October 2007


Braylon EdwardsWhat’s Being Said And What I Think

Just a couple follow up thoughts on the Browns. I’m going to the Ohio State basketball game tonight and then will be watching the Cavs first game tonight, so I wanted to make sure to post something on here today.

First things first, lets look at some power rankings. On his Hashmarks blog, ESPN writer Matt Mosley has his latest power rankings up. For those who aren’t familiar with Mr. Mosley, he writes the Hashmarks blog, which is supposed to be an entire league-wide blog about all 32 teams, similar to what Henry Abbott has done with his TrueHoop blog at ESPN. However, Mosley’s blog is primarily about the Dallas Cowboys as he seems to struggle getting away from the work he used to do covering the ‘Boys. Look, I understand that he’s going to have more contacts with the Cowboys than any other team, but he’s also being paid (presumably) to discuss what’s going on with all 32 teams in the league. I can’t remember the last time he had anything useful to say about the Browns or any other similar middle of the road teams. Furthermore, his initial power rankings had the Browns at #32. That’s right, he thought the Browns were going to be the worst team in the NFL. Not so much, Mr. Mosley. But in all honesty, that’s ok. His blog does have some interesting topics every now and then, and I still check it out on a daily basis. Anyway, in his latest power rankings, he now has the Browns all the way up to #12. In the words of Braylon Edwards, “whoop-de-doo”. I post these power rankings because I find them interesting to gauge what the analysts think of the team, but really, all I’m looking for in this team is steady improvement, and so far they’ve been more than delivering on that.

ESPN’s Power Rankings are similar to Mosley’s, with the Browns coming in at #13, up 6 spots from last week, and just one spot below our week 9 opponents, the Seattle Seahawks. According to Mike McAllister,

“The Browns’ last two wins have come against the league’s two winless teams, but who cares? It’s the first time since 2003 that Cleveland has won two straight games. At 4-3, the Browns are over .500 for the first time in Romeo Crennel’s tenure.”

Also, Yahoo’s Power Rankings are in this week. Jason Cole and Charles Robinson once again look favorably on our team, with Cole putting them at #9 and Robinson putting them at #10. Said Robinson of the team,

“No offense to Randy Moss, but Cleveland’s Braylon Edwards might be the best deep receiver in football right now.”

That’s incredibly high praise for Braylon. I’m not sure I agree, I still think Randy Moss (when he wants to be) is the greatest WR in the world, and maybe of all time (with all due respect to Jerry Rice, compare their numbers for their first 5 seasons….Moss stacks up to Rice better than you think). Regardless, lets not argue semantics. The point is what’s important, and the point is that Braylon has stepped out of his shell in a big time way this season. He is simply a force of nature that teams must respect and be accountable for, which only makes the rest of our offense flow that much better. To this point, Chris Mortensen tackled a similar question in his chat today,

Tim (Cleveland): Everyone in Cleveland is talking about Derek Anderson. I know he’s been good, but I think the real success has been coming from the respect defenses show for Jamal Lewis. Do you agree?

SportsNation Chris Mortensen: No, teams are worried about Anderson, Edwards and Winslow, then Lewis. The O-line also is protecting exteremly well – LT Joe Thomas really does deserve mention with Adrian Peterson as the rookie of the year.

And that’s exactly the point I was trying to make. It’s a trickle down effect….Joe Thomas and Eric Steinbach make life easier for DA, and K2 makes life easier for the WRs, and Braylon makes life easier for everyone. That’s the definition of an offense running on all cylinders. Lets hope this momentum carries us through to a Week 9 victory vs Seattle. Check back later this week for my preview of that game.

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SashaSasha Pavlovic Re-Signs!!

Ok, so I spent so much time working on my season preview, I missed what was going on in the ‘Breaking News’ department of the basketball world. As Brian Windhorst has up in his blog, the Cavaliers and Sasha Pavlovic have ended their holdout and come to terms. Windhorst is saying the deal is for 3 years, somewhere in the vicinity of $4-5 million per year, although the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Branson Wright is saying the deal is for 4 years. I’ll have more to say about what the deal means and whether this deal is good for Cleveland, Sasha, neither, or both once the details of the deal have been confirmed. In the meantime, I’ll just leave you with Windhorst’s comments about the deal,

“While the two sides were still pretty far apart before the weekend, apparently both gave a little bit to get the deal done. Sasha is still going to have to pass a physical and actually sign the deal, so he wouldn’t probably be available until at least Friday when the New York Knicks come to town. He is on his way in from Serbia and will have to deal with medical tests and visa and other issues when he gets to the country.

