Friday, February 29

Savage Lands a Lineman

The Phil Savage era has been marked with at least one early signature signing in free agency each year; 2005 brought us Joe Anruzzi and Gary Baxter, in 2006 the Browns corralled LeCharles Bentley, Joe Jurevicius, and Kevin Shaffer, and last year Savage stole Eric Steinbach.

But when free agency opened at 12:01 Friday morning, the available free agents on the defensive front seven, the Browns’ primary area of need, amounted to little more than scraps. As Mansfield Lucas so eloquently stated yesterday, teams employed the franchise tag quite liberally this off-season, retaining several linemen and linebackers who could have helped resuscitate the Browns’ beleaguered front seven. With only a few bologna sandwiches available, Phil Savage had to get creative to land himself a steak.

That proverbial steak came in the form of Corey Williams, a defensive tackle from the Green Bay Packers. Savage dealt the Browns’ second round draft choice (their only day one pick, due to last year’s trade for Brady Quinn) to Green Bay in exchange for Williams. It’s 2:15 AM as I’m writing this, and as of now the Williams trade has been confirmed by multiple credible sources.

Williams played his college ball at Arkansas State before becoming a sixth round pick of the Packers back in 2004. At 6’ 4”, and tipping the scales at 313 pounds, Williams has the size the Browns need for their 3-4 defense, which requires beefy linemen capable of clogging the running lanes and occupying multiple blockers to let the havoc wreaking linebackers run free. Williams, 27 years old, has played four seasons in the NFL, posting seven sacks in each of the last two seasons, impressive numbers for an interior lineman. It’s also worth mentioning that Williams sports Ricky Vaughn’s number 99; always a positive.

Now the Browns need to determine where Williams will line up. It’s probably safe to assume that, barring injury, the opening day down lineman will be incumbents Robaire and Shaun Smith, teamed with Williams. At 314 pounds, Williams is the lightest Browns lineman, as Robaire and Shaun weigh in at 320 and 325 pounds, respectively. So although Williams played defensive tackle in Green Bay, it appears most likely that he will be moved to defensive end, opposite Robaire Smith, with Shaun Smith likely acting as the nose tackle. While Shaun Smith spent the majority of the season at defensive end, he thrived when presented with the opportunity to play at the nose, and hopefully he can carry that momentum into the ‘08 campaign. Needless to say, the Browns will try to add some depth on the defensive line via free agency and/or the Draft, but it seems extremely unlikely that they will add another big ticket lineman by way of free agency or another trade.

With Savage shipping away the Browns’ only remaining day one draft choice, let’s play the ever-stimulating speculation game. It’s not all that far-fetched to believe that Savage swapped away that second round pick because he believes that another team will sign Derek Anderson to an offer sheet, allowing the Browns to wave bon voyage to Anderson, which would net them the first and third round picks of whichever team snaps up DA. Savage had a good point when he said that if Anderson didn’t sign the Browns’ three-year offer (reportedly in the $20-21 million range, with approximately $10 million guaranteed), which he didn’t, his agents are probably confident that he will receive a larger deal from another team.

If Anderson signs with another team and the Browns decline to match the offer (an ever more likely scenario), then Savage would most likely enter the free agent market for a backup quarterback. Three names I like: Cleo Lemon, Josh McCown, and to a lesser extent, Billy Volek.

The Browns appear likely to address the linebacker position in free agency, even if the guy they really wanted, Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs, is unavailable due to the franchise tag. The hot name for the Browns right now is Arizona linebacker Calvin Pace. Pace is a beast at 6’ 4”, 272 pounds, and while he may not be the playmaker the Browns are looking for, he would definitely be an upgrade, and he’s an option the Browns should explore. Two lesser-known commodities that the Browns may consider are Clark Haggans of the Steelers, and Victor Hobson of the Jets.

The final position where the Browns should look to make a big splash in this year’s free agent pool is wide receiver. At 33, Joe Jurevicius is no spring chicken, and he suffered his share of nagging injuries last season. The Browns can count on Jurevicius for one more year, but after next season he may ponder retirement. By signing a quality receiver during this free agent period the Browns can address their lack of depth at wide receiver and also choose their heir-apparent to Jurevicius at the starting split end spot opposite B-17.

Bernard Berrian or Bryant Johnson would certainly look good in seal brown and burnt orange, but neither is likely to be cheap. If the Browns are in search of more cost-effective options, Jabar Gafney of the Patriots is a possibility. And don’t rule out a second Cleveland stint for Andre Davis, who would be a nice fit as the slot receiver. Most importantly, the Browns must add a free agent receiver so they don’t have to spend one of their early draft choices on a receiver in April.

Phil Savage may not bring us the free agent fireworks of years past, but this signing period is nonetheless crucial to the success of the ‘08 Browns. And if there’s one thing we know about Savage, it’s that he will leave no stone unturned in his quest to improve upon the team’s 2007 deficiencies.

Thursday, February 28

Random roundup

A quick comment on each of the city's three clubs:

Cavs: Wally Szczerbiak's wife gave birth to the couple's third child, which is named: Maximus Szczerbiak. Good luck with that, kid.

Tribe: We all remember 3rd-base coach Joel Skinner's decision not to send Kenny Lofton home in Fenway Park during last year's ALCS. A story in today's PD reveals that Skinner has not watched a video of the play. According to JS, "I can't afford to second-guess myself. I have to deal in the now."

Yes you can afford to second-guess yourself, if it helps you make better decisions in the future, or "the now." Players and coaches watch video all the time for this very reason. If you don't want to watch it because it's a bad memory, I can respect that, but don't pretend.

Browns: A fond farewell to Orpheus Roye, who for a number of years labored as arguably the best player on some really bad Browns clubs. A solid professional and team guy, I hope Browns fans appreciate what he contributed.

Monday, February 25

New-Look Cavs Tame Grizzlies

Well, that was easy. The post-trade Cavaliers trounced the Memphis Grizzlies 109-89 to stay a perfect 2-0 in a game that wasn’t as close as the 20 point differential on the scoreboard. (I’m not a math major, so I always make sure to check “The Diff” on The Q’s Jumbotron to take care of that troublesome subtraction.) Quicken Loans Arena was jumpin’, the four new Cavaliers were mostly solid, Austin Carr’s laugh was heard early and often, and the Cavs kept pace with the Orlando Magic (they remain three games behind the Floridians) in the race for the third seed in the Eastern Conference.

First Quarter
This quarter essentially decided the game. Cleveland out-shot Memphis 50 percent to 28 percent on their way to opening a 19-point advantage, which for all intents and purposes provided the margin of victory for the game (20 points).

The energy the Cavaliers displayed was remarkable, and by contrast illustrates just how stagnant and in need of a shakeup the roster had become. Memphis came out with a full-court press that they would utilize for most of the game with varying results. The press wasn’t a bad idea; almost half of the Cleveland roster was composed of new additions, and the press did give the Cavs problems from time to time due to their lack of chemistry. But ultimately the Cavs were just too talented for a beleaguered Memphis club that is now 1-10 since their front office donated Pau Gasol to the Los Angeles Lakers, a transaction which should be considered tax deductible.

The first quarter included a 17-2 Cavs rally, a hot-handed Damon Jones (3-3, 8 points), and a magnificent fast break alley-oop from Delonte West to LeBron James that brought the crowd to a fever pitch. Cleveland’s ball movement was outstanding, and the most telling statistic was that the Cavaliers had nine assists in the quarter, a rarity for this season’s club.

Author’s note: Starting in quarter number two, this became less of a game, and more of a “Welcome New Cavaliers” party, so bear with me if I cut the quarterly analysis short, but go a little long on post-game thoughts.

Quick Hits

Hello, Ben Wallace: Big Ben was the headliner of Thursday’s blockbuster trade, and for at least one game he exceeded any realistic expectations. Wallace logged 33 minutes, banking 12 points (tying a season-high), 10 rebounds, 2 steals and a block. Some of the complaints about Wallace in Chicago centered around his shot selection. No problem there; Wallace was a super-efficient 5-of-6 from the floor.

