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 beautiful when a plan starts to come together. With last night’s 105-91 victory over the Toronto Raptors, the Cleveland Cavaliers have now won six straight games and own an 11-7 record, the fifth-best mark in the Eastern Conference. There’s nothing easy about what the Cavaliers accomplished last night. Coming off a close 90-87 win over the Knicks in New York the previous night, it’s tough to then travel north of the border and win back-to-back games. That’s especially true when the team you’re facing owns the best record in Eastern Conference, yet somehow, someway, the Cavaliers managed to do it. And to be honest, they really did not even look as if they were challenged too much. From the moment the game began, it appeared as if the Cavaliers overwhelmed the Raptors. LeBron James had a quiet but efficient 24 points and 13 assists while shooting 9-of-18 from the field, and Tristan Thompson was an absolute beast in his hometown as he finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds. Yes, the Raptors were still without standout shooting guard DeMar DeRozan, but regardless, this was a huge win for the Cavs. Every road win in the NBA qualifies as that.
2. I’m starting to have a bit of a mancrush on Kyrie Irving. It’s simply amazing how quickly he has transitioned and learned how to play alongside James. I would argue that he has actually made the transition quicker than Dwayne Wade did in Miami. While Irving is still a point guard, it’s clear that head coach David Blatt has recognized that the team is actually in its best position when James is running the offense. Irving seems to not only have accepted that — he’s embraced it. He’s averaging a career-high 22.0 points per game while also shooting a career-high .489 from the field. On Wednesday, he had one of his best performances ever in Cavaliers’ uniform as he scored 37 points on 12-of-18 shooting to lead the Cavs to their win over the Knicks. Forget about Irving’s offense for a moment though. Have you seen this cat on defense? The hustle? The intensity? Where has this been the last three seasons? This was especially true last night as there were several times where Irving just went all out to make a standout defensive play, including a diving steal in the third quarter. Right before our eyes, we are now watching Irving develop into one of the best players in the NBA, and it’s beautiful thing. But it all started with Irving’s willingness to accept a backseat to James, and he deserves plenty of credit for that.
3. I watched the game last night with fellow EHC Managing Editor Jim Pete, and we were both amazed to see James Jones enter the game; it was only the fourth game he has played in all season. Jones’ increased playing time could have just been the result of Mike Miller missing the game due to concussion-like syndromes, but Pete had a different opinion that I tend to agree with. Now that the Cavaliers starters and regular rotational players are suddenly starting to gel, could it be that Blatt is looking to add other pieces (players) to the puzzle? It seemed to be that way on Thursday with Miller, and that appeared to be the case last night with Jones. For what it’s worth, Jones responded nicely in his 15 minutes of play as he finished with eight points and made both of his 3-point attempts. As the season goes on, this team will need plenty of output from its shooters, so let’s hope this is a sign of future good things from the veteran Jones.
4. Dion Waiters still seems somewhat lost in the offense. His defensive intensity has been good at times, but there really have not been too many standout offensive performances from the former Syracuse guard. That’s a surprise too because the talent is clearly there. Last season, Waiters averaged 15.9 points per game and appeared to be the team’s best player on the floor at times. That’s not an overstatement either; he was very impressive. However, in his limited action this season, Waiters is averaging just 8.1 points and 23 minutes per game. Worst of all, his shooting percentage is all the way down to .367. Who is this guy? This is not the same player with the bravado to take to Twitter and make a tweet that reads, “Men lie. Women lie. Buckets don’t.” Is Waiters too timid? Is he simply starstruck over the fact that he now plays alongside the best basketball player on the planet? Whatever the case may be, he will eventually have to get himself together. When it comes to the Cavaliers’ bench, there are too few players who can provide scoring, but Waiters does qualify as that.
