From Distance: Back in Orange and Brown

four point play.

1. I didn’t watch the last 13 games of the Cleveland Browns’ 2017 season. Somewhere between the concussion saga, non-guaranteed NFL contracts, reactions to Colin Kaepernick, and the general sucktitude of Cleveland’s squad, I made the executive decision to stop watching my beloved Brownies.

It felt strange. This was a team that I had watched, no matter what, for decades. When I first moved from Ohio to NYC in 2004, I searched out the New York City chapter of the Browns Backers club. Before streaming, one had to rely on the club viewing parties at Blondies in order to watch the games.

The crowd at Blondies circa 2004-2006 was fantastic. The wings were amazing. I made good friends with other Cleveland transplants living in NYC. It was a great way to spend autumn Sundays.

When I moved to Boston, the Backers club was less fun, but that magical 2007 team made the transition much easier to stomach. (Well, other than the fact that I had to watch three Cleveland teams get beaten by three Boston teams that year. Ugh. Boston fans are the worst).

Fortunately, by the time I made my move to Europe in 2009, streaming had drastically improved its general resolution. Though there are Browns Backers clubs in Europe, I no longer required one to watch the games. Most clubs were too far away from my previous little German town to have been a viable option anyway.

Instead, I bought the European NFL Gamepass that is far cheaper than its Direct TV American counterpart, and consumed every snap of almost every NFL game for the next five seasons.

I had always been a diehard Browns fan. Then the Cavs won the championship. An actual championship! The perpetual hope of going 10-6 was rendered irrelevant. The teams’ continued instability was beyond frustrating. On a league wide basis, the NFL further antagonized its players, and the smashmouth game that I loved somehow began to feel too violent for me.

My initial reaction to a crushing hit by a strong safety used to be “yeah! You don’t want to cross the middle with Eric Turner on the field”, to “oof, jeez I hope that dude’s still alive.”

I began to cringe on a regular basis. Combine all that with perpetually awful play, and I decided to give life without NFL football a try.

Then, less than a year later, another perfect storm happened, only this time the other direction. The Browns drafted a guy who actually produced in college and has one of the most accurate arms in recent draft history. They have hit on the majority of their lower draft picks over recent years, Hard Knocks picked them as the featured team, and LeBron James left Cleveland.

Honestly, it’s possible that the last one may be the biggest reason my itch to watch the Browns has re-emerged.

Sure, the Cavs will likely compete for a playoff spot this season, but my default fandom will go back to “looking for progress” and “cheering for smart effort”. There are no championship aspirations whatsoever.

It’s almost as though I am going back to being my old school Cleveland fan after four years of having to look past everything except playoff competition.

Since the Browns finally seem to have a plan and young talent with which to work, my overall fan mindset has normalized.

We will see. I still don’t trust the ownership group. The head coach has somehow lost 31 of 32 games. Even if the team starts out well, I will worry how they handle the QB situation.

If Tyrod Taylor continues to be criminally underrated as an intelligent player, and they bring Baker Mayfield in too soon thus screwing up another young player, my interest might wane again. If the NFL decides to completely disrespect its workforce in some new ridiculous way, I will likely peace out.

But as of late August, I’m back in Orange and Brown. I’m hoping the game gets slightly less violent and the league takes a few pages from the NBA as it pertains to its labor negotiations. Hmm. Hard Knocks indeed.

2. While the Browns are currently the most featured team in the NFL, the Cavs have lived in relative obscurity over the last month. The team has been smart with its cap, taken a flier on some young players with upside, and generally been quietly effective with its actions.

New additions, David Nwaba and Sam Dekker have a few things in common. They are below average shooters with decent enough form to reasonably expect improvement, they are high motor guys who are caught slightly in between standard positional categories, and they flat out fly in transition.

Last season was rather rough on Dekker. Going from a free flowing system in Houston being fed by James Harden to a Clippers team whose true point guards were injured really set Dekker back.

At his best, Dekker absolutely flies down the court in transition. He runs hard and often. Some of the most electric plays from the Rockets 2016-2017 season ended with a Dekker flush on the run.

David Nwaba isn’t quite as consistent with his lane filling in the open floor, but the young man can do more with the ball in his hands. A good rebounder for a guard, Nwaba should be able to grab and push with Dekker on the wing.

Ty Lue’s pace mantra could finally become reality with the Cavs’ new players. Sexton, Nwaba, Cedi Osman, Dekker, and Larry Nance could form one of the fastest lineups in the NBA. Of course, speed isn’t everything, so here’s hoping these guys are burying those off-season three balls.

3. The NBA rookie class was recently interviewed by ESPN. It was an interesting peek into some of these young men’s characters. Some notable information:

No rookie picked Luka Doncic to win Rookie of the Year.