Wallace, who is quicker than most center/forwards, made a living on backdoor cuts to the hoop followed by emphatic dunks. With the attention LeBron James draws from opposing defenses, look for Wallace to get a lot of wide open cuts to the hoop, and look for James to find him more often than not. Big Ben appeared to be in his comfort zone, constantly cutting to the hoop, stonewalling Memphis defenders on picks, and rarely putting the ball on the floor. Apart from a couple of “whoops” turnovers, Wallace played within himself offensively, and that’s exactly what the Cavaliers need him to do.

But Wallace doesn’t make his money scoring the ball, and was most impressive on defense in his Cavaliers debut. On that side of the ball there is simply no comparison between Wallace and now ex-Cavalier Drew Gooden. Wallace cleaned up defensive rebounds all night long, disrupted shots, and gave opponents hell in the post. But Wallace’s defensive play of the game came late in the fourth quarter when he forced a five-second violation on a Memphis inbound pass by face guarding Memphis’ Kyle Lowry (a guard). That was the Ben Wallace of old, and hopefully he’s here to stay.

I’m far from sold, but here’s hoping that all Wallace needed was a change of scenery and a system that was a better fit for his skills.

Greetings, Wally Szczerbiak: Wally World was subbed into the game late in the first quarter along with Joe Smith, and he struggled to find a rhythm early on. Szczerbiak eventually recovered to salvage his evening, finishing 4-of-10 for 10 points including 2-of-4 from beyond the arc.

Szczerbiak’s biggest struggles were on defense, which is his Achilles’ heel. Wally was torched by some of Memphis’ young, quick guards, as he just doesn’t move laterally very well. In the end, Szczerbiak’s weaknesses on defense will keep him out of Mike Brown’s starting lineup, but he will still see 20-plus minutes per night off of the bench as instant offense.

Szczerbiak had arguably the least impressive debut of the new Cavaliers, but given his track record and his skills as a shooter, there’s little doubt that he’ll mesh well with LeBron and friends.

Aloha, Mr. Hand, err, Delonte West: On paper, Delonte West didn’t have a great night. Although he dished out six assists, grabbed three steals, and swatted a block, all against two turnovers, he was 2-of-12 from the field (1-of-5 from deep). But the box score doesn’t tell the whole story with Delonte West.

West likely assuaged many of the doubts about how effectively he can run the point in the Cleveland offense. His impact was felt immediately, as he pushed the ball up the floor authoritatively in the first quarter, a stark contrast from how Larry Hughes used to shuffle across the timeline. On the Cavs’ first offensive possession, West executed a pick and fade with Zydrunas Ilgauskas to perfection.

West’s energy was a welcome addition to the offense, and he continued to play under control for the balance of the game. It was a pleasant surprise to see that West and LeBron James didn’t appear to have trouble sharing the point guard duties, as LeBron basically served as the point guard about half of the time even when West was in the game. Regardless of whom the Cavs install as their point guard, James is always going to control the ball regularly, and given his tremendous passing ability that’s not a bad thing.

While West did struggle shooting the basketball, it was only one game, and in a debut such shooting problems can be chalked up to nerves or any number of other things. It’s difficult to come away from the game unimpressed with West’s prowess at the point. Delonte might be that elusive point guard that the Cavs have spent several seasons searching for.

Howdy, Joe Smith: The former number one overall pick (1995) from Maryland was the most overlooked player in Thursday’s trade, but against the Grizzlies he showed that he’s far from a mere throw-in. Smith had a terrific debut, shooting 6-for-8 for 14 points and snagging 6 rebounds.

The Cavaliers are Joe Smith’s eighth unique team (he had two separate stints in Minnesota) and while he’s a 32-year old journeyman power forward, he may prove to be one of Mike Brown’s favorite bench options. Smith is remarkably quick and athletic for a player his size, and perhaps more importantly, his age. The first thing that stands out about Smith’s game is his marksmanship as a jump shooter, as he has the ability to stretch the floor much like Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Smith’s jumper has an uncharacteristically high arc for a big man, and he should help solidify what will be one of the deepest benches in the league once guys like Gibson, Pavlovic, and Varejao heal up.

Smith has the versatility to play any of the three frontcourt positions, although he’s best suited as a power forward. With Ilgauskas, James, Varejao, and now Smith and Wallace, it’s not an exaggeration to suggest that the Cavaliers may have the best, and certainly the deepest frontcourt in the league. Especially with the rebounding skills of Ilgauskas, James, Varejao and Wallace, the Cavaliers are going to give opponents nightmares on the glass.

Hakim the Dream? The play of third year forward Hakim Warrick was one of the few bright spots for the Grizzlies. Coming out of Syracuse, Warrick was an intriguing professional prospect; he was extremely athletic and capable of putting up huge numbers, but he was also wildly inconsistent. Memphis picked him 19th overall in 2005, and after a strong sophomore campaign during which he averaged more than 12 points and 5 rebounds per game, Warrick’s numbers have dipped this season due to reduced playing time.

But after the Lakers won a free Pau Gasol, Warrick has seen a bump in playing time, and hence an increase in production. Warrick has scored more than 20 points in five of the Grizzlies’ last six games, and he might be playing his way into starting in the Memphis frontcourt for years to come.

Fool Me Once, Shame On You: The Cavs’ last meeting with the Grizz resulted in a 132-124 thrilling overtime victory. Rudy Gay and Juan Carlos Navarro burned the Cavs for 30 and 26 points, respectively, the first time around. This time the Cavs did a better job containing Memphis’ young guns.

Navarro had only 14 points, while Gay had 19. Those are still solid numbers, but they weren’t nearly enough for the Mike Miller-less Grizzlies to make a game of things. Considering that Memphis was facing a large deficit almost all game long, it’s surprising that Navarro only took four three pointers (2-of-4), after he drained 6-of-10 the last time the two clubs met.

“Brownie, You’re Doin’ a Heck of a Job”: Big ups to Devin Brown, one of the Cavs’ few off-season additions, who has proven to be an excellent depth player. Brown started his second consecutive game and quietly posted six assists after dishing out seven assists on Friday night. A solid defender, Brown has been one of the few constants on Mike Brown’s roster this season, consistently providing quality minutes. Danny Ferry’s signing of Brown went largely unnoticed, but the addition of Brown, not unlike the Ron Flip Murray trade two seasons ago, is a move for which Ferry deserves some props.

LeBron’s Line: 25 points, 11 assists, 7 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 block, 6 turnovers. Except for the double-digit assists and the uncharacteristically high turnover numbers, it was a fairly ho-hum game for King James. The blowout did allow James some much earned rest, as he played under 40 minutes for the first time since the Cavs were stomped by the Nuggets back on February 10th. Generally, LeBron seemed in sync with his new teammates.

I’m going to criticize LeBron here, so skip this paragraph if you don’t like to speak ill of The Chosen One. The Cavs had outstanding ball movement throughout the first half, but they started to look sluggish in the third quarter. Why? Because LeBron started holding the ball and subsequently trying to take his man one on one. This is one of the few times I’ll ever criticize LeBron, but I think that he stalls the offense sometimes when he starts to hold the ball for five, six, seven seconds at a time. When LeBron gets into this frame of mind, the rest of the team falls victim to “LeBron watching,” and Mike Brown’s supposed “motion” offense grinds to a halt. Alright, LeBron-bashing complete. I half-expected to be hit by lightning for blasphemy while writing that.

Digiorno Pizza® Austin Carr Quote of the Game: [referring to the Cavs’ need for quality human beings, not just quality basketball players] “You need somebody that you can say, ‘you cover my back, I’ll cover your back, and we can cover this whole situation.’”

