Saturday, June 09, 2007

Sports Elitists NBA Finals Game 2 Preview: Cavs @ Spurs

Here's a nice picture that pretty much describes the story that was NBA Finals Game 1...


It seems like we've created a lot of posts about the Cavs lately, but since sports are pretty thin these days, we may as well stick to it as long as we can (and judging by game 1, that could be a pretty short time).

So we look back at Game 1 and ask two questions, one of which is worth answering:

-Were the Cavs that bad?

or

-Were the Spurs that good?

I think that the first question has plenty of merit and if you saw the game, you'd notice LeBron James 4/16, 14 point performance but the second question is the more accurate. On paper, where games are seldom played, the game was relatively even. Don't believe me? Let's go to the tale of the tape:

Shooting
Spurs: .453
Cavs: .429

Foul Shooting
Spurs: 11/16
Cavs: 11/15

Turnovers
Spurs: 14
Cavs: 11

Rebounds
Spurs: 43
Cavs: 32

So it's pretty close on paper, but the utter domination by the "Big Three" (nothing like a genuine ESPN nickname) of Duncan, Ginobili and Parker was what put the Cavs behind in the game for the whole 48 minutes. Combined, their line was as follows: 67 pts - 25 rebs - 8 asts. The final score, as we remember, was 85-76, meaning the Big Three scored over 79% of the points, and pulled down 58% of the rebounds. That's damn good stuff and in the Finals, that is what wins games. Not to mention the emotional factor, with everyone hearing about the poster in LeBron's locker, which was promptly trumped by Duncan rejecting LeBron in similarly incredible fashion.

But the Cavs are not out of this series, not by a long shot. There are big adjustments to be made, sure, but if they make them, it is more than possible for the Cavs to sneak out of San Antonio and head back to Cleveland with a 1-1 series tie. But it is going to take a few key things from Mike Brown. Among them:

Mike Brown realizing that the high-ball screen may work twice, maybe even a third time. But running it from quarter 1 through the dismal end of the game does not a good strategy make. Really. I could have created a better strategy and I, as the other Sports Elitists will agree, know less about basketball than this guy. If you're going to run said play, however, all 5 on the court need to be doing something. The picker must finish the play, the freed-up man (likely LeBron) must drive to the hoop athletically but also have a good eye open for the other three players who are moving and looking for an open shot (which is what the other players must do in order for the play to work. Otherwise the game should just be called for the Spurs.

Second and most important (and I absolutley hate that I'm using an opinion from Bill Simmons) but Mike Brown needs to let go of what got him there and evolve. The starting five for the Cavs have a good core together, but they are not the 5 best players who could be on the court. From Bill Simmons, we learned this:

"Combined minutes of Cleveland's best unit that would give the Spurs the most trouble if they ever played together at the same time (Gibson, LeBron, Pavlovic, Gooden, Varejao): 6."

Yikes. Not because of the stat, but because Simmons is correct. If the Cavs fix this, they'll have a prayer.

There are 10 or 15 other things that would probably help but I'll save those for everyone else. Tonight we will find out what the Cavs are made of, what Mike Brown is capable of and, most importantly, if there is going to be much of a series left on Monday morning. more...

Friday, June 08, 2007

The following ALSO appears on 38Pitches.com (probably)

Post also appears on ArmchairGM.com

I'm a Red Sox fan but I do have my problems with Curt Schilling and his approach to, well, everything. Don't get me wrong, 6-2 is a great start, but let's see what happens when he's busy blogging during a start and gives up a no-hitter in the ninth. Wait... And I nailed the blogjack, too, so I give myself props for that bad bastard.


Curt Schilling's Official Blog

9/7/2007 Vs. Oakland
June 7th, 2007 by Curt Schilling

Man, I hate these West Coast swings. It was so much better when I was in Arizona, then we were everyone else's west coast swing! Oh well. I have to pitch today so I need to make sure that I go through my traditional pre-start routine. Here it is, but I'm sure a lot of you already know this (lol!)

