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. The Cleveland Cavaliers effectively hit the reset button on their season this week. The team made two separate trades, but it really boils down to this: In exchange for Dion Waiters and a protected first rounder from the Memphis Grizzlies, the team received J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov. Just like that, it seems as if all of the team’s needs have been taken care of. Rim protector? Check. Wing defender? Check. Bench scorer? Check. What we’re seeing now is likely what will be the final version of the 2014-15 Cavaliers. Perhaps a minor tweak might be made here or there, but nothing major is going to happen personnel wise. That’s why it is imperative that General Manager David Griffin got it right with these trades. The truth is that we won’t know the actual makeup of this team until both LeBron James and Shumpert return from injury. It certainly seems to be a much more complete roster than the previous one though.
2. Whenever a team makes trades, there is always a concern involved with selling assets. This was one of the problems that plagued the previous Cavalier teams that James was on. At the time, it seemed as if the Cavs and former General Manager Danny Ferry would exhaust every option, and every asset, in an effort to bring talent in around James. Thankfully, even after this past week’s trades, the Cavaliers are in a much better situation than in previous seasons. In the coming years, the only NBA Draft in which they will be without a first round pick will be 2016. That pick was actually used in the salary-dumping trade involving Tyler Zeller last summer. They also will be forced to keep their own first round pick in this coming draft as a team cannot trade its own first round pick in back-to-back seasons. It might be a blessing in disguise for this team to hold on to this pick as they need to find young, capable talent to serve as role players on future teams, and there is no better way to do that than the draft.
3. Despite all of the excitement from the past week, it’s not as if the Cavaliers are playing what could be called “inspired” basketball. Overall, the team has lost four straight games, and their record is now 19-18, just a game above .500. In their defense, they have played some competition this past week, but they also happened to lose to the Philadelphia 76ers in what was Philadelphia’s first home win in more than nine months. The Philadelphia game can be thrown out as the Cavaliers only had nine active players, but all of these losses are somewhat concerning. We are very close to the midpoint of the NBA season, and this team is on pace to be barely over .500. Who would have ever thought that would be the case before the season began?
4. Midway through the third quarter of last night’s game, a graphic that ESPN ran caught my eye. The graphic was as follows: Fast break points: Golden State 30, Cleveland 0. Yikes. Aren’t the Cavaliers supposed to be at their best when they get out and run? Clearly, the absence of James affects this area, but this is concerning nonetheless. Shouldn’t a team that includes both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love be capable of getting some fast-break baskets? Overall, for the game, the Cavaliers had just three fast break points while Golden State had 36. James is projected to be out a few more games, but his return cannot come soon enough. The team just lacks an identity when he’s not on the court.
5. As for the new acquisitions, both J.R. Smith and Timofey Mozgov have made solid first impressions. Last night, Mozgov finished 3-of-7 from the floor with eight points and eight rebounds, including five offensive rebounds, in 27 minutes. It was a very efficient evening for the Russian center. In comparison, Smith made up for his laughable debut on Wednesday (0-for-5, zero points in 18 minutes) to lead the team with 27 points on 11-of-23 shooting. Now, it’s debatable as to whether or not Smith should be taking 23 shots in any contest, but with James out, someone has to carry the load. On Wednesday, we saw Irving take on that role (38 points), so it was Smith’s turn on Friday. Smith has always been a very talented shooter and scorer, as evidenced by the fact that he won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award during 2012-13 season. It’s just imperative that he stays motivated and takes good shots. With James on this team, motivation should not be a problem.
6. It was hard for me to watch Dion Waiters go. As many of you may know, there might have been no bigger Waiters fan in the Cleveland blogosphere than me. His grit, attitude, confidence — I loved it all. While it might not have always seemed like it, there was a sizeable portion of Cleveland fans who shared my enthusiasm for Waiters. It’s tough to watch a 23-year-old, who perhaps has not even begun to tap into his potential, be traded like that. However, the reality is that Waiters was the only valuable player asset that the Cavaliers had. This was a move that the team had to make, regardless of how hard that may be for me to swallow. In dealing one rotational player, they received three rotational players, and took care of every major need. Nonetheless, I’m going miss No. 3. I also have to thank him for the major philosophical view he has taught me: Men lie. Women lie. Buckets don’t.
7. Dysfunction was the theme of the week in regard to the Cleveland Browns. What else is new? Reports circulated earlier this week that offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan was unhappy with the front office and their decisions. By the end of the week, he was no longer the team’s offensive coordinator. One of the key points in all of this is that Shanahan is reportedly not a big fan of Johnny Manziel and questions whether he has what it takes to become a viable NFL starter. After six quarters, it’s hard to blame him, but it is believed that this has been Shanahan’s viewpoint for quite some time. It’s difficult to see Shanahan go because he is a young, talented mind, who is committed to the run. It’s been quite some time since the Browns actually had a viable offensive coordinator, but Shanahan did fit the bill. He will be missed.
8. This then leads us back into a discussion about Manziel. So now, in his latest blunder, he has basically forced an offensive coordinator to leave town. Okay, so it’s not exactly Manziel’s fault that Shanahan believes he cannot play, but if this is true, it’s concerning. Shanahan has worked with many capable NFL starting quarterbacks, and his opinion should carry some weight. The fact that he believes Manziel to be less than adequate at the position is something that the Browns need to take note of as they continue their own evaluation process.
9. With Manziel, I have to ask this one question. Has anyone’s star ever fallen faster? After being drafted No. 22 by the Browns last May, the team sold thousands of season tickets in a span of hours and he immediately became the NFL’s hottest-selling jersey. What about now? It would be interesting to see a breakdown of jersey sales by month. My guess is that they’re not exactly flying off the shelves. Also, I wonder if all those extra season tickets will be renewed for next season? Many compare Manziel to Tim Tebow, and it’s true that they both have an unconventional skillset and rapid fanbases. But here’s the big difference. When Tebow made his NFL debut, and all eyes were on him, he stunk… But he won. And continued to win, often in dramatic fashion. That allowed the Tebow legend to sprout more legs, and his popularity only grew. When Manziel first played, he looked almost incapable of generating even a first down. Just like that, the Manziel legend seemed to shrink. Granted, six quarters is just six quarters, but there’s no denying that Manziel and his brand has taken a major hit since he actually stepped onto an NFL field.
10. Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame elected four new inductees this past week: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio. The first three all earned induction on their first try. The quartet will be inducted in Cooperstown in July 26, and it’s hard to think of a more deserving group in recent memory than this one. Growing up, Johnson and Martinez were two of my favorites. There’s nothing quite like watching a power pitcher dominate and that’s what these two did nearly every time that they took the mound. We’ve seen plenty of good pitchers in recent years who have had successful careers (Roy Halladay, C.C. Sabathia come to mind), but none of them even come close to Johnson and Martinez did on a routine basis. Who knows if we’ll ever again see such bliss from the mound?