Monday, December 27, 2004

Time to be the bully

I've been speaking with some high-ranking NBA officials just to verify the Cavs win over the New Orleans Hornets Sunday officially counts in the standings. Apparently, it does, even though I'm fairly certain the Hornets aren't really an NBA team.

I mean, no offense to Matt Freije, I know he had a great career at Vandy, but this dude isn't a starter in the NBA. And Corsley Edwards? I'm not a director of player of personnel, but I think I'm pretty familiar with the rosters of every NBA team and even I did a double take when ol' Corsley checked in. I'd never heard of him.

That's OK, though, I might be caught off guard tomorrow night in Atlanta with the state of the Hawks' roster.

So what's my point, here?

It wasn't too long ago Yogi Stewart, who's a great guy and family man, by the way, Tierre Brown, Smush Parker and Milt Palacio were lacing up for the Cavaliers every night out there. And you know what other teams did to that outfit? They beat the living heck out of them!

So with the Hornets down and two games with the Hawks, two with the Bobcats and home games with .500 floaters New York and Houston upcoming, the Cavaliers dearly need to be the bully now and pump up their record.

Since erasing that 0-3 start by winning nine of 10 games last month, the club's been spinning its wheels. Going anything less than 4-2 in this stretch, 5-1 is more like it, to get their record to 20-13 or 21-12, may prove costly.

Let me just tell you that six-game West Coast trip next month will be unpleasant and just about that time Indiana and Detroit should be finding their midseason stride. Getting these victories against the weak teams will be invaluable in March and April when everyone is jockeying for playoff position.

In closing, let me thank all that have e-mailed me ( bwindhor@thebeaconjournal.com ) with sympathy or just laughter about my travels back from New Jersey last week (see below for a good time). Some have even written with travel tips.

Thanks for caring, I care about all of you (in the platonic, writer/blogger-to-reader sense, mind you).

And for the latest update, I'm writing this while being stalled at Hopkins airport. My flight to Atlanta is delayed and there's an irate child screaming five feet to my right (us quasi-adults all wish we could, too). And by the looks of him and the timbre of his song, I think's his vocal cords have some stamina...this could be another long day.

Take care all,
Brian

p.s. One more thing, if any of you watched the game Sunday, I hope you saw the pass LeBron James threw to Ira Newble in the first half. LBJ came out of a spin move and threw a no-look pass through two defenders that hit Ira right in the gut...he didn't even see it coming and why would he, it was impossible. I think it's safe to safe LeBron would have been more successful throwing into triple coverage than Luke McCown, though Lukey seems to be giving the ol' college try whenever possible.

OK, that's all, honestly.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

A Series of Unfortunate Events

What I'm about to tell you has little to do with the Cavaliers, but does explain why my postings have been scarce of late. It may bore you, though I predict it will make you laugh. Either way, at the end of the day it is still my blog so I decide what goes on it.

For the update on the on hiatus Cavs, check out my latest story on their situation, which is growing bleaker by the way. Also, if you watched the 92-90 loss to the Nets, I predict you will like my Sunday column . Also, read about how Lee Nailon wants revenge.

Now, hear this and understand why I laugh so that I may not cry.

Planes, trains and Bob Finnan

Thursday morning myself and Bob Finnan, the Cavaliers beat writer for the Willoughby News-Herald and the Lorain Morning Journal, my friendly competition and frequent travel compatriot, awoke at the lovely Newark Liberty Airport Marriott. He in room 805, where he had hot water but no toothpaste, and I in room 828, where I had toothpaste but no hot water. You see where this compatriot stuff comes into play.

After taking in the Cavs loss to the Nets the night before, Bob and I heard from family and friends the details of the snowy grip on Northeast Ohio. Our outlook looked grim and we knew it. Not only we were concerned about somehow finding our way to Cleveland, but neither of us had purchased a single Christmas gift and had budgeted Thursday for such bliss.

