Posted on: July 1, 2010 12:20 am
In one minute, the day many Clevelanders have anticipated for years will arrive. July 1, 2010 is the day on which free agency begins in the NBA, and the day on which LeBron James becomes a free agent.
LeBron grew up and played high school basketball down the road at St. Vincent St. Mary High School in Akron, and I followed his career avidly. I always thought that he would enter the NBA Draft straight out of high school. However, I didn’t know if he was a sure thing to be successful in the NBA. Sure, players such as Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant had great NBA careers right out of high school, but players such as Korleone Young and Kwame Brown had left high school success only to encounter failure in the NBA. I also doubted that the Cavaliers, who had tied for the worst record in the NBA in the 2002-2003 season, would win the NBA Draft lottery and the ability to draft LeBron James—the proverbial ball had never bounced in Cleveland’s direction before, so why would it do so now?
Despite my doubts, I didn’t complain when I looked up at a TV monitor during my good friend Rob’s bachelor party in Norfolk, VA and saw a message on ESPN stating that the Cavaliers had won the NBA Draft lottery and the right to draft LeBron James. I’ll never forget that moment and I deeply cherish it. I’ll also never forget watching LeBron’s first game with my friends Michael and Nathan—25 points, 9 assists, and 6 rebounds is a great night for anyone in the NBA, let alone someone playing their first game while the world is watching!
LeBron has led the Cavaliers to some great moments over the past 6 seasons. We’ve had several dramatic playoff runs and heroic 4th quarter plays. Who can ever forget LeBron hitting several last-second baskets against the Wizards in the 2006 Eastern Conference playoffs and leading the Cavs to their first playoff series win in almost 10 years? I know I’ll never forget watching Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals in the house I was renting with several friends on Bellfield in Cleveland Heights. We were moving out, and the house was essentially barren; however, the TV was still there, and we huddled around and watched LeBron score 25 straight points in Cleveland’s double-overtime victory against the hated Pistons. Additionally, watching LeBron’s epic game-winning three-pointer against the Magic in the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals and celebrating with a whole host of Clevelanders during my friend Wayne’s bachelor party at the Corner Alley is another moment that will stay with me for quite some time.
More than anything else, LeBron promised to “light up Cleveland like Vegas” when he joined the team in 2003, and he has done just that. People have told me that they’ve seen Cleveland Cavaliers gear in Africa; Nike has created a LeBron museum in China, and millions across the globe see the magnificent skyline of my great city as Cavaliers games are broadcast around the world.
I don’t know where LeBron will sign. Maybe he doesn’t either. Writing yet another article about the perceived power and influence of World Wide Wes or the discussion that was held at a “free agent summit” that may or may not have even occurred would be redundant and based on conjecture. I’m not going to speculate much more than this, because doing so would merely be piling onto the thousands of interviews, articles, and discussions that have cluttered the airwaves and Internet since the buzzer sounded on Cleveland’s loss in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
But I do know this. Even if LeBron signs with another team, the sun is going to rise in Cleveland. The Cavs will still wear the wine and gold and we will still field a competitive team. I am a Cavs fan first and foremost—I cheered for them during the days of Brad Daugherty and Mark Price, I cheered for them during the days of Darius Miles, Shawn Kemp, and Ricky Davis, and I cheered for them during the days of LeBron James, Z, and Anderson Varejao. I will still cheer for them, with or without LeBron, and if you’re a true Cavs fan, you should do so as well. Cleveland will still have the Browns and the Indians, and although they may not be doing as well as we’d like at the moment, there are glory days in the past and there will be glory days once again in the future. We’ll still have some of America’s most decorated chefs, which will come in handy because we’ll need to eat our sorrows away at a place with delicious and hearty food. Most importantly, we’ll still have the fighting spirit, the grit, and the determination that has fueled Cleveland ever since its beginnings in 1796.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m going to be crushed if LeBron leaves. I’ll put his departure next to The Drive, The Fumble, the 1997 World Series, and the plethora of other Cleveland sport disappointments and keep cheering harder than ever, knowing that one day our proverbial prince will come and Cleveland will finally celebrate a championship. When that day comes, all of the pain of the past will make out triumph that much sweeter. Honestly, in my heart of hearts, I don’t think he’ll leave. But even if he leaves, life will go on, and I will still love Cleveland. Cleveland had a lot going for it before LeBron, and Cleveland will still have a lot going for it after the date on which LeBron leaves, whether that’s through free agency, trade, or retirement. And if you’re here, whether you’re putting down roots for a lifetime, just passing through for a few years, or something in between, you should too.
