Sunday, September 25, 2005

Here ye, here ye, new blog is up and running!

New site is ready to roll. The link is below, check it out and tell all your friends:

http://blogs.ohio.com/cavaliers_blog/

The new blog will be linked off the front page of Ohio.com and my stories. Thanks for making this a regular stop and I look forward to seeing all of you over at the new place.

Brian

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Changes are afoot

Good day, blog loyalists.

Just wanted to give you all a heads up that this little section of the blogosphere will be moving to another site in the near future. It's in an effort to make the blog better as it gears up for its second Cavs season. Hopefully you will all like it.

The site's gotten over a 100,000 hits (the counter at the bottom wasn't added until midseason last year) and generated lots of response. Most of it calls for more, which I'm going to do this season.

I'll post all the details here when the new site is up and running and the links at the bottom of my stories on Ohio.com will change as well.

Until then, as always, thanks and take care,
Brian

Friday, September 09, 2005

Tryin' to be like Mark

After all the media had cleared out of the Damon Jones press conference yesterday at Gund, ahem, Quicken Loans, Arena, Danny Ferry wanted to talk baseball.

Next door the Indians were about to start another winning effort. One of his best friends, Tribe GM Mark Shapiro, has his budding masterpiece continuing to mature. Count Ferry as one of those who is in awe of Shapiro's work rebuilding the Indians and how is long ago promise of "2005 is our year" is coming true.

Ferry only wishes he's half as successful with his maneuvers.

Several e-mailers over the last week have suggested Danny Ferry be made president, or at least the head of FEMA. I'll, too, tip my cap to Ferry this offseason. He had a massive responsibility: to properly spend $28 million in cap space. He added a dynamic potential superstar in Larry Hughes, re-signed an All-Star in his prime in Zydrunas Ilgauskas, added a multi-talented veteran who can shoot and play multiple positions in Donyell Marshall, and picked up probably the best shooter on the open market in Damon Jones.

As evidenced by the e-mails and some of the talk shows I've heard, many fans are down right giddy with the moves. I'll say, too, that for the most part I think Ferry has done an excellent job. I think he paid fair market value for Jones and Marshall and actually got Hughes to turn down more guaranteed money from the Wizards. I think he gave Z too many years (5 for $53 million), but I guess he did what he had to do get the deal done.

However, the reason Ferry feels a little envy for Shapiro is that his buddy's had much more time to do his job and now knows many of his bets have paid off. Shapiro was given years to rebuild, Ferry's Cavs better win this year or else.

With all these guys now in long-term deals and Eric Snow and Ira Newble signed for many years, the Cavs are pretty much locked into this roster. Any player can be traded and any deal can be made, but for the most part these are your Cavs. It's Ferry's best shot at this point in time and he knows all too well exactly what I'd say to fans: He's worked hard, he's spent money, but the proof will be in the win-loss record, not the preseason excitement.

Those who love Ferry today, could be ready to string him up tomorrow.

Borrowing from George Will's view of having fidelity to his staunch conservatism, sum it up like this: The NBA is a demanding mistress and she can really pass out migraines.

p.s. ESPN Insider John Hollinger is good at digesting all sorts of statistics and compiling various lists. Last month he wrote this on free agent shooters. If you don't have insider, he determined Damon Jones was the second best available shooter on the free agent market and Donyell Marshall was third. The 76ers' Kyle Korver was first.

p.p.s. I'll have some more links for you later, currently Ohio.com is acting up and I can't link my recent stories on Jones or my notebook today where I report the Cavs may sign Alan Henderson.

Take care all,
Brian
bwindhor@thebeaconjournal.com

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Varejao blow

Injuries happen in the NBA, just about every team has to deal with them. Usually when a bench player goes down it isn't viewed as serious. In the case of Anderson Varejao, the affect is more wide-ranging.

Losing Wild Thing hurts the Cavs on a number of fronts. They are now suddenly thin in the frontcourt, with really only three big men on the roster: Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Donyell Marshall and Drew Gooden. Based on what I saw in summer league, I'd be surprised if Martynas Andruiskevicius could really contribute anything this season. This means they not only must must another big man, maybe even two, they are going to have to stick with Drew Gooden for the foreseeable future.

