 assists, 3 steals and yet another block. You know all that talk of 'potential' and averaging a triple double... James is averaging 30-8-8 this season. He's doing everything that you could ask of him. He's leading both the offense and the defense. He's grabbing tough boards and he's playing inside. He's dominating.

Chris Bosh is pretty good too. The fourth pick of the '03 draft had himself a pretty good afternoon as well. Bosh abused both Z and Gooden in route to dropping 41 points and 5 assists. Bosh got Z fouled out and shot an absurd 15-17 from the line. However, I will admit that I was kinda surprised to check the box score and see that Bosh only had 4 boards. I have no idea how a guy as big and athletic as Bosh can play 42 minutes and only get 4 rebounds. [insert obligatory Bosh looks like a dinosaur joke here]

The Cavs had some weird lineups throughout the game. I'm sure Coach Mike is winging some of these, but I'm not gonna lie, that Jones-Gibson-Brown-Snow-Z five was pretty awesome. The Cavs had a lot of lineups where Z was the only traditional 'big' to go along with LeBron and the shooters. And, ya know what? It worked. Obviously it helps when the guys are knocking down their J's, but the Cavs pushed the tempo and moved the ball just enough to keep getting open looks.

Z played well. Again. 16 points and 15 boards ain't bad. He was the beneficiary of a lot of passes from James. Z also had a nice assist to LeBron off a set out-of-bounds play. My favorite sequence of the game (by far) was when Z tipped in an air ball from Damon Jones, which the refs initially called goal tending. Illgauskas became extremely agitated and ran down the court screaming for them to change the call. It worked. They changed it (though I'm not so sure they should've).

Sasha Pavlovic looked decent. He hit one big 3 but missed another. He seemed more in control this game (his drives weren't horrendous) and he rebounded (8 boards) and defended well. I have a feeling once Pavs gets his legs back, we'll really like the two guard combo of Devin Brown and Sasha.

Riddle me this: the Cavs got a triple double from LeBron James, they out shot the Raptors (52%-49%), they out rebounded Toronto 47-28(!), they made seven more 3s, they got more fast break points (15-11) but they won by just 3 (at home). Cleveland committed more turnovers (13-5) which led to 23 Toronto points but 13 TO's ain't exactly a lot. Free throws hurt the Cavaliers (sound familiar?) but at least LeBron wasn't the main culprit (7-8). The Cavs were just 12-19 from the charity stripe while the Raptors went 20-22. Devin Brown, Gibson and Pavlovic all missed multiple freebies.

and finally...

Are we gonna see a win streak? The Cavs haven't won more than two in a row all season. They play in Indiana tomorrow afternoon (while the NFL is on. Good call there) and the Pacers are very beatable. I'm sure there are some people who are disappointed by the Cavaliers 'only' being 7-6, but (from what I've seen) they've been pretty focussed (at least offensively) and they're playing hard every night. Last season they had a tendency to take a game off here or there but I haven't really seen that this year.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Give thanks on Thursday

Benjamin Cox

I love Thanksgiving. It's definitely my favorite holiday, especially as I've grown older. Thanksgiving used to be down on the list, after Christmas and Halloween.

Don't get me wrong, those holidays still rule, but Christmas as a 21-year-old can't compete with Christmas as an 8-year-old.

Thanksgiving is a holiday to reflect, take a look at your life and see what you're thankful for. And even when things could be better, I'm still thankful for many things.

I'm thankful that I was born in a country where I can do and say what I want. I thank God I wasn't born somewhere like Iraq, North Korea or Sudan. I'm thankful that even if we were divided on Nov. 2, there's no violence or coups. We can disagree without bloodshed.

I'm thankful for my family and my roommates. I'm thankful for my friends here in Ohio and around the globe, from California, Colorado or Texas to Germany, France and Ireland.

I'm thankful we beat Michigan, and that when we celebrated, there wasn't any major riots.

I'm thankful I get to write my opinion every week, and I'm thankful for all the responses I get, like telling me my column was dead on or I have a point (rational people) or telling me I'm going to hell (the far right.)

I'm also thankful that Thanksgiving hasn't been overcommercialized (yet) like Christmas. Though Christmas shopping season starts the Friday after, that Thursday is still a nice, calm day. Since I've been at Ohio State, I've always looked forward to Thanksgiving. I mean, after a quarter of dorm food, fast food or (even worse) food I've made myself, just the thought of a homemade Thanksgiving meal makes my mouth water.

Not only do I get to see family members I've missed while at school, I also get to see friends of mine who didn't go to OSU (losers.) Thanksgiving is a time to catch up with old high school friends, to see how people have changed since you last saw them. Who gained weight? Who's going bald? Who broke up and who stayed together? Who (shudder) is getting married? Who has a kid? I can see which friends have changed, and the ways in which some never will.

Thanksgiving also gives us an entire day of football. It's not officially Thanksgiving to me until the Lions lose on national television. However, my day of football doesn't just include the NFL; since my junior year of high school, I've spent my fall looking forward to our annual game of football: The Turkey Bowl.

The Turkey Bowl is played mostly by kids I was in band with (from 3 years older to 3 years younger than myself) and we always have a good range of people show up. These are people we had spent hours with on busses and on the practice field; we saw each other everyday and now we get together just once a year. Every year we get together and tell the same jokes and share the same stories and, just for a little while, we're not worrying about our futures, bills, grades or girls; we're just a bunch of friends playing football.

I never cared for Thanksgiving as a child. I mean, no presents, candy or fireworks? What gives?

But since I've moved away from home and grown older (if not too much wiser), I've learned to cherish this day for what it is, a day of thanks.

Benjamin Cox is a junior in music history. He can be reached for comment at

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


I'm going to a concert (Sondre Lerche) at the House of Blues tonight ($15, see ya there!) so I probably won't be able to watch the exciting Wolves-Cavs battle.

Also, to whom it may concern: Turkey Bowl- Thursday, 11 AM (to about 1 PM) at Darrow Road Park (off of rt. 91 in Hudson). If we can't play there, we'll be somewhere around the schools.

Bring cleats.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

My bad

School stuff + work tomorrow... means I didn't get a chance to catch the game. I'd like to say this won't happen often, but I can't promise anything (school work comes first and blah blah blah).

At some point, I like to tell myself that I'll get into a routine, but it hasn't happened yet. Oh, well... from what I've heard about the game, I'm not sure I want to watch them not play any defense...

Randy Moss, MVP?