-Make day's first blog entry (done)
-Brush teeth with Colgate's new Dunkin' Donuts flavored tooth paste.
-Call agent to make sure I'm getting royalties from both Colgate and Dunkin' Donuts (who, incidentally, makes the world's best coffee; it's what Curt drinks to get ready to win another ring for the Sox [/winks])
-Drink large cup of Dunkin' Donuts coffee ([/winks again])
-Bow down and pray before xeroxed absentee ballot from 2004 general election with PRESIDENT Bush's name circled (love that guy!)
-Leave for ballpark.

Since I'm in a hotel, I had to substitute the ballot for the wallet-sized photo of me and Jeb Bush that we took last time I was in Florida. I hope it works just as well. Well, it's time to go, so I'll check in after my start. Go Sox.

* Middle of the 6th inning...

Hey everyone, I thought I'd try to get in a quick word while we're batting. You know, I've said it before and I'll say it again, but we gotta get rid of the Lugo guy. I'm just not buying him on this team. He's just so different. I mean we're no longer this bunch of idiots and all he does is hang around Manny and chew gum and play pepper. You're not allowed to play pepper! It says so right on the sign! UGH! And that error on the grounder? Let's just say it's a good thing he's not sitting anywhere near me right now. In fact, no one is. That's odd. Well, time to get back out there.

* After the game...

For those of you who weren't watching, I'll give you the recap: I ALMOST THREW A NO-HITTER! But I screwed it up with two outs. Tek wanted a slider and I shook him off. I was simply following the example of my President like when he shook off the Iraq Study Group's report. It worked for him but not for me. Well, like Alanis Morrisette says: you live you learn. In my defense, that Lugo idiot could have probably gotten to that ball (I know I could have!!) but I guess I'll let it go. But I'll tell you what, throwing a no-hitter would have been great, but the words "President John McCain and Vice President John Boehner" sound a whole lot better.

Well that's it everyone. Time to hit the showers and get to the plane. Thanks for reading! God bless and Go Sox!
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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Are you truly a Cleveland Sports fan?

Well, here we go. The first time a team from Cleveland has been involved in a Championship Series since 1997. Is that what this means? That every ten years we have to be ready as a fanbase to support our teams in the Championships? Personally, I would rather see the Cavs get swept than have to deal with what happened to the Indians in '97. If Larry Hughes proves to be the 2007 version of the 1997 Joe Table, I will not be a happy human being. That being said, it's a new decade, and another chance for the city with the best fans in the United States to end thier championship drought.

First of all, let's get something abundantly clear. There are bandwagon Cavs fans, then there are those, like myself and Paul Teeple who when you say "Wilkens" we think Gerald, not Dominique. We remember when in the Cavs pre-game show, Mark Price would teach us how to shoot free throws by "finding the nail" on the free throw stripe. We remember seing Mark Price in an Orlando Magic uniform and hating it almost as much as when Carlos Baerga was playing for the Mets. I'm not saying that these fans that are Lebron lovers aren't welcome to root for the Cavs, but I don't remember them being at the GUND Arena watching Ricky Davis and Darius Miles lead the team to a 17 win season. These bandwagonners have no idea of the sense of irony having David Wesley on the team, probably couldn't pick Chris Mills out of a lineup of one, and have no idea when Sports Illustrated called Terrell Brandon the besat point guard in the game (it was just before we traded him to Minnesota). Paul referenced Joe Tait eariler this week, and I can remember listening to his classic lines that accompanied every Cavs radio broadcast.


