Thank You LeBron: The End of an Unforgettable Era

Workers begin to take down the iconic LeBron James banner from the Sherwin Williams building on July 3. Photo Credit-Jeff Lansky

Four years ago, when LeBron James announced his return to the Cavaliers in an essay in Sports Illustrated, he made his goal clear: to bring the city of Cleveland their first championship since 1964. Two years later, he delivered on that promise with arguably the greatest comeback in NBA history. Now, almost four years later LeBron James has left the Cavs for the second time in his career, this time to join the Los Angeles Lakers. No, there is not the level of vitriol that was present when James “took his talents to South Beach” in 2010, but there is a wide sense of disappointment amongst Cavs fans. In his essay he wrote “I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn’t know when.” And a few weeks later he would say “I don’t plan on going nowhere. I don’t have the energy to do it again.” As emotional as the essay was, it now looks like a brilliant PR move than a love letter to Cleveland. But even though LeBron has departed for a second time, Cavalier fans should still feel great appreciation for a man who came home and kept his promise of bringing us a title.

This past season was perhaps the most tumultuous in Cavaliers history. It started with Cavs owner, Dan Gilbert and general manager, David Griffin mutually parting ways, followed by star point guard, Kyrie Irving’s trade request. The two decisions proved to hang over the team for the entire season and may continue to do so for years to come. The arrivals of Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, and injured point guard Isaiah Thomas culminated in an explosive team meeting in January. Then there was the total roster reshaping done by first year GM, Koby Altman on trade deadline day swapping out six players and adding George Hill, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr., and Jordan Clarkson. The moves reinvigorated LeBron after he slowed his effort down on the court for the good part of a month in protest to the team’s disfunction. The Cavaliers would finish as the four seed in the Eastern Conference and what followed would end up being a magical farewell tour to Cavalier fans from King James.

LeBron had the best statistical regular season of his career this past season averaging 27.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, and a career-high 9.1 assists. He finished as the runner-up to James Harden in the MVP voting. His postseason performance was the most dominant and arguably the most memorable of his 15 year career. He averaged 34 points, 9.1 boards, 9 assists per game. James scored over 40 points eight times in the playoffs including a 51 point master piece in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. He had two iconic buzzer beaters: a game winning three pointer over Thaddeus Young in Game 5 of the first round against the Indiana Pacers and a running one-handed bank shot against the Toronto Raptors in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. LeBron celebrated both buzzer beaters by standing on the scorers table at half-court and pounding his chest. These displays of emotion were the first time that James had ever shown this kind of acknowledgement and passion towards his hometown fans. Looking back on it now it was poetic and a way to say goodbye to the Cavalier faithful.

Yes, LeBron has left Cleveland for the second time and it is extremely bittersweet. As I look back and reflect on having the privilege to watch him over his 11 seasons in a Cavaliers uniform, I feel a sense of pride and gratitude to have witnessed the brilliance of the greatest basketball player of my generation. I was fortunate enough to be present for 3 of his 5 buzzer beaters with the Cavs and to experience a number of NBA Finals games. Because of LeBron returning home, I was able to experience a championship with my dad, a lifelong and die-hard Cleveland sports fan, before he passed away. The 11 seasons LeBron James spent in Cleveland are filled with memories I will never forget and will share with my children one day. So as “The Kid from Akron” heads to Hollywood, all I can say is Thank You LeBron for making good on your promise and giving me the best sports years of my young life.

“The Three-Match” 2017 NBA Finals Preview

Photo Credit: NBA.com

Cavs: Eastern Conference Finals: Beat Boston 4-1
Warriors: Western Conference Finals: Beat San Antonio 4-0

Season Series: Split 1-1

Game 1: Cleveland at Golden State, Thursday June 1 at 9:00 p.m.
Game 2: Cleveland at Golden State, Sunday June 4 at 8:00 p.m.
Game 3: Golden State at Cleveland, Wednesday June 7 at 9:00 p.m.
Game 4: Golden State at Cleveland, Friday June 9 at 9:00 p.m.
Game 5: Cleveland at Golden State, Monday June 12 (If Necessary)
Game 6: Golden State at Cleveland, Thursday June 15 (If Necessary)
Game 7: Cleveland at Golden State, Sunday June 18 (If Necessary)

Cavaliers forward, LeBron James finishes an alley-oop from J.R. Smith during Game 6 of the 2016 NBA Finals. Photo Credit-Jeff Lansky

