ALL IN – TOGETHER – Can #Cavs Fans Just Embrace The Concept ??

I am writing this just before game 4 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. I don’t pretend to know who will win that game. I do know that, if the Cavs lose, the mountain of negativity will be almost too hard to fathom. It is for that reason I wanted to put this out there quickly.

I have been a consistent member of Cavs Twitter and Cleveland sports social media for several years now. One thing that has me baffled, even though I know the possible reasons, is the way sound minded people simply throw negativity out there like a badge of honor about Cleveland sports. Those folks frequently cover their negativity in a blanket of their being “realistic”. Well if you were a betting person, you would take those “realistic” odds every day because the fact is that Cleveland teams have not been particularly successful with no championships in 50 years. So I guess being sour and negative is being realistic in a practical sense. However, if we wanted to be “realistic” all the time, why root for sports teams to begin with?? Unless your team is a prohibitive favorite, you are never being realistic when you root for the team or even believe that they will win. So I guess, while you are secretly being “unrealistic” with your support, you spout landscapes of realism to the rest of us to prove that you are knowledgeable and realistic while the rest of us are just “fanatical” idiots.

Just recently I read a tweet from someone I consider a good fan who made a big point about how he was “right in November” when he told all of us that David Blatt was playing LeBron, Kyrie, and Love too many minutes and that is why the Cavs are breaking down like Lego blocks now. The reality is that the same three players that “oracle” twitter tweeter referred to played as a group 440 more minutes the previous year than they did this year when Blatt “overplayed” them. And only one of the three, the youngest Irving, played more minutes than the previous year. What we all do know is that the media was hammering Blatt and the Cavs on the same issue throughout the early part of the season. So, my question is whether this fan is being logical and realistic or simply trying to find a negative to spout before the Cavs lose game 4 and have a mountain to climb. I don’t know the answer but I think Cavs fans and Cleveland sports fans need to begin to embrace the positive and try to “will” the Cavs home with positive rather than negative energy.

We come up with pretty good rallying cries in Cleveland. The season started with a great one called “Together” and is finishing with another pretty good one “All IN”. For anyone that doesn’t know, this idea actually was promoted, if not originated, from the Cavalier radio color commentator Jim Chones. Jim, a former Cavalier and one who many feel could have helped win us a championship if healthy. Both ideas are intended to bring a sense of solidarity between the city, the fans and the team. It is my opinion that, if you are truly a fan of the Cavaliers and Cleveland sports, we should embrace the concept and move forward with a positive sense of purpose. It is fine to disagree. It is fine to debate. It is fine to be uncertain and fearful this team might lose despite their talent. If is fine to even be unhappy about how things are done and question. But, in the final analysis, for Cleveland to get their elusive championship it is not in any of our best interests to be “realistically” negative and focus on why Cleveland won’t win. For us to break through this wall of negativity and win, we need to believe. No matter how “unrealistic” we think it is. Why don’t we all embrace the concept? The Cavs are still the better team. We should be ALL IN …………… TOGETHER !!! Try it for a change. It might give you a good feeling.

#Cavs Are Now Building Toward Playoffs – Remember Early January?

We are now nearing the end of March and the uncontrollable din that accompanies the Cleveland Cavaliers is still punishing the ears. But when we look at where we all were in early January compared to where we are now, there is a Grand Canyon worth of difference. There were many, and I mean many, who were calling for David Blatt’s head and trying to read any eye movement or body language as a reason why LeBron was trying to sink his coach. Of course, none of this was really happening, but that was the perception in the blogs and by the media. Now I am not saying there wasn’t some tension when the team was losing, but it was never as polarized as the media and twitter portrayed.

David Griffin, with Dan Gilbert’s support, found a way to transform the team during the season by basically spending every chip he had left to balance the team. While they were still losing but after those trades, I made it clear that the Cavs position was far better than the media or fans portrayed. This was also before LeBron came back from his “hiatus” refreshed and playing hard. I was never of the belief that the coach should or would be fired or that the team would continue to stumble.