Good Luck Chuck
: Chuck Yarborough, have you ever heard of this guy? Apparently he’s a reporter for the Plain Dealer, although I don’t know him because he doesn’t write about sports. (I don’t subscribe to the PD, I freeload on Regardless, he was under one of the baskets filming for what Fred McLeod kept calling “Chuck Cam,” which is pretty much just a camera next to the hoop that has lousy resolution, and pretty much a total waste of our time. Not to mention that Yarborough looks like a grizzled old scallywag; you could toss him into a lineup of extras from Pirates of the Carribbean, and you wouldn’t be able to pick out the newspaper reporter, but I digress…

See You Later Alligator: The Bulls lost to the Rockets 110-97 on Sunday. Drew Gooden had 12 points, 8 boards, a block, and 3 turnovers. Larry Hughes had 13 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 turnovers. Cedric Simmons scored two points. All three players came off of the bench.

After ‘While, Crocodile: The SuperSonics fell to the Lakers 111-91, and Ira Newble had two points and an assist coming off of the bench. Donyell Marshall did not play, and managed to keep his shirt on.

The Cleveland Cavaliers Will Return: Tuesday night at 8:00, when they take the short trip to Milwaukee, a city home to the Milwaukee Bucks and a city frequented by Alice Cooper (“WE ARE NOT WORTHY!”). The Cavs won their last meeting with the Bucks on December 17th, 104-99, when LeBron poured in 31 points. Four of the Cavaliers’ next five games come against the dregs of the league, and they need to mop up accordingly.

Sunday, February 24

Welcome to Cleveland

I think these new fellows might work out OK.

Analyzing the analysis

Since I don't have the inclination to do the sort of in-depth analysis Nick provided, I'm just going to piggy-back his and offer my own thoughts. Also: mine will appear above him on the page and look more important since I wrote it later.

When I first learnt of the mega deal

that Danny Ferry and the Cavs had swung, I was completely and utterly shocked. Shocked: both that the Cavs were able to unload their resident albatross, Larry Hughes, and that they were able to add some quality pieces in the process. I wasn’t thrilled with the trade, but I was certainly pleased. The Cavaliers are probably still a few key guys away from having a championship club, but this deal appears to bring them closer to that ultimate goal.
I was also pretty surprised to hear about the deal and Nick, you were in fact thrilled. It's definitely a bold move for the Cavs. I balked at it at first, but I've come to appreciate it, at least on paper. We don't lose salary-cap flexibility (Hughes and Wallace essentially cancel) and seem to have gotten significantly better (though thinner on the bench; trading 6 players for 4 will do that) in the short-term.

Much to my surprise, the reviews of this trade among fans and talking heads, err, media members, have been extremely mixed.
Bayless, as Nick pointed out, is an ass, and Pluto's take was balanced and restrained. Like Terry says, the impact of the deal can't be properly judged until after this postseason. Bill Simmons summed it up nicely by saying that any deal where one team ends up with 4 of the best 5 players has to be considered a success for that team. Now, onto these trade myths...

“Ferry didn’t get a point guard!”
Like who? Bibby? Kidd? Byron Scott? Me? People never seem to tire of complaining about us not acquiring non-existent players. All the CaVs need is a top-flight PG, as if they grow on trees. All the Tribe needs is a big bat in left field, available at your local Big Bats in Left Field store (on sale!) All the Browns need is an entire defense. Well, that one's almost true.

“Larry Hughes was healthy and playing good basketball!”
I'll defer to Nick's analysis of this.

“Ben Wallace is washed up!”
I said that, and I'm still not convinced that he'll be the key player here. I'm more interested in the other acquisitions. Wallace isn't the player he was, and I wonder how he'll coexist with Varejao. I hope the other guys can replace the scoring dropoff from Gooden to Wallace.

“Wally Szczerbiak can’t replace Larry Hughes’ scoring!”
Szczerbiak, to me, seems well suited to the Cavs style of play - how can you guard this guy AND LeBron?

“Drew Gooden was one of the Cavs’ best players, and a damn good rebounder!”
Why are all these people lodging their complaints with exclamation points? Isn't anyone just talking? Anyway, I think Nick was a bit harsh on Gooden - he was indeed one of our top players and very good on the glass. My take is that you have to give up something to get something. Gooden was our something, but he's not an elite player, and it's a loss I'm comfortable with.

“Ferry just traded one bad contract for another!”
Yep. See previous comment re: something/something. Did you expect that we could get the best players AND make a salary dump? We weren't trading with Memphis, after all.

“Trading six players is too much turnover!”
I don't see how losing Newble, Brown, Simmons, and Marshall can possibly be construed as a negative. Not ever playing Brown while he was here - there you might have a point.

“Hughes’ departure leaves the Cavs’ perimeter defense vulnerable!”
Oh well. If there's one thing we learned during last year's playoff run, it's that Mike Brown can coach good team defense even when not handed especially good individual defenders. If Brown can continue to do so and integrate Wallace's presence, we'll be just fine defensively.

“What’s going to happen to all of the ‘Loudville’ section names?!”
I feel like every time I went to a game I ended up in Ira's Newblehood - I'm excited to try out some new locales.

Hopefully I'll soon find myself enjoying a Cavs win in “West's Wing,” “Joe’s Jungle,” or as one of “Ben’s Bitches” . I'm not even going to try to beat "Wally World.”

Saturday, February 23

Trade Myths Debunked

When I first learnt of the mega deal that Danny Ferry and the Cavs had swung, I was completely and utterly shocked. Shocked: both that the Cavs were able to unload their resident albatross, Larry Hughes, and that they were able to add some quality pieces in the process. I wasn’t thrilled with the trade, but I was certainly pleased. The Cavaliers are probably still a few key guys away from having a championship club, but this deal appears to bring them closer to that ultimate goal.

Much to my surprise, the reviews of this trade among fans and talking heads, err, media members, have been extremely mixed. Skip Bayless, the man who is most directly responsible for my penchant for yelling at my television set, didn’t think that this trade improves the Cavaliers. Bayless also called Larry Hughes one of the league’s most underrated players, declared that LeBron James’ triple-double on Tuesday night was a “D-minus performance,” and has taken to using the moniker “Prince James” when referring to LBJ, as if to suggest that James is all hype. Excuse me if I consider Bayless’ credibility completely shot; I don’t trust this fellow’s opinion on anything from basketball to badminton.

As far as I’m concerned, opinions from the majority of non-Cleveland sports writers on this deal are pure codswallop; most of these folks simply don’t watch very much Cleveland basketball. I’m more concerned with what someone who knows the team, like Terry Pluto (otherwise known as the only readable Cavs writer at the Plain Dealer) has to say, and Pluto thinks that the trade improves the team.

But many fans don’t like the deal. In fact, the doubters might not be the minority at this point. The trade’s skeptics have been spewing out various declarations, many of which are both unsubstantiated and ill-informed, as to why Danny Ferry shouldn’t have pulled the trigger on this deal. Never mind that most of these whiners are probably the same ladies and gentlemen who were clamoring for Ferry to do something (anything!) in the days leading up to the deadline, because it’s not the issue here. The topic at hand centers around a variety of assertions about the trade, which are primarily fiction. Let’s get to it.

“Ferry didn’t get a point guard!”
On paper, that’s true; the Cavs didn’t acquire a pure point guard. On the other hand, the only ball handler that Ferry traded away was Larry Hughes, who was an average shooting guard masquerading as a point guard. Hughes, the king of the boneheaded turnover, was not much more than an average ball handler by point guard standards, and by the same standard was a below average distributor.

Delonte West is a good basketball player when he can stay healthy, and he should fit in with the Cavaliers better than Hughes did. West is a better ball handler than Hughes, and while he isn’t a pure point guard (he’s more of a combo guard), he’s closer than Hughes ever will be. Unlike Hughes, West isn’t a chucker. In other words, say goodbye to Hughes’ 12 shots per game at a 37.7 percent clip (34.1 percent from downtown). West’s also a better spot up shooter than Hughes, and he can nail the stroke the three at about 40 percent.

