Games Off By Stars Means NBA Schedule Needs Fixing

A lot of people who run sports teams don’t have original thoughts.  They simply use what has been successful for other teams and apply it to their own squads.

So, a few years ago, Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich started giving his aging stars, Tim Duncan (who will be 39 this year), Manu Ginobili (who will be 38 in July), and even Tony Parker (a youngster at 33 in 2015) a game off here and there.

And since the Spurs have been to The Finals the past two seasons, winning last year, other coaches and organizations around the league have figured, what the heck, it must work.

For older players, it may be a good idea, particularly when the team faces a four games in five days stretch the NBA loves to schedule.  We have observed Dallas giving veteran forward Dirk Nowitzki some time off.

As we have just noted, this is a rather new development.  In the years prior to Popovich’s experiment, players weren’t given games off during the season.

Michael Jordan played 82 games nine times, including when he was 34 years old (1993-94) and even in his last season, at age 39 (2002-03).  If he didn’t have an injury (or didn’t come out of retirement), he played no less than 78 games in a season.

Several years ago, players started taking games off at the end of the season, if and when their squads playoff positions were solidified.  But, in the 60’s and 70’s, the star players dressed and played in these games, they just played less minutes, maybe around 24 minutes in a contest.

The thought at that time was the player needed game action heading into the playoffs, but not their normal workload so they could get some rest.

Of course, today’s players don’t want to do that because it affects their “numbers”.  You certainly don’t want to play half a game, and get 14 points and 6 rebounds when you average 22 and 10.

And we get that there is a whole much more of an investment in the current players, teams are paying them a boatload of money, and they want their investments to be healthy.

On the other hand, the NBA is huge business, and fans are paying large sums of money to buy tickets to regular season games.  However, they are disappointed when they see the stars not playing.

It is getting absurd.  Saturday night, Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer, a Popovich disciple, rested all-star guard Jeff Teague (26), Pero Antic (who averages 16 minutes a game at age 32), and DeMarre Carroll (28) in a game against Miami.

If you are healthy and you can’t play every night in your late 20’s, then there is something wrong with the way the NBA schedules itself.

New commissioner Adam Silver is said to be looking into the season’s slate, probably at the behest of the player’s association.

As it relates to the Cavaliers, Friday night, they lost a game at Indiana because David Blatt gave LeBron James a night off.

Had James played, let’s say, 20 minutes, could the wine and gold have won a game they lost by seven points?  Our guess is yes.

And wouldn’t that have been better for Cleveland’s record and possible playoff seeding?  Of course.

We even heard ESPN analyst Brian Windhorst say last week, that since the Cavs played seven games in 12 days, there was no reason James should ever play all of those games in that kind of stretch in his career again.  What?

If that’s true, then the schedule is broken and needs to be fixed.

On the other hand, try explaining that to the old-time players who traveled on commercial flights and often flew in on the morning of that night’s game.

JK

Another Week of Overreaction for Browns’ Fans

The one thing the Cleveland Browns are very good at is staying relevant, at least around the city of Cleveland.

The Cavaliers can be red-hot and the Indians are starting spring training, but all sports fans can talk about is the Browns.

(By the way, we guess we are guilty of the same thing).

This past week, the Browns had two minor tidbits of news in the grand scheme of things, and as usual, kicked off a tremendous media reaction.

The first was created by themselves, the introduction of a new team logo.

The organization took down the old logo at the team’s headquarters, and hyped last Tuesday’s announcement of the new logo throughout the normal media and social media.

This got fans excited as to what the Browns would come up with.

Would the brownie elf be part of it?  Would it incorporate the bulldog which has become a symbol of the “Dawg Pound”.  Would it provide a glimpse as to what the new uniform would look like?

Instead, it was a change in font, a different shade of orange, and a brown facemask on the helmets.

It created a negative reaction among fans and nationally as well.  Quite a bit of comedy was written talking about the new logo.

The Browns front office should take the hit on this debacle.  They overhyped themselves.