I've had this discussion with my buddies throughout the season and it comes up with Peter King today:
From Joe C. of Diamond Bar, Calif.: "Longtime reader and love your columns, especially your coffeenerdness. Maybe I am the only one who strongly believes this, but Randy Moss is by far the MVP over Tom Brady or anybody else in the NFL. Yes, Brady is having a superhuman-like season but it is due in large part to having Moss on the team as well as having the best offensive line in the NFL. Not to say Brady is a little overrated, but put any competent NFL QB in his position, add Moss, and I'm almost certain they will have the same numbers as Mr. Brady. Your thoughts?

I disagree. The fact Brady is making it look easy does not mean it, in fact, is easy. The fact is, no quarterback has ever completed 74 percent of his passes for a season, which Brady is doing, and no quarterback ever has had 38 touchdown passes after 10 games. Brett Favre's career-high for TD passes in a season is 39. Brady has 38, in 205 fewer attempts than Favre when he threw 39. I agree Moss is a huge factor, and I also think he should get some MVP votes. But answer this: The loss of which player would damage the Patriots more in the playoffs -- Brady or Moss?"

I don't pretend to think that Moss will get the MVP. He won't. Brady will (and he'll deserve it). But Moss isn't just a huge factor, he's the factor.

I've always found it hard to believe that people don't give Moss more credit. Randy Moss has made average quarterbacks look like MVPs. Randall Cunningham came out of nowhere to throw for 34 TDs in 1998. Jeff George looked done and then tossed 23 TDs in 1999 (and then proceeded to look done). Dante Culpepper threw 33 TDs as a first year starter in 2000 and tossed 39 in 2004.

How have those guys looked without Moss? (And don't give me anything about Culpepper being hurt; he was awful before he got hurt- 6 TDs, 12 INTs) .

Look, don't get me wrong, Tom Brady is ridiculous. He's great

But this is kind of a Barry Bonds situation.

Bonds was going to make the Hall of Fame before he did steroids. He was going to be a 500-500 guy. He was going to be first ballot; no doubter. But with steroids, he goes from a great player to the greatest player. Starts slamming 73 home runs. Starts getting intentionally walked with the bases loaded. He went from a Hall of Famer to a demigod.

Moss is Brady's version of steroids. Brady was already great. Already a Hall of Famer. But with Moss he looks like the greatest quarterback ever (I mean, 38 TDs... after 10 games?!?!). He's going to obliterate all the passing records this season. I actually do think that they're going to go undefeated. He doesn't do this without Moss.

Randy Moss has made scrubs look like MVPs. Now he's playing with a Hall of Fame quarterback and that quarterback is destroying every passing record in sight? This isn't a coincidence.

Which is why Moss should be the MVP.

Monday, November 19, 2007

OK, I lied

I have nothing today. I can't seem to focus on any one thing and I just don't have the time for a long 'thoughts' post.

Thankfully, the fine gentlemen over at Mistake by the Lake Sporting Times have compiled a list of the some of the crazy endings we've witnessed with the New Browns (I had actually meant to do something similar, but it wouldn't have been anywhere near this complete).

Also, if reading Born and Raised on the Cleveland Browns isn't part of your Monday routine... make it.

I'll have something... um... tomorrow?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

So, what I miss?

I'll have something up tomorrow... in the meantime, one down, nine to go.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Larry Hughes is out

ESPN 850 WKNR is reporting that Hughes will miss 2-4 weeks due to the bone bruise on his knee (can't find a link yet- sorry).

I, for one, am shocked, shocked, that Hughes is missing more time. Hopefully Brown can get settle on a decent sub pattern with Sasha Pavlovic and Devin Brown (needless to say, I like both of their games better than Larry's).

Also, I'm not sure whether or not I'll be able to write up the Utah game tonight (I'll be in Columbus for the OSU-Michigan festivities, you know, dumpster fires and car flipping) so you'll have to make due without me.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Orlando 117, Cleveland 116 OT

This one hurts. The Cavs were close for most of the game, got down in the fourth and made a late (and I mean late) push to get it into overtime. In OT they had a lead with 13 seconds to go, but Dwight Howard made two freebies and the Cavs couldn't convert at the other end (Hedo Turkoglu, of all people, tied LeBron up for a jump ball as time was about to expire).

LeBron was a beast. James played probably his most complete game of the year; he led the Cavaliers in just about every category you can think of by scoring 39 points, dishing out 14 assists, grabbing 13 boards and blocking two shots. He even hit his free throws (7-9), including three in the final 2.4 seconds of regulation. LeBron will probably take some crap from the media for having Turkoglu force the jump ball, but I can't fault anything about LeBron's performance Wednesday night. He hit a go-ahead shot with 13 seconds left in OT, he hit three free throws to tie the game to send it to OT and he guarded Rashard Lewis down the stretch- in short, he played like an MVP.

Can't say they aren't giving the fans what they want. Larry Hughes took the first Cavalier shot of the game. It was a jumper. He missed. Larry didn't have a particularly good game, going 2-12 for just 4 points. I'll direct your attention here.

The Cavs started out slow. They spotted the Magic a 7-0 lead and then got down 11-3. It's not really surprising, considering that Cleveland is coming off their West coast trip (they played in Denver on Monday night). However, they ended up having a 29-28 lead at the end of the first period. Things slowed a bit in the second quarter, getting down 52-45, before the Cavs closed out the half strong to take a 56-55 lead into halftime.

The offense looked good early. Four of the five Cavalier starters scored in double figures in the first 24 minutes (Hughes didn't score) and LeBron led the way with 14 points, 7 assists and 3 boards. The defense was the problem early on; the rotations weren't quick enough and it allowed Orlando to shoot 52% for the half.

Z and Gooden both had strong game offensively, but neither could contain Dwight Howard. Gooden had 23 points and 12 boards while Z pitched in 18 and 11. However, Howard had 35 and 16, including a couple big rebounds down the stretch (though the Cavs out rebounded Orlando 50-42 overall). This could've been a game that Varejao was missed, if just to get a cheap charge or two on Howard. The big fella got Z fouled out gave Gooden 5 as well.

Daniel Gibson's last basket came with 11:40 to go... in the third quarter. I'm sure Orlando stepped up their defense a bit, but Gibson had 13 points at halftime and 16 for the game. The guy was on fire too; he was perfect from the floor (5-5 overall, 4-4 from downtown) and from the line (2-2). I have no idea how the Cavs can't get him a shot over the final two periods and OT.

Pavlovic was back and he was so-so. Sasha had some good moments in the first half (6 points) but he made some mistakes down the stretch and he missed a bunch of open jumpers late (though, in a few weeks, I'm pretty sure those drop).

