Monday, September 9, 2013

Browns Week 1 report card

Well, another opener, another loss for the Cleveland Browns, falling at home to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, 23-10. It wasn't all bad, though. The Browns held the lead, 7-6, going into halftime, but with a gassed defense that was getting after the quarterback more often than not for 32:47, the Browns offense was only able to put up three points in the entire second half, compared to the Dolphins' 17. So, who played well and who played poorly?



QB: Brandon Weeden: C-
I know a lot of people are getting on Weeden for his game Sunday, but can he really be blamed for everything? With poor offensive line play that allowed six sacks and a multitude of knockdowns, what can a guy do? Not to mention, two of Weeden's three INTs were bounced off of his receivers' hands, with the first INT coming on a deep ball on a third and long that worked as a glorified coffin-corner punt. Weeden had way too much weight put on his shoulders for a second-year starter in a new system, attempting 53 passes with his best weapon serving a two-game suspension. Still, Weeden threw for 289 yards. Obviously Weeden didn't play well, not looking poised against the blitz and locking down on receivers, but it wasn't entirely his fault.

RB: Trent Richardson: C-
On the Browns' opening drive, it looked like the Browns were going to ride T-Rich all afternoon. As it turned out, Richardson only had 13 carries for 47 yards. Do you blame this on coaching? Do you blame this on poor offensive line play? Do you blame this on the Dolphins stacking the box? Whatever it was, Richardson was average at best and ineffective.

                                                                                    WRs: D-
Of Weeden's 289 passing yards, only 132 of them were to Browns receivers. Greg Little played like Greg Little, dropping pass after pass and Travis Benjamin followed suit. We don't even need to get into the fact that they weren't getting open. The only reason the receivers as a whole aren't receiving an F is because of the play of Davone Bess. It seemed as if whenever the Browns needed a big catch, Bess was the guy Weeden was targeting, with Bess catching the accurate passes thrown to him. Bess had five catches for 47 yards.

TE: Jordan Cameron: A
Sunday's game was the official coming out party of Jordan Cameron. Cameron has always had the athletic ability with his basketball background, but yesterday he showed that he is a football player, catching nine passes for 108 yards and scoring the Browns' only touchdown.

Offensive Line: F
Yes, an offensive line with Joe Thomas and Alex Mack just received an F. The Dolphins were able to rack up 16 hits on Weeden, three tackles for loss and six sacks. On the right side of the line, guard Oniel Cousins and tackle Mitchell Schwartz were down right atrocious. Schwartz at least had an excuse because he was lined up against Cameron Wake, who had 2.5 sacks, but there is no excuse for Cousins' play. Cousins not only was called for holding and false starting, but more importantly allowed the Dolphins' front seven to control the game from start to finish with whoever he was matched up against causing havoc in the backfield.

Offense: D


                                                                                    Defensive Line: A-
The Browns' defensive line controlled the game for over three quarters Sunday, even with Ahtyba Rubin out with a calf injury. New addition Desmond Bryant had two sacks alongside Phil Taylor and Billy Winn, who each had two tackles. The Dolphins' rushing attack was ineffective,  rushing for just 20 yards on 23 carries. The defensive line just ran out of gas a little bit at the end.

Linebackers: A-
Much like the Browns' defensive line, linebackers D'Qwell Jackson, Paul Kruger, Craig Robertson, Jabaal Sheard and Quentin Groves all played well. Kruger racked up a sack and four tackles, while Jackson had a team-leading nine tackles, with Groves also sacking Ryan Tannehill.. By making life uncomfortable for Tannehill and shutting down the run alongside the defensive line, you couldn't have asked for much more from the Browns' front seven. Much like the defensive line, the Browns' linebackers ran out of gas at the end. The Browns surely could have used Barkevious Mingo.

CB: Joe Haden: A
Yes, I know that Joe Haden dropped a sure-fire interception, but if you can match up with Mike Wallace and hold him to one catch for 15 yards, that's an A in my book.

Cornerbacks: F
I had to put a different category between Haden and the rest of the Browns' cornerbacks. Buster Skrine played like Buster Skrine and Chris Owens followed. Funny how the Browns' receivers and corners did the same thing. Owens and Skrine were picked on all day, with Brian Hartline (9 receptions, 114 yards, TD) and Brandon Gibson (7 receptions, 77 yards) beating them all day long.

Safeties: B
T.J. Ward played like you would expect Ward to play, except for the dropped pick in the end zone that cost the Browns seven points. Browns fans had to be pleased with the play of Tashaun Gibson, who had the team's only INT and Johnson Bademosi. Still, there is room for improvement from both safety positions.

Defense: B

Team: C

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Top 10 point guards in the NBA

I can't stand to watch another second of ESPN and its Heat coverage. It's making me sick to my stomach. Let's pretend all point guards in the NBA are healthy. When healthy, these are the Top 10 point guards in the league:

Note: All statistics are among point guards only and do not factor in other positions.

