Archive for June, 2011

Tracy Smith: Sleeper?

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

From Sam Amico at FSOhio:

[There] is something about Smith that is beginning to intrigue scouts. Something he is showing on the pre-draft workout circuit that is starting to make teams take him seriously.

It’s more than just a batch of skills that has Smith drawing comparisons to Samardo Samuels — another Cavs big man who showed flashes during his rookie year, despite not being drafted. Most NBA types also seem to admire Smith’s work ethic, determination and always-underrated desire to prove everyone wrong.

Here’s where I cease to be useful. All I know is that Samardo Samuels comparisons aren’t necessarily positive. Kevin or Mo, do we know anything about this guy?

Cavaliers Unsure About Number One Pick

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

From Marc J. Spears at Yahoo:

Eight days before the NBA draft, Cleveland Cavaliers coach Byron Scott told Yahoo! Sports the franchise isn’t close to deciding whether to use the No. 1 pick on Duke guard Kyrie Irving or Arizona forward Derrick Williams.

This is either typical pre-draft waffling or Byron’s bluffing. If the Cavs don’t take Irving with the number one pick, and it has nothing to do with his health, I’ll need to buy a new television because there will be a remote lodged in it.

Draft Bereft of Quality Swingmen

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

In Rick Noland’s estimation, this draft is thin in terms of wings:

From soon-to-be free agent Anthony Parker to the waived Jawad Williams to the traded Jamario Moon to journeyman Joey Graham to veteran Daniel Gibson to the unproven Christian Eyenga to the slow-footed Luke Harangody, Cleveland was without a proven scoring threat and creator at both spots.

Help is unlikely to arrive in the first round of the June 23 NBA Draft, as there’s also a shortage of high-level talent worth taking with the No. 1 or No. 4 picks.

The silver lining: literally anyone would be better than Jawad Williams. (Sorry, Jawad.)

Joe Posnanski on Rooting Against LeBron

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

In the spirit of Tom’s post on wanting LeBron to fail, Joe Posnanski has posted his thoughts on why it’s fun to hate LBJ:

I don’t HATE LeBron James, the person, of course not. He has brought me great joy as a sports fan. I wish him all the happiness he can find in life. But I Clemenate LeBron James the player for all the reasons listed above and for various wordless reasons that come from the gut. I root for his team to lose. I root for him to miss the big shot. I root for these things with zest and gusto because it’s fun and sports are supposed to be fun.

Why I Want LeBron to Fail (Forever) Part 2 of 3 – by Tom Pestak

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

The following is a guest contribution to Cavs: The Blog.

Part 2: When in doubt, go for the Love [ Part 1 ] [ Part 3 ]

The sports world is filled with uncertainties.  The most recent NBA playoffs provided a heavy dose.  The Dallas Mavericks just went 20-5 without Caron Butler or Rodrigue Beaubois.  In the playoffs.  No analyst, pundit, fan, or otherwise predicted that.  It goes without saying that the uncertainty of sports gives it the drama that we crave.  But it’s not all uncertain – some of it is very certain.  When Ron Artest hurdled rows of chairs to punch a fan it was certain that he’d be suspended for a very long time – and that he would never be able to dissociate himself from the Malice at the Palace.  What was uncertain was that the Pacers, under Rick Carisle, would fade away into NBA oblivion almost entirely because of a single event that happened in seconds.  Ron Artest made a bad decision.

When LeBron James decided he would play for the Miami Heat alongside Dwyane Wade and newly acquired Chris Bosh, there were a lot of uncertainties.  Who else would fill out the roster?  How many championships could this super-team win?  Who would be the alpha dog? What position would LeBron play?  How would Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, two high-usage superstars accustomed to having the ball, mesh?

When LeBron James decided he would not play for the Cleveland Cavaliers there were only certainties.  A month or so before LeBron decided to turn his back on Cleveland, Brian Windhorst recorded his weekly Plain Dealer podcast.  Brian, a voice of reason in a profession dominated by hyperbole, noted that if LeBron were to leave the Cavs the people of northeast Ohio would NEVER forgive him.  That he would forever be a pariah – rivaling Art Modell.  This certainty had nothing to do with a 1 hour farce dedicated to the Boys and Girls Club of America – simply the fact that he would leave at the prime of his career following back to back 60 win seasons.  Mark Cuban recognized the certainty and posted his thoughts on LeBron’s then pending decision in his blog: “In the State of Ohio? Forgetabbout it. People cry. People kick their dogs.  They fall into a funk. Lebron instantly becomes  the most hated person in the state, and equally hated by anyone close to people who live there.” The guy with the license plate “KNG of OH”, becoming the most hated person in OH, was a certainty.

There were basketball certainties associated with LeBron James’ free agency decision.  The Cavaliers were going to struggle.  Pick your preposition, they were built [for, around, off, with, through, considering] LEBRON JAMES.  The Heat were going to be great – an unprecedented amount of talent on one team.  But there were other certainties that immediately struck me when I first heard rumors that LeBron was going to Miami.  His legacy would FOREVER be less than it could be.  He would NEVER be able to rival Michael Jordan, much less other all-time greats in the eye of the public.  He would always be seen as a tag along, a second option, the guy that needed an NBA Finals MVP on his team in order to win.  He would never earn the respect and admiration of his colleagues much less NBA fans for teaming up with Dwyane Wade.  Every success the Miami Heat would earn would be attributed, fairly or not, to Dwyane Wade, and every failure LeBron James.  The only conditions upon which it wouldn’t were if Wade either got injured, or just completely disappeared, and it was up to LeBron to carry a team of Chris Bosh and misfits.   In Cleveland, every failure was on Mike Brown, the supporting cast, Danny Ferry, or Dan Gilbert.  Every success was LeBron LeBron LeBron.  To this day, the conventional wisdom is that LeBron had a cast of nobodies in Cleveland – that he was solely responsible for 60+ win seasons and deep playoff runs.  I was 100% in disbelief when he told me where he was taking his talents – LeBron James left a situation where he could literally do no wrong, to a situation where he could only do right with a big fat asterisk.