Marvin Bagley III wanted to pick himself for ROY and MVP. Confident kid. Or full of it.

When asked about what the rookies have purchased with their first check, Colin Sexton’s response gave me a chuckle.

Sexton: Man, I haven’t bought anything. No, I’m cheap. I’m real cheap.

It is certainly an interesting group of guys. You all know by now who my pick for ROY is. Doncic all the way.

4. Any skepticism I had left about Zion Williamson’s game was immediately eliminated after watching his Duke debut. Yes, it’s a game in August. March is a long ways away. Still, this young man is the closest thing to Charles Barkley I have seen.

Those 285 pounds may not be completely sculpted yet, but Zion is far from a chubby kid waiting to balloon. His 46 inch vertical is absurd. He can power off two feet and/or leap off one foot as evidenced by his foul line dunk. His arms are already pretty cut for an 18 year-old. His explosion and underrated skill-set are impressive. The dude is even left-handed.

Williamson moves a lot like Lance Stephenson and jumps like Nate Robinson. It’s an explosive combination. Short muscular guys with hops aren’t thought to be too heavy for their height. Zion is basically a short muscular guy, only at 6’6″ and with long arms. Sheesh. What a prospect.

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NOMAD
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NOMAD
29 days 13 hours ago

CLARKSON STAT LINE / ASIAN GAMES —28 / 8 /4 —–HIT 5 / 3PT’S

NOMAD
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NOMAD
29 days 15 hours ago

just saw where cavs will probably forfeit 3 million of their –KYRIE T.E. —– maybe it is just me —would somehow try to use this ——deadline is tomorrow —-thoughts/ opinions ?

Charlie E
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Charlie E
29 days 16 hours ago

Watched my first Hard Knocks last night. Quite entertaining, for sure. Gotta feel for Hugh Jackson losing his brother and mother, man.

I was struck by how much speech making there was. So much motivational talk. In my mind I imagine the Hard Knocks NE Patriots version, where basically no one does this, they just say, “Do your job. Be a professional and act like it, or we will find someone else who can do that. Now listen up and I will tell you how we win…”

Raoul
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Raoul
29 days 18 hours ago

Whoda thunk it?

http://www.espn.com/chalk/story/_/id/24434899/cleveland-browns-attracting-high-number-bets-las-vegas

Actually me, I always pick the Browns to win. Fortunately I don’t put any money on it or anything else.

NOMAD
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NOMAD
30 days 9 hours ago

anybody have any opinions / predictions on wed ‘s outcome for urban meyer—-I am saying he WILL NOT BE FIRED —–WILL RECEIVE –3–5 GAME SUSPENSION ——THOUGHTS/ OPINIONS ——–

Jason
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Jason
30 days 6 hours ago

He should get fired but he won’t.

Be back for PSU game if not by TCU.

NOMAD
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NOMAD
30 days 11 hours ago

maybe josh and kev should hook up—-seriously they could help each other / and also together do some very positive / public achievements

Charlie E
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Charlie E
30 days 14 hours ago

Fun article as always. I’m looking forward to watching Hard Knocks and maybe paying a bit of attention to the Browns this year. I went to a Boston Browns Backers meet up for a game a couple of years ago and it was not fun. So much whining and negativity it was weird.

That said, I think there’s a better than even chance that Hugh Jackson is not a good coach. I mean, one win in two years does not bode well…

I hope Josh Gordon can get on the field. He is a very entertaining player when he plays.

NOMAD
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NOMAD
30 days 19 hours ago

agree 100 % Jason —I had a bout with serious depression for almost 2 yrs —IT IS NO FUN / JOKE ——THANKING KEV FOR STEPPING UP AND MAKE THIS PUBLIC ——AND YES PROUD HE IS A CAV ” HE’S ONE OF US ” !!!

Charlie E
Guest
Charlie E
30 days 14 hours ago

KLove is a terrific dude. Hope he has some fun this year and the occasional big game.

JMay
Editor
30 days 19 hours ago

http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/24382693/jackie-macmullan-kevin-love-paul-pierce-state-mental-health-nba

Another great article about mental health, with Love as the focus. Keep talking about it Kev. We need to start treating mental illness like any other. Proud he’s a Cav.

Jason
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Jason
1 month 1 day ago

We should do what other teams do. Let Kev play & get his numbers but do not overtax him in a year where we go nowhere. Take care of that back. Play 65 games max. 30 minutes a night.

Let the younger guys soak up the minutes & learn. Play Zizic and Nance a lot.