1. Tony Parker- I'm sold. Parker took a Spurs team with only one other legitimate All-Star in Tim Duncan to a Game 7 against the Miami Heat. Parker is the heart and soul of San Antonio. Not to mention his stellar statistics, finishing Top 5 in scoring and Top 10 in assists, all while managing to shoot 52.2 percent from the field in 2012-13.

2. Chris Paul- CP3 can do it all. Well, except get along with his teammates. I'm looking at you, Blake Griffin. Anyway, Paul was second  in assists and still managed to score 16.9 points per game at a high percentage. I think CP3 will shine even brighter in 2013-14 with Doc Rivers.

3. Kyrie Irving- Uncle Drew is barely 21 years old, people. Kyrie was third in scoring and proved All-Star weekend that he is more than a slasher who can get in the lane and score. He is also one of the best shooters in the game today.

4. Russell Westbrook- Westbrook had a stellar season for the Thunder before his devastating injury in the playoffs. His injury proved how valuable he is to the Thunder's success, like we didn't know that already considering Westbrook led all point guards in scoring with 23.2 points per game.

5. Derrick Rose- Before Rose's injury, he was far and away the best point guard in the game in my eyes. Now, he's not even in the conversation. You can't be cleared to play for months and not play when your team needs you in the playoffs. If I were a Bulls fan, I would be sick to my stomach. Leaders, competitors and winners would have begged to be on the court come playoff time. Instead, Rose wasn't mentally strong enough to play despite being physically strong enough.

6. Rajon Rondo- I love Rondo. When writing this, I can't believe he is this low on my list, but there are a lot of good point guards in the league these days. Rondo is the ultimate floor general who is the best passer in the game without question. He is also one of the best defenders we have in the league today. If Rondo had any type of jump shot, he'd be unstoppable.

7. Stephen Curry- I think we all saw what Curry could do in the playoffs this year. We all knew Curry could shoot before he came into the league, but who would have thought he would develop into such an all-around scorer? Curry can change any game with his scoring ability. If Curry can get better defensively and turn the ball over less, he will shoot up to the Top 5.

8. Deron Williams- Ugh. I am not a Deron Williams fan. In my mind, he is the most overrated player in the league, but I guess I have to put him in the Top 10, right? Williams can still put the ball in the basket, but I don't see the superstar that others see. If he was a superstar, the Nets would be a force in the East with Lopez and Johnson alongside Williams.

9. Ty Lawson- Lawson made huge strides in Denver this season, leading the Nuggets to a 57-win season. Lawson doesn't have a weakness to his game, but at the same time, he doesn't have a part of his game that says superstar.

10. Damian Lillard- I'm really high on Lillard. Really high. The kid can straight up put the ball in the basket and he was only a rookie. Portland could be a playoff team for a long time with Lillard and Aldridge if they can add one more crucial piece.

Friday, November 2, 2012

2012-13 NBA preview

After reading Sports Illustrated's asinine 2012-13 NBA predictions, I felt it was necessary to give an expert's opinion on the season upcoming (I'm the expert). While they may have been right in some areas, I find it hard to believe that a person who regularly watches the NBA is predicting the Atlanta Hawks to finish as the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.

First, here's what Sports Illustrated predicted:
Eastern Conference:
1. Miami Heat
2. Indians Pacers
3. New York Knicks
4. Brooklyn Nets
5. Boston Celtics
6. Atlanta Hawks
7. Chicago Bulls
8. Philadelphia 76ers
9. Milwaukee Bucks
10. Toronto Raptors
11. Detroit Pistons
12. Cleveland Cavaliers
13. Washington Wizards
14. Charlotte Bobcats
15. Orlando Magic

Western Conference:
1. Oklahoma City Thunder
2. Los Angeles Lakers
3. San Antonio Spurs
4. Denver Nuggets
5. Los Angeles Clippers
6. Memphis Grizzlies 
7. Dallas Mavericks
8. Utah Jazz
9. Minnesota Timberwolves
10. Phoenix Suns
11. Golden State Warriors
12. New Orleans Hornets
13. Portland Trail Blazers
14. Houston Rockets
15. Sacramento Kings

