Archive for November, 2011

Links to the Present: November 30, 2011

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Fear the Sword has two articles of interest today: one on whether or not the Cavs should “amnesty” Baron Davis right away, and one on the possibility of the Cavs making a splash in free agency. Those issues are, of course, interrelated:

“While it seems obvious that the Cavaliers would want to relieve themselves of one of the worst contracts in the league, I’m not so sure that they should. If they waive Baron Davis, you are essentially paying for him to play for another team. The Cavs are still responsible for paying his salary and he is free to be claimed by another team. It is well known that teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat would be interested in acquiring Davis’ services for relatively cheap.” [Conrad Kaczmarek]

“Just keep in mind that the Cavaliers’ strategy going forward should be to build through the draft, partly because it’s the most proven way to build a contender, and also because it is very hard to lure free agents to Cleveland. Any FA we pick up should be a complimentary piece with some measure of youth. Someone on the incline not the decline. So temper enthusiasm with a healthy dose of home-brewed Cleveland doubt and pessimism.” [Patrick Elder]

It also appears the Cavaliers will receive an extension on their TPE, according to Sam Amico over at FSOhio.

And this isn’t Cavs-related, but anytime one of the best five players in the league might be on the move, I feel compelled to pass the news along. The Nets are putting together a proposal for Dwight Howard in an attempt to create a Howard and D-Will-centric squad for their impending move to Brooklyn.

Links to the Present: Comeback Edition

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

“Cavs Blog back! / Cavs Blog back! / There’s all these readers screamin’ that Cavs Blog back!”
— Rick Ross, sort of

As Rozay so eloquently almost proclaimed, we’re back, you guys. Or I’m back, at least. We’re still rounding up the cavalry and figuring out who will be doing what this season. But I can speak for myself: Links to the Present will be back every weekday to provide you with all the Cavs-related news you’ll need throughout the next month or so leading to the season’s opening games. I’m also going to try to write something more substantive than the links column roughly every week, so you can look forward to reading some longform-y pieces in addition to a daily dose of Cavs news. And, we’ll have game recaps again, obviously. And other things that we haven’t thought of yet. You’ll probably love those things most of all. Anyway: we’re back. It’s been a rough lockout, and we’re somewhere between three and seventeen times more excited than you could ever imagine for the return of NBA basketball.

Here are some links:

Sam Amico breaks down the pertinent details of the new CBA. This is required reading if you want to understand the new rules that govern the league.

Conrad Kaczmarek over at Fear the Sword provides us with the details of the NBA’s condensed schedule structure.

Scott Sargent over at WFNY has an excellent, informative overview of how the new CBA impacts the Cavaliers.

And for those of you wondering whether or not the Cavaliers will “amnesty” Baron Davis, CBS Sports weighs in:

“Many experts around the league think the Cavs will [use their amnesty clause on Baron] Davis now. He has two years left on his contract, worth $28 million. But he’ll likely be kept on the roster for a couple of reasons: One, he’s one of their best guards and is the incumbent starter at point guard. Two, even if the Cavs cut him now, he’d still have to be paid. The benefit to cutting him with the amnesty clause is that his contract wouldn’t count against the salary cap.” [CBS Sports]

I’m sure news will pick up as pen is officially put to paper on the deal and free agency and training camp begin. I’ll keep you posted.

NBA & Players Association Reach Tentative Agreement

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

From ESPN.com:

NBA owners and players reached a tentative agreement early Saturday to end the 149-day lockout and hope to begin the delayed season on Christmas Day.

Neither side provided many specifics but said the only words players and fans wanted to hear.

[LOUD, GLEEFUL EXPLETIVE!] (Also, no one shoot this thing down at the last minute.)

NBA, NBAPA Begin Another Round of Talks

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

From ESPN.com’s Marc Stein:

The two sides agreed Monday to resume talks for the first time in nearly two weeks, according to sources close to the situation, with discussions commencing Tuesday and continuing Wednesday aimed at resolving lawsuits recently filed by the players. Talks are expected to resume Friday after a break for Thanksgiving, with almost no wiggle room left to get a deal done in time for Christmas.

