It’s Great To Be Back

By Bruce Hooley

I remember riding on the tractor with my dad at age five.

I don’t remember being four.

I wish I did, because then I’d remember the Browns winning the NFL championship.

I, like most of you, have known nothing but sports frustration since 1964.

I remember Mike Curtis and the Colts hammering the Browns in the 1968 title game, and the Vikings and Joe Kapp doing the same the next year.

I sat in my campus apartment with no heat in 1981, frozen to the bone and not caring even a little bit until Sam told Sipe, “Throw it in the lake if he’s not open.”

Six years later, I could barely contain my glee as a member of the working media — no cheering in the press box, you know — as Brian Brennan spun away to score the go-ahead touchdown. When Denver botched the ensuing kickoff, they were 98 yards away and we were just minutes from our first Super Bowl.

I don’t need to tell you the rest.

The following year, you and I just started to come out of our chairs to celebrate as Ernest Bynar broke free inside the 5. Denver was finally going down and we were finally headed to the Promised Land.

Yeah, well…

I’ve felt what you’ve felt, every step of the way, from Red Right 88 to Mesa blowing the save to, “I’m taking my talents to South Beach.”

That’s just going to make it so much sweeter when we finally get there.

I want to be in this city when that happens, which is why I’m thrilled to join ESPN 850 WKNR. I’ll be hosting the afternoon show with Greg Brinda and Chris Fedor starting Monday at 3 p.m., and I can’t wait.

I promise you fast, fun, Cleveland sports talk from guys who share your passion for our teams and our city. Greg and Chris are Cleveland natives. I grew up in rural Ohio, but my brother raised me to love Bill Nelson to Gary Collins and Gene Hickerson leading Leroy Kelly around the end.

I spent 18 years at The Plain Dealer covering Ohio State football and basketball, so it’s great to be back here after six years away doing sports radio in Columbus.

I’ve experienced some great things in 25 years as a journalist…the Olympics, the Super Bowl, the World Series, numerous bowl games, BCS championships and Final Fours.

Nothing will compare to doing sports talk in this city when a championship banner goes up.

Until that happens, we’ll talk about every step of the journey.

It would be a privilege to have you join us for the ride.

Follow Bruce on Twitter @BHoolz

 

Weekend Thoughts

By Kenny Roda

Colt McCoy needs to play well for his confidence, and the rest of the team’s confidence.

Will any receiver emerge in pre-season game #1 vs the Packers?

I’ll be watching Phil Taylor closely to see what all the hype is about.

Will working against Joe Thomas help Jabaal Sheard come Saturday night get to the QB?

Hopefully the 2010 Shin Soo Choo returns, and the not 2011 version for the Tribe.

Addition by subtraction, Austin Kearns in no longer on the Tribe roster.

Loved the leadership shown by Asdrubal Cabrera on Thursday night.

Keep the same focusness Carlos Santana you had, after A-Cab ripped you a new one!

Worst-case scenerio, Tribe needs to take 2 out of 3 from the Twins. Nothing less!

And no I won’t be pulling for Jim Thome to get his 600th HR in Cleveland!

Follow Kenny on twitter @RoadmanWKNR

 

 

A Week’s Worth!

By Michael Reghi

…Of observations as the Indians survive the heat, and the bats of the Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers, while the Browns look to take measurable steps forward in preparation for Saturday’s preseason opener with Green Bay.

While the two losses in Texas were especially galling, following a pair of Boston walk off wins that were excruciating, you have to be pleased with the Indians’ approach with the bats, and how markedly improved they were. While the 3-4 mark should have been at least flipped, if not 5-2, the Tribe showed aggressiveness at the plate, compiling 38 runs over the 7 games, an average of 5 and a half per, while drilling 12 home runs, with 30 total extra base hits. They hit .266 on the trip. And .265 with runners in scoring position. They’ll need to continue at this type of clip, as the next 12 games are in the AL Central. 6 of them with the division leading Detroit Tigers. In fact, 37 of the final 50 are inside the division, giving them ample opportunity make up the 4 games they stand back of Detroit, or fall out of contention all together.

