Posts Tagged ‘Drawings from the Notebook of Chris Grant’

What is the value of spite? A short musing on LeBron James, Cleveland, and this Girl I Used To Love Irrationally, by Ryan Braun:

Monday, February 13th, 2012

In “honor” of LeBron’s coming to town this week:

Now here we have an interesting dilemma, and I’d urge you to think it through before arriving at any, let’s say, decisions…

You know what? Let’s not even start with LeBron. Let’s start with a conveniently analogous anecdote.

****

When I was 22 (a year older than CTB’s own C.S. McGowan), the first girl I’d ever dated broke up with me. I’d made mistakes along the way — mixtapes are cute, but you better be a real lumberjack if you want to bookend one with Aladdin — still, the dumping seemed irrational. I was caring, attentive and I put out reasonably well for a nebbish, sexually-terrified faux-adult whose romantic repertoire prior to that relationship consisted of saying “I’m going to kiss you in 10 seconds,” and then counting down the remaining :09.

In spite of all that, she left me for a disinterested 28-year-old physical therapist.

It was brutal.

It was why, for months afterward, I refused to rehab anything professionally.

And it’s kind of related to the debate at hand.

*****

Two weeks ago, I stumbled on Sam Amico’s now semi-dated article re: the prospects of LeBron returning to Cleveland, and it was that which got me thinking about this again (both the LeBron situation and my beautiful ex — the latter pictured below in a visual approximation).

I’m sure you’ve all read the story.

There is talk, Amico writes, that LeBron is discontent in Miami — “less-than-thrilled with certain aspects of the Heat organization.” It’s not Wade and Bosh, SA continues, it’s “the heavy-handed and disciplined style of Pat Riley.”

None of this is particularly substantive or surprising. That Brian Windhorst corroborated kept me from writing off the return possibility without first giving it some thought…but I did give it some thought and came to the conclusion that we’ll see Obama as governor of Mississippi before we see LeBron, as Windhorst speculates, back in Cleveland and honored with a statue.

To even get us to the precipice of a return would require not only Dan Gilbert’s acceptance of a LeBron reconciliation, but an apology from LeBron himself, plus a general admission of wrongdoing. In other words, LeBron would have to publicly take some responsibility for the split with Cleveland and at least in some capacity, publicly admit he may have done a thing or two to draw Gilbert’s ire.

None of the above is going to happen, and perhaps because of that, the likelihood of the above happening is not really what I’m interested in.

I’m interested in us.

I’m interested in what we might do if the situation presented itself.

*****

When that girl broke up with me, I sulked pretty bad.

I didn’t leave the house for a week. My mom gave me a bell I could ring for ice cream and I just stayed in bed for the whole seven days. It wasn’t a good look for a 22-year-old, and about the only thing I gained from the wallowing was an abject certainty that Night Court was underrated.

I also made possible the taking of this picture:

Dark, dark days.

But then, as if forced to by my mother, the next Monday I got up and moved on with my life. I got a job as the production office intern for a movie filming locally and made such an impression delivering lunches that I was offered a job in Los Angeles, also delivering lunches.

My mom spent a week in bed with the ice cream bell, and then I left.

I won’t say my motivation was to become a famous actor solely to spite the girl who’d left me… but I will write it.

My motivation for moving was to become a famous actor solely to spite this girl who’d dumped me.

I’d never acted.

I’d never been to Los Angeles.

It was a healthy and financially pragmatic move.

But it did do one thing; it allowed me the time and the space to recover. It allowed me to move on with my life. It allowed me to start anew (and/or metaphorically draft Kyrie Irving depending on where you are in the analogy.).

Within three years, I was shopping at Whole Foods and driving a Prius. I was still delivering lunches, but now they were fancy.

I didn’t see that girl again for three years, and I really wasn’t planning on initiating anything ever again until she emailed me one day totally out of the blue…to see how I was doing, to see “how life was treating me,” and to see if I’d be attending the wedding of one of our college friends in a couple of months.

And so we started talking, and reminiscing, and telling each other that there were no hard feelings.

I said I’d be going to the wedding and staying in the recommended hotel.

She asked me what floor I was staying on.

*****

My biggest issue with the sports fan of the 21st century is the following: With very few exceptions, the 21st century sports fan is f’ing fickle! I haven’t been alive long enough to definitively state that things haven’t always been this way…but I’m pretty sure that things haven’t always been this way.

Sports have become a mixed bag of opportunism and sentimentality, admittedly for me as much as anyone. I mourned the departure of Big Z, but in no way did I take issue with his trade. I’ve despised the high-profile player movement of the past few years, but I’m the same guy who was pitching Dwight Howard to Cleveland last week.

And now, in analyzing the tenets of immediate gratification (something that, again, I seek as much as anyone)…I’m starting to wonder at what point will opportunism snuff out the sentimentality that gives sports its heart in the first place? And if that’s a possibility, how far gone are we already?

From the booing of home teams in even the most hallowed of locales (its happening from Cleveland to Green Bay), to the relatively crass pursuit of big-time free-agents in every major sport (again, Dwight Howard), I feel like the opportunism is taking over. This is probably a positive in the NFL-ian way that it keeps everything interesting for everyone always…but it’s not so good in the crafting of true loyalty, of true fans, and ultimately, of the lovable “throwback” players we keep pining for.

There’s a romantic (if idealistic) group of sports fans craving a better kind of athlete.

I think in order to facilitate that, we may need a better kind of fan.

Someone for whom opportunism is not the priority.

*****

That said, I totally get why it is.

We’re back at the reception now and I’ve had four glasses of wine plus I really can’t hold my liquor (At all. That “I’m drunk” picture came after a lone White Russian.) and the/that/my girl is looking more pretty than is probably appropriate at a wedding with a bride.

I asked her how her grad school was going and she told me about her residency.

She asked me how my acting was going and I told her about my appearance in a Swedish life insurance commercial.

And then we just stared at each other for a moment…after which time she asked me if I wanted to see some of the things she’d learned in medical school.

I’ve never been hit on in my life…except for potentially that.

