Happy Holidays From Cleveland Wins !!

Snoopy Thanksgiving

We just want to thank all of our blog viewers for a record 2014 thus far. We are slowly gaining traction as a site to look for about Cleveland Sports. That is all because of you.

From the editors and authors of Cleveland Wins, we wish you, your family and friends a blessed Holiday Season. Enjoy the food, family, friendship and sports! We will be there with you.

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Nov 23 Cavalier Scribbles – Cavs Have Some Work To Do

Before I go further, please remember the basis for the Cleveland Wins Blog, this is ALL commentary and not reporting. I leave the reporting to the other web sites and the regular media. But the commentary is based on over 40 years of close observation and deadly focused fan support of all the Cleveland professional sports teams. I put my observations up against anyone, including the better known media and web sites with younger commentators that have not been through the wars that I have seen. Yes, that includes seeing the 1964 Browns Championship game as a child on TV. And, yes, I remember it well.

And I was also regularly at the Richfield Coliseum to see playoff games with mentally tough teams that were undermanned because of injury. Make no mistake about it, the Cavaliers with Russell and Carr and Smith and Snyder were mentally as tough as they come. And the fans responded. The Cavaliers with Daugherty and Price and Nance and others were also crazy tough but they could never get Price to the playoffs without highly restricting injuries in his legs and Jim Chones injury sank the other generations in the playoffs. So there are many reasons why great teams do not win championships. Some of it based on coaching, some based on personnel, some based on injuries, and some based on lack of mental toughness.

That brings us to the current Cavalier team. A team I am 100% convinced has tons of talent and a great head coach. They have one key injury to a player with truckloads of mental toughness and marginal talent. So I don’t think injuries are an excuse at this point. It is now becoming clear that the lack of mental toughness is the defining characteristic of this enigmatic team that has yet to gel. The players are now acknowledging it and the coach is getting there, but I think does not want to throw the team under the bus on that count. It is a wise move by Blatt. To call his team out on floor balance and sharing the ball and sloppiness with passing and defensive trust is far more palatable than saying they are not tough mentally. Luckily the players are saying it so that does help going forward.

Lets cut through the crap that is the Cleveland Cavalier’s public persona. From LeBron on down they have said that this will be a “process”. That this will take time. That this is going to look bad before it looks good. Everyone has said it. Outwardly they have believed it. But inside, where it really counts, they never believed it. And, to be honest, neither did we.

The funny thing about all of this is that the players who mouthed what they inside did not “feel” and the fans who have said it while they inside said “70 wins” were both right with their public pronouncements! They were wrong with what they actually felt inside and believed in their core.

The problem comes when the inner self believes something and it quickly becomes clear that it is not true, self doubt quickly comes into play. That is true of the team and the fans. So those who are having trouble dealing with 5-7 and some really hideous losses can take comfort in the fact that it is only natural. As it is for the team to begin to question and falter under the pressure of their own egos and outside expectations.

LeBron has explained this over and over but despite his public education campaign had secretly hoped it would not be the same this time. He was hoping because he had learned that it would be different. And the addition of Kevin Love, despite it being a brilliant short term basketball move, caused all of the inner beliefs to be out of sync with the outward statements. If that trade wasn’t made, the inner self would have matched the outward statements (that it would take time, that it was a process) and the Cavs might have had less soul searching to do this early in the season.

Don’t misinterpret that statement!! I would have made the Love trade in a heartbeat once I knew his “heart” was to try and stay beyond this year and build a championship team. That seemed to be his honest feelings coming in and I am convinced they are genuine. Now it is up to the team to adapt to make all of that initial “love” become a reality.

If you look at this Cavs team with an open mind, you will see that it is remarkably similar to the Cavs teams of the last four years. They have talent and, when they exert maximal effort, they are really tough to handle. When they get challenged, they wilt and resort to terrible bad habits that result in scoreless runs of immense proportions and the opponent rolls over them. Even in my more realistic views of this team, I never thought the same Cavalier huge scoreless runs would manifest with this team. They are just too talented.  Well, I was wrong. The influence of the old team and rookie presence seemed to have rubbed off on LeBron and the veterans. The opposite should have been true but it has not been.

