Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

On Toughness

Monday, May 18th, 2015

In the aftermath of the Cavs six game grindfest against the Chicago Bulls, one thing became abundantly clear to me about this current incarnation of the Cavaliers… these guys are anything but soft. In fact, they may actually be comprised entirely of Cleveland-forged, reinforced sheet metal, held together with rusty nails and covered in the shattered glass shards and detritus from the wreckage of their opponents. Not only does this team bear no resemblance to the sometimes marshmallow-like Cavs playoff teams of yesteryear, they don’t even remotely resemble the relatively soft and slow team they were at the start of the season, which now seems like eons ago.

So far, the crucible of the first post-season appearance for so many of these young Cavaliers (minus LBJ and a few other wily vets) has forged them into a hardened weapon, capable of bludgeoning their adversaries into submission. They have taken an exponential leap in their defensive toughness and intensity, reaching a gear that has propelled them from middle-of-the-pack to the top of the statistical heap amongst playoff contenders.

Yet, it’s more than that. There’s an inner strength that has begun to boil beneath the gritty exterior. A resilience that’s been cultivated over a season of ups and downs, marred with early adversity, spiked with controversy, and more recently threatened by severe injury. A fortitude that’s been built on a foundation of brotherhood and regional pride, stoked by the fires of external doubt and slights, and solidified by an inherent belief in one another and themselves.


The Point Four-ward: When The Going Gets Tough…

Thursday, May 14th, 2015


Four points I’m thinking about the Cleveland Cavaliers…

1.) Coming into this series, one of my biggest concerns was how the Cavaliers’ toughness would stack up against the Chicago Bulls.

The Bulls, after all, roll out a number of players — point guard Derrick Rose, swingman Jimmy Butler and center Joakim Noah, in particular — who are long, strong and, overall, play a more physical style than their Cavaliers counterparts. The Bulls also feature a deep and talented front court rotation that, along with the 6-11 Noah, include 6-9 Taj Gibson, 6-10 rookie Nikola Mirotic and the 7-0 All-Star Pau Gasol, who is “hopeful” he’ll be able to play in Thursday night’s Game 6 after missing the last two games with a hamstring injury.

But, beyond being physically tough — which the Bulls definitely are — they are one of the most mentally tough teams in the league.


On Leadership

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

Yesterday was about as hyperbolic as it gets in the NBA media world. Pundits across the new media sphere took it upon themselves to analyze the Cavs victory over the Bulls on Sunday. Their favorite talking point: head coach David Blatt, who was weighed in the balance and, by many, found wanting. Coach Blatt was called to task for his attempt to call a timeout when he had none (and was saved from the mistake by Tyron Lue), and for his initial final play call: to have LeBron inbound instead of shoot.

Much of the media’s questioning and “analysis” reached a level of groupthink and rabid mob demagoguery that was surprising, even for those of us who regularly and wade into the murky waters of NBA mainstream and social medias.


The Point Four-ward: One and (Not) Done

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015


Four points I’m thinking about the Cleveland Cavaliers…

1.) Well, that sure wasn’t fun.

Cavs fans knew their team had some things to overcome in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semi-Finals matchup with the Chicago Bulls. Besides missing two starters in Kevin Love (shoulder) and J.R. Smith (poor decisions), the Cavs had accumulated the rust of the eight days that had passed since they last laced up for a game.

The Bulls, meanwhile, were coming off an historic 54-point demolition of the Milwaukee Bucks, finally finishing off that series in six games after leading it 3-0. While many have touted the Bulls as “finally clicking” or “getting healthy at the right time,” that might be a bit of an overstatement. Joakim Noah has battled knee and hamstring issues all year and was clearly limited in Game 1, failing to score on 0-4 shooting, though he was able to tally nine boards and four assists. Nikola Mirotic saw only two minutes of action, after being bothered by quad and knee issues during the Milwaukee series. And Derrick Rose isn’t exactly back if his shooting drops off from 56.1% from the floor when he gets two or more days rest to 42% when he plays with only one day off.

Still, the Bulls were the more fully lubricated machine on this night. The Cavs seemed completely out of sorts following the insertion of Mike Miller and Iman Shumpert into the starting lineup, and the Bulls rode a hot shooting streak that punished the Cavs for every defensive breakdown.


Love’s Labour’s Lost… And the 5 Stages of Dealing With It

Friday, May 1st, 2015

[If you haven’t taken a listen to Tom’s terrific chat with Mark Neal… please read no further until you have done so…]

This past week has been a challenging one for Cavs fans, myself included. What should have been the joy and satisfaction of victory, easily sweeping a first round series against a scrappy Boston team, turned rapidly into the agony and pain of a nightmare injury scenario in one awkward yank.

I hate admitting it, but I’m old enough to have witnessed the painfully devastating Jim Chones injury that effectively ended the “Miracle of Richfield” season in 1976. But, be you a long time, die-hard believer in the wine and gold like me, a relative newcomer to the “All In” bandwagon, or somewhere in between, the now nearly unfolded saga of the dislocation of Kevin Love (both his arm from his shoulder socket, and his presence in the starting lineup of his team) has likely sent you careening with me down the rabbit hole of the infamous Kübler-Ross model for the Five Stages of Grief. And if it didn’t, then you are likely either numb or immune to the concept of the curse of being a Cleveland sports fan… or you are a robot.