“What floor are you on?”

My floor.

Jim Gray walks in and he sets up the camera.

I am not a role model.

*****

What would you say to LeBron James if he asked to come back (and/or asked you up to room 304)?

First remove the backdrop of improbability, and then, with as much hypothetical honesty as you can muster, ask yourself what would you do if the only thing standing between a 29-year-old LeBron returning to Cleveland, returning to a team featuring an abundance of young talent, a blooming superstar in Kyrie Irving, and potentially another in Harrison Kidd-Davis, was you…

What would you do if the only thing standing between a Cleveland team and a 3-4 year championship run was the return of LeBron James?

In that very specific case (coincidentally, an amplified version of so many other cases)… what is the value of spite, and in how much of that spite lies your credibility as a sports fan (or in my case, as a man in general)? In how much of it lies your ability/right to enjoy a championship?

When LeBron James left for Miami, he was most roundly criticized for copping out.

We’d hoped he’d be the greatest player of the past twenty years, and instead he ended up choosing to play with his only real rival in the league while complaining about “the pressure of going out, scoring 30 every night.”

“Championships are championships,” LeBron ultimately said. The ends justify the means, because presumably, no one remembers the means.

If history proves him right (and while I sincerely hope that won’t be the case, I do realize it might be), would you be willing to sacrifice championship ends for a means that ultimately may not be remembered?

I think the obvious answer is, “Yes, of course. Pride over title any day of the week.”

And I think that’s what I’d want to say… I just hope I’d say it.

I spent my fourth year in Los Angeles listening to way too much Aladdin.

AWARDS WATCH (39.4% of the way through the season):

NBA MVP – LeBron James, SF, Miami Heat (27.9 ppg, 8.2 reb, 6.9 ast). The real purpose of this article was to compare LeBron James to a girl (WIN)…unfortunately, that girl is playing about three levels higher than anyone else is this season. I don’t know if he’s recovered enough good will to actually win MVP, but he clearly should if Miami ends up anywhere near the top of the league. Along those lines, the Heat are a game back of the Bulls and Thunder right now and while he’s tailed off a bit lately, LeBron has been dominant in keeping the Heat afloat despite inconsitent assistance from Dwyane Wade.

CAVALIER MVP – Andy Varejao, PF/C (10.8 ppg, 11.5 reb, 1.7 ast). I’m in the camp that wants a better draft pick and I still thought the Varejao injury was devastating. Andy’s been playing at an All-Star level all year, and to see that momentum interrupted by such a fluky play is immensely frustrating. Silver lining: There’ll be a lot less pressure on him when we land Anthony Davis.

NBA COY– Doug Collins, Philadelphia 76ers. I don’t think the Sixers are a threat in the East, but boy are they are fun to watch. They’re young, they’re well-rounded and they share the ball. I fear they’ll end up a well-constructed team held back by lack of star power…  but in the meantime, much of the credit for their resurgence should go to Collins.

CAVALIER COY – Byron Scott. I’ve made jokes every week about Byron’s lack of competition for this spot, but in truth I’m really impressed with the job he’s done this year. The games we’ve not competed have been few and far between, and the development of our youth (by far the season’s most important facet) seems to be going remarkably well. Tristan Thompson may have plateaued, but Kyrie Irving and Alonzo Gee get better with each passing week.

CO-NBA ROY – Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves (10.9 ppg, 4.5 reb, 8.7 ast) & Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers (18.0 ppg, 3.5 reb, 5.1 ast). I still think Kyrie’s the better player, but with KI missing a few games courtesy of Dwyane Wade’s knee I think it’s fair that Rubio be acknowledged as well. Ricky’s shooting is a substantial limitation, but it’s one some other stars share. It’s striking how much of his game resembles Rondo’s. Rubio is such a good set-up man and he’s far more active defensively than I initially gave him credit for. Ultimately, I don’t know if I see the athleticism to make up for his inability to shoot comfortably from the perimeter…but if he carves out a niche as a poor man’s Jason Kidd/Rondo, I think Minnesota will deal.

CAVALIER ROY – Kyrie Irving, PG. Since I last did this, Kyrie’s started winning games down the stretch single-handedly. It’s been kind of astonishing to watch. I don’t know if he can make the type of jump LeBron did from Year One to Year Two, but he also might not have as much distance to travel. If he can condition himself to the point where he can run (really run) 36 minutes a game… we’ll all have to reassess what his ceiling might be.

…………………..

Ryan Braun writes at CFAAP.com, and posts a picture with an article once every two Sundays (which he often does barely and by PST technicality). He appreciates your reading, and also you in general.

Dear Dwight Howard – a response to Marc Stein’s Weekend Dime from Ryan Braun:

Monday, January 16th, 2012

Hi Dwight:

Let me begin with a preface — if you choose to stay in Orlando, I get it. In fact, as a basketball fan with what I’d like to consider at least a semi-operative conscience, I would have to consider that preferable. I mean, how could anyone in Cleveland ever root for a superstar to leave a small market, right?

Dear Shaquille O'Neal's lawyers: please direct all complaints/legal inquiries to CFAAP.com

Okay, now that that’s out of the way…let’s go ahead and acknowledge your leaving as an inevitability. For the sake of both this article and the potentially delusional presumptions therein. Also, because you kind of reaffirmed the anti-Orlando sentiment with your “nothing has changed” quote relayed via the Sentinel last Sunday.

You still want to be traded, you say, and Dallas, LA, and the Nets are still your preferred destinations.

That’s fine. No judgment here. You’re a 26-year-old man/the heart wants what the heart wants.

But please, allow me the opportunity to pass on a message that my mom gave to me (in writing) when I suggested to her I might major in acting:

“Are you sure you’ve thought this through?”

Now, if you’re reading this (and I soooo hope it gets to you…), you’re probably reading it on a Cavs blog and thus have subsequently assumed where it’s headed.

Don’t stop reading.

I know you’ve already said (with just about zero ambiguity) that you’d rather not be traded to Cleveland.

That’s perfect! I don’t want you traded to Cleveland either.