This represents an important moment for the Cavs as they were able to resolve one of the issues hanging over their head. It will be interesting to see how this affects the Anderson Varejao talks.”

Look for my full analysis of the signing later this week. In the meantime, be sure to still check out my Cavaliers preview below.

Champs2007 Recap…

First, the obvious. The ’06-07 season was a miraculous season. It was way better than I think any of us imagined it would be, and I think it raised all of our collective expectations as to what this team and LeBron in particular can accomplish. Unfortunately, the season came crashing to a halt way too briefly in the NBA Finals. But even the brutal sweep at the hands of the Spurs wasn’t enough to put a damper on our mood. We were excited and looking forward to the off season and seeing how Danny Ferry would improve the team to get us over the hump.

And then the off season came…….and nothing happened. Deafening silence. Oh, sure, we added names like Cedric Simmons and Devin Brown, but those were moves that barely made us lift our eyebrow other than to say, “who?”. Then we realized we had no draft picks (Jiri Welsch??? Thanks, Paxson) and so reloading through that route was not an option. Then came the news that we were losing two key members of the eastern conference champion roster in starter Sasha Pavlovic and 6th man Anderson Varejao. Rumors of a trade for Mike Bibby came and went. Rumors of buying into the draft came and went. We kept waiting…and listening….and yearning….and hoping….for something, ANYTHING, that would make our team better in the ’07-08 season. But nothing came. And so we begin the season tomorrow against Dallas with this team:

Cavs Your 2007-08 Cleveland Cavaliers

We enter the season tomorrow with the following starting lineup:

PG – Daniel Gibson
SG – Larry Hughes
SF – LeBron James
PF – Drew Gooden
C – Zydrunas Ilgauskas

Our reserves:

Guards: Eric Snow, Damon Jones, Shannon Brown, Devin Brown
Forwards: Ira Newble, Donyell Marshall, Demetris Nichols, Anthony Tolliver, Cedric Simmons
Centers: Dwayne Jones

Our starting lineup isn’t much different, but Boobie Gibson starting instead of Sasha does change the dynamic of our starting lineup. Remember, last season this team didn’t truly take off until Mike Brown removed Eric Snow from the starting lineup and went with Hughes at the point and Pavlovic at the 2. Now, Gibson will be playing the point and Hughes is back at the 2. This subtle change worries me. I feel like having a shooting guard who can’t shoot is a gigantic liability for this kind of team. There’s been all kinds of talk in the off season about Mike Brown implementing a drive and kick system. Well, that sounds good and all, but you need your point to be the slasher and your 2 and 3 to be able to knock down open shots. We know Larry can’t do that. Has LeBron’s jumper really improved to the point of reliability? Well, only time will tell. We know he worked on it extensively this summer with assistant coach Chris Jent. If this offense is going to succeed at all, LeBron needs to not only show the ability to knock down the open shot, but also to quickly drive and kick, rather than his customary stand around and dribble for 18 seconds act. I’d like to think that Gibson will be a point guard in name only. I look for him to quickly distribute the ball to Larry Hughes who can then drive, or else get the ball into LeBron’s hands to let him do his thing. The front court duo of Gooden and Z is still a solid enough one. They will continue in all likelihood to clean up the boards, specifically on the offensive end. It’s entirely imperative that they hit the offensive boards when you consider the low field goal percentage this team is likely to shoot. There’s going to be a lot of loose balls to be had. Defensively, I look for this team to continue to be one of the 2 best defensive teams in the East and one of the 5 best defensive teams in the NBA. There’s no defensive dropoff from Sasha to Gibson other than height. But what Gibson lacks in height, he makes up for in quickness, resolution, desire, and awareness. This team will play great defense. I’d like to see LeBron continue to develop his defense as well, as that’s one major way this team is going to have to make up for it’s lack of depth.

Speaking of lack of depth, lets talk a little bit about the bench. This is not a deep team, especially without Pavlovic and Varejao. Their absences means one of our key reserves, Gibson, is now starting and another, Varejao, is no longer around. This means more minutes for Dwayne Jones, Donyell Marshall, and Cedric Simmons. I’m not going to talk about Juwan Howard at all because Brian Windhorst is reporting that Howard has turned down the Cavs and will play for the Mavericks. What this all means is the Cavs are looking at a paper thin frontcourt behind Z and Drew. From what I hear, Demetris Nichols is sort of like the second coming of Donyell Marshall, a forward who is much more comfortable standing around the 3 point line than on the blocks. Frankly, Andy Varejao is banking on this thin line of forwards and centers as his only source of leverage.