The primary push for the talks, according to The New York Times, is a desire to try to finally end to the five-month impasse in time to start the season on Dec. 25, which has historically marked the start of the NBA’s annual introduction to the national network TV schedule. But the latest talks are considered part of settlement talks relating to the litigation as opposed to outright negotiations, according to the Times.

This is unequivocally the last round of talks in which the Players’ Association and the NBA will attempt to save Christmas Day games. So if you find yourself having to actually talk to relatives on December 25th, send a mental “eff you” to Hunter and Stern while your annoying cousin recounts to you every detail of his first semester at Grinnell.

Henry Abbott on the Lockout

Friday, November 18th, 2011

Henry Abbott wrote yesterday on why the league is attempting to create parity in vain:

With the money essentially agreed to, the entire season is in jeopardy because of a nasty fight over “system issues” the NBA says it wants in order to give 30 teams a shot at the title, but that the finest experts insist would do little if anything to get that done.

The players fought hard on system issues because they have real things at stake — from the ability as free agents to join a team where they’ll be happy to the years of guaranteed income they’ll be able to secure.

The owners, though, are tanking the season in the name of a victory that would make owners of also-ran teams

I recommend reading the entire article. It delineates why the mechanisms the owners want to employ to create league-wide parity won’t work.

And with that said, I’m gonna go draw a bath, stick my head into the water, and scream for the next twenty minutes.

Interview With Scott Raab about “The Whore of Akron”

Monday, November 14th, 2011

The Whore of Akron: One Man's Search for the Soul of LeBron James

The following is an interview with Scott Raab, whose book, “The Whore of Akron: One Man’s Search for the Soul of LeBron James” comes out today. I reviewed the book on this site. The link to buy the book is here.

1) I’ll start you out with an easy one — you’re well-known as a fantastic profile writer. How does it feel to be on the other side of interviews now that this book is coming out and you’ve developed your own cult of personality?

To the extent that I think about it, which is not much, it feels all right. I’m troubled sometimes by being judged by my tweets alone, or by a cherry-picked sentence or two from the book or a blog post when I have a 25-year-old, million-word paper trail, so I want to do as many interviews as I can to support the book. It isn’t a 300-page tweet; it isn’t a basketball or sports book per se; it isn’t an easy book to categorize. When I began to write non-fiction — I came up as a poet and short-story writer — it was as an editorial columnist in Iowa City, a college town. That was my first experience of the cult-of-personality thing, and I think and hope that I learned then not to take it seriously in terms of self. I like to write. I write to be read. And I want lots of people to react to what I write. And just like when I’m writing, when someone’s interviewing me, I want to be as clear and truthful as possible while having as much fun as the law or my editors allow.

2) This book is much more about you than a lot of the publicity materials would lead one to believe. At what point during the research and writing of your book did you realize that it was going to end up being such a personal story, and how did you try and balance the “journalistic” elements of the book with the more autobiographical elements?

I didn’t realize it fully until early this past summer, when the NBAseason ended and my big push to the finish line began. For a long time before that, I thought the book would feature a range of Cleveland fans sharing their stories, but even as a celebrity profiler, I’m a first-person writer most times out. My experience of the past season, as a Cavs fan and a Heat hater, was intensely personal. And a pair of questions came to seem more and more crucial: How did I come to be so fanatical in the first place, and why was I so deeply enraged by every aspect of The Decision?

As for ‘balance,’ that’s essentially an objectivity/subjectivity question, and all such questions boil down to bull[expletive]. The idea that journalists who don’t overtly insert themselves into the stories they write are somehow more honest and trustworthy narrators is nonsense. The straightest-shooting reporter makes a series of decisions in the course of his reporting and writing based upon his own unique personal history and belief system. Plenty of readers and plenty of editors mistrust and dislike first-person writing and feel uneasy when a writer uses himself as a character — to me, that’s merely a matter of taste, not truth, especially when it comes to exploring subjects like loyalty, rage, and love, and their relationship to sports.