I want you to sign there.

Trust me, I have definitely thought this through.

Reason # 1 — The Trade Thing is so 2008…

Allow me to open, Dwight, by directing your attention to exhibit A (and/or “Reason #1”)…the trade thing.

It’s en vogue right now, I know, and I’m even a little hypocritical for shunning it as definitively as I’m about to since a year and a half ago I was staying up nights at a time monitoring the Cavs’ progress in luring Amar’e Stoudemire away from Phoenix.

As I often am, I was misguided. (The acting major’s yet to pan out.)

I was misguided, as are many still, because lost in the league-encompassing excitement of a landscape shifting trade is a patently obvious nugget Knick of information regarding these cataclysms…

Take a look at all of the teams for which these deals have gone down in recent seasons.

None of them are winning.

None of them.

In fact, they’re not even close.

New York, New Jersey, the Clippers… not exactly the elite of the league, right? Perhaps even more damning is this… Are these teams even in a position to improve?

The Boston Celtics (the reason this whole “movement” started) are the only team of the modern era that was built via trade, and the only reason it worked (temporarily) was that each (aging) star was sold for pennies on the dollar, thereby allowing the Celtics to retain two players — Rondo and Perkins — who turned out to be better than anyone they’d shipped out. It was enormously lucky in the first place, and any chance of that particular history repeating with these “forced” trades is effectively wiped because A) the motivation behind the F-trades is often a player seeking a specific market/not a team sniffing out a palatable return, and B) everyone involved is a lot less willing to work out an amenable deal when they feel like they’re being jerked around.

So, let the record show us having the following two epiphanies:

1. In today’s NBA, you can still get yourself traded…but you can’t get yourself traded without gutting the team that you’re headed to, thereby nullifying the chance you’re headed to a better situation basketball-wise.

2. Because of this (epiphany 1), if you’re going to go…free agency is the way to go.

I don’t like that last epiphany as a Cavs fan (I wish the new CBA had come equipped with a franchise tag…), but it’s true.  If you’re signing a 5-year extension with a team that’s just traded its best young prospect + multiple first-rounders, rarely will that team still have the means to surround you with talent.

Of the “cataclysm teams,” the Heat are the only group I’d list with even a chance to win a title within the next few years, and it’s because they came together through free agency.

I'm the hater lion.

However awful that was.

Regardless, the point of exhibit A (and/or “Reason # 1”), Dwight?

If you don’t want to get stuck on a bare cupboard of a team subsequently plastered with unreasonable post-trade expectations…you might want to reconsider your route.

Sign with somebody in the offseason.

If only someone had concocted an elaborate yet grounded presentation to give your options via that route some clarity…

Reason # 2 — The Cavs from a Basketball Perspective:

This was the most enjoyable segment for me to write, and I’m 99% sure the reason for that is a legitimate belief in the following… (I’m so good an actor now, I can never be 100% sure I’m not fooling myself…)

The Cavs are on the verge of being really, really good.

Not this year, mind you…but soon. (And very soon if you heed my letter, DH.)

If Oklahoma City is the model for small-market rebuilding (Durant, Westbrook, Harden — add water), we’re one elite draft pick away from following suit. Through a stroke of remarkable good fortune (and by “good fortune,” I mean $30 million from Dan Gilbert), the Cavs were able to restock this year with both Tristan Thompson (who I pray to the basketball gods will be a smart Josh Smith) and Kyrie Irving (who I pray to the basketball gods will be a healthy Chris Paul). They’re 20 and 19, respectively. Provided they don’t propel us too far forward before their bodies fill out (and it might be close), we’ll probably end up landing one additional high lottery pick this year. Which again, provided these guys pan out, is the Thunder model. A potentially elite foundation.

And the rest of the roster?

That’s where things get really interesting.

In fact, to show just how interesting… I’d like to welcome the Dallas Mavericks to the article. Being the only team on your trade list with considerable cap space forthcoming, they seem to have become the assumed favorites to land your services via the free market.

Found this picture on Mark Cuban's nightstand...

Let’s say Dallas hits the jackpot this summer (that would be you and Deron Williams), thereby amassing what would probably be considered the second true “super-team” in the league. My grandma would be happy (she went to high school with Jason Kidd), but that’s not what this article’s about.

What is best for you, Dwight?

The following is the absolute best case scenario 2012-13 Dallas lineup, in which I assume the Mavs’ ability to dump Shawn Marion by the trade deadline (which is the only way they’d have  enough cap space to sign both you and Deron):

PG – Deron Williams (28), Jason Kidd (39!), Roddy Beaubois (24)

SG – Vince Carter (35), Jason Terry (35), Delonte West (29), Dominque Jones (24)

SF – Shawn Marion (34) ( presumptive salary dump)

PF – Dirk Nowitzki (34), Lamar Odom (32), Brian Cardinal (35), Yi Jianlian (25), Sean Williams (26), Brandan Wright (25)

C – Dwight Howard (26), Brendan Haywood (32), Ian Mahinmi (25)

Dallas has $41.4 million on the books for 2012-13, again, predicated solely on their ability to let everyone crossed out leave and/or pass away from age-related illness. With the salary cap projected at around $60-61 million next year, it’ll take a suitor for Shawn Marion’s $8.6 million guaranteed, plus ALL of their resulting free-agent money to sign you and Deron Williams.

Thus, this would be your team for the foreseeable future — exactly as listed above, minus Shawn Marion/plus league minimum filler. (And Dirk is 34, Deron Williams can’t stay healthy, yada, yada, yada…)

Now, contrast that with Cleveland’s potential 2012-13 lineup:

PG – Kyrie Irving (20), Ramon Sessions (26)

SG – Anthony Parker (306), Boobie Gibson (26), Mychel Thompson (24)

SF – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (19), Alonzo Gee (25), Omri Casspi (24), Christian Eyenga (23)

PF – Tristan Thompson (21), Antawn Jamison (35), Samardo Samuels (23), Luke Harangody (24)

C – Dwight Howard (26), Anderson Varejao (30), Semih Erden (26), Ryan Hollins (28)

There’s just under $41 million on the books here (only $9 million in 2013-14!) with all the notable pillars locked up. That means Kyrie, Tristan and Andy (seriously, you’ll love this guy…), plus “unnamed 2012 lottery pick,” plus Dan Gilbert’s willingness to lock-up our keepers for the long-term (Sessions and Boobie, perhaps?) or swing them as the rarest of expiring contracts (those belonging to good players) for dollars on the dollar.