Going back to Gibson taking Pavlovic’s starting spot, the one thing I’ll say about it is that Gibson definitely sounds like he’s ready for the challenge. He’s been working on improving all summer, and is hoping it will pay off for him,

“I can’t afford to get complacent because as quick as I got into this league, as quick as I can be gone. I haven’t accomplished anything yet. I could’ve vacationed after the Finals, but I would not have been getting better. Those three or four or five days people took off, I felt I could catch up or gain some ground.”

And for what it’s worth, he finds inspiration in those who have cleared the same path before him,

“Michael Redd, Carlos Boozer, Jason Kapono, Gilbert Arenas, Luke Walton, Kyle Korver and my man, Mo Williams…They were all second-round picks, just like me. I use what they’ve done as motivation.”

The good news is that Gibson seems to get it, much in the same way LeBron does. I really think if these two can develop together in a system for a few years that they can really nurture a strong bond on the court. Their styles can definitely compliment each other. I look for a big year out of Boobie Gibson.

Finally, I look for LeBron to have an absolute monster year. Yes, there’s a lot of negativity surrounding this team. In his ESPN.com chat this week, Marc Stein said the following:

Paul (Cleveland, OH): So has everyone besides Broussard and Holinger pretty much given up on the Cavs?

SportsNation Marc Stein: This season? Pretty hard for a neutral to get excited when there is no new blood, two key players are holding out and Boston did what they did. All along I’ve expected Cleveland to find a way to finally get Mike Bibby there, but even that option has evaporated for now with Bibby needing thumb surgery. You really think the Cavs can avoid a step back after taking all that into account?

And that’s typical of what I’ve been reading from the experts and analysts. For some reason, I’m not totally buying it, and that’s why I think LeBron will have a huge year. First, his shot is supposedly improved. We saw what he did this summer in international competition with Team USA. He was unreal. If his shot is falling even close to that, he is going to be next to unstoppable this year. Second, Mike Brown has come up with a new offensive scheme which is intended to take advantage of LeBron’s strengths while keeping us out of obvious trapping situations like we consistently found ourselves in against the Spurs last year. It may take a while for it to all come together, and the majority of it will be dependent on LeBron’s willingness to embrace it and to run it, but for some reason I’m optimistic it will work. Third, LeBron is a competitor. You know he’s heard all the same negativity we have. You know it eats at him and puts a chip on his shoulder. When that happens, when LeBron is properly motivated…well, watch out. Fourth, he’s LeBron freaking James. If there’s one thing I learned last season, it’s that we should never doubt what we can accomplish with him. Lets face it, this team isn’t drastically different than last year. Yes, the dynamic of our starting lineup is a bit off with Gibson in there instead of Pavlovic. Yes, we’re a little thinner without the holdouts. Yes, we failed to bring in any additional help. But you know what? This team won 50 games last year in a season in which LeBron was accused of coasting for the majority of the season. What’s going to happen when a hungry and motivated LeBron James leads this team this year? We’re about to find out, and I’m ready to get it started. Assuming Varejao and Pavlovic are back on the team within the first 25 games, I am projecting this Cavs team to win 52 games. If neither one plays this year, I think the number falls back in the 47-48 win range.

Final Prediction:

There will be pitfalls. There will be trials and tribulation. There will be a learning curve. There will be an adjustment period without the holdouts around. But is the East really as improved as everyone says? Boston now has the big 3, but they are fatally flawed with their older age and absolute lack of depth. Chicago will be better by default, but no more than 3 games better. If Chicago acquires Kobe by giving up Deng and Gordon, don’t be so certain they’re guaranteed more than 45 wins. Detroit again looks like the class of the East to me, with the same starting lineup minus pariah Chris Webber. Increased minutes for Jason Maxiel will be huge for Detroit. They will once again be the best defensive team in the East and the road to the Finals may once again go through Detroit. Miami is in bad shape with an aging Shaq, an injured D-Wade, and perennial cancer Ricky Davis. Washington will be tough with the Big 3 returning to health and Arenas nearing contract extension time, although the loss of Etan Thomas will be tough to overcome as Haywood has not shown the ability to carry the load alone at the center spot. Toronto, New York, New Jersey, and possibly Milwaukee (depending on health) look to me like teams who will fight for the last playoff spot or 2, but will not be Conference contenders. My predicted order of finish:

1. Detroit Pistons (Central Champs)
2. Washington Wizards (Southeast Champs)
3. Boston Celtics (Atlantic Champs)
4. Cleveland Cavaliers
5. Chicago Bulls
6. Miami Heat
7. New York Knicks
8. Toronto Raptors

BraylonBrowns Come Back, Then Hang On

I’ll admit, I was out of town this weekend for a family reunion, and I wasn’t able to catch all that much of the Browns game this week. I watched the first quarter with my dad, and then we had to head over to my granparents’ house, and wasn’t able to resume watching until midway into the 3rd quarter. None the less, here are my general thoughts and feedback.