The key now, as I said near the end of January, is for the team to remain healthy and enter the playoffs with good momentum. Where they finish and all the other crap surrounding the team is of no consequence once they enter the playoffs. Given the team’s dominance at home, I can certainly see why Blatt would prefer to finish in the second spot in the Eastern Conference. LeBron doesn’t really care. Even though this is EXACTLY what any sensible person would expect, it is being used as yet another example of LeBron disagreeing with his coach.

Coaches are notorious at every level of sport to try and get every edge possible for their team to win. That is what they are paid to do. Since the Cavs have been so solid at home, of course Blatt would like to see his team head into the playoffs with home court advantage as long as possible. So that is completely predictable.

Star players are paid to not be intimidated by the odds put against them. They are programmed to succeed regardless of those odds or averages. So LeBron, being the best player in the game and a five time NBA finals participant, should not care at all about anything but the team playing well. As I said myself, the Cavs are put together in such a way that they are one of the few teams that could win an NBA title from an eighth seed. So, again, LeBron said exactly what you would expect from a star.

Logically then, this is another of a long line of “nonstories” that are inevitable with a team this highly scrutinized. It has now reached a point where I can finally laugh at the hyperbole instead of being disturbed by it. The story of Kevin Love leaving for LA is another predictable nonstory. That doesn’t mean he won’t leave, just that this particular speculation is a nonstory and not based on current reality. Kevin Love currently “plotting” his departure simply makes no sense. He would be undermining his best chance of winning an NBA championship being distracted by such tripe. Once the season ends and the results known, we can return to this story with some substance and reason.

Right now there are only two things I see as relevant to this season (and indirectly to the Cavs future):

  • The health of the team going into the playoffs
  • The health of the team going into the playoffs

I would like to see Kevin Love rediscover his ability to play in the post. But that is dwarfed by the importance of the health of the team.

So lets enjoy the ride down the stretch and hope doctors do not factor into any of the Cavs fortunes. If that happens, they have an excellent chance to bring home Cleveland’s first title in 50 years.

 

State of the Browns: Do They Deserve Our Support?

A couple of disclaimers:

First.  This represents one fans view of the 2015 Cleveland Browns. My observations come from watching them for decades and my own experiences working in bureaucratic organizations.

Second.  None of this is any criticism of fans decisions to give up on them. After 50 years of failure including 15 years of futility and foolishness it is hard to understand that they have any fans left.  They are certainly in danger of losing a generation.

The easiest way to understand the last 15 years is that they are the results of bad decisions compounded by bad luck.  Keep this in mind as we discuss the current situation.

To understand any organization you must start at the top. For the Browns that means owner J Haslem.  The job of the head of an organization is to do the following:

  1. Set the organizational culture, structure and goals.
  2. Hire the right people and support them
  3. DO NOT INTERFERE
  4. After allowing enough time for 1&2  make adjustments as needed.

One of the problems new owners often have is that being rich guys with huge egos they think what made them successful in business will make them successful in the NFL. Haslem is in the process of finding that out. He is also finding out his fellow owners may be partners but they are also competitors. Any advice must be taken with a grain of salt. One good sign is recent statements from Haslem seem to indicate he is realizing his time with the Steelers did not prepare him as much as he thought.

Judging him on the four musts:

  • Set the organizational culture, etc.: Incomplete 
    • The structure of having all the key football people report directly to him can be problematic.  It can create unhealthy competition and division.  It can work but depends on the people working well together.  It is too soon to know.
  • Hire the right people and support them: Incomplete
    • I am optimistic that he may have found a good coach and GM.  The coaches strengths are apparent. It will be interesting to see how he handles the second year and having more involvement in the offense.  A lot of people want the head of the GM I am not one of them.  You need at least 3 drafts to judge if he can evaluate talent.  As for textgate, it certainly reveals bad judgement but not a fatal flaw unless he is incapable of learning from it.  There is also the unanswered question of did anyone else know about this. Bottom line this is also an incomplete
  • DO NOT INTERFERE: Failure
    • Many examples the most obvious, one being J Manziel.
  • Allow enough time for 1 & 2, make adjustments as needed: Success
    • The best thing he has done this year is keep his leadership team together.  People forget how long it took the Steelers to set up the organization they now have in place.

