Tribe Wants Good Start? Maybe Get Younger

It would seem appropriate on Super Bowl Sunday to write something about football today, but for fans of the Cleveland Browns, that game is a myth, something along the lines of a unicorn.

So, instead, with spring training starting in less than two weeks (how great is that to say), we will discuss the Cleveland Indians, a time with a chance to make the playoffs in 2016.

Unfortunately, that chance is slimmer than it could have been if the front office would have been more aggressive this off-season, instead of its normal philosophy of “wishin’ and hopin’.

There is no doubt the Indians have a championship pitching staff, their starting rotation is one of the five best in major league baseball, and may very well be #1.

But team president Chris Antonetti and new GM Mike Chernoff didn’t do Terry Francona any favors by signing two players with plenty of age on them, Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis, as the only additions to the lineup.

And of course, rumors have them pursuing another aging veteran hitter in Juan Uribe.

This isn’t to say none of these guys can help the Tribe, in fact, we believe Napoli in particular could be a big help this season, but as a whole, the rampant conservatism that permeates the front office was en vogue again this winter.

In our opinion, one of the reasons the Indians get off to slow starts is they begin the season playing veterans who don’t have much left, and by the middle of May or early June, the management finally realizes that and replaces them with younger, more productive players.

Last year, it was Michael Bourn (Nick Swisher was hurt).  Francona wrote Bourn’s name in the lineup 95 times last season, and his 608 OPS dragged down the offense.  We would have moved the centerfielder after his ’14 season showed he was declining.

In 2014, Ryan Raburn was struggling after an excellent ’13 campaign, and he and Swisher, who was struggling physically, hampered the offense.

And don’t forget the Indians started playing better when Asdrubal Cabrera was traded and Jose Ramirez was inserted as shortstop.

Also, remember Orlando Cabrera, Jack Hannahan, and Johnny Damon?

That’s why we would pass on Uribe and let Giovanny Urshela and Jose Ramirez platoon at third base.  What are the odds that Uribe will be much better than the two youngsters, who will probably improve with regular playing time.

It’s also why if Tyler Naquin hits .420 (or thereabouts) in the Cactus League, we would have him make the Opening Day roster and give him regular playing time.

After all, the Tribe’s current starting outfielder consists of 35-year-old Davis, a journeyman in Abraham Almonte, and Lonnie Chisenhall, who in his brief major league career has demonstrated wild inconsistency.

We would rather see Naquin than Collin Cowgill, Shane Robinson, or Joey Butler, because Naquin will get better.  It’s hard to see the other three doing that.

And if one or all of them go to the minor leagues, you have a fallback if the rookie struggles in the bigs.

The fear in Cleveland is that a young player will be ruined by early career struggles.  We believe if the rookie is tough mentally, he will overcome that.

Remember, Francisco Lindor was hitting around .210 after his first month in the majors.  Was he crushed by it?  No!

We understand that Lindor is a special talent, but why not give more young players a chance?

It may just help the Indians get off to better starts to seasons.

KM

Lue Trying To Toughen Up Cavs

LeBron James talked about it in November, and some people thought he should ease up.

It’s when he talked about the lack of a sense of urgency with this year’s edition of the Cleveland Cavaliers, while the defending champion Warriors got off to an unblemished start.

He was right then, and he is right now.

Much has been made about the changes Tyronn Lue has made since taking over for David Blatt almost two weeks ago.

The two things most talked about is increasing the pace for the wine and gold, getting them to play faster, a more up tempo style.

The other is expanding the role of Kevin Love, getting him more involved offensively instead of using him mostly as a “stretch four”.  Love has a very good low post game, and is also a good passer from the high post.

But the other problem Lue is trying to attack is making his team more mentally tough.

He talked about it the other night in Indiana when he said he refused to call a timeout because the players got themselves into a mess, and it was their responsibility to get out of it.

What he’s really talking about is accountability for the players.

We have harped on the lack of this aspect with the Cleveland Browns under Mike Pettine, and therefore we are thrilled to see Lue expecting it from his players.

