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.