First things first, it was a solid win for this franchise. As I said in my preview, this was the kind of game the Browns traditionally would lose. We were on the road, we fell behind 14-0, our defense was showing no signs of being able to slow down, let alone stop, the Rams offense, and the offense looked tired and lethargic (which was totally unacceptable given the bye week). We overcame every single one of those challenges and setbacks. We didn’t let the environment on the road get us down, we didn’t panic at the deficit, our defense found ways to get some timely stops, and our offense woke up in a big way. All of these factors led to a decent, if not unspectacular, 27-20 victory to move to 4-3 on the season.

Things aren’t all roses for this team, though. The Rams game showed some major flaws in this team…flaws that need to be addressed if we want to start talking seriously about the possibility of this being a playoff team. First off, the defense needs a complete overhaul. I’ve always appreciated Todd Grantham’s enthusiasm, and last year he was considered one of the better assistants in all of the NFL, so I’m not ready to call for his job. That doesn’t mean he should be secure in his position, though. There’s no doubt what the weakness of this team has been so far, and everyone keeps waiting patiently for some improvement to be shown. I really felt confident going into this game, coming off the extra week to prepare, that we would really have a solid defensive gameplan to slow down an offense that has been struggling greatly as of late. Well, that certainly didn’t happen as St. Louis came out and torched our defense for consecutive TD drives of 74 yards and 71 yards, giving St. Louis a quick 14-0 lead with 5:16 remaining in the 1st quarter. On their third possesion, the Rams drove right down the field all the way to the Browns’ 33 yard line before Cleveland stuffed them on a 4th and 1. That stop, combined with the injury to Steven Jackson, seemed to get the defense going, as St. Louis never managed to put together a drive of longer than 53 yards. So while the defense did come up big, especially on two 4th and 1 stops (including one that should have ended the game), there were also problems. Once again, our linebackers failed to show any ability to get to the running back, our defensive line failed to generate much pressure at all, and Leigh Bodden was getting burnt all over the field. Wimbley continued to be surprisingly non-existent in the box score. I really struggle to name guys who are playing great on defense. I suppose maybe Sean Jones, and Eric Wright continues to show improvement, although he still makes the occasional mental mistake. The defense needs a lot of work and I would look for that work to start on the defensive line. Looking ahead, the 2008 unrestricted free agents include Jared Allen, Justin Smith, Terrell Suggs, Albert Haynsworth, and Mike Rucker. It’s hard to fathom Kansas City and Baltimore letting Allen and Suggs, respectively, get away from their teams. I wouldn’t even be surprised to see the franchise tag possibly used. But if not, a guy like Jared Allen, who will only be 25, could be a significant upgrade on the D-Line. I think another solid CB could be useful as well. As for what the team can do this year to improve, well, that’s a little trickier. They always say that by week 5 you are what you are. If that’s the case, we’re a mediocre team with a great offense and a pitiful defense. I would like to see the linebacks still be more agressive, get some push, and stop waiting for the running backs to come to them. I think some more delayed blitzes could be effective as well. Our linebackers are quick and athletic, and a little deception in our blitzing schemes could go a long way. I’m getting a little tired of sitting at and home being able to read exactly where the bltiz is going to be coming from, and being right 7 out of 10 times. If I can read it that easily, I can’t imagine how easy it must be for NFL players and coaches.

The defense wasn’t the only thing that slightly alarmed me. I was extremely discouraged at how long it took the offense to wake up. I was also discouraged by a couple plays involving Braylon Edwards. You know what I’m talking about here. First, the helmet removal was a traumatizing punch to the gut for those of us who remember Mr. Rudd, and second, the dropped pass on 3rd down. Regarding the helmet removal, I don’t have much to add. It was ridiculous and unacceptable, and a sign that as exciting as it has been to watch Braylon develop before our eyes this season, his maturity still has a bit to go. For his part, Braylon apologized for it and accepted responsibility, saying:

“I assumed the quarter was over. That’s not the kind of player I am. That’s not what Romeo Crennel teaches. That’ll never happen again.”

For both Braylon’s sake and for our sake, lets all hope that’s true. As for the dropped pass, hey, it happens. As an Ohio State fan, though, it’s hard to forget Braylon dropping a crucial pass in the 2004 game against the Bucks. He makes some amazing catches, but seems to struggle on some easier catches at the end of games. Perhaps it really is mental at this point. Regardless, I’m not worried about it yet. I’m willing to give him some time. He’s still a young player and his overall game is still developing.