If they were going to make minor changes, why bring a lot of attention to it.  That’s what got fans upset.  They thought it would be an exciting new look for the team, and instead, they simply tweaked the representation of the team.

As a graphic designer told us, it was a big deal to him that they changed the font and the color slightly, but he understood that to someone not in his business, it was a minor occurrence.

Then yesterday, the Browns signed QB Josh McCown to a three-year contract, which made social media explode once again.

McCown has been a below average quarterback through his career in the NFL, with a lifetime passer rating of 76.1.  The critics of this move point out that the Browns should have just kept Brian Hoyer, the local hero.

His career passer rating?  Try 76.8.

Basically, the Browns simply traded out back up quarterback types.

The reason? McCown will be fine if he’s a reserve to either Johnny Manziel or another QB the Browns get in the off-season.  Hoyer wanted to be the starter, and Mike Pettine and Ray Farmer didn’t want to make that guarantee.

Our guess is that Farmer will still try to get a player like Jake Locker or Mark Sanchez or Matt Moore in free agency as well, so people critical of the move are being a little premature.

Also, the fans who have been critical of Kyle Shanahan and Hoyer being gone never consider that the onus may have been on them to leave?  Neither wanted to commit to Pettine and they are now gone.

It’s just easier to say the organization is “dysfunctional”.

Look, we have no idea what will happen with the Browns in 2015.  We do know they are bringing in talent, although they haven’t been able to get the quarterback.

They have a solid offensive line, some good, young running backs, and a very good secondary.

They also have a lot of draft picks and room under the salary cap.

Let’s wait until the off-season plays out before panic sets in.

Until then, we are sure of one thing…the Browns will stay in the news somehow.

 

Not Many Roster Decisions This Spring For Tribe

The exhibition season for the Cleveland Indians starts next week, but there really aren’t that many decisions for Terry Francona and GM Chris Antonetti to make in terms of who will make the Opening Day roster.

It’s another reason it should be a good season for the Tribe.

The biggest decision for Francona is deciding whether or not he is going to carry 12 pitchers, or have an eight man bullpen.

If he keeps 13 hurlers, then the three position player reserve spots will go to Mike Aviles, Roberto Perez, and Ryan Raburn or David Murphy, unless the latter is moved during camp.  This, of course, assumes that Nick Swisher and Brandon Moss are healthy and ready to go.

The only reason Murphy is still here is insurance in case Moss and/or Swisher aren’t ready to play in April, otherwise, the fact that Raburn hits right-handed, virtually assures he will make the team unless he has a disastrous spring.

If Tito keeps just 12 pitchers, then you may see Zach Walters, who can play both infield and outfield could stick.  Or you may see another right-handed bat, like Jesus Aguilar come up with the team.

Either way, at bats will be limited for Murphy and that’s why he’s expected to be elsewhere come April.

As for the pitching staff, the only question in the starting rotation will be is Gavin Floyd’s health.  If he is ready, he will take a spot along with Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, and Danny Salazar.

If not, then T.J. House, Josh Tomlin, and Zach McAllister will battle for the open slot as a starter.

In a seven man bullpen, we know that barring an injury, Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, ageless Scott Atchison, and Mark Rzepczynski are shoo-ins, and you can probably put another lefty, Nick Hagadone, in that class too as he is out of options.

That leaves two spots open and if McAllister isn’t in the rotation, he will be in the ‘pen because he is also out of options and the Tribe doesn’t want to lose his arm.  Plus, he performed very well in relief last September.

That would leave the last opening to be a fight between holdovers Kyle Crockett, C.C. Lee, and non-roster invitees Bruce Chen, Scott Downs, and Anthony Swarzak.

Obviously, if Francona keeps eight relievers, then there are two spots open for those guys.

Swarzak is a name to keep an eye on.  He’s 29 years old and just two years removed from a season in which he had a 2.91 ERA for the Twins in 96 innings.  He and McAllister, if he’s in relief, are capable of giving Tito multiple innings out of the bullpen, as both guys have been starters.

And we know Francona likes to use his relief corps.