Tonight basketball fans finally receive the matchup they have been calling for since the Cavaliers historic comeback last June, the rubber match between the last two NBA Champions. “The Trilogy” marks the first time in NBA history that two teams have met in three consecutive NBA Finals. The Golden State Warriors became the first team in NBA history to start the postseason with a 12-0 record after a sweep of the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Cavaliers jumped out to a 2-0 lead over the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals after two blowout wins. The defending champs would face some adversity as they blew a 21 point lead in Game 3 to drop their first contest of the postseason. After a slow start in Game 4, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James carried the Cavs to the Finals for the third straight year by taking Games 4 and 5. In Game 5, LeBron James passed Michael Jordan to become the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring leader and he also passed Manu Ginobli for third all-time in three pointers made in the playoffs. LeBron stated last summer that he would spend the rest of his career chasing the ghost of Michael Jordan and with the numbers he has posted so far this postseason it is clear that he is ready to lead his team towards another title. The King is having his most dominant postseason to date with averages of 32.5 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists per game. With the addition of Kevin Durant, this year’s Warriors team proves to be the toughest opponent LeBron has faced in The Finals. However, with the emergence of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love playing arguably the best basketball of his career, the Cavaliers can make this an epic conclusion to a legendary trilogy.

Key Matchup

Golden State Warriors’ Kevin Durant (35) celebrates his basket against the Portland Trail Blazers in the fourth quarter of Game 1 of their NBA first round playoff series at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif. on Sunday, April 16, 2017. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

The matchup to watch for in this series is between the two star forwards, Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Kevin Durant sent shockwaves throughout the NBA  last July when he announced he would be joining the Golden State Warriors. Despite missing 19 games with a knee injury, Durant has fit nicely with the Warriors this season and he has turned them into a historically dangerous team. KD has had a stellar postseason as he is shooting 55.6 percent overall and 41.7 percent from three point territory. Last year the Cavaliers focussed defensively on Steph Curry, thus forcing the struggling Harrison Barnes to beat them. The Cavs won’t have that luxury this time especially since Durant has already had some success against them. In the two regular season meetings between these juggernauts, Durant averaged 28.5 points per game on 51.3 percent shooting. Tyronn Lue will have LeBron start off with guarding KD, but it would be asking too much of the King to use all of his defensive energy on the Warriors forward. I expect the Cavs to give Durant a variety of looks that include Kevin Love and Richard Jefferson. LeBron is 18-5 against Durant, including a 4-1 victory over KD’s Thunder in the 2012 NBA Finals. This year’s Finals could finally see Durant best LeBron with the help of Golden State’s other three All-Stars. Both superstars have almost identical numbers when they face off against each other which should result in a classic Finals clash.

Lansky’s Crazy Stat

LeBron James is the only player to rank in the top ten in points (first), rebounds (seventh), and assists (third) in NBA playoff history.

Bonus Stat

The Warriors (12-0) and Cavaliers (12-1) enter the NBA Finals with the fewest combined losses of any two teams since the current playoff format began in 1984.

Prediction

Kevin Love soars for a dunk on a fast break during Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals May 23. Photo Credit-Jeff Lansky

Never before have two teams met in three consecutive NBA Finals and this series promises to be the heavyweight bout that fans have been dreaming of. The key for the Cavaliers in this series is to get back on defense especially on the fast break. The Warriors lead the league this postseason in fast-break points with 20.7 per game. The Cavs have improved defensively on the fast-break so far these playoffs, giving up 10.2 points per game which ranks fifth in the league. Golden State’s bread and butter is to make you pay on the fast break so is it is crucial that Cleveland plays defense. The way this strategy could swing in the Cavs favor lies with two men: Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love. Both Love and Thompson rank in the top ten for total rebounds this season with K-Love sitting third for defensive rebounds with 9 per game. TT is third for offensive rebounds with 4.2 per game. The rebounding from Cleveland’s big men will be vital in giving the Cavs second chances on offense and the potential to stops runs on defense during transitions. In addition to his rebounding skill, Kevin Love plays another crucial role in this series for the Cavs with his scoring. Last year, K-Love was seen as a weakness at times against the Warriors and his struggles showed. However this season, he has returned to the type of player he was in Minnesota. He caught fire in the Eastern Conference Finals averaging 22.6 points, 12.4 rebounds, and was a mind boggling 23 of 43 from beyond the arc. The Cavaliers do well when they can get Love going early and they will need to feed off of him during this series. You know what you will get from LeBron and Kyrie Irving, but if the Kevin Love from the Conference Finals shows up the Cavaliers will take this series. I believe the conclusion to this epic trilogy is going to be a hard-nosed, back and forth fight. Don’t expect any sweeps or 3-1 leads this time around as this is championship basketball at its finest. By sweeping through the West the Warriors have yet to face any true adversity and I think that will work in the Cavs favor.
Cavaliers in six.