3) In your most recent blog post, you expressed some (to use a euphemism) disappointment that nobody who had an issue with you wishing a career-ending injury on LeBron James in the excerpt of your book published in Esquire and other places contacted you about it. So I’m asking you — why did you wish a career-ending injury on LeBron James? Looking back on it, do you feel you were justified in doing so? Do you hope he trips over his kitchen counter tomorrow and suffers a career-ending injury? Finally, is it reasonable to expect that other people should have to contact you personally before judging your work?

I would prefer not to see LeBron ever win an NBA championship. Strongly. That’s the ‘why.’

The wishing-injury thing pops up a couple of times in the book; I believe I felt it most viscerally when I saw him take the court at the Heat’s home opener last season. I don’t think ‘justified’ has anything to do with it; perhaps it would if I had Carrie-like powers. Everyone gets to define the differences between being a fan and being a fanatic for himself. I’ve been to sporting events in Cleveland and elsewhere when fans have cheered an injury to a player on the home team, and I heard such wishes spoken aloud — shouted, actually — at Cleveland Browns Stadium last season when Jake Delhomme was Eric Mangini’s starting QB against Carolina. Doesn’t justify a thing, doesn’t make it right, doesn’t mean shit in terms of morality. Don’t bother to claim that you’re a fan if you have never wished for such a thing. Don’t tell me that you grasp human nature, or the history of sport in societies all over the world for thousands of years, if you think this kind of thing is beyond the pale. Don’t tell yourself you have any sense of perspective, humor, or decency if this leads you to believe — as do plenty of my correspondents in Miami and other places — that I’m a stalker or in any way a threat to anyone, including LeBron James. These aren’t discussions I’m willing to waste much time on, or folks I wish to engage.

We’re not talking about ‘other people’ judging my work; we’re talking about journalists writing about a semi-public figure: me. I’m not hard to find, unless you’re too lazy or frightened to try. And by the way, this sort of thing — riffing rather than reporting — is chronic in the blogoshpere, where too many writers who want to be taken seriously have no idea how unprofessional they seem. Nothing wrong with an opinion column, but if you’re going to dismiss my work on the basis of my tweets, or one line in an Esquire excerpt, I don’t think it’s too much to ask of a fellow journalist to pick up the [expletive] phone or shoot me a post and ask a question or two.

4) A paradox present in this book seems to be that you spend so much time trying to work through your past addiction issues, your fear of relapse, your self-image, your past and present relationships, everything, and by the time we get to the end of the book, we sense that you have an ultimately healthy but very complicated relationship with yourself, and one that took a lot of time to make work. Yet your feelings towards LeBron seem to be a relatively straightforward “screw this guy.”

Basically, what I’m trying to say is this: how do you want people who read this book to see you, and how do you want them to see LeBron? I feel like the answer to the latter part of that is fairly straightforward, so I’ll clarify it: is the primary goal of this book  trying to make more people hate LeBron, or hate him more than they already do, or to make them understand why you hate him so much?

By book’s end, I’m addressing James directly about some of life’s larger issues, particularly about his notion that winning championships was going to be easy. (I don’t know if what you read was an earlier galley, where the book’s ending wasn’t as tuned as it wound up being.) I’m talking to him about the absence of anyone like a father in his life, someone who might’ve tested and mentored him in ways that dads, uncles, and older brothers do. I’m talking to him. In the book. As if he were my son. It may not work for the reader, but it isn’t ‘screw you’ in my eyes.

As for how I want people to see me or LeBron, I never set out to be the leader of a mob, despite my twitter timeline. I truly don’t care how people see me. I’m a writer, which is to say that I want folks to read the book and enjoy it. I’m certainly not trying to convert anyone. I do think the story of Cleveland fanhood is worthy, unique, and undertold. And while I didn’t harp on it, LeBron is just one more unhappy ending, nothing more. Maybe a little more, in the sense that he clearly made a big difference in how people felt about Cleveland, and how Clevelanders felt about their city, not only because he’s a great basketball player, but also because the native-son narrative was so appealing. Plenty of NBA fans with no special love for Cleveland or the Cavs ‘hate’ LeBron, thanks to The Decision; I’m not trying to recruit those who still like and admire him. I respect their opinions’ as long as they’re not calling me names.

