Monday, March 28, 2005

The Big Sleazy

I've read Dante and the Bible but I don't pretend to know that much about hell. But I can tell you this, it simply must smell better than Bourbon Street.

I hear people talk about New Orleans like it is some sort of religious experience. I think the architecture of the old Southern homes is amazing, the food is excellent (I had Parmesan shrimp last night), but I'm sorry, I can't get over how disgusting it is.

This is my fourth trip to the Big Easy, but last night was the first time I've made it into the guts, the innards if you will, of the French Quarter. It was a full moon and boy were the wackos out. But forget about all the smut, and the drunks, and the bead flingers. What about the smell, the freakin' smell!

I mean, I'm walking down this street with a bunch of run down buildings, where people mingle through the cars in traffic, where the gutters are filled with a menagerie of liquor, body fluids and trash and everyone is peddling trinkets. Tell me that isn't how you'd describe main street in the third world nation.

Sorry, if I'm offending anyone, but I just call it how I see it. Now, I'm lucky to travel around the country for my job and I also do it as a hobby, so I've seen just about every corner of the country. And I've spent many, many days in Vegas, so I'm not prude. But nothing quite compares to the trash I saw down there.

Compatriot Bob Finnan of the News-Herald studied the sign outside one house of ill repute and informed me that, for a few bucks, you'd be permitted to wash the female of your choice. Based on what I saw around me, I guessed it would probably take a little more than Zest and a washcloth to disinfect what lay inside. Instead we waded through the unwashed back to our hotel.

Now, on to the wheezing Cavs. I just want to relate a little story from Saturday:

The Cavaliers were on the court finishing their shootaround at the American Airlines Center. They'd just finished their prep and were about to do their normal light shooting when the Mavericks walked out onto the court and literally took it from them. Several players were icing on what is the visitor's bench and new Mavs coach Avery Johnson walked over the kicked them out of the gym. Without saying a word and while putting on their warmups as they left the arena bowl, the Cavs took it. A few hours later, the Mavs kicked them off the court again...by 31 points.

Now, it's not that big a of a deal. But just how much fight the Cavs have left in them is questionable. Think Jordan would've allowed his team to be kicked off a court? Or even another team would try it? I doubt it. Not that I'm saying this team resembles the Bulls.

They're is going to make the playoffs, if you look at the standings they can't help but make it. And they should be applauded for getting there for the first time in seven years, that is progress indeed. LeBron James has had a wonderful season and he's on his way to greatness.

But another late-season skid is preventing this team from reaching its potential for a second straight season and that isn't progress.

For more check out game stories from losses at Dallas and at Houston. Plus my Sunday Column is loaded with Cavs stuff. Also, check out Tom Reed's in-depth pieces on Brendan Malone and Ira Newble.

Take care,
Brian
bwindhor@thebeaconjournal.com

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Blogged down

"Gee, Brian, anything much happen since your last post on Carlos? If you're not going to keep this up, why don't you just pull the plug on it? Your frequency online is pathetic! Since your last post, we've seen LBJ set league and team records, the chances for the playoffs diminish due to poor play, and (oh yeah) a coaching change! None of this seemed worth noting in your blog? I've enjoyed what you've written so far, but I'm just not sure it's worth my time to even check your site if you're not going to be more active." -Don Bianco, Columbus

Ouch! But Don's right. It's been a busy road for me. Here's how wacko I've been: I'm in Houston for the start of a three-game road trip across the South and I didn't pack a short-sleeve shirt or a pair of shorts. Just totally, freakin' forgot. I'm not right in the head these days. I'm off to the mall before shootaround this morning.

So, I'm sure your waiting to hear what I think about this whole Silas thing. First, let me relate my circumstances. I took a few days off last weekend to visit some family in Florida. I ended up racing across Alligator Alley listening to the press conference on satetille radio and making 34 calls on my cell phone and getting 22 on the day Silas was fired. Between Monday night and Tuesday afternoon, I did no less than eight radio shows and led our coverage from 1,000 miles away. I flew back just in time for Tuesday night's game, Wednesday morning's practice and just made my Wednesday afternoon flight to Houston (after absent-mindedly packing). At least I got in on time, due to weather problems, fellow beat writers Branson Wright and Bob Finnan took the later Houston flight, which was delayed no less than six hours. My computer tells me they arrived at the airport at 4 a.m. this morning. Guess I won't be calling them to join me for breakfast.

