10 Orbservations is a regular Saturday piece at Everybody Hates Cleveland where EHC Managing Editor Steve Orbanek offers 10 quick sports takes, both on Cleveland topics and national ones.
1. “It’s only 11 games… It’s only 11 games… It’s only 11 games…” Have an idea of my thought process after the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 91-78 loss to the Washington Wizards last night? As a whole, the team just looked in disarray in the contest. The Cavaliers had 18 turnovers and seemed incapable of finding their groove on offense. It was the third consecutive loss for the team, and LeBron James now sits under .500 more than 10 games into a season for the first time in six years. We knew it was going to be a process, but I’ll be honest, at the start of the season, if you would have told me their record would be 5-6 after 11 games, I would have laughed. There’s something about the losing record that just sticks out; even 6-5 would look and feel a lot better right about now.
2. For some perspective on just how bad Friday’s game was, consider this: The Cavaliers went the final nine minutes without scoring a field goal in the contest. It’s almost hard to try to do that bad. Inefficiency was everywhere in this one. James shot just 8-of-21 from the floor while Kyrie Irving was just 7-of-16. Kevin Love finished with a measly eight points on 3-of-8 shooting, and Dion Waiters, who I had been hoping to see earn more playing time, finished 1-of-7 from the floor with just two points in 22 minutes. Yep, this was a truly putrid performance. It was basically the exact opposite of Wednesday’s loss to the San Antonio Spurs. While David Blatt’s timeout management against the Spurs can certainly be questioned, that game still seemed to be somewhat of moral victory. Last night could not be farther from that. It was probably the worst performance we’ve seen all year from the team.
3. Is anyone else a tad surprised by the playing time that Blatt has given second round rookie Joe Harris in the early going? Unless the player is a high lottery pick, it’s uncommon for a rookie to get this much playing time, especially when they’re of the second-round variety. While he’s had some good moments, he’s also looked slow and a tad overwhelmed out there. It was surprising that Blatt opted to keep him on the floor against the Spurs on Wednesday rather than the veteran Shawn Marion. Give the Cavaliers credit because it looks like they found something in the former Virginia Cavalier, but that still does not mean he should be seeing so much court time this early in the season.
4. One of the players who has suffered from Harris’ increased time is Waiters, who’s averaging a career-low 24.5 minutes per game. His PER is also a career-low of 10.1 after he posted PERs of 13.7 and 14.0 in his first and second seasons, respectively. It’s clear that he’s been somewhat frustrated in his new role, even if he’s not saying it. Did you see some of the shots he attempted last night? Can you say, “Forcing the shot a bit too much?” I like Waiters coming off the bench as he is one of the few players who has excelled in that role in the past and also has high-scoring ability, but it’s clear that it’s just not working right now. But, with that said, not much is working with any of the Cavaliers players offensively. James has said this has tested his patience, and I’m sure that’s the case for every other player as well. What makes it so difficult is the idea of “One step forward, three steps backward.” After defeating the Atlanta Hawks 127-94 last Saturday, it seemed as if things were coming together but then the Cavaliers dropped three straight games. Learning how to win is a process and it’s clear this team still has much left to learn.
5. So what do we make of the relationship between James and Blatt? It seems to be becoming more interesting by the day. In the aftermath of the Cavaliers’ loss to the Spurs, Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski wrote a piece discussing Blatt and how the key to his success will be how he ultimately handles the monumental task of coaching James. Of course, monumental might not be big enough of a word. Against the Spurs, it appeared as if James was calling the shots in the waning moments. The key is that these two need to learn how to work together on the sidelines. There needs to be a level of respect, both from Blatt to James and from James to Blatt. The first thing seems to be there, but what about the latter? Does James truly believe in Blatt, his accomplishments and his coaching style? If this team is going to make it for the long haul, both will have to buy in, sooner rather than later.