The turnovers hurt. Cleveland only had one more TO than Orlando (15 to 14) but they led to 20 Magic points, compared to just 13 for the Cavaliers. The Cavs had a bunch of mental mistakes as well, sloppy passes, traveling and just some general misunderstandings. They got better as the game went on, but if a few of those miscues don't happen...

and finally...

More injuries. Damon Jones' back flared up late in the game and Larry Hughes was having his knee looked at on the sideline (Hughes didn't play down the stretch, whether it's because of injury or just general crappiness, I don't know). At this point, losing Jones would be a bigger blow, as it would make Gibson the teams' only point guard AND consistent outside threat. The Cavs face Utah on Friday (which I may or may not be able to watch and/or write up) and that's a tough team to face when you want to stop a two game slide from ballooning into a three game losing streak.

One more thing

I've been meaning to highlight this in a 'Random Thoughts from the Weekend' but I've been busy with school (also, I have a day off today, which I think is obvious by my blogging output) so I haven't gotten around to it.

Erik has a good post (though a bit old) about how LeBron and the Cavs are coming off a trip to the Finals (seriously, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the NBA Finals people!) and how they're getting no respect, either nationally or locally.

And he's right, this is stupid. I'd love to be able to explain it, but I can't. See, I'm not your typical Cleveland fan, my loyalties go Cavs-Tribe-Browns in that order. I don't understand how the fans can pack a sports bar for the NFL Draft but then leave as the Cavs play (and win) a playoff game.

(But it makes sense; the Cavs were good when I was in grade school and middle school, when I first started to like sports. The Tribe kicked ass in the 90s when I was in high school. The Browns? They were OK when I was young and then left (and stunk upon their return) during middle school and high school. I think my loyalties make sense. Let's move on).

But there's more.

Erik also brings up Scott Raab's insane LeBron-Yankee cap rant ('worthless scrum') and then Raab comments leaves an incoherent comment about 'if Larry Bird had worn a Yankees cap' and how LeBron can't leave soon enough (I'm jealous, I wish Raab had left a comment on my Raab diatribe post).

It's pretty interesting and I recommend reading the whole thing.


Chris Sheridan says yes. Brian Windhorst says no.

Chris Sheridan even makes up a trade:

Trade No. 1

Marbury, Renald
o Balkman and Fred Jones to Cleveland for Larry Hughes, Anderson Varejao and Damon Jones

The Knicks gain some perimeter defense and add a frontcourt player who can actually play a little defense. The Cavs get a true point guard along with an energy forward, Balkman, to replace Varejao, and they get rid of their $13.65 million obligation to Hughes for the 2009-10 season, allowing them to become major players in free agency the summer before James' contract expires.

Sheridan's Marbury trade has the Cavs giving up Hughes in return. Would you do a Marbury-Hughes swap? We know that if the Cavs are going get rid of Hughes, they'll probably have to pick up another team's problem child in return, right?

Of course, this trade is dumb. Why would the Cavs give up Varejao as well? What does that have to do with anything? I could see a Hughes-Marbury swap of guys who need a change of scenery but I can't see the Cavs tossing in Varejao for likes of Fred Jones and Renaldo Balkman (now, if David Lee is involved...). Also, Sheridan calls Marbury "a true point guard" which is so completely ludicrous that I can't even wrap my head around it.

But there's more to consider here. We all know that Marbury's teams improve after he leaves right? How much has this been tested? Does Marbury need to be here a certain number of years? Games? How much does he need to be involved before the Cavs can kick him to the curb and enjoy that post-Marbury bump? 5 games? A few months? A season or two?

I'm not exactly sure I really want to find out.

And so it begins....

Kill me now:
Josh Markovic (Mimmiville): Can we finally come the realization the KG is much better than Tim Duncan?

SportsNation John Hollinger: That annoying 4-0 deficit in championship rings is putting a bit of a dent in your case.
Yup, 6 games in and the debate is settled. Why wait 'til the playoffs, let's just stop the season now and give the championship to the Celtics. I mean, they've beaten Washington, Toronto, Denver, New Jersey, Atlanta and Indiana, who can't these guys beat? Could this team challenge Chicago's 72 wins?

Stop it.

Kevin Garnett is not better than Tim Duncan. The '07-'08 Celtics shouldn't even be in the same conversation with the '95-'96 Bulls (let alone have their own comparison page on

They're a good team who's gotten off to a hot start. They'll win somewhere between 46-56 games this year. They aren't going to win 60 and they aren't going to sniff 70.

On a similar note, the second part (Eastern Conference part 2) of Bill Simmon's four part NBA preview posts today and I'm interested to see A) how many back handed compliments he gives the Cavaliers and B) if he's gone off the deep end with the Celtics or if he's kept his wits about him. BTW, Part 1 was quite enjoyable and it reminded me of how much I really enjoy his NBA stuff when he's not making up shit about LeBron.

No Buyout for Snow

There was a rumor that Eric Snow might ask for a buyout:

Cleveland Cavaliers insiders are starting to believe Eric Snow's days in Cleveland are numbered. Before undergoing knee surgery, Snow sold his house in Cleveland and returned to his family's home base in Atlanta.

After joining up with the Cavs for two games of their West Coast trip last week, he went back home to Atlanta citing personal reasons. The suspicion is he will ask the Cavs to buy him out of the two remaining years of his contract, which he hopes would allow him to sign with the Atlanta Hawks.

That might be a problem, though, since he stands to make $6.7 million this year and $7.3 million next year.

At first thought, I thought this might be a good idea, considering the glut of guards that the Cavs already have (plus the stellar play of Devin Brown). But come next offseason, Snow's expiring deal will ($7.3 million) could help the Cavs out a lot. I'd hate to see the Cavs sit on Snow's contract for all these years and then let him go without taking advantage of the expiring deal or the capspace.

Well, don't worry (I guess) because it looks like Snow is sticking around:

A report in the Detroit News this week suggested that Eric Snow plans to ask the Cavs for a buyout of the last two years of his contract and sign with the Atlanta Hawks. It was based on the fact that Snow's family moved from Cleveland to Atlanta full time over the summer. It sent the message boards buzzing.

It is simply not true.

Snow's agent, Steve Kauffman, said Tuesday there have been no buyout talks and there are no plans for such talks. According to a source, the Cavs have no interest in buyout talks, either.