The stages themselves (for me at least) have arrived on an almost daily basis, with each passing 24-hour frame offering up a new layer of information, media attention and discussion about the joint in question. So, it seemed fitting to break them down that way…


The Point Four-ward: Love-less and More

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015


[Note: if you haven’t checked out David Wood and Evil Genius going at each other in a classic Cavs: The Duel, from earlier today, go here first.]

Four points I’m thinking about the Cleveland Cavaliers…

1.) The pop Cavs fans heard when Kelly Olynyk “got tied up” with Kevin Love wasn’t Love’s shoulder separating from its socket — the acute anterior inferior glenohumeral dislocation with the corresponding ligament/labrum tearing and humeral head bone bruising. It was almost as if Love’s shoulder was mic’d up at that moment of “incidental contact” with Olynyk, as a crushing, sickening popping sound echoed throughout all of Cavs fandom. It was that moment that a wheel popped off of what had, until this point, been a very fun ride on the Cavs bandwagon.


The Case for Cleveland

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015


Editor’s Note: This piece was written before the events of Sunday, but I believe it is more relevant now than ever. As someone who didn’t grow up in northeast Ohio, but adopted it as my home and chose to raise a family here, this piece resonates with me. I believe a Cleveland championship is still within this team’s grasp. I believe that, at their best, sports have the ability to elevate and unify us as citizens of this great country and this great state. That is something worth hoping for. We all could use a dose of hope today. Hope and anticipation always trump despair and worry when rolling over the potholes on the road to a goal. Thanks for writing this, Cory. -Nate

We all have to come from somewhere and have little choice in the matter. A long time ago, ambitious men drew lines on paper to divvy up soil to segregate ourselves from one another, and our minds are so powerful, or so weak, that today we believe that those boundaries are natural. As time passed those lines defined where we were from and who we are. Different sets of customs, speech and mores arose. Where you’re from is probably something simple like where your grandfather found work or where your mother forgot to take a pill. For Northeast Ohioans, that work was breaking their bodies in the mile long mills that built America. Coke ovens spitting out heat so hot that it would make the devil himself blush forged the ivory tower of the American Empire. Our lines are often described as flyover country, a place to ignore in between the flight between the coasts. It’s a time and place to be forgotten. Every passing year, the powerful marriage of iron and carbon is forgotten a little more, and the red headed bastard child slowly percolates. The rust is swallowed by the rich glacial soil that once feed our grandfathers. The rust is in our rivers and lakes. The rust is in our corn and apples. The rust is in the breast milk we feed our young.


The Point Four-ward: The Ballad of the Slow Gunslinger

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015


Four points I’m thinking about the NBA Playoffs and the Cleveland Cavaliers…

1.) Nothing about the Cavs overall performance in their first two playoff games against the Boston Celtics really qualifies as reason for alarm. The Cavs have taken care of business winning Games 1 and 2 by 11 and nine points respectively. Some expected the Cavs to steamroll the Celtics a little more than they have, but these games have shown the Boston squad to be made of just the type of pluck and gumption that makes for a good story this time of year.

A good story, though, does not a winning team make.

This doesn’t mean the Cavs have played fault-free ball since the league’s second season tipped off. In fact, one of the things that has been most troubling about this Cavs team so far is that they seem to need to take a good shot from a more spirited opponent before playing their best ball.

The Celtics, it turns out, are in no short supply of shots.

The Cavs have started both games slowly, giving the Celtics shooters (I mean, if that’s what you want to call Marcus Smart…) space and allowing relatively easy access to the rim, while the Celtics have been draped over LeBron James and Kyrie Irving from jump.

So far, this Cavs team is the rare slow gunslinger who may not get off the first shot, but, in the end, is still able to walk away from the showdown.


The Point Four-ward: A Merciful End to the Regular Season

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015


Four points I’m thinking about the Cleveland Cavaliers on the final day of the 2014-15 NBA regular season…

1.) While the Celtics won’t be pushovers in the first round, it’s clear why the Cavs would prefer to play a relatively young Boston team over a resurgent (until the last two games, anyway) Brooklyn team and a Pacers team who have given the Cavs problems all year and just got their star player, Paul George, back for the stretch run and likely beyond.

The Celtics are hot at exactly the right time. Winners of four straight and seven of the last ten, head coach Brad Stevens’ squad ranks third in points per game (111.5), third in assists per game (26.3) and first in steals (13.3) over the ten game span prior to Tuesday night’s game against Toronto.

Also, in the month of April the Celtics have been allowing only 97.4 points per 100 possessions, good for fifth best in the league. They feature a dangerous scorer in Isaiah Thomas (20.7 points and 5.5 assists in April) and some lively big bodies in Brandon Bass and former Cavalier Tyler Zeller to go along with an absolutely dogged perimeter defense led by Avery Bradley and rookie Marcus Smart.


The Point Four-ward: Looking (Somewhat Ambitiously) Ahead

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015


Four points I’m thinking about the Cleveland Cavaliers…

1.) J.R. Smith’s three point explosion against the Chicago Bulls on Sunday (8-17 FGs… all three pointers) had many Cavs fans on Twitter talking about the team’s starting two guard and his contract status. After all, Smith has a player option for just under $6.4 million for next season. If he were playing like he was as a member of the New York Knicks earlier this season, Smith likely would have picked up that option. And, right now, $6.4 million for the type of production Smith is providing is a bargain.

In Cleveland, Smith has thrived and the team has thrived with him. Cavs head coach David Blatt has referred to Smith as “a godsend” and LeBron James has said the 6-8 Smith has been “everything we needed and more.”