Posted on: February 22, 2010 11:20 am
Sure, Tebow's throwing motion may not be perfect and ideal for the next level.
But why not draft him and use him exclusively in the Wildcat offense?
The reason why Cleveland has success with the Wildcat offense is because Josh Cribbs is a former college QB and people know that he can throw the ball with some sense of accuracy and success. When other backs line up in the Wildcat, the opposing defense rarely, if ever, thinks that there's a chance that they'll throw the ball.
Tebow may not have a beautiful throwing motion, but he can throw the ball more successfully than a player who never played quarterback. Tebow did a lot of running at Florida as well--it's not he's not used to running on a regular basis. If I were a GM and he told me that he's willing to be used in that role, I'd gladly draft him and throw him in the Wildcat. Imagine him lining up in the backfield with a RB...he'd have three legitimate options: 1.) Run himself 2.) Hand off to the RB 3.) Throw a short pass downfield. To me, he'd be a nightmare in a 3rd and 3 situation--is he going to run the ball for first down yardage, hand it off, or chuck the ball downfield against single coverage for a TD? There's no way that defenses could bet the farm on any one option.
Just some quick thoughts. What do you think?
Posted on: February 18, 2010 1:42 am
Edited on: February 18, 2010 1:43 am
Ever since the Cavaliers have been serious title contenders who have been active at the trading deadline, I have been a nervous wreck each season around the time when the trading deadline rolls around. This feeling is somewhat ironic because some of the Cavaliers’ most important deals (trading for Mo Williams in 2008 and Shaq in 2009) have occurred in the summer completely out of nowhere!
Just like every other Clevelander who has suffered a lifetime of repeated sports-related disappointment, I am scared to death about LeBron leaving at the end of this season and have spent the last few years overanalyzing every statement and gesture in an attempt to read the proverbial tea leaves and discern LeBron’s intentions. While I believe in my heart of hearts that he’ll stay because this is his hometown and because Cleveland is one of the few teams for whom he can play that has the ability to contend for a title, I am still extremely nervous that he will bolt Cleveland and flee to a bigger market. Because of this, I am very grateful that Danny Ferry and Dan Gilbert have moved heaven and earth in order to make moves to put the best team possible around LeBron and demonstrate their commitment to winning. If Danny Ferry is able to keep LeBron in Cleveland and win a title, he’ll never have to pay for a meal in this town again.
Anyhow, the trade deadline crept up on me as I began to recover from football season—who knew that February could pass by so quickly! A variety of players—Troy Murphy, Antawn Jamison , Amare Stoudemire, Corey Maggette , etc—were mentioned, and the most likely candidates to leave town were Zydrunas Ilgauskas and J.J. Hickson . Much of the media coverage Personally, I felt that acquiring Jamison would have been a solid move and acquiring Stoudemire would have been an unbelievable move, especially if we could have re-signed him to a long term deal. I was definitely opposed to Troy Murphy and Corey Maggette—neither one of those players seems to have a skill set that’s different than those on the current roster.
I was leaving church this evening when I received a text message informing me that the Cavs had acquired Jamison and Sebastian Telfair in exchange for Ilgauskas and a draft pick. At first, I was thrilled—Jamison is a solid professional and he still is a very good player. Three years ago in the playoffs, he single-handedly kept the Wizards in the series against the Cavs when Arenas was injured by averaging 32 points and 10 rebounds per game. Jamison made sure that the Cavs had to fight hard for each of their four wins, and I actually felt bad watching him give his all and come up short each time. Jamison can stretch the defense and he doesn’t need to jack up 20+ shots per game in order to be happy with his role in the offense. Plus, I’ve always liked Telfair—I thought that the Cavs should have drafted him over Luke Jackson many years ago! Telfair’s never been on a winning team with solid professionals, and I hope that he’ll be able to reclaim the promise and potential that he had when he came into the league. (If you want to see what I mean, check out Through the Fire, a great documentary about Telfair’s senior year in high school.)
However, as time went on, doubts about the trade began to gnaw at me. What if the Wizards don’t buy out Ilgauskas? It’s not like he’s a horrible player, and I am sure that he could teach the Wizards’ young big men a few tricks. What if another team offers him an unbelievable offer and some well-kept bitterness keeps him from rejoining the Cavs? While I haven’t heard any legitimate voice in the media saying anything but a buyout will occur, I can’t ever shake the fact that I am a Clevelander who has lived through the Indians blowing a 3-1 series lead against Boston and Game 7 of the World Series against Florida and the Browns winning 10 games and still missing the playoffs and blowing a gigantic lead in the playoffs against the Steelers. (Those are just the events that have happened in the last 13 years alone; I didn’t even dare touch the heartache of The Shot, The Drive, The Fumble, or The Curse of Rocky Colavito.) I am very wary against believing in foregone conclusions and sure things because I’ve been burned nearly every time I did so in the past, and as much as I want to hope and believe that Ilgauskas will be wearing the wine and gold in 30 days and that everything will back to normal, I just can’t do it. If Big Z comes back, this will be a great trade. The Cavs will be able to match up with every team in the NBA and the biggest challenge they will have will be allocating minutes to make sure that every player stays happy. If Big Z doesn’t come back, this will still be a good trade basketball-wise, but an awful trade morale-wise.