All the legacy talk ignores the basketball in the present mindset that most pundits (and possibly LeBron) are fixated on when judging LeBron’s decision.  Just yesterday, 4 of ESPN’s 5-on-5 writers judged his decision as explicitly the right one, citing the differences in roster strength.  Only 1 writer even paid lip service to the damage leaving Cleveland to play with recent Finals MVP may have had on LeBron’s “public perception”.

So let’s talk about rosters.  Let’s talk about teammates.  Let’s talk about organizations.  Let’s GO THERE.

The revisionist history regarding the strength and championship viability of the former Cavaliers is breathtaking – and EVERYONE is on board.  While the Cavs were racking up 60 win seasons with LeBron James at the helm, the Miami Heat were shedding contracts faster than a  4th quarter Mavericks comeback.  They felt content to hire a rookie coach and win 40 something games for 3 years during Dwyane Wade’s prime.  In 2008 when Dwyane Wade posted a PER of 30.4, the Heat spent approx 40 million less on payroll (+ luxury tax) than the Cavaliers and won 23 less games than number 23 did.  Not once did the media lambaste the Miami organization for wasting the prime of Wade’s career.  OH BUT, THE HEAT MANAGEMENT IS FIRST CLASS.  So first class that they addressed the prime of Dwyane Wade’s career by drafting a number 2 pick that they would later trade for cap space.  So what were the Cavs doing while the Heat were treading in the waters of mediocrity?  EVERYTHING.

  • Twenty-Five Million Dollar practice facility conveniently located minutes from LeBron James’ homestead
  • Twenty (effectively 40) million in payroll added after being the only team in the NBA to outscore the Champion Celtics over a 7 game series
  • Another Twenty (effectively another 40) million in payroll added following a 66 win (injury riddled) season
  • Absorbing Shaq and his 20 million+ dollar contract SIMPLY so that Dwight Howard would not have to be double teamed
  • Earning whiny gamesmanship quotes from Doc Rivers and Phil Jackson by exploiting the buyout rule
  • Striking fear and reverence into an esteemed writer’s heart following the Joe Smith buyout
  • Surrounding LeBron James with complimenting players to the tune of 143-46 (.756) from 2008-2010
  • Selling more total tickets than any team in the NBA in 2009-2010 AND LOSING MONEY for the second straight year

Suffice to say, the Cavs organization went above and beyond for the sake of winning.  Winning was (and is) the directive from the top.  “Money doesn’t lead it follows.” This isn’t tattooed on Dan Gilbert’s chest, but he’s certainly lived by this creed as owner of the Cavs.

Let’s talk about teammates.  I have nothing to say on the matter – I’ll just let you read what everyone else was saying about the Cavs:

“The Cavs, in my opinion, have improved themselves more than any team in the East. They’ve added talent and athleticism, plugged some holes and surrounded LeBron James with complementary pieces.” – Bob Finan

“1. Cavaliers – Might not win as many regular-season games but they’ve come back stronger after addressing matchup problems.” – Brian Windhorst

“Despite the championship banner hanging in Los Angeles, I’ll always believe the Cavaliers were the best team in basketball last season. (…) And, of course, it employs the best player in the league. James may not register the superhuman PER he posted a year ago, but he may not need to, either, given all the talent around him. (…) The Cavs were incredible a year ago until things crumbled in the conference finals, and they look stronger this time around.” John Hollinger – Preseason

“This time around, he has more help, and I think he gets it done in a seven-game slugfest.  (Cavs over Orlando) – “Moreover, Cleveland will have home-court advantage, and few crowds are louder than the gatherings at the Q.  I suspect they’ll have plenty to cheer as King James leads the the Cavs to their first championship.” (Cavs for the ‘Ship) John Hollinger – April 15

“The addition of Shaq will make things easier on LeBron in all areas, plus they kept their team intact and brought in a couple of more athletic types — I like the additions of Anthony Parker (guarding 2s and 3s) and Jamario Moon (guarding Rashard Lewis, Lamar Odom and Rasheed Wallace). Also, Mo Williams will be better because he now knows what the big stage is like. LeBron won’t leave Cleveland without giving the city a championship.” – ESPN Basketball

“LeBron will find that less is more now that Shaq can handle the inside buckets for him. No matter where LeBron ends up next year, he may never have a better team than this one.” – JA Adande

“I think Cleveland will win the 2010 title. Best team, best player, best season.” – Bill Simmons [April 2010]

“Two votes for the Lakers, two for the Cavaliers and one each for the Celtics and Spurs.” -NBA Scouts (From Ian Thompsen)

“Even though the Cavs roster is loaded with talent, LeBron is the team’s end-all and be-all.” – Charley Rosen

“Last year’s collapse in the Eastern Conference finals only made LeBron hungrier and more willing to expand his game. Now, opponents can expect to see him in the post more. Scary. And look for a resurgence from a truly motivated Shaq.” – Chris Broussard (yes, I threw this one in just so we could all LAL)

So there we go.  And I guaransheed every single one of these writers has either already written that LeBron was surrounded by a bunch of nobodies or has said it in an interview since “the decision”.  And maybe the most disheartening part of following the NBA the past 12 months was finding that even the most fervent of “objective-based evidence”-writers felt compelled to pile on.  I almost pulled one of these when I read John Hollinger trying to use the Cavs horrible 2010-2011 season as evidence for LeBron as the MVP – taking the path of least resistance like everyone else and ignoring all the other variables at work that added up to the misery that was the most recent Cavs season.  Revisionist history is a bitch – and from a basketball perspective, that, in a huge way, is why I never want LeBron to succeed.  Not simply because success for LeBron = vindication for the decision, but because vindication for the decision = everyone in the world taking a huge dump on the Cleveland Cavaliers of 2008-2010 – an organization that did it the right way, while celebrating a team that gambled Wade’s injury-prone body for 3 years for a mere chance to assemble a super-team.