Overall, the game was good and despite the worries pointed out here so far, there’s still more reason to be optimistic and excited than there is to worry. Derek Anderson continued his amazing play, throwing another 3 touchdowns with no interceptions. Braylon was huge with 8 catches for 117 yards and 2 TDs. Winslow made some big catches, including his TD reception. Jamal Lewis was ok in his return to action. Joe Thomas and Eric Steinbach were absolutely stellar again this game, providing DA with all the time in the world. This team is 4-3 with a huge home game with Seattle this week. A win would be enormous with road games to Pittsburgh and Baltimore afterwards. I still think 10-6 is a stretch and 9-7 is possible with some luck, but I think we’re still looking at 7-9 or 8-8, and to be honest with you, I’m ok with that as long as we continue to make strides in becoming a legit NFL threat.

DAWhat The Annalysts Are Saying…

As always, here is your look at what Scouts, Inc and ESPN’s NFL analysts are saying today about the Browns and their victory this weekend.

First up, Scouts Inc hosted an ESPN.com chat discussing the winning teams from Week 8 (I never grow tired of reading about the Browns in the winner’s chats as opposed to the losers chats). Keith Kidd was the first to take a question, and he talked about this being a good win, but warns about the road ahead,

Jay (NC): Keith, regardless of the Rams record, I think that was a pretty solid win for the Browns, don’t you? That team was desperate and giving everything they had, and their offense was back on track and still good no matter what has transpired this season. Holding them to 20 at their home, I do’nt see how that’s bad, I think our D is improving some. How do you now see the browns seahawk game going this week? I don’t see how they can hold us to under 30 or so, and Matt Hasselback has looked old this year, not to mention they can’t run.

SportsNation Keith Kidd: I agree I thought it was a great win for them, especially being down 14-0 and coming back. But unfortunetly for you Browns fans it will be a tought (sic) road for you guys because of the way the Browns defense is playing. But I think the Browns can beat Seattle at home this week.

Matt Williamson was next to tackle questions about the winners, and he discusses the Braylon Edwards incident,

Hende (OH): As great as Edwards played yesterday, didn’t he almost cost the Browns the game, by getting a unsportmanlike penalty for taking his helmet off and for dropping that 3rd down pass? Will he mature further?

SportsNation Matt Williamson: Good question. Remember him blowing up on the sidelines last year as well? Maturity is certainly a concern. He is an amazing player however. It seems like he is the only person who can stop himself from being great.

He also briefly mentions Derek Anderson’s Pro Bowl prospects,

Don (Pittsburgh): Who gets the 3rd AFC QB Pro Bowl selection behind Brady & Manning?

SportsNation Matt Williamson: Hmm, immediatly I thought of Palmer, but Roethlisberger could certainly be deserving. How about D Anderson? I guess I would vote Ben right now.

Finally, he gives us an answer on what he believes our playoff chances are,

Jason (Columbus, OH): As impressive as the Browns offense has been. Does this team have enough overall talent to make a run at the playoffs?

SportsNation Matt Williamson: In 2008. The D just doesn’t make enough stops for them to get to 10-6.

So that’s what some of the analysts are saying today. Overall, they continue to be generally impressed by our team. I think they tend to feel the same way as I do, though, and that is that we should approach with caution this year, as I still have major questions about the weaknesses of this team, namely the defense. It’s just hard for me to fathom this team making a playoff run no matter how good the offense is, as long as we continue to throw out the NFL’s worst defense.

Cavs PumpkinFriday Night Tidbits

So, I’m sitting here on a slow Friday night at home, watching the Cavaliers take on the Celtics in preseason basketball. You know it’s a slow Friday in all ways when you’re watching preseason anything let alone basketball. So I decided I’d take a few minutes and give my thoughts on a few Cavaliers articles I’ve had lying around that I’ve been meaning to comment on.

Look, I was so focused on the great Indians season and playoff run, and now I’m drawn into the heart of the Browns season. I’m not left with much to say about the Cavaliers yet. Normally the Browns are 1-5 or 2-4 at this point and so I’m usually just ready for some meaningful Cleveland sports and thus I’m anxious and excited for the NBA season to start. Well, this year’s Browns team is actually fun to watch….they actually look like a real NFL offense, and as a result, I’ve somewhat neglected the Cavs with the exception of a few LeBron posts because, well, it’s always fun to discuss LeBron. But anyway, I promise to do a full (somewhat) Cavaliers season preview sometime before the start of the season on Wednesday.

So, on to the articles I mentioned….

