How the Cavs broke the NBA in 2017

The switch.

I will be the first to admit it. I lost my faith during the regular season this year. Everyone kept talking about this “switch” the Cavs will flip come playoff time. The “switch” that will allow them to dominate after an okay regular season.  The “switch” that would once again send us to the finals.

I honestly didn’t believe such a “switch” ever existed. I didn’t think after the season we had, that we would even make it out of the Eastern Conference. We have arguably the best player to ever play in the NBA on our team, and if we couldn’t dominate the regular season, we had no chance to make it to the finals again, let alone win. I even bet a pizza on it.

And ladies and gentlemen, I am here to say…

I was wrong.

I was taught at a young age that practice makes permanent. That is to say, maintaining good habits during the practice is oftentimes more important than the practice itself. If you get lazy, that stays with you. There is only an added benefit to practice, so long as it is executed properly. Watching game after game of the Cavs acting lazy and tired on the court all season long, I was understandably worried.

The 80/20 rule.

The Cavs discovered this season that they can operate under the Pareto principle and still dominate in the playoffs. Oh, what’s that? You’ve never heard of the Pareto principle? You may know it as the 80/20 rule:

Pareto Principle

Some of the most successful people I know live by this principle. In its simplest form, it states that you put 80% of your time in 20% of your work. So, the regular season of the NBA has 82 games. It’s my firm belief that the Cavs (or more likely, just LeBron) realized that it is not vital to try and win all 82 games, and in fact, it is illogical to do so. We went 57-25 last season, compared to the Warriors’ impressive 73-9, and we still came out victorious. This year we were just 51-31, still making it into the playoffs, but earning a second-seed position. LeBron sat out 8 games this year, compared to 6 games last year. By contrast, Steph Curry only sat out 3 games in each of the last two seasons.

The Cavs are 12-1 this post season. They are the first team in the Eastern Conference to reach the finals with one or fewer losses in the playoffs since the 1995-1996 Bulls (and, the Bulls finished 72-10 in their regular season that year).

LeBron figured out how to rig the system in his favor. And, if you think about it, by employing the 80/20 rule, he isn’t really rigging anything, per se. He just figured out a way to get his team to work smarter, not harder. Isn’t that the true American dream?

Will it pay off in a championship again this year? If you had asked me a month and a half ago when we barely beat the Pacers 108-109… I would have said no chance. But now, I’m not so sure.

I guess we’ll find out soon enough… Game 1 of the NBA Finals is June 1st at 9PM. See you all there.

champs

Misconceptions I had about the Cavs this season

I’ll admit, much like any long-time fan of Cleveland sports, I’ve had my reservations about this year’s Cavs team. We, in Cleveland, can’t get our hopes up too high when it comes to championships–even with the world’s best player on our team–since we typically end up dropping the ball in the end (literally and figuratively). However, one game into the Cleveland Cavaliers’ first playoff run since LeBron last played for us in 2010, and a 100-113 win over the Boston Celtics has renewed the fan faith here in Cleveland. A championship is so close we can actually taste it. More people than ever (including those genius freaks in Vegas) admit that Cleveland may very well win its first championship since 1964… and the first championship for the NBA franchise, ever. This team has come such a long way, that even I’m close to accepting they may be unstoppable. Since the rocky start at the beginning of the season, there were a lot of misconceptions floating around about the team and its players. I looked deeper into a few to see how first impressions changed now that we’re in the post-season.

J.R. Smith is trash

I really didn’t pay much attention to J.R. Smith when he played for the [irrelevant] Knicks until I watched a video of him untying his opponent’s shoe laces on the foul line last year. From that point on, I was convinced he was a complete scumbag — just another player that is making a joke out of a sport he gets paid a ton of money to play in. Then, in the middle of the season, the Cavs took part in a trade that sent Dion Waiters to OKC and gave us J.R. and Iman Shumpert. I wasn’t impressed… in my mind, we were getting an injured player in Shump, and swapping the piss-poor attitude of Dion for another player with the same story. What exactly were we thinking on this? Everyone I complained to told me to calm down, that we only got J.R. because he was a package deal with Shump. Once Shump’s injury was all healed I’d see why this trade benefited us. maxresdefault But before Shump could even play any material amount of minutes in the game, J.R. Smith proved me wrong. It was beyond evident that he was, and continues to be, an asset to this team, crushing threes like it’s his job (well, it kind of is). He’s admitted multiple times since coming to Cleveland that he’s been taking the game more seriously (he says it’s because there’s nothing to do in Cleveland after 9pm, but whatever). And then there was this well-written and all out impressive essay J.R. wrote for The Cauldron, commenting on his mid-season trade, defending his reputation, and applauding his teammates. I have since changed the way I view J.R. on and off the court, and he’s easily become one of my favorite players on this team.