Many people feel that the Cavs core moving foward was one of the main reasons that LeBron James left.  That it was too long in the tooth.  Guys like Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison, Anthony Parker were too old to compete in the NBA.  I wonder how Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, and  Jason Terry did it.  Is there really any doubt that the Cavs, given Dan Gilbert’s willingness to spend no matter what the cost, were NOT going to re-tool, re-shape, and rebound from the 2010 disappointment at the hands of the Celtics?  Of course they were.  LeBron’s gone and Dan Gilbert was willing to spend $30 million on TWO (2!) draft picks! In a draft that everyone hates!  Criticism comes from every direction regarding the Cavs inability to secure a Dwyane Wade-like second banana for LeBron over the course of his time in Cleveland.  But since 2007, almost every move made by the Cavaliers was lauded as a good move, an improvement, and a move that made the Cavs better. It’s supremely disingenuous of the NBA media-sphere to gleefully criticize the Cavs “inability to put talent around LeBron” when those same people would have taken up pitchforks and invaded Ohio had the Cavaliers been content to waste the prime of LeBron’s career so that they could get better draft picks, make their team younger and less experienced, build for the future (etc etc) – you know, what the Heat did.  Make no mistake, given their unique circumstances, the Cavs did it the right way.  They spared no expense, they made shrewd moves, and they gave LeBron a 60+ win supporting cast year after year (something Miami GM Dwyane Wade hasn’t done for LeBron yet) – and now they’re being punished for it.  LeBron winning a title would be the ultimate punishment – and that’s why many of us die-hard Cavs fans hope it never ever happens.  If what the Cavs did was not enough, if that’s not a recipe for success, if 60 win seasons and 90 Million dollar payrolls aren’t enough for homegrown free agents – then NBA basketball in Cleveland is doomed.

LeBron definitely made the wrong decision.  You’ve already read/heard from the masses – he will NEVER experience what Dirk Nowitzki just did.  He is no longer the Chosen One.  He failed in his self-proclaimed goal. He chose number 23 for a reason, he chose to do the chalk toss for a reason.  He invited the Jordan comparisons, and on the court, he did well for a few years to earn that comparison.  But now, he’s ruined any chance he had of being in the pantheon of greatness.  And this isn’t because he’s choked in the last 5 “biggest games of his life” – but because the pantheon of greatness is largely subjective – and the King is without any subjects.  Ohio hates him, Miami doesn’t care about him, the everyone else finds him more interesting as an anti-hero than golden boy.  The conventional wisdom on LeBron’s decision is summed up perfectly by John in the following paragraph:

He is trying to take the easy way to a championship. He’s given up his hometown and his undisputed alpha dog status in order to give himself an easier path to the rings he was supposedly destined to earned. He is a quitter. He is an egomaniac. He is every bad thing that you want him to be. The thing is, LeBron James knows that none of that will matter if he becomes in Miami what he never became in Cleveland: a Champion. He doesn’t care about doing it the right way anymore. He just wants to get it done, and let the opinions fall where they may. LeBron James is no longer interested in winning your approval. He knows that if he wins championships, the fans will come to him, no matter what they’re saying about him now.

LeBron James desperately cares about your approval – you can see it in his awkward responses to every press conference on the subject.  You could see it in his eyes when we burned his jerseys.  I see John’s thought process here, and I think it’s wrong.  A championship doesn’t rewrite a legacy.  Just like DeShawn Stevenson will always be an idiot.  The first thing most of us will think about when we look back on him will not be NBA CHAMPION-DS, but things like this. The first thing Bill Simmons thinks of when he hears “FINALS MVP-Kobe Bryant” is a fraction that can be reduced to 1/4.  I can tell you first hand that Kobe Bryant’s legacy didn’t rebound because of his post-Shaq championships.  It did because the entire city of Los Angeles is in love with him possibly more than Cleveland was with LeBron – and over time, when you have enough people shouting from the rooftops, it starts to sway public opinion.  I listened to NBC reporters use the phrase “greatest player on the planet” at least 30 times during the 2008 Olympics.  This was LESS THAN 3 MONTHS after Kobe’s Lakers got PUNKED by the Celtics.  It didn’t take a championship to change public opinion, to change Kobe’s legacy – it took his fans shaking the Staples Center with MVP chants during 1st quarter free throws of pre-season games.  LeBron, in one fell swoop, alienated just about everyone that would ever appropriately echo his greatness on the court in the court of public opinion – and no championship will ever change that.

It’s unfair and unfortunate, but reputations proceed reality more often than not in our world.  And Cleveland (mostly unfairly) has a bad reputation.  From where I stand, it negatively affects the psyche of the people.  It turns us into victims-first, looking for any sympathy to embrace, appearing as a third world country vying for geopolitical support.  I fear that the “The Decision” reinforces a decades long unfair reputation and the magnitude of LeBron’s decision to leave has unsettling implications for all of our egos.  The Cavs, as an organization, and we fans, as a collection of civic pride – did just about everything possible to keep a hometown hero at home.  And he left.  What does that say to our bright young minds of the future?  What does that say to our businesses?  What does it say to those people outside Cleveland, considering a re-location to the Forest City?  What does it say to Cleveland sports fans that already believe in curses and karma?  My hope is that Cleveland’s demons play out like LeBron’s basketball career – at least then it would create the appearance (and we could convince ourselves) that running away from home is never the answer to life’s problems.  That choosing the easy way out is not always the right way. That crapping on Cleveland in front of the entire world is a stronger curse than trading Rocky Colavito.  That when in doubt, go for the Love.

Your reward for being right, Mark.

Part 3 will briefly (for real) summarize why I am so angry with LeBron.  Not simply for “The Decision” but for a collection of choices he made over the years.  I was always tolerant, always defensive, because he was our guy – he was Cleveland.  We don’t know him anymore – he’s not of us.  Until then, I leave you with this:

Smeagol lived a good life.  He had friends and was well respected in his hometown.  Smeagol’s life changed forever when he was seduced by a shiny ring.  He killed his best friend, Deagol, over the ring, and that which he lusted for plunged him into darkness.