When the Cavs have played up tempo and moved the ball by passing, not dribbling, they have played better, and the offensive is putting up better numbers, scoring over 110 points in five straight games before it ended last night.

Where the lack of mental toughness comes in is when they stop playing this style and revert back to the isolation ball that was en vogue with David Blatt.

That’s what the coach was talking about when he was talking about the players needing to figure it out when they stop pushing and moving the ball, and get back to doing it without Lue reminding them.

What is mind boggling is that the players on the floor keep going back to this style whenever things get a little tough.

Maybe it is still an adjustment period for the players with and to the new coaching staff, and after a month or so, the new style will become the default for the players, and everything will be fine.

Lue has wanted to play more guys, but the last two games has resorted to giving heavy minutes to the starters.  We feel it’s because of a lack of trust in the reserves, which is the same issue Blatt had.

And with Matthew Dellavedova out last night with a bad hamstring, Mo Williams was forced into action and his defensive problems were once again apparent.

It’s that problem that made us ambivalent about Williams’ return to Cleveland last summer.

Another problem that has cropped up is a lack of bench scoring.  This can be easily remedied by switching Iman Shumpert back in the starting lineup and bringing JR Smith off the bench.

This is no slight to Smith, but with Lue saying he wants to use Kevin Love as a focal point with the second unit, having Smith with him would provide more offense when the starters are resting.

Look, this isn’t panic, but if the Cavaliers are going to get where they want to go, they need to be mentally stronger.

We think that Tyronn Lue thinks the same thing.

JK

 

When Things In Sports Get Too Easy

There is a cliché in sports that offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships.  But is that still true?

Particularly in the sports of football and basketball, nearly every rule change in the past several years has been designed to help scoring.  Fans like to see points on the scoreboard.

But when does it become too much?

Have both sports reached the point where things have come too easy.

In football, most of the rule changes have involved the passing game.  What has happened, in our opinion, is that it has become ridiculously easy to throw the football.

In the late 70’s and early 80’s, 4000 yards passing was the gold standard.

When Brian Sipe and Dan Fouts threw for over that number in 1980, it was a huge amount of yardage.  We remember ABC promoting a Monday Night Football game between the Browns and Chargers as “aerial warfare”.

This past season, 12 quarterbacks had over 4000 passing yards, and three more were right on the doorstep.

And this doesn’t take into account the large number of big gains as a result of defensive pass interference.  It seems that most of the time, the receiver and the defensive back are both pushing and shoving, but the defense draws the flag.

In a playoff game this year between the Patriots and Chiefs, New England threw the football on their first 14 plays.

Yes, we realize they may have the greatest QB of all time in Tom Brady, but the reason they threw the ball this much, is that it is easy to move the ball through the air.

Too easy.

It’s time to let the secondaries around the league to play defense a little bit.  This is not to say the NFL should go back to the time when players like Mel Blount could club a receiver off the line, and not allow them in the pattern at all, but let’s make professional football a little less like the touch football you played in the street as a kid.

In basketball, after the game was becoming too physical in the 90’s, led by Pat Riley’s overly physical New York Knicks, the NBA felt they needed to do something to get the game back to its free flowing roots.

So, they limited the contact allowed when guarding players on the perimeter.

Now, small quick players are virtually unguardable.

Here are some of the top 15 scorers right now in the NBA:  Stephan Curry (1st), James Harden (2nd), Damien Lillard (6th), Russell Westbrook (7th), Isaiah Thomas (12th) and Kyle Lowry (15th).

That would be 40% of the league top scorers are basically small guys who can shoot, penetrate, and have the ball in their hands most of the time.

Basketball is a sport dominated by big men, but they are quickly being made obsolete in today’s game.

Is that good for the game?  We would say no because there isn’t a penalty for playing small.

When the Cavs play Golden State, their smaller players are allowed to bang LeBron James when he gets in the paint, because the game is officiated differently for inside players than guys who play outside.