The main point here is that’s the only “drama” in camp, the first 21-22 players are pretty much etched in stone, and all the Tribe is looking for is who will fill out the last spot on the bench and in the bullpen.

After years when you are trying to figure out a third of the lineup and half the rotation, it makes for a much more relaxing spring training for Francona and the front office.

Any roster surprises would only occur if one of the players coming back from injury (Swisher, Moss, Floyd) aren’t ready to go.

KM

 

Bradford For Browns’ QB? It’s Worth a Shot.

Now that the over-hyped, little changed Browns’ logo has been introduced, we can return to the area’s obsession with who should and will play quarterback for the team this fall.

Besides the local zealots who still insist Brian Hoyer should get the gig based on his “record” as a starting signal caller, there are many fans who feel Hoyer could be a good fallback option, but GM Ray Farmer should try to get someone better.

The question is…does a better option exist?

Over the past few days, it has been reported that the St. Louis Rams would be willing to trade the former first overall pick, QB Sam Bradford.  Is Bradford a better option?  Why do the Rams want to move him?  And, what would you be willing to give up to get him?

As for the first question, Bradford’s biggest problem in his NFL career has been staying on the field, missing six games in his second season, 2011, and has played just seven games over the last two years.

When he’s been on the field, his rating has gotten better with experience, starting at 76.5 his rookie year and improving to 82.6 in his last full season (2012) and to 90.9 in the seven games he played in ’13.

He completed 60.7 of his throws that year with 14 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions.

That kind of performance would make him a god among QB’s since the Browns returned to the league in 1999.

With quarterback play on the decline in the NFL, why would the Rams be willing to move a player who is still just 27 years old?

The obvious answer is reliability.  Having your “starting” quarterback available for less than 25% of your games over the last two seasons isn’t something to write home about.  To be sure, Jeff Fisher would like someone who he can be sure will be out on the field most Sundays.

The other reason is Bradford’s contract, which is a $16.5 million cap hit in 2015.  The Rams’ management would like to spend that kind of money on someone who will actually be playing when the games start.

For the Browns, who have tons of cap space, this isn’t a huge issue because this is the last year of the deal, so they would be out of it after one year if another injury crops up for the former Heisman Trophy winner.

It’s worth the gamble if you don’t have to pay an exorbitant price.

And what should that price be?  Bradford is certainly not worth a high draft choice, because of his injury history, so there’s no way we would give up a first rounder.

Considering the Rams will get a great deal of cap space by trading Bradford, and that is most definitely worth something to them, we would figure a third or fourth round pick would be an appropriate price.

If Bradford can stay healthy and play well, behind a solid pass protecting offensive line, he could be the future QB for the Browns.  If he doesn’t, he at least buys another year of development for Johnny Manziel, assuming he gets his act together.

It’s worth the gamble because it’s only a one year commitment.

Considering the other options that are out there, Farmer should look very seriously at making a deal to get Sam Bradford.  He might be the best player available at this critical position.

JD

Is This Most Talented Cavs’ Team Ever?

The Cleveland Cavaliers certainly haven’t had a glorious history.  Their all-time record since joining the NBA is more than 300 games below .500.

However, they have been to the NBA Finals in 2007, and lost in the Eastern Conference finals three times.  And without disrespecting the ’06-‘o7 conference champs, the best team in franchise history may just be the last wine and gold squad to fall one step short of The Finals, the 2008-09 team that one 66 games in the regular season.

That team is a regular on lists of the best teams to not win an NBA title.

Our feeling was that collection of players failed because of Mike Brown’s failure to adjust to what Orlando was doing offensively in the conference finals, and because of the playoff schedule.

If you recall, the Cavs swept each of their first two series against Detroit and Atlanta, and had to wait nine days, from May 11th when they eliminated the Hawks, until May 20th when they took on Orlando.

The Cavaliers were rusty in Game 1, losing on their home floor, where they lost just twice all season long.

By the way, that team won 18 of their last 21 games in the regular season.

Since the current Cavs have now won 16 of their last 18, we decided to compare the current roster to perhaps the best team in Cleveland professional basketball history.