Eastern Conference Finals:
Heat over Knicks

Western Conference Finals:
Lakers over Thunder

NBA Finals: 
Heat over Lakers

My Predictions: 
Eastern Conference: 
1. Miami Heat - The Heat have the best player in the game in LeBron James and added Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis to their championship roster. If the "Big Three" stay healthy, don't be surprised to see the Heat threaten the Bulls' record of 72 wins. 
2. Brooklyn Nets - This pick may be solely based on upside, but aside from Miami, what team in the Eastern Conference has more upside than the Nets? Joe Johnson and Deron Williams may be the scariest backcourt in the league, with MarShon Brooks on the bench, as well. Not to mention the Nets have a Top 3 center in Brook Lopez if he can remain healthy.
3. Boston Celtics - Everyone may be writing off the crafty veterans a little too soon heading into the 2012-13 season. Boston gave Miami everything they could handle last year and have added Jason Terry. Although Allen was a key cog in the Celtics' success over the years, Terry is a better player today. Expect Jeff Green and Courtney Lee to have strong years.
4. Indiana Pacers - After making a run to beat the Heat in the playoffs, the Pacers are poised to top their 2011-12 season in 2012-13. The problem with Indiana is the lack of star power. Can a team in today's league compete for a title with Danny Granger as its star player? The additions Gerald Green and D.J. Augustin will surely help, but that won't magically give Indiana someone to give the ball to in the fourth quarter.
5. New York Knicks - Many criticized New York's failure to bring back Jeremy Lin, but the Knicks in turn signed Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby and Ronnie Brewer. With a roster full of talent, the sky's the limit for the Knicks. But can a roster full of players that need the ball in their hands co-exist? 
6. Philadelphia 76ers - Andrew Bynum is in Philly! Andre Iguodala is now in Denver, but wouldn't you rather have Bynum than Iguodala? The 76ers are a young, talented team, but may not be ready to seriously compete for another year or two.
7. Chicago Bulls - Are the Bulls good enough to even make the playoffs without Derrick Rose? Who knows when Rose will be back. Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer may play well enough to guide the ship for awhile, but if Rose is out until March, the Bulls may be on the outside looking in come April. 
8. Cleveland Cavaliers - Ladies and gentlemen, Cleveland has found its replacement for King James. And his name is Kyrie Irving. Had Irving and Varejao remained healthy in 2011-12, the Cavs may have made a push for the playoffs. Byron Scott admits that rookie Dion Waiters has a way to go, but is in love with his potential. The Cavs are going to have to find someone to fill the points being lost by Antawn Jamison, but the additions of Waiters and C.J. Miles may do the trick. If Irving plays like a superstar, the Cavs will make the playoffs.
9. Washington Wizards - The Wizards may be the most improved team heading into the season. Bradley Beal may end up being the Rookie of the Year and the Wizards didn't stop there. Washington also added Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor and A.J. Price. John Wall is poised to finally have a breakout year and if he does, expect Wall and Irving to battle it out for the eighth seed.
10. Milwaukee Bucks - With essentially the same team as they had last year, the Bucks don't have much of a chance to make the playoffs in an improved Eastern Conference. Samuel Dalembert should help at the center position, but that's not going to cut it.
11. Toronto Raptors - Could the Raptors' season be up to how well Jonas Valanciunas plays? Andrea Bargnani and Valanciunas could make up a unique frontcourt that could cause problems for any team. Whether or not a backcourt of Kyle Lowry and Terrence Ross is good enough to make the playoffs is yet to be seen.
12. Atlanta Hawks - Finally, there's a Hawks sighting. How can a team starting Jeff Teague, Anthony Morrow and Kyle Korver possibly make the playoffs? Sure, Josh Smith and Al Horford are back, but neither of them can take over a game in the fourth quarter. It's going to be a long year for Atlanta.
13. Detroit Pistons - Is Corey Maggette enough to carry the Pistons into the playoffs? If you read that seriously, I feel bad for you. While Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe are promising young players, the Pistons need a couple more pieces to seriously compete.
14. Charlotte Bobcats - Charlotte's 2012-13 roster only has remnants left of its 2011-12 roster, thankfully. Ramon Sessions, Ben Gordon and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist should at least improve the Bobcats, but a team as young as the Bobcats with so many new pieces may take some time to acclimate to the NBA.
15. Orlando Magic - Yuck. The Magic are starting Gustavo Ayon? This roster is in full on rebuilding mode with the trade of Dwight Howard. Orlando may have a long way to go until they're playoff contenders once again.