Our flight from Newark to Washington D.C.'s Dulles airport went off without a hitch. Sparing you as many details as possible (I know after the toothpaste thing, it's too late), we then sat for many hours and watched every flight to Cleveland get canceled. We were told perhaps we could get home Saturday (Christmas), but more likely Sunday. Bob's wife and three children were not happy with this news. Did I forget to mention Bob was severely under the weather with a cold?

After brief talks and phone calls to friends in Pennsylvania and Ohio to gauge road conditions, Bob and I decided to drive home. I picked up a car with two miles on the odometer and two hours later there were 51 miles (other people were driving too, we found). Now hang on, this is where the story gets interesting.

Roughly nine hours later we arrived at Cleveland Hopkins Airport congratulating ourselves. Roads were fine, we had good luck finding music (other than that brief and odd high school wrestling match we found on the radio outside Breezewood, Pa.) and we were going to be home soon...or so we thought.

First, it took 20 minutes to get from the rental car area to the airport (traffic). Then it took 20 minutes for our parking shuttle to arrive (traffic) and we got to Bob's car at 1:30 a.m. It was in a block of ice, behind a mound of ice. But it was all moot, the car didn't start...it was frozen, too. Then we took the shuttle back to the airport, it took 20 minutes (traffic).

We got into a taxi to go to my house (2 miles away) for the night. The driver, Habib, was not happy. He demanded $20 for the ride. I told him if he was looking for a fight, he came to the right guys. So he went to find another fare so we could double up. Then he nearly got into a fight with another taxi driver about the situation.

When we finally pulled away, there was a loud banging sound and the mini-van shook violently. Bob informed him that he had a flat tire, but he was defiant. He was like Baghdad Bob, denying there was anything wrong while the bombs exploded in the background. Finally he pulled over on the side of the highway.

He was screaming his dispatcher on the radio and calling his friend, Kashmir, on his cell phone trying to get instructions how to change the tire. Meanwhile as we watched the spinning meter, Bob, myself and our new friend, who'd just flown in from Phoenix (I'll bet he wish he'd stayed), couldn't help but laugh at the situation at hand.

Kashmir arrived to help with the tire. But once the jack slipped and cause the car to crash to the road, we'd had enough. We demanded another cab be called. Bob and I arrived at my house at 2:30 a.m.

As of now, Christmas Day at 2 p.m., Bob's car is still in the ice and our plane is still waiting to leave Dulles and I've grown tired enough of spending time with my family that I've chosen to blog.

So Merry Christmas to all and to all a wonderful holiday season,

Brian

Friday, December 17, 2004

More Malice at the Palace

This just in...the NBA just suspended Ron Artest for five more games after what happened last night.

But seriously, folks, will Paul Silas ever get another good egg roll in Cleveland again?

I'm getting flooded with e-mails today about the Paul Silas-Eric Snow showdown last night in Detroit. Here's what happened and then my take:

The Pistons started pressing in the second quarter. Snow had the ball and instead of dribbling through it, gave up and called timeout in the backcourt with 19 seconds on the shot clock. This displeased Silas. Then, after the long TNT TV timeout, Snow went to inbound the ball. You have to clear halfcourt by the time the clock hits 16, no matter what. But Snow passed the ball backwards to Anderson Varejao and it resulted in a turnover. This infuriated Silas.

He yanked Snow from the game. Snow explained to him no one was open. Silas didn't accept it. Then Snow, with his back turned, issued a profane statement that rhymes with duck. Silas then marched down, screamed him down despite Ira Newble and Scott Williams trying to be cooler heads and kicked him off the floor.

OK, based on everything I saw, and I was sitting about 20 feet away, Silas just simply over reacted. I think Snow's curse was out of general frustration. He wanted to stay in the game. He's a competitor. But Silas is a stern man who doesn't like to be challenged and he went after him just like he went after Newble last season in Atlanta when Newble mouthed him and Silas called him a "hip-hop blank-blank (rhymes with other sucker)."