5) In your book, you praise how Z left Cleveland with a classy thank-you letter in the Plain Dealer, but make no mention of Mo Williams’ twitter pleas not to be traded and twitter proclamation of love for Dan Gilbert — instead, you only describe your elation when you heard that Mo had been traded. You present “The Decision” as the opposite of what Z did, which in many ways it was — was there a way that LeBron could handled his departure that would have prevented you from hating him? To add on to that, was it LeBron’s decision to leave the Cavaliers, his decision to join Wade and Bosh in South Beach, or “The Decision” itself that made you the most angry?

1. Mo surely deserves better than he got from me. He’s a sad figure. I always had trouble with Earnest Byner, too, after The Fumble. I try not to overthink this stuff, even when I’m writing about it. My basic position is, fuck ‘Regular Season Mo’ and his pleading. Good riddance to bad rubbish. Let him write his own [expletive] book.

2. Had LeBron led the Cavs to an NBA championship and left as a free agent, I don’t think I would’ve had a problem with that beyond sadness. (I think it’s vital to add that I don’t hold him responsible for the Cavs failure to do so; he wasn’t in the front office or on the coaching staff.) I can’t imagine feeling hatred toward him under those circumstances. Gratitude, yes. But other than leading the team to a title, there’s no way he could’ve handled his departure without leaving me feeling betrayed and enraged. (And nobody could convince me that the Cavs would NOT have won at least one NBA championship had he stayed.)

3. The Decision made me most angry, by far. Had he and his minions intended to disgrace Cleveland and themselves, they couldn’t have done a better job.

6) Your book is about a lot of things — Your present, your past, Cleveland’s past, Cleveland’s present, sports, family, addiction, and everything else. In your own words, why do you think your abiding hatred for LeBron James was able to bring all of those things together into a 300-page book? Would you describe your feelings towards LeBron as a personal vendetta, or an extension of your devotion to Cleveland sports and his lack of devotion to them? Did LeBron’s post-finals quote, about how much better his life is than the lives of those who hate him, provide a kind of justification for your antipathy towards LeBron on a personal level?

1. I have no idea how to answer the question that begins ‘why do you think’ in any sensible way. When I write 200-300 word pieces for Esquire, an editor will sometimes ask me what I’m going to say. The only answer I’ve ever been able to give is, “Let me surprise us both.” That’s what I love about writing. The book came as a huge surprise to me in every way, especially the writing of it. But I honestly don’t think it was the result of my ‘abiding hatred for LeBron’ that was the trigger; it was my lifelong love of Cleveland and the Cavs, Indians, and Browns. Which pretty much answers the second question: to the extent that I have a ‘personal vendetta,’ it derives entirely from my passion for the city and its teams.

2. Justification, shmustification. I don’t need no stinking justification for my feelings. And no one who knows me would ever think that I’d wish to trade lives with LeBron James, even for a day.

7) Alright, I’ll let you go after this question — assuming (optimistically) the NBA season starts in mid-december, what are three things you’d like to see happen over the course of the regular season and the playoffs?

1. I’d like to see Kyrie and TT emerge as the greatest rookie tandem in NBA history.

2. I’d like to hear Mike Brown talk about how grateful he is to Kobe for letting Mike coach him, the same way he used to talk about LeBron.

3. I’d like to — you’re just baiting me, aren’t you, Krolik? — witness LeBron James continue to succeed wildly at failure. Whatever form that takes.

NBA Players Mulling Over Latest NBA Proposal

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

From ESPN.com:

Once NBA players digest all the details of the owners’ new contract proposal — including a clause that opens a way for more player demotions to the D-League — it’s hard to imagine even those desperate to play would be willing to ratify it, sources told ESPN The Magazine’s Ric Bucher.