Snow, a Canton native, has maintained a home in Atlanta for years and always planned to move his family there full time. The Cavs have had trade talks involving Snow, including with the Hawks, a source said, but nothing is imminent. Next year, in the final year of Snow's contract, when he's to be paid $7.3 million, he probably will become a key trading asset for the Cavs.

The team also values his defense and his leadership. Snow has been a captain for the past three seasons.

So there we go. He'll be here for at least this season. Which, honestly, is fine. They could use him in big defensive spots and simply having him around Daniel Gibson can't hurt, can it?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Denver 122, Cleveland 100

Seriously guys, I could've been watching Heroes. Wow, was that game ugly. Sure, you can talk about how it's the second night of a back-to-back, that it's the last game of the trip or any other excuse you can think up(Denver shot well, they're a poor matchup on the best of nights and the Cavs were missing bodies) but the fact is the Cavs didn't show up. There was no movement on offense and the defense was a step slow all night. Tired legs? Maybe. But in Denver, LeBron was getting the ball 25 feet from the hoop, rather than the 15 feet we've been used to seeing.

Larry Hughes had the right idea. Hughes got himself thrown out about 4 minutes into the game for arguing a foul (a foul on a jumpshot. Really? This is what you're getting thrown out for?) and didn't have to participate in the ensuing bloodbath. The Cavs could've used Larry's length in guarding Allen Iverson throughout the night (just to give him some different looks). The Cavs were already without Eric Snow (knee), Donyell Marshall (wrist), Sasha Pavlovic (back) and Anderson Varejao (dumbass) and they couldn't afford to lose another player.

LeBron had the quietest (and ugliest) 27 points you'll ever see. LeBron was attacking the basket early on and got to the line enough (14 FTA) but couldn't convert (8 FTM). Maybe it was his tired legs, maybe it was his poor free throw shooting, but as the game wore, LeBron settled more and more for jumpers (and long ones at that). James only had one rebound and that came early in the first quarter.

Allen Iverson always kills the Cavs. A.I. just had his way with Daniel Gibson (who picked up some dumb fouls again) in route to scoring 37 points on an un-Iverson-like 14-20 shooting. To be fair, when he's shooting at a high percentage (he was 2-4 from 3), he's basically unguardable.
The first half was brutal. The Cavs shot 24% in the first quarter and 35% for the entire half (while Denver was pouring them in at a 58% clip) and only made 9 out of 17 freebies. Somehow they were only down 3 at the end of the first period (21-18) but the lead ballooned to 15 at halftime and the Nuggets never looked back.

Not that the second half was any better. For the game, the Nuggets shot 55% from the floor and 54.5% from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, the Cavs shot 55.3% from the foul line. The entire fourth quarter was garbage time. The game was ugly.

The Cavalier big men were not good. Z was 1-6 and Gooden was 2-9. They still rebounded fairly well (I guess), Z had 6 boards in 20 minutes while Gooden pulled down 9 in 28. They both got burned on the defensive end quite a bit, especially Z (Marcus Camby took him off the dribble multiple times; the big guy just couldn't keep up).

Hey, Shannon Brown got some court time. And it only took a Hughes ejection, injuries to Snow and Pavlovic and a blow out. To his credit, Brown responded to his 16 minutes of PT by scoring 12 points on 4-9 shooting (hell, he also made 4-5 free throws, which was the best on the team).

and finally...

Home! It's too bad the Cavs ended the trip on this note, because they had a real solid first 5 games. 3-3 is not a bad trip at all (but man, 4-2 would've been nice). If there's a silver lining to Monday's game, it's the fact that Coach Mike got the starters some rest due to the blow out (and Hughes' temper). I hope it helps, because the Cavs aren't going to get much rest before facing Orlando in Cleveland on Wednesday in a quick turnaround game. It wouldn't shock me if the look a step slow in the game as well.

Cleveland 103, Los Angeles 95

At least one team showed up this weekend. This two game win streak certainly eases the pain caused by scrambling quarterbacks....

LeBron was very active. He didn't dominate the ball, but he did a ton of things right. In 36 minutes, he scored 22 points, dished out 8 assists and grabbed 6 boards to go along with 6 steals and yet another block (giving him 11 for the road trip). James put pressure on the Clippers defense by going inside (driving and setting up in the post) as well as running the floor before the defense is set.

Zydrunas won the battle of the bald(ing), white centers. Both Z and Chris Kaman played extremely well. Z 11-18 from the floor and he led the Cavaliers in scoring with 25. Kaman showed off a variety of post moves on his way to 21 points. Neither player could really stop the other one (which isn't exactly surprising, these guys aren't known for their defense) but the difference was the that the Cavs actually looked Ilgauskas's way down the stretch. Z had 12 of his 25 in the final quarter.

Devin Brown is currently making Eric Snow a really expensive assistant coach. Brown gave the Cavaliers another solid effort off the bench, scoring 8 points and grabbing 3 boards. Brown defends, he rebounds, he runs the floor and he can shoot. He does the dirty work that Snow does (like guarding Corey Maggette in the post) while also having the ability to put the ball in the basket.

Larry Hughes returned. Larry played pretty well in his first game back; he scored 12 points on 5-8 shooting and even hit a 3. He was pretty active in his time on the floor, but he only got just 28 minutes (though I think this had more to do with the play of the bench, rather than Hughes). He took good shots for the most part (though there was one or two...) and he looked pretty solid at the defensive end (his knee didn't seem to hold him back any).

But now Sasha is hurt. Pavlovic only played 6 minutes (he looked tentative) and he left the game with back spasms. Obviously, this isn't good. However, if there's one position where the Cavs actually have depth, shooting guard is it.

Third time may be the charm for Coach Mike's offense. The offense was pretty solid in Los Angeles; the Cavs shot 50% (42-83) and they scored in the triple digits. Now, some of this was simply good shooting (both Z and Hughes had their jumpers falling) but the Cavs should get credit for taking good shots. The biggest difference this season (besides the 'passing and cutting') is the fact the Cavaliers are feeding the post on a regular basis (to the entire starting front court); I think that regular post play is helping them stay out of those prolonged scoring droughts that plagued them for much of last season.

Speaking of solid post play, Drew Gooden had a great night. By any measure, with his 18 points and 17 boards, Gooden had a great game. But his line is even more riduculous when you see that he put up those numbers in just 30 minutes (and he sat the entire fourth period). Gooden was extremely active on both ends and the Cavs rode his hot hand for much of the first half. I was kind of surprised the Brown kept Gooden on the bench, considering that he had really good chance for a 20-20 night, but the bench guys played so well, Drew stayed in his warm ups.