Furthermore, why does everyone insist that the Cavaliers need a traditional point guard? Sure, having a Jason Kidd looks great on paper, but Kidd’s a guy who absolutely dominates the basketball. LeBron James is one of the league’s finest passers, and whenever he’s passing the ball or driving, good things happen for the Cavs. Clearly, you need someone to take the heat off of LeBron from time to time and prevent the opposition from constantly trapping him, and West is certainly good enough to do that. As long as LeBron’s on this team, they won’t need a stereotypical point guard to be successful, and to think that they will is an example of uncreative thinking.

“Larry Hughes was healthy and playing good basketball!”

Yep, and that’s why Danny Ferry was brilliant to sell high on Leapin’ Larry. In ten full NBA seasons, Larry Hughes has played 70-plus games only twice, but he’s played 50 or fewer games five times. Translation: Hughes is really, really, ridiculously injury-prone. Hughes makes Lee Suggs look like Lou Gehrig.

Granted, Hughes’ scoring was up in February; he’d averaged 19 points per game for the month. However, he was still shooting just a hair above 43 percent in February, during what was easily his best three weeks wearing wine and gold. Hughes is a 41 percent career shooter, and a 29.6 percent career three point shooter. During his two full seasons in Cleveland, he shot only 40.9 and 40 percent, respectively. He had the ability to short-circuit possessions with a single ill-advised jumper from a foot inside the three point line.

Larry Hughes has never scored with any regular efficiency or volume in Cleveland, and he’s taken countless lousy, miserable shots. The smart money says that Hughes’ February was an aberration - a mere peak on the graph - and that sooner or later (probably sooner) “I heart strippers (and bad jumpers)” Larry would reemerge. Danny Ferry did what any savvy businessman does; he sold high on a volatile, overvalued asset.

“Ben Wallace is washed up!”

I disagree. Wallace probably isn’t the same player he was in Detroit, but he still has some petrol left in the tank.

The guy is still jacked and in great shape, and he hasn’t suffered any major injuries while playing for the Bulls, so something else must have been wrong in Chicago. Of course, Wallace didn’t always get along with now ex-Bulls coach Scott Skiles; their much-publicized and exceedingly silly feud over Wallace’s headband being the best example.

But the bigger problem was what the Bulls were asking of Wallace. Chicago signed Wallace to a 4-year, $60 million contract, hoping that he would be the low post scorer they’d coveted for years. Unfortunately, it was a drastic miscalculation of Wallace’s skill set on Chicago’s part, and for over a season and a half Wallace has been one of the most misused and disappointing players in the NBA.

Ben Wallace is not a low post scorer, nor is he a true center. Wallace needs to be teamed with another quality big man, and it’s no secret that Chicago was never able to land that player. Big Ben was outstanding during his six years in Detroit, especially after the Pistons traded for Rasheed Wallace in 2004. Rasheed Wallace is a big man who can stretch the floor. Does Sheed remind you of anyone who plays in Cleveland?

Assuming that Wallace starts, and that seems a virtual certainty, Zydrunas Ilgauskas will likely complement him far better than anyone in Chicago ever did. Wallace might not be able to return to his Detroit form, but he will be vastly superior to his Chicago version. Consider that Wallace, one of the league’s best interior defenders, will be replacing Drew Gooden, who was an invisible man on defense. At least from a defensive perspective, swapping Gooden for Wallace is an incredible upgrade.

“Wally Szczerbiak can’t replace Larry Hughes’ scoring!”
This season Szczerbiak is averaging 13.1 points in about 24 minutes per game, shooting 46 percent from the field and 42.8 percent from three. Hughes was averaging 12.3 points in 30 minutes per game, shooting 37.7 percent from the field and 34.1 percent from three. Any questions?

“Drew Gooden was one of the Cavs’ best players, and a damn good rebounder!”
After Carlos Boozer duped Jim Paxson into tearing up his contract, I became a huge Drew Gooden fan, mostly because he was a serviceable option at the four and the Cavs were very fortunate that Orlando was selling surplus power forwards on the cheap. But Gooden’s performance has dipped during his last two seasons in Cleveland. Take a look at some of Gooden’s stats from his three and a half seasons in the Forest City.

‘04-‘05: 14.4 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 49.2 FG%
‘05-‘06: 10.7 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 51.2 FG%
‘06-‘07: 11.1 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 47.3 FG%
‘07-‘08: 11.3 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 44.4 FG%

While Gooden’s never been able to develop into a premier scorer, namely that all-important second option to LeBron, at least his rebounding numbers have been consistent. That said, Gooden’s scoring has become alarmingly less efficient in over the last two seasons, with his shooting percentage dropping by almost seven full points. Power forwards and centers need to shoot in at least the high 40s, and don’t think for a second that Danny Ferry was unaware of the diminishing returns that the Cavs were receiving from Gooden.

It’s not all that complex, really. Gooden has fallen more and more in love with his jump shot over the last few years, choosing to make the eight to twelve foot baseline jumper his bread and butter. While Gooden is a pretty good jump shooter for a power forward, you don’t want the majority of your power forward’s shots to be midrange baseline jumpers.

To be honest, Gooden’s affinity for his jump shot is a microcosm of his perennial underachievement. Drew Gooden is a very talented player, but he’s never going to be a star in the NBA because he’s not a very smart player. How many times has Gooden let his temper get the best of him in recent years, causing him to play carelessly for the next several possessions? Moreover, Gooden’s defense has never shown any marked improvement during his three-plus seasons in Cleveland. Considering the importance that Mike Brown places on defense, that tells you something about Gooden.

Here’s the bottom line: the Cavs unloaded an underachieving, jump shooting power forward who was a solid if unspectacular rebounder, and a defensive liability. I can live with that.

“Ferry just traded one bad contract for another!”
Unfortunately, that’s the nature of the beast when it comes to NBA trades. Teams are constantly trying to get under the cap and rid themselves of bad contracts (i.e. Hughes, Wallace). The Bulls and Cavs were both over the salary cap prior to the trade’s consummation, so neither team could receive more than 125 percent plus $100,000 of the salaries they traded away in return. In other words, if you’re over the cap, you can’t keep loading up on big contracts without trading away a contract of approximate equality. That’s the reason why the Cavs couldn’t trade Hughes for a box of fresh Wyoming air. For more details about the NBA’s unnecessarily complex salary cap rules, check here.

“Trading six players is too much turnover!”

True, trading that many players this late in the season is uncommon but the majority of the players Danny Ferry traded away were not key components of Mike Brown’s rotation. Obviously Drew Gooden and Larry Hughes were starters, but Shannon Brown, Donyell Marshall, and Cedric Simmons have all either been injured, riding the pine, or have spent most of the season sitting on the bench is street clothes. Ira Newble was starting at the time of the trade, but that was merely through necessity due to various team injuries. There’s a reason that Ira Newble had been buried on the bench for the better part of three seasons: he’s not very good.

The challenge will now be for Mike Brown to integrate the four new Cavaliers into the existing system. While that will be difficult, the trade undoubtedly makes the Cavs a more talented bunch, and finding spots for talented players to play is an awfully nice problem to have.

“Hughes’ departure leaves the Cavs’ perimeter defense vulnerable!”

This is one fact that I’m willing to concede. Cleveland’s perimeter defense will suffer without Hughes. But although Hughes may have been the Cavs’ best perimeter defender, but he still was not a lockdown defender in the mould of Ron Artest or Bruce Bowen. While that doesn’t change the fact that Hughes’ exodus definitely weakens the Cavs’ perimeter defense, that might be more than offset by the degree to which Ben Wallace will upgrade the interior defense.

Add to that the development of LeBron James as a defender, and the fact that Delonte West is no defensive slouch himself (though Judge Smails is a tremendous slouch), and I’ll take my chances dumping Hughes and his rim-bending jumpers. Hughes is a good defender, but the Cavs have overrated his defense from day one to justify his signing. It was a total joke when Hughes was named First Team All-NBA Defense after the ‘04-‘05 season. Hughes is a good defender, but he’s extremely replaceable.