At this point in time, I still think Gooden, unless he has a totally gonzo season, will be traded at some point. He's in the last year of his contract and he'll be restricted next summer. With Marshall under a long-term deal and Varejao looking like he's the power forward of the future, I don't see the Cavs investing millions into Gooden. I stress the "this point in time" reference, because things in the NBA are always changing.

I don't think you'll see Varejao until after the New Year and perhaps not back to his old self until around the All-Star break in February. It is unfortunate this happened while Varejao was playing for his national team, which is why owners like Mark Cuban have said NBA teams shouldn't allow their players to play in offseason international competition. But even Cuban has to yield, Dirk Nowitzki is playing for the German national team. It is just a bad-luck situation.

When I first saw Varejao play during training camp last season I knew he was special but I was worried he'd be injury prone because of the way he plays. Even though that hasn't really stopped Manu Ginobilli yet. Andy's had a couple injuries now, but haven't been because of his frantic style. Last season's sprained ankle was freak injury, I know because I saw it. This injury, I'm told, was as well.

Anyway, the point is before, the Cavs really needed a point guard and wanted another big. Now they have two rather glaring needs and the pickings are slim.

Obviously the Cavs chances of landing Damon Jones were damaged when Michael Finley signed with the Spurs this week. It is explained why here. Then there came the worse news on Friday when Earl Watson signed with Denver Nuggets. Not bad news because Watson is off the market, the Cavs talked to him but he didn't really fit, but because reports are that he got a contract starting at $5 million.

In my opinion, that's crazy money for a career backup. From Cavs perspective, it might lead the Heat to overpaying Damon Jones after all. The Cavs only really hope on getting Jones at this point is if the Heat lowball him. Now, I think that's probably less likely.

Enjoy Labor Day weekend, all.
Brian

Sunday, August 21, 2005

One man's trash...

As Terry Pluto describes today in his View from Pluto, there's a general bewilderment over the three-year, nearly $7 million contract DeSagana Diop got from the Mavericks last week.

I guess "Gana" had a good camp in Las Vegas and actually had teams bidding over his services. The whole "you can't teach size" idioms are all applicable here. Personally, I'm happy for Gana, who is continuing the long-standing tradition of redispersing Mark Cuban's wealth. Although after Cuban's heartfelt explanation of why he cut Michael Finley because his days of overspending are over on his blog, this deal still confuses me. But it's still just ridiculous.

Last season I read a book about Sebastian Telfair called "The Jump." In there were a few pages on Diop. It was about how when he was a senior at Oak Hill Academy, then UNC coach Matt Doherty was begging for him to come play with him for a year and brought him a listing of the rookie salary scale. He was trying to show him that if he played one year in college, he could double his money. Boy, did that backfire, once Diop saw that he could make $3 million even if he was the last pick in the first round, he decided there was no way he was going to school. This even though he couldn't make a left-handed layup.

When Gana was at Oak Hill I went down there for a few days to do a story because LeBron James and St. Vincent-St. Mary were playing his team at that time. I interviewed him and watched them play two games and decided he was a circus act because all he'd do was stay at the defensive end and block shots and I was no scout. I saw Shargari Alleyne play in high school and thought he was more skilled and he's now a bench warmer at UK. Still, the Cavs fell all over themselves to take him at No. 8.

I brought all this up to Diop before a game in Philadelphia last season. He smiled and admitted it was all true, he knew he was really raw but didn't care. Actually, he said he thought he should've been drafted higher. He also told me he didn't really care about the Cavs and not playing because he knew he'd be in the league somewhere next year and getting paid. He was right, after all.

I've been keeping my eye on the Cavaliers while vacationing in Maine and Boston last week. This week, I've been covering the NEC Invitational in Akron. The Cavs are waiting to hear on Damon Jones and considering I think Finley is going to Miami, there's a good chance they're going to get him.

Next week I'm completing a suspended journey. Many of you got a hardy chuckle out of my travel difficulties I talked about on this blog last season. But they don't compare to a failed trip I took in May of 2004.

Helping my friend move from Toledo to Denver, which constituted driving a 1998 Chevy Blazer while towing a Uhaul trailer. We had a grand tour planned, crossing there on I-70, dropping off his stuff, then returning to native Akron via I-90 though the Dakotas with a stop at Mt. Rushmore before dropping off the car, which belonged to his father.