The point of all this being, in Cleveland, you’re looking at a team with potentially four All-NBA caliber players, a team with insane roster flexibility, and a team with an owner more willing to dole out cash than Pacman Jones at 2am.

Also, a team that has no true center.

From a basketball perspective, only Chicago makes more sense (why they’re not on your trade list, I have no idea…), and even then, only in the immediate.

From a basketball perspective, it’s the perfect situation.

And, while I realize much of the preceding’s accuracy depends on your evaluations of the players involved — i.e. How good are the young Cavs, really? — I’d like you to know this: Because of my briefly aforementioned conscience/an overwhelming fear of failure stemming perhaps from graduating college with an acting degree, publishing on an ESPN subsidiary at least forces me to temper my enthusiasm for all things Cleveland somewhat in the hope that I can write reasonably informative articles/maintain my current state of employment. For periods of time, I can be a semi-responsible faux-journalist.

Along those lines…

Kyrie Irving, while just 19, might be the best pick-and-roll prospect to enter the league since you, Dwight Howard (pandering just a touch there…). I don’t believe I’m overstating that. KI comes off the screen at such a funky pace that he can almost walk a guy right to the rim, and he’s already exceedingly comfortable with his midrange jumper. This was a major strength at Duke, and he’s been re-getting the hang of it pretty early at the NBA level. And Dwight, what Kyrie’s doing now, he’s doing while working with Andy Varejao (who, again, you’re going to love and is actually a remarkably effective P&R partner…but also operates about 3-4 feet lower than you do). Remember when everyone thought it would be awesome to team you up with Chris Paul? Well, I’m thinking of something similar but with healthier knees. Kyrie is good, and by this time next year, Kyrie’s going to be better.

And Kidd-Gilchrist (listed above on my projected roster) is a conservative addition. He could be Brad Beal, he could be Harrison Barnes. I like MKG because he was Kyrie’s teammate in high school and is tenacious enough to have a relatively high floor…but he’s also probably the 7th pick in the upcoming draft. Imagine if that’s Anthony Davis. Imagine if it’s Drummond.

Regardless Dwight, you’re getting the Cavs’ foundation as is, plus either a top-tier wing prospect or the best big in the draft. And the oodles of cap space.

Imagine you’d had an opportunity to head to OKC right after they landed James Harden.

Would you have done it?

Really, the only possible reason this isn’t a no-brainer is that you’d have to live in Cleveland, which, don’t worry…I’ve figured out too.

Reason # 2B — Cleveland is a burgeoning entertainment mecca/end of hardcore analysis:

I know you have media ambitions, Dwight.

You know who else had media ambitions?

Steven Spielberg. (Ever heard of him?)

#movielinefirstdrafts

Yes D-12, Steven Spielberg was born in Ohio, and you won’t find someone who’s made good on “media ambitions” more successfully than him.

Need more?

Paul Newman’s from the area as well, Ohio is the country’s leading producer of greenhouse and nursery plants, and if you’re concerned about unwanted pregnancy — we’re the rubber capital of the world.

(Ed. Note: This is harder than the basketball section. I’ve been digging around for like an hour and that was the best I could do.)

Let’s close the “Cleveland as entertainment mecca” section with the following…

Consider A: Cleveland was a bustling metropolis in the 50s and 60s (even the Rockefellers lived there!).

And…

Consider B: There are two schools of thought re: the nature of the world’s social history. Ancient cultures believed in cyclical nature (that Dark and Golden Ages would forever alternate), while more recent sentiment assumes the world is on a linear path.

So, if we deduce the actuality as a perfectly reasonable combination of theories — after all, history is linear in that technology is advancing more rapidly than human nature, but cyclical in that I’m wearing my grandfather’s polyester pants right now and feeling particularly stylish — the conclusion would have to be that by the end of your 5-year max contract, Cleveland will again be an Eden on Earth…only with robots.

Okay, done.

Ps- You can’t spell “The Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg” without OHIO.

Now done.

Reason 3a — The Cavalier bump:

The theory goes that being in Cleveland helps promote athlete likeability (ATTN: Adidas: AL is very important for market share capitalization), and I constructed the following chart to demonstrate it visually.

I'm not very good at charts.

So. Definitively established. Cleveland = likeability.

ATTN: Adidas.

Reason 3b — How better to one-up LeBron?

Okay, it’s 1AM now and I want to close with some semblance of legitimacy.

Here goes…

You don’t have to admit to this, Dwight…but I know.  Truth be told, I think a lot of people do…

We here in Cleveland have always felt the lack of a Dwight puppet egregious.

The LeBron James show, which debuted a year before you entered the league and has subsequently amassed the gravitational pull of an imploding galaxy, has kind of relegated you to the backburner in terms of the national consciousness.

I’m writing to you on behalf of Cleveland (as a city, I think we can sympathize).

I began by laying out all the basketball reasons that the Cavaliers make sense…and now here is the vindictive one.

You want to pull ahead of LeBron James, and we want that for you…but to do it, you have to start heading in the opposite direction.

If you go to Dallas, to LA, and maybe even in Chicago (although again, if you want to be traded, reconsider the Bulls…), you will forever be lumped in with LeBron. And as much as it probably sucks to hear, and as much as you may consider it unjustified…you’ll never be at the forefront of things when you’re standing right next to him. You’ll always be a supporting character in the LeBron James drama.

So take an alternate path.

Be the small-market superstar.

Make a small-market super-team.

I realize it’s self-serving (hugely) that I want the small-market super-team in Cleveland…but honestly, I’d support the idea anywhere.