“What’s going to happen to all of the ‘Loudville’ section names?!”
That’s a good question, and it’s definitely going to be a rough transition. Gone are “Drew’s Crew,” “Shannon’s Shooting Stars,” “‘Yell’s Angel’s,” “Ira’s Newblehood,” “Boog’s Bunch” (has anyone ever heard of Hughes being called “Boog?”), and “Justin’s Wing” (Justin is Hughes’ deceased younger brother).

Some suggestions: “Ben’s (Corn)Rows,” “Wild Wild West,” “Joe’s Shmoes,” and the fairly obvious “Wally World.” It won’t be the same without “Ira’s Newblehood,” but I have a feeling that somehow, the fans at The Q will get by.

Thursday, February 21

All-sport team rankings

Thought I'd put this out here to see where my priorities currently are. I wrote about this on my main blog and have here restricted it to the major sports. The Cleveland Gladiators may crack this list before long.

1) Cleveland Indians (#1 with a bullet)
2) Cleveland Browns (They were #2 even when they sucked!)
3) Cleveland Cavaliers (I've been really enjoying the Cavs and the NBA)
4) Ohio State Buckeyes Football (this says something about the Cleveland teams when the Buckeyes have been so successful and still only place this high)
5) Pittsburgh Penguins (I know, this is an Ohio sports blog, but this is how things are)
6) Cleveland State basketball (A rising star)
7) Pittsburgh Panthers/Ohio State Buckeyes basketball (I'm a major college hoops bigamist)
8) Lake Erie Monsters
9) Pittsburgh Pirates (my NL team; nothing more)

Saturday, February 16

Awwwww daaaaamn!

That overblown reaction can mean only one thing: NBA All-Star Weekend!

Things got off to a fine start Friday night as the Rookies continued to play the Washington Generals to the Sophomores' Harlem Globetrotters, losing by an approximate score of 267-213. The Rookies were led by the Cavaliers' Daniel Gibson, who drilled a game-record 11 three-balls for 33 points. ¡En fuego! I liked seeing Boobie shave an (all) star into his head as well - nice touch.

The real festivities are Saturday night, taking place as I write this. The NBA continued its laughable effort to involve the WNBA with whatever the first contest was called where they have an NBA player, a retired player, and a WNBA player team up to do...something. I cannot and will not understand the rules of this game, though it was good to see David Robinson out there knocking down threes.

Chris Paul and Deron Williams showed pretty clearly why they're the two top young point guards in the NBA with a duel in the Skills Competition. Hometown hero Paul made the finals, where Williams won with a course-record performance.

The Dunk Contest is the marquee event, as always. As fashionable as it has become to pick on this event, it's still pretty fun to watch. Why all the haters? It won't ever get back to its late-'80's heyday, but it's still a fun event. I'm pulling for Jamario Moon, who I was a fan of last year when he played for the Albany Patroons. I'm happy to see him break into the Association and be successful. Onto the dunks:

First Round
Moon: Serious athleticism here, with an impressive self-alley-oop on dunk one and near-free-throw line jump with help from Jason Kapono for his second effort. 90 points seems about right.

Gerald Green: How is this guy leading Moon? He opened with the gimmicky "birthday cake" dunk, where he blew out a candle on a cupcake sitting atop the rim on a dunk and then did a fairly standard windmill off a lob from a teammate. No reason he should be leading Moon with 91 here.

Rudy Gay: Thanks for coming out, man. The first dunk was uncreative and pretty much iced his chances. Loved the behind-the-hoop bounce off the support from the teammate - one of the night's best.

Dwight Howard: Wow. See the title of this post? Yeah. That was absolutely tremendous. First up he bounces one off the backboard and dunks it. The back of the backboard, that is. Ridiculous. Then he puts on a Superman cape and puts home an alley-oop from a teammate, jumping roughly 24 feet high and throwing it downward into the bucket. A well-deserved 100.

I'm still bothered that Green is here instead of Moon, but we'll get through this. Howard must somehow have two dunks better than those in his back pocket, which I can't imagine.

Green (first): I picked on him earlier, but nice opening salvo: between the legs in mid-air off a teammate's bounce. Looked 9-ish to me, maybe 9.5. I love the grade inflation of the Slam Dunk contest. If someone got up there and did a straight one-hand dunk and barely got it down, would that be a "1"?

Howard (first): I totally forgot about him putting that sticker of himself on the board last year. This guy must have a lot of free time for ideas. Getting back to 2008, I'm running out of words for awesome here. Somehow he jumps, takes a self-bounce alley-oop, bounces the ball off the backboard in mid-air with his left hand and dunks it with his right. I didn't even understand it the first time. Another 10.

Green: Green socks=white flag. Note: Dr. J. later makes an overly long and somber speech where he says this is harder than it looks, which is pretty much the opposite of what you want to do in the Slam Dunk contest.

Howard: Your two-time champion. Denied a chance to raise the board to 12 feet, Howard grabs the ball off a mini-Magic-hoop that Jameer Nelson stuck on the bankboard, windmills it, and puts it home. Dwight Howard is the man.

An entertaining evening, though once again fewer reaction shots from the players' bench. They should at least have a picture-in-picture for the All-Stars courtside going nuts.

Thursday, February 14

Indiana Jones IV trailer released!

Anybody else feel like a little kid again?

Wednesday, February 13

Proposed Clemens/McNamee Endgame

Two words.

Judge. Judy.

Monday, February 11

Hide the Women & Children

Entering a January 27 match up with the Los Angeles Lakers, the Cavaliers weren’t exactly streaking, but they had certainly donned their flesh-tone body suits. Then the injury bug struck. With Sasha Pavlovic already sidelined, Anderson Varejao was shelved in that clash with the boys from LALA Land, Drew Gooden suffered a similar fate against the Celtics last Tuesday, and Daniel Gibson strained a hamstring in Houston last Thursday. Four of Cleveland’s seven best players were down for the count.

But then the Cavs responded with what has become their modus operandi over the last couple of seasons; they won a game in Atlanta that they had no business winning. The grit shown by the injury-plagued Cavaliers in their 100-95 Friday win over the Atlanta Hawks was quite stirring, but on Sunday night the Cavs simply didn’t have the horses to run with the visiting Nuggets.

Quarterly Analysis

First Quarter
The opening few minutes of the ballgame were ultimately the only time the Cavaliers were within shouting distance of the Nuggets. Drew Gooden was a late scratch, and combined with the injury to Anderson Varejao, the Cavs were extremely limited at center and at the four for the third straight game.

Allen Iverson remains the perfect storm for the Cavaliers’ defense; a quick guard who can burn defenders off the dribble, score, and also distribute. Carmelo Anthony poured in 15 first quarter points and helped fuel a Denver team that clearly wanted to run the floor against the shorthanded Cavaliers. Denver came out swinging, throwing an early haymaker at the Cavs in the form of a 16-0 run from which Cleveland never was able to recover.

Second Quarter

The Cavs hung around for much of the second quarter but eventually the numbers caught up with them, as the Nuggets were at one point out-shooting them 61-percent to 35-percent. Denver effectively exposed the Cavaliers’ sore lack of depth behind Zydrunas Ilgauskas, having their way with the Cavs in the paint on both ends of the floor when the Lanky Lithuanian was riding the pine.

JR Smith canned three triples in the period, and combined with the Cavaliers’ 10 first half turnovers the Nuggets were able to open up an 18-point lead by halftime.

Third Quarter

The third stanza marked Cleveland’s last chance to mount any semblance of a comeback. The closest that the Cavs ever came was when they whittled the lead back down to 15 following a few missed Denver layups, but with a bare cupboard Coach Brown’s troops could never put together a full-fledged run.

Although the Cavs were able to find some decent shots, the long jumpers just weren’t falling. Without any trace of effective outside shooting the Cavs could never climb back into the game. This game may have been significantly closer had Daniel Gibson been able to play.

