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Section 109: Ferry Shows His EOY Skills in the Playoffs

May 2, 2010
© 2010 Daniel Goldberg
The Cavs/Bulls series showed us some good and bad things about the Cavs. The bad — when they slack off on defense and stop protecting the lane. The good — when defenders key on LeBron and Antawn Jamison casually drops in 20+ points. The Cavs offensive options must be dizzying for opposing coaches. You double down on LeBron or Shaq, Mo Williams or Jamison are waiting to burn you. Jamison has smoothly integrated his game into the Cavs starting lineup, and as a result the bench is even deeper.
Danny Ferry deserves the Exec of the Year just for the Jamison deal. Passing on Amare Stoudamire might have been tough, but not as tough as giving up JJ Hickson would have been. Abandoning  Amare simply meant making a great deal for Jamison, who has enhanced the offensive balance for the Cavs as much as Stoudamire would have. Plus Jamison is more versatile and a better defender than Amare. He might not get the rebounds Stoudamire does, but we have plenty of rebounding. Then you look at what JJ has done since the beginning of the year when they put him in the starting lineup, and especially how he handled the post when Shaq and Z weren’t around, Ferry was way smart not to give Hickson up. Oh yeah, and Ferry traded nothing for Shaq, and got Jamario Moon and Anthony Parker in the middle of a very active free agent market, too.

So why did John Hammond of the Milwaukee Bucks get the EOY trophy instead of Ferry this season? Two big factors: One, Cleveland is blessed with Dan Gilbert, an owner who has plenty of cash and doesn’t care if he pays the luxury tax every year. He’s into winning. That makes it a tad easier for Danny Ferry to take a fat veteran contract off another team or sign a free agent without flinching. Two, Cleveland is blessed with LeBron. Who wouldn’t want to play on his team?

Hammond, on the other hand, is hamstrung attracting free agents to a small-market, cold-weather city, with a salary cap that includes Michael Redd, who is being paid $17 million to rehab yet another season-ending injury and Andrew Bogut, who is a relative bargain at $10 million. But Hammond snagged underrated coach Scott Skiles, then traded for key role players like Villanueva and Delfino. Finally, he picked the best point guard in the draft, Brandon Jennings, who delivered immediately. I know Tyreke Evans is incredible, but he’s really a combo or two guard. While we’re talking great picks, remember all that pre-draft buzz about Ricky Rubio? Heh heh.

Back to Ferry and his GM chops, though. Coming into this season, his clear goals for a playoff run were to get bigger and badder in the post, get bigger wing defenders, and a find good-shooting big man who could spread the floor for LeBron and the guards. Check, check and check. Now that Cavs are rounding into playoff form, you’re starting to see the dividends. Shaq started slow in the Bulls series, but in the last game against Chicago, he tagged fouls on Brad Miller and the other bigs quicker than Joe Tait can say, “DiGiorno!” Then in the first Boston game, we saw him ring up Kendrick Perkins and Glen Davis just as easily. Plus, the Cavs have three other post players in Andy, Z and JJ, who can spell O’Neal.

Speaking of our other post players, Let me insert a note here for Mike Brown and his staff, as I know they look to my blog constantly for guidance. When you go small against Boston, why not use a big backcourt tandem? Think about this lineup: C, JJ Hickson; PF, Andy V; SF, Jamison; SG, Jamario Moon and PG, LeBron. Without 7-foot center, you would still have a rebounding, shot-blocking defensive nightmare for the Celtics, and plenty of scoring. You can thank me when it works — but first make sure you thank Danny Ferry for that roster.