The starters on that team were LeBron James, Mo Williams, Delonte West, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and Ben Wallace.

Anderson Varejao also started 42 games that season, getting the nod when Ilgauskas and Wallace had injuries.  Sasha Pavlovic also started 12 games, mostly for West.

James, who was 24 at the time, averaged 28.4 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists per game, which is comparable to this season’s figures of 26 points, 6 boards, and 7 assists.

However, that team had no one who can compare to Kyrie Irving, who is blossoming into the superstar in front of our eyes.  The fourth year player out of Duke is getting 22 points and five dimes per night as offensive option #2.

Williams filled that role in ’09, getting 18 points and four assists.  Irving is taking more shots than Williams did, with both making almost 47% of their tries.

Ilgauskas was the team’s third leading scorer at 12.9 a game, with 7.5 boards and shooting 47%.  Kevin Love is the third leading scorer this year at 16.8 points, with 10.3 rebounds.  He is shooting just 43% from the floor, although he attempts far more three point shots than Big Z did.

That group’s bench was led by Varejao, Boobie Gibson, and Wally Szczerbiak, while the current Cavs use Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert, and Matthew Dellavedova as the primary bench options.

We would give David Blatt’s crew an edge because the second and third best players on this team are much better than those on the 66 win team.

Even the bench appears to be better.  Varejao scored 8.6 points and 7.2 rebounds as the first big man off the bench in ’08-’09, and Thompson has better numbers at 9.1 and 8.4 respectively.

That group was stronger defensively, because Ilgauskas was still a force inside and Wallace was one of the best defensive players in NBA history up front, and West was a very good defender too.

However, the three Cavs who joined the team in January are helping greatly on the defensive end.  Since Timofey Mozgov joined the squad, he has provided the inside presence Blatt’s team sorely needed.  And Shumpert and J.R. Smith have given the wine and gold better defense on the wings.

Can this team go farther in the post-season than the ’09 team? That remains to be seen.  But it is looking like this might be the most talented roster ever to play in Cleveland.

That’s how quickly things have changed in the last month or so.

JK

No Deadline Moves for Cavs, Who Did Heavy Lifting a Month Ago.

The NBA all-star break has come and gone and the season will continue for the Cleveland Cavaliers tomorrow night at Washington against the Wizards.

It’s the first of a tough 14 game stretch for the wine and gold which will likely determine whether or not they can finish the season as the #2 or #3 seed in the Eastern Conference.

It was a quiet trade deadline for GM David Griffin because he did all of his heavy lifting in January, curing much of what ailed the Cavs by getting Timofey Mozgov, J.R. Smith, and Iman Shumpert basically for Dion Waiters and a first round draft pick.

Those two deals seemed to have turned the season around for the wine and gold, who responded by winning 14 of their last 16 games.

So, the big moves made today, in which 37 players changed teams, were made a month ago by Griffin, transforming his team instantly, and correcting the moves made during the off-season (except for getting LeBron James and Kevin Love), which failed.

The bad news is the Cavs still have two weaknesses.  The good news is that they involve the ninth and tenth men in coach David Blatt’s rotation, an extra big man and another point guard.

The loss to Chicago right before the break demonstrated Cleveland can only go three deep at the center and power forward spots, and if someone is missing (like Love that night with an eye injury) or one of them get into foul trouble (like Mozgov did), Blatt’s alternative is to use James Jones, a three-point specialist, at the #4, or dust off Brendan Haywood, who it appears has nothing left in the tank except his favorable contract.

That means Griffin is left to go after one of the big men who could get a buyout after being traded.

The biggest candidate would Kendrick Perkins, dealt by Oklahoma City to Utah today.  The 6’10”, 280 pound center has plenty of playoff experience with 135 games, including three trips to The Finals.

Perkins would clog the middle, and although he is limited offensively, could give Blatt another defensive minded post presence.  And he would only need to play around 10 minutes per night.