Teams are going at Daniel Gibson. He's getting too many dumb fouls (slaps and reaches) and teams are making him play defense (whether it's in the post or catching him off guard at certain points in the game). I'm sure this is something he'll work on and fix, but Sam Cassell (28 points) had his way with him. The Cavs need his shooting and he'll only be able to shoot if he can stay out of foul trouble and stay on the court.

Coach Mike stayed with his bench for the final period. LeBron and Z played the bulk of the fourth with Damon Jones, Ira Newble and Devin Brown (and it worked). Jones was taking care of the ball and hitting jumpers while Newble and Brown did the dirty work. I was a bit surprised that Gibson, Hughes and Gooden were all planted to the bench down the stretch, but with the strong play of the reserves (plus that game in Denver the next night), it worked out.

and finally...

We can't really expect a 4-2 West coast trip... can we? A win in Denver gives the Cavs a winning record for the trip, which I certainly didn't think was possible (especially after the Dallas game- ugh). Even if they lose to go 3-3, they gave a good effort and played pretty well in the losses to Phoenix and Utah. As long as they don't completely lay an egg against the Nuggets, they should return to Cleveland feeling pretty good about themselves.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

That sucked

Couple things:

1) 4th and inches, Illinois has the punt team out and OSU calls timeout. Illinois comes back and runs for the 1st down. Excellent time out.

2) Hey ABC, wanna mention the fumble on Illinois first drive? The one on the goal line? No? OK

3) Maybe this time they'll pass... Nope... how about this time? No? OK this time they gotta pass... OSU's defense might want to look for the run at some point.

4) If anyone is surprised that OSU had trouble with Juice Williams, they obviously didn't watch OSU's game against Washington and James Locker. Locker would have these long drives that would end with an INT or some kind of mistake. Williams didn't make those mistakes.

5) There was going to be a game where Todd Boeckman stunk it up and the defense needed to step it up. This was it. Too bad the defense stunk it up too. Also, Boeckman threw some terrible picks. The one in the endzone was brutal (he got spooked in the pocket, even though there was no pressure).

6) Everyone pile on OSU. Please. Come on, they didn't deserve to be number 1, they didn't play anyone good, blah blah. Enjoy it. Only 2 of the 24 starters are seniors, they're gonna dominate next season.

7) In the same vein, OSU fans shouldn't be that mad or upset. Seriously, this was the rebuilding year. There's still a chance for a BCS game.

8) Speaking of the BCS, this is great. Obviously, I'd rather have OSU go undefeated... BUT if they were to lose, I'd want it to screw up the BCS as much as possible. And having OSU as one of the 1-loss teams hurts the BCS. The more big name teams with 1-loss the better.

9) Maybe they'll pass this time...

10) I was worried about Michigan losing and playing against Ohio State free and easy with nothing to lose (solely to mess up OSU national championship hopes). Well, both teams lost... so... ya...

Cleveland 93, Sacramento 91

They would've lost this game last year. Poor shooting (38%)? Check. On the road? Check. Against a less talented team? Check. Good excuses (injuries, West coast trip)? Check. This game had all the trappings of those frustrating losses that plagued the team all last season (against the Hawks, Knicks, Celtics, etc). The Cavs were flat, the offense sputtered and key players struggled (Sasha Pavlovic was 1-10 and both Daniel Gibson and Zydrunas Ilgauskas were in foul trouble). But somehow they prevailed.

That 'somehow' was LeBron James. James didn't have a particularly strong evening (he didn't grab his first rebound until the fourth quarter) but he scored 8 points over the game's last three minutes to put the Kings away (which is great, because he only scored 7 points in the first 24 minutes). The stat sheet wasn't as stuffed as much as it's been recently (only 4 boards and 4 assists- he's averaging 8 and 7.5 for the season, respectively) but James played great down the stretch on both ends of the court. LeBron had yet another block (he's averaging 2 per game- and I thought he had an additional one) and he was in Kevin Martin's face for the Kings' last possession.

Devin Brown played great. Brown gave the Cavs 20 points, 11 boards and 3 assists in 36 minutes (by far his most court time this season). The Cavs needed Brown to play well since Daniel Gibson was in foul trouble all night and Sasha Pavlovic shot a Larry Hughes-esque 1-10 from the floor. Brown also helped the Cavs spread the floor as he hit two out of his six 3s (plus, when he goes inside, he has the strength to finish).

The Kings' zone defense gave the Cavs fits. So far this season, the Cavs have done a pretty good job of sticking with their offense and getting the ball inside. That didn't happen in Sacramento. Thanks to the Kings' defense, the Cavs shot 25 3s (making 7) and just 22 free throws (making 16). The Cavs shot just 38% from the floor, 28% from beyond the arc and just 72% from the line (though that 72% marks the high point over the last three games). The Cavs didn't go inside, LeBron was getting the ball 25 feet from the hoop (rather than 15 like he's done all year) and for some reason, both Gooden and Z were receiving and passing the ball from beyond the 3 point arc during the last 2 minutes.

Dear ESPN, yes the Cavs have a lot of injuries, but nobody cares (well, Cavalier fans certainly don't care). Seriously, the injured Cavaliers are Eric Snow, Larry Hughes and Donyell Marshall- all the older, unproductive players (that absolutely kill the offense). The only player out that the Cavs actually miss is Anderson Varejao. I, for one, am more than willing to have Coach Mike teach the young, offensive minded players how to play defense rather than having to watch decent defensive players run the 'offense'. I can't even imagine how bad the Cavs' offense would've looked if Snow and Hughes were out there against that zone.

Kevin Martin is pretty good... He scored 32 points on just 17 shots and he made 17 out of 18 free throws. That's efficient. The Kings used him similarly to Reggie Miller; Martin was running Cavs players through picks all night long in order to get open jumpers. I actually thought that the Cavs did a pretty decent job on him (only 7-17 shooting), but the points sure do rack up when you make over 90% of your free throws (hint hint LeBron).

Drew Gooden bounced back. After shooting just 2-11 and going for just 8 points (to go with 9 boards) against Utah, Gooden shot 6-13 and had 14 points (with again, 9 boards) in Sacramento. With Varejao out, Gooden, if he can stay focus, has a chance to establish himself as the Cavs mainstay at the power forward position.

Ilgauskas probably had his worst game of the year. And he still finished with 11 points and 15 boards in 34 minutes. The big fella was frustrated most of the evening with his lack of touches (he was just 3-11), the bulk of which came off his 8 offensive rebounds. Z's averaging 16 points and 14 boards for the season in about 34 minutes a game (which is right around where I'd like to see him. He doesn't need to be in the upper 30s in terms of minutes, but 32-35 should work).

