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. Wow. What more can be said after the Cleveland Cavaliers’ dominant, 39-point, 129-90 victory over the Charlotte Hornets last night? I’ll be honest, my patience has been tested this season. Just ask EHC’s Jim Pete about how aggravating my daily Cavalier rants have become. Yet, now, just over halfway through the season, it appears as if we’re finally starting to see what this team could potentially become. Everyone was involved in the offense last night; everyone at least scored a point. Heck, even Brendan Haywood scored with a put-back dunk with just under a minute left to play. The Cavaliers have won five straight games, and the best news is that this streak might not be coming to an end soon. The team has 11 more games before the All-Star Break, and seven of those games are at home. Better yet, only one of the four away games is against a team with a winning record. Now, is the time for this team to make its run.
2. An interesting story appeared on Cleveland.com today, which cited team sources admitting that roster composition has been a big challenge this season. Obviously, they’re not telling us anything that we didn’t already know, but it was interesting that players were willing to reveal this information, even anonymously. As much as I love Dion Waiters, the reality is that three really is a crowd. It’s difficult for a team to figure out how to use two ball-dominant players together and with Waiters, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers had three. That’s what has made J.R. Smith such a welcome addition on this team. He was considered to be a throwaway, but just look at the impact that he’s made thus far. Overall, he’s averaging 15.3 points per game with the Cavs and shooting 39.7 percent from 3-point range. He’s very much a pop-and-shoot type of player, and he’s immediately made an impact alongside James. He may not have Waiters’ tenacity or ability to take it to the hole, but he’s a much better shooter and is a tremendous help with floor spacing. While he may have looked like a throwaway, he’s been a great fit and is exactly what the Cavaliers need.
3. Speaking of fits, what more can be said about Timofey Mozgov? He’s made quite the impression with fans, but the impression he’s left on teammates is even more significant. Take a look at the following quote, which James said after Wednesday’s 106-92 win over the Utah Jazz. “It’s funny, I was talking to my friend the other day and I said he’s probably the best, as far as big, true big. You know, Chris Bosh is a great big, Kevin Love is a great big. But I’m talking about a true, 7-foot, big guy. He’s probably the best one I’ve played with since Z (Zydrunas Ilgauskas). They have different skill sets, but they both have skill. They know how to play. Sometimes you get a lot of bigs that are just big. He knows how to play and it’s great to have him out there.” Those are some pretty candid words from James, and make no mistake about it, he understands the weight of his words. He knows that everything he says will be put under a microscope and analyzed. But not much analysis is needed here. Plain and simple, the pickup of Mozgov has probably been the mid-season transaction of the year so far in the NBA, and James’ comments validate that.
4. Iman Shumpert made his long-awaited season debut on Friday and actually looked quite good. While he only played about 10 minutes or so, the talented guard made the most of them as he finished 3-for-3 from the field, drained two 3-pointers and finished with eight points, two assists and two rebounds. He’s been brought in for his defense, ands he will certainly be integrated into the lineup more once he is fully recovered from his injury. He was out six weeks, so a transition period should be expected. That said, it will be interesting to see where Blatt places Shumpert once he is fully integrated? Will he start as many of us first suspected? Or will he come off the bench, especially since Smith seems to have taken so well to the starting role? It’s something to watch moving forward.
5. The Cavaliers still have one open sport on their roster that is likely to be filled in the weeks ahead. Well, that time could be coming sooner rather than later. James apparently met with Ray Allen during his two-week recovery period. It’s also been reported that fellow Cavaliers Mike Miller and James Jones have kept in contact with Allen throughout the season. Allen may be 39-years-old, but he clearly still has it. In 73 games last season, he averaged 9.6 points per game for the Miami Heat, and he was basically the fifth or sixth option most of the time. It’s all about optimizing the roster, and Allen has a track record of playing well alongside James. If he’s open to signing somewhere, let’s hope he considers the Cavaliers. The team’s recent winning streak should hopefully help further convince him a bit.
6. So just how good have the Cavaliers been playing? Well, during this five-game win streak, the team has averaged 115.6 points per game and allowed an average of 99.8 points per game. Both of those are better than their regular season averages of 101.6 and 100.1, respectively. Defense has been such a problem area for the team all season, but they seem to finally be making some serious strides. Also, all of the players on the roster seem to be finding their role and filling it. Even the much-maligned Kevin Love is starting to show why he can be such a valuable player on this team. It’s all about roster construction, and finally, this team seems constructed to win.
7. Did anyone happen to read ESPN’s story about Johnny Manziel, which was released yesterday? If not, I highly suggest seeking it out and soon. The piece, written by Jeremy Fowler and Pat McManamon includes interviews with nearly 20 Browns sources, many anonymous, and the revelations are startling. Again, we can’t bury a player after just six quarters as a starter, but if this information is true, it reveals that Manziel never even took the time to prepare as a starter. Of everything included in the story, perhaps nothing was more telling than this: “Manziel was not present the morning before the season finale. Team security drove to Manziel’s downtown home to check on him. The Browns were packing up for the season finale at Baltimore on Dec. 28. Two team sources said security found a player who they felt clearly had partied hard the night before. One source used the words ‘drunk off his a–.’” Sure, Manziel obviously was injured and was not going to play in the finale, but just consider this in the most simplest of terms. Essentially, Manziel was drunk as hell right before he was supposed to go to work. What if any of us behaved that way? Would we still have our job? There is a maturation process for all of us, but it should not be that difficult to know that getting blackout drunk before going to work is a no-no.
8. From the sounds of it, nothing will be handed to the former Texas A&M quarterback. In his introductory press conference this past week, new Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said the following, “We’re not sure if our starting quarterback is in the building right now or not. If he is, great. If he’s not, that’s great, too.” Take note, Manziel. Take note. This should not really come as a surprise, but give DeFilippo credit for being so stern and abrupt right away. Browns owner Jimmy Haslam essentially echoed DeFilippo’s words later in the day. As a disclaimer, I want to make one thing clear. I want Manziel to succeed. I want to see him be the best quarterback that he can possibly be, and I am more than happy to eat a nice helping of crow if he does just that. However, I sadly do not see it. Since being drafted, there has not been one sign that should lead us to believe he can be anything more than a bust. That’s sad and even hard to write, but it’s also the truth.
9. The Cleveland Indians announced their promotional schedule for the upcoming season today, which is always provides reason to be excited. After all, it’s just another sign that baseball is right around the corner. Whenever they do this, I quickly scroll down to see what bobbleheads will be available. I’ll be honest, I’m a bit of a collector in this regard. So this year, it looks like Corey Kluber, Michael Brantley, Carlos Santana and Terry Francona will all have their heads enlarged and placed atop miniscule bodies. A replica Larry Doby statue and Yan Gomes jersey are also on tap for this year’s promotions. All in all, that’s a pretty solid lineup.
10. As always, I just want to give everyone a reminder to follow us on Twitter at @EvrybdyHatesCLE and also give us a like on Facebook. We have some exciting plans for the upcoming year that fellow managing editor Jim Pete will soon elaborate on. We’re happy to have you all along for the ride.