Well, things went a little haywire to say the least. On day two, a Friday afternoon, we blew the engine in Manhattan, Kan. When we tried to get a hotel room, we learned it was Kansas State University graduation weekend. We ended up renting a car and driving 30 miles to get a room. The next day we learned we'd either wait a week for a new engine or buy a new car.

We tried to get a full size Uhaul, but in a small college town at the end of term the one-way rentals were taken, needless to say. Well, the car stayed in Kansas and we somehow got to Denver but were never able to finish the trip because we flew home. There are many more details, but I will spare them.

Anyway, I'm off this week to Denver and we're headed across the north to finish the job. Should be enjoyable...gulp...I think.

Take care,
Brian
bwindhor@thebeaconjournal.com

Sunday, August 07, 2005

For an August diversion...

At long last, my World Series of Poker stories started in today's Beacon Journal. Today's is a general overview of the event, tomorrow there's a piece about some of the players.

I did the research while I was in Las Vegas for the Cavaliers summer league and wrote the stories several weeks ago. People kept asking how I did at the tables there, but between being at the WSOP, the summer league at UNLV, and covering the Larry Hughes and Zydrunas Ilgauskas deals that got done, I barely had time to eat.

Usually I detest long stories. I often say if a story is longer than 30 inches (about 1,300 words) it better make you laugh or make you cry. In this case, and tomorrow, too, I violated my rule because I found it just so damn interesting.

Hope you do too, if poker is your cup of tea.

Take care,
Brian
bwindhor@thebeaconjournal.com

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Random thoughts at the end of the moratorium

In the Suns awards haul at the end of the regular season, general manager Bryan Colangelo won the Sporting News' Executive of the Year award. I will argue that Colangelo didn't win this award for anything he did between July 2004 and the end of the season, which included the signing of Steve Nash and Quentin Richardson along with a key midseason pickup of Jim Jackson. No, I think he won it when he convinced Isiah Thomas to take on the huge long-term contracts of Stephon Marbury and Penny Hardaway during the 2003-04 season. It cleared the Suns' debts and allowed them the ability to be reborn.

In that light, I'd like to be the first to cast an executive of the year vote for the 2006 to the Nets' Rod Thorn. And even though he's had a terrific month, I think it was something he did a year ago made it all possible. When his new owner told him last summer that he wouldn't pay for Kenyon Martin, causing Thorn to lose a staredown with the Denver Nuggets, it had to be personally and professionally hurtful. He traded Martin and Kerry Kittles, two starters from the championship teams he built, for nothing but draft picks and trade exceptions. Instead of pouting, he thought long-term.

He's turned those into Vince Carter and Shareef Abdur-Rahim and one of his last draft picks, Nenad Kristic, has the potential to be an All-Star center. With Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson, the Nets figure to turn into title contenders again.

On to the Knicks. Larry Brown going there is poetic and everything, but I'm not sure it's the best thing. Isiah had just started to sort of float the idea that rebuilding is in order -- the battle cry trained observers have been suggesting for some time now -- and he went and hired a first-class coach. No rebuilding now. With an average an waaaaaay overpaid roster, I'm not alone in thinking that problematic club needs a surgeon more than a coach. But if there's one thing Isiah believes in, it's band-aids. Here's another one.

On the Cavaliers. I hear a lot of people on the radio and read message boards where fans are ready to coronate Danny Ferry for his offseason. All I can really say is that he's spent a lot of Dan Gilbert's money. Don't judge the team until it plays. I'm not being critical, I'm just saying not to rush to judgment yet. Until the off-season is compete and the roster is filled, you can't give a grade. And not until you see how the team comes together can you judge how good the decisions were.

By the way, the Suns absolutely must match Joe Johnson's offer sheet he'll sign with the Hawks. The owner, Robert Sarver, doesn't want to see a huge payroll and Johnson's deal will give the Suns four guys making more than $10 million, but he does want to win a title. That means keeping Johnson. If it doesn't work out, he can break the team down later.