I know that the Cavs can still win the title without Ilgauskas and I know that he’s not part of the Cavs’ long-term plans at this late stage in his career. I also know that Shaq is an enormous upgrade on the defensive side of the ball and that his inside game is much stronger than Ilgauskas’ as well and that there are plenty of other players on the roster who can hit the outside shots that he used to hit. Despite that, I think that Ilgauskas is an irreplaceable part of the team and that he IS the Cavs. Sure, LeBron’s the guy who brought the Cavs to millions of Chinese television screens and the guy who has made people all over the world familiar with the beautiful contours of the Cleveland skyline and the shimmering waters of Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River. Ilgauskas, though, is the guy who came here in 1997, experienced one playoff season right away, and then proceeded to suffer through years of futility and misery. Most of us in Cleveland never thought he’d ever be able to contribute anything meaningful after he went through several foot surgeries and missed large portions of several seasons, and many of us figured that he would want to leave after enduring many years of horrendous losing. Despite that, Ilgauskas worked his way back, fought through the losing and the pain, and become an integral part of the franchise. Ilgauskas is like the city of Cleveland itself; we’ve been hit heard with job losses, foreclosures, sports failures, racial division, and yet we still push forward and continue on, driven by the belief that a better day lies ahead. More than any other player on the roster, Ilgauskas will be able to appreciate the significance of a championship when the Cavs win one this June. If he’s not wearing the wine and gold when the trophy’s hoisted high in the air, the moment will be slightly bittersweet because Big Z won’t be there to enjoy it…and after all we’ve been through, that’s not a prospect that I want to think about.
Posted on: June 25, 2009 10:20 pm
Here are my thoughts on the Shaq trade. Before I go any farther, let me state that I am a big Shaq fan. I loved him when he went to the Lakers, I cheered him on during the Laker dynasty years, and I lost most of my respect for Kobe Bryant when he broke up the Laker dynasty and chased Shaq outta town. I have some of Shaq's rap CD's and own many of his movies, including Kazaam and Steel. I've even read his book! Obviously, I may not be as objective as some people!
As a basketball fan, I love the trade. Shaq is a genuine, bonafide superstar who is going to only amplify the star power that LeBron already has brought to Cleveland. He'll attract other quality players to Cleveland as well.
As a Cavs fan, I LOVE THIS MOVE. Seriously, what is there not to like about it? We traded away a long-past-his-prime guy who has less offensive game than I do (Ben Wallace), a guy who couldn't string together a series of quality games to save his life (Sasha Pavlovic), a second round pick who might not even make the team, and cash for...a guy who was All-NBA Third Team last year, one of the top centers ever to play the game, and one of the biggest, most physically imposing players in the NBA in Shaq Diesel. I never, ever was really that crazy about the trades involving Wallace and it took a LOT of mental mind tricks to convince myself that it was a great trade. Putting a player on the floor who has no offensive game and is not an offensive threat puts a team at a 4-on-5 disadvantage and when you're going up against teams like the Celtics and Magic who can score points in bunches, that's a tremendous handicap. As far as Sasha, he wasn't consistent enough to get serious minutes on a team like the Cavs. When he got time in the playoffs this season, he struggled, and his biggest impact was being the first guy to grab LeBron after he hit his heroic game-winning shot in Game 2 against the Magic. I would MUCH rather lose him than Delonte West or even Wally, whose 3 point shooting is still a strong asset.
I've heard complaints about Shaq's big salary, which is funny to me, because I haven't had the privilege of speaking to Dan Gilbert about the move. Nor did I have the opportunity to talk with Danny Ferry about it either (although this one actually could have come true, because I saw him at a restaurant a few weeks back!). As long as you're not the one cutting the check or having to play games with the salary cap, I see no reason to complain. We are blessed with an owner like Gilbert who is willing to put his money where his mouth is and build a winner, and we should be grateful...it's a lot better than having owners like the Dolans, who are trying (and presently failing) to build a winning Indians franchise with a budget equvialent to the balance of my savings account.