West coast cav
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West coast cav
1 month 1 day ago

https://syndication.bleacherreport.com/amp/2791537-nba-scout-post-lebron-cavaliers-needed-to-gut-it-and-start-over.amp.html

So tired of Cleveland bashing. I pray K. Love lights it up and the Cavs win 42 games. I just don’t understand the win it all or nothing philosophy. CtB gang, what would you think is a successful season? I’ll be happy to watch a team that plays hard, plays smart, and progresses over the season. I have no interest in watching a team assembled to get a lottery pick. What’s the point of any game if you’re not trying to win.

Nate Smith
Admin
1 month 21 hours ago

A successful season is at least two of Sextton, Cedi, and Nance showing they can be elite nba players.

JOHN B
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JOHN B
1 month 12 hours ago

That is a stretch to say “elite.” I would be happy with just solid starters for Nance and Cedi and a good rookie season for Sexton. Don’t think those guys are ever going to be elite, unless Sexton gets a jumpshot and more wiggle to his ballhandling, but good starters on good contracts are hard to come by.

Nate Smith
Admin
1 month 12 hours ago

Well that would be success. If that happens with enough consistency, then the Cavs will be a playoff team with solid starters and 2-3 elite players. If not they can put themselves in a position to get an elite player. Notice I said, “can be,” not “become” I just mean that there’s a discernable path there. Cedi has the tools to be very good. Sexton appears to have the motor.

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
1 month 1 day ago

That scout doesn’t make any sense either. He/she said the Cavs need to blow it up to get a top 5 pick, but then also says they are going to be bad enough to get a top 5 pick anyways.

JOHN B
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JOHN B
1 month 3 hours ago

I don’t care if they are top five, but I don’t want to lose that pick so I minimally want us to be top 10.

JRL
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JRL
1 month 1 day ago

The article is flawed within the first two paragraphs. When the writer insinuates that the ONLY way for Cleveland, or any other team in the same position, to find young talent is to trade their major superstar and/or tank is ridiculous.

The win-now mentality is stupid. Yes I want the Cavs to get better but that doesn’t mean they have to tank to do it. It all comes down to talent recognition.

There are only 5-6 players on the league, who on their own, automatically make the team a playoff team. The rest 15-20 top players on the league still need other Top 25-50 talent around them to get them there.

Going back to the article, we don’t need to trade Love and KK to get young talent. What we need is for Lue to give the young guys we have a chance to show what they can do. I have faith in Cedi, Ante, Nance and Sexton to go out there and play good basketball. That’s your young talent and you keep Love and KK.

Nate Smith
Admin
1 month 21 hours ago

Well more like flipping older short term assets for younger long term ones.

Nate Smith
Admin
1 month 1 day ago
JOHN B
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JOHN B
1 month 1 day ago

Definitely the type of narcissist that has every google, Facebook, twitter, IG, etc alert for his own name. Just can’t let things go. Why does he care what Enes Kanter thinks? That guy is irrelevant.

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
1 month 1 day ago

One more bat point.

One more home run trot.

One more home plate mobbing.

Chills. #ThomeHOF pic.twitter.com/fJ25jZgLt8

— clevelanddotcom (@clevelanddotcom) August 18, 2018

Nate Smith
Admin
1 month 2 days ago

Do you read much Muramaki? I’m reading his first two novels right now, and your staccato prose reminds me him. Wonderfully written as always, Ben.

Simmo
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Simmo
1 month 2 days ago

Muramaki also wrote a great book about his experiences in endurance running, very entertaining.

Nate Smith
Admin
1 month 2 days ago

Also, the comments on this are as insightful as always. Thank you for your contributions.

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
1 month 2 days ago

According to Amico, the Cavs are waiting for Hood to agree to terms, before they sign Nwaba. I sure hope this plan doesn’t backfire.

MikeO
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MikeO
1 month 1 day ago

If they lose Nwaba I’m not going to be happy. I think he’s a more worthwhile flyer than Hood.

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
1 month 1 day ago

Completely agree!

Nate Smith
Admin
1 month 2 days ago

I’ve been out on the NFL for a few years now and I used to digest 16 hours a weekend. Mainly, too many people I rooted for and against were dying way too young to make me feel like it was anymore than a bloodsport. But on the other hand, I like when people are happy and they’re happy when their football team wins.

