Orbiting Cleveland: NFL quarterbacks and sustained success

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(John Kuntz / The Plain Dealer)

(John Kuntz / The Plain Dealer)

$41.6 million. That’s the remaining dollar amount that the Cleveland Browns have available in cap space.

Why are they not using that to sign any high-level free agents? Well, that’s the $41.6 million question, isn’t it?

So far, the Browns’ two big moves this offseason have revolved around the signing of journeyman quarterback Josh McCown and wide receiver Brian Hartline. Both players were cut from their previous team, and neither signing has created much of a buzz within the fan base.

The criticism that this franchise has faced since 1999 has become laughable at this point. Every year, it seems to be the same story with the Browns, and EHC’s Brian McPeek helped outline that a couple weeks ago in his piece, Set Your Watch By It.

I, too, have been critical of the Browns. This was true no less than three days ago when it was falsely reported that the Browns had re-signed tight end Jordan Cameron, only to watch him bolt to the Miami Dolphins just hours later. Same-old Browns, right?

Call me crazy though, but when it comes to the Browns’ conservative approach to free agency, this is one instance where I have to say that I’m on board. Completely.

Let’s take you for a trip down memory lane.

January 18, 2004. Do you remember that date? Continue reading

Orbiting Cleveland: James Jones has become an asset to the Cavaliers

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(Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images)

Eighty-two games.

For any team to be successful over the long haul that is an NBA season, contributions must come far and wide. Everyone needs to step up to the proverbial plate when that time comes.

Over the last few weeks, perhaps no player on the Cleveland Cavaliers has personified that idea more than James Jones.

Admit it, when the Cavaliers signed Jones this past August, your response was somewhere along the lines of, “Well, they’re just signing another one of LeBron James’ buddies,” “Who cares, he won’t play anyway,” or “James Jones? Really?”

That type of response was justified, especially considering Jones’ recent track record.

Last season, the small forward played only 20 games for the Miami Heat while averaging 4.9 points. His three-point shooting percentage (51.9 percent) was impressive, but we’re talking about just 20 games here.

Keep in mind that Jones had not averaged more than 13 minutes per game since the 2010-11 season. In fact, over entire 12-year career, he has averaged more than 20 minutes per game on just two occasions.

So yes, by all accounts, it appeared as if this signing was simply an effort to appease the King.

But here is what many of us seem to forget. Continue reading

Orbiting Cleveland: Kyrie Irving’s rise to greatness

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hi-res-183664824-kyrie-irving-of-the-cleveland-cavaliers-brings-the-ball_crop_exactAt some point this season, Kyrie Irving made the jump from very good NBA player to great one.

Maybe that moment was Nov. 10 when the All-Star point guard scored 32 points on 11-of-21 shooting while recording nine assists and just one turnover in helping the Cleveland Cavaliers earn a 118-111 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Or, perhaps, it was Dec. 9. In a night that offered quite the juxtaposition from what we had come to expect from previous seasons, Irving gladly took a backseat after realizing his shot was not falling, finishing with 13 points and 10 assists as the Cavs grinded out a 105-101 win over the Toronto Raptors.

No, let’s be honest. Irving’s real graduation into the elite class of NBA players came on Jan. 28. That was the evening in which Irving scored 55 points, the second-highest total in Cavaliers’ history, while leading the team to a 99-94 win over Western Conference power Portland. To cap it off, he did it all while teammate LeBron James sat on the sideline. Continue reading

Orbiting Cleveland: Appreciating the spectacle that is LeBron James and the Cavaliers

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Photo by Nathaniel Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Perspective is everything. I gained a little bit of that Sunday.

Fifteen years ago, when I first fell in love in with the NBA, it was because of Allen Iverson.

Sure, I, like many other elementary school students at the time, proudly wore a Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls jersey incessantly throughout my early formative years.

M.J., I would tell you, was the greatest basketball player on the planet. He was the ultimate professional — a champion — and no one could top him.

But did I really and truly appreciate Jordan? I was, after all, just 11 years old when he played his final game with the Chicago Bulls.

Iverson was a different story though.

From the moment I witnessed his signature crossover, I was hooked. The tenacity, bullish attitude, competitiveness — I fell in love with every bit of it. Continue reading

Orbiting Cleveland: Jumping aboard the Kevin Love bandwagon

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Photo by David Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

Photo by David Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

I’m done criticizing Kevin Love.

From the moment the Cleveland Cavaliers acquired the power forward in exchange for former No. 1 overall picks Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a future first round pick, the noise has been palpable. That’s true both here in Cleveland and on the national level.

Some have questioned how he fits in. Others have watched the growth of Wiggins with a close eye, questioning the trade every step of the way.

That was again true on Friday after Wiggins scored 22 points to lead the World team to a 121-112 win and earn MVP honors in the Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star Weekend. That’s been true in two contests between the Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves this season in which Wiggins scored 27 and 33 points, respectively.

This will also be true for the foreseeable future. Because of Wiggins’ high ceiling and the magnitude of this trade, Love will forever be linked to the former Kansas standout. Even if the Cavaliers win a title this season, there will be naysayers who choose to question the trade. Continue reading

10 Orbservations: Cavaliers’ streak halts, LeBron’s injury scare, the Browns’ dysfunction

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.

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(AP Photo/AJ Mast)

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. Continue reading

10 Orbservations: Cavaliers’ streak hits nine, Josh Gordon’s letter, some T.J. House love

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.

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(Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)

1. Another night. Another win for the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs avenged an earlier loss to the Sacramento Kings last night with a 101-90 win at the Quicken Loans Arena. If anything, it was almost a boring victory, but who says there’s anything wrong with those? The Cavaliers were not really ever challenged throughout the contest and led the entire way. Sure, the Kings are far from one of the NBA’s elite teams, but it says something about how a team has been playing when their latest win is described as “boring.” The key last night was defense as the Cavaliers held the Kings to a 35.7 percent shooting percentage (30-of-84). Defense has been the calling card for the Cavaliers as of late as the team has not allowed an opponent to score more than 100 points in their last seven games. This new commitment to defense coupled with the team’s acquisitions of Timofey Mozgov, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert has had a radical effect on this team. Translation? We’re now seeing a title contender emerge right before our eyes. Continue reading

Orbiting Cleveland: The colossal fall of Johnny Football

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Elsa/Getty Images

Even when he’s not directly involved in the news, Johnny Manziel is still making headlines.

On Friday, ESPN.com released a story, titled “Inside Johnny Manziel’s rocky rookie season,” which was written by Pat McManamon and Jeremy Fowler. Interviews were conducted with nearly 20 Cleveland Browns sources for the story, both on the record and on condition of anonymity, and the overwhelming theme was this: Manziel, as a teammate, player and professional, was an absolute joke in 2014.

Now, why should any of this come to a surprise? Isn’t this something we already know?

That’s true, but it’s a compelling tale nonetheless. Now, teammates and coaches, have taken the time to publicly shred Manziel. How does that happen and has there ever been a quicker downfall than what we’ve seen from Manziel this past season?

What I’m most interested with is how we got to this point? How did “Johnny Football” suddenly become “Johnny Drop the Ball?” Continue reading

10 Orbservations: The streaking Cavaliers, Mozgov’s impact, Shumpert’s debut and Manziel’s downfall

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.

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(Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)

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. Continue reading

10 Orbservations: The Cavaliers’ big win in LA, LeBron James’ return, and the Indians’ bullpen

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.

i1. That was a big one. Last night, the Cleveland Cavaliers pulled out a 126-121 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. The win capped off a two-day sweep of Los Angeles-based teams as the Cavs defeated the Lakers 109-102 on Thursday night. Given the circumstances and everything that the team has faced up until this point, it’s easy to say that last night’s win was probably the biggest win of the season. Sure, things were still far from perfect. The idea of the Cavaliers playing transition defense remains a myth, and it’s never good to allow 121 points to an opponent in regulation. That said, there were still so many other positives from this game. LeBron James, in his second game back continues to look like his old self and Kyrie Irving was just dominant; the two finished with a combined 69 points. The team also got out and ran a bit as the Cavs finished with 24 fast break points. All of this happened as Kevin Love sat out the contest with back spasms, which makes it even more impressive. It’s only one game, but one Cavaliers game has not felt this good for quite some time. Continue reading