However, with Z in foul trouble and Varejao sitting on his ass in Brazil, we got our first look at Cedric Simmons. Simmons intrigues me, simply because of his athleticism (seriously, I want LeBron paired with a big man who can leap) but he really didn't do a whole lot in his first 9 minutes of the season (1 rebound, 1 block, 0-2 FT, 0-1 FG). With Varejao's contract situation still up in the air (and it could be that way for awhile) and Donyell Marshall out, Simmons is battling Dwayne Jones for the back up big man minutes. So far, neither has done much to distinguish himself.

Did everyone see Mike Bibby in street clothes? This is one of the many reasons why I'm glad the Cavs didn't trade for him (along with his contract, his 3 point shooting and the leverage they'd lose with Varejao). Sure, I'm not thrilled with all of Danny Ferry's moves (and let's not forget that he was on the job for about a week for the Hughes, Marshall and Jones signings), but I'm impressed with the moves he hasn't done, to keep the Cavs out of even worse cap trouble (both the Gooden and Pavlovic deals, Varejao slowly screwing himself over and, lord, right now we could be watching both Hughes and Bibby wear suits every night).

Like I said, not all the moves... Shannon Browns got another DNP-CD against the Kings. It's really not a good sign when last season's first round pick can't get minutes with two veteran guards out (Snow and Hughes) while the other guard (Pavlovic) plays himself into shape and shoots 25% (10-40 FG, 1-13 3pt).

and finally...

Finish the trip strong. So far, the Cavs are 2-2 on their West coast trip. With the remaining games against the Clippers (4-1) and the Nuggets (3-3), you hope they can at least grab a split and finish the six game swing goes 3-3. It'd be a great start to the season if the Cavs can return to Cleveland with .500 or winning record. Neither game is particularly easy, but the way the Cavs have played on this trip, it wouldn't be a stretch for them to finish it out with a three game win streak.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

This is Stupid

Why would the Browns do this? I mean, wow, I'd love to see this offense with Adrian Peterson; could imagine a back like that complimenting this passing attack? But do you know what the key word in that sentence was?


I'd love to see Peterson with this offense. I'd love to see Peterson getting downfield blocks from Braylon Edwards. I'd love to see Peterson catch swing passes from Derek Anderson. I'd love to see Peterson run behind this offensive line.

I'm sure we all remember that last season Charlie Frye got tackled multiple times while handing the ball off. Don't get me wrong, Derek Anderson's been great this year. Great. Last week he was 29-48 for 364 yards. But, out of the 48 times he dropped back to pass, do you know how many times he was sacked? 0. Zero. Nada. Zilch. Nil. Zip. Derek Anderson isn't being Derek Anderson if the Browns don't draft Joe Thomas (and sign Eric Steinbach). If Anderson has to run for his life every play, we're not watching Braylon Edwards make sweet catches.

So, while Adrian Peterson has been spectacular (oh, and by the way, the Vikings are 3-5), I don't think the (5-3!) Browns would do anything different with that third overall pick.

Utah 103, Cleveland 101

This one hurts. The Cavs were down for the bulk of the game, but they fought and clawed all night long to tie the score with 6 seconds left (hell, they were down 5 with 27 seconds left). But, instead of calling a timeout, Utah and Deron Williams ran down the court and scooped in a layup with 1 second left.

LeBron played great. LBJ notched his first triple double of the season (and he had it before the 4th quarter began). James finished the game with 32 points (on 12-27 shooting), 15 boards, 13 assists nevermind his 3 steals and 2 blocks. He hit the 3 to tie the game with 6 seconds left (and that was a back breaker- hand in his face, standing still... ridiculous). James looks really good right now; he's doing everything that a coach (or fan) could want. He's taking good shots, he's passing extremely well (he easily could've had more assists if guys finished strong) and he's playing superb defense (he has 9 blocks over the last three games).

This was the first game that I thought the Cavs actually missed Anderson Varejao. They needed someone to match the energy of Utah's Paul Milsap, who just murdered the Cavs with junk points and rebounds. Milsap had a career high 24 points to go along with 5 boards. They also needed Varejao to spell Drew Gooden, who needed a break mentally. It just wasn't Drew's night; he was just 2-11 from the floor and he missed numerous close shots. He also got the ball stripped a few times while dribbling in the key (he'd get a pass or a rebound and do a power dribble to set himself. But whenever he brought the ball that low, someone would get a hand on the ball). This doesn't mean I want the Cavs to go give Andy that one year deal, but with Marshall out, you can tell that Mike Brown doesn't trust his bench bigs (Dwayne Jones got just 9 minutes and I'm not sure if we've seen Cedric Simmons play all year- though he might be hurt).

The Cavs must get their free throw shooting under control. They lost by 2, in Utah, on a second night of a back to back and they shot just 65% from the line (while the Jazz were 34-40 for 85%). Though, honestly, this wasn't so much a team problem as it was a LeBron James problem. James was just 7-15 from the stripe. To his credit, they weren't falling early (just 3-8) but he kept forcing the issue to get back to the line. In close road loss like this, the Cavs need LeBron to make at least 70% of his freebies (though, 80% is the number to aim for).

Zyrdrunas Ilgauskas played really well. Again. Big Z had 18 points, 14 boards and 4 blocks in 31 minutes. You wonder if this game would've turned out differently if it wasn't the second night of a back-to-back because Z definitely could've (and should've) had more court time. I think the new 'drive and kick' offense has allowed Z to get more set jumpers as well as some lanes for offensive rebounds (he had 7 against the Jazz).

Daniel Gibson takes some tough calls. So far this year, opposing point guards go right at Boobie and try to draw contact. I don't think he really is out of position or slaps too much but he doesn't have the strength to body some of these guys inside (of course, he just went against Baron Davis and Deron Williams, not many guards can put a body on those two). However, Gibson continued to shoot well, knocking down three treys and scoring 12 points.

Sasha Pavlovic played well... for a half. For the first half, Pavlovic had 17 points. For the game... he had 17 points. Maybe he's still playing his way into game shape, I dunno. But he airballed a wide open 3 in the fourth and was generally non-existent for the final period. As the season (and road trip) marches on, I think we'll see Sasha put together complete games.

