A Gift From My Dad

My Dad and I with the Larry O’Brien trophy last August.

I was waiting to write about this until I was ready, but sometimes your plans change due to an amazing experience. I lost my Dad four weeks ago yesterday after a courageous battle with heart disease. My Dad was my best friend, my hero, and the strongest person I ever met. When I was a baby my father was diagnosed with Stage IV Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and was given 8 weeks to live. He defied the odds and went on to live a healthy life for more than 20 years. He was able to further his dream of being an elected official and it all culminated when he was elected Mayor of the City of Maple Heights in 2007 . My Dad was an inspiration to so many people, but his will to live and never give up attitude is what I will always carry with me. At a young age, my Dad got me hooked on sports taking me to the local sports games, autograph signings and sports card shows. Like any kid once I realized I would never become a professional athlete, I knew I wanted to do the next best thing which was to cover sports. Now with a journalism degree and almost one year removed from college I have my Dad to thank for giving me my dream. I wanted nothing more than to be able to tell my father that I got my first job in sports media, but I am now more motivated to make it in this industry with the same never quit attitude that he had.

As an aspiring journalist, I am always listening to the sports talk shows here in Cleveland. Last week, I was listening to the Really Big Show on ESPN 850 with Tony Rizzo and Aaron Goldhammer like I usually do in the mornings when I was inspired. Hammer encouraged any listeners coming to their draft party at the Hard Rock Rocksino to bring a good luck charm of some sort to bring the Browns good karma on arguably the most important draft night in franchise history. Anyone who knows my family knows what a huge collector my Dad was. He collected all things sports for me when I was little from bobbleheads to autographs. My sisters joke to this day that at one point when I was a kid if you would walk into my bedroom and jump the entire room would be shaking its head up and down at you from all of the bobbleheads. I knew I obviously couldn’t bring something like a bobblehead or an autographed picture so I had to find something small. This was sort of a difficult task considering my Dad gave up our Browns season tickets four years ago because he was finally fed up with the losing, but he still watched them every Sunday. I settled on a small plastic Browns helmet that he got me out of a gum ball machine.

The Next Level, Emmett Golden and Jerod Cherry, preview the 2017 NFL Draft at the Permco ESPN Cleveland Draft Party at the Hard Rock Rocksino on Thursday.

Fast forward to yesterday, the guys on RBS were sharing some tweets about what people were bringing to the Rocksino. I decided to tweet the show with a picture of the helmet in hopes that our special bond would finally bring the Browns some impact players. What followed was completely unexpected. Rizz and Hammer read my tweet on the air and the ESPN Cleveland Twitter account retweeted my tweet. The response was amazing! Many people reached out to me and one of them even shared a story about how he and his Dad bonded over football just like my Dad and I. This reiterated the fact to me that Cleveland sports fans are the best in the world. We have all experienced loss either with our beloved sports teams or our personal lives and somehow we always rally around each other. It’s that togetherness that makes Cleveland such a special place and it’s why people from out of town don’t understand why we love our home so much.

The Rocksino took care of my buddy Nate and I last night by providing us with the VIP experience for the draft party. It was an unexpected, but appropriate gesture because my father loved the Rocksino! Until his sickness progressed, there would be many times he would take me up there to have dinner and play the machines for a little bit. The draft party featured a buffet and the guys from ESPN Cleveland broadcasted all night. The mini Browns helmet definitely brought us luck last night as we selected three impact players and picked up a first round pick for next year (I will have more on this in my Browns draft recap this weekend). Before I left, both the Rocksino and ESPN Cleveland gave me some Bernie Kosar goodies. This whole experience had my Dad written all over it and I have no doubt in my mind he played a part in it. I want to thank Jill Middleton, Dave Shultz, and Sylvia Watson from the Hard Rock Rocksino for their generosity. The Rocksino was our favorite spot and it was so fitting that I had this experience here. I also want to thank Keith Williams and ESPN Cleveland for their kindness. Your radio station provides the best sports coverage in Cleveland and you always take great care of your listeners.

As much as I wanted to have my Dad watching this historic draft with me last night I know he was watching over me. He will continue to look out for me for the rest of my life because a part of him lives in me. I will use that part of him to chase my dream of making it in sports media just like he chased his dreams.

Browns 2017 Draft Preview

After going 1-15 in Hue Jackson’s first season as head coach, the Cleveland Browns hold the number one overall pick in arguably the most important draft in franchise history. Executive VP of Football Operations, Sashi Brown, has compiled an impressive amount of capital in the form of draft picks for this year and next year’s draft. Cleveland holds four picks in the first 65 selections with three of them being at the top of the first, second, and third rounds. Coming off the worst season in franchise history, this draft will be a make or break draft for the Browns “Harvard Brain Trust”. Sashi, chief strategy officer, Paul DePodesta, and VP of Player Personnel, Andrew Berry have amassed their vast treasure trove of draft picks from trading down in past drafts by using analytics. This year the trading down comes to an end as this draft class is loaded with elite talent especially on the defensive side of the ball. Cleveland needs help at almost every position and it will be pivotal to their future if they stay put for once to select some cornerstone players. It is crucial that the Browns nail their early picks this year as a part of their rebuild and I will give you my prediction for their top two picks.