Speaking of hitting, and this has nothing to do with numbers – I repeat, nothing to do with their numbers, I feel VERY confident that youngsters Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall will be just as advertised….. very fine major league hitters! You can see it in both of them…short, explosive strokes, the willingness to go deep in counts, and hit with two strikes, excellent bat speed, and the ability to drive the baseball! The big league stage isn’t too large for either, as the ‘approach’ they take to the plate with each at bat is very refreshing. Mark this down. They both will be 15-20 home run types, with gap power, and strong run producers, beginning next season! You can ‘hear’ sweet swingers; I know the ‘sound’. And both of these young Tribe hitters have it. Combine them with a rising Michael Brantley, and Carlos Santana, to swing in the lineup with Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin Soo Choo, and at least another season Travis Hafner dh’ing, and I like how the Indians will build offensively. Granted, both Kipnis and Chisenhall have improvements to make defensively, yet Indians fans will live with developing glove men at second and third base, as long as the bats are potent.

The Tribe debut of Ubaldo Jimenez was uneven in the 8-7, 11-inning loss to Texas. Yes, Jimenez could have escaped with the win, as he, and the Tribe bullpen let a 7-2 lead disintegrate. Jimenez couldn’t throw his two and four seam fastballs for strikes in the first 3 innings, relying on his slider and breaking ball to find the strike zone. 108 pitches tells the tell, and his command must get better, beginning Wednesday night as he starts against the Detroit Tigers. He did fan 7. Without command and location, and pitching behind in the count, as he did all night in Texas, Jimenez and most starters are just another guy. The Indians need him to be a dominant mound presence in his 10 starts left, not only to have any shot at catching Detroit, but to make all feel that he will be a top of the rotation winner to team with Justin Masterson for the next couple years, if the Tribe are to be serious about winning al Central crowns. They can’t, and won’t…unless Jimenez is that imposing presence.

I spent four days with the Browns last week, three in Berea, and at the Stadium Saturday. He are my impressions.

1. Colt McCoy showed improvement after a few unsteady practices. You can see more comfortability within the offensive flow, as the West Coast pass game evolves. He missed a few reads, and a couple of subsequent throws, yet I liked his red zone session Saturday, firing td darts to Greg Little, Evan Moore, Peyton Hillis and Ben Watson. He’ll figure it out. Of that I am confident.

2. Greg Little is extremely skilled. Large body, not afraid of contact, and showing vast progress while being force-fed the system with large reps in Mohammed Massaquoi’s absence. Little is being given the stage to shine, and privately, the Browns offensive coaches feel he can do just that. Little wants the football in traffic, and that type of receiver is very valuable in the pass game.

3. Evan Moore and Jordan Cameron will both be used as ‘hybrid’ wide receivers in the system. Both 6-6, and with strong hands…. they have caught everything thrown their way. Moore couldn’t work with the team until Thursday, while Cameron took advantage of his absence until getting dinged and missing Friday and Saturday’s work. I expect them to be valued ‘weapons’ for McCoy as things progress, with both being on the field together in certain sets.

4. D’Qwell Jackson looks completely rejuvenated! Flying around, active, and stepping into the ‘A, B’ gaps, and hitting ball carriers. He thoroughly enjoys being flanked by vets in Scott Fujita and Chris Gocong, who know the ins and outs of the ‘3-4’. Stay healthy Mr. Jackson!

5. Phil Taylor is impressive! Can slide up and down the line, and play any technique the Browns desire. Would expect Dick Jauron to take advantage of how he and Atyba Rubin will ‘fit’ in those gaps along the line. The man can move, and not just in tight quarters. Can use that 338-pound frame in many fronts in the Browns ‘d’ line.

6. Rookie corner Buster Skrine also has a shot at getting playing time in the secondary. He gets to the football, can fly, and can play physical at times. Not afraid to take a chance, and you have to like that confidence in a 5th rounder.

7. Pat Shumur appears comfortable with the surroundings and what the job entails. He can get help when necessary, from a Dick Jauron, Gil Haskell, Mark Whipple, and Mike Holmgren himself. How will he handle adversity, and if it happens early will be a huge determinant in the beginning of NFL head coaching career.

8. On the negative front, the assorted injuries haven’t provided Shurmur with anything close to a full compliment of players. He may to make some tough decisions without having ample time to assess playing personnel. Massaquoi’s foot setback is glaring. Needs all kinds of time to sync with McCoy for obvious reasons.

The preseason evaluations may have to be tempered somewhat. Time is of the essence, and the Browns realize an NFL fan base, especially in Cleveland, is not considering patience as a high priority option!