Kevin Love is the truth

I mean. There are no stats to prove that this statement is false. And if you looked at Kevin Love’s stats, you’d think he was a totally consistent player, posting double-doubles out the ass and putting up some pretty solid numbers game-to-game. It is for this reason that my dad calls him Casper the Friendly Ghost. Because you watch him out there on the court, and it looks like he isn’t doing much of anything. He’s slow, his presence isn’t really felt out there, he just isn’t that impressive. That is, until you realize he’s put up 19 points (despite having hardly scored in the entire first half) and got 12 rebounds right under your judgmental nose. So, I’m torn. A part of me is like YEAH K Love… one of the big three BABY, and I see him on the court and I think… is he really though? J.R.’s piece actually comments on this point, saying, “More important than what you notice about Love’s game, though, is what you don’t. He does all of the little things a team needs to win.” And though this is a different role for him than I think most people assumed he would take when he agreed to come to Cleveland, for now it’s working. He can keep being Casper. Beautiful, tall, scruffy Casper.

The team will crumble if LBJ isn’t in the game

This was only a misconception because I assumed the team would only crumble if LeBron didn’t play. I assumed any other player on the team sitting out wouldn’t have much affect on the game on way or the other. LeBron is that charismatic leader that pushes the team to perform at its highest level, that isn’t something I’m trying to dispute. But, what I began to realize after watching throughout the season, is the team looks a whole lot worse when Kyrie sits out. I checked out the stats too… out of the 13 games LeBron missed in regular season, the Cavs won three of those games (23%), which is pretty piss poor to begin with. HOWEVER, in games that Kyrie didn’t play? We only won one game out of seven he missed (14%). If you take into account the three games both players sat out (1/5, 2/27 and 4/12 which were all losses), then the winning percentage is still 30% of the games LeBron sat out and only 25% for Kyrie. It may be LeBron’s team, but I’d argue that Kyrie’s presence on the court is vital.


I’ll leave you with a quote from J.R.’s essay, because this is the mindset we all need to stay in as we keep moving forward in the playoffs. One game down, 15 to go…

As for what comes next in Cleveland, I will make it real simple for you: If we continue to play the way we have been playing, I don’t think anyone can beat us.

Cavs-Slide2.jpg

A day in the life of a Cleveland sports fan

I can remember having the best birthday week ever, as all last week the Cleveland Browns sat pretty in first place. The lone AFC North team up there with a record of 6-3 through Week 10. It’s a feeling I’ve never experienced before… Not only does our division have an outstanding overall record (all teams are over .500 at this point), but the Browns… the Cleveland Browns were in first thanks to the Steelers losing miserably to the 1-8 Jets last Sunday. And this is after we had one of the best Thursday Night Football performances in NFL history, crushing the Bengals 24-3 on their home turf.

I can remember thinking this is our year; Hoyer is the man, our coaching staff is looking great, and the icing on the cake is that our secret weapon–a person that even made Brandon Weeden look good–Josh Gordon will be back in just over a week.

And then Sunday happened. From on top of the world, to tied for 3rd place, the Browns fell to the Houston Texans, or more specifically, JJ Twatt (aka Lurch–see below), and a QB who had his first career NFL start, that our defense made look like some kind of a god. Hoyer couldn’t complete a good pass to save his life, we couldn’t convert on 3rd downs, hell, we couldn’t even make a 38-yard field goal. Not like it would have mattered anyway.

Notice the resemblance?

Notice the resemblance?

And we’re back to reality… not winning in our division, doubts filling the fans heads regarding our team, our QB, our coaching staff, and to add fuel to the fire, outlandish comments claiming if Johnny Manziel were our starting QB, that the Browns would still be in first place… On the bright side, an uplifting quote from Browns reporter Kevin Jones: “There are 20 other teams around the league that would kill to be 6-4. The Browns still control their own destiny. They are still getting back Josh Gordon bright and early Monday morning. They are still a football team nobody wants to play.” Still: not enough to soften this blow. The only thing getting me through this crushing defeat was knowing my girlfriends and I were going to the Cavaliers game the next day.