So, as was suggested by @lullonsports and my daughter (sorry Joe you were not the only one), we may need to make some rather drastic changes in the starting lineup and rotation to alter the mental chemistry. I think Mike Miller is very limited now in his play. He needs help on defense and isn’t getting into the flow of the offense. But, in my view, he will be a critical part of any success this team might have. And he played 82 games last year so I know he has it in him. I think he is better as a starter than as a bench player. He would get more help on D and be more into the flow of the offense. Having Miller in the corner to pop those 3s over Shawn Marion just makes sense.

Maybe Andy needs to go back to the bench and play with the second team. He has become a safety blanket with LeBron and almost all pick and rolls are with him. The problem is that he almost has to roll and LeBron is trying to make pocket passes that are ill advised. If LeBron and Kyrie were forced to run pick and roll with Love, he could roll or pop. That would add a dimension to the offense that we currently don’t have. Plus, it would add energy and more skill to the second team. Dion could take advantage of Andy’s skill set on pick and rolls.

For now, Marion needs to go back to backing up LeBron. There is less of a drop off in defense and he has the skills to be more engaged in the offense. He is kind of out of place as a shooting guard on the first team.

Joe Harris, as much as I love him, is still a rookie and a second round draft pick to boot. He needs to get his minutes now that Delli is out but maybe not quite as extensive as they have been. He is one that is prone to rookie mistakes and missed shots at the most inopportune time. His time will come. I love him as a player. Maybe not quite yet in crunch time.

TT needs to move back to the first team. His offensive skills are much more limited than Andy’s. That makes the bench much more prone to long stretches of no points. However, because of his athleticism and generally smart play (he doesn’t throw as many idiotic passes), he fits well with the offensively gifted group of Kyrie, Miller, LeBron, and Love.

So I would start those 5 and consider adding James Jones to the rotation. Put Dion at the point, Harris at the 2, Jones at the 3, Marion at the 4, and Andy at the 5. Now, of course, I would never put all of those 5 on the court together unless they proved they could ball as a group. My feeling is that some combination of Love, Kyrie and LeBron need to be on the court at all times. Not sure how to rotate all of that, but I think they could play 10 deep and get away with it.

This is just a brainstorming group of ideas but I think that the team will increase it’s mental toughness if they have 3 veterans with winning experience in at all times. Keep the “old Cavs” to a minimum in each rotation. I include Kyrie in the veteran winning group because of how he has played this year and his experience with Team USA that was like playoff experience. Of all the players this year (and that INCLUDES LeBron), Kyrie has played with the most consistent intensity, wilted the least, and never forgotten the defensive side of the ball. I have been super impressed with his advancement over last year.

In summary, keep the faith Cavs fans!! They are mentally weak right now but, once they recognize that (which is already starting – see LeBron’s and Dion’s comments), they will start to grind their way out of it. They need some success and hopefully this home stand will bring some of that. They need to see that, if they play the right way, wins in bunches will follow. Then the “old Cavs” will rise up to become an integral part of the New Cavs. Enjoy the ride. As bumpy as it seems the road is going to smooth out eventually. Do you have the mental toughness to stick with it?? I say yes… :-)..

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Nov 19 – Cavalier “Cleveland Wins” Scribbles

Interesting week for the Cleveland Cavaliers. They have almost come full circle over the past week and trite over simplifications have been exposed. I will try to keep you up on these developments and provide commentary and perspective.