One success, one failure, two incompletes 

Bottom line I feel it is too early to give up on this organization. So if the organization is still in development what is the biggest problem facing the Browns?

Look at the teams in last year’s playoffs and the answer is obvious.  The lack of a good to great QB.  With the rule changes to encourage scoring and reduce injuries, QB has evolved into the most important position in sports.  If Andrew Luck was their QB last year, the Browns would have made the playoffs.  Nothing is more important for this organization then finding their QB of the future.

What about Manziel?  We all know that was a huge mistake.  One way to make it a even worse mistake is to let it paralyze  the organization out of fear of repeating the mistake. The Browns actually need two QBs. A short term veteran and a young one the entire organization can get behind, develop and support for the future.

That being the case and the fact they have two number one draft picks you can expect them to be linked to rumors around the top QBs in this draft.  At this point I do not have enough information to have an opinion on whom they should pick and what they should pay to get him.  Getting him is the number one priority of the team.

In summary the Browns definitely have problems.  Many of them they helped to cause.  There are also some early signs of them trying to do the right thing.   I think this is the wrong time to give up on them.  With a little luck, something they have not had in a long time, they can still turn things around.

Sometimes even a bad movie can have a good ending…

#Cavs Have Some Work To Do Now

Now that the Cleveland Cavaliers have reestablished themselves as serious contenders in the Eastern Conference playoff race, I think fans need to take a realistic view going forward. The next six games will be another test of the Cavs resolve to improve. Those six games are over 17 days so the All Star break will help give the team some needed rest. But I see the possibility of them taking their foot off the pedal for a short stretch and that could prove challenging. If one thing is clear about the Cavs, they do not play well when their foot lifts off the pedal.

I am obviously referring to defensive intensity and effort. The Cavaliers have proven when they play well that it is fueled on the defensive end. Many games during this 11 game win streak have been riddled with shooting and scoring difficulties. When the team defends, they can weather these offensive lapses and still win games. So I will be watching carefully for evidence of any decreases in intensity.

I think the first game in this stretch will be the biggest challenge to their streak and the momentum they are building. I know the LA Clippers will be pretty surly after we knocked them off in LA. They will be looking for the same payback that we have shelled out to teams recently. This will be a huge test of the Cavs resolve to be great. I will be there. I will be hoping for a maximum performance because that is what it will take to win the game.

After two potential trap games against the Pacers and the Lakers, it will be three straight games against probable playoff teams in the East. Miami, Chicago and the Washington Wizards each present their own unique set of difficulties for the Cavs. And right now, the Bulls and the Wizards are in front of the Cavs in the race for playoff positioning.

In addition to the main ingredient of defensive intensity, the Cavs need to continue to grow as a team with their new and improved roster. I am convinced that they can become substantially better as the entire team plays together and the rotation is a bit more structured. That is why, as I have said several times, they need to stay healthy for a stretch of games. It will also give David Blatt more time to get comfortable with those rotations.

Kevin Love will be just fine in time. But that doesn’t mean his offensive slump might not affect the Cavs in the short term. It is critical that he get his full confidence back and produce on the offensive end. Again, I am not concerned at all long term, but I am a bit concerned short term during these next 6 games. His defensive effort and rebounding have been improving and I expect that will continue to improve.

I will be curious to see how Iman Shumpert responds to increased playing time. He looks like a great fit with the Cavs and I am hoping to see his athleticism stand out as he gets more comfortable. I still see him as the eventual starter with JR Smith moving to the sixth man position. Time will tell on that.

I am just throwing out a little caution now that the Cavs and Blatt have proven they will be OK, allowing the fans to back off the ledge. It would not shock me if Cleveland went 3-3 over those 6 games. I don’t think that would be the worst thing to happen and it would not make me any less optimistic regarding the playoffs.