Western Conference: 
1, Oklahoma City Thunder - Another year, another year of experience for OKC. Now that they know what it takes to get to the Finals, expect the Thunder to build off last year's performance. Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and James Harden beats Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard in an 82-game season because of age and health alone.
2. Los Angeles Lakers - Let's not crown the Lakers yet, people. When the Lakers got bounced from the playoffs in 2012, Lakers fans were calling for Gasol's head and now that Howard is with the team, Gasol is being praised for being part of one of the best rosters ever. Nash still can't play defense and Howard's back still raises concerns. Let's wait and see how this old team plays out before we start talking about a guaranteed trip to the Finals. 
3. San Antonio Spurs - After rolling in 2011-12, the Spurs looked as if they were going to another NBA Finals. Well, that didn't happen. Will age finally catch up with them this season? Until I see it, I'm not writing off the Spurs just yet.
4. Los Angeles Clippers - Jamal Crawford and Lamar Odom were added to an already stacked roster. Could this team end up being the best team in L.A. in a long, 82-game season? I'm not willing to go that far, but the potential is there.
5. Memphis Grizzlies - The Grizzlies have been on the cusp of becoming legitimate contenders in the West for the past couple of years, but did little to get over the hump in the offseason. Jerryd Bayless should help Z-Bo and company, but not enough to make a splash in May.
6. Denver Nuggets - While Iguodala can be an All-Star caliber type of player, there isn't enough in Denver to be over optimistic heading into the season. Kenneth Faried reminds me of a young Dennis Rodman, but that isn't going to be enough to seriously compete with the big boys out West.
7. Dallas Mavericks - The Mavs may have lost Jet Terry and Kidd, but let's look at who Dallas added: Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, Chris Kaman and Elton Brand. It may take some time for the team to gel, but if they do, they may have been slighted with this seventh seed prediction.
8. Minnesota Timberwolves - If Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love return from injury before the new year, expect the Timberwolves to make some noise. Brandon Roy and Andrei Kirilenko aren't enough to steer the ship, but they may be able to guide it for a couple months with Love and Rubio out.
9. New Orleans Hornets - Anthony Davis, Austin Rivers and Eric Gordon make up one of the youngest, most talented cores in the NBA. The Hornets lucked out getting the first overall pick and a sure fire superstar that will make his presence known for years to come. Davis is the real deal. 
10. Golden State Warriors - What a steal the Warriors got drafting Harrison Barnes. Barnes plays like a fellow ACC alum in Luol Deng. Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry help make up one of the best shooting backcourts in the NBA, which should help double-double machine David Lee when he sees doubles in the post.
11. Utah Jazz - Mo Gotti to Utah? Mo Williams is an upgrade over Devin Harris, but unless Kanter and Favors made huge strides in the offseason, the Jazz may be on the outside looking in come playoff time in an improved Western Conference.
12. Portland Trail Blazers - LaMarcus Aldridge proved that he is an All-Star caliber player last year and J.J. Hickson proved that the Kings made a mistake by letting him go. The issue with the Blazers is whether or not Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard are starters in the NBA.
13. Phoenix Suns - The new look Suns have a lot of work to do before they can start thinking playoffs. Goran Dragic and Luis Scola are nice pieces, but a team with Michael Beasley as its best scorer won't have much success.
14. Sacramento Kings - How disappointing was Tyreke Evans last season?And how disappointing has DeMarcus Cousins been? Cousins has all the talent in the world, but until he gets his head on straight, the Kings will continue to be one of the bottom feeders in the NBA. Sorry, Thomas Robinson. 
15. Houston Rockets- Linsanity has made its way to Houston. Too bad the Rockets overspent on both Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik. Houston has set itself up for failure for many years to come with these high priced signings. The Rockets and Magic should be duking out for the most ping pong balls come season's end.

Eastern Conference Finals:
Heat over Celtics - The Heat are too good and too talented to not make it out of the East once again. The Celtics have too much experience and too good of a point guard to not get back in the Eastern Conference Finals despite their old age.

Western Conference Finals:
Thunder over Clippers - That's right. I don't even have the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. The Clip Show has a ton of talent and isn't relying on an old point guard that can't play defense and a pre-Madonna center. Still, the Thunder are too good to lose to the Clippers. Durantula all day, every day. 

NBA Finals: 
Thunder over Heat - It's Durant versus LeBron round two. This time, Durant comes out on top. Who thought that the Heat was going to win the championship after the first game of the NBA Finals last year? The moment was too big for Harden and company, but this year, they'll be ready.

Prediction After Harden Trade:
Well, I literally wrote this article hours before the Harden trade went down. To be fair to SI, I had to keep my predictions because SI didn't have knowledge of the trade for their preview section either. Just a precursor after the trade, I am no longer picking the Thunder to win the title or make it to the NBA Finals.
The Thunder got a good amount in return from Houston, but shipping away Harden was a colossal mistake. Harden is a player that can be the best player on the court on any given night. Jeremy Lamb is a strong young talent, but will take some time to develop. In the long run, it may work out for OKC, but for this season, it will only hurt their chances of making it back to the Finals. I'd take the title shot rather than build for the future, personally. Now, the Rockets have improved quite a bit, but they will fall just short of making the playoffs despite adding a superstar like Harden. I've gone back and forth with my pick in the West and I'm going with Chris Paul and company to upset the Lakers in the "Battle of L.A." But that means it's a Clippers, Heat match-up. I'm going with Miami in a sweep. Let's pray this doesn't happen, but who can match up with the Heat in a seven-game series other than a Thunder team with Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka and Harden? Another ring for LeBron. Sigh.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The King got his ring, but at what cost?