It was made worse after the game when Silas blew up at Columbus Dispatch writer Bill Pfieffer while cameras and tape recorders were rolling, unlike last season with Newble, which caught the media by surprise. I asked the first question about Snow and Silas said he didn't want to talk about it. I don't think Bill intended to cross him by questioning deeper, but he made the mistake of saying the word "Snow" again, which set the Grizzly bear off.

Now, Snow is a consummate pro. He is a leader. He is a coach on the floor, not a cancer. He needs to say he's sorry to Silas and Silas needs to say he's sorry to him. Make it a speed bump and move on. Both guys are old pros and they need to handle it like they are.

We won't find out anything until tomorrow, the Cavaliers have canceled practice today.

Stay tuned,
Brian

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Remember Me?

Sorry, blog fans, the rigors of the NBA season (I've been away from home for 12 of the last 15 nights) plus the news of the Cavaliers impending sale to Dan Gilbert have taken their toll. But I'm back by popular demand. OK, just demand. OK, OK, I got an e-mail from one of my seven blog readers, my sister.

With their 92-86 win in Memphis on Monday, the Cavaliers hit the quarter pole of the season. Here's my player-by-player breakdown after the first quarter. Oh, but, since we haven't spoken in about 10 days, here's what you may've missed: Loss to Bulls, loss to Spurs, all about Dan Gilbert, and my Sunday column.

Caught up? OK, here we go:

Drew Gooden -- This guy is just fascinating, a riddle. He's really a pretty smart guy and can be thoughtful, but often times on the court he slips into a daze. He'll be lost and the next minute feed a no-look alley-oop pass to LeBron or something. So I just think I can sum it up like this: Gooden's basketball IQ and focus is sometimes questionable, but his athletic skills are undeniable. If LeBron and Paul Silas keep him positive -- always keeping him focused is impossible - he's going to have more good games than bad. But he'll probably never be really consistent.

LeBron James -- What do you want me write? I've told people since he was 16 that the reason LeBron is different from everyone else is that he actually lives up to the hype. He answers the bell. he never lets you down. He's made those promises come true. But I just want to focus on one thing here: his defense. He's currently third in the NBA in steals, which has added a major level to his game. But his defense is still his weakest point and he needs to be better off the ball, because that's where he makes the most mistakes. Trying to do too much, he let Bruce Bowen have three straight open jumpers last week in San Antonio in the fourth quarter. That can't happen.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas -- Big Z is big Z. He has excellent offensive skills, a major weapon. His defense hasn't been as consistent as it was at the end of the last season. This season he's been out of position a little too much and also been committing too many stupid fouls. But the Cavaliers are at their best offensively when Ilgauskas touches the ball at least once during a possession.

Jeff McInnis -- J-Mac is having a career year scoring the ball, averaging 15 points. But there are several reasons for this. First, he's shooting it well and he's getting more shots. He's been playing the two-guard down the stretch of games with Eric Snow playing the point. And with LeBron getting double-teamed, McInnis is getting open shots. To his credit, he is making them, especially in clutch spots. His defense, though, has maybe taken a step back from last season. He seems to allow opposing point guards to easy penetration access. Gary Payton, who is four years older than him, showed it could be done and many teams have followed suit from seeing the film.

Ira Newble -- Let's be honest, he probably shouldn't be a starting shooting guard in the NBA. But he has played better than last season. The problem is he often winds up with open jumpers when teams double James and rotate away from Newble. He's not a good jumper shooter, he's at his best going to the basket and in the open floor. Plus his defense has been hurt by the tighter rules on contact. Still, Newble is a solid part of the rotation and takes pressure of LeBron by defending the opposition's best offensive wingman. That's why Silas will keep him in the starting lineup.

Lucious Harris -- Harris may be starting to show his age with his inconsistent jump shot. But he knows how to win and also is the team's best rebounding guard. He really goes after the ball. He's bound to go hot and cold from the field.