Biggest Needs

  • Quarterback
  • Defensive End
  • Safety
  • Cornerback

Browns 2017 Draft Picks

  • Round 1-No. 1
  • Round 1-No. 12
  • Round 2-No. 33
  • Round 2-No. 52
  • Round 3-No. 65
  • Round 4-No. 108
  • Round 5-No. 145
  • Round 5-No. 175
  • Round 5-No. 181
  • Round 6-No. 185
  • Round 6-No. 188

No. 1 Overall-Myles Garrett, Defensive End, Texas A&M

Texas A&M defensive end, Myles Garrett. Photo: Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports

This pick is a no brainer to me. Myles Garrett is the consensus number one overall pick this year and it’s not even close. Garrett is the elite pass rusher that the Browns have never had and could easily build their defense around. At 6’4″ and 272 pounds, he put up freakish numbers at the NFL Combine by running a 4.64 40 yard dash, a 41.0 inch vertical jump, and 33 reps on the bench press. Garrett’s dominance at Texas A&M speaks for itself as he had 11.5 sacks as a freshman and 19.5 tackles for a loss as a sophomore with 12.5 sacks and five forced fumbles. He battled a knee injury in the beginning of last season but still managed to record 15 tackles for a loss and 8.5 sacks in eleven games. There has been talk over the last few weeks that the Browns were split on taking Garrett or quarterback, Mitchell Trubisky with the first pick. While I do think Cleveland has legitimate interest in Trubisky with their second pick, I believe that taking him with the first pick would be a reach. Myles Garrett has the potential to be the next JJ Watt and the Browns CANNOT afford to pass on him. The Browns had the second worst rated defense in the NFL last season behind the San Francisco 49ers. Cleveland gave up 2,283 rushing yards last season, which was also the second worst in the league. Adding Garrett would instantly upgrade the Browns’ defense and would see the creation of a dangerous duo on the edge by pairing him with second year defensive end, Emmanuel Ogbah. As talented as Garrett is the one constant criticism that keeps popping up is the question of his motor. It was brought up again last week when Hall of Fame defensive lineman, Warren Sapp called him a “lazy kid that makes four plays a game.” Any questions about Garrett’s effort level will be put to rest when the Browns new defensive coordinator, Greg Williams gets to work with him. Williams is a no-nonsense coach who has a fiery passion for the game and you will be sure he will not let Garrett take any plays off. In my opinion the Browns have a very easy decision to make at number one by taking the best player in this year’s draft. However, if they don’t take Myles Garret at No. 1, the big man from Arlington, Texas has already issued a warning to the Browns in an interview with Sam Alipour of ESPN The Magazine earlier this month.

“If you don’t draft me No. 1, I will punish your team for the next 10 to 12 years. I’ll knock your QB out of the game every time we play you, and I’ll have to kick the hell out of No. 1, whoever it is.” -Myles Garrett

No. 5 Overall-Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina (PROJECTED TRADE)

North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) passes during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Miami, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

For years the Browns have made it an April tradition to trade down in the draft, but this year I predict that they will trade up from the twelfth pick to the fifth spot to take their franchise quarterback, Mitchell Trubisky. A trade at this position with the Tennessee Titans would make sense for multiple reasons. The first being that the Browns have history with the Titans after they traded down with Tennessee last year to select Corey Coleman with the No. 15 pick. The second reason this trade makes sense is that the Titans have their franchise quarterback already in Marcus Mariota and trading down would enable them to select a receiver to pair with him. It is very possible that Trubisky could still be on the board by the time the Browns pick at number twelve, but with another quarterback needy team picking at No. 6 in the New York Jets it may be too risky for the Browns to sit and wait. At 6’2”, Trubisky has the size and arm strength to be a successful starting quarterback, but the main concern that comes with him is the sample size. He started only 13 games at North Carolina after sitting his first two seasons behind three year starter Marquise Williams. Last season, Trubisky ranked fifth in the country with a 68.0 completion percentage while throwing for 3,748 yards with 30 touchdowns. He also ran for 5 touchdowns and 308 yards. The skills and numbers are there, but the Browns will have to have patience as it will take a season or two for Trubisky to develop. Sitting Trubisky behind Cody Kessler or possibly Brock Osweiler (if he is still on the roster by training camp) would not be a bad thing as he showed his potential after sitting for two years with the Tar Heels. The Mentor native has said it would be a “dream come true” to play for his hometown team, but we have seen the good and bad of this narrative before. Youngstown’s own Bernie Kosar was the last great quarterback the Browns had, while Lakewood native, Brian Hoyer was having a breakout season until he torn his ACL in October 2013. Being named the starting quarterback of the Browns already comes with enough pressure, but being the potential quarterback savior and a Cleveland native comes with enormous expectations. I believe Trubisky can handle the pressure and if the Browns truly believe he is their guy then they should move up to get him.