First up, lets talk about Donyell Marshall (who’d you expect me talk about first, LeBron James?). Ok, so in case you hadn’t heard, Donyell’s passport got lost when he was in China, creating travel issues for he and his wife. Well, you’ll have to excuse me if I must admit that I caught myself kind of wishing it had prevented Marshall from getting back into this country. And now, guess what? Donyell’s not happy with his role on the team. Please. Has anyone been happy with Donyell’s role on the team? Frankly, I’ve always felt that his role on the team was a little too BIG, not small. Anyway, here’s what Donyell has to say about this matter,

”I’m not going to say I’m going to retire after this contract, I plan on getting another deal. Hopefully, somebody will take me. I won’t play until I’m 40. I know my time is running down. I’m older now….I definitely have a key role on this team, whether Andy is here or not. There are going to be games where I’m needed to spread the floor. You look in Game 6 (in the Eastern Conference finals) against Detroit when LeBron (James) had 48 points, I didn’t score in that game. But I was effective because I helped spread the floor. You look at a couple of those plays, the reason he got to the rim was because I was spread out on the floor. They wouldn’t leave me.”

Oh, wow…I never realized how much credit Donyell Marshall deserves for LeBron’s performance in that game. I’m sure the Pistons were terrified of Masrshall beating them. They’d MUCH rather have LeBron run off 25 consecutive points on them. Sure. I’ve never really understood Donyell’s demeanor or attitude since day 1 when he and Damon and Larry were introduced at that press conference. There was something about his posture and his comments. He seemed almost slightly aloof. And to this day I still don’t think he gets how little of an impact player he really is. I also doubt there will be too many Cavaliers fans having to dry their eyes when his contract expires. If Donyell wants to improve his role on this team, he can start by proving me wrong and actually making an impact in the games this year. John Hollinger at ESPN projects Donyell’s Player Efficiency Rating (PER) to drop under league average (15.00) to 12.99 this season. In a nutshell, what that means is that by plugging in an average NBA player to replace Marshall, the Cavs’ performance should actually increase. Interesting thought, huh, Mr. Ferry? When Donyell Marshall is happy (meaning, no longer in Cleveland) I’ll be happy too. Nothing personal against the guy, I just don’t think he was ever a great fit with this team.

Ok, enough about Donyell Marshall. I’ve said my two cents. Lets talk some more about LeBron James. Bob Cook wrote a great article for msnbc.com about LeBron’s off season and the way he’s handling the Varejao and Pavlovic situations with grace and general silence. He touches on some of the same points I made last week regarding the different scenarios and the way they might play out for LeBron. According to Cook,

“But if James were seething, you’d never know it. Unlike Kobe Bryant, he hasn’t gone on the radio to demand a trade, called his owner an “idiot,” or ripped his general manager or any teammates on a video leaked like a celebrity sex tape. James has acknowledged to reporters that the team would be better if Varejao and Pavlovic were on it, but he’s not inserting his considerable influence into the negotiations.”

More to the point, Cook goes further in explaining the possible motives for LeBron’s silence. He makes an excellent point that this is, really, a win-win situation in the long run for LeBron.

“James won’t say anything about Varejao and Pavlovic because, in a sense, he wins no matter what the Cavaliers do. If the Cavaliers sign Varejao to the six-year, $60 million deal he’s seeking, and if Pavlovic gets the long-term deal he wants, then James at least doesn’t have to worry about the roster turning over for a while. The Cavaliers at least would contend again in the Eastern Conference this year.

But if the Cavaliers don’t sign the two of them — by god, what insane person would give a six-year, $60 million deal to a player whose most marketable skill is flopping? — James might have an even more inferior cast, but he also would have a better shot at getting some serious help in a few years.

After next season, $25 million worth of contracts in the persons of Eric Snow, Drew Gooden, Donyell Marshall and Damon Jones come off the books. Another $10.8 million would disappear if Zydrunas Ilgauskas decided not to pick up his player option, though in his mid-30s, he may well find that’s his best option.

Those $25 million in contracts would be desirable assets entering 2008-09 for a team who might want to get rid of a pouty star with a long-term contract, such as Memphis (Pau Gasol) or Indiana (Jermaine O’Neal). Or they could open up cap space after that season to sign a free agent such as Elton Brand, Baron Davis, Mike Bibby or Gilbert Arenas.”