I remember July 8, 2010 like it was yesterday. Of course, this was the day that LeBron James made his "Decision." 

I woke up that morning as if I was taking part in the Hunger Games and the reaping. I woke up that morning and all I could think about was what this man was going to do later that night. Surely he couldn't leave his hometown and a city that treated him like a king (no pun intended).

I had to go to work that afternoon, but I specifically remember taking a shower that morning. All of my best thinking is done in the shower and my mind was spinning out of control that morning. For a brief moment, I thought James really might be leaving. He really might leave. This thought had never seriously crossed my mind before this moment, honestly. I had so much faith in "The Chosen One" that I knew there was a small possibility of him leaving, but at the end of the day, he was going to stay. 

That shower that morning made me think there was a strong possibility he was going to team up with Wade and Bosh down in Miami. When this realization finally occurred to me, I had the first nervous breakdown and only nervous breakdown that I have ever experienced in my entire life. 

I panicked. I didn't know what to do. I started shaking uncontrollably. I couldn't breathe. It felt as if someone punched me in the gut.

Somehow, I regrouped and convinced myself that I was being completely irrational and that there was no way he was going to leave. I made it to work that day on time and had no nervous breakdowns for the rest of the afternoon. My hero whom I had been following since he was in high school wasn't going to leave. I was just being a pessimistic Cleveland fan in the shower, right?

I was wrong. When this happened, my world had been turned upside down. I wasn't mentally prepared for this because I wouldn't allow myself to be mentally prepared for this. I didn't allow myself to listen to any of the reports that were made that LeBron was going to Miami prior to "The Decision." 

When James said, "In this fall I'm going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat," the feelings that I had experienced cannot even be described. I was filled with anger, sadness, hatred and plenty of other words that don't do justice as to how crushed I felt.

I didn't know what to do. I jumped in my car and road down to downtown Cleveland with my best friend. I don't know exactly what I wanted to accomplish downtown that night, but it wasn't going to be anything my mom would be proud of.

I cried the whole way driving downtown that night. The whole way. I hadn't cried like that since the Cavs lost their series to the Boston Celtics in game 6 in 2010. LeBron let me down then and LeBron just let me down again.

My friend and I got to downtown and everyone was just like me. Everyone looked as if they were in shock and it wasn't real. I had a man come up to me and say, "Is this real? Is this really happening?" I shook my head no as if it wasn't real.

After spending a couple of hours downtown and looking to get into trouble, to be perfectly honest, I drove my friend home. I took him home around 2:00 a.m., I believe. After that, I just drove. I didn't go home. I didn't want to go home. If I went home, the night was over. LeBron was really gone and wasn't coming back. It still wasn't sinking in. I wouldn't let it sink in. 

I cut off all communication with the outside world except for the friend I went downtown with. People kept calling and texting me just to see if I was OK the entire night, but I didn't respond. Some of my close friends were genuinely scared that I may hurt myself that night. 

I would never hurt myself in any way, but instead, I drove. I drove through every part that the city of Cleveland had to offer. I drove through the good, the bad and the ugly. I just didn't get why anyone would want to leave this city. Call me crazy, but the city of Cleveland is paradise. Every part of it is paradise, from the Flats all the way to the projects. 

I eventually drove home and went to bed. I cried myself to sleep that night. I went and got my dog, held him and cried myself to sleep. This was all over a basketball player, but this wasn't any basketball player, it was LeBron James. 

LeBron grew up where my grandparents and dad grew up. He grew up in Akron, Ohio. My grandparents have lived in the same house in Akron for over 50 years and still live there today. LeBron wasn't just a player, he was one of us.

LeBron has Akron's area code of 330 tattooed on his body. LeBron said, ""Akron is my home; it's my life. Everything I do is for this city." How could he leave his hometown after saying this? 

People can say all they want that Akron and Cleveland aren't the same city, but they are one in the same. My family has lived in Akron for nearly a century now and they will be the first ones to tell you that Akron and Cleveland are one in the same. Akron doesn't have any professional sports teams. Residents of Akron grow up rooting for the Browns, Cavs and Indians. That's just the way it is. 

This act of betrayal is what left me flabbergasted. I grew up watching his high school games and saving newspapers with him in them (I just found a couple of them recently). I remember watching the Cavaliers win the lottery to draft James. I remember going to LeBron's first ever playoff game with my dad and grandpa. I owned over 20 different LeBron James shirts. I poured my heart and soul into LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. I thought LeBron poured his heart and soul into this city, but I guess I was wrong. 

LeBron wanted to win a championship and left. That's it.

Now, James is going to get his championship (most likely tonight). James went from being the guy who couldn't finish out a fourth quarter to the best basketball player on the planet every single quarter. Did James' play on the court deserve a championship this year? You better believe it. James has played out of his mind the entire postseason and has been nothing short of spectacular. 