Shipping Up to Boston: Cavs-Celtics Eastern Conference Finals Preview

Cavs Second Round: Swept Toronto 4-0
Celtics Second Round: Beat Washington 4-3

Season Series: Cleveland won 3-1

Game 1: Cleveland at Boston, Wednesday May 17 at 8:30 p.m.
Game 2: Cleveland at Boston, Friday May 19 at 8:30 p.m.
Game 3: Boston at Cleveland, Sunday May 21 at 8:30 p.m.
Game 4: Boston at Cleveland, Tuesday May 23 at 8:30 p.m.
Game 5: Cleveland at Boston, Thursday May 25 (If Necessary)
Game 6: Boston at Cleveland, Saturday May 27 (If Necessary)
Game 7: Cleveland at Boston, Monday May 29 (If Necessary)

Cavaliers guard, Kyrie Irving launches a three in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals on May 1 in Cleveland.
Photo Credit-Jeff Lansky

The defending NBA Champions return to the hardwood tonight for the first time in 9 days after a second round sweep of the Toronto Raptors. The Cavaliers Eastern Conference Finals opponent is a familiar foe in the number one seeded Boston Celtics. The Cavs once again put the question to rest about them “flipping the switch” with blowout wins against the Raptors in the first two games of the series. LeBron James has once again shown why he is the best player in the world by playing arguably the best postseason basketball in his career. King James became the first player in NBA history to tally 275 points, 70 rebounds, and 50 assists in the first eight games of the postseason. That type of dominance has Cleveland poised to earn their third straight trip as well as LeBron’s seventh consecutive trip to the NBA Finals. The Boston Celtics advanced to their first Conference Finals since 2012 after a Game 7 win at home against the Washington Wizards. The Celtics have faced some adversity so far this postseason overcoming a 0-2 deficit against the Chicago Bulls in the first round, while star point guard, Isaiah Thomas has been playing through the grief of losing his sister in a car accident the day before the postseason began. The Cavs and Celtics have met six times in the playoffs with Boston holding the edge 18-16. These two teams have had some classic postseason matchups, but if the Cavs continue to play at the level they have been this will be a short affair.

Key Matchup

Celtics guard, Isaiah Thomas drives to the basket in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals on May 7 in Washington D.C.
Photo Credit-Keith Allison

The matchup to watch for in this series is between Isaiah Thomas and the Cavalier’s defenders. It is no secret that Kyrie Irving is a weak defender and because of this Tyronn Lue will have to limit the times that Kyrie guards Thomas. “IT” is Boston’s go to scoring option with averages of 25.4 points on 44 percent shooting with 6.5 assists a game in these playoffs. Thomas is also shooting 34 percent from beyond the arc so far this postseason. Lue’s defensive game plan of double teams and traps gave both Paul George and DeMar DeRozan trouble during the first two rounds. Look for Lue to use this same strategy against Thomas to force his teammates to beat the Cavs. In the four regular season meetings against Cleveland, Thomas averaged 29.5 points, 6.5 assists, and he shot 21 percent from three point range. Because of Kyrie’s defensive weakness, I expect J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to guard Thomas during parts of this series. If Cleveland successfully slows down Thomas, Boston’s other players will have a daunting task. On April 5 in the season finale between these two teams, the Cavaliers came out firing and played great defense in Boston to win 114-91. Isaiah Thomas was held to 26 points after scoring 31 plus points in the previous three meetings. During that April 5 matchup the Celtics second leading scorer was Jae Crowder with 13 points, while both Horford and Kelly Olynk added 12 points. If the Cavs can turn in more defensive performances like this they will have make short work of the Celtics.

Lansky’s Crazy Stat

LeBron James is the first player in NBA history to score 35 plus points in every game of a four game sweep. He also completed his eleventh career sweep, which is the most by any player in NBA history.