I haven’t chosen a side in this dispute, but the way in which the owners have proposed a terrible deal, then sat back and said, “Well, it’s in the players’ hands now” is the most disingenuous, awful thing. That these negotiations are still a PR war makes me angry enough to watch hockey (hockey!).

Imaginary Game Recap: Cavs 112, Existential Dread :(

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Ed note: A world without NBA basketball is a world in which Colin does not want to exist. Fortunately, he has at his disposal a strong ability to self-delude and a word processing program. Until the NBA lockout concludes and professional basketball starts happening in the corporeal realm, he will be recapping the Cavaliers games that happen in his head.

It’s difficult to determine whether the Cavs won or lost out there tonight. You would think a team of world-class athletes playing against an abstract concept would be a bloodbath, but then you would be forgetting that Existential Dread renders all outcomes—of basketball games, of wars, of love affairs, of relationships with your father that just seem unfixable at this point in your life—meaningless. Let’s break it down.

The Cavaliers started strong, burying uncontested layup after uncontested layup with gleeful ease. Anderson Varejao racked up 14 points in the early going; his cuts to the bucket went largely unchecked for much of the first quarter. Baron Davis’s outside shot was also working the in the opening period. He went 4-5 from beyond the arc. “It’s like there wasn’t anyone on the court with us early in the game,” Davis said of his first quarter sharpshooting.

“And then suddenly,” he added, his smile dissolving into a nervous wince. “There was.”

After a stellar opening run of play, the wheels came off for the Cavaliers. As Kyrie Irving dribbled the ball some 30 feet away from the basket and began to call out a play with 8:25 remaining in the second quarter, he curiously picked up his dribble, shuddered the shudder of a man who has seen his entire family perish in a terrible naval accident, set the ball down, and hollered out “Am I alive?!” before splaying out on the floor of the Q and sobbing for what seemed like hours.

“Classic rookie mistake,” said 13-year NBA veteran Antawn Jamison of the incident. “Soon enough, he’ll learn not to make simple mental errors like that. It’s all part of learning to be a professional.”

Irving wasn’t the only one who made mistakes tonight. In the second half, Existential Dread effectively took over. The Cavaliers began to unravel, performing alley-oops on their own basket and loudly reciting excerpts from Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Being and Nothingness.” Christian Eyenga, who started dribbling with his elbows late in the third quarter, couldn’t provide a coherent reason for his bizarre behavior. “I just thought,” the lanky Congolese forward stammered “that it would just, y’know, change things.” When asked to clarify his statement, he began speaking in tongues.

In an attempt to calm his panicked squad early in the fourth quarter, Byron Scott called timeouts on five consecutive possessions, forgetting, as he gestured toward the referee for the fifth time in two minutes, that he was out of TOs. This violation, as per NBA regulations, resulted in a technical foul against the Cavaliers. The referees conferenced at the scorer’s table for a moment before head official Joey Crawford walked toward Existential Dread’s end of the floor placed the ball adjacent the empty free throw line. The crowd and players stood frozen. Their breath puddled at their feet and they felt its cold oil between their toes. They saw a flash, then a billowing miasma of olive-green gas. The Q stunk of sulfur and sounded of nothing. From somewhere within this timeless ether, a buzzer sounded. Fans and players streamed out of the arena onto the streets, some high-fiving each other and murmuring about the Cavs ostensible victory, others walking more stoically, murmuring beneath their breath about the end of days.

“That was an incredible ‘basketball game,'” said starting guard Boobie Gibson, using scare quotes in a way best characterized as “disturbing.” “We really got a ‘great’ ‘win’ and everyone ‘contributed’ out there tonight.” Asked if he was happy about the “win,” Gibson took a drag from a cigarette and replied “I feel like a Drake song right now. One of the particularly melancholy ones.”

Reached for comment after the “game” by C:TB, Byron Scott, who remains committed to speaking only in dadaist riddles, proclaimed, “You can’t just put a lightbulb in the cat food, and call it a champion!”

I don’t know who or where the Cavs will be playing next week. I haven’t made that part up yet.