 

The Wound Has Closed, But The Scar Will Always Remain

I sat down to write a blog today about “The Decision”, one year removed, and wasn’t sure how the blog was going to go.  So many different thoughts running through my head from he’s a selfish, arrogant athlete who could give a damn about anybody else, to I’m glad the Heat lost in the finals this year and he panicked and choked again under pressure, to it’s time to move on and look to the future.

I’m never going to forget July 8, 2010, but here on July 8, 2011 it’s time for me to get excited for Kyrie Irving and the Cavs, Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall and the Indians, and Mike Holmgren and Joe Haden and the Browns. Yes, there will always be a scar from the wound that we all suffered at the hands of LeBron James, but just like with that other villain of Cleveland sports Art Modell, we need to move on and remember, “That which does not kill us, only makes us stronger!”

If Cleveland sports fans live by that motto, and with everything Cleveland sports fans have gone through, Cleveland sports fans should be by far, the strongest sports fans in the country! So use that strength to cheer on your teams and represent C-Town like no other sports fans in the country! Show LeBron, just like you have Modell, that your life will continue and get better, even if, in their own selfish way, they didn’t think it would.

WHY THE CAVS TRADED J.J. HICKSON FOR OMRI CASSPI

The Cavs needed a SF and got a young one who’s 6’9, can shoot, is physical, has a lot of potential, is only 23, and has 2 years left on his contract at under $2 million per year.

The Cavs had a logjam at PF and basically nothing at SF. So Omri Casspi can come in and start because he’s the best SF on the team.

Hickson was in the final year of his contract and he wants to cash in through free agency and the Cavs don’t think he’s worth the contract he’ll be asking, which will be in the neighborhood of $10 million plus per year for 4 to 5 years.

Hickson is not the smartest player on the team and lacked effort and consistency. Plus he was not a favorite of Byron Scott or Mike Brown.

With the NBA lockout in full effect now, one of the main issues is to institute a hard cap, and if that happens, there is no way the Cavs were about to build the team around

Hickson and invest a lot of money in him, that would eat up a lot of cap space.

Also you may end up getting a future 1st round pick as early as next year, and if not next year, then in the future.  Draft picks, protected or unprotected, are coveted by the Cavs, and viewed as very valuable assets.

Hopefully this is a win-win for both the Cavs and the Kings.

Cavs Draft

By Aaron Goldhammer

One of the picks was a forgone conclusion. The other was a shock. The reaction here in New Jersey: a stunned group of national media calling Tristan Thompson the “reach of the draft.”

He avoided the pitfall of taking the Lithuanian uber-project, but Cavs GM Chris Grant took Thompson at number four when it was clear that he was not the fourth best player in the draft.

Personally, I might rather have Derrick Williams and Brandon Knight than Kyrie Irving and Thompson. While I think that the Texas forward could be a solid contributor in Cleveland for years, I don’t think he is a potential all-star. When drafting in the top five, there should at-least be a chance that player reaches that level. Alas, Thompson has a “high floor” but a “low ceiling.” He’ll contribute, but I don’t think he’ll ever live up to his draft position.

On Thursday night, Sports Illustrated college basketball analyst Seth Davis tweeted “I think the Cavs made big mistake taking Tristan Thompson at 4. Promising defensive specialist but no way he’s fourth best player in draft.”

Additionally, Thompson did not make friends with Cleveland when he told me that former Cavalier LeBron James is “like a big brother” to him. He works with Rich Paul and LeBron’s marketing firm. Neither one of these factors will matter if Thompson pans out. If he struggles, they will be magnified.

Overall first round grade: B-

 

Cavs Draft Grade

By Kenny Roda

I give the Cavs a “C” grade for this draft.

They did get the best player in the draft in point guard Kyrie Irving which can’t be overlooked, but I think they reached at #4 in selecting the offensively challenged Tristian Thompson. They already have a high motor, rebounding, defensive player in Anderson Varejao and 4 other power forwards. Also, the trading of 2nd round pick Justin Harper for two future 2nd round picks makes no sense. His strength is shooting and scoring, and that is one of the biggest weaknesses of the Cavaliers. So when you put all of that together, my letter grade for Chris Grant’s 1st draft as Cavs G.M. is a “C”.

 

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