If that prediction comes true, I sure hope the fans do not climb back on the ledge and the media does not do cartwheels because they can be negative again. This is the natural ebb and flow of a long NBA season. I will be rooting for the Cavs to have a 17 game winning streak at the end of this stretch, but I will not panic if they don’t.

#Cavs Look To Keep It Rolling: You Starting to Feel It??

The formula to team unity and success is simple. The theme was set from the first day when LeBron and Nike recited the obvious battle cry: 1-2-3 Hard Work 4-5-6 Together !! Yes, it was meant to pull on the heartstrings of the country and of Cleveland. The “King” had returned to his home and was beginning another journey of conquest (in Nike’s world). But despite it’s “feel good” and kind of nerdy tone, it actually captured reality as well as the fantasy of the commercial.

The Cleveland Cavs now have a winning streak to build on. Today’s challenge against the Thunder might be a big one that weakens our resolve again or it might be another step forward. I don’t pretend to know the answer. But I do and have known the answer to the Cavs failures and successes. And it was NEVER David Blatt as so many were screaming. The key was intense effort (rarely exerted during the struggles), the player’s belief and trust in their teammates, an improved composition of the roster, and LeBron James being LeBron James instead of a facsimile of himself.

So, as I clearly pointed out to all who would listen near the end of the losing streak, I was more comfortable about the team’s prospects and eventual success than I had ever been. And that was before they were starting to win. My belief in the Cavs came from several areas:

  1. I never doubted David Blatt and his ability to coach or reach players. He had an extensive track record in the past and any NBA players that had ever played under him had nothing but great things to say. Yes, he was responsible as they all were for severe underachievement. But he was not the root of the problem.
  2. I knew that having LeBron back with reasonable health was critical to the eventual success of the Cavs. He makes an enormous difference at all times. I cited Miami’s lackluster record this year without LeBron (even with Deng to replace) as the perfect evidence that LeBron really makes a difference.
  3. I knew that the roster composition was much better after the trades. We now had a team, as I made very clear at the time, that could compete with any team and go big or small as needed to maximize our advantage. Blatt could now be Blatt and become creative. This is despite the fact that I LOVED Dion Waiters and felt it would be risky to trade him. But when I saw the final result, I had no doubt Griffin had pulled the right strings. (I really wanted Mozgov BTW over any other options out there.)
  4. I knew that winning breeds winning, camaraderie, trust, and energy. And I felt, with the changes they had made and the immediate schedule ahead, that winning would start soon. Once winning started, I knew that the public and media tone would immediately shift from players hating Blatt and players planning to leave to a focus on the team and what they could accomplish. That is slowly happening. All it takes is a look on Cleveland.com and see how now they admit that the players frustration with their own roster and success was the issue and not David Blatt.

As Cleveland begins to provide the effort necessary and demonstrates belief in each other, they are a force that can challenge any NBA team and certainly any team in the Eastern Conference. That is why I said that they could even finish as the eighth seed in the East and still win the East if healthy.

That brings me to a critical point about the Cleveland Cavaliers: The Cavs need to stay healthy for a reasonable period of time !!! I mentioned in a previous blog post that, once Shumpert comes back, the Cavs need about 2-3 weeks to play together to really get the team rolling and comfortable. Then they could sustain some hits to the roster and still be fully ready if healthy by the playoffs. So I will be holding my breath every time a player goes down hoping he can get up and play. In my mind, the only thing that really could hold the Cavs back now is key injuries.

The roster is still not perfect. I think we need a better back up point guard and should use Delly as a defensive “specialist” in certain games. I would love to see another big on the roster. Haywood did not look good in the game against Charlotte in some extended minutes. I am concerned about him, but really don’t want to trade him before the off season. With Miller struggling the Cavs could always use another shooter. But these are things that might not be addressed this year and I think the Cavs need to proceed like this is the roster they will have come playoff time.

Today will be a good test of the “New” Cavs with Shumpert, Smith, and Mozgov all able to contribute in this game. I will be interested to see if the energy I observed at the Q on Friday will be there today. And, if you want to read commentary about the Cavs without all the hyperbole and drama, I’ll be here for you!! Go Cavs!

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