I watched in person an almost amazing game on Saturday night. The team was most noticeably smoking hot shooting and that carried over to the defense and the offensive rhythm and assists. It was certainly fun to watch and gave us all a glimpse of what this team can be going forward. We all need to be aware that shooting at that level will be a rare exception even for the talented Cavaliers. But the team also showed what sharing the ball and moving bodies with the pass can accomplish. The Cavs showed that defensive effort and intensity leads to run outs and easy transition baskets. Something the Cavs can do on a consistent basis if they make a commitment to defensive effort.

Off the court LeBron took a local reporter to school. The question dealt with the infamous “Rim Protector” saga that will likely follow the Cleveland Cavaliers until the day they either 1) Get one or, better yet, 2) Win a championship to shut them all up. While it is true that the Cavs do not have a “rim protector”, there is no known NBA truism that a team MUST have one to be a great team or win a championship.

What gets me fired up about all this is that there is a constant parroting by the media of this refrain that you need a rim protector to play good defense. Then, once parroted by the media for so long, it is picked up by the bloggers and fans who spew it everywhere like it is an undisputed fact. LeBron quietly and efficiently helped the fans who listened to his recent post-game interview understand the real truth about rim protectors and a winning/championship team.

When asked, he pointed out to Haynes that the Miami Heat never really had a rim protector and they did pretty well. James further explained that many of the great teams, including San Antonio and the historic Bull teams did not have a consistent rim protector type player.

LeBron was trying to put this line of thinking to rest by being so clear in his explanations and providing detail. He discussed the importance of “up top” defense on the ball and the importance of the layers of players below that who need to communicate and scramble to fill open areas of penetration.

As much as it tickled me that LeBron clearly rebutted this overused defensive excuse, I was pretty irritated at how the game was played Monday against the Nuggets. It is true that very few if any NBA players can stay in front of Ty Lawson. However, the entire Nugget team seemed to be able to find their way to open shots. The Cavaliers did not put forth the effort and were not aggressive enough to compete in that game. This is a recurring theme at this point and I hope that it is resolved as they play together more and learn what it takes to consistently win in the NBA. If I were to guess, I believe that they will definitely get better and develop the killer instinct necessary to be a dominant NBA team. I know all of us are counting on it. I was also at that game and left with a much different feeling than after the Atlanta game.

Finally, tonight we played in a “playoff” type game against the San Antonio Spurs. This will be another good learning experience. They watched the Spurs close out each quarter strong and that was the ultimate difference in the game. This is something they can gravitate to over time and learn how important it is to affect the psychology and flow of the game. Overall, this was the middle of the two extremes demonstrated against Atlanta and Denver. They played hard. They competed well. They overall shared the ball. But they didn’t do any of those things as well as against the Hawks. The shooting wasn’t as good. The defense wasn’t as sharp. The transition was sloppy at times.

LeBron has had some trouble with sloppy passing and ball handling throughout these early games. The final possession demonstrated that nicely when he simply lost the ball. We need to keep an eye on this over time and should expect him to get better as the season progresses. I don’t remember this problem before so I will be interested to see how it goes.

Scribbles will return next week or this weekend. In the meantime, GO CAVS !!!




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Listen To LeBron’s Advice

LeBron is willing to take on the challenge!
LeBron says “Relax” and so you should !!

Before the Cavaliers take on the Denver Nuggets in a few minutes, I want to put out a couple of thoughts for you to chew on as the game progresses. My first one is a personal one about the team in general and the rest are relevant to the current situation of the Cavs.

1) I wrote multiple articles warning Cavalier fans to be wary of the trade for Kevin Love, not because it wasn’t a fantastic trade, but because there was no clear indication it wasn’t a one year rental. Now that the team has gotten off to a shaky start, it is a great time for me to finalize my position. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE (no pun intended) the trade. I know that Wiggins and Bennett and whoever that draft pick will be might turn into fantastic players (some or all). However, that does not change the fact that this was a spectacular trade now that I am convinced Love intends this to be in Cleveland long term. Things could still change that but I highly doubt it. I believe what he has said and that his intention is to stay. So I wanted to put that to rest first.