The little things hurt. The Cavs had way too many turnovers. They had 18 for the game, but 13 of those came in the first half. There were a lot of bad passes, traveling violations and just general disarray at the offensive end. A lot of these weren't even forced turnovers, just simple miscues by the Cavaliers. Utah did get some lucky bounces of their own; there were multiple times that a Cavalier player would slap away a pass or shot on the defensive end, only to see it land next to a Utah player three feet from the rim. Also, the Jazz had at least six 'and one' plays (and Paul Milsap had three of 'em). Like I said, I wonder how this game turns out if it isn't the second night of a back-to-back.

But the effort was there. One of my big problems with the Cavaliers last season is that, when they lost, they lost ugly. They'd take bad shots, they'd lose focus and they simply just played bad. So far, at least on this road trip, I like how the Cavs have played, losses included. The effort has been there every night (the Cavs outrebounded Utah 47-43), the defense has been there (Z and LeBron combined for 6 blocks) and they stayed within their game plan (movement! using the post! all game long!).

and finally...

Does anyone not like this starting five? The Cavs (and LeBron) are so much tougher to guard when defenses have to account for both guards behind the arc. Gibson and Sasha help spread the floor and it gives the offense more space to maneuver. If Pavlovic hadn't missed training camp, I would guess that Larry Hughes would be coming off the bench upon his return (but, if Hughes comes back anytime soon -before Sasha gets his legs back- I'd expect him to resume his starting role). I think it's safe to say the Cavs should give coach Brown offensive players who he can teach defense, rather than defensive specialists who have to learn to shoot.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Cleveland 108, Golden State 104

First road win out of the way. The Cavs are just 2-2, but I think you have to be pleased with their play since the season opener. The Cavs fought hard against Golden State; they withstood a few Warrior runs, they played solid defense and, while they pushed the ball, they didn't get caught up trying to run with Golden State.

LeBron led the Cavs in just about everything. He paced the team in points (24), rebounds (14) , assists (9), blocks (3) and chastisings of Drew Gooden (1) all while playing with blurred vision (after getting a poked in the eye late in the first period). Throughout the night, LeBron set up about 15 feet from the rim and got some easy baskets (well, at least some baskets where he's not going 1 on 5). His 3(!) blocks were pretty ridiculous and his effort at the defensive end was strong all evening (he wanted, and got, to guard Baron Davis down the stretch). He was both dominant and playing within the flow of the game. Needless to say, I enjoyed it.

But it's not like he didn't have help. Both Daniel Gibson and Zydrunas Ilgausksas dropped in 22 points and Drew Gooden pitched in 16. Gibson knocked down 5-9 from beyond the arc (including a trey with 19 seconds left to put the Cavs up 4) and Z was 9-15 from the floor while grabbing 13 boards. I know a lot of Z's stat averages are up simply due to his increased work load, but you can't say the big man isn't playing great ball right now. He's rebounding well and taking good shots (it also helps that the Cavs are actually looking into the post with some regularity). Plus, Z moved more Tuesday night than he has in the past 4 years (he had a multiple drive to the rim and, surprise, they were effective).

Sasha Pavlovic hasn't gotten his legs under him yet. While Sasha was a brutal 2-11, I didn't find myself too upset with is play (certainly not as upset as I'd be with a 2-11 night from Larry Hughes. Of course, at this point I may have an irrational dislike for Hughes and his game). Sasha missed his share of open jumpers as well as a few layups. I expect that once he gets a few games under is belt that those shots will start dropping. Plus, I love a starting 5 of Gibson, Pavs, LeBron, Gooden and Z. That group will score points.

The bench was ok... Damon Jones scored 10 points (4-8 overall and 2-6 from downtown) and ran the point fairly well. Dwayne Jones only got 3 minutes but blocked a shot and challenged a few others. Devin Brown was probably the biggest help off the bench; Brown played his fair share of point guard and he notched 8 points, 8 assists and 6 boards in 27 minutes.

Both teams shot poorly from the foul line. The Cavs and the Warriors were both under 70%. LeBron was 5-7, Z was 4-6 and Gooden was 2-4 (for the game, the Cavs shot 68%). This could've come back to bite them at the end, but Golden State shooting 69% let them off the hook. For the season, the Cavs are shooting just 67% from the line; this has too improve.

Since it was a close game throughout (nevermind an entertaining one) we didn't get to see many young guys. Part of me is surprised that Shannon Brown hasn't played since then opener but another part of me remembers his play during said opener. I was also interested in seeing Golden State's Italian rookie, Marco Belinelli, but he didn't get any court time (the Cavs were his first DNP-CD). I spent last June's draft hoping the Cavs would find a way to trade into the first round to snag Belinelli but instead they stood pat (as I'm sure we're all aware).

The Cavs defense was decent. Yes, Golden State scored over 100 but they only shot 42% from the floor. Baron Davis attacked the smaller Gibson on the block a few times, but the Cavs did a pretty good job of forcing Davis into tough shots. Davis scored 29 points, but needed 28 shots to do it (for comparison, LeBron had 24 points on 16 shots).

This was the best the Cavs' offense has looked all season. They made quick decisions with the ball, it looked like the knew what they wanted to do and they went to the post for the entire game (unlike in Phoenix when they stopped for the 3rd period). The Cavs also pushed the ball quite a bit; they'd grab a rebound and throw a pass quickly, rather than holding onto the ball and waiting for a guard. Having Devin Brown and LeBron crash the defensive boards is a ready made break. All in all, the offensive movement was the best it's been all season (and sure, they were playing against Golden State's defense but I was just glad to see the Cavs stick to their gameplan).

and finally...

First back-to-back of the season. Playing Golden State and then Utah won't be easy, especially with the Cavs missing a good chunk of their roster (Varejao, Hughes, Marshall and Snow). Plus, the starters logged a lot of minutes against the Warriors; James had 42, Z had 38, Gooden had 37 and Gibson notched 35. It'll be interesting to see how the Cavs' effort will be following the game in Oakland.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Speaking of Larry Hughes....

First of all, he's hurt again (if you had 3 games in the pool, collect your money). Secondly, Gilbert Arenas commented on Larry in his blog (via Truehoop):

You paid Larry money because Larry did something well: he scored. You can't have a guy who averaged 22 points one year and then go somewhere new and not get the same average and then you bash him. No, if you want him to be what he was, you need to change the tempo of your game. Besides Ilgauskas, you have runners. You have a team that wants to run. A team like Cleveland can run up and down and still bog down on defense. Their leader is one of the top athletes in the world. When we used to play them they always had us down 20 in the first period because they just ran and you couldn't stop them on the break.