Fourth Quarter

With the Cavs set to play in Orlando on Monday, Mike Brown officially raised the white flag, resting LeBron James for most of the fourth quarter. That’s when things really got ugly. The Nuggets nearly pushed their lead to forty in the final period, and a few late Cleveland buckets made this game look closer than it really was.

Following the team’s example, the majority of the fans packed it in early, and by the end of the game The Q was almost as empty as The Meadowlands during the Browns’ rainy victory over the Jets on December 9th.

Quick Hits

Ageless Wonder:
Allen Iverson will turn 33 in June, but this guy is showing no signs of slowing down. You would think that a guy like AI, who relies heavily on his superior speed and quickness, would be far less effective when he started getting long in the tooth and lost a step or two; the thing is, Iverson hasn’t lost a step. Iverson, who might be the President of the Cavalier Killers, shot 50-percent from field on his way to scoring 25 points and dishing out 13 rebounds, all while taking care of the basketball by committing no turnovers.

With the Second Pick in the 2003 NBA Draft:
The Detroit Pistons select Darko Milicic, walking punch line. Thank God they didn’t take Carmelo Anthony. Can you imagine how tough the already rock solid Pistons would be with a 25-per-night guy like ‘Melo, as well? Carmelo’s 15-point first quarter eruption helped put the game out of reach very early on.

Fantasy Freak:
Marcus Camby, frequently overlooked in fantasy drafts, stuffed the stat sheet with eight points, two assists, two blocks, three steals, and a Rodman-esque 17 boards. Although he’s not a fan of the NBA Dress Code, Camby took the Cavs to the cleaners.

LeBron’s Line: 30 points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals, and five turnovers. LeBron was able to keep the Cavs within striking distance almost single-handedly until the Nuggets started to pull away in the second quarter. In all fairness, LeBron should have had more assists, but the lousy shooting by the rest of the Cavaliers (the team shot a noisome 34.4-percent, although LeBron was 11-for-23) meant that many of James’ potential assists bounced harmlessly off of the rim. Also, several of LeBron’s five turnovers were due to dropped passes by the King’s supporting cast. Encouraging numbers: James was 2-for-5 (40-percent) from beyond the arc, and a perfect 6-for-6 on foul shots.

DiGiorno Pizza® Austin Carr Quote of the Game: [referring to Allen Iverson’s injured left hand] “You know what we’d do in the old days? As soon as he puts the ball on the floor with that left hand, come down on it right away. Let’s see how hurt it is…”

Getting Hurt: Damon Jones sprained his right ankle in the second half, and ESPN’s sideline reporter called the injury “day-to-day.” Losing Jones for any extended period of time would seriously hinder the Cavs’ long-range game, which is already limping with Daniel Gibson nursing a strained right hamstring.

Getting Healthy: While Anderson Varejao should be out until after the All-Star break, and Sasha Pavlovic won’t be back until at least April, Drew Gooden was a late scratch last night. That means that there’s a decent chance Gooden will play tonight in Orlando, which means there’s a decent chance that we will see much less of Donyell Marshall, which means there’s a decent chance that Marshall’s ghastly missed jumpers won’t make me punch another hole in my wall tonight. Also, Daniel Gibson is listed as day-to-day, so he will definitely return after the All-Star break, if not sooner.

Speaking of Donyell Marshall: Sunday wasn’t his finest moment; on one third quarter possession he threw up a patented Donyell Marshall airball three, missing the rim literally by feet. Two possessions later he wasn’t ready for a LeBron James pass under the basket, creating a Cleveland turnover. I’m not just trying to rag on Marshall, because although he’s long passed his prime, he can still be a serviceable reserve power forward (don’t go back, you read correctly). If Marshall is kept in the paint, his freakishly long arms make him a solid rebounder and give him a good chance to luck into a tip-in, Zydrunas Ilgauskas-style. But when Donyell plants himself in his favorite spot on the court (corner baseline), what you get is a 34-year old chucker with a three-point shot that’s flatter than a laser beam. You also get scads of fast break opportunities for the opposition when Marshall’s missed treys go clanging off of the rim.

Shannon Brown Sighting! Danny Ferry’s 2006 first round pick saw some minutes during garbage time and managed to hit a few shots, including a late three. Mike Brown’s dissatisfaction with the former Michigan State Spartan is obvious, as Shannon Brown has made his way into the twilight zone of Mike Brown’s rotation. Honestly, Brown probably spent more time on the court while filming that goofy McDonald’s commercial from last season than he has during games. While Brown is obviously a raw talent, he might be the most athletic player on the team outside of the LeBron James. (That’s like being the best golfer that isn’t named Tiger Woods, but I digress…) If the Cavs let Brown walk after this season, which is being speculated, is there anyone who doesn’t think this guy will catch on somewhere else and leave the Cavs kicking themselves yet again (think: Jason Kapono)? Shannon Brown deserves a longer look. For that matter, so does Cedric Simmons.

Welcome to Ira’s Newblehood: For several seasons Cleveland fans have been making Ira Newble the butt of their jokes. It’s not undeservedly so; Newble has been yet another free agent flop. That said, he’s given the depleted Cavs some valuable minutes of late, playing out of position at power forward, and doing so with his face stitched up like Frankenstein compliments of a well-placed Zydrunas Ilgauskas elbow. Newble almost certainly will be gone when his contract expires at the end of the year, but after playing only 51 games during the last two seasons and having every right to be disgruntled, he deserves some credit for answering Coach Brown’s call to arms this season.

‘Melo Owns LeBron: Not really, but the Nuggets own the Cavaliers. Denver has now downed the Cavaliers in five straight games, and we can safely put the Nuggets on the list of the Cavs’ “problem teams.” In just two games this season, the Nuggets have beaten the Cavs by a combined 52 points. But outside of the unlikely circumstance that both teams end up in the NBA Finals, the Cavaliers thankfully won’t see the Nuggets until next season.

(What’s left of) The Cleveland Cavaliers Will Return: Tonight, when they travel to Amway Arena to butt heads with the Orlando Magic at 7:00. This is a significant game because the Cavaliers trail the Magic by only three games for third place in the Eastern Conference. Let’s hope Drew Gooden is good to go so he can hit the floor and give his former team some payback.

Sunday, February 10

Well done, lads

I felt something watching the Cavs drop by Philips Arena and take down the Hawks 100-95 on Friday night, a feeling that people don't often associate with their professional sports teams.


I felt proud of the Cavs, my favorite basketball team. They were going into a building where the hosts had posted three solid home wins in a row against quality teams, were playing the second night of a road back-to-back where the night before they had been handled by a tough, big, healthy Rockets squad, and were missing four of their top players (Varejao, Gooden, Gibson, Pavlovic). With just a week before the All-Star game, this one would have been all to easy to mail in.

But the Cavs did no such thing, a credit to the surviving members of the roster and Coach Brown. The Wine and Gold played an all-around tough game, getting big contributions from role players (18 points for Ira Newble, 13 from Damon Jones, and 5 assists and roughly 8 steals from Eric Snow) and the usual suspects (LeBron with 26/11/7 and Z with 17/11), they worked hard for rebounds and loose balls, made big plays down the stretch, and left Atlanta with a nice W. Not just any W, but the kind of W that Cavs could really be proud of. Nice work, gentlemen.

Friday, February 8


As per the Plain Dealer, Browns tight end Kellen Winslow II reportedly intends to renegotiate his contract sometime in the near future. Winslow expressed said aspirations during a Thursday interview with Sirius NFL Radio, stating, “When I got hurt (in 2005) the contract got renegotiated so some things changed but I think I've proven these past two years that I'm one of the elite tight ends.” When later asked directly whether or not he wants a new contract, Winslow replied, “Yeah. Hope so. Hope so.”

Winslow’s comments will no doubt come as a mild surprise and a definite disappointment to most Browns fans, as they represent a stark contrast from the team-oriented, media-friendly workhorse version of Winslow we were privy to in ‘07. After a tumultuous 2006 season during which Winslow and teammate Braylon Edwards created clubhouse problems and were Browns’ resident divas, it was equally refreshing and shocking to see each of the team’s uber talented receivers toe the line last season. But locker room malcontents are often prone to relapses, and perhaps we’re seeing that with Winslow.