The point here, as I’ve been saying all summer, is that LeBron is a smart guy. He knows what’s at stake for this franchise and for his career. I’ve always gotten the impression that LeBron would like to stay in Cleveland, but he’s not going to do so out of any kind of altruistic sense of loyalty to the community he grew up in. He needs incentive to stay, and the only incentive that matters to LeBron is winning, and so Danny Ferry and Dan Gilbert’s currency to buy LeBron’s loyalty comes in the form of championship caliber players to bring in who can play with LeBron and help the team get where it needs to go. Again, Cook touches further on that point,

“James also has one more reason to stay quiet. He has meant so much to a previously irrelevant Cavaliers franchise, and means so much to Northeast Ohio as a whole, that he doesn’t have to tell owner Daniel Gilbert and general manager Danny Ferry to do right. They know, James knows, and everyone in the 216, 330 and 440 area codes knows that while James would love to stay, he also needs the Cavaliers to give him reasons to stay.

In fact, the biggest difference between James and the other, more petulant superstars is that James doesn’t have to say a word to get what he wants. If James is unhappy, when the time comes he can just put a “See Ya Later” sign on Gilbert’s door and walk out — with his reputation intact.”

And that’s the bottom line. I can sit here and type out scenarios and coulda, shoulda, woulda’s until my fingers are crippled with arthritic pain, but at the end of the day, this thing is going to play out organically in the way Danny Ferry sees fit. And after Ferry makes his chess move, LeBron knows he will get the last move, and he can wait to decide on his move until he sees the way Ferry plays his trump card. Until that time, LeBron’s going to sit back, keep quiet on these matters, and continue to play simply amazing basketball for this city and this community.

Oh, and in case you wondered, the Cavs fell to the Celtics in the final preseason game of 2007 for the Cavs. Just another Cleveland loss at the hands of a team from Boston. At least this one doesn’t hurt so much.

 

Steven JacksonWeek 8
Cleveland Browns vs St. Louis Rams
Edward Jones Dome
St. Louis, Missouri
1:00 PM

This week our 3-3 Browns take on the winless (0-7) St. Louis Rams. We find ourselves in the unfamiliar position of being road favorites (-3). I think this game is pivotal in the psyche of this team. It’s important for the team to go on the road and take care of business. For too long we have been losing this kind of game. If this team is going to turn things around and eliminate this culture of losing, then we have to win this game. But that could prove tougher than we think.

First off, we don’t play particularly well on the road. We’re 0-2 away from the comforts of the Dawg Pound so far this season, dropping a fairly embarrassing game in Oakland and playing a lackluster game in Foxborough against the Patriots machine. Secondly, Steven Jackson is back this week. We’re bringing out the 30th ranked rush defense in the NFL to take on one of the top RB talents in the league. Finally, the Rams are playing this game with a chip on their shoulder. They’re embarrassed, frustrated, and desperate for their first win. In fact, they are guaranteeing they will beat the Browns this week. Tight end Randy McMichael was quoted as saying this week,

”We have nothing else to say; we are going to win the football game.”

And for what it’s worth, Steven Jackson agrees:

”I back him. I guarantee it with him. That’s how we believe in this locker room. If a guy puts it on the line, we’ve got to go out and do it. It comes to a point where you’re 0-7, at some point something has to give. We’re going back to the basics; that’s what we’ve been preaching all week. We’ve got to play to the level we expected in Week 1. We can’t use injuries as an excuse anymore; we’ve beaten that one to death.”

Well, as the saying goes, these aren’t your father’s Browns. The Browns are bringing their explosive 4th ranked scoring offense into town and looking to move past the .500 mark in Week 8 for the first time since the team returned to Cleveland in 1999. St. Louis will need their defense to step up. Their defense has been fairly mediocre this season, ranking 18th in the NFL (24th against the rush, 10th against the pass). I would expect the Browns to again try using their running game to open up some passing options. The Browns need to be able to exploit the Rams’ problems stopping the rush.

On the other side of the ball, St. Louis has been killed by injuries, and as a result their offense has been just absolutely abysmal. They rank 30th overall (28th rushing, 24th passing). The good news for St. Louis, though, is that the Browns’ defense is dead last in the NFL. They will absolutely try to pound the ball down our throat with a heavy dose of Steven Jackson. It is going to be absolutely important that the Browns find some way to turn around this defense, and a good way to do that will be to load up the line of scrimmage against this Rams team which lacks the explosive threats in the passing game with the injury to Marc Bulger. I’d love to see the Browns make the Rams try to use the pass to beat them.

All in all, this is a game the Browns should win. We’re coming off a bye week with plenty of time to prepare for a team that we are better than. If the defense is pathetic again this week and we lose this game because of our defense, I would hope the pressure would be dialed up to 10 on Todd Grantham’s hot seat. Coming into the season we all thought the defense would be the stronger unit on this team, and they have been a total let down. That being said, though, I think the Browns take care of business this week and win this one 27-13.