The Clippers are said to also be interested, as Perkins played for Doc Rivers in Boston, but Cleveland would seem to present a better chance to play in June.

Despite Atlanta’s play thus far, many experts still expect the Eastern Conference to come down to the Cavaliers and the Bulls, and with Chicago having Joakim Noah, Paul Gasol, and Taj Gibson, it would serve the Cavs well to have another experience big man to battle the Bulls’ trio.

JaVale McGee, traded to Philadelphia today, would be another possibility, but the Sixers are said to be keeping the oft-injured big man.  He has only played 22 games over the last two seasons, but two years ago averaged 9.1 points and almost five boards a night in 18 minutes.

As for a point, the Cavs can probably afford to stay with Matthew Dellavedova, because James is the primary ball handler, and it would be seamless to use LeBron along with Shumpert and Smith on the floor together with Love and Mozgov or Thompson.

In fact, that group would make the wine and gold very long defensively.

Most of the top teams in the standings did the same as Cleveland today, that is to say stand pat.  Griffin was proactive and re-shaped his squad a month ago, giving them a 30 day head start on the teams than made moves today.

Hopefully, that pays off when spring arrives.

JK

Why Baseball’s All Star Game is Still The King

Last Sunday night as we were driving around northeastern Ohio, we checked in on what was going on at the NBA All Star Game, and we were soured almost immediately.

The game was late in the first half, with the score in the 70’s for both teams, and we heard the play-by-play man say there was only one foul called during the game.  We thought that he had to misspeak, that it would be impossible for virtually no fouls to be called in the first half of a professional basketball game.

Sure enough, when we checked the statistics for the first half (mainly to see how LeBron James and Kyrie Irving were doing), we saw the announcer was accurate.

The lack of fouls indicates that a total lack of defense was in the game.  Quite simply, no one was even trying on the defensive end.

We felt that the NBA’s star spectacular is now no different from the Pro Bowl and the NHL All Star contest, meaning it bears no relationship to the sport that gets played throughout the regular season.

That might be fine for the younger basketball fans, but what they are playing in that game isn’t basketball, much like the travesty that is the Pro Bowl is really no longer football.

And no one would complain if that game just went away.

No one is suggesting that players take charges, or hammer someone to the floor trying to stop a lay up attempt. But would it kill someone to get in someone’s way every once in a while?

Not to be showing our age, but in the 80’s and 90’s, the players did play some defense, Michael Jordan didn’t want someone scoring 40 points while he was on the floor, and while the players ran the floor and threw fancy, jaw-dropping passes you wouldn’t see in the regular season, there was still a competitive aspect to the game.

That’s why baseball’s mid-summer classic is still the king, and it’s because of the nature of the sport.

Baseball is the only sport where the defense (being the pitcher) has the ball.  For Clayton Kershaw to show his skills on the mound, he has to keep a batter from showing what he can do.

It’s the essence of the sport, and that’s why their All Star Game is still the purest.

Imagine if this July, Corey Kluber made the all-star team and decided to lob pitches in so fans could see Giancarlo Stanton belt one in the upper deck.  It wouldn’t happen, right?

Because Kluber would be there trying to show the fans why he is there.  And to show his talent, he has to prevent Stanton from showing his.

In basketball, the players enjoy showing their creativity and skill set, but it would mean more if there was someone trying to prevent it.

What’s better?  A breakaway dunk off a steal, or a player throwing one down in traffic.

The NBA needs to tighten up their product in terms of the All Star Game.  You have the 24 best players in the world all on the court at the same time.  Why not play the ultimate game one time a year.

Again, we don’t need to have people get hurt, but at least play passable defense, not what was on display Sunday night.

It would be a better show than what was seen at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.  The league deserves a better showcase.

JK

Spring Training Arrives This Week. Hooray!

It is hard to believe since the city is suffering sub-zero temperatures and a blizzard this weekend, but the thing baseball fans long for all winter is here this week.

Pitchers and catchers report to spring training this Wednesday.

Here are some of the things we will be looking for in Goodyear over the next six weeks.