It pains me to say this, but I give James a lot of credit for being able to block out the media and just play ball (I can give credit when credit is due).

My question for Mr. James is if it was worth it. Was this championship ring worth it, LeBron? Was it worth breaking an entire city's hearts? Was it worth backstabbing an entire organization and an entire fan base that was there for you for seven years? If you had played like this in 2010, you would have gotten your ring, LeBron. 

You were the one that was supposed to break the Cleveland curse, LeBron. You were the one who promised us that you would. For that, I will never forgive you, LeBron.

The city of Cleveland is starving for a championship and needs one. The city of Miami doesn't even care. I just want to know if all of the heartbreak that you caused was worth it, LeBron. 

The city of Cleveland isn't going anywhere, LeBron. We are here to stay. You can take your ring this year, but we're coming. You better believe it. We're coming and we're doing things the right way without any shortcuts. And when we finally get there, you're not going to know what hit you. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Why Indians fans aren't showing up and why they should

26 games into the 2012 MLB regular season and the Cleveland Indians are currently 15-11 and 1.5 games ahead of the Detroit Tigers for first place in the A.L. Central. So, why exactly are the Indians ranked last in the MLB in attendance?

The Indians are only averaging 15,355 fans per game and only filling 35.3% of Progressive Field through 14 home games. Progressive Field has the capacity to hold 43,429 fans. The Indians are nowhere near that number, obviously. This number may even be inflated a little bit with the Opening Day attendance of 43,190. Sure, the weather has been typical Cleveland weather and awful for the majority of these games, but that's no excuse.

The Indians had once sold out 455 straight games at then named Jacobs Field that spanned from 1995-2001. So, it is possible to sell out the Prog.

Cleveland fans are thought to be one of the best fan bases in the entire country and are seen as the best fans in the country in my own eyes.

Not to make any excuses for the poor attendance, but I believe that Indians fans aren't showing up because of the negativity surrounding Cleveland sports. The Browns haven't had a team make it out of the first round of the playoffs since their return in 1999. All of the life seems to have been sucked out of the Cavs' fan base after LeBron and his "Decision" even though the Cavs have an up-and-coming superstar named Kyrie Irving.

The Indians were in first place in the A.L. Central for much of the 2011 campaign, but as a true Cleveland team would, they faltered to end the season. Many fans are saying that it will happen again in 2012.

The national media hasn't given the 2012 Indians its due and therefore, there is no buzz surrounding this team. Buzz created by the national media is what gets fans in the seats. When LeBron was here, the amount of buzz he created made the entire city electric because of the media attention he was given.

The Browns are the exception when it comes to bringing in the fans without any buzz. Cleveland is a Browns town. The Cleveland Browns have one of the richest histories in football history and fans are always going to support their Brownies. There's only eight games per season, so going to a Browns game is an event. From an economics perspective, the Browns have a shorter supply of games, so, therefore, there is going to be a greater demand to go to the games. The poor product on the field and high ticket prices don't matter as much to fans because of how little games are played at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

The Indians play 81 home games per year. Sure, the ticket prices are the lowest out of any team in town with $10 bleacher seats and $8 upper deck seats, but the money still adds up when you factor in parking and food. In this economy, people are saving their money and spending it wisely. People don't want to spend their hard earned money on a team that they believe is not going to last and a team that they can see later in the year if they do in fact last.

If the Indians are still leading the division come August, then you will see a crowded Progressive Field night in and night out. Fans might start to buy in then. Maybe. Once again, it comes back to the buzz factor created by the national media. Once they start giving the Indians their dues, then you will see fans packing Progressive Field.

Indians fans were spoiled throughout the 1990s. Dick Jacobs spent boat loads of money on players when he was the owner of the Cleveland Indians. In this day and age, that is just not financially feasible to do for a small market team such as the Cleveland Indians.

Larry Dolan has tried building the Indians through the farm system. There is no way that a small market team such as the Cleveland Indians could possibly compete with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox spending wise. There just isn't enough population wise in the greater Cleveland area to do so. Dolan doesn't have a choice as to how to build the Indians if he wants to make money.

The Indians didn't have to compete with the Browns for ticket sales for much of its 455 straight sell outs run. There were two tickets in town: the championship contending Indians and the bottom feeding Cavs. The Indians had a monopoly on Cleveland sports fans in a sense.

Today, people are making less money with the economy and the Indians have to compete with two teams in the city. Cleveland is not a large city and I would argue that a city the size of Cleveland with the lack of success that all of its teams has had would only be able to support two teams tops, but the passionate fans of Cleveland make it possible to have three teams in Cleveland. The small population size of Cleveland forces these three teams to compete with each other for fans. The blue collar workers of Cleveland can't afford to go to a lot of sporting events, but when they do, they want to see a team that wins.