“And you will weep
When you face the end alone
You are lost
You can never go home”

On the NBA Finals

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

The NBA Finals are over. For the eighth consecutive season, the playoffs have ended without LeBron James winning a ring. For the first time, LeBron not winning a ring was a cause for celebration in Cleveland.

My feelings, as they would have been if the Heat had won a championship, are mixed.

I’m happy for Dirk Nowitzki, who has always been one of the NBA’s true class acts, is a once-in-a-generation joy to watch, and was the most disrespected superstar in the NBA because of a missed free throw in the 2006 Finals and a first-round matchup ambush in his subsequent MVP season.

I’m happy for Jason Kidd, one of the best pure points to ever play the game and someone who stayed in the league by fighting through microfracture surgery and adding a three-point shot.

I’m sad for Erik Spoelstra, a brilliant young coach who was maligned all season long, will be under scrutiny until the Heat do win a championship, and would have won a championship if his best player had shown up in the fourth quarter of Game 2 or any of Game 4.

I’m sad for Big Z, for obvious reasons.

I’m truly, truly happy for everyone in Cleveland who got a happy end to the season after some really rough playoff exits and a miserable regular season. Was I celebrating? I was not. But I’m still happy for everybody that got to. Wife/girlfriend analogies have become their own cliche post-“Decision,” but my analogy is this: when you see your friend get married, you’re not happy because he got to marry the person you wanted to marry. You’re happy because you see him happy. I’m never one to begrudge happiness, even a night of it, however people may find it. It’s very difficult to find. And a lot of people I consider friends found happiness at the Heat losing.

So how do I feel about LeBron choking away the finals? I’m having a hard time celebrating it, although I don’t begrudge those who do. I spent a lot of time on this blog and on other outlets defending LeBron as a player, and those feelings didn’t change when LeBron changed teams. I’ve never tried to defend “The Decision.” I think it was silly and egotistical. I think LeBron is kind of silly and egotistical. (Latest evidence: his post-Finals “my life is better than yours” comments.) I thought he was kind of silly and egotistical when he played for the Cavs, and made the case that I didn’t really care about it. I stand by that.

Still, for whatever reason, I never really, really got angry about “The Decision.” I don’t know exactly why I didn’t, but here are some of my theories:

1. I was at a really good place in my life when “The Decision” happened. I was 21, it was summer, and I had a great one. I spent 4th of July weekend with friends at UCSB, and I still consider that weekend to be the best weekend of my life. The night of “The Decision,” I was packing to go to Summer League in Las Vegas, where I got to meet and hang out with some awesome people, watch 4-5 basketball games a day, live in a house that ESPN paid for, and got paid to write about all of it.

2. After the Boston series, I knew LeBron was gone. He played like crap in those last two games, but the team was completely exposed and dismantled as a whole, and his supporting cast didn’t provide him with compelling reasons to stay. I understand why some people had faith that he would stay, but I knew he was gone. The week or so after those playoffs ended were rough for me. I didn’t really leave the house too much. I drank too much. I grew what my friends referred to as a “downward spiral beard.” I sort of got my depression and anger out of the way early.

By the time the actual “Decision” came around, I’d made peace with the fact LeBron was going to leave. At some point well before the thing happened, I’d made the cognitive disconnect between “the best player in the world is leaving my favorite team and I’m not going to get to cover him anymore” and “where will this bizarre, fascinating, free-agency journey end?”

3. From a really selfish point of view that I don’t expect anyone else to understand, I was happy that the decision (lowercase) was actually scheduled and set up on a specific day. As I mentioned, I was 21 and enjoying my summer, hopping from couch to couch, and my great fear was that the big news would break at 2 AM and I’d be at a party with no access to the internet. The way things were, with the news essentially breaking a day before the actual show and the show taking place at a scheduled time, I got to sit down and craft my post on the ordeal on a solid schedule, which made my life easier. Again, totally selfish reason.

So then the NBA Finals happened, and LeBron choked away the Finals. My mix of emotions comes from this thought: the Finals weren’t a referendum on the LeBron that made “The Decision” and left Cleveland in a silly and tone-deaf fashion. They were a referendum on the best player in the history of the franchise, the one who brought Cleveland so much joy for his seven years with the team.

When I’ve talked to Scott Raab or a lot of other people about LeBron, they don’t just talk about the fiasco of a television show; they talk about how LeBron did nothing as the Cavs got blown out in Game 5, and seemed content to accept their fate at the bitter end of Game 6. Those performances were used as evidence that LeBron already had one foot out the door on the Cavs, and couldn’t wait to bolt to Miami with Wade and Bosh. Well, he did the same thing in the fourth quarter of Game 2 and all of Game 4. It wasn’t a Cleveland thing, it was a “LeBron doesn’t really know what to do when the game/series isn’t going his way” thing. And the Heat simply broke at the end of Game 6 against the Mavericks the way the Cavs did against the Celtics — you could see it in their body language after one last offensive rebound for Dallas.

Also, LeBron choking away the Finals almost reinforces the fact that he made the correct basketball decision by leaving Cleveland. He lost the Finals with Wade going off at will and Bosh quietly having an excellent series — I can’t honestly imagine how he would have been able to get the Cavs to the promised land in the near future playing anything like the way he did in those Finals.

If he’d failed to mesh with Wade and Bosh and the Heat’s lack of depth had proved crippling, that would have been one thing. But he got all the support he could have possibly dreamed of, and still failed. That’s not about “The Decision.” That’s about the player. The same player whose abilities we all believed in for so long.

The same way I imagine most readers of this blog never imagined that LeBron would never leave Cleveland, I never imagined he’d choke away a golden opportunity to win a championship. Plenty of people, including myself, knew the former could and would happen. Plenty of people also knew the latter could happen, and I was not one of them. I am stunned, I am disappointed, I am confused.