Lansky’s Final Take

Selecting the draft’s premier edge rusher and arguably the top quarterback in this class with their first two picks would be a monumental success for the Browns. If the Browns take both Garrett and Trubisky as well as addressing their needs at positions such as safety and corner, they will finally be on the right track on this long rebuilding saga.

Cavs-Pacers Round 1 Preview

Season Series: Cleveland won 3-1
Game 1: Indiana at Cleveland, Saturday April 15 at 3 p.m.
Game 2: Indiana at Cleveland, Monday April 17 at 7 p.m.
Game 3: Cleveland at Indiana, Thursday April 20 at 7 p.m.
Game 4: Cleveland at Indiana, Sunday April 23 at 1 p.m.
Game 5: Indiana at Cleveland, Tuesday April 25 (If Necessary)
Game 6: Cleveland at Indiana, Thursday April 27 (If Necessary)
Game 7: Indiana at Cleveland, Saturday April 29 (If Necessary)

LeBron James brings the ball up the floor against the Indiana Pacers on February 15. Photo Credit-Jeff Lansky

After a drama filled season the Cleveland Cavaliers are ready to defend their NBA Championship in the playoffs. The Cavs are set to face their Central Division rival, the Indiana Pacers in the first round. Critics have been all over the defending champs as they went 10-14 after March 1. The criticism grew louder as the Cavs squandered a one game lead for the number one seed to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference this past week to finish as the number two seed. Despite their struggles over the past few months, the Cavs have maintained their confidence level and a desire for the playoffs to begin.

“We have a good chance to win it all. But it starts with baby steps first and we understand that.” LeBron James

LeBron James expressed his confidence in his teams chances to repeat as NBA Champions to the media after the team’s first playoff practice on Thursday. And if you needed any more evidence of The King’s lack of concern about the Cavs recent struggles look no further than his Instagram account. Cleveland had the second worst defensive rating in the NBA since the All-Star break. The Cavs defensive effort was head scratching at times and couldn’t be summed up better than when they blew a 26 point lead in the fourth quarter to the Atlanta Hawks last Sunday. LeBron’s playoff performances need no explaining as the history speaks for itself. The real question is can the Cavs flip the switch during the playoffs? The answer to me is yes as they have shown the past two years they can do it. This season is no different as the Cavs field arguably their deepest roster in franchise history. Cleveland has the perfect opportunity to make a statement against Paul George and the Pacers in the first round.

Key Matchup

The matchup to watch for in this series is a no brainer: LeBron James and Paul George. These two superstar small forwards have had classic playoff battles in the past during LeBron’s tenure with the Miami Heat. We got a preview of this matchup on April 2 as the Cavs outlasted the Pacers 135-130 in double overtime. James and George put on a show with The King tallying 41 points, 16 rebounds, and 11 assists while PG13 had 43 points, nine boards, and nine dishes. This series should give us more epic highlights between James and George. And who knows maybe we will see another “kodak moment” between King James and Pacers guard, Lance Stephenson.

Lansky’s Crazy Stat

LeBron James has not lost a first round playoff game since May 6, 2012 against the New York Knicks. The King is 44-7 all-time in first round playoff games and his teams have never gone to a Game 7 in the opening round.

Prediction

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – APRIL 04: Paul George #13 of the Indiana Pacers dribbles the ball against the Toronto Raptors at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on April 4, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

The last few months the Cavaliers having been itching for the playoffs to begin and now they will get their wish. The Indiana Pacers may have clinched a playoff berth on the final day of the regular season, but they are no slouch. When the question of slowing down the Pacers arises the obvious answer would be to stop Paul George. It’s not that simple as the Cavaliers will have to target Indiana’s backcourt to have success in the first round. The Pacers have multiple weapons at the guard position including Jeff Teague, Monta Ellis, CJ Miles, and Lance Stephenson. Teague suffered an ankle injury in Wednesday’s season finale, but he is expected to be ready for Game 1 on Saturday. Ellis and Miles are both dangerous scorers that can get hot from beyond the arc at any moment. Stephenson is an excellent wing defender and as noted earlier he is a LeBron agitator.

The Cavs have proved all season long that they have no problem getting their offense going. The Pacers struggle at defending the three-point line, which is where Cleveland can hurt you the most. Kyle Korver punished the Pacers in two games this season by shooting 82.4% from three-point land. However, the key for the Cavs in this series and the entire playoffs is defensive effort. The defending champs have shown that they can play lockdown defense when it matters the most and they will have to prove it again against Indiana’s sharpshooting backcourt. The Cavaliers will win this series in 5 games.