I haven't heard this one today, but that's probably because I've been hearing it ever since Shaq was playin' on the west side with the Lakers: Shaq is an awful free throw shooter. Well, LeBron isn't that great either, would you like to get rid of him? Besides, Mike Brown is a smart coach, and he'll put Z (who's among the top 10 centers in free throw percentage) on the floor during close games.
While we're talking about Z, I would like to briefly digress to state that my admiration for Z grew for leaps and bounds today. Z's been with the Cavs through it all--several foot surgeries, the down years when Ricky Davis shot at the wrong basket to improve his rebounding stats and when one could purchase near-courtside seats for $10 outside the arena because demand was so low, and the rise and success that followed the fortuituous bounce of the ping pong ball in the 2003 NBA Draft Lottery that brought us LeBron James. He's been a starter and is considered to be one of the top 3 centers in the Eastern Conference. What did he do when the Cavs' management notified him that they were considering trading for Shaq? He agreed to relinquish his starting role and go to the bench. THAT'S a team player, folks.
Look, I'm a realist. We're not getting the Shaq who wore purple and gold for the Lakers, I realize that. Maybe we're not even getting the Shaq who lit up South Beach in 2006 to win the title with the Heat. However, we are getting a massive, imposing player who will at the very least play better D on Dwight Howard or Kevin Garnett than Joe Smith, Ben Wallace, Z, or any other forward on the roster could. If he can slow down quality centers to the point where we don't have to double-team and leave shooters open for 3 pointers, which I am fairly confident that he'll be able to do, the trade will be well worth it. Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, Shaq is hungry and driven. He just saw Kobe emerge from his large shadow and win a title without him manning the middle, and you better believe that he wants to ensure that he gets his 5th NBA title before he retires. Hopefully, for all of us long-suffering fans who are desperate to live to see the Cavs win 1 NBA title, he will.
Posted on: January 2, 2009 8:36 pm
Atlanta\ArizonaThis game features two teams with great stories in the 2008 NFL season; Arizona hasn’t been to the playoffs for a LONG time, and Atlanta has experienced a dramatic one-year turnaround that would have been unimaginable to fans in the Georgia Dome who watched Joey Harrington throw interceptions last season and Bobby Petrino leave during the regular season. When I was chatting during a mock draft this past summer, I said that Atlanta was going to have a better season than most people expected, and pretty much all of the small number of people who didn’t quit the draft after the first 3 rounds said that I was crazy…maybe I should change my username to Joestradamus!
Unless Kurt Warner is able to regain the form that he had earlier in the season and turn this game into a shootout, I don’t see the Cardinals winning this one. Unlike Atlanta, they didn’t have to fight hard down the stretch and win several pressure-packed games to earn their playoff spot. The Cardinals simply sat back and watched the 3 other teams in the division lose and won enough games to be on top of the scrap heap. Simply showing up and being the best of a bad lot doesn’t prepare a team for the rigor and pressure of the NFL playoffs, and I feel that the Cardinals won’t be flying anymore after Saturday. Will they be able to turn the intensity on come Saturday?
Sure, the Falcons have a rookie QB in Matt Ryan. However, he’s handled the pressure of having to win several games down the stretch to secure a wild card spot relatively well, and I feel that this Saturday will be no different. I first became a believer in Ryan in the game against Chicago, when he knew that he only had time for one or two plays (while working with no timeouts!) to get in position to win the game, and he proceeded to throw a perfect pass to Michael Jenkins to set up a game-winning field goal. He’s got plenty of talented players like Michael Turner, Roddy White, and Jerious Norwood to help him out as well. Plus, if the game comes down to a field goal, Jason Elam is still among the best in the business.
Here, we have the battle of the underachieving fantasy football running backs! Both LT and Joseph Addai had abysmal fantasy seasons, especially considering that both of them were drafted in the top 10 of nearly all drafts. I don’t know which campaign was worse--LT’s campaign to be drafted #1 in ’08 or the McCain\Palin campaign?
I think this is going to be a very close game. Both teams are on hot streaks; Indianapolis has been on a hot streak for most of the season, winning 9 straight games after a disappointing start that was probably due to the fact that Manning was rushed back too quickly from surgery. (Joe Sorgi was probably sad when they rushed him back because he knew he wouldn’t get to play again until Week 17!) San Diego buckled down for the 2<sup>nd</sup> straight season after a slow start and won the games that they needed to down the stretch in order to make the playoffs, including a win-or-go-home game Sunday night at Denver that cost Mike Shanahan his job.