Finally, we just passed the one-year anniversary of Carlos Boozer signing with the Jazz. An article in today's Salt Lake Tribune looks back at it all. Having covered it and written about it more than any other writer in the country, I grew tired of it long go. So even though I think this story misses on some points I don't care anymore.

It was summed up well, I think, for me at the end of the season by a Cavs official:

"I'd lie to my mother for a million bucks, probably much less. All Carlos had to do was lie to Gordon Gund and Jim Paxson for $30 million."

I'm not calling him or anyone else a liar, I'm just saying there's some perspective there.

Take care,
Brian
bwindhor@thebeaconjournal.com

Saturday, July 23, 2005

There's no amnesty for E. Snow

Over the last week I've a load of two sorts of e-mail: Blog loyalists thrilled with my little explanation of the salary cap and readers wanting to know why the Cavaliers haven't released Eric Snow yet under the new "amnesty" clause.

So let's continue with more NBA legalese to satisfy both parties.

Before I begin, let me put it to rest: The Cavs will not be releasing Eric Snow or any other player.

This has come up because many fans have read or heard about the provision in the new collective bargaining agreement that allows teams a one-time chance to waive a player and not pay the luxury tax on his salary.

That is a complicated statement that is being misunderstood, based on my readings, by many fans and media outlets. If a team uses this clause, they still must pay the player and the contract still counts against the salary cap for the length of the deal.

It only saves money for teams who are over the luxury tax threshold, which this upcoming season will be around $60 million. Teams that are over the tax line, pay a dollar-for-dollar tax. So the Knicks, who were about $40 million over the line last year, wrote a check for $40 million.

The Cavaliers are going to be no where near the tax line, so they won't waive Snow. It makes no sense whatsoever to do so, they don't save any money. In addition, they won't likely be near the tax for at least two seasons (when LeBron's new contract would kick in) so it doesn't make a lot of sense long range either.

Two names that immediately came up were Allan Houston of the Knicks and Michael Finely of the Mavericks. Both make sense because those teams are hopelessly over the cap for the next few years and by releasing them, both clubs will save tens of millions in tax money. Plus both have injury problems. I mean the Mavericks could save money by waiving Dirk Nowitzki, too, but he's in his prime.

I also think Brian Grant of the Lakers and Eddie Jones of the Heat are options, because those teams are over the tax line. For the Lakers, it could mean the difference from being in the tax or out of it. Jones is past his prime, but still valuable.

Jalen Rose of the Raptors has been mentioned by many a media outlet, but I don't think this makes sense because the Raptors are not in the tax. I've also heard the Theo Ratliff of the Trail Blazers. I personally don't think that's likely because the Blazers are headed below the tax in the next year or so.

A guy I'd throw out there, although I haven't heard this anywhere else, is Adonal Foyle of the Golden State Warriors. He's got a crazy deal for five more seasons and the Warriors will be into the tax in two years, I think, because Jason Richardson, Baron Davis, and Troy Murphy all have high-dollar deals that are only growing in value.

I've heard that teams will have until Oct. 1, basically the start of training camp, to decide on whether they want to waive a player. Obviously the players want the date moved up so the released players have options. That will all be finalized by next Thursday.

Back to the free agency watch. Will my torrid off-season (coach search, president search/destroy, GM search, free agent chase) come to an end soon? One can only hope.

Take care,
Brian
bwindhor@thebeaconjournal.com

p.s. By the way, thanks to Ben from realcavsfans.com, who is a true salary-cap expert.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

I take no exception to all this

May I say, I'm so proud of my readership. In the last week, I've probably gotten 20-25 e-mails asking me about the semantics of the salary cap. I take great pride in trying to explain it as well as I can in my stories and in numerous radio interviews.

Some beat writers don't bother with it, figuring the average fan doesn't care or it is too complicated from them to understand. I've always said the real fans do want to know because this is what they talk about when there's no game to watch or talk about. Thanks to many of you for proving me right.

OK, now hopefully I can clear some of this salary cap stuff up for you.

Whenever you hear or read anything about an "exception" it means an exception to the salary cap. The NBA, unlike the NFL, has a soft cap. (Don't ask me about the NHL, I think their's might eventually be a hard cap). Soft because teams can exceed it under certain "exceptions."