I can remember exactly where I was when I heard LeBron was returning to Cleveland. Sitting on my (roommate’s) sectional on my lunch break, watching LeBron Watch: 2014, as ESPN devoted their entire daily programming to him in the days leading up to his announcement. Constantly refreshing Twitter to see if the news broke. And when it did… I was so pumped for Cleveland… for the Cavs, and for the teams I have never wavered in rooting for, no matter how poorly we’ve performed over the years.

I can remember thinking that it all seemed like it was happening; LeBron is back, Kyrie is staying, we were even able to clinch the adorable Kevin Love… we have our Big 3! It’s really happening for Cleveland. And I was going to get to see it in person!

https://instagram.com/p/vhch-YDZ9N/?modal=true

And then Monday happened. Coming off a 4-game winning streak and facing the 2-7 Denver Nuggets, I was beyond excited to finally get the chance to witness LeBron, Kyrie and K-Love in action. I wanted to see magic, and all I got was cheap beer (which was actually very expensive) to drown my sorrows. A post-game quote from LeBron went something like, “You have a team that hasn’t been playing well this year come into your building and think it’s going to be a cakewalk, and that’s what happens.” Typical.

And we’re back to reality… Cleveland received the gift that is LeBron James, and just because he’s the best player in the league, doesn’t mean we aren’t going to lose a game. It’s still so early in the season and the team is so new together that it would be illogical to think that they’d come out with guns blazing. But it would be nice. And as a Cleveland fan, you’d think we deserve it. However, the harsh reality is that we’re always going to be brought back down to Earth when it comes to our sports teams.

It’s all just a day in the life of a Cleveland sports fan. But, we’re resilient. We’ll all be just fine.

pw9WpWp

LeBron in Cleveland

I have been really hesitant to put my feelings for LeBron James out there on the internet, mostly because everyone has something to say and certain opinions may not be as popular as others. However, with his decision anywhere from minutes to days away, I figure now is as good a time as any to put my two cents in on the whole situation. It’s not simple for me… the question is, “How do you feel about LeBron maybe returning to the Cavaliers?” The answer should be a quick “Love it” or “Hate it,” right? In my opinion, it’s not that easy.

My disdain for him began, along with most of my city, in 2010… after he (or his “publicists”) thought it would be a good idea to announce–on a 75-minute time slot on ESPN–which team his future in the NBA would be with. His own team in Cleveland did not even know what decision he was going to make until just minutes before the show aired. I thought it was tacky. Cleveland fans compared his so-called betrayal as second to Art Modell moving the Browns to Baltimore. I thought the guy was more interested in people hyping over him than he was passionate about the game. I thought the NBA was rigged; orchestrating a power team in the Miami Heat that would dominate like when the Bulls had MJ. I thought it was dumb. And at that moment I was over LeBron… didn’t even hate or talk shit, just didn’t pay him any attention. Got a little satisfaction (as any betrayed Cleveland fan would) when the whole “Cavs 4 Mavs” started his first trip to the finals as a Miami Heat player (and the Heat lost to the Dallas Mavericks, as they should have).

So now that there is all this hype regarding if LeBron is going to return and be the hometown hero, I’m somewhat torn. My pride says no, I don’t want him back. But my passion, passion for my city and passion for my team, that tells me I’d be a fool to want him to go anywhere else. The Heat was supposed to have put together an unstoppable front, the “Big 3” of James, Wade and Bosh. Their “powerhouse” team went 2 and 4 for championships in the last four years, so, yes, I think LeBron is over it too.

At this point for Cavaliers fans, it goes beyond what he did to us and onto what he can do for us–that is, hopefully, bring Cleveland a championship. He seems to be going about it with a little more class than he did four years ago: not saying a word to media and meeting with his own team execs well in advance, before he makes his announcement (which will likely come from his own website, LeBronJames.com). With as quiet as he has been, though, the media and the general public are going batshit crazy.

Am I still sour about The Decision? I mean, yea… but I guess he was young and stupid and just wanted to be the greatest of all time. Do I respect that? Yes. Do I think people who burned his jersey 4 years ago that are now hoping he comes back are ridiculous? Kind of. Am I going to boycott my team or my city if LeBron wants to come back? Absolutely not. Am I ready to welcome him back to Cleveland with open arms? Well… maybe give me a little bit and we’ll see.

All I know is, with all of this hype going on in Cleveland right now… if he doesn’t end up coming back, he will have a lot of angry Clevelanders, and his kids will probably get the shit kicked out of them in school. So there’s that.

Regardless of the final outcome in all of this, I will always support my city.