Indians LogoPeralta To Stay At Shortstop

I talked a little earlier this week about some of the changes I thought we could expect to see in the 2008 version of the Tribe. Yesterday, Mark Shapiro spoke to the press about some of those changes. He pretty much talked about all the main points that I mentioned, but he was able to speak in greater depth, and he also implied that some of the assumptions made on this site were not accurate. He talked about the left field situation, Kenny Lofton, the 4th and 5th spots in the rotation, the closer role, the bullpen, and Cabrera and Peralta’s positions in 2008.

The most important thing to note is that Shapiro actually seems pretty content to go into 2008 with virtually the same team, if need be. Not that he shouldn’t be, for obvious reasons, but as Shapiro said,

”I think about (changes) all the time, but one of the greatest benefits of the way the team has performed is that I don’t need to fill spots this year. We have a unique situ ation in that we can be opportunistic in the offseason. If we are open-minded, opportunities will present themselves to us…We do not have a declining age issue, we play exceptionally well as a team, there’s still upside to many of our players and we have depth.

He mentioned that he was pleased with Borowski, Perez, Betancourt, and Lewis, but he was somewhat unsure what he would do with the 3 other bullpen spots. He also mentioned that the decision on whether or not to pick up the club’s option on Paul Byrd would solely be a baseball issue and not an HGH issue.

The 2 areas that surprised me the most involved left field and the infield. I had assumed that David Delucci would be moved one way or another, as he really didn’t pay off at all this season, but Shapiro seemed to indicate that Delucci would very much be an option in left field, saying,

”I think David Dellucci can play a role if he’s healthy. Jason Michaels also is an alternative, and Ben Francisco and Shin-Soo Choo also could be in the mix.”

It still seems to me that this is a rather pedestrian platoon of left fielders. I’ll be curious to see what Choo and Francisco can bring next year, but I still wouldn’t be surprised if the Indians go after another left fielder, although the pool of free agent left fielders is fairly thin. You can forget about Barry Bonds and the Reds have a team option on Adam Dunn (although I’m not sure Dunn would be a perfect fit for Shapiro’s style anyway). Cliff Floyd has a mutual option for next year and a 40 year old Luis Gonzalez would be less than ideal. So that leaves names like Ryan Klesko, Ricky Ledee, Terrence Long, Shannon Stewart, Preston Wilson, and Brad Wilkerson. None of those guys are really all that exciting, and I think this may be why Shapiro is more inclined to stick with what he’s got at LF already.

As for the infield, Shapiro made it abundantly clear that Casey Blake would be back at 3B and the team expects to work out a deal with Blake before he goes to arbitration. As a result, you can forget about moving Jhonny Peralta to third and Cabrera to short. Shapiro flat out said that Peralta will be our shortstop next year and that means Asdrubal Cabrera might as well settle in at 2B, although he needs to keep hitting or else Wedge may not hesitate to give Josh Barfield another shot at the starting job. It seems a tad unfortunate that our limited range defensively at SS is still going to be an issue next year. It will also be quite curious to see what happens with Andy Marte who will be out of options after spring training.

Also, for those of you wondering what will happen with Kenny Lofton, the prospects of his return sound less than optimistic.

”We haven’t addressed our free-agent decisions,” Shapiro said. ”But it was fun watching Kenny play. He engaged our fans, and it was good to see him play a meaningful role.”

In other words, thanks for the ride Kenny, but we’re looking to go in a different direction next year. Hey, who knows, maybe we’ll make a trade at the deadline next year to bring Lofton back for another run. Frankly, with our LF spot as up in the air as it is and with no plausible free agents to bring in who can make an immediate impact, I don’t necessarily see the harm in making Kenny an average contract offer and see what he says. If he’s willing to come back for a moderate price, I think it would definitely be worth it on every level.

Finally, Shapiro indicated that he expects to try to get CC Sabathia re-signed as quickly as possible, although he acknowledges that in reality, this is probably going to be a long process that may drag into the regular season.

”As far as C.C. goes, there’s not anyone who is stronger in wanting to stay here, and that’s after our best days and our worst days,” Shapiro said. ”But with the magnitude of his success, the question is whether there’s a business deal that can be struck with ownership. I think there’s a chance. It’s my job to put the strongest possible team on the field, and it’s hard to see how I could do that without C.C.”

All in all, we can expect a relatively slow off season. Stay tuned, though, as I’ll be trying to keep us all up to date on the shuffling of positions and any rumors and signings that may take place. Lets face it, at least this team is in a much better position and a much more optimistic mindset going into this offseason compared to where we were a year ago at this time.

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