I don't know what to make of the Cavs. They lose to bad teams without LeBron (Bobcats) and with him (Sixers, last night).
The whole season has been screwy. The holdouts of Sasha Pavlovic and Anderson Varejao hurt big time. That debacle messed up rotations and forced journeymen like Devin Brown and Dwayne Jones to log significant minutes. Brutal.
Then there were the injuries. Larry Hughes missed a month, of course. So did Eric Snow. Donyell Marshall has yet to play. In spite of all that the Cavs surged to a 9-5 start behind the Oscar Robertson type play of LeBron, along with some gritty yeoman work by Drew Gooden and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
Did that mean all was well? No. All season this team has refused to play defense. It seems as though Mike Brown has loosened the reigns somewhat by letting his team play a more free-flowing offense. The early result was ton of points, a ton of turnovers and reasonable results. Hell, they even managed to hand invincible Boston one of its two losses.
Then LeBron got hurt.
Eight losses in nine games later, the Cavs are a mess. LeBron has been back for three of those games (one win). Anderson is back. Larry is back.
Still the team can't win.
The problem? While the bad defense and turnovers continue, the scoring is down.
Who to blame? How many fingers you got? LeBron has been taking some horrendous shots since his return. His passes haven't been much better. Larry Hughes had one 36 point outburst. Aside from that, he can barely hit the rim. Sasha has been bad, worse and worser. Anderson has provided some of his signature energy, but most of the time he looks like a beached whale trying to track down loose balls.
Then there's Mike Brown, who doesn't seem to know what to do with all these players. Brown is a defense first coach who must be dying inside with his team's effort. I know rotations featuring Snow, Varejao, Larry, Ira Newble are meant to establish some sort of defensive presence. The problem is that unit is nearly devoid of athleticism and totally unable to score. It was that unit which put us down 8 points late against New Jersey and, arguably, cost us the game. What the hell?
Anyway, I don't imagine LeBron's slump will continue. Team chemistry should return. The defense will solidify and the turnovers will abate. This same exact team went to the NBA finals. No way they miss the playoffs.
BUT! If I'm wrong...
...then there is a bigger problem. If these trends continue much longer, the sloppy play, the lax defense, those are sure signs that the coach has lost his grip. We all know what happens to guys like that, even nice, competent guys like Mike Brown.
The Browns pitched their first shutout of the season, thanks to an assist from the blizzard. The four-to-six inches that fell during gametime proved a bigger problem for the visiting Bills, whose offense stalled and whose defense couldn't contain the power runs of Jamal Lewis, who has been making a very strong case for himself as for team MVP.
It all added up to a rare 8-0 final score, leaving the Browns at a solid 9-5 and just a hair away from an AFC wild card slot. This team will be demolished in the playoffs, but getting there will be awful nice.
How about Phil Dawson as another MVP candidate? With the Browns playing so many close games, Dawson's leg has been a vital asset. He's won several games with his leg this year, and his two makes against Buffalo, particularly an impossible 47 yarder, were the difference.
I'm going to give Derek Anderson the benefit of the doubt and say that all those misfired passes were due to the cold and the wind and the inability of his receivers to run their routes. Of course they were, but I'm watching you, D.A.
Hey, Phil Savage! Obviously Jamal Lewis has a lot in the tank. Obviously the passion is there. Why not let him finish his career in Cleveland? Or at least ink him for a coupla years more. He's a joy to watch when he has a head of steam.
May the steroid era be damned to hell for all eternity.
Really, baseball must be the greatest game to have withstood work stoppages, a cancelled World Series in '94, and now this grand stinking mess. I've said before that cheating is a part of the game--a certain type of cheating. But does that justify the use of performance enhancers? Some people think so. Some people just don't care. I say if you don't see the big fat obvious line between corked bats and spitballs on one side, and HGH and steroids on the other, then you are not only blind, but foolish.
I also say if you don't know the beauty of a 1-0 game, you don't know baseball.
The number 72 is a stain upon the game. So is 762.
Oh yeah, and the Indians didn't pick up Dan Haren. Never thought they would, really.