You’re not going to outscore LeBron James.

So outsmart him. Call Adidas and tell them we have a banner open.

Also, I’ll draw you pictures.

Again, letters to CFAAP.

The World is Yours.

TWIsM,

Ryan Braun (CFAAP, Cavs: the Blog, Studio Yogurt)

Ps- Dwight, the Browns are going to be awesome next year.

…………………………….

AWARD WATCH (16.5% of the way through the season):

NBA MVP – Kevin Durant, SF, Oklahoma City Thunder (25.8 ppg, 6.8 reb, 3.4 ast). Kobe is scoring like he hasn’t in 6 years, but I can’t say it’s helping the Lakers. LeBron is playing better than anyone in the league, but the Heat have lost 3 in a row. Meanwhile, the Thunder are 11-2 and Durant is just plugging along, shooting less and scoring more efficiently than he ever has.

CAVALIER MVP – Andy Varejao, PF/C (9.5 ppg, 11.2 reb, 1.5 ast). Kyrie’s not far off from having a chance at this spot, but to date, still, there’s not a player on the Cavs more important than Anderson Varejao. He’s consistent, the perfect role-model for a lot of the younger guys on the team, and almost as much of a pillar offensively as he is on the other side of the ball. I’d put Andy’s pick & roll competency up there with many of the elite bigs in the league.

NBA COY– Tom Thibodeau, Chicago Bulls. Derrick Rose’s team is 12-2 (tied for the best record in the league), and Thibodeau has, in my estimation, done very well to proactively extend support to a struggling Noah and Boozer (and/or protect their trade value). I thought they overachieved last year, but the Bulls seem to be locking themselves in as a perennial top seed.

CAVALIER COY – Byron Scott. Really, a competitor’s yet to emerge.

NBA ROY – Kyrie Irving, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers (17.0 ppg, 3.1 reb, 5 ast). Ricky’s coming on strong too (and each side seems to have its fervent advocates), but after watching Kyrie improve the past couple of weeks…I’m f’ing giddy. The kid can get to the rim at will, IS getting progressively more comfortable with NBA length, and looks more and more confident in his ability to dictate the flow of a game every time out. Rubio is at 10.4, 4.1, and 8.0 while playing a completely different floor game for a completely different team…which is what I’ve used to decide this argument for the week. The team. At current, I think Rubio struggles more on the Cavs than Kyrie does in Minnesota.

CAVALIER ROY – Kyrie Irving, PG. But let’s talk about the other guy… As a 21-year-old sophomore NBAer (essentially Tristan Thompson’s age, but with a year more experience), Josh Smith averaged 11.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks in about 32 minutes a game. Tristan can’t handle the ball like Josh (not a good thing), nor can he shoot like him (maybe a good thing?), but the point I’m trying to make is that he’s not far off and I have to believe he’s being steeped in the type of discipline that Josh Smith never was. In four years, TT’s an energy guy or an All-Star, and his development might well determine the ceiling of this team.

Ryan Braun’s 2012 NBA Season Preview One Week Into The Season:

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

Happy New Year everyone! Welcome to the year’s first installment of what was (and may soon be again if I can’t think of a better name) Drawings from the Notebook of Chris Grant.

“Where did all the pictures go?” – at least one person.

This year, we’ll be trying something a little bit different — a league-topical cartoon (vs. a purely Cavalier one), plus some accordant sentiments on whatever the topic was that seemed cartoon-worthy. And that will be posted every Sunday morning.

How’s that sound?

This week’s accordant sentiments — as dictated by our picture — just a general look around the league. Notes and observations through one week of play. I promise this will get more interesting.

Here is what I’ve gleaned so far:

  • New York will either beat Miami, or completely flame out. Three reasons they’re so exciting: Tyson Chandler provides a foundation for defensive improvement, Baron Davis has the ability to replace/improve upon what Chauncey brought, and Carmelo/Amar’e both think highly enough of themselves to see a matchup with the Heat as relatively even. Which is a good thing. If I’m being honest with myself, then yes, it’s doubtful that Super Team 0.5 will be able to get it done…but if enough momentum is at their back in May, who knows.
  • Derrick Rose won’t be able to one-up his 2010-11 season, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a better player. The guy is as tenacious as anyone in the league, and in a weird way, I think it’ll forever make it harder for him to tangibly show us his season-to-season improvement. At this point, it’s all about nuance for him – advances in his game will come in the form of empowering Boozer and finding non-scoring avenues to succeed against elite defenses.
  • Kevin Durant is, without a doubt, the second best player in the league (with the possible exception of Dwight Howard, who affects the game in a completely different way). He’s so much bigger than he was in his rookie year, and he’s getting so comfortable in carrying the Thunder for stretches/determining when those stretches should be. The litmus test will come against LeBron. If Durant can avoid getting pushed out past the 3-point-line for 90% of the game, the Thunder can win it all.
  • More Thunder: There is no one that OKC could get for Russell Westbrook even remotely close to his caliber. Westbrook is a top-15 player who’s fully capable of jumping into the top-5 by the end of the year. He’s Derrick Rose, just a little less savvy off the dribble (and a little more tenacious defensively).
  • Dirk Nowitzki is still really good.
  • Evan Turner, not so much.
  • Blake Griffin will average over 25 ppg for the next 8 years.
  • Ricky Rubio will average over 8 ast for the next 25 years. (I’m still figuring out Rubio in my head. He’s definitely fun, but ultimately, might be Rondo without the defense.)
  • Kobe Bryant is not even close to the same player he was four years ago. And I say that out of respect to how good Kobe used to be. He’s still really good.
  • Dwight Howard only makes sense in Chicago or Dallas. (Or in Orlando, but for completely different reasons.)
  • Utah will eventually trade another big.
  • And…just to reiterate, anyone rooting against Miami should also be rooting against Dwyane Wade’s knees. This season has a distinct The Empire Strikes Back-type feel. Which means that next season we’ll draft one of LeBron’s kids.