My generation (ages 20-28) of Cleveland sports fans has had it the worst. Sure, the older crowd vivdly remembers the heartbreak of "Red Right 88", the Broncos AFC Championship games, and "The Shot." At least they had that! This generation of Cleveland fans has had the 1995 World Series. This is one of the most underrated heartbreak moments in Cleveland Sports History. Here's three reasons why:
1. The perennial bridesmaid team, the Atlanta Braves, finally got their ring. A team that should have won at least three in the 90's settles for one. Against Us. They knew they were going to win, and they just toyed with us. Like when Greg Maddux in Game Three threw at Eddie Murray just to start something. The greatest quote was afterward when someone asked Orel Hershiser if he thought Maddux threw at Murray on purpose: "he's the best pitcher in the game. He could throw a baseball into a teacup."

2. David Justice, in the middle of the series, said that the Atlanta Braves fans sucked. That the team couldn't get motivated to play at Fulton County stadium, and that the Indians fans were so much better. He ended hitting the winning home run in Game 6 that gave the Braves their ring, amidst the boos he was hearing because the Braves fans took exception to what he had said. Funny how that ball going over the right feild wall changed their opinion of him. Oh, and also? We couldn't touch Glavine that night from what I remember. I think we had maybe two baserunners.

3. The off-season following the 1995 WS, who did we sign?
True story. You cannot make this stuff up. But don;t worry, we would eventually trade him to the Yankees for Ricky Ledee. RICKY LEDEE.

That was one of our biggest heartbreaks. This generation of Cleveland fan has lived through our prime rooting years without the Browns, not the years they were in the AFC Championship back to back years. Our hearts have been broken by the Indians twice not in the ALCS, but in the big dance. This generation of Cleveland fan has had a worse childhood than those older than us. We hold a special place for ourselves and each other when it comes to Cleveland loyalty. We, as children, could have very easily become Chicago Bull, Pittsburgh Steeler, or New York Yankee fans. We didn't, we stuck it out, and lived through more heartache as kids than any other generation of Cleveland fans.

Now, just because you might be around my age, that doesn't mean you're lumped into this group, although the invitation is open, if you can remember these things:

-- Most people think Jason Grimsley is a heel for his involvement with steroids. He will always be a legend in Cleveland for going into the Umpire's locker room and stealing Albert Belle's alleged corked bat. Fans of my generation can still see Albert Belle pointing to his bicep and saying that was the power, not the cork. He was never the same after that.

-- The Cleveland Cavaliers drafting Vitaly Potopenko and Z in the same 1996 draft, 8 picks apart. Three of the guys taken in between? Kobe, Steve Nash, Jermaine O' Neal. Sweet Moses.

--The Cleveland Cavaliers drafting Andre Miller and Trajan Langdon in the same 1999 draft, three picks apart. Two of the guys taken in between? Shawn Marion, Jason Terry. [Expletive deleted]
--After the 1997 World Series, the Expos and the Tribe were about to pull the trigger on a Jaret Wright- Jim Thome for Pedro Martinez deal. We didn't do it. It's ok, though, because in the next off-season Pedro signed with the Red Sox just in time to dominate the Indians in the 1999 ALDS, and win a World Series with them in 2004. That ALDS also was the series where we had to watch over and over again Kenny Lofton dive into first base and separate his shoulder on top of Pedro's domination, on top of Paul Shuey's inability to throw Troy O'leary anything but a belt-high fastball with the bases loaded.


-- Sandy Alomar's UNREAL 1997 Season: 146 hits, 37, doubles, 21 HRs and 83 RBI. All career highs. Also won the 97' All- Star Game MVP, and wore some sick nasty catcher's gear that night, leaving little league catchers all over North East Ohio clamoring for the Red, White, and Blue chest protector.
-- The 1995 Cleveland Indians Batting Order:
1. CF- Kenny Lofton
2. SS- Omar Vizquel
3. 2B- Carlos Baerga
4. LF- Albert Belle
5. DH-Eddie Murray
6. 3B- Jim Thome
7. RF- Manny Ramirez
8. 1B- Paul Sorrento
9. C- Sandy Alomar
That lineup was sick. Manny being Manny, batting Seventh. The good with the bad mixed into this short list, there is more, there are so many more. But these are just some of the moments, just some of the memories of the fans that will be screaming the loudest when the Cavs finally bring a Championship to the fans that deserve it the most.
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Sports Elitists NBA Finals Preview #1

Hopefully, Paul and Jed will wake up from their dormancy (Paul, running his radio show by his lonesome, and; Jed playing the Fairways and watching HBO On Demand all day and night) and post their own predictions about the NBA Finals, which begin tonight on ABC, live from San Antonio. That said, here's my take on the series.





