So...sorry about the Blog, but I'm hoping for some understanding.

OK, basicly, here's how it went down.

From the first day that Paul Silas met Dan Gilbert, he was a little skeptical to say the least. He grumbled that they met with him for an entire hour. Here's what you have to understand about Paul, he does things his own way. He doesn't like listening to anyone, especially his bosses and even his own assistants. When he was in New Orleans, he hated the new owner there. When I called him on a December night while we were in San Antonio and told him Gordon Gund was selling the team -- No, he didn't know, I broke the news -- he wasn't happy and he didn't even know the new man's name. He probably knew then that his days were limited.

Now, before I go on, Gilbert and his right-hand man, David Katzman, have every right to do whatever they want and make whatever suggestions and comments to their employees. They paid the $375 million, they're the bosses. I certainly respect that, but, then again, they don't get to tell me what to do.

But Silas didn't like it. When Gilbert took over he was very active in making suggestions to Silas. This to a man that hated just having to take one call a week from Gund. I know Gilbert denies instructing Silas to play Anderson Varejao when he became healthy. I'm not saying he's lying, but I know for a fact it was made clear to Silas.

Gilbert and Katzman were upset at the way the team was playing and, after just three games as owners, were all set to fire Silas after the team got blown out by Seattle and Miami and lost at Philly. But they held off after the team went on a three-game winning streak, but didn't take off any pressure.

So, last Friday, on the morning before the Cavs lost to the Sixers at home, Paul and I spoke at length following the morning shootaround. He told me that he didn't want to come back at the end of the season, that he wanted bought out of his contract. He told me an owner and a coach getting together is like a marriage, when you get together it can be great, but if you are betrothed (like he was with Gilbert), it doesn't work out. He wanted a divorce. He said he hate to leave LeBron, that would be the worst part, but that he didn't want to go through again what happened to him in Charlotte.

He told me these things because he wanted me to write it, though I couldn't quote him. I thought long and hard about doing it, even talking with Terry Pluto about it. Paul gets very down after losses and he was in a bad streak. His team was still in fourth in the playoff standings and I flat-out didn't want to write something that would prove to be totally wrong in a week or so. You lose credibility that way. I once thought I had a huge story when I wrote that Jeff Van Gundy was going to be hired by the Cavs. Well, he really almost was, but in the end, I turned out to be wrong. But Paul knew that if that got out there, he may get fired, which is what I think he wanted. But, even though I have some regret about it because maybe had a written it the fans wouldn't be so shocked, I just didn't.

But, frankly, he was coaching like it anyway. He wasn't as active in practices or games. His decision not to play McInnis AT ALL, really pissed off the players and made the owners wonder what his motive was. When you don't have the players or the bosses on your side, you're in trouble. So they fired him. It took guts and it was probably the right decision.

All-in-all, I think Paul did what he came here to do. The Cavs needed a transitional coach to bring order to the franchise and Paul did that. To get him, the Cavs had to sign him to a four-year, $16 million deal. It is unfortunate that he didn't coach them in the playoffs and last another year, which would've been the for the best.

No, the team is not in disarray. No, they don't need to start over. Yes, they next a coach and a key player or three to take them to the next level. Silas and LeBron raised the team up, now on to the next.

More to come, I'm off to Target.

Brian

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

My Ode to Carlos

Before I begin, let me refer you to Tom Reed's column from today, he says it a lot better than I ever could. Though I did write a story about Carlos Boozer's decision to skip Cleveland.

I became exhausted with writing about Boozer back in January, especially after he took a personal pot shot at me during the Cavaliers visit to Salt Lake. He doesn't like me, would never talk to me again if he had his druthers. So I really didn't want to waste any more of my time or my paper's ink in dealing with him. But HE just won't let it die.

His decision not to come to Cleveland for tonight's game is spineless. I don't want to hear about how he has to get treatment on his foot, the Jazz trainers and strength coaches are in Cleveland and the Cavaliers have a state of the art training room that Boozer used hundreds of times. Do you want to know who else thinks so?