We aren’t advocating slamming smaller players to the floor when they drive to the basket, but allowing perimeter defenders to maintain some contact with these guys without being whistled might be appropriate.

Both leagues will tell you everything is fine based on ratings and attendance, and we get that.  However, fans want to see professional athletes having to struggle at times too.

Only the best should make the game look easy.

Now, it seems anyone can.

MW

Cavs Passed Spurs’ Test, More Exams to Follow

Can anyone imagine the panic that may have ensued had the Cleveland Cavaliers lost at home to San Antonio last night?

Thankfully, the Cavs emerged victorious with a 117-103 win at The Q, thus splitting the season series with the team who has the second best record in the Western Conference.

So, the only one of the top teams in the West that the wine and gold have had issues with is Golden State, who beat them twice.

At the very least, Cleveland will split with the other top seeds, having already defeating Oklahoma City and the Clippers at home.

And the loss to the Warriors in Oakland was by a scant six points.  So, once again, we will tell you that was a aberration.  The Cavs played terribly two weeks ago, while the defending champs played very well.

As for the Eastern Conference competition, the Bulls seem to be Cleveland’s toughest nut to crack.

They lost to the 2nd seeded Raptors by four in Toronto, and hammered the Raptors at home by 22 points.

The Southeast Division leading Hawks lost to the Cavs at The Q by 10 points in November, and the two teams don’t meet again until Game 76, by which time Tyronn Lue’s bunch might be resting players because the #1 seed in the East is settled.

The wine and gold have lost twice to Chicago, although there were extenuating circumstance both times.  The first came Opening Night in the Windy City, and the Cavaliers dropped a game at home in Lue’s first game as head coach following the firing of David Blatt.

In fact, the Cavs next big test will be a home game on February 18th against Chicago, the last game of an upcoming five game home stand, and the first game after the All Star break.

That will be followed by a trek to Oklahoma City to take on the Thunder.

And then, following two more home games, the Cavs will travel up north to Toronto to play the Raptors.

So, following the All Star Game, three of Cleveland’s first five games will be pretty big tests against some of the NBA’s best teams.

After that stretch, the schedule will lighten up a bit, save for another four game swing out west, where the wine and gold will play the Kings, Lakers, Clippers, and Jazz in a six day span.

However, 12 of the last 20 games will be on the road, again though, if the Cavs can put some distance between themselves and the other top teams in the East, those later contests won’t have much of a meaning.

And Lue’s squad seems to have figured out a winning formula away from home, winning nine of their last 1o away from Quicken Loans Arena.

The offense seems to be humming to, with the Cavs scored more than 110 points in five of the last six games, the only hiccup coming in the loss to Chicago.

The downside is they have allowed more than 100 points in five of their last eight games.  Some of that could be because of the faster pace the team is trying to play, but if they can tighten up on that side of the ball, the Cavaliers will be just fine, thank you.

Despite all of the hand wringing after the loss to the Warriors, the fact is, this is one of the elite teams in the NBA, one of only perhaps four or five teams that can hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

They are so good that you can pick out the tests for the team on the schedule.  They passed one last night, but the next one won’t really come until after the All Star Game.

JK

Excited About Tribe Winter Moves? Not Us

There are some people in this city who look at the Cleveland Indians through rose colored glasses.

They are baseball’s model organization, the small market team with the smartest front office in the sport.

Some of these people work at the ballclub’s flagship radio station, others are media members who are charmed by the genuine, good people who work in the Tribe’s baseball operations department.

Others are fans, usually of the younger persuasion, who see the organization building a young core of talent and feel optimistic for the future.

Heck, they get excited by the news of Josh Tomlin, a back of the rotation starter at best, signing a club friendly, multi-year contract extension.

When Tomlin inked the deal yesterday, social media was flooded by people telling us what a wonderful deal it was.  To us, it was “meh”.

We see their side of the argument.  We too are excited by Francisco Lindor, Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, and one of the best starting rotations in all of major league baseball.

That’s the half filled view. Looking on the bright side of things.