There were certainly warning signs that Winslow was pondering a renegotiation. Remember when Winslow cut his ties to the controversial Poston brothers in June, instead electing to hire the infamous Drew Rosenhaus? Bob Sugar, er, Rosenhaus, is known for his high profile NFL clients, who include Plaxico Burress, Frank Gore, Chad Johnson, Willis McGahee, Terrell Owens, and Jeremy Shockey, among others. But Rosenhaus is almost certainly best-known for his representation of Terrell Owens during Owens’ well-publicized holdout of summer 2005. If you’re an NFL superstar, and you want to renegotiate your contract, you’re probably going to give Rosenhaus a ring. Winslow’s hiring of Rosenhaus should have been seen as a clear red flag by the Browns: the Soldier was looking for a financial promotion.

I can see where Winslow’s coming from because as the old adage goes, NFL stands for “Not For Long.” Contracts in Major League Baseball and the NBA are guaranteed; when the Cavaliers sign Larry Hughes for $65 million, unfortunately, they have to pay him every freaking dime. In the NFL, the only money that’s guaranteed is the signing bonus, which is why the onus is always on player agents to seek a lucrative bonus during negotiations.

Given the volatile nature of the NFL, a player could be a stud pulling down eight figures one year - and as a result of injury, age, or simply poor performance - cut loose the very next season. NFL players are always one career-ending injury away from being unemployed, and given his history, Winslow knows this better than most.

In fact, several serious knee surgeries (one of which was closer to a total rebuild than a surgery) have limited some of Winslow’s capabilities on the field, in addition to shortening his career in all likelihood. In a perfect world Winslow’s bionic knee would work just as well as Steve Austin’s, but it’s just not so. Winslow knows that his biological clock is ticking at an accelerated rate, and if he doesn’t get paid now, there’s a good chance that he never will. In that light, I can sympathize with K2.

All that said, Winslow needs to remember that the Browns have been pretty good to him over the years. Rewind to 2005. Following a rookie season that was cut short by a broken right fibula followed by a pair of knee surgeries, Winslow made one of the worst decisions in the history of bad decisions; he decided that he was X Games BMX biker Mat Hoffman. While working on his stunt repertoire in a parking lot, Winslow ran into a curb faster than Kirstie Alley sprints after an ice cream truck. His 2005 season over, Winslow’s career was also in doubt.

To make matters worse for the Miami Hurricane, many speculated that the Browns would seek to recoup a prorated portion of Winslow’s bonus money. Due to Winslow’s daredevil reputation, the Browns had added specific language to his contract that prohibited motorcycle riding, along with various other high risk activities. Winslow’s motorcycle injury essentially represented a breach of contract.

The Browns fully supported Winslow throughout both of his recoveries. Not only that, they didn’t attempt to recoup any of the bonus money that Winslow essentially forfeited when he violated the language of his contract. The Browns drafted a new contract for Winslow, much of which was incentive-based. Winslow’s revised contract was one year longer, but would allow him to regain much of the money he had lost due to injury by way of incentives.

The Browns were by no means required to do any of that for Winslow, who had to that point been a very poor investment, and the fact that they went out on a limb for the young receiver represented an extraordinary display of goodwill. In spite of all that, here we stand, with Winslow chomping at the bit for a bump in compensation.

This is a situation where money shouldn’t be the bottom line. The Cleveland Browns and their fans treated Kellen Winslow pretty damn well during the turbulent times of his first two “seasons.” Now it’s time for Winslow to repay the Browns in kind. Kellen Winslow is in Cleveland’s debt, and the best way that he can fulfill that debt is by playing out his current contract, and by continuing to produce at an elite level for the Browns. This is one case in the NFL that isn’t “all business.” For Winslow, this should be a matter of honor.

Will anything come of Winslow’s comments? We’ll just have to wait and see. Phil Savage would be well within his rights to take a hard line stance on any renegotiations, as Winslow is under contract through 2010. If history has taught us anything it’s that when push comes to shove, players have trouble saying “no” to game checks. Recent high profile holdouts like Lance Briggs, Terrell Owens, Asante Samuel, and Michael Strahan all caved when faced with surrendering millions of dollars.

But unfortunately for Phil Savage, a hypothetical Winslow holdout has the potential to undermine the clubhouse harmony and winning culture that the Browns have worked so hard to build. And after only the second winning season in 14 years, the thought of such a regression is nothing short of nauseating.

Thursday, February 7

How dirty is Yao's 'stache?

It's fucking filthy.

OSU recruiting

I'm not the sort of fellow to get excited or, frankly, even care about college football recruiting, but I'll make an exception for when the Buckeyes sign players with names the caliber of Andrew Sweat. Can I buy this guy's jersey yet?

Tuesday, February 5

Now we're starting to roll!

Thirteen of sixteen for the Cavs, a win over the NBA-leading (although Garnettless) Celtics, and Austin Carr singing "Happy Birthday" to LeBron's mother in the postgame. Does it get any better than this?

The Eastern Conference dark horse is alive and well!

Hopefully Gooden's groin strain isn't too serious.

Monday, February 4

Super Bowl wrapup

A few notes from Sunday's Super Bowl:

- That was a terrific game. Two very good football teams playing a very good football game, the way we hope it will be each year, except for hoping that the game will involve the Browns. I'm happy the Giants won, no doubt, but I really liked the game either way. It's easy to be hyperbolic, but this is one of the three best Super Bowls I've seen. The other two are Rams-Titans (the Kevin Dyson game) and Pats-Rams (Brady's late-game drive and Vinatieri's kick). Pats-Panthers was close. You know what Super Bowl sucked? The one with the Ravens, that's which one.

- As far as difficult losses to stomach go, this one has to rank fairly low for Patriots fans. Yeah, you don't get the undefeated season, but you've got your 18 straight wins and three Super Bowls this decade to fall back on. I think they'll get through this.

- Well done, Tom Petty. Let's get him every year.

- Asked for my "check" and ended up with a shot of "Jack" instead. Talk about a dilemma! I declined the whiskey.

- I miss the Bud Bowl. Just the first two, with the animated bottles playing beer bottle football. That was brilliance.

- Bill Belichick: classy guy. I especially liked him storming off and trying to end the game with 1 second left on the clock. Watching him have to deal with the loss made it even more fun for me. I didn't care for him getting that 12 men on the field penalty called. Yes, I know according to the letter of the law, it was correct, but it really had nothing to do with anything football-related. It just seemed pathetic to me. I understand he's the coach and his objective is to win, but I place some value on sportsmanship as well. Maybe that's why I'm not a professional coach.

- Some dumb commercials (bye, bye $3 million) and some very good ones. My favorites:
* The ugly chick rubbing the peanuts on herself was solid. Funny, but to me, peanuts make chicks look uglier. Fucking peanuts.
* The giant mouse busting through the wall and attacking the dude with the Doritos was excellent.
* with the dude who brought the guy to fight the dealer in the ring of fire was pretty funny.
* Will Ferrell's Bud Light ad was far and away the best of the evening. "Bud Light: suck one." The best spot since Terry Tate.

Sunday, February 3

NFL Picks: Super Fucking Bowl

Andy: Giants. I haven't been willing to absorb the Pats' points this whole playoff season, and I don't think this is the time to change.

Nick: Patriots. I love Brady (Quinn).

Larry Loves Strippers

Friday, February 1

Cavs Burned in the Land of Java

The Cavaliers fell 101-95 to the SuperSonics in the Emerald City in a game that shouldn’t have been that close. Given that it was the second of back-to-back road games for Cleveland (in which NBA teams are statistically atrocious), and that King James was on the shelf due to the right ankle sprain he suffered the previous evening, it’s not surprising that the Cavs came up short. However, this was a strange game with lopsided scores in the opening and closing quarters sandwiched around the second and third stanzas, during which the two teams played each other almost dead even.