Robert Traylor -- He's been a great pickup, especially for $1.6 million. Has been the most consistent player off the bench. People like to call him fat, but you wouldn't say so if you saw him with his shirt off. Sure, he's wide and he's heavy, but he knows how to use it. Can't say I like him taking as many jumpers as he does, but he's been better than expected.

Eric Snow -- Snow hasn't scored as much as he was expected to, but his personality shows on the team. He is a big-time stabilizing force. He's not that physically gifted anymore, but he's so very, very smart and experienced. If you attend a game, just watch the way he moves on the court and the decisions he makes. He certainly has his limitations, but he's won the Cavaliers quite a few games already.

Anderson Varejao -- I can't get enough of watching this kid play. He's wild and intense and very naive. He doesn't have any sort of grasp of what he's doing yet, but he still comes in from time to time and provides good minutes. Then again, sometimes he comes in and fouls everything that moves. He has a chance to develop into a player.

Luke Jackson -- Fans keep begging for him to play but Silas won't budge. Nobody works harder and nobody hates sitting more. Eventually he's going to get a chance, but he still has a lot to learn. He gets lost in the offense sometimes, he doesn't always show confidence, and he's still not that physically strong. But his gifts and ethic will eventually serve him well.

Sasha Pavlovic -- Good athlete, good shooter, good skills. But he seems to go out there and give phantom minutes. Maybe he needs more seasoning. I can't really get a read on him yet, only that he'd probably be better with more playing time. But how do you give him more time when he rarely impacts the game? Let's check back in at midseason.

Dajuan Wagner -- He's got talent, he may yet have a good career. It won't happen in Cleveland. Everything else that needs to be said has been already.

DeSagana Diop -- He's 7-foot and he has a long wingspan. He's good at getting in the way. If you want anything else, you come to the wrong person.

Scott Williams -- Great character, very little left in his legs. Not a good idea to rely on him every night, which is why Tractor's injury has stung a little.

Alright, chew on that stuff for awhile. Feel free to e-mail me at bwindhor@thebeaconjournal.com. For a nominal fee, I may respond. Just kidding, I respond any time, day or night.

Take care,
Brian

p.s. I just ran spell check on this junk and the word "blog" isn't in the site's dictionary. Are you kidding?


Sunday, December 05, 2004

On Sunday, everyone rested

It's been a long week for the Cavaliers and for me, four games in six days in three time zones. I was dragging Saturday night when I wrote my game story on the Cavaliers' 105-97 win over Toronto. And all I do is write, I'm not running up and down the floor.

Here's the week that was:

Sunday--Flew to Los Angeles. Why do they ask to see your ticket like 75 times at the airport yet they have just one guy in glasses staring at the X-ray screen? I feel the urge to tell them that the terrorists all had tickets, too. Went to dinner at restaurant where Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Cavs folks -- PR flaks Garin Narain and Amanda Mercado and video coordinator Betsy McAllister were eating. When big Z opened his wallet to pay for his meal, I saw bats fly out (yes, yes, I know he makes $14.6 million, but he has a rep for being a little tight).

Monday--From the moment I saw the team at shootaround in the morning, I noticed their energy level was down. This happens when people travel to the West Coast, even teams that have won nine of 10 games. It carried over to that evening when the Clippers started hot and the Cavaliers never recovered. With 2:40 seconds to play, DeSagana Diop takes a 3-pointer, which may've been a final straw. He's played just five minutes in the three games since.

Tuesday--Took early morning flight to Phoenix. While checking e-mail at airport, I learned Butch Davis had quit, realized NE Ohio sports fans wouldn't care what I had to write about the Cavs on this off day. Went to practice at America West Arena, where it was so cold that the Cavs worked out in sweats. Watched World Series of Poker reruns on ESPN2 rest of day (don't tell boss).