We can’t give them that benefit of the doubt simply because of that dominant pitching.  Our opinion is if the Indians can get to the post-season, their arms could carry them a long way, but they have to get there, and we don’t think they can score enough runs to accomplish that.

Terry Francona’s squad still have a lot of holes in the everyday lineup.  We see big question marks at 3B and the entire outfield, depending on how long Brantley is out of the lineup.

Yes, getting Mike Napoli looks like a solid move.  He upgrades the defense at first base, but outside of the second half of last season with Texas, he’s not the player he was with Boston three or four years ago.

He is 34 years old after all.

And Rajai Davis would be a nice pick up as an extra outfielder.  Unfortunately, he looks like the starter in LF until Brantley returns.

Also, why do we have the feeling that the Indians will rush Brantley back from his injury, and because of that, he may have an off year?  Probably because they did the same thing with Kipnis and Yan Gomes each of the last two years.

Would anyone be truly surprised if both players struggled in 2016?  If they do, how does Francona get his club to put more runs on the board.

Our problem is that Tribe management always has the strategy that if everything goes right, we can win the AL Central, but the reality is, it rarely happens that all factors fall in our favor.

That’s why this off-season was the perfect time to make a bold move for a hitter in their prime.  Yes, we understand that it is difficult because if you sign a free agent, you likely will have to pay for the player when he is past his prime.

And making a trade carries a risk because the player you move may wind up being better than the guy you get.

That’s one of the reasons we say the Indians operate in fear.  They deal in mostly low risk, high reward moves, but many times they get players who don’t have much left.

This would have been a perfect time to strike and put this team in a position to win the division and avoid wild card game.

It may work out, but why not eliminate some of the “hope” factor.  It’s okay to put a team out there that doesn’t need a luck factor to win.

KM

 

 

Lue Shows Signs of Adaptation

It has now been a few days since the Cavaliers decided to make a change on the sidelines, replacing David Blatt with Tyronn Lue.

Much has been made about Lue wanting the team to play faster, getting up the court before the opposing defenses can get set up, and with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving on the roster, that’s a wise move.

The new coach also talked about the team not being “in shape” to play faster, and the media took off with that one.  You could tell they want to accuse Blatt of not having his team in shape, being too easy on them.

However, that’s not what Lue said.

Under Blatt, the Cavs started the season playing slower and emphasizing defense, the same style they used in the playoffs last year, a style that was successful in getting them to the sixth game of The NBA Finals.

You can’t fault the former coach with using that system, after all, it worked quite well for the wine and gold in May and June.

If you are used to walking the ball up the floor and controlling the pace, and then are asked to sprint on a regular basis, it’s going to take time to get used to that.

It doesn’t mean David Blatt didn’t get his basketball team in shape to play in the NBA.

And after last night’s win, the first for Lue, over Minnesota, the new coach talked about wanting to play fast with certain players on the floor, but also playing slower when James and Irving are not on the floor.

We were happy to hear that because there are certain times when it doesn’t benefit the Cavaliers to race up and down the court.

One thing that worries us is Cleveland’s obsession with Golden State, the team that beat them in the championship series last summer.

We hope they don’t alter the roster to compete with the Warriors, because doing that could be a problem if let’s say they face San Antonio at the end, which is very much a possibility.

What is strange is the narrative that the Warriors and Spurs play the same style.  Yes, they both move the basketball, but the defending champs are more reliant on the three point shot, while the Spurs have a very strong presence in the paint with Tim Duncan, LeMarcus Aldridge, and David West.

So, GM David Griffin and Lue can’t get too Warrior-centric when putting together the roster and style of play for the team, even taking into account Golden State’s 30 point drilling of the Spurs last night.

You run the risk of doing what the Cavaliers did after they lost to Orlando in the conference finals in 2009.  They constructed the roster to beat the Magic’s style with Dwight Howard in the middle and a bunch of three point shooters.

The problem was, they couldn’t get past Boston in the second round.