Now, because the Cavaliers will be $28 million under the cap on Friday when the new NBA fiscal year starts, they get NO major exceptions this year.

The most common one you hear about is the mid-level exception or the MLE. This means teams get what an "average" or "mid-level" player is worth to exceed the salary cap each season. This is for teams OVER the cap or under the cap by less than the MLE. This year, the MLE is expected to be about $5.5 million.

You also hear about the Larry Bird exception. This means teams can exceed the salary cap to sign their own free agents or players for which they have so-called "Bird rights" to. It is named for Larry Bird because the Celtics broke the cap to sign Bird back in the 1980s in the landmark case. To have "Bird rights" a player must have been under contract for at least three years. This is why the Cavs didn't have Bird rights on Carlos Boozer, he'd played just two years.

There is also something called the million dollar exception. It used to be a worth a million, now it is worth $1.7 million. Many will just refer to it as the $1.7 million exception. You can only use this every other year if you are over the cap. The Cavs used it for Tractor Traylor last year when it was worth $1.6 million.

Teams over the cap can always sign players to the to a minimum contract at any time.

Now, many of you are still wondering why the Cavs can't spend $28 million and then sign Zydrunas Ilgauskas because they own his Bird rights. Well, this is a another little lesson concerning a thing called cap holds.

Until they are signed or "renounced," free agents have a cap hold on their team's books. The rules on these vary greatly, but just understand this, Z's cap hold is 105 percent of his salary from last year. So that's about $15 million. Jeff McInnis' cap hold is 200 percent of his salary, $7.2 million.

These holds are in place until a player is renounced or signs with a team. So, if the Cavs sign Larry Hughes for about $12 million, Z's $15 million cap hold will eat up all the rest of their money and they can't sign anyone. If they renounce him, they lose his Bird rights so they can't go over the cap to sign him later. So they will just sign him to a deal starting around $9 million and move on.

I hope you call understand all this mumbo jumbo. I'm glad so many of you are interested. Hopefully, this has helped you become a better NBA fan. Trust me, it is just a small piece of the ins and outs of the salary cap.

Take care and thanks for your loyal reading,
Brian
bwindhor@thebeaconjournal.com

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Anatomy of a Free Agent Search

Las Vegas -- So I was hanging out with Pete Rose inside a casino, when I was distracted by a fight and bumped into by Norman Chad, which almost caused me to ignore my cell phone that was vibrating in my pocket with information about Larry Hughes.

What a wild week it's been, let me tell you.

I've been splitting my time here at the World Series of Poker collecting information for a story I'll do later this month, at the Vegas Summer League working over NBA executives and agents, and sending dozens and e-mails and making calls to trail the Cavs free agent search.

Oh, and I did spend some time playing blackjack a few feet from a 60s and 70s cover band that was apparently being paid in booze and entire focus on this evening was to get a 40ish plus size fake blonde to dance her way out of her taught spaghetti straps. I won $45 and the straps, thankfully but with not without some tense moments, held. Always double down on 11.

After five days, I'm ready to leave, but it isn't yet in the, ahem, cards. I'll be here awhile longer searching for information.

Last year while I was here covering the Cavs in summer league I was closely observing my friend Chris Tomasson of the Rocky Mountain News handle covering a team with $20 million in salary cap space. One night Kenyon Martin showed up at the games and to talk to Nuggets officials and later he was signed. I tried to learn as much as I could.

It has come in handy this year. Thrashing around, I was able to stay on top of the Larry Hughes chase. I actually got a call at 5 a.m. local time on Friday morning telling me my story that had run that day was on the money. The Cavs had a deal with Hughes.

The Wizards people are here. I worked them over. The Cavs people are here. They had nothing to say. There's an agent, whose's client is friends with Hughes. We talked. There's an executive with another team who wanted Hughes who was talking to Hughes' agent. We talked. Bits, pieces and guesswork to be sure. And with $16 million left in cap space much, much more to be done.

But now I'm off to the WSOP, where I continue to try to figure out what the hell is going on after three days. I asked Pete Rose, trust me, he doesn't know either.

If you're bored or just dying for more Hughes info, here's my Sunday Column.

Take care,
Brian
bwindhor@thebeaconjournal.com