The Boston massacre of 2010 was as much about the roster being built for Orlando as it was about LeBron’s poor play, although the latter was a huge factor. Game 1 of the Orlando series was the deciding game there, and that may have been LeBron’s best playoff game as a Cav, right down to the final possessions. LeBron exploded offensively in Game 7 against Boston in 2008. The Cavs had no business being in the same arena as the Spurs in 2007 or the Pistons in 2006. And on and on it goes. This time, though, LeBron has nobody to blame but himself, and I have nobody but myself to blame for trusting in his abilities and mentality.

(For those of you interested, this is the story behind my Heat Index sojourn. It was never about The Cavs, The Heat, LeBron, or anything else. It was about the writing. I was asked to join a really great team of writers and editors and provide insight, mostly because of how well I’d come to know LeBron’s game and the narratives that had grown around him in his seven years in Cleveland. It was a golden opportunity as a kid fresh out of college and paying his own bills by writing about basketball to get great exposure, make some money, and work with great people, and I took it. I have no regrets whatsoever.

Also, I was exhausted at the end of each NBC/Heat Index day, and knew Mo, Kevin, Colin, and Ryan had things running smoothly here without me, and I didn’t feel I had much Cavs-related stuff to contribute at the end of a day of obsessively watching and writing about the playoffs.

I will also add this — I’ve written just about everywhere on the internet in the last four years ((five if you count my days writing on Cavs message boards)), and I can say that the ESPN experience has, without question, been my best one. My pieces are well scheduled, placed, and edited, the communication with the editors is constant, the higher-ups show interest in my work and my well-being, I get to write alongside people I have admired for years, and I’ve made lasting friendships. After all the time I’ve spent doing this as both an amateur and a professional, I’ve come to really, really value those things in a way that’s hard for most to understand. So that’s my story. I apologize if you have a serious issue with it.)

Getting back on message — why is LeBron’s failure a cause for celebration, even though it wasn’t really a referendum on his “Decision?”

I had a hard time finding an answer to this until I started thinking about Carlos Boozer. I dislike Carlos Boozer. I think that lying to the team’s owner, fooling him into not picking up his option, and bolting for more money was, objectively, worse than LeBron going to a better team as an unrestricted free agent and announcing it with a silly television show. (LeBron’s extra crimes: being born in Cleveland and being much better at basketball than Carlos Boozer.)

I’ve always dealt with the Boozer fiasco by convincing myself that the Cavaliers were better off for it — they made desperation moves that ended up landing them Drew Gooden and Anderson Varejao after losing Boozer, which I feel was ultimately a good thing.

I feel like Boozer screwed over the Cavaliers in an inexcusable fashion, albeit one made possible by front-office incompetence. I also believe that Carlos Boozer is a vastly overrated player who doesn’t play defense, settles for too many mid-range jumpers, and doesn’t help his teams nearly as much as he’s supposed to. I’d like to think that these beliefs exist independently from each other, but they probably don’t.

When I see Carlos Boozer fail in the playoffs, I feel a sense of happiness. It’s not a happiness that comes from a quest for revenge, or a personal ill-will towards him. It’s a happiness that comes from relief. When I see Boozer fail, I feel relieved that the Cavs weren’t doomed by Boozer’s fiasco of a departure from Cleveland. I imagine the happiness at LeBron failing in the Finals comes from that same place of relief. The LeBron that showed up against Dallas would not have won the Cavs a championship — in fact, he probably would have caused them to leave the playoffs earlier after Boston or Chicago made him struggle and put the team in any sort of position where they had to fight for their lives.

That feeling may go away if the Heat pull themselves together next year and win the championship, although they’ll have a harder road back to the finals than most think, but for now, the sense of relief is there. I invite you to correct me if I’m wrong, and I imagine that Tom might in the next two installments of his post, but I believe it’s relief that Cavs fans reveled in after the NBA Finals were over.

#32 pick – Draft Profile

Monday, June 13th, 2011

If you only have ten minutes; read Tom Pestak’s post below, not mine. This week, Mo and I will profile players of interest with the Cavs #32 pick. Also my favorite players, numbers 7 – 13:

#7 Kemba Walker

#8 Marcus Morris – His well rounded offensive game has won me over.

#9 Bismack Biyombo – I don’t know what to think about Biyombo, which is why he’s #9. The players above him can be top 3 players on playoff teams, but I don’t think that about those below him. Per 40 minutes, Biyombo averaged 12 rebounds and 5.5 blocks in 14 games in Spain’s top division (ACB). He had 10 blocks and a triple double in the 2011 Nike Hoop Summit. Very impressive for an 18 year old, but here are reasons for controlled expectations (besides age questions). Looking at his five games against the Euroleague teams in the ACB, his averages are 7.8 rebounds and 4.1 blocks per 40 minutes. I’m not going to pretend to know what these next results mean; but his ACB team was 7-7 when he played and 14-7 when he did not. Six months ago he was playing in the Spanish third division. His team was 4-10 with him, allowing 76.7 points per game. After he left they were also 4 – 10, but gave up only 69.6 ppg. If he couldn’t dramatically impact Spanish third tier games, can he be the next Ben Wallace?

#10 Kawhi Leonard – I am not as high on him as others. I do like him enough to put him tenth.

#11 Tristan Thompson – He has good size and athleticism, but is young and raw. His 49% free throw shooting is scary.

#12 Markieff Morris – Similar to my take on Jon Leuer below; except Morris is stronger, younger, and shot 45% from three over the last two years (35-78).

#13 Jimmer Fredette – This is based on a benefit of the doubt that he won’t be a complete defensive void. He has fine size and strength for PG at 6’2.5”, 196 lbs, with a 6’4.5” wingspan. He surprisingly tested 2nd and 3rd in the combine agility tests. He needs to give some effort on defense, or he will not play very much in the NBA.

The Cavs are going to pick a lot in the 28-40 range over the next 5 years and need to add quality rotation players. Here are a few to look at this year with pick #32.