There are too many interesting story lines to mention here (and I'm sure that Paul and Jed* (*see above) will want to have some of them) so I'll stick to some of my favorites. Perhaps the biggest thing that we will see is the match up between the game's most elite (or is it elitist?) players in the persons of LeBron James and Tim Duncan. A lot of people want to put this one in the win column for the Spurs but to them I give a Corso-esque "not so fast, my friend". Tim Duncan may be the league's best all-around player; beyond competent on D, O and everything in between. He's a leader, he's a student of the game (if one can say that about basketball) and he's proven that he can win an NBA Finals. Those are lofty heights up to which LeBron must aspire to live (and that was an incredibly good sentence). That said, it isn't like Lebron is some scrote JV ball boy in a D3 school in Iowa. For all that Tim Duncan has, LeBron has plenty himself. Duncan doesn't have the team around him in order to go for 48 (and the last 25) against a stout defense. LeBron does. Duncan is the second storyline behind the outstanding play by Ginobili and Parker. LeBron is page 1 above the fold with art. And in a game (the NBA) and a series (the Finals) where it may take an individual effort to win a game, I'll take LeBron any day of the week, twice on Sunday.

The other note that has been blasted through the AM dial this week is the fact that the East is so much worse than the West. This is true, and I can't argue it. But let's go on a team-by-team basis before we automatically give the Spurs the trophy. San Antonio had to go through the Nuggets in 5, the Suns in 6 and the Jazz in 5. They were by far the dominant team in the bookend match ups, but were all kinds of lucky to get out of the Conference Semis how they did. Let's face it: ifs and buts aren't candy and nuts, but Amare and Diaw make game 4 a lot more interesting and may have turned the series. I'm not ready to say that the Suns would be playing Cleveland had David Stern grown some testes, but it would have made things very different.

Meanwhile, Cleveland motored through Washington sans Hibachi but had to go to the Meadowlands to beat the Nets, who were a lot better than anyone gave them credit. Vince Carter is still a top-echelon guy in this NBA and Jason Kidd averaged a triple-double in the playoffs (and that's incredible). Then came the perennial Easter Conference powerhouse Detroit Pistons, the atrocity that was games 1 and 2, the incredulous game 5 and an Eastern Conference Championship. The Cavs had to jump through tremendous hoops to get where they are and they've grown into a very talented team who can play with anyone, including the West and a team that, in a more fair world, may not have even gotten this far.

So can the Cavs win? Sure. No one gave them a shot against the Pistons (I said Pistons in 6 and felt great about that after the first two games) and no one is giving them an inch against the Spurs (on SI.com every pick is Spurs in 5 or 6 across the board). Unfortunately, I think the Spurs will prove to be too much for the young Cavs. Cleveland will likely lose both games in San Antonio but will come back strong to take 2/3 at the Q. But the dream ends shortly thereafter (the way this playoffs has been scheduled, sometime next April) with the Spurs winning another title and beginning to draw comparisons to the Lakers of the beginning of this decade.

But I've been wrong before and for Cleveland's sake, I am right now.