Section 109: Victory Is Not Always Sweet

April 20, 2010
© 2010 Daniel Goldberg
After the Cavs won game 2 against the Bulls, my brother sent me a message that summed up the victory: “That was scary and ugly.”  There was so much that was wrong with how Cleveland played, it cast a shadow over the tremendous games by LeBron James and Jamario Moon. Here’s a partial list:
  • The open door the Cavs provided for Deng, Rose and others in the lane. The Bulls attacked the basket by heading fearlessly down the middle of the Cavs’ defense and often were rewarded with an easy deuce or three-point play.
  • The lack of response to the Bulls fast break. This is one of the Bulls’ prime offensive weapons, and the Cavs didn’t get back into any organized defense to stop it. At one point I thought the Cavs should burn a couple fouls and knock down a ballhandler on the break, just to stop the Chicago momentum on offense.
  • The lack of minutes for J.J. Hickson. Shaq and Z were getting outworked by Chicago’s smaller, quicker front line. When those two were not in the Cleveland’s lineup this spring, the Cavs went with a smaller, quicker guy with hops at center. He did a good job, what was his name? Oh yeah, J.J. Hickson. Mike Brown could only find a few seconds of court time for him last night? Andy and J.J. on the court at the same time could have changed the pace of the game.
  • Mo Williams on Derrick Rose. This is one player (of many) Mo has no effect on whatsoever at the defensive end. To shut down Rose, the Cavs need to pin Delonte West or Jamario Moon to his jersey. Rose reminds me so much of Dwayne Wade, I wonder why people think Chicago is going to go after Wade in free agency.
  • No offensive plan for zone defense. Zone is the only chance many teams, Chicago included, have to stop LeBron. So why do the Cavs offensive sets always stall and waste clock when opponents throw the zone at them? Brown and his staff need to come up with some reliable zone-breaker plays. It’s no problem when LeBron and Jamario sink a barrage of three-pointers. This strategy works great when the treys are falling in, but let’s be realistic here — even the best shooting teams can’t bank on this every game. Not to mention one of our best three-point shooters, Daniel Gibson, can’t get off the bench. Or that our other high-percentage three-point shooter, Anthony Parker, has been in a five-month shooting slump.
  • Too much Anthony Parker. I think Parker seems like a great guy, a good team player. As a good team player, he shouldn’t have any problem going to the bench. Local sportswriters always complement his defense, but he’s getting burned constantly by younger, faster guards. I commented earlier in the season that AP is a good defender if his man is stationary on the outside and Parker gets set in front of him. But what usually happens is the opposition runs AP’s man through screens and double-screens and Parker gets picked off and loses his player. Or he simply gets lost in a weave through the lane and is arm’s length behind the guy he’s supposed to be guarding.
I was amazed to find Terry Pluto complementing Parker’s scoring along with Moon and James in his notes on last night’s game. I was there, and I saw Parker hit two three-pointers in the first quarter, then miss two WIDE OPEN treys. He wrapped up the half by making a third three with about two minutes left in the second quarter. That was not only the last shot he made, it was the last attempt. Our starting shooting guard did not attempt a single shot in the second half. I think the Cavs would do just as well starting Jamario Moon at two guard. Even if he doesn’t score, he’ll give the team a massive upgrade in rebounding and defense.
Here’s to another victory on Thursday, but I hope it’s not a scary and ugly one. I hope it’s smooth, coordinated and decisive win.

Section 109: The Writer Is Not The Story

April 13, 2010

© Daniel Goldberg

Read the shoddy post at the link below…

…and you will learn that Frank Isola believes the following: Brian Windhorst wants Isola’s job with the NY Daily News; hates Cleveland; only wants to cover LeBron in New York; can’t wait to leave Ohio. Anything else, Frank? Any further insights you want to add to your, um, sports blog?

Sure, I’m not a big shot New York sports commentator, but I did go to a respected journalism school and I worked for print media outlets for years. Here’s something I think I learned in, oh, about my sophomore year in college:

The reporter is not the story.

The well-trained and professional writers who report on sports and comment on sports stay objective, and keep their eyes on the playing field, the athletes and the coaches. Isola’s belief that Windhorst hates Cleveland and is supposedly too close to LeBron? Unsupported opinions — not a story, not even worthy of being labeled commentary. He doesn’t even attempt to dredge up an “unnamed source” to support his personal bias.

It doesn’t matter what Isola has determined Brian Windhorst is thinking about his next career move. Although I’m impressed with Isola’s power’s of telepathy — reading Windhorst’s mind from several states away — it’s not a sports story. Does the average sports fan who scours the Daily News, Plain Dealer, The Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, or any other respectable print or digital outlet care about Isola’s opinions of people he doesn’t respect? I doubt it. They turn to the sports section to read about, you guessed it, sports. It is a disservice to his readers to waste their attention on his subjective views of Windhorst’s motives.