2) LeBron’s advice in his tweet to “Relax” is awesome advice for Cavs fans right now. The overreaction to a shaky start is understandable but sad at the same time. This team and this coaching staff have had inadequate time to gel in any substantive way. They need time. And we all need to give it to them.

3) The fantastic players the Cavs have are briefly reverting back to old habits of trying to take the entire burden on themselves. This goes most certainly for Kyrie Irving but for every other player as well, including LeBron. That will end as they begin to trust each other.

4) The offense obviously is not running Blatt’s system and they are not sharing the ball. That was most certainly in evidence during the Utah game. But why do we all think that this will continue??? That makes no sense. The Cavalier players will figure it out themselves once some success starts to come their way when they play the right way.

5) The defense is not any where close to how it will eventually look. This also takes trust in your teammates and great communication. Did we really think that would start game one?? Anyone who simplistically thinks any defensive deficiencies are caused by a “lack of a rim protector” will be conclusively proven wrong. We have enough rim protection when our dynamic wing players begin to put the pressure on the passing lanes and outside the lane. We have great potential for that going forward. The defense will be fine. And, from what I have seen of Love so far, he will be an effective defender in a “team” defensive structure.

6) The team needs to get their complementary players going and if I see another game where Miller doesn’t get an open look I will be upset about that for sure. We need to trust all 15 players and get them involved.

6) It will be interesting how this goes tonight. Have fun watching and please relax. The Cavs will be fine. The chemistry will be fine. The team will be fine. The record will be fine. And they will be ready when the playoffs arrive.

HAVE FUN PLEASE !!!! WE HAVE KEVIN LOVE, KYRIE IRVING, LEBRON JAMES, and a ton of great complimentary players.

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From A Dramatic Comeback to a Steeler Thrashing – This Year IS Different

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind for Browns fans. We have moved from a feeling of “here we go again” sickness as the first half of the Browns/Titans game concluded to a feeling of elation as the Browns finished their dismantling of the Pittsburg Steelers at home. The signs were there before those games but the conclusion now seems quite clear – This Year is Different !!

The Browns brain trust chose a low key, no nonsense and by his own admission “no name” coach to lead the team. Haslim had already selected a respected but unflashy and nearly unheard of GM to run the team. Ever since that transition, the Cleveland Browns have been run as a professional and determined organization ready to make a real change. Every time the Browns have changed leaders, I get caught up in believing that this time might be different. Every time I have been proven wrong and the same old disappointments envelope the team. This may happen again and shame on me if it does but I am beginning to actually believe this time IS different. This time it might be different that this year will be different. Nothing can make that hope more real than a pounding of the Steelers in front of the Dawg Pound.

During last weeks game I was traveling to San Diego and needed to seek out a venue to watch the Browns take on Tennessee. I thought it would be hard but my wife and I were committed to getting it done. After checking out the San Diego Browns Backers, we were fortunate to be within walking distance of their “official sports bar” in the area. Near the end of the Tennessee game, this is what I saw: The Dawg Pound in San Diego

It was so exciting to be among dedicated Browns fans over a thousand miles from Cleveland. They showed the same or more enthusiasm and dedication than any local fan would express. It again reminded me that the Browns have the best fans ever but now they need a team to begin to match.

After sitting in the stands for the game today, where the Browns made the Steelers feel as they have for so many years and so many games, I moved a giant step closer to believing. A giant step forward toward remembering the joy of football again in Cleveland.

Now this is a dangerous time. All the stars seem to point to a legitimate chance for a winning streak or, at the least, a couple more wins over the next few games. Those stars have been eclipsed by the Death Star so many times before that it is difficult to allow ourselves to believe again. Time will tell the truth of this tale. Time will force us to face whatever reality awaits this Browns team and this Browns season.

I, along with all of those amazing fans in San Diego, will be there watching … hoping … and believing.

A sports blog with Ohio roots