Kopech's Pick: Spurs in 6 more...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Solving the MLB's Manager Ejection "Problem"

So apparently managers in Major League Baseball have just recently started arguing with umpires and, as a result (especially if their names are Cox, Bobby or Pinella, Lou...though I'm okay with Bobby Valentine doing whatever the hell he wants) the managers are no longer allowed to manage the ball club. Now I've always thought the role of the manager in baseball was more of a figurehead who existed for the sole purpose of getting ejected. And while the fine film "Little Big League" certainly sheds some light on what it takes to be a manager (clip when I get home from...wherever it is I work...but for now, it's the scene where little Billy wants to be the club's manager but the brass doesn't think he's got the knowhow to successfully do it), but the film also shines said light in the other direction ("it's the AL - you have the DH. How hard can it be?").

A quick (I hope) tangent: Little Big League >>>>>> Rookie of the Year. I mean seriously. Griffey, Johnson, The Boat and the immortal Jonathan Silverman beat out the voice from "Wonder Years", the schmuck from "American Pie" and a pre-steroids Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla any day of the week).

It seems more and more, and in the wake of Lou Pinella's most recent tirade against everything holy, this is a problem that needs to be dealt with. And I'm fine with that, even though the greatest ejections in the game happened years ago, and the greatest player ejection happened in a Durham Bulls game after a questionable play at the plate ("that was a cocksucking call"; "did you call me a cocksucker?" and so forth). I think there is an easy solution to this whole problem. Knowing this advice has almost always fallen on deaf ears, take a second and let it marinate a bit before throwing it to the dogs:

Follow the example of the...wait for it...NHL...

Stay with me.

In the NHL, whether it is a rule or not (and I can't check because of websense) the only people in the building who can talk to the referee and get the courtesy of a response or an explanation is the team's captain. If there is a questionable penalty in the eyes of the offending team's captain, he can go to the referee and talk to him about the call and hopefully open up the officials eyes to other things going on in the game. The officials are almost always treated with the utmost respect (which also confounds the masses, since NHL captains are usually hulking masses with four teeth and two shiners under each eye) and once the complaint is acknowledged, play resumes almost uninterrupted.

Then there's baseball, where a team's skipper can come out and yell, piss, moan, kick dirt, literally steal bases, spit, cry and do everything short of actually detonating on the spot. And the officials have to not only listen, but also tend to have to respond (hockey gets away with this with a simple solution that baseball can never offer. If a coach wants to yell at an official in hockey, the official can simply skate away, knowing full well that the coach's wing tips can't chase after him) and these scuffles can take a long time. The recent melee in the minors (we've all seen it, but I'll put up a video later) took over 5 minutes. While that doesn't seem like a lot of time, that could have been five minutes of baseball instead of what it was: embarrassing.

So why will having only team captains talking to officials work in baseball? For the same reason it works in hockey: players are infinitely more important to the game than managers. In baseball there are hitting coaches, pitching coaches, athletic trainers and bench coaches all sitting in the dugout with the manager. Toss the manager to the lockers and five people can step up and do the job. Give the gate to Derek Jeter or Jason Varitek and either team is significantly worse for wear.

A lot of people think that when the manager gets tossed, it fires up the team and they play harder. I've only been in one game where the manager was tossed (yes, it was my dad while I was in little league) and I was more embarrassed and laughing than fired up. Look at dugouts during a manager arguing session and you'll see more unamused or laughing faces than fired up. It's just the way it is.

Now I'm aware that this will (likely) never happen, but it works incredibly well in the NHL and could help baseball turn a corner and get away from this. I personally don't enjoy it so it would get my vote in an instant. As for the rest of the baseball world, I'm sure Cox or Pinella could pitch an argument against it (ba-zing). more...

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Laziness ensues

Been a long few days coming down from feeling that a Cleveland sports team actually, you know, won something, but The Sports Elitists will return in full force tomorrow (I'm actually going to work tomorrow so I'll be able to post). Continue to wait on baited breath. We're no Einsteins, but we're sure you will (rim shot).