This is why Indians fans should start showing up. Cleveland fans, forget about the national media for a second and look beyond the smoke and mirrors that they've created. Who cares about how the Red Sox are struggling? Who cares about who's going to be the closer for the Yankees? Who cares about Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera? Cleveland fans, let's support these Indians that are poised to make a run at the playoffs in 2012.

Fans complain that the Indians don't have any star power. Once again, that's because of the national media and their lack of coverage with the Indians. The Indians may not have any players with the star power of a Matt Kemp, but the Indians are loaded with young talent and solid ball players. Jason Kipnis is the real deal, folks. Asdrubal Cabrera and Kipnis make up arguably the best middle infield in Major League Baseball. The "Bullpen Mafia" is dynamite and so is the starting rotation. Ubaldo has had his struggles, but he may have turned over a new leaf after beating the almighty Yu Darvish on Sunday.

All I'm saying to Cleveland fans is to stop having so much negativity towards Cleveland sports because it will happen, believe it or not. This 2012 Cleveland Indians could be the team to do it. A team with the amount of work ethic and dedication that this team has is bound for success. Sure, this team doesn't have the fire power as the 1997 Indians, but who cares? They find ways to win games.

So, Cleveland fans, I know it's tough, but dig into your wallets for your hard earned cash and take your family to Progressive Field. You can make memories that will last a lifetime. My best memories as a child were going to Jacobs Field with my dad and watching the Indians play.

Cleveland fans, I beg and plead to you to go out and watch these Indians play because if you wait until August to start showing up, you will have missed the beginning of an amazing journey.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

2011-12 NBA season wrap-up

Six short months ago it wasn't known if there was even going to be a 2011-12 NBA season. Now we are in the last week of a condensed 66-game regular season and the storylines have been even better than last season.

Last season, all of the storylines revolved around "The Big Three" and the Miami Heat. Of course, we got our daily dose of Miami Heat coverage from ESPN this season, but a new storyline that dominated the media emerged and it goes by the name "Linsanity."

Jeremy Lin was a virtual unknown at the beginning of the season and was on his way to the D-League until he got his opportunity in the Big Apple. Lin took the entire country by storm, much like Tim Tebow did in the NFL.

Lin not only was winning games, but he was doing it in the most prestigious basketball arena in the world, Madison Square Garden. Linsanity has since cooled off because of Carmelo Anthony returning from injury and Lin getting injured himself, but hey, it was fun while it lasted.

The story dominating the headlines to end the regular season has been the soap opera going on down in Orlando. The Dwight Howard, Stan Van Gundy marriage looks to have come to an end with one Eastern Conference championship and no NBA championships to show for it.

Howard leaving Orlando at the end of the year or at the deadline seemed like a done deal, but he shocked everyone when he agreed to remain with the Orlando Magic for the 2012-13 season (sorry Nets and Lakers fans). Now Howard may be injured for the entire postseason with a herniated disk that may mean the Magic are heading for a first round exit. Van Gundy will be fired at the end of the season, but will the Magic bring someone in to play Robin to Howard's Batman? We may have another "decision" coming next offseason if not.

As for the actual basketball played on the court this season, it has lived up to the expectations. The teams that were expected to be good - Heat, Bulls, Thunder and Lakers - have been good and the teams we expected to be bad - Hornets, Bobcats, Kings and Wizards - have been bad. "Lob City" - the Los Angeles Clippers- hasn't disappointed and neither has the entire Western Conference.

To sum up the regular season, I will give out my end of the year awards. These are the awards that matter because if voters knew what they were doing, Steve Nash would not have two MVP awards right now, but I digress.

Coach of the Year: Gregg Poppovich. When it comes to NBA coaches year in and year out, it doesn't get much better than Pop. Popovich has managed to keep the Spurs at the top spot in the West while strategically giving Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli days off to rest because of what he calls being "old."

Rookie of the Year: Kyrie Irving. This is an easy choice with Ricky Rubio getting injured early in the season. Irving leads all rookies with 18.8 points per game and also averages 5.7 assists and 3.9 rebounds.

Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard. You can knock Howard for his play at times this season, but one thing that can't be ignored is his 14.5 rebounds per game and 2.15 blocks.

Sixth Man of the Year: James Harden. Not only should you recognize James Harden because of his beard, but you should also recognize him for his play on the court. Harden is averaging 16.4 points, 3.7 assists, and 4.1 rebounds. Keep in mind; these numbers are coming off the bench.

Most Improved Player: Jeremy Lin. A guy that goes from the end of the bench to one of the faces of the NBA deserves to be recognized in some way. Lin may be missing the end of the regular season, but when he did play, he averaged 14.6 points and 6.2 assists. Oh yeah, and all he does is win.