Jimmy Butler – Butler attended Marquette and was MVP of the Portsmouth Invitational, the annual pre-draft camp for NCAA seniors. His Portsmouth team won the championship, and he impressed with his effort on both ends. Butler turns 22 in September and has decent size for a SF at 6’8”, 222 lbs. He is a good athlete, confirmed by top 12 performances in 5 of the 6 combine athleticism tests. I don’t have the space here to cover how much I like Jimmy Butler, but he has a great attitude and intangibles. One fun stat involves how well Butler takes care of the ball. He had a positive pure point rating all three years at Marquette; no other likely first round non-PG had even one year of positive PPR. For his college career he had more steals than turnovers (115 to 110). He’s an efficient scorer, averaging 15 ppg on 60% true shooting. He only shot 94 three pointers in his college career, but hit 38%. Butler will be a starter in the NBA and fills a Cavs need.

Travis Leslie – If the Cavs can’t draft Butler, Leslie would be an option to add a wing athlete. In his three years at Georgia, Leslie played a lot at forward, but at 6’4”, 205 lbs, he’s an NBA shooting guard. He has a large wingspan of 6’10.5”, and is an explosive athlete that plays way above the rim. If the Cavs want to draft a future dunk contest participant, Leslie’s the guy. His shooting and ball handling are suspect; but he effectively scores on cuts, fast breaks, and offensive rebounds; averaging 15 ppg with a solid offensive rating. He is the best rebounding guard available and averaged 3 assists per game against 2.2 turnovers. Like all long, athletic players; Leslie can be a quality defender, but he needs to work on his perimeter defensive skills. Leslie will provide footage for the annual highlight video, and should be a capable rotation player. Comparisons include Maurice Evans, Shannon Brown, and Tony Allen.

Jon Leuer – The Cavs need help on the wings, but the long-term roster also lacks a big man to space the floor. Leuer just finished his senior year at Wisconsin and should perform four things a useful “stretch 4”needs to do:

1. Shoot at least 35% on threes – Over the last two years, Leuer has shot 38% from long range.

2. Protect the defensive glass – Leuer is 6’11”tall, which is great for a PF. The last two years, he grabbed 20 and 22% of the available defensive rebounds (NBA average at PF is 18 – 19%) by giving good effort with solid fundamentals. Leuer needs to increase his lower body strength, but he has the other tools needed to limit opponent’s second chances.

3. Not be a defensive liability – Leuer has great fundamentals, energy, and awareness. The biggest concern about his defense is his athleticism; however he was in the top 10 in both combine agility drills. Again, if he can add 10 – 15 pounds of muscle, Leuer’s length and effort will ensure he’s an adequate man-to-man and team defender.

4. Don’t turn the ball over – Despite being a highly used part of Wisconsin’s offense, Leuer limited turnovers to 11% of his possessions. This is in the top ten percentile of NCAA players, and two years ago Leuer’s turnover rate was a microscopic 8.6%.

Leuer has the tools to bring the benefits of a “stretch 4” without taking much off the table. In addition, he has been working on his high-post game with David Lee to improve his already well-rounded offensive game. For many years, Leuer should be a good third player in a front line rotation.

Why I Want LeBron to Fail (Forever) Part 1 of 3 – by Tom Pestak

Monday, June 13th, 2011

More of this please

The following is a guest contribution to Cavs: The Blog.

Part 1: Understanding LeBron AS Cleveland [Part 2] [Part 3]

Everyone has an opinion of LeBron James.  It may not be a stretch to say that after Barack Obama and Sarah Palin, more Americans have an opinion about LeBron James than any other living person.  I attended a banquet for an engineering professional society last Thursday and spent some time meeting the wives of my colleagues.  At one point I was engaged in a lengthy conversation with an extremely outgoing 60-year-old woman from Panama. After covering a wide spectrum of topics she asked me “who do you like for the basketball?”  “You mean the Heat vs the Mavs?” I asked.  “Yes, who you like?”  In the past I’d have answered a question like this with “I just want to see a good series.”  After all, she may have family in Miami, or have a particular fondness for Udonis Haslem – who knows.  I don’t think about things like that any more because I don’t think when it comes to LeBron James and the Miami Heat – I just react.  So I answered the sweet lady “I want Dallas to destroy Miami – I really hate that team.”  After I said it I realized the tone of my answer was incredibly out of place next to the high-level pleasantries that were being exchanged.  She smiled and said “GOOD!  I CAN NOT STAND JAMES LEBRON!”  She seemed genuinely excited and continued: “Listen to this!  I heard a VERY funny joke.  I gave LeBron one dollar bill and ask him for change.  He give me seventy-five cents!!!!!”  I laughed convincingly despite failing to comprehend.  Later, through twitter, I understood that LeBron wasn’t able to give the poor old lady a 4th quarter.  Everyone has an opinion of LeBron James and I am no different.  But understanding why I want LeBron James to fail at basketball for the rest of his life requires a deeper understanding of the prism through which I view LeBron James.

I grew up in a Cleveland suburb and was indoctrinated at an early age about where my loyalties lie.  I knew my teams were the Browns, Indians, and Cavs.  It was an easy concept for me even as a child – these were MY TEAMS, the best of the best representing me, my family, my neighbors, my community.  These weren’t overpaid, selfish, prima-dona, egotistical, godless athletes setting out to claim their place among the gods – they were strong, hard-working, blue-collar, God-fearing underdogs.  Maybe that was my mistake – being a 6-year-old with role models, a naive romanticized understanding of professional sports (the same one that every single professional league wants us to embrace) and never really growing out of it.  My father definitely fostered my admiration for Cleveland’s professional athletes.  He knew my favorite player was Mark Price and he believed (as I do to this day) that Price was a worthy role-model.  A 6-foot farm boy that became the best shooter in the history of the NBA and played the game the right way.  A second round draft pick that never missed his foul shots.  I remember my Dad telling me over and over that “you know where games are won or lost?  The free throw line.”  He wrote Price a letter at some point basically saying he was glad that he played for the Cavaliers because it gave his son an all-star to look up to that was also such a great person.  Then he asked Price to sign an enclosed photo for me for my birthday.  Price even personalized it – one of the best presents I ever received.