So why does Isola believe his low opinion of Windhorst matters to anyone but Frank himself? Here’s one thought – Frank would like to write something new about LeBron, but he doesn’t have a story. He has nothing to say about LeBron’s impending free agency, and Windhorst does. So instead of trying to maybe pick up a phone and scrape up a some facts from reliable sources, he simply attacks a competing writer. That is classless, low and just plain lazy.

Joe Bo’s Draft Preview: Where Will The Quarterbacks Go?

April 1, 2010
NFL Draft Will Have Usual Surprises, But What About the Browns?
By Joe Bodolai © 2010 All rights reserved
Browns fans will remember all the cutaways of Brady Quinn sitting in the green room waiting for his name to be called until he was surprisingly picked by the Browns with the 22nd pick of the first round. Browns fans may also forget how they felt when Tim Couch was announced as the number one pick of the 1999 draft.
Boos and cheers will greet some picks and “expert analysis” by the likes of Mel “Bulletproof Hair” Kiper and Todd McShay will fill the airwaves and internet.
Most experts feel that the Rams will make Sam Bradford the number one pick. I watched his workout and he was crisp and clean. He demonstrated flawless technique, quick accurate release, good arm strength and footwork. Tim Tebow should study it. The workout, however, was very controlled and was right in his wheelhouse.
Colt McCoy also put on a show, demonstrating all the same skills as Bradford. His workout was much more challenging, demanding more versatility. He worked well under center, making seven and three step drops cleanly, rolling out and showing he can throw in play action.
McCoy’s skill set would be ideal for a West Coast offense with a little play action or option “is he gonna run?” flavor.
Both quarterbacks proved there is no need for concern over their injured shoulders.
I watched Tony Pike several times this season with Cincinnati, including the amazing game in the snow with Pitt. Pike is an NFL style quarterback, but his passes seem to lack the zip of Bradford, McCoy, and Dan LeFevour of Central Michigan. Pike reminds me of Todd Boeckman, Ohio State’s tackling dummy for USC’s pass rushers. Pike also seems slow afoot and is not a running threat as is McCoy, who actually was Texas’ leading rusher.
I also got to see LeFevour put on a show several times last season. His arm strength Read more…

Section 109: Can the Celtics even get home court in the first round?

March 11, 2010
The Boston Celtics lost two games in a row this week and dropped into a tie with Atlanta for the third-best record in the conference. If Boston keeps playing at their current .500 pace, and Milwaukee keeps winning, The Celtics could lose home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Even if there’s a tiebreaker, the Bucks are only two wins behind Boston in conference record.
Whose home court would the Celtics likely end up playing on, if they slipped to fifth place? Milwaukee, where the Bucks have won 21 of 30 games so far this season.
Why the turnaround this season? A lot of factors, but two basic equations: When Andrew Bogut is good, the Bucks are good. When Kevin Garnett is bad, the Celtics are bad.
Has Garnett really fallen off that much statistically? He’s down almost two points per game, 14.2, and one rebound per game, 7.5, from last year. Compare that to his last season in Minnesota (06-07), when he averaged 22.4 points and 12.8 rebounds. Or his first season in Boston (07-08), when put up 18.8 ppg and 9.2rpg. His blocks, steals and assists are about the same. The numbers are declining, but not terrible The biggest difference you see is the lack of speed and mobility when Garnett guards the lane or the baseline. Without a more intimidating Garnett, Kendrick Perkins suffers defensively as well.
Bogut, on the other hand, got over a nagging back injury that slowed him all last year. A number one draft pick, a lot of people got on him because he was not the game changer they expected immediately in his first year. Some players take longer to get the pro game, though, and experts will tell you centers take longer to develop in the NBA. Bogut, only 25 this year, lost half a season last year to injury, appearing in only 36 games. This year, he’s averaging 16.2 points per game and shooting 53%. He’s shooting free throws at 66%, the highest in his career. He’s also setting career highs in scoring, total rebounds and offensive rebounds.
Bogut and Garnett aren’t a true head-to-head matchup. But it’s interesting to see how the gradual decline and ascent of these two is reflected in their team’s play.
Both teams have played 63 games as of today. Of the last 19 games, both play 8 against likely playoff teams. Boston plays Cleveland twice; Houston, Dallas, and Utah on the road; Denver and San Antonio. The Bucks get Utah, Denver, Atlanta, Memphis, Cleveland and Phoenix. Milwaukee also gets five likely wins, playing the Sixers twice, the Clippers, and the Nets.
So the home court advantage for these two could come down to the last few games of the season. Including game 80, which is Boston at Milwaukee, and game 82, which is Milwaukee at Boston.