Indianapolis is going to do what they didn’t do last year, when Manning was relying on legendary receivers such as Devin Aromashodu during crunch time, and pull out a close victory in the 4<sup>th</sup> quarter. The fact that Manning has all of his weapons at his disposal at WR and two solid RB’s makes the difference; I just don’t see the San Diego defense—especially without Shawne Merriman—being able to make the stops that are necessary to win in the 4<sup>th</sup>. Philip Rivers won’t go down without a fight, though, and he’ll keep the game close even if LT relapses into the aging, injured RB who he was for the majority of 2008. Rivers has developed some great chemistry with receivers not named Antonio Gates down the stretch, and I think he’ll make the plays necessary to keep the game close unless he lets his emotions get the better of him.
The Chargers may be able to pull this out if they blitz Manning like a bunch of hired killers, because he’ll just sit back there and pick the Chargers’ defense apart if he has time to throw. However, Manning’s football acumen will most likely help him switch things up and make the plays necessary to beat the defense; this is the type of game where Addai can take a screen pass in for a score.
Another great story will come to an end Sunday afternoon in Miami, when the clock will strike midnight on the Dolphins’ season. After watching Baltimore’s defense this season, I don’t see the Dolphins having much of a chance in this game. As an ardent Cleveland fan who hates the Ravens, I wish that weren’t the case, but I am doing my best to be objective here. Rex Ryan, in what may be his final season as Baltimore’s defensive coordinator, will send all sorts of exotic blitzes at Chad Pennington and expose his weaknesses. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams will find rushing yards to be few and far between, and the Ravens will tame anything that comes out of the vaunted “Wildcat” formation. (Side note: Is anyone but me thinking that the “Wildcat” is a big overhyped? Most of the time, the play is a direct snap to the running back or wide receiver without any passing whatsoever while quarterback winds up standing on the sidelines trying desperately not to get injured while giving the image that they’re out there blocking. When I start looking at the box scores and seeing several players with passing attempts, then I’ll start believing in the “Wildcat”.)
On the offensive side of the ball, LeRon McClain is going to wear the Dolphins’ defense down with help from Willis McGhee and Ray Rice. Joe Flacco, like Matt Ryan, won’t fold simply because the word “playoff” is attached to this game; he’ll work underneath with Derrick Mason and Todd Heap and possibly hook up with Mark Clayton on a long bomb to seal the game in the 4<sup>th</sup> quarter.
The only way in which I see Miami pulling this out is if they connect on short, quick passes to keep the Ravens’ defense from blitzing every down and Joey Porter is able to rattle Flacco with a few hard sacks early in the game. I don’t see the Ravens allowing Pennington the time to complete a long pass downfield to Ted Ginn Jr, although as a Cleveland native, I’d love to see my fellow Clevelander come up big in his first playoff game. A few big plays by Miami on special teams would help keep this game close too.
I read somewhere that this game isn’t sold out yet; maybe it’s because Minnesota’s fans know that Philly is going to dominate this game unless Andy Reid gets in one of those modes where he insists on throwing every single down. Unless Fran Tarkenton joins the active roster in time for Sunday’s game and suits up at QB, the Vikings’ revolving door at QB will be the reason they lose this game. Neither Jackson nor Frerotte will be able to solve the Eagles’ defense. Jackson will get flustered and either scramble when he needs to make a solid throw or wind up throwing several interceptions, and Frerotte will wind up watching the game from the training room after the Eagles’ blitz knocks his ancient body out of the game. The Eagles will stack the box and force the Vikes to throw, and I just don’t see any Vikings QB making the plays needed to win. Adrian Peterson, while talented, just simply can’t win this game on his own. Asante Samuel will dominate, even if he’s in single coverage, and he won’t let his man make the catches they need to win. Perhaps Visanthe Shiancoe will get lose, make a few plays, and become known to the nation for something other than his locker room nudity, but they won’t be enough to pull out a win. Maybe this will be the game that will convince the Vikings to make a real effort to acquire a decent quarterback in the offseason!
McNabb is going to have a solid game and continue to show all of his doubters that he’s still got plenty in the tank. Sure, he had a rough day against Washington a few weeks ago, but if he plays like he did against the Cowboys, he’ll be fine. As it was, the Eagles were one foot away from totally changing the face of that game. He’ll be smart enough to keep the ball away from Antoine Winfield’s side of the field. We haven’t even mentioned Brian Westbrook yet, and although the Vikes still have a relatively solid run defense even without their stud defensive tackles, Westbrook is going to come to play in this game and do his best to shed his rep as a fragile player. If the Eagles make sure to cross the goal line BEFORE throwing the ball away in celebration, they’ll pull this one out without much of a problem.
Posted on: November 27, 2008 1:28 pm
I just wanted to wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving!