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. And the streak is over. Last night, the Cleveland Cavaliers fell 103-99 to the Indiana Pacers to halt the Cavs’ win streak at 12. Perhaps the team was somewhat tired from this being the second game of a back-to-back, but there’s no denying that both offensively and defensively, the Cavaliers looked sluggish. Still, no win streaks last forever, and let’s consider the progress that has been made in this process. For starters, the Cavaliers have climbed up in the standings where they’re now tied for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference with the Chicago Bulls. Before the streak began, they trailed Chicago by seven games. Furthermore, they’re just a half game out of the third seed and 3 ½ games out of the second seed. They’re now also 10 games over .500 after being one game under that mark before this streak started. So yes, Friday’s loss was a bad one, but let’s not take it for anything more than that — one loss. Over the past few weeks, the positives have far outweighed any negatives with this team.
2. The challenge with Friday night’s game is that it appeared as if some bad habits emerged once again. The Cavaliers held a 13-point second-half lead at one point, but they could not hold on. Also, just one game after leading the Cavaliers in scoring with 24 points against the Los Angeles Clippers, Kevin Love recorded only five points on 2-of-8 shooting against the Pacers. Turnovers were also a major issue in the contest as the Cavs committed a total of 15, including seven from LeBron James. Perhaps the worst thing to come out of the contest was an injury scare with James. Late in the third quarter, he was fouled hard and grabbed his right wrist, which had already been injured. He played through it and looked strong in the final quarter but then suffered an ankle injury. Much of this team’s success has been predicated on James’ performance, so one needs to hope that either injury is not severe. Ideally, it might make sense for James to rest for Sunday’s contest against the Los Angeles Lakers as the Cavs will not play again until Wednesday, which would almost give him an entire week off.
3. This recent 12-game winning streak may prove to be the season saver for the Cavaliers as they will have some difficult contests coming out of the All-Star Break. Before then, they still have home games against the Lakers and Miami Heat and a road game against the Chicago Bulls, but then things start to get dicey. After the break, the Cavaliers will play six of seven games on the road, including tough games against Washington, Indiana and Houston. Then the team is back home for one game against Boston before beginning a brutal seven-game stretch, which includes road games against Atlanta, Dallas, San Antonio and Miami. So, while the 12-game winning streak has been impressive, and this team has beaten many high-caliber opponents, much of it came from within the friendly confines of Quicken Loans Arena (eight games). Over the next month and a half, that’s not going to be the case, so it will be interesting to see how this team makes it through this stretch.
4. On the positive side of things, it does appear as if we still have not yet seen the best of this team. They have yet to peak, but there also is a chance that they might look to make a move or two, albeit a small one. The team still seems to be the favorite to sign Ray Allen if he decides to return, but there have been other rumors making the rounds as well. Current Minnesota Timberwolve and former Cavalier Mo Williams is one name that is making the rounds, and we’ve also heard that the Kings’ Ramon Sessions, also a former Cavalier, could be an option. Jordan Farmar seemed to be a possible fit, especially because he played under David Blatt for Maccabi Tel Aviv, but that now seems unlikely with the news Thursday that Farmar had signed a deal in Turkey with Darussafaka Dogus. Perhaps there are provisions that would allow him to get out of that contract, but it appears as if that door has been closed for now. The trade deadline is less than two weeks away, so we could see some movement on this front any day now.
5. Getting one more significant rotational player would be key for this team, given that the current rotation seems to be just one man short. Outside of the starting lineup of James, Love, Kyrie Irving, J.R. Smith and Timofey Mozgov, the Cavaliers’ rotation consists of Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert, Matthew Dellavedova and Shawn Marion, though his minutes have been cut significantly as of late. While all of those players do some nice things, not a one of them could be considered a scorer or much of a shooter for that matter. Shumpert and Dellavedova can hit their spots, but neither player offers much when it comes to creating his own shot. That’s why the acquisition of a player like Williams or Sessions would be a nice coup. Not only would it lengthen the bench, but both players would offer some scoring as well.
6. An interesting piece of information was presented in Chris Haynes’ story this morning about Kevin Love. Here’s the quote from Love last night after he scored again just five points for the second time in three games: “Oh yeah, definitely frustrating. Yeah, I think it’s one of the toughest situation I’ve had to deal with but at the end of the day we’re winning basketball games. I know tonight was different. At the same time, there’s no blueprint for what I should be doing, but I’ll try my best to figure it out.” You have to give Love credit for being so candid with these comments. Also, his patience must be tested every night with reporters continuing to swamp him with questions about his performance and lack of scoring. The truth is that the Cavaliers do not Love to score even close to 20 points per game. However, if he can continue to pull down boards and progress as a defender, then this team could have a championship mantra to it. So far, he seems committed to doing just that.
7. The news about the Cleveland Indians’ Danny Salazar left me pretty disappointed this week. No charges will be filed against Salazar, but it was announced that he was the subject of a sexual-assault investigation stemming from a Jan. 22 incident at the Cleveland Hustler Club. As it stands, the only specific details we know are the following, per Paul Hoynes’ story for Cleveland.com: “Police were called to the University Hospital emergency room at 7:25 a.m. Jan. 23, to interview a woman about the complaint. The woman told investigators that the incident took place about 10:30 p.m. the previous night at the strip club located in the West Bank of the Flats.” Prior to this incident, I could not have thought about a more unlikely player to get caught up in a situation like this than Salazar. His smile, boyish charm, inefficiency with the English language — it just reeks of innocence. No one is going to know exactly what happened that evening, except for the people who were with Salazar. What many of us do know though is that going to that strip club that evening was probably a poor choice.
8. Remember when Cleveland Browns fans were celebrating Jimmy Haslam and his purchase of the team? How long ago does that seem? The current situation in Cleveland is a mess, and Jason La Confora’s piece this week examined it all. Between General Manager Ray Farmer’s texting to coaches, the yearlong suspension of Josh Gordon and Johnny Manziel entering rehab, the Browns seem to be at a new low point. Where do they go from here? How do they dig themselves out? With Randy Lerner, the complaint from fans was that he wasn’t involved enough. With Haslam, it’s been the exact opposite. That’s even more true now that it seems to be clear that Manziel was his handpicked prize in last year’s NFL Draft. Another interesting revelation is that Haslam reportedly blocked a deal of Gordon to San Francisco. Optimistically, and it’s only February, what are the chances of the Browns having a successful season next year? Was seven wins the best we could hope for? Every time that you believe this franchise cannot get any more dysfunctional, a story like the one written by La Confora, comes out.
9. Again, it’s only February, but rumors are widely circulating that the Browns are already plotting to trade up to draft Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. Is that the right move though? Essentially, you’re saying that after just six quarters, Manziel is officially a failure. Now, granted, those six quarters were as bad as anything I have ever seen, and I’ve been as critical of Manziel as anyone. However, let’s keep in mind that report that ESPN released just a few weeks ago. According to that, Manziel was unprepared and acted like a juvenile punk all season. Now, he’s put himself into rehab, so should he be given a chance to at least dry himself out? Does a focused Manziel deserve a shot at the job? He was, after all, a first round pick, and the Browns were not the only team to have him graded there. I’m confident that the Manziel we saw last season will never succeed in the NFL. That said, I do not know if the same can be said for a focused, diligent Manziel. The problem is that we may never see that type of Manziel, even if he completes rehab. It’s just going to be a challenge for him to leave his old lifestyle behind. But I’m also not sure that trading up to draft Mariota is the answer either. Which that then leads us to the problem that circles this entire organization. No one has the answers. No one ever has either.