Notes on the Cavs specifically:

  • Tristan > Bismack
  • Kings < Playoffs
  • David West = James Harrison
  • Omri Casspi’s game is exclusively linear.
  • Samardo Samuels is a poor man’s Jared Sullinger.
  • Luke Harangody is a poor man’s Brian Cardinal.
  • A guard rotation of Kyrie Irving, Ramon Sessions, Daniel Gibson and whoever replaces Anthony Parker could be very, very good.
  • As much as we hate on Antawn Jamison (and much/all of it is valid), the Cavs currently have no one on the roster capable of shouldering the offensive burden he does. He doesn’t shoulder it particularly well…but who else is looking to take 15 shots a game from the power forward/center position? Don’t misinterpret, I’d trade him in a heartbeat…but we’d all notice he was gone.
  • Ultimately, I think Omri Casspi and Alonzo Gee are vying for the same position — backup 3 on a good team.
  • Initial final summation: These Cavs still need more talent, but they’re better, clearly more exciting, and infinitely tougher than last year’s team. Credit both Byron Scott and Chris Grant for the latter. Watching Kyrie grow will be plenty exciting for the next few years, and Andy is a perfect P&R partner for him (as he was for LeBron).
  • End note to the final summation: I hate to be this guy, but the biggest “misstep” the Cavs could make this year would be winning a few too many games and not landing Anthony Davis or Andre Drummond. We need one more elite guy to develop into a contender. Dan Gilbert can find us the supplementary guys (e.g. the Iguodala’s of the world)…and I’m hoping we need only one more draft to hit on a second star.
  • End note’s end note: I had a dream last night that we got the fifth pick in the draft (after David Stern picked numbers out of a hat). Kidd-Gilchrist or Bradley Beal would still be awesome. We’d just end up small.

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AWARD WATCH ( 6% of the way through the season):

NBA MVP – LeBron James, SF, Miami Heat. (33.5 ppg, 7.5 reb, 7 ast) He’s shooting just under 60% from the field and 83% from the line. Plus, he just proposed to his girlfriend. It’s a bummer, but his life seems to be smoothing out.

CAVALIER MVP – Andy Varejao, PF/C. God, is it good to have him back. Andy is the best thing Tristan Thompson has going for him.

NBA COY– Erik Spoelstra, Miami Heat. For getting so much out of so little. If Miami wins 56+, it’s his. That said, by the end of the season, I think George Karl, Nate McMillan and Monty Williams will all have a shot at it.

CAVALIER COY – Byron Scott. Barely edging out Mike Krzyzewski. I worried a little early about Byron being perhaps a bit too eager to make the rookies “earn it”…but I’m feeling pretty good about everything now.

NBA ROY – Kyrie Irving, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers. If the voting ended today, I think it would be close (and maybe Rubio would get some kind of a publicity boost) …but no rookie is really shouldering the same level of responsibility as Kyrie right now. And game one aside, he’s been handling it pretty well.

CAVALIER ROY – Kyrie Irving, PG. Tristan’s been strong (I love the way he runs the floor at literally every opportunity—he’s not gotten the ball once yet, but someone else always comes open as a result), but again, Kyrie just has so much more to worry about. If Tristan can become “smart Josh Smith” within three years, we made out.

………………….

Enjoy the game tonight! Big test for Kyrie, not so big test for everyone else.

Happy New Year everyone!

-Ryan

(Note: My friend Aron colored the picture, and there’s more of her stuff and my stuff over at CFAAP.com. This blog is better though.)

Drawings From the Notebook of Chris Grant (episode 19)

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Unlike the NBA, CFAAP on is back on Cavs: the Blog, baby!

And – I think to prove a point? – I’ve decided to do my part in ending the lockout by posting a union and/or league executive on the cover of an ESPN: the Body Issue every week until this unseemliness is resolved. Because no executive wants to be caught with his pants down. Or completely naked.

Here is…

Billy Hunter’s ESPN: the Body Issue (located, while I continue pushing the envelope of appropriateness, at CFAAP.com—where standards are low to non-existant.)

If you’re keeping score, we now have:

David Stern.
Billy Hunter.

Okay, moving on:

Just to see if we can’t begin a little debate here to keep ourselves entertained…let me start throwing some hypotheticals at you. (Along with drawings of naked old men, hypotheticals are my specialty.)

HYPOTHETICAL ONE:

Assuming the Cavs team stays as presently constructed, and knowing what you know now…

What would you rather come out of the 2012 NBA Draft with?

A) Any one of Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond, or Harrison Barnes…

or

B) Any two of Michael Gilchrist, Quincy Miller, Perry Jones, Bradley Beal, Austin Rivers, James McAdoo or Jared Sullinger.

I lean strongly toward “A,” but I’d be curious to hear an argument to the contrary.

Happy lockout everyone — keep the faith that old men and hypotheticals will break the curse.

Drawings from the Notebook of Chris Grant (episode 18)

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

Well, I’ve done it this time.

For the 18th installment of the arguably popular series, Drawings from the Notebook of Chris Grant, I made a cartoon that is not exactly ESPN appropriate.

It is CFAAP.com appropriate though – our standards are significantly lower – and you can check it out here (carefully though, as while it’s not horrible horrible, it may be a touch NSFW):

David Stern’s “ESPN: the body issue” cover.

I’m trying to end the lockout.

Also, just for the sake of providing some on-site entertainment in this post, here are the notable lockout updates:

Remember two entries ago when I wrote that the beginning of the season would be cancelled if the framework for an agreement wasn’t in place by October 3rd? Well, it seems as though that deadline has been extended until tomorrow.

Here’s a pretty nice “State of the Union” article from the mother ship, basically reiterating that one way or another we’ll know something new within the next 24 hours.

Personally, I really want to see some basketball before Christmas.

This whole process has already cost us Yi.

How much more are we expected to take?

……………………

UPDATE (10/10/11): Apparently, quite a bit. Today, David Stern announced he’s cancelled the first two weeks of the season.

…………………….

The picture at CFAAP was done by me and AJS.

Thanks for reading!

Drawings from the Notebook of Chris Grant (the potpourri/interlude edition)

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Happy Sunday night/Monday morning Cavs fans!