Quarterly Analysis

First Quarter: Sonics 40, Cavs 24
This was arguably the worst quarter of basketball the Cavs have played so far this season. Power forward Chris Wilcox opened the game by scoring the first 10 points for the Sonics. Wilcox’s scalding hand would later cool, as he scored only 8 points from that point on.

The Cavaliers appeared confused on both offense and defense. On offense, the Cavs were rudderless without their All-Star point forward to dictate the tempo and create open looks. If anyone wanted to argue that LeBron James wasn’t this team’s starting point guard prior to Thursday’s game, that conversation has been rendered unequivocally moot. For a team with a tall frontcourt that should have been pounding an undersized Seattle frontcourt on the block from the opening gun, the Cavs were taking far too many jump shots.

Defensively, Cleveland couldn’t stop dribble penetration, which is old hat. The problem that arose lay with the interior defense, which was completely impotent. Missed assignments, no help defense, lousy rebounding, and an inability to fill the lane; there was no semblance of fundamental interior defense. And the Sonics made the Cavs pay with scads of layups and dunks, many of which were uncontested.

The result? The Cavs were outscored 40-24 as Seattle had their highest scoring quarter so far this season, shooting a blistering 63-percent, over 25 points higher than Cleveland’s harrowing 37-percent.

Second Quarter: Sonics 22, Cavs, 18
The Cavs managed to slow the bleeding in the second quarter, although they shot even worse than in the opening quarter, with their shooting percentage dipping to a pathetic 34-percent by halftime. Damon Jones provided a spark off of the bench, but truth be told, the Cavs were very fortunate that the Sonics didn’t put them away by pushing the lead over 30 during the second quarter.

The same problems that plagued the Cavaliers in the first quarter were alive and well in the second; lousy interior defense, nonexistent offensive post play, and a surplus of jump shots. It looked like this game was headed south in a hurry.

Third Quarter: Cavs 26, Sonics 23
The Cavs managed to hang around, but they needed to whittle away at the Seattle lead more than they did. Kevin Durant used his ogre arms to block two Larry Hughes jumpers on consecutive possessions. It turns out that the 19-year old phenom can play a little bit, in spite of worries about his bench pressing abilities last spring. As it turns out, benching 185 pounds doesn’t have much bearing on one’s abilities to run the floor, or pass and shoot a basketball. Who knew?

Lost in all of the buzz over Durant is the fact that the Sonics have another pretty good rookie on their hands in Georgetown product Jeff Green, who was picked fifth overall in last June’s NBA Draft. Along with Wally Szczberbiak and Delonte West, Green was shipped cross-country from Boston to Seattle in the Ray Allen deal. Green was a perfect 8-for-8 from the field on Thursday, including one trey ball, and paired with Durant, the Sonics appear to have a young duo that could give the opposition headaches for the next decade or so.

Fourth Quarter: Cavs 27, Sonics 16
The Cavs entered the fourth quarter facing a 17-point deficit, but they made things interesting with a late flurry, spurred by a pair of Damon Jones threes. An 0-for-6 Seattle drought allowed the Cavs to cut the lead to nine. Zydrunas Ilgauskas showed real grit when he was clearly fouled on a shot attempt in the paint but the refs didn’t give him the call. Z responded by snagging his own rebound and was fouled on the put-back attempt. Ilgauskas would hit both of his free throws, which helped keep the Cleveland rally rolling.

With Ilgauskas’ pair of free throws, the Cavs trailed by only three, 91-88, with 2:51 remaining. Kevin Durant answered with a pair of buckets and Kurt Thomas added a layup to extend the Seattle lead back to nine. But Cleveland made one final push, as a Daniel Gibson three ball and a Hughes layup cut the lead to 99-95 with 37 seconds remaining. Dwayne Jones swatted a shot by Luke Ridnour on the ensuing possesion, but on the resulting fast break Gibson was whistled for what was a clear charging violation, which essentially put the kibosh on the Cavaliers’ comeback.

Ultimately, that first quarter deficit was just too daunting for Mike Brown’s troops to overcome. That said, the Cavs deserve serious credit for refusing to pack it in and finally coming to life in the fourth quarter. After all, when Seattle dropped 40 on them in the first quarter, nobody would have been surprised if the Cavs would have started packing for their flight back to Cleveland, getting embarrassed by a 30 or 40-point loss in the process. But the Cavs proved to themselves that they can hang tough without LeBron James, and maybe the next time James is confined to the bench the rest of the squad won’t hesitate to play a full 48 minutes of basketball, instead of the six minutes they played against Seattle.

Quick Hits

Durant: The Kid Can Play
Kevin Durant led the Sonics in +/- efficiency (+10, tied with Earl Watson), a metric which is fairly accurate at reflecting player performance. Durant led all Sonics scorers with 24, and his baskets late in the fourth quarter helped Seattle put the game out of reach.

Wilcox Killed The Cavs
Wilcox poured in 18 points and corralled 13 rebounds, including five of the offensive variety. Wilcox was the key to Seattle’s white-hot first quarter, as he scored the SuperSonics’ first ten points. Wilcox could end up being a solid power forward in the league. He probably doesn’t have the offensive tools to be a 20-10 guy, but he works hard enough around the bucket that 15-10 isn’t out of the question.

Damon For Three

Jones was a decent 5-12 from the field, but all five of his field goals were three-pointers. The Best Shooter in the Universe gave the Cavs a boost off of the bench in the second and fourth quarters, and his pair of threes in the final quarter helped spark the Cavs to a near comeback. Damon Jones still has value to this team as shooter, and it would be most unfortunate if Danny Ferry ships Jones off for a different pricy contract that probably doesn’t shoot as well as Damon.

DiGiorno Pizza ® Austin Carr Quote of the Game: “If you’re gonna foul a guy, you might as well let him have one. I mean, that’s the way I like it.” Carr followed this statement with an off-air fist pump. Well played, sir.

Charity Stripe: Much of the Cavs’ comeback can be credited to their performance from the free throw line, where they went 23-of-27, 85.2-percent. The Cavs entered the game shooting 72.06-percent from the line, 25th in the league, a mark which must improve. Big ups to Zydrunas Ilgauskas for posting a perfect 11-11 from the stripe, which helped make up for his ugly night from the field (3-13).

Fast Broken: The Cavs were outscored 15-1 in fast break points, which is a strong indicator of how the Sonics simply out-hustled them for the first three and a half quarters. Transition defense isn’t rocket science, it’s almost purely a function of hustle.

Killer D’s: Of the 12 players who dressed for the Cavaliers tonight, half have a first name that starts with the letter D. They won’t make anyone forget Dwight Howard, Dirk Nowitzki, or Dwyane Wade, but three of the C’s D’s played pretty well in Washington state. In fact, Damon Jones, Dwayne Jones, and Daniel Gibson were three of only five Cavaliers to post positive efficiency numbers, and the team leader wasn’t who you’d guess (it was Dwayne). Drew Gooden was awful, posting a horrid -19 efficiency, while Devin Brown and Donyell Marshall didn’t see much action.

Keep Your Shirt On: Donyell Marshall played in his first game since the season’s second contest against New York. Marshall wasn’t just rusty on the court, apparently he’s having problems dressing himself, as well. When Donyell entered the game in the second quarter, he pulled off his warmup top at the scorer’s table. When the warmup came off, Marshall’s jersey came with it, exposing a somewhat comical navy blue compression tank top that covered Marshall’s doughy physique. I suppose it’s a mistake that’s easy enough to make. If only trading away Marshall’s $5.6 million contract was so simple…

The Cleveland Cavaliers Will Return: Tomorrow night, when they square off against the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday night at Quicken Loans Arena (7:30). That’s Groundhog Day, so sleep in, enjoy a viewing of Bill Murray’s classic (and quite frankly, underrated) comedy, and head to The Q to cheer the Cavaliers on to what will hopefully be their eighth win in ten games