So, you have to stay flexible with the roster in order to beat teams like Chicago, Toronto, and Atlanta in the East.  If you can’t beat those teams, you don’t have to worry about Golden State and San Antonio.

In Lue’s comments yesterday, he seems to understand that.  Hopefully, Griffin does as well.

Not getting back to The Finals would be more of a failure than anyone can imagine right now.

JK

All The Pressure Is On LeBron and Lue

Shocking.

That’s the way we would have to describe the news that David Blatt was fired as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers yesterday afternoon.

After all, the wine and gold had the Eastern Conference’s best record, and was on a pace to win 60 games.

GM David Griffin tried to spin that the team was disconnected and felt that new coach Tyronn Lue was the man to unify the roster.

Fair or not, LeBron James is going to be blamed for Blatt’s dismissal, and we do not believe for a second that his opinion regarding the coach who piloted the team to The Finals a year were not well known throughout the organization.

This put immense pressure on James and Lue to deliver a title to the franchise, because now, nothing short of that will justify Blatt’s firing.

The only reason Magic Johnson doesn’t have a reputation as a coach killer is that when he went to Laker management and demanded Paul Westhead be removed in favor of Pat Riley, he led Los Angeles to a title.

The end justified the means.

If the Cavs don’t hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy in late June, James will have blood on his hands.

He and the coach guided a team without two of the three best players on the roster, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, to the brink of a title, stretching the eventual champion Warriors to six games.

Anything less than that will be a failure for James, Griffin, and Dan Gilbert.

Did Blatt have flaws?  Yes, he was reactive at times, and could never seem to get a consistent substitution pattern, which had to irritate the players affected by it.

But he knows basketball.  Our guess is his knowledge of the sport is much higher than his successor, but that doesn’t matter.

In the NBA, if you don’t get along with the superstars, you don’t last long.

And if you are LeBron James’ coach, don’t count on getting his endorsement ever.  He has never developed the relationship with a coach that Michael Jordan had with Phil Jackson, Isiah Thomas had with Chuck Daly, or Tim Duncan has with Gregg Popovich.

That’s on him.

Look, there is no question the franchise is much better off with LeBron, who is still the preeminent player in the sport, but his attitude toward his bosses has to promote a lack of unity with the head coach.

It will be interesting to see what changes Lue will make starting tonight.

Will Mo Williams, Richard Jefferson, and Anderson Varejao get more minutes?

Will Matthew Dellavedova, still the best defender among the point guards, have his time diminished?

Some have speculated that the move could signal a trade is forthcoming for Blatt favorite Timofey Mozgov, but if he is moved, the team still needs a rim protector.

And how will Lue handle Kevin Love? Will Love get more touches inside early in games to establish himself, or will he get the ball only when James and Irving decide that it is prudent?

Will the offense be a ball moving attack or the isolation sets that the Cavs settle into at times for no reason?

And for those saying the Cavs couldn’t win a title with Blatt, the fact is they got closer than ever last year with him at the helm.

Lue? We simply don’t know.  He’s never been a head coach in the NBA until today.

There aren’t many coaches with a championship pedigree in the sport right now, besides Popovich.

The only “elite” bench guys are perhaps Rick Carlisle in Dallas, and maybe Doc Rivers with the Clippers.  Neither of them are replacing Blatt.

The pressure is squarely on James and Lue to bring a title to Cleveland.  Anything less and LeBron will have explaining to do, even if he did have nothing to do with Blatt’s departure.

JK

Cavs Played A Bad Game Monday, Nothing More

Last night, the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Brooklyn Nets to raise their record to 29-11 for the season, the best record in the Eastern Conference and 4th best overall in the NBA.

You wouldn’t know that by the conversation in town after Monday night’s beatdown of the wine and gold by the defending champion Golden State Warriors, 132-98 at Quicken Loans Arena.

In fact, until the Cavs beat either the Warriors or the San Antonio Spurs, some people won’t give them any credit for the rest of the season.

That’s ridiculous.

It was one game, and that’s all it was.