JRL
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JRL
1 month 2 days ago
Regarding the NFL – sorry but never really cared for it. The league has been extremely behind the times when it comes to punishment/fines for atrocious acts done by players outside the field/season. For the commissioner to act as if he didn’t know anything about Rice, is the same as Meyer acting as if he didn’t know anything about what his coach was doing. Absolute BS. Also, the leagues militarization of the game is horrible. One thing is to honor our forces but another is to act as if you’re a mouthpiece for them. Add to that the whole fiasco with Trump/Kap/kneeling and now you have a sh!tshow. Considering a majority white-owned league acting as if their own players, when expressing their constitutional rights, is an illegal thing, that makes it much harder to care for. And then, then you have the fans. Many a times I’ve heard/read the N word thrown around when talking about the players protesting. These fans are okay with watching these players beat themselves into unconsciousness and disabilities, but they won’t allow them to express how they feel cause this is “Murica”. I absolutely hate these fans. Anyways… I said it when we first got… Read more »
Cedi Mind Tricks
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Cedi Mind Tricks
1 month 2 days ago

Preach

NOMAD
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NOMAD
1 month 2 days ago

that was me—previuos blog

Anonymous
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Anonymous
1 month 2 days ago

WOW BAUER OUT 4-6 WEEKS —-OUCH !!!

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
1 month 2 days ago

Just in time for the playoffs!

John B
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John B
1 month 2 days ago

Yeah. That hurts, but reports have stated that is typical for stress fracture like that so not surprising. Cleveland luck. Going to be really tough to advance in the playoffs now.

JRL
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JRL
1 month 2 days ago

That hurts.

JOHN B
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JOHN B
1 month 2 days ago
Love the Lance comparison. Very apt when you watch Zion handle the ball. I do think he is far quicker and faster than Stevenson even at 270+. I mean that first step is absurd. Not only that, but if he gets in the open court he appears to be outrunning everyone either with the ball or without. Reminds me of James in that regard. As far as his handles, he showed in high school and last night that he has a tremendous spin move and a great behind the back crossover, which is a very advanced move for anyone to pull off in traffic with regularity, let alone a guy that size. In addition, maybe the most impressive part about his ball handling is that he dribbles so low he can split doubles like a point guard that is far smaller. I have known how skilled a ballhandler and how freakish a defender he can be for quite some time. The most impressive takeaways for me last night, were some of the assists he had. He didn’t try to force too much and made the right bball play on offense much of the time. He had a beautiful cross court… Read more »
JoeyB
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JoeyB
1 month 2 days ago

OMG Ben! I used to go to Blondie’s in New York then, too, for Browns’ games. We must’ve met before. Small world. I was there from 2000 to 2005. We started on the West Side and then it moved to the East Side, if I recall correctly.

Williamson, holy cow. Nothing makes me hungry for tanking like looking at good college prospects.

MikeO
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MikeO
1 month 2 days ago

I’m old, too, so I remember Barkley in college, he was one of my favorite players his last year. This dude really does have a Barkley vibe, from the little I’ve seen of him….and at a really young age.

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
1 month 2 days ago

I have only watched one Browns game the past 2 seasons, but I’m excited for this season. Hard Knocks has been really good!

Matt from Mentor
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Matt from Mentor
1 month 2 days ago

Here for the Browns comments, absolutely too violent. And combine that with the arrogance of a sport that most of the world couldn’t care less about and the NFL’s disdain for anyone who prefers a game with more finesse. Like Simmo said: isn’t there anything better to watch? Yes. Yes there is.

Simmo
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Simmo
1 month 2 days ago

Thank you Ben. You’ve captured what I think a lot of CLE sports fans & going through right now. It’s like we are all changing the channel, and not through disgust – it’s more of a contented something-better-on-the-other-station thing.

And Zion! Man, his movement for a big unit is remarkable. Be interesting to see how his chassis matures, does he thin out & cut up, or Shaq it up.

JMay
Editor
1 month 2 days ago

I hope he gets cut. I’d hate to see him lose any of that open floor mobility.

John B
Guest
John B
1 month 2 days ago

He likely will be become a bit better defined/trim, but like Ben said, he has some defintion now, especially in his upper body. I don’t think he is really that far away as his bulk might make him seen. I think a lot of that is muscle. Think he is just a big big dude. Clearly he is already one of the most athletic young prospects of all time. I mean a 45 inch vertical is insane. A 45 inch vertical for a guy that big and muscular is otherworldly freakish. Barkley was big, but Williams looks as bulky as Malone did during the biggest years of his prime.

Guy is just built like a linebacker with the athleticism of a much smaller guy. Really, not sure how many guys have ever had 40+ verts and that agility. Carter, LBj, MJ, Dr J, J Richardson. The list is probably pretty short. Barkley could get up in his prime, but not like this kid.

MikeO
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MikeO
1 month 2 days ago

I think Bagley is going to be pretty disappointing. Playing for the Kings will not help. I also think Doncic will look good and super solid, and Bagley is going to come under a lot of criticism in comparison, which is not his fault, but hey, he wanted to be picked second.

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