For whatever reason, I fell in love with the Cavs at an earlier age than the Indians and Browns – probably because I enjoy basketball more.  I remember begging to stay up to watch all the games on channel 43 and quietly listening to all the action under my pillow when the games were on cable, or it was bedtime.  I can remember exactly how Joe Tait would call out plays.  Minute details, like how his voice would get excited, fast, and high-pitched when Larry Nance would come over for a weakside block (BLOCKEDbyNANCE!) , and how that call always seemed to differ from his draw-out, methodical,  (as if he expected it) tone of voice when Hot Rod Williams battled for a rejection in the post.  (Blaaaaahked by Haaaaaaaht Rahhhdd!!)  I remember that Larry Nance was always “wham with two hands” and Brad Daugherty was always “WHAM with the Right HAND!”  I can remember where I was when I heard Steve Kerr drain a half-court shot against the Celtics in the playoffs.  I remember Craig Ehlo hitting a 3 at the buzzer to beat the Jazz after he was the inbounder and there was only 1.3 seconds left in the game.  I remember listening to the Cavs beating the Suns (on the road) in 1993 when the Suns were the best team in the NBA – I was so excited I almost couldn’t contain myself.  It was shown on tape-delay later in the evening and I watched start to finish – even though I knew exactly what was going to happen.  I cried the day my Dad told me the Cavs traded my favorite player – and that’s when I fell in love with Terrell Brandon, Tyrone Hill, and the rest of Mike Fratello’s scrappy bunch.

Growing up I was unaware of Cleveland’s reputation.  I remember my Aunt telling me that my Grandfather had helped coin the phrase “Best Location in the Nation” – Cleveland’s motto.  I knew that a Christmas Story was filmed in Cleveland, and that we had the best Orchestra (read the description) in the world.  It wasn’t until 2004, LeBron’s 2nd season, that I realized how much everyone outside Cleveland dislikes Cleveland.  That we were called “the Mistake by the Lake”.  That we were the Yankees farm team, a decaying pit of rusted steel mills, and the place that could NEVER hang on to LeBron James.  I had known that our sports teams were cursed and that we never had a chance to win the big one because we traded away Rocky Colavito (my Dad’s favorite player) but I had no idea people, particularly writers, straight up thought, as a city, we were trash.  I rejected it all.  This was my home, my roots, the place where all my family and friends live – WE were Cleveland, OH.  At some point, sometime after this, my love of Cleveland the City, NBA basketball, and The Cleveland Cavaliers organization converged.

After the 2006 season I became immersed in the online basketball sub-culture.  My best friend got me involved – he had joined some forums and been in a back and forth with a deranged Laker’s fan (the only kind).  Of course the topics of contention almost came to define our fandom for the next 5 years – LeBron vs Kobe and Cleveland vs Free Agency.  At first I merely looked up a variety of statistics and fed them to my friend so he had more credibility in his arguments.  Eventually, he convinced me to create a user account – I did and it really opened up a new level of intensity and commitment to my fan experience.  I was no longer just an NBA fan ready to be entertained, I was a solider on the front lines of the battle between Cleveland and “the haters”.  I embraced the NBA’s statistical revolution and became a huge fan of John Hollinger and Neil Paine – not because I particularly cared about advanced stats, but because they proved to be the best argument FOR LeBron in the never-ending internet battle with Kobe’s minions.  When 82games.com came out I relished the opportunity to debunk the “Kobe’s so clutch” claims every Laker fan held as canon.  The arguments that Henry Abbott mercilessly repeats today were started by Cavs fans 5 years ago.  I knew the advanced stats by heart, recorded every Cavs game, and did my best to constantly fend off the “LeBron’s just going to ditch you guys” lines that followed every basketball argument after I destroyed my ill-prepared illogical foes.  Every game was discussed – the implications were great.  The best days were those when the Cavs started beating the Lakers – I really went to town then, and decided I needed a blog more than I needed to be fighting off Laker trolls in comments section.  My Facebook photo was a LeBron dunk, my internet avatars were PER lists sorted by rank with LeBron and Kobe highlighted.  Now I was writing articles 4 or 5 times a week.  Long articles, REALLY long articles, articles that maybe 5 people were reading and 4 of them were angry Laker fans trying to find any weakness in my arguments.  When Kobe joined Team USA I buried my patriotism and live-blogged his putrid performances.  I noted how much LeBron dominated the competition and played within the flow of the offense while Kobe jacked up hero-shots and was constantly getting burned at the other end by shamelessly going for steals.  I bookmarked the FIBA stats pages and reproduced them as often as I could.  I wrote an almost four thousand word essay in response to Sam Smith claiming that LeBron got preferential referee treatment and that his low foul rate was an obvious example of extreme star protection.  Four thousand words on LeBron’s fouls.  I don’t emphasize that as an outlier in length, as I had a propensity to try make my arguments so thorough that people wouldn’t dare disagree just out of fatigue – but what an obscure and fairly meaningless topic! Truehoop linked to it and the tagline was “don’t complain about LeBron’s fouls unless you want to deal with THIS guy.”  (MISSION ACCOMPLISHED)

I even tried proving that Cleveland was good enough for LeBron and that he would never leave.  I believed the entire speculation was fueled by elitist writers (read my comments) who were simply jealous of our good fortune and lusting for our home-grown star.  I believed that their goal was to turn speculation into a self-fulfilling prophecy – sending LeBron to a larger market where they thought he belonged.  I had the Tim Duncan arguments, the “he just built a huge mansion” arguments, the “his license plate is KNG of OH”, I had hundreds of hours of video examples of LeBron the consummate teammate, not LeBron the entitled star that threw his young teammates under the bus and demanded trades.  At one point I wrote an article for a friend’s blog and ESPN used pieces of it for a Daily Dime-type special on LeBron’s presumed future departure.  The article was titled “The Top 10 Reasons LeBron James will Never Leave Cleveland”.  It’s chilling in some ways to re-read that piece.  Not just because of how wrong I was and how fooled I had been – but because it is dated January 2008!  Two years before “The Decision” my fan experience was being so tainted by threats of such a decision that I felt compelled to write something that defiant – and it was such a pertinent topic that ESPN, the worldwide leader, felt it apropos to cover.   And in the very first paragraph I point out that this constant nagging assertion from the media and fans that Cleveland is not worthy of LeBron had been bothering me “for years”.   I remind myself of this every time some smug writer tells me to just appreciate what LeBron did for me for 7 years – that is, that almost 5 of those years were under a constant shadow of anxiety – that he would leave.  I convinced myself at the time that it was 100% media generated, but I was just kidding myself, LeBron had a lot to do with those rumors, particularly in 2009 when it became difficult to “enjoy the ride” because our collective psyche was that of a helpless kid waiting for someone to pop his balloon.