The fans? Sure. The media? Of course. But how about his fellow players? You better believe it.

Nobody will say anything on the record because they all really wish the whole thing would just get over with. But trust me, the other Jazz players aren't happy he's hiding at his mansion in Salt Lake. In fact, according to what I'm told, Boozer's reputation within the Jazz locker room has been taking hits all over place.

Not only has his owner and coach questioned his heart and competitive spirit, his fellow players didn't exactly respect him after he had to meet with the team owner with his wife to clear the air. Even the owner told people he'd never had such a meeting with a player AND his wife over basketball issues. In fact, there were even some within the Jazz organization that privately ripped Boozer for firing his agent and going back to Rob Pelinka, who got Boozer the infamous deal in Utah before his agency forced him to severe ties with Boozer, after the owner bashed him. One official told some reporters off the record that it was like "he had to run back to his mommy."

Two games after the meeting, he seriously injured his foot, which is terrible, you never want to see a player get hurt. It is understandable that he can't play tonight. But what isn't is that this is the first road trip he's missed this season.

Now, listen, I think Carlos is a great player and I think he'll bounce back next year, though the Jazz will probably be trying like crazy to get rid of him this summer. I've dealt with his wife, CeCe, at length and I think she's very intelligent. But, as Tom Reed wrote, they really don't get it: when you do something just for money that's usually all there is. Being rich is great. Being rich and hated isn't as grand and being rich and not respected is another thing entirely.

I really hope he's either still in denial or all this is just an act, because he loves to just laugh the whole thing off. But from what I can gleen, and here's the worst part, Carlos doesn't know that he doesn't know.

Take care all (you, too, Carlos and CeCe),
Brian

p.s. For some non-Boozer stuff, check out my Sunday Column. I hate to admit it because I shunned it at first, but I can't stop writing about Usher. I did it again in my game story from Monday. I'm transfixed for the moment, but I'm not buying any Crunk Juice.

bwindhor@thebeaconjournal.com

Monday, March 07, 2005

When the going gets tough

It has been a long week. Since we last spoke, the Cavs' losing streak stretched to six after last night's nightmare against the Heat.

So you're all here to see what I have to say about it. First, read this, to see some number-crunching and analysis of what's been going on. Also, check out some interesting stuff in my Sunday column.

Well, here I go:

On the first possession Sunday night, I saw the ball go inside to Z and four guys stand around the perimeter and watch. Nope! Wrong answer. No one possession makes or breaks a game, but it showed me there isn't much growth going on. And that's the real issue, growth, and the Cavs appear to be regressing.

At the start of the season when the team lost three straight, the last losing streak to speak of, I saw the Cavaliers playing hard and losing. In fact, in most of their losses this season was the case. Even in the hard road losses, ones at Orlando, Lakers, Seattle, New York, etc., there was fight. But good teams don't get blown out like the Cavs have been. Not even blown out, the score doesn't really matter, it was the way it went down. The Cavs were lifeless in losing at Indiana, and at home to Seattle and Miami. Even the close losses in New Jersey and Philly were racked with needless mistakes.

After the game last night, the teeth started coming out. Silas ripped his players, the players ripped themselves, for the first time there was visible anger since the streak began. We'll see if that carries over to tomorrow. I'm not sure anger will work, but it is worth trying, because nothing else is.

Today Jim Paxson made the point that the roster is better than last year when Jeff McInnis' injury triggered an eight-game losing streak. That's true and another way of saying there's no excuse for this. That's also true. So what does that mean, it means the pressure is getting turned up.

I know there are many fans and some in the media that are giving up on this team. I admit that as I look at the last 24 games, I think it will take some pretty good play just to go 12-12 considering the schedule. Yet this is the NBA, and just as things looked good 11 days ago, everything could be different again in two weeks. LeBron James is still good and so is Zydrunas Ilgauskas and when the role players snap out of it, there's still time to right the ship.

Do I truly believe they will? Ask me tomorrow.

For more on this, check out Tom Reed's column.

Take care, e-mail as always at bwindhor@thebeaconjournal.com

Brian