5. I have a bone to pick with ESPN. Please see the following link, which details the average attendance for NFL teams during the 2014 season. As you see, the Cleveland Browns’ average percentage capacity is listed at 92.1 percent. There’s only problem with that: FirstEnergy Stadium no longer holds 73,200 people. As most of you probably know, the first phase of a two-phase renovation project completed between the 2013 and 2014 seasons reduced the seating capacity to 67,407. So, with the Browns’ average attendance for the season at 67,423, that would actually mean that the team’s average capacity would be just slightly over 100 percent. It’s not easy to catch one on the Worldwide Leader in Sports, so I take a little bit of pride in this one. I did relay the error to ESPN as well as the Browns, but to no avail. I just don’t think it speaks that well about Browns fans to inaccurately depict our average attendance.
6. Now let’s move on to more pressing topics surrounding the Browns. The team has an enormous game tomorrow at home against the Indianapolis Colts, and they’ve decided to stick with Brian Hoyer at quarterback. Right move or wrong move? Well, here’s my take. I support Mike Pettine for sticking with Hoyer, simply for this reason. Once this team moves to Johnny Manziel, you can never go back to Hoyer. So, in other words, if Manziel were to struggle, you can’t then go back to Hoyer, even if fans clamor for it. You’ve made your bed and have to lie in it. However, you now can still make the move to Manziel if Hoyer’s struggles continue. And if that does become the case, then I expect Pettine to insert Manziel in against the Colts at halftime. I’m rooting for Hoyer though. He may not be anything more than a very good backup quarterback, but he’s earned the right to have at least one more start.
7. So, I’m going to take an unpopular opinion. But could Josh Gordon be part of the problem? Or, to be more precise, could the return of Gordon be part of the problem? I understand how asinine that sounds. Obviously, it’s never a bad thing when a team can add a 6-foot, 3-inch, 225-pound receiver coming off a 1,646-yard season. However, I question the way that offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has used Gordon since his return. Can you say, “Force the ball a bit too much?” In two games, Gordon has piled up 15 receptions for 195 yards, but he’s been targeted 29 times. I agree that he needs plenty of balls thrown his way, but 29 balls in two games? Did the team forget about Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel, two young receivers who played a key role in getting this team to its 6-4 record after 10 games? Could the forced throws to Gordon also be a reason that Hoyer has struggled? Consider this. In 10 games before Gordon’s return, Hoyer had thrown for 2,542 yards, 11 touchdowns and just five interceptions. In the two games since his return, it’s been 514 yards, zero touchdowns and five interceptions. You do the math. Yes, Gordon is an immensely talented player and needs balls thrown his way, but there are also other talented players on this offense as well. That’s something that Hoyer and this coaching staff need to remind themselves of this weekend.
8. Lots of the talk surrounding the Cleveland Indians these past few days has centered around the prospect of the team acquiring Brandon Moss from the Oakland A’s. Moss had a solid season last year as he hit 25 home runs and drove in 81 runs in a park that is notoriously tough on hitters. Of course, there are concerns surrounding Moss as he’s coming off of hip surgery, and the details surrounding the trade seem somewhat skeptical. According to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the deal will be a 1-for-1 exchange, and the Indians will not surrender a player who is currently on the 40-man roster. Over the past few days, a slew of players have been discussed, including Jose Ramirez, Erik Gonzalez, Joe Wendle and even Clint Frazier. If Hoynes is correct, we can obviously eliminate Ramirez from this discussion. As it stands, it appears as if an exchange for Wendle seems to the most heavily-rumored trade. I love Wendle as much any Indians scribe on the web, and I truly believe his ceiling is much higher than many give him credit for. He’s been a constant overachiever wherever he’s played, starting with Division II West Chester, and there’s no reason to not believe that won’t continue. Still, a prospect is just that — a prospect. Provided the Indians’ medical staff is doing its homework and due diligence, this is a deal I would make regardless of the high opinion I have for Wendle.
9. Just because I’m curious, I’d like to pose a question. Feel free to chime in with your opinion in the comments below. Who, outside of LeBron James, is the second-most popular athlete in Cleveland right now? The question comes out of a discussion that I had with Jim Pete and other EHC contributor Joe Cuneo. Is it Corey Kluber? Michael Brantley? Hoyer? Irving? Gordon? I’m interested to see everyone’s responses because this is a difficult question to answer. James is firmly positioned at No. 1, but who then follows? If you have a take, let me know. I figured this might be a fun little exercise.
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