I think when people ridicule Clevelanders with a half-serious “getting dumped in a relationship” analogy to describe what happened when LeBron James left they may not realize how accurate that analogy is.   He was the Prom Queen and we were the envy of the whole school.  LeBron James was a shining beacon of success, style, fame, and jaw-dropping talent.  He was also local.  He went to school with friends of mine.  He played AAU ball against my cousin.  [He may have been “from Akron” but that distinction never resonated since the vast majority of NorthEast Ohioans aren’t “from Cleveland proper”.  In fact the Coliseum was located closer to Akron than Cleveland, so drawing battle lines between Akronites and Cavs fans on issues related to the Cleveland Cavaliers is absurd.]  The media and the trolls could take their uninformed pot shots at Cleveland but they certainly couldn’t de-legitimize the game’s best player, and our homegrown son, not on our watch.  And that is how he became more than a player playing a game – he became our face to the outside world.  That is why we hung a monstrous Christ-like image of a man in our city – that is why we bought Witness T-shirts, that is why we took it so personally when he refused to represent the Indians – since they were also a part of our collective psyche.  It became unhealthy.  Looking back it was pathetic.  A ridiculously awful music video using the tune from We are the World (yes) featured the GOVERNOR OF THE STATE (really).  That happened! And it didn’t happen because Cleveland was addicted to chase-down blocks and Kraken-releasing dunks.  It happened because (for many) LeBron James literally became the symbol of Cleveland, OH.  And LeBron’s “decision” would be the ultimate endorsement or indictment of our beloved home.

LeBron’s decision, intentionally or not, meant this to me:  “I don’t care at all about you or your city.”  Quite simply, there are a lot of people that don’t care about me or my city – in fact MOST people don’t.  But this stung – it really really hurt.  It cut both ways.  I didn’t spend thousands of hard-earned dollars on t-shirts, shoes, jerseys, posters, and other memorabilia bearing the name of most people – I bought LeBron’s.  I didn’t spend thousands of dollars on tickets to cheer on most people playing basketball – I spent them to lose my voice spurring up MVP chants for LeBron.  Way more importantly, I didn’t spend hundreds (maybe thousands) of hours blogging, commenting, photo-shopping, compiling, and publishing in support of most people – I did it in support of LeBron.  I fought an NBA sub-culture war, (quite possibly the silliest thing I’ve ever admitted to) in defense of LeBron’s honor.  Because to me, LeBron became Cleveland – and I will always support Cleveland.

I felt rejected, betrayed, and those feelings quickly gave way to embarrassment and shame.  Embarrassed that I would go so far and expend so much energy on someone that did not even know I existed.  Someone that, at his core, could literally not care less about what I thought of him.  Someone who’s “fans” existed solely to elevate his already incredible ego – disposable fans.  It was the ultimate disrespect.  In one instant I knew that I would always root against LeBron.  LeBron, the man that preferred tattooing himself with slogans and themes instead of living them.  But that is only half of the reason I want LeBron to fail (repeatedly).  That is the static half.  The other half is what is left – a singular question.  One that has been feverishly answered by many pundits but not the masses, and not yet by Cleveland. Did he make the right decision? The question is loaded, the answer is complicated, but when you tear away a few layers the wrong answer has paralyzing implications for a region struggling with its identity.  The correct answer of course is that he made the wrong decision.  Don’t believe me?  I’ll prove it to you, just like the old times…

Check back for Part 2 of “Why I Want LeBron to Fail (Forever) “

Drawings from the Notebook of Chris Grant (episode four):

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

Just for the record: I do like Enes.

Signed,

Chris Grant’s notebook.

(Colors by Nico Colaleo.)

Public service announcement: please read bylines on Cavs: The Blog

Friday, June 10th, 2011

Yes, I know the bylines here are very small. And I know the masthead that I asked my site designer, Spencer Hall, who has built the look of this site from the ground up for absolutely no money and deserves favorable mention from me at any possible time I can give it to him, to have removed a few minutes ago said “By John Krolik.” (If any of you remember, the pre-Spencer site looked like garbage, and for some reason, none of the post titles could have capital letters in them.)

However, it should be pretty clear by now that while I was the only person writing here for a while, that is now anything but the case. I should have had the masthead changed when Tom Pestak first came aboard as links editor, but I am lazy and didn’t want to bother Spencer, because, again, he does everything for free and I feel guilty asking him to do things.

I am making this announcement because a a lot of people on twitter and in the comments section thought I wrote Colin’s piece from last night,  which was called “the best thing anyone’s written in a while,” “maybe my (meaning John Krolik’s) best post,” and “John Krolik at his best.” Obviously, that is something I’d like to avoid in the future. Sometime when it isn’t midnight, I’ll probably set up a separate twitter account for Cavs: The Blog so that every article doesn’t tweet under my twitter handle, and I’m already making some site fixes that I should have made months, if not years ago, to make it more obvious that this blog is now very much a team operation.

Tom, Ryan, Colin, Kevin, and Mo have all done or are doing tremendous work for this site, and deserve far more credit for whatever cache it holds at this current moment than I do, to say the least. It makes me very sad when they do not get the credit they deserve for a piece they write so please: even though they’re small read the byline on each piece written on this blog. Thank you for your patience. As a reward, here is the trailer for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Karen O is awesome. Now go read Colin’s piece and realize that he wrote it.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) – Teaser (HD) from DVD Bits on Vimeo.