It is funny to us because the loss to the Warriors is also getting lumped in with the defeat by the Spurs a week ago, even though David Blatt’s team lost that game by four points, on the road, and led the game for most of the first three quarters.

Talk about overreaction.

The reality is it was one colossally bad game.  Even Draymond Green, the Warriors’ antagonist, said after the game that they pretty much did everything right, while the wine and gold did everything wrong.

Golden State shot 54.1% from the floor, including an incredible 19 of 40 from behind the three point line.  That equals shooting 65% from the field.  They normally have a 56% efficiency rating on shooting.  So, they were hot.

If your opponent shoots that percentage for an entire game, you are going to lose.

Conversely, the Cavs’ “Big Three”, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love combined to make just 11 of 32 shots, which is 34%.  Those guys were cold.

If you combine hot shooting from your opponent, and the Cavs normally allow their opponents to shoot 44%, and poor shooting from your best players, you are probably going to get blown out.

And that’s what happened.

Also, keep in mind Cleveland played the Warriors on Christmas Day in Oakland, and lost by six.  We were encouraged by this game because the wine and gold again demonstrated the ability to control the tempo, which is needed vs. Steph Curry and his crew.

On Monday, the Cavs started the game missing shots which allowed the Warriors to get out in transition and they made early threes, mostly by Klay Thompson, who Cleveland has kept in check since last year’s Finals.

We believe that Blatt and his team know they have to control the tempo, which means some isolation plays, in order to defeat the Warriors.

As for the criticism about the Spurs, yes, the Cavs did get away from what got them the lead, and they paid for it.  Hopefully, they will learn from their mistake.

Fans and media alike also have to remember that if Cleveland makes The Finals, they will only have to play one of these two teams.  They will not have to defeat both.

And could the wine and gold beat either team in a seven game series?  Of course.  We have always maintained that in the playoffs, coaches can game plan specifically against what the opposition does well.

In the regular season, there isn’t time to do that.

Also, remember that a year ago, the Cavs were a .500 team and they made a couple of trades, and were one of the final two teams playing.

The point is there is a long, long time to get things together and correct the problems, which are few, that this squad has.

The sky is not falling.  The Cavs played a bad game on Monday night.  They are still one of the league’s best teams.  So, relax…

JK

 

Salary Cap in Baseball? There’s One For The Tribe

Major league baseball is the one sport where there is no salary cap, unless you are the Cleveland Indians.

It is funny to us that fans and media members talk about the Indians’ payroll ceiling being around $90 million, like it is mandated by the sport.

It’s not.  The Indians seem to put the cap on themselves.

Our point of view is one that we have because we believe, as do others who cover the sports, that baseball is thriving and plenty of cash is available throughout the sport, and the Dolan family is making a rather nice profit annually.

And they are entitled to make a profit.  That’s why you own a business, to make money.  We certainly don’t begrudge them that.

It’s the amount of the profit and the willingness to spend money to try to win.  There is a business tenet that says you have to spend money to make money.  For the most part, the Tribe ownership has not been willing to go all in.

There is no question that the Indians have a championship quality pitching staff.  If they can get to the playoffs, they will be a tough out because of it.

However, you need to score runs to win in the regular season, unless you are the Dodgers of the late 1960’s.  We don’t know if the front office has done enough to help the lineup put runs up on the board.

Last week, we heard local sports talker Bruce Hooley on WKNR say he doesn’t talk about the Indians on his show because he is in the “interesting” business.  Let’s face it, the organization on Ontario and Carnegie aren’t exactly flashy.

The Indians are dull, there is no question about that.

Yes, they have Francisco Lindor, one of the top young players in the game, but Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis, the Tribe’s other two best position players, aren’t being talked about regularly by the national media.

They aren’t involved in a lot of trade rumors, they aren’t talked about much on MLB Network.

Much of the local sports talk in Cleveland about the Indians centers around them not doing anything.  It is based more on complaining than excitement.

The Tribe has become the stable good friend of the opposite sex that you like to hang around with, but there is nothing romantic on the horizon.