1). The Indians have lowered expectations on top prospect Francisco Lindor, a top five prospect in all of baseball depending on who is doing the rating, but it will be interesting how he performs in camp.

The organization would like to keep him in AAA so they don’t start the arbitration clock, but if he has a monster exhibition campaign and let’s say Jose Ramirez struggles, there will be pressure to have him in Houston on Opening Day.

Really though, it will just be exciting to watch the kid play.  It has been a long time since the Indians had such a heralded prospect.

2).  The health of Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn.  Swisher is coming off surgery on both his knees, and ended his string of 20+ home run seasons at nine straight.  That’s why we are optimistic about the switch-hitter.  His bad season can be attributed to a one year physical problem.

We were not as high on the Bourn signing when it occurred, and haven’t been convinced otherwise. His OPS has dropped sixty points since his 2011 season (.349 on base percentage, 61 stolen bases), and he has stolen just 33 bases (18 caught steals) since arriving at Progressive Field.

Both players need healthy legs to provide the power (Swisher) and speed (Bourn) the Tribe needs to improve an inconsistent offense.

3). It is no secret that the Indians need a bonafide right-handed bat. In 2013, Ryan Raburn had a tremendous season (.272, 16 HR, 901 OPS) to fill that void, but he’s been not good in two of his last three seasons.

If he doesn’t bounce back, then who will fill the void?

We would like to see Jesus Aguilar get a shot.  Aguilar struggled in his paltry 33 at-bats last season in the bigs, getting just four hits and striking out 13 times.

However, his minor league numbers show power and a declining strike out rate.

He whiffed 115 times in ’12 between Akron and Carolina, 105 times in AA in 2013, and lowered that number to 77 at Columbus last year in 499 plate appearances.  In those three seasons, he belted 53 homers and knocked in 253 runs.

With a shortage of right-handed pop around the game, if the Indians don’t give the 24-year-old a chance, someone else will.

4). Depth in the rotation.  With the signing of Gavin Floyd, the Indians have stockpiled some starters for the 162 game season.  We know there will be minor things that will cause pitchers to miss starts, so having T.J. House, Zack McAllister (who may be a solid bullpen option) and Josh Tomlin in reserve is key.

The biggest thing for Mickey Callaway will be for everyone to be healthy in Arizona and be able to open the season with a rotation of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Floyd, and Danny Salazar heading into April.

5).  We are also looking for this year’s spring phenom.  Last year, it was Erik Gonzalez who was impressive and then had a breakthrough season with Class A Carolina and then on to AA Akron.

Who will emerge this season?  That’s always one of the fun things to watch in exhibition play.

Isn’t it refreshing to that baseball season gets going this week.  We need something to remind us that the cold will only last another two months. Three months?

 

Here’s Hoping Browns Aren’t Reaching for QB

It is becoming an annual rite of passage for football fans in Cleveland, Ohio.

The season ends, and the Cleveland Browns are looking at the quarterbacks who are entering the NFL from the college ranks, and the national pundits are talking about the Browns moving up in the draft to take yet another signal caller.

Last season, GM Ray Farmer resisted the temptation to use the fourth overall pick to take a passer, but succumbed to pressure from around the city to find one and moved up to pick Johnny Manziel with the 22nd choice.

Now, NFL insiders are saying that Farmer is enamored with another Heisman Trophy winner, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, and the Browns are looking to move up to get him.

Adding fuel to the flames is the man who appears to be Cleveland’s next quarterback coach, Kevin O’Connell, is currently working with Mariota, preparing him for his personal workouts with pro teams.

While the Browns certainly have to upgrade the quarterback position, we aren’t sure that picking another guy out of college is the answer, particularly this year.

Most scouts say the most talented passer coming out this year is Jameis Winston from Florida State.  However, Winston has a lot of baggage and after coming off the Manziel circus, do the Browns want to deal with that again?

Mariota has the size, but is he ready to step in and play at the NFL level?  His offensive system at Oregon was gimmicky, trying to catch the defense off guard by running plays quickly.  That’s not going to happen at the professional level.