Wednesday--Suns guard Steve Nash flicks off the Cavs bench before the tip. I realize this is a bad sign. Cavs then start to run up and down the floor with Suns in their house. Worse sign. Suns hit first five shots of second half, good night now. After the game I see LeBron James agent, Aaron Goodwin, who is wearing a $2,000 suit with LeBron's Nike logo sewn into the collar. Appropriate, I think, LBJ probably paid for it.

Thursday--Went to Denver, where it was 18 degrees. My winter coat was in the closet in Cleveland. Nice, eh? I write on blog (see below) that Cavs will get beat. Then I tell audience on WKNR the same thing. 45 minutes before the game, there are 10 Cavaliers out on the floor shooting and only one Nugget. Cavs start 25-of-40 from the floor, the Nuggets start 5-of-31. Coincidence? Game is never close, I have egg on face.

Friday--Answer snotty e-mails about prediction, work on Sunday column and chill with friends in Denver (boss steams, again).

Saturday--Return to Cleveland dragging tail. Go right from airport to Gund Arena (still without winter coat, mind you) where I find out Vince Carter got bad chicken wings at the Ritz-Carlton at 2 a.m. and is out. Should've gone to the Winking Lizard down the street, I guess. Jeff McInnis has the flu and was too sick to have his hair rebraided after he pulled it out (no, it wasn't a fashion statement), but he's the first player on the floor shooting at 5:15. Before the game, Paul Silas says the Cavaliers (and their beat writers) will be off on Sunday. I give him a high-five. Cavaliers decide to take off a little early, after getting up 23 points, they nearly let Toronto back in it. But another massive LeBron dunk saves the day.

Between us, LBJ's dunk was the probably the best of the season because of the consequence, but I already made a big deal about the one in Charlotte (see below) that I couldn't really come over the top too much.

Sunday--Fell asleep watching riveting Browns-Pats game. Fish out winter coat. Take out trash. Blog. What else is there in life?

Take care,
Brian

Thoughts, comments, rip jobs, hit me up at bwindhor@thebeaconjournal.com.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

"Hold your water, yo"

Denver -- As the national anthem was wrapping up last night in Phoenix, where the supernovic Suns slapped the Cavaliers 120-101, Paul Silas delivered the line of the night.

Referring to the rendition of the theme, which seemed like it took five minutes, Silas leaned down to me at the scorer's table and said:

"Like the kids say: That was brutal, yo!"

He should've saved that line for after the game.

Right now the Suns are the best team in the NBA and they just happened to play their best half of the season against the Cavaliers turning a close game into a rout.

Now, I could sit here and go over what happened and what not -- like perhaps it wasn't such a great idea to run with the Suns and maybe a slowdown game might've worked -- but witnessing it firsthand, I can tell you that no team in the NBA would've beat Phoenix last night.

So after that nice little 9-4 start the Cavaliers have hit some rough road out here in the West. And as I write this at 2:46 p.m. Mountain Time from my hotel room here in snowy Denver, I'm predicting another hit on the chin against the streaking Nuggets tonight.

So here's where the words of my friend and mentor, Plain Dealer college writer Elton Alexander come into play. Whenever Elton sees a good team on a bad streak -- whether it be in a half, a game or a month -- he is fond of using the phrase "Hold Your Water."

This is a family blog, so if you don't get it, let's just say the point is don't get too rattled over something that you need a new pair of underwear.

This, I believe is the advice Silas will be giving his young Cavaliers after they return from this trip. Next week another three-game road trip awaits with a stop in San Antonio, where they haven't won since before Al Gore invented the Internet. So fans should heed the same advice at this juncture.
The Cavaliers indeed have been hot and right now they're not and the immediate future may spell more losses. They are currently in the midst of playing six of nine on the road and five of them in the West.

But if they can maintain some good play, and take advantage of their upcoming home games, the second half of December presents a very manageable schedule and a chance to make up some lost ground.

Anything to add? Hit me at bwindhor@thebeaconjournal.com.

Take care all,
Brian