I had a little bit of a busy week (translation: After September’s tense negotiations, I’ve had a little bit of trouble playing my way into shape), but I promise by next Sunday I’ll be back on schedule and come equipped with a killer entry to make up for falling behind.

In the meantime, I’ve prepared for you a potpourri of lockout-flavored peruseables.

First, a picture:

I realize it’s borderline sacrilege to stray from the Cavs toward “he who shall not be named,” but if it helps at all…I drew this a while ago. In fact, I drew it back when Green Lantern came out, and let me assure you, I think as much of LeBron as I did of that movie.

Okay, let’s get this entry back on the Cavalier track.

LeBron “Worst Green Lantern in the history of the World” James has done us one favor of late—that being it looks like he’s trying to get our rooks on the court for the second time in a week.

LBJ and his super-friends are hosting a charity game this Saturday, October 8th, and while I could have sworn it was going to be on TV (or at least streamed), I haven’t been able to find a link yet, so maybe not… But it’s looking like Kyrie and Tristan will be involved.

Here’s a link.

The afore-referenced first game for Kyrie and Tristan took place on Saturday night in North Carolina, and while footage was tough to come by, I did manage to find this Bob Leverone shot…

…which I think clearly demonstrates that Kyrie has a higher vertical than Chris Paul, and only that.

Okay, actually I found a bit more.

Here are two videos should you be interested:

  1. LeBron vs. John Wall dunkathon.
  2. Full highlights (this video essentially plays out in similar fashion to the dunkathon, but also has a few Kyrie clips included).

Kyrie scored 21 points on 9 on 17 shooting, while Tristan added 4 points and 4 rebounds. (Inconsequential side note: Jonas Valanciunas had 44 and 30. Just kidding.)

And, just for the sake of it…

Couple thoughts on a game I didn’t see and probably shouldn’t be analyzing:

  • First off, obviously no one is playing defense. That and the “out of bounds” rule seems to be selectively enforced.
  • I think I like that Kyrie had the chutzpa to put up 17 shots in such a star-studded game. That’s provided the LBJs and Chris Pauls of the world didn’t take 40, but still…I like that Kyrie sees himself as a viable option in what I’m pretty sure is certifiably an All-Star game.
  • My analysis on Tristan’s 4 and 4? Well, I’m just assuming he played some hellacious defense. (I think he was the only guy to call “out of bounds” when John Wall threw the ball against the backstop.)
  • Kyrie’s clip is brief (starts at 1:47 in video 2), but you can see just the slightest glimpse of that shiftiness (on his second highlight) I think will make him really hard to deal with in a league that doesn’t allow hand checking. An awfully optimistic view of a clip that lasts about half a second, but hey… Actually, I have nothing. It’s an awfully optimistic view of a clip that lasts a half a second.
  • John Wall is insane. There’s a 85% chance he explodes onto the scene this year with something like a 23, 12, and 5 line. It’s easy to forget just how “above and beyond” athletic this guy is…and more than that, it’s easy to forget that he was pretty solid last year while playing hobbled. In terms of the league’s premier athletes—there’s Dwight, there’s LeBron, and then there’s probably Wall. Even over Blake Griffin, I’d say, in terms of athleticism. All of that mentioned, I’m not sure he’s good enough to make Washington significantly better by himself.
  • LBJ can still get up, even with the weight of the world on his shoulders. I sometimes wonder if he’s paying attention.
  • I know we’re all waiting for Dwayne Wade’s legs to deteriorate. It’s not happened yet.
  • I’m not buying into the whole summer-league MVP thing, but regardless, Durant is probably the one guy in the NBA who’s going to have a legitimate chance to wrestle away the bulk of LeBron’s prime. But to do it, he’s got to get stronger. The good news is I think he wants to be better than LBJ, and I think he wants to be the guy that beats the Heat. The bad, on the other hand, is that he’s one year removed from essentially failing a very potent Thunder team in the playoffs—not because he wasn’t trying hard enough, but because he was unable to dictate where he caught the ball against the more physical and disciplined defenses. It happened on occasion in the regular season too, but the sample size then was too small to acknowledge the problem as a consistent reality. Durant’s looking good this summer—his ball handling looks like it’s improved—but more than anything, KD needs to further learn to use his body before he makes the catch. It’s the most important thing missing from his game, and it’s not going to be tested on the All-Star circuit. I’m pretty sure we’re all hoping he figures this out, spiteful bunch that we are.

Okay, I think that’s it, but before I hit the road—because I’m having quite a bit of fun with this post—how about a Kyrie high school mixtape? It’ll brighten up your Monday.

Kyrie Irving.

Check out CFAAP.com (the website I shamelessly promote all the time and am trying to make huge), though be aware, the top picture on there at current is very NSFW. And not even sports-related.

Go Cavs! (And keep crossing your fingers that we have the opportunity to cheer them on at all this year.)

Drawings from the Notebook of Chris Grant (episode 17)

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

As you may or may not know, I have a loose deadline of every Sunday morning for these cartoons. This week, I may or may not have hit it. What happened was John and I were working on our new CBA and couldn’t come to terms until this morning. I now get 100% of Cavs: the Blog’s advertising revenue.


On David Stern and the NBA lockout:

This is getting serious.

Words like “monumental” and “deadline” are being thrown around, and that usually means that there’s some sort of monumental deadline on the horizon.

What’s the deadline for?

From what I gather, it seems the company line from Stern and the owners is now that this weekend’s scheduled meetings will mark the last attempt to start the season on time. Meaning that if we don’t have a deal (or substantial progress) by Monday, a 50 game season probably becomes our best option. There would be “a lot of risk” to not getting something done by the end of the week was Stern’s direct quote (via Brian Mahoney). That and, “there are enormous consequences at play here on the basis of the weekend.” You could call it a bluff, but in truth, it’s likely not. The first games are supposed to start in a month.

If you’re rooting for a season, the worst thing that could happen would be the sides emerging from this weekend without making any headway.