That's why I mentioned when LeBron first got there when he had Ricky Davis and Darius Miles, they were just flying up and down. I know Mike Brown came in and tweaked the defense and stuff like that, but if you want to utilize what Larry Hughes is, you need to open the floor and let them run more. With that team, your defense isn't going to go anywhere. But you want to bring the tempo up. You keep hearing his name in trade rumors and fans going, 'We want him out of here, he doesn't fit the system.' Well, sometimes you have to change the system for your players. I know a lot of coaches say the players need to fit their systems, but sometimes you have to tweak the system a little too. It's a 50-50 thing.
I'm not going to say that Gilbert doesn't have a point because, well... he does. The Cavs do play slower than the Wizards, so Hughes isn't going to get the same number of touches as he did in D.C. (Also, as I've argued numerous times here and on message boards, the Cavs gave Larry Hughes money because they couldn't give Ray Allen or Michael Redd money and they couldn't start the season with Ira Newble at shooting guard. Larry was the next best option and he was coming off a career year).

Would I like to see them run some more? Sure, in certain situations. You know what would help the running game? A point guard. (Also, I'm not convinced that Z slows the Cavs down that much. You want to run? Have Z throw outlet passes and let LeBron and co. push the ball. The Lakers ran with Kareen and he wasn't exactly nimble. But that's neither here nor there).

My problem with Hughes is his shot selection. If he's open for a jumper, I'm ok with it; but if he forces a jumper (especially early in the shot clock)... not so much. In the same vein, I wish he'd attack the hoop more, but then we start taking chances with his health (he's hit the 70 game mark just twice in his 10 year career).

I'm wondering how much longer Hughes stays in Cleveland. I can't imagine him playing out this contract in a Cavs uniform. The Cavs best offensive unit is Daniel Gibson, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron, Drew Gooden and Z. Each of those five guys can score. You have to defend the entire court. Teams can sag off of Hughes (or Snow or Varejao) to double LeBron because they don't think he can hit the jumper consistently and he can't finish in traffic at this stage of his career. Having Gibson and Pavs spread the floor can open things of for LeBron and Z in the post.

I'm all for the Cavs tweaking the offense (and lord knows it needs more than 'tweaking') but I'm not sure how much of it they should cater towards Hughes. The guy's a career 40% shooter (who's having trouble with his shot) who misses big chunks of the season. I don't exactly want this guy shooting the ball more.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Phoenix 103, Cleveland 92

It actually was a closer game than the final score makes it appear. Sure, most Cavs fans won't find solace in that, but the game was pretty close throughout.

Actually, the Cavs had a lead at halftime, 45-38. That's right, they held the Suns under 40 points in the first half. The Cavs slowed down the tempo, played tough defense (only 6 Phoenix fastbreak points) and took advantage of Amare Stoudemire's absence by routinely going inside to the bigs (plus they outrebounded Phoenix 35-17). Of course, it also helped that the Suns were ice cold from the floor in the first half (though the Cavs did hold them mostly to jumpers).

Then the 3rd quarter happened. So the Cavs led 45-38 at halftime... and with 7:00 to go in the 3rd period they led 47-46. 5 minutes. 2 points. Yuck. Plus it was really really fun to watch; it wasn't like those 5 minutes were filled with 20 foot jumpers (1-6) and poor turnovers (including a traveling call, a 3 seconds call and multiple terrible passes) or anything...

Also, they stopped going to the big men down low. I don't get it, they simply stopped exploiting their height advantage and settled for jumpers. They went inside later in the game, but by that time (late 4th quarter) they were playing catch up. The Suns made a run to get back into the game and the Cavs blinked; they settled for jumpers and got off their game plan.

Larry Hughes and Damon Jones don't know how to pass. I'm not saying they're selfish or anything, but they don't see passing angles that well (they'll miss open guy or will simply force the issue). Also, the entire team needs to get better at post entry passes, it's pretty pathetic. It's OK to utilize bounce passes every now and then.

Some of that could be the new offense. The Cavs didn't look as unsure as they did against Dallas, but they still don't quickly recognize when to pass the ball and to hold on to it. LeBron is going down low quite a bit and they need to exploit that more often. If he gets a smaller man on him, they need to make that pass inside (bounce, lob... however).

For the season, Larry Hughes is 9-33. That's a blistering 27%. I don't care for his jumpers, but I did like his drive on Steve Nash. I wish he'd do that more often...

LeBron played pretty well (especially defensively). 27 points, 8 assists, 5 boards, 4 blocks(!) and 2 steals. Plus, he was 3-5 from beyond the arc and he got easy points by hanging out by the hoop and taking advantage of the Suns' lack of height (though he still gets pushed away from the block too easily).

However... LeBron's first field goal came after 6 minutes went by in the first period. His last field goal came with 6:07 to go in the 4th. Over the last 6 minutes of the game, LeBron had just 2 points (on two free throws). Oh, and those two freebies? Those were his first foul shots of the game. I hate to ask this guy to do more but... if the Cavs are going (to have a chance) to win in Phoenix, LeBron can't go basket-less for (multiple) 6 minute chunks and he needs to shoot his first free throws before there's just 1:35 left in the game. (Did I, a Cleveland fan, just criticize a 27-8-5-4 performance? I'm spoiled).

Z and Gooden continue to play well. They've both started the year off well (Z is averaging 15 points and 14 boards while Gooden's at 16 and 10) and their solid play continued in Phoenix. Both big men had 22 points and Gooden paced the Cavs with 14 boards and Z followed with 13. The Cavs needed them to rebound well because, with Donyell Marshall hurt and Anderson Varejao getting fat in Brazil, the Cavs don't have a lot of options down low (also, Dwayne Jones got a DNP-CD, so make of that what you will).

Sasha Pavlovic was back. Pavlovic had just 2 points on 1-5 shooting, but I think he'll be fine once he shakes the rust off of his jumper.

I wish the Cavs would exploit their matchups more. Whenever Damon Jones get brought in, teams attack him. Whenever Daniel Gibson gets switched on a bigger player, the opposition puts him right on the block. The Suns closed out the game by getting Drew Gooden to guard Steve Nash for back to back possessions. Why the Cavs don't do this more often is beyond me. They can't run a 1-3 pick and roll? Get Nash stuck guarding LeBron? No good?

and finally...

All things considered, not a bad game. Yeah, you could say they blew it, but I thought the Cavs did a decent job overall (it was certainly better than the Suns games last season. Ugh). A repeat of the Dallas game (or last year's game in Phoenix) would've really gotten this road trip off on the wrong foot. As it is, they're in decent shape going into Golden State on Tuesday.