6. The Cleveland Browns have a big game tomorrow against the Atlanta Falcons. But at this point, what isn’t a big game? The Browns laid an egg last week against the Houston Texans, and the team’s record now sits at 6-4. They’re tied with Baltimore for last in the division with a 6-4 record. Who would have thought that 6-4 would be good for last place in this division after 10 games? Atlanta brings only a 4-6 record into this game, but they have a lot of things going for them. For starters, quarterback Matt Ryan has played well as of late, and the team has won two straight games. Also, while it seems hard to believe, this team is actually in first place in the NFC South. That just goes to show you how bad that division is, but it also shows that the Falcons still have plenty to play for. This is far from a typical 4-6 team as they’re actually in the driver’s seat as far as making the playoffs go.
7. One thing that will certainly help the Browns against the Falcons is the return of wide receiver Josh Gordon, who has finally finished serving his 10-game suspension. So, what can we expect in his first game back? Well, Gordon himself said he expects to tear the league up in these final six games, and quarterback Brian Hoyer described Gordon as “a freak.” Of course, he means that in the nicest way possible. With Gordon, there really should not be too much of a learning curve. Last year, Hoyer found Gordon 14 times for 217 yards in his two full starts that he played alongside the star receiver, so there is at least somewhat of a rapport there. Prediction for Gordon’s numbers tomorrow? Seven receptions, 124 yards and one touchdown.
8. I’m most excited for Gordon’s return because it is immediately going to make things so much easier for the Browns’ other offensive players. Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell will have more holes to run through as defenses will be forced to shadow Gordon. Additionally, Jordan Cameron, Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel should benefit from all of the attention that Gordon is going to receive. No player will benefit more than Hoyer, who has to understand how important these final six games are. Hoyer has been relatively successful this season, and he’s done that with throwing to a number of undersized receivers, and his top tight end has not been on the field regularly. So, what can he do now with the aforementioned players and a healthy Josh Gordon? The Browns need to make a decision on Hoyer after the season, and it seems likely that these final six games will play a key role. If he shows good chemistry and improved numbers with Gordon, then there’s probably a much better chance of him remaining in the Orange and Brown next year.
9. I’ve not touched much on professional wrestling lately, but two developments during this past week really piqued my interest. First and foremost, congratulations to TNA Wrestling on securing a new television deal with Destination America. As EHC’s Jim Pete can attest, there is likely no bigger Impact Wrestling fan out there than me, and I really see this television deal as a victory for the company. It sounds like Destination America, which is part of the Discovery family of networks, is open to giving TNA more airtime than the standard two-hour Impact Wrestling program, so this really could lead to further growth for the company. Let’s be honest, 2013 and 2014 have not exactly been banner years for TNA, and all we have heard about is rumors of the company’s demise. Clearly, those rumors were a tad exaggerated as reports now indicate that locker room morale is at its highest point following the new of the new television deal. Congrats to TNA on this major coup. We’re all rooting for you here at EHC.
10. Finally, WWE Survivor Series is tomorrow, and there is a rumor circulating that Sting — yes, Sting — could make his long-awaited debut. Just this past week, I said to both my wife and Jim Pete that WWE needs to do something to draw me back in. Well, this is more than a good start. I have not had the luxury of watching Sting on a regular wrestling program since this past January when he left TNA, and to be blunt, that’s sucked. I remember that last episode, in which he was defeated by EHC’s favorite wrestler Ethan Carter III, and the discussion I had with Jim. Jim said, “I’ve watched Sting on wrestling every week for years now, and now I won’t be doing that. That makes me sad.” Sure, it sounds cheesy, but I felt the exact same way. If anything, wrestling fans have been spoiled by what Sting has delivered each and every week for 25 years now. For quite some time, I was adamantly against Sting ever even appearing at a WWE show, but I have since changed my tune there. Wrestling is always better with Sting than without him. And we all know it’s going to be a special feeling when we finally see him on a WWE program for the first time.