Because at that point the conversation will turn from saving the start of the season, to saving the season at all.

………………….

Thanks for reading guys! (As per usual, the above picture was done by the biggest Cavs fan at CFAAP.com and colored by AJS…and the same goes for the one below, which came as a result of my playing around with the first pic and might even have turned out better.)

I think Stern should walk into the meetings this weekend and just slide that across the table. Provided Gilbert Arenas isn’t there, that’s what I think he should do.

And…want one for the Road?

Here’s an interesting Kyrie-tidbit published Saturday from new Cavs beat writer Tom Reed:

Irving has played just 11 games since last October in part due to a right foot injury — which doctors tell him won’t completely heal for another three months.

And, while he feels “150 percent” and is training with no restrictions, the NBA’s top overall pick in June is a player without a game. The league lockout has him parked at Duke, taking four courses this semester and working out twice a day.

Silver lining of the lockout right there. It sounds like Kyrie’s done a good job of letting his foot heal completely by taking a few months off post-draft (at the Cavs request), and I kind of don’t mind that he’s not yet dealing with the pressure to overdue it early on an injury that may be better off with more rest.

If the league’s first game is in January, I’m not sure that anyone benefits more than KI.

Drawings from the Notebook of Chris Grant (episode 16)

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

Happy Sunday everyone! (And go Browns, should you be so inclined.)

We’re back with the latest entry of Drawings from the Notebook of Chris Grant, and sadly, today marks our third pictorial foray into the NBA lockout ripple effect. (For those keeping track, here are the first two: Barren NBA Website & the lonely NBA ball.)

Can we put an end to this already? Kyrie needs practice and the Cavs have to get their money’s worth for the one season Jonas Valanciunas is ineligible.

Is 50 games now the most likely scenario here? Even amidst the apparent reality that the NBA would be submarining itself during the upswing of a resurgence?

I honestly have no idea, but Brian Windhorst is tweeting pessimistically.

Not good for two reasons.

One—He’s usually right, and two—My birthday’s next week and the hottest place still open is Friendly’s.

………………..

(Picture by CFAAP.com, colors by AJS.)

Drawings from the Notebook of Chris Grant (episode 15)

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

The following contains both a tribute to and a musing on Cavs PF Luke Harangody.

Here is the tribute: An illegally procured copy of XXL’s new LH cover.

Initially, I’d planned to make cover art for a fictitious Harangody rap album (tentatively titled, “SPF-44”), and I wrote the following faux-review excerpts to paste on the cover:

-“Incomprehensibly white.”

-“I bought this in a grocery store parking lot.”

-“Better than Ron Artest’s album.”

I couldn’t fit them all in and so I went with the magazine.

Okay, now for the musing.

I read and loved Kevin’s excellent series on Cavalier “Diamonds in the Rough,” and if I valued having an honest relationship with myself, I’d probably go ahead and admit that I think he’s right in his assertion of Luke Harangody (In case you don’t remember, it’s: At best, a “starter for a second place team in the German League.” Which is harsh, but fair. The German League places a premium on undersized, un-athletic 4’s.).

But since I traditionally lie to myself to suit the needs of any individual moment, here’s one potentially more optimistic stance/comparison that I think is somewhat grounded in reality.

Luke Harangody is Brian Cardinal; he’s just too young for us to see it yet.

My theory?

Cardinal, the funnily shaped, self-deprecatory, 34-year-old 10th man had so little “legacy” invested in a Finals win that it ultimately enabled him to perform with surprising effectiveness if only because he was one of the only guys on the court unaffected by the magnitude of the moment. He didn’t win the Finals (he played 30 total minutes), but he helped.

Is it possible that all Harangody is missing by way of comparison is the self-awareness that comes with being a bit-player for 11 NBA seasons?

In my mind, the number one most incriminating Harangody statistic is his current 38.4% shooting percentage. Not good for an interior player.

Brian Cardinal’s career shooting percentage? 41.3% (and he’s 6-8 too).

The key note to take away is that while 40% shooting from a power forward is bad, it doesn’t hurt as much when he’s only taking three shots a game.

With his unique combination of toughness and self-awareness, Brian Cardinal has quite probably now affirmed his status as the best 10th man in basketball.

I believe it’s possible that we’ve found someone similar, we just need to let him age. (And also, maybe send him to the Groundlings. Brian Cardinal is funny.)

…………………

Thanks for reading everyone!

(Picture by CFAAP.com and colors by AJS.)

(Also see, related picture: “Black Luke Harangody.”)

(One last note: I realize I’m posting this at 12:00 AM on the 10th anniversary of September 11th, and though I am probably in no position to substantively comment on it, nor is this the place to substantively comment on it…consider this my best wishes to any and everyone who may have been affected, however they were affected. May the world keep getting better.)

Drawings from the Notebook of Chris Grant (episode ‘Labor Day’)

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

Happy Sunday, Cavs fans!

I come to you this morning having solved an interesting and entirely self-manufactured quandary: essentially, how to post a new DFTNOCG whilst honoring the nation’s 118th Labor Day by not doing any labor?

I think I found an answer. Everything I’m putting up today was drawn a few months ago.

Two pictures this entry…

The first marks our initial venture “Around The NBA” (something I might explore a bit further in the coming weeks), and was done back in May for another (and obviously, less cool) website.

Let it go, Braun...

Can I claim that I’m over it while holding the sentiment that I wouldn’t trade Tristan Thompson for LeBron James? (Because you don’t trade big for small…)

The second picture…well, the second picture is from my dyslexi-racist, seven-year-old cousin who accidentally drew the white Antawn Jamison a few weeks back. The kid doesn’t see race…or rather, he sees race backwards…which I guess is a positive? At the very least, I think he’s developing a “thing.” Very important for an artist.

Anyway, without further ado…the second published work of Adam Braun.

"Black Luke Harangody"

Obviously, Luke’s taken the lockout to improve his vertical.

………………………..

Hope everyone is having a good weekend, and thanks for reading!

I’ll be back with something good next Sunday.

-Ryan, of the massively popular CFAAP.com.