Bonus Stat

With their sweep of the Raptors, the Cavaliers became the first team in NBA History to start 8-0 in consecutive playoffs.

Prediction

After sitting for nine days, the story of Game 1 will be if the Cavs have any issues with rust. The Cavaliers have stressed the importance of rest in between playoff series these last three years and have made sure to hit their conditioning hard during the extended break. This is a veteran team and they have shown that they have benefited from the rest and haven’t been too rusty at all. In order for the Celtics to have any chance in this series Isaiah Thomas will need help. Al Horford has finally evolved into the player the Celtics were hoping for all season on both sides of the floor. He is coming off a terrific series against the Wizards as he shot 67.6 percent from the field and 60.9 percent from three point range. As good as Horford has been for the Celtics this postseason it would be asking a lot for him to continue producing at the level he has been against the defending champs. Defensively, the C’s will rely on their lockdown wing defenders, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart to give the Cavs some fits. The Cavs bread and butter all season long has been to bury teams with their shooting. Cleveland has a mind boggling effective field goal percentage of 70.7 percent on catch-and-shoot jumpers this postseason, which is the best in the league. The Cavaliers front office built this team by surrounding LeBron James with shooters and it has proven to be very effective. Boston is a scrappy team and I expect the Cavs to face a little adversity in this series. In the end, the Cavaliers experience will reign supreme over a young Celtics team with a bright future ahead of them.
Cavaliers in five.

Cavs-Raptors Round 2 Preview

Cavs First Round: Swept Indiana 4-0
Raptors First Round: Beat Milwaukee 4-2

Season Series: Cleveland won 3-1

Game 1: Toronto at Cleveland, Monday May 1 at 7 p.m.
Game 2: Toronto at Cleveland, Wednesday May 3 at 7 p.m.
Game 3: Cleveland at Toronto, Friday May 5 at 7 p.m.
Game 4: Cleveland at Toronto, Sunday May 7 at 3:30 p.m.
Game 5: Toronto at Cleveland, Tuesday May 9 (If Necessary)
Game 6: Cleveland at Toronto, Thursday May 11 (If Necessary)
Game 7: Toronto at Cleveland, Sunday May 14 (If Necessary)

LeBron James reacts after a dunk in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quaterfinals against the Indiana Pacers. Photo Credit-Jeff Lansky

After a first round sweep of the Indiana Pacers, the Cleveland Cavaliers return to action for the first time in 8 days to play host to the Toronto Raptors tonight. This second round matchup will be a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, a series that the Cavs took in six games. This year’s matchup proves to be tougher for the defending NBA champs as the Raptors have some new pieces on their roster to challenge King James. Toronto’s acquisitions of big man, Serge Ibaka and the sharpshooting PJ Tucker should make for an interesting series. Cleveland jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first round against the Pacers. They quickly silenced any doubts about them “flipping the switch”, as the Cavs rallied from a 25-point halftime deficit to take Game 3 by a score of 119-114. Cleveland squandered fourth quarter leads in three of the four games against the Pacers, something that they can’t afford to do against a dangerous Raptors team. This matchup may arguably be the most difficult of any potential matchup the Cavs may face in the Eastern Conference playoffs this season. Shutting down Toronto’s superstar backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan will be key for the Cavaliers.

Key Matchup

Photo Credit: Dale Zanine, USA TODAY Sports

The matchup to watch for in this series is between point guards Kyrie Irving and Kyle Lowry. Lowry broke his wrist in late February causing him to miss 21 games. Toronto’s All-Star point guard is still trying to find his form again after averaging 14.3 points per game against the Bucks in the first round. He shot 43 percent from the floor and 28 percent from three point land. Lowry is most dangerous off the pick and roll and he can make you pay by drawing fouls on his way to the basket. Kyrie Irving has struggled on defense his entire career and it will be crucial to the Cavs success that he plays smart against Lowry. Irving played very well in three games against the Raptors this season. He averaged 24.7 points, 5.7 assists and shot 47 percent from three-point range. If that Kyrie shows up the Raptors will have their hands full.

Lansky’s Crazy Stat

The Cavaliers swept Pacers guard, Jeff Teague from the playoffs for the third year in a row. Cleveland also swept Teague when he was on the Atlanta Hawks in the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals and the 2016 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. I can’t recall any other player being swept by a single team in three consecutive years in each round of the conference playoffs.