And this isn’t to say we wouldn’t take either guy.  If one or both fell to the Browns’ first pick at #12 overall, or even further to #19, you would have to think about drafting either player, but we would also bring in a veteran, not necessarily Brian Hoyer, to compete for the job.

We just wouldn’t sacrifice a draft pick, or perhaps multiple choices to move up in the selection process to get either.

Why?  Because even though quarterback is a most important position, it’s not the only hole the Cleveland Browns have to fill.

They could use a wide receiver.  They could use another offensive lineman.  They could use defensive line depth and another linebacker as well.

If a quality player is available at one of those positions, Farmer should use the picks he has to fill one of those spots.  Don’t reach for a quarterback yet again.

We say that because in our opinion there aren’t any signal callers available who are worth the price of trading an extra high draft choice.  So, basically you would be expending the pick you traded for plus another pick, probably in the first three rounds of the draft.

If we thought either Winston or Mariota was an Andrew Luck type player, then the Browns should do what they have to, but that’s not the case.

So, Farmer and the front office should simply sit tight, and draft the best player available, and continue to build a strong team around whoever plays QB when the regular season starts in September.

It’s about time the Browns learn from their mistakes.

JD

 

 

Forget the Numbers, Love is Still a Key Component

Every time the Cleveland Cavaliers lose a basketball game, the reaction from the fans on social media is predictable.  Two people take the brunt of the blame.

It is either David Blatt’s fault, because that’s who we are in Cleveland, it’s always the coach’s fault.  God forbid, we ever make the players responsible for a defeat.

The second person who gets hammered for a loss is Kevin Love.  The only reason we can think of for this is that Love was apparently expected to average 25.0 points and 15 rebounds per game when GM David Griffin traded this year’s first overall pick, Andrew Wiggins and last year’s first overall pick, Anthony Bennett, along with other stuff to get the Timberwolves’ best player.

It’s not fair to Love, who certainly isn’t playing terrible, he’s averaging 17.1 points and 10.5 boards per contest.  And most basketball people realize it was Love who had to make the biggest adjustment among the Cavs’ stars, certainly more than LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.

He is taking the least amount of shots since his second year in the league at 13.1 per game, down from the 18.5 he took per night with Minnesota a year ago.  He’s also making less, hitting just 42.7% compared to his career mark of 45.1% with the Wolves.  And his three-point accuracy is down slightly from his lifetime figure of 36.2% to 34.7%.

We have noticed that Love has been tentative in taking open shots at times, most notably in last Friday’s loss to Indiana which ended the wine and gold’s 12 game winning streak.

That and his decreased shooting percentage are the only problems we can find in the former UCLA star’s game.

There are some who think the Cavaliers would be better off with Tristan Thompson in the lineup instead of Love.  They are showing a lack of understanding of basketball when making that statement.

The Clippers’ Doc Rivers said it correctly when talking about Love last week.  You have to guard him.  Even if he’s shooting for a lower percentage than his norm, defenses have to pay attention to him.  And when he’s standing out around the third point line, opponents have to respect him, and that opens up driving lanes for Lebron James and Kyrie Irving.

That’s a key for the Cavaliers’ attack.

Conversely, Thompson doesn’t have to be guarded.  He has to be kept off the offensive boards, where he is very effective, but most teams would be thrilled if the fourth year pro out of Texas would shoot anything beside a lay up or a dunk.

People who only look at the raw numbers only don’t understand this dynamic.  Sometimes it is not what the player does, it’s what he is capable of doing that counts.

So, as long as Love is a threat, he is a very important piece of this Cavalier team.

It appears that Love realizes that his shot is off and he is putting time in to correct that.  We also believe that James’ “fit out” comment had more to do with the tentative play of the former all-star.  Love was told to be himself and not “fit in” during the preseason, and James sees him thinking too much and not playing his game.

In the meantime, just be patient.  Love will regain his shooting touch, and when he does, this offense will be even better.

The Cavs are getting better on a game by game basis.  Hopefully, that will continue well into the spring.

JK