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Sunday, June 03, 2007

I'm Happy



In case you lot haven't figured it out here on The Sports Elitists just yet, I am a huge, life-long, die-hard Cleveland Cavaliers fan. As such, it's still kind of hard for me to describe what this city is feeling--even nearly 24 hours later--after the Cavs crowned the Pistons 98-82 and advanced to their first ever NBA Finals to face the San Antonio Spurs. As such, you can probably look for a more all-encompassing summation of the series tomorrow, but for now I will tell you that there are a few people that I am just thrilled to death for, aside from all of my fellow Cavs fans everywhere. Here they are, in the order of how happy I am for them:



Joe Tait is just awesome
1- Joe Tait. The legendary Cleveland play-by-play man finally has a championship series to call. After enduring decades of C-Town mediocrity and being behind the mic for Michael Jordan's gut-wrenching masterpiece known as "The Shot," Joe quite possibly deserves this more than anyone. For all the Cleveland fans reading this, I don't even have to tell you... but for the rest of you out there, you should know this: Joe Tait is arguably the best announcer, radio or TV, in the entire NBA. His calls are always crisp and entertaining and he never gets too bogged down in superfluous nonsense or hyperbole. He does the games solo, save for time-out interaction with studio host Mike Snyder, and never misses anything important on the court. He is clearly unimpressed with celebrity or the modern trappings of the NBA. My favorite Joe Tait moment ever occurred last season when the Cavs were playing the Heat and after a TV timeout Tait says, "As we await the return to live action, Damon Jones will inbound the ball out of the timeout. Right now, though, he seems to be talking to a young lady at courtside. What'd you say her name was, Mike? Beyonce? Hmm. Anyway Jones inbounds to LeBron, over the time line..." That's right, Beyonce, Joe Tait doesn't give a rats ass about you or your music. God, Joe is awesome. I hope the Cavs win the title just so that HE gets a ring! If you listen to a little taste of Joe's call from the 4th quarter of Game 6, you'll know what I mean.



You deserve this, big man.
2- Zydrunas Ilgauskas. This is Z's 10th year with the Cavaliers and he's been through the wars with the orange & blue/wine & gold. I mean, you name it: the awful late-90's jerseys, Shawn Kemp, his nagging foot injuries, rock bottom in 02-03, the '03 Lottery and now all the way to the NBA Finals--Z has seen it all here. And that's just speaking about basketball; especially this season he's had a rough go of it off the court as well. It was not for nothing that the first person LeBron hugged after the final horn sounded was Big Z. It was a special gesture that I think everyone in Cleveland understood. There may not be a player in Cleveland that deserves a championship, save for LeBron, more than Zydrunas Ilgauskas.













I'm not kidding you, it's a virtual planetoid! It's got its own weather systems!
3- Mike Brown. That's right, I said it, Mike Brown. All season and all playoffs Mike Brown has been slagged up and down by the fans and the media for every single shortcoming on the Cavaliers, some of it rightfully so. But if you're going to assign all the blame for the bad to Coach Mike, you better be ready to heap on the praise for the good as well. Brown's defensive schemes completely frustrated the Pistons, effectively shutting down Chauncey Billups for the first half of the series and completely neutralizing Tayshaun Prince. To put it another way, the Pistons did not suck independently, despite what they may have said during the series. No, the Pistons sucked because the Cavs defense made them suck. Even in the games Detroit won, their offense sucked. That is all down to The Coach With The Huge Noggin. That's right, Cavs fans, Coach Mike was a huge reason the Cavs beat the Pistons. more...

The Cleveland Cavs: Your 2007 Eastern Conference Champions.

The clock didn't work too well last night, but that was about it in Cleveland. Between Boobie Gibson, Z, even Larry Hughes (!!), the Cavs, not requiring the services of a LeBron James one-on-five 4th/OT/2OT, defeated the Pistons, 98-82. The Spurs await in the Finals, which begin Thursday night in San Antonio. I'll let Paul and Jed, should they feel so inclined, truly gush over what this win means to them, to Cleveland and to the NBA. But it goes without saying: this win was huge. more...