Derek Anderson Thinks He Knows Frustration

March 10, 2010

According to the News-Herald, Derek Anderson seems to think he was owed more than the money and the chances he got from the Browns. Quotes from an email he sent to the New-Herald’s Jeff Schudel include these three:

“The fans are ruthless and don’t deserve a winner, I will never forget getting cheered when I was injured..”

“I know at times I wasn’t great. I hope and pray I’m playing when my team comes to town and (we) roll them.”

“I never heard from anyone until today,” Anderson said of the end of the 09-10 season. “Nobody ever tried to reach out to me, which is fine.”

Wahhhh. Screw you, Anderson. You think Browns fans are ruthless? I hope you get to play in New York or Chicago. See how much love your game earns you there. Or Philadelphia, where they boo Donovan McNabb, a tough, proven starting quarterback.
BTW, Derek, My take is the fans weren’t cheering your injury in 2008. They were cheering because that blow forced the coaching staff to put in another quarterback. Crennel and Company didn’t seem to be in a hurry to sub for you before that injury. But you weren’t getting it done, and the fans were tired of watching you.

Nobody contacted you? What did you expect, a testimonial dinner hosted by Randy Lerner? How about a video showing highlights of your one good season and your four undistinguished ones? Probably one reason you didn’t hear from the team was you left town long before Holmgren and Reckert unpacked the trophies in their new offices. You said at the time you didn’t think that the Browns would pay your upcoming roster bonus. You were right, but you didn’t act like a guy that wanted to have a conversation with someone from the Browns. Maybe Holmgren should have called you a month ago and said, “Derek, we’re going to release you in a month, but I wanted to call you and thank you for your years of service.” Was there a more appropriate time for them to make a comment about your career in Cleveland than when your release was made official?

Derek Anderson was caught in a bad situation for the last couple years here, I’ll admit that. He played under two coaching staffs that didn’t have full confidence in him as a starter. Whether that assessment was fair, or whether Anderson’s success was sabotaged by a weak running game, or a dodgy offensive line, he didn’t get much of a chance to disprove the coaches’ assessment once Quinn arrived. That must have been frustrating. When he did get a chance, the result was OK, but not overwhelming.

Being a backup NFL quarterback is a frustrating position. The modern NFL team is structured around a particular quarterback, and the backup has to wait and wait for a slim chance to prove what he can do. If the second-stringer gets in a game, it usually means things aren’t going well already. As the focal point of the offense, the QB gets the blame even though the fault may actually lie with the offensive game plan, a weak line, subpar running backs, inexperienced receivers, or other factors. In the case of the Browns, the turnover in coaching, lack of quality players, indecision in quarterback assignments had to add to the frustration. However, it seems clear that if Anderson performed head and shoulders above his rivals, the Browns coaches wouldn’t have hesitated to hand him the ball. What did they have to lose?

If Anderson is frustrated, he should be able to relate to the frustration of the Browns fans, who he claims cheered his injury. The fans have put up  with mediocre ownership in the Modell years, the loss of the team, and more years of  futility since the Browns have returned to Cleveland. They weren’t cheering you getting hurt; they were cheering an end to a plan that wasn’t working. They were cheering a chance to move on and try something new. Instead of hurling insults, maybe that’s what you should be doing now, too, Derek.

Joe Bo, Investigative Reporter, Nails USC

March 2, 2010

Folks, you have to check out the fantastic stuff Joe Bodolai dug up on the USC/Reggie Bush fiasco. It’s on his web site:

Reggie Bush’s Paper Trail Isn’t Pretty

Don’t pass this up if you are a college football follower.