Players and Owners Still Talking

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

From ESPN.com:

The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association negotiated Wednesday for eight hours past the league’s stated 5 p.m. ET deadline for a deal and made sufficient-enough progress to schedule another round of talks for Thursday.

Thursday’s talks began shortly before 1 p.m. ET. The two sides are meeting again in small groups, working to try to find a way to save the season.

Does it really matter if yours truly is optimistic or pessimistic at this point? I’ll keep you guys posted if anything positive comes from these talks.

Imaginary Game Recap: Cavs 83, Magic 98

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

Ed note: A world without NBA basketball is a world in which Colin does not want to exist. Fortunately, he has at his disposal a strong ability to self-delude and a word processing program. Until the NBA lockout concludes and professional basketball starts happening in the corporeal realm, he will be recapping the Cavaliers games that happen in his head.

Woof. That home win against the Bucks was apparently a misnomer. But to be fair, it’s very easy to defeat a team that consists of only one player. For those of you who haven’t been following the story, the rest of the Milwaukee Bucks have given up on playing with Corey Maggette, who got into a physical altercation with Brandon Jennings during a training camp scrimmage because Jennings, quote: “Shot the ball. You don’t trade for Corey Maggette for Corey Maggette to not take all of the shots.” The Milwaukee Maggettes were subsequently crushed by the new-look Cavs on Tuesday night 211-12. After the game, Coach Scott Skiles was quoted as saying, “Why am I still coaching the team? Well, Corey’s just a horrible, selfish player, and the only way I know how to express myself is through really dickish rage. I’m never happier than when I’m chewing out a player for putting himself above the team, not hustling, etc. This is gonna be the most gratifying season of my career.” This explains why Maggette–despite being the only player on the active roster–spent a majority of the third quarter on the bench next to a livid Skiles while the Cavaliers sat Indian-style in a circle around midcourt and, passing The Speaking Koosh between them, discussed how each player’s personal brand was doing.

Thursday night was an entirely different story, as the Cavs lost to the Magic by 15. The story of this game was the Cavaliers’ inability to guard the perimeter, as Ryan Anderson went off for 35 points on 10-12 shooting from beyond the arc. Most of this was due to Antawn Jamsion’s patently lethargic closeouts. At one point during the third quarter, after Anderson received a skip pass from Gilbert Arenas and rapped the first eight bars of Rick Ross’s verse on “2Pac Back” before converting his eighth three-pointer of the night, Austin Carr took a moment to break down Jamison’s defense: “Look how he doesn’t really even jog toward Anderson as he catches the ball; he just sort of shuffles in Anderson’s general direction, as if he’s been drunk for three days because a vindictive spouse or girlfriend assassinated his sexual identity, and then he half-heartedly raises his right hand in a manner that makes you think ‘I bet after he retires, he’s going to attend the opening of a lot of public parks in innercity neighborhoods and deliver speeches about how kids need a safe place to play, and some local journalist will write sort of condescendingly about how ‘articulate’ and ‘gracious’ he and ‘his beautiful wife Rucker’ were at the dedication ceremony.’ Antawn Jamison is both a class act and a terrible defender.”

But news of the Cavs’ struggles defending the perimeter are nothing new. I think Byron Scott summed up this blowout rather eloquently in his post-game press conference when, in response to a reporter’s inquiry about how the Cavs could have better defended the three-point line, he replied “Turnips are a fruit!” Scott is, of course, incorrect, as turnips are a root and therefore a vegetable, but starting Center Anderson Varejao explained to the media that this is all part of the three-time NBA Champion’s plan to motivate the team by speaking only in dadaist riddles throughout the season. “He’s taking a wait-and-see approach with this experimental coaching technique,” claims Varejao “We’re all pretty excited about it.” When reached for comment by Cavs: The Blog regarding his new, unconventional approach, Scott explained, “There are clams in the orange juice, but you can’t take the jungle out of a Harvard man.” Profound.

I don’t know who or where the Cavs will be playing next week. I haven’t made that part up yet.