Most Valuable Player: Tony Parker. This pick may seem like it is out of left field, but it's not. A case can be made for a variety of different players including LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love, but Parker is having a year to remember. Parker is averaging 18.4 points and 7.6 assists, but the stats don't tell it all. Parker is the leader of the team with the Western Conference's best record. If Parker plays well, the Spurs play well. If Parker does not play well, neither does his team. Unlike James and Durant, Parker doesn't have superstars surrounding him. He has an aging Duncan and Ginobli as sidekicks. If you base the MVP voting on stats alone, James should win the award every year, but if you base it on who is the most valuable to his team, it's Parker.

The West has seven teams capable of going deep into the playoffs with the Spurs, Thunder, Lakers, Clippers, Grizzlies, Nuggets and Mavericks. The Spurs must have found the fountain of youth and it must be located at the Alamo because they look as if they are poised to make another title run. The Thunder has two MVP candidates in Durant and Westbrook. These are the two teams currently fighting for the top seed in the West and the two teams I predict to go to the Western Conference Finals.

The East is not as deep of a conference as the West, but it is very strong at the top. There are four teams capable of winning the NBA Championship in the Eastern Conference with the Bulls, Heat, Celtics and Knicks. The Knicks are currently the seven seed, but have the talent of a one or two seed when healthy. The Bulls are currently the number one seed and that is with Derek Rose not being 100 percent the entire season. The Heat is the most talented team in the league, but has been struggling of late. I predict that there will be a rematch in the Eastern Conference Finals from a year ago with the Heat and the Bulls, but as we all know, the playoffs are all about matchups.

This postseason is setting up for a Thunder/Bulls Finals matchup. The Bulls are the best defensive team in the league and, if Rose is healthy, the best team in the league. The Thunder is a very talented team and a young and exciting team to watch. The big question mark is if the team can gel for the entire playoffs without Westbrook and Durant clashing. They are too talented to not make it to the NBA Finals for us to see a Rose vs. Westbrook matchup. I'm going with the Bulls and Rose to win it all because, as they say, defense wins championships.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

What to do at 4 and 22?

Another offseason, another rebuilding year for the Cleveland Browns. Another disappointing 4-12 season has Browns fans asking if there is a light at the end of the tunnel. With the right approach to the 2012 NFL Draft, there is.

First of all, I would like to say that I was a firm supporter of trading up to draft RGIII. After those hopes were dashed, a beacon of light came down from the heavens and Tim Tebow became available via trade. Holmgren and Heckert decided to sit on their hands and let the Jets make the trade of the decade. As Skip Bayless would say, "all he does is win." Tim Tebow will be a star in this league. I can promise you that.

Now, what can the Browns do with no quarterbacks worthy to take at number 4? Simple, trade down. It makes no sense to reach for a player at number 4 when they're not worthy of being taken that high. There is NEVER a need to take a running back at number 4, especially Trent Richardson who never has his best games in his most important games (LSU). I'm not saying that he's not a Pro Bowl running back. I'm just saying he's not worthy of a top 5 pick. You can convince me to go for Justin Blackmon or Morris Claiborne at 4, but there are receivers that can be taken at 22 (Alshon Jeffery, Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright, Stephen Hill) and I think the Rams would be very interested to trade up to number 4 and draft Blackmon. Claiborne will be left at 6. Win for the Rams. Win for the Browns. The more picks for a team with as many holes as the Browns, the better. Even if it's just a third and fourth round pick, it's worth trading down for.

Imagine a secondary with Claiborne and Haden. Scary. Now, I know that the offense is what needs work, but I think it is a lost cause for the 2012 campaign with the used-truck salesman at quarterback (Colt McCoy). Add another young player like Claiborne and the Browns could arguably have a top 10 defense and a defense that is built to compete in the future.

At 22, I'm taking the best receiver available. My top receivers after Blackmon are Jeffery, Floyd, Wright, and Hill (in that order). This would give our 2013 quarterback another weapon and Colt another weapon for this year's campaign. I've lost all hope on McCoy, but you never know. I could be wrong. Maybe this draft choice, Greg Little, and Jordan Cameron will all emerge as solid weapons in the passing game.

I know that I'm sounding cynical, but by not obtaining a quarterback via free agency or trade, Holmgren and Heckert sealed the Browns fate for the 2012 season. There's no need to reach for a 28 year old Brandon Weeden and another Big 12 quarterback in Ryan Tannehill. These players have Charlie Frye and Luke McCown written all over them. It may be worth the risk if you don't pick them at 4, however. The Browns need to cut their losses and play malarkey for Barkley in 2012 and build for the future. It's very frustrating, but at this point, the smartest thing for the Browns to do is give Colt one more season to show he is worthy of being an NFL quarterback and if not, hello Matt Barkley (even though Luck and RGIII are both better). The NFL is a win now league, but unfortunately for the Browns, I just don't think that is possible.