Unfortunately, they have chosen to keep the status quo, and not try to revive the dormant fan base.

That doesn’t generate any interest in the team, and that’s reflected in the ticket sales.

The problem is they can’t give up.  You have to keep trying.  It’s like they are an inventor who has a great product, but can’t find a market for it, and decides it’s not worth the hassle.

Perhaps going the extra mile and signing a big bat would revive interest.

The pro-front office faction will say they tried that with the signings in 2013 of Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn, and people didn’t show up.  They forget Cleveland won just 68 games the year before, and the starting rotation didn’t appear to be one of the best in the game as the 2012 season ended.

We have said it before, but whether it is fair or not, the perception of the Dolan ownership is they aren’t in it to win.

It’s up to them to change that perception.

Instead, what we have is a stalemate, and that doesn’t benefit the team or the fans.

That’s why change is needed

MW

Stop Obsessing Over Cavs’ Losses

Sometimes, we think Cleveland doesn’t know how to handle it if one of their teams wins.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are proof of just that.

The wine and gold just finished their longest trip of the season, a six game trek in which they won five of the games, yet all anyone wants to talk about is the one they lost, at San Antonio, one of the NBA’s best teams, by four points.

That’s right, four points.

They lost to Golden State, the league’s darlings right now, in Oakland, by six points.

Both losses to these elite teams were by under ten points.  And remember, the Cavs defeated Oklahoma City at home by four, without Kyrie Irving.

After the Spurs lost, the media and fans alike started with the age old remedies for the Cavaliers’ “struggles”, such as the coaching of David Blatt, and the play of Kevin Love.

We said this all last season.  Whenever Cleveland loses, you can be sure that either Blatt or Love or both will be blamed.

It’s really ridiculous.

First of all, the Cavaliers have the best record in the Eastern Conference by four games over Toronto, and yet have played the least amount of home games of any East contender.

Cleveland has played 16 contests at Quicken Loans Arena.  The other teams in the elite four, the Warriors, Spurs, and Thunder, have played 19, 23, and 24 at their arenas, respectively.

We wonder what the records will be when the home/road splits even up for the top four squads in the NBA.

And what would people say if the Cavs had played Golden State and San Antonio at The Q first and won both games, and then lost on the road?  We don’t know if David Blatt’s crew will beat either in Cleveland, but what would be the narrative if they had or will?

And let’s remember that outside of the top three teams in the West, so can make a pretty good argument that the East is tougher top to bottom.

As for the criticisms of Blatt and Love, it is getting to be a tired cliche.

Yes, the Cavs sometimes go away from the ball movement they use when they play so well, and it shows up against good teams.  However, we don’t believe Blatt tells them to play isolation basketball.  It’s the confidence that LeBron James and Kyrie Irving have in their own ability.

Games like Thursday night should remind the team’s two best players they need to move the ball.

Also, the key to playing Golden State is to control the tempo, and the isolation game helps in that regard.  So, you will see more of it tomorrow night than you would like, to be sure.

What Blatt and his staff have done is make the Cavs an excellent defensive team.  Cleveland ranks second in points allowed and 11th in defensive field goal percentage.

As for Love, he is never going to average the 24 points per game he did in Minnesota with the Cavs.  Up north, he was the number one scoring option.

He does average 17.6 points and almost 12 rebounds per night.  Is he a great defender?  No. But, we will freely admit he can’t stop Tim Duncan near the basket.  So, the Cavaliers will have to defend that differently the next time they play the Spurs.

The one thing we will criticize Love for is his shot seems flat right now.  He missed several good looks against the Spurs, and for the Cavs to win games like that, they need the former UCLA standout to make open shots.

He has three months to get that straightened out.

Remember, last year at this time, the Cavs were 20-21, and remade their roster with the deals for JR Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Timofey Mozgov.

The point is there is a long way to go for Blatt and his staff to correct the things that need to be smoothed out before the playoffs.

Until then, enjoy the regular season, and stop panicking every time the wine and gold lose a game.

JK