Prediction

This year’s Cavs-Raptors matchup is highlighted by new additions for both teams. For Toronto, it’s Ibaka and Tucker who will both be used in different looks against LeBron James. Ibaka has proven to be a threat as he scored in double figures in four of the six games in the first round and he has the second most blocks in the Eastern Conference so far this postseason. For Cleveland, Deron Williams and Kyle Korver will both look to provide instant offense from beyond the arc. As mentioned earlier the key to beating the Raptors is to shut down DeRozan and Lowry. The best way to do that is to force them to make tough shots and keep them away from the foul line. DeRozan ranked fifth in the NBA this season for free throw attempts with an average of 8.7 times per game. Cavs guard J.R. Smith touched on DeRozan’s foul shooting this week saying, “If you can get out of the game with probably a foul or two, him shooting five free throws or less, that’s pretty good.” DeRozan averaged just 5.5 free throw attempts in last year’s conference finals, which proved to be effective. As bad as the Cavs defense has been, they have managed to average the third lowest opponent free throw rate in both the regular season and postseason. If the Cavs can force both Lowry and DeRozan to take contested shots down the stretch and keep them away from the charity stripe they will be in good shape. The Cavs once again showed how dangerous their offense is against the Pacers, but their defensive effort is still lacking. Cleveland became the first team since the 1995 Houston Rockets to allow 100 points in every game of a series sweep. The Raptors are a dangerous scoring team so it will be crucial for the Cavs to make stops and not blow fourth quarter leads. Cleveland has shown that they can “flip the switch,” now can they keep the switch on during crucial parts of the game? That question may define the remainder of the Cavs quest to repeat as NBA Champions.
The Cavaliers will win this series in 6 games.

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.

 

A Cleveland Sports Fan’s Christmas Wish List

This year has been one of the most memorable years in Cleveland sports history and with Christmas approaching I thought it would be fun to share my wish list for every Cleveland Sports fan.

1. A Browns Win: Time is running out for the Browns to avoid becoming the second team in NFL history to go 0-16. At this point just one win would be nice.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Cody Kessler (6) funnels the ball after he was sacked by Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake (91) during an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Cleveland Browns quarterback Cody Kessler (6) funnels the ball after he was sacked by Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake (91) during an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

2. A Franchise Quarterback: With each loss the Browns seem more likely to end up with the first overall pick. Look for the Browns to take their Quarterback with one of their two first round picks.

3. A Power Bat: This offseason the Indians have been linked to sluggers Edwin Encarnacion, Mark Trumbo, and Cleveland favorite Mike Napoli.     I expect the Tribe to sign one of these powerful bats before Spring Training.

4. A Backup Point Guard: The Cavs were left without a veteran point guard after Mo Williams retired from the NBA this summer. The defending champs will trade for one in the coming months.

5. Browns Training Camp to Stay in Berea: A report surfaced last week that the Browns are working with the city of Columbus for a new training camp facility set to open in 2018. The move would be another blow to Browns fans in Northeast Ohio.

6. Ohio State’s Second National Title in 3 years: The Buckeyes take on the Clemson Tigers in the Semi-Finals of the College Football Playoff in the Fiesta Bowl on December 31.

7. A T-Shirt for J.R. Smith: J.R. has since found his shirt since stepping off the plane in Cleveland after the Cavs historic Game 7 victory, but the shirtless jokes will never get old.

8. Another UFC Event at The Q: Cleveland native Stipe Miocic successfully defended his UFC Heavyweight Championship on September 10th at The Q. Stipe’s victory has us begging for more UFC events in Cleveland in the near future.

9. A Boot For Draymond Green: Green’s kicking has continued into this season and it has already earned him a few flagrant fouls. Cavalier fans remember what Green did to LeBron in Game 4 of the Finals and they won’t forget it when the two teams square off on Christmas Day.

The Cavs championship banner heads to the rafters of Quicken Loans Arena on October 25. Photo Credit-Jeff Lansky

The Cavs championship banner heads to the rafters of Quicken Loans Arena on October 25. Photo Credit-Jeff Lansky

10. More Championships Next Year: 2016 saw the Cavs end the city’s 52-year title drought, Stipe Miocic capture the UFC Heavyweight title, the Monsters win their first Calder Cup since 1964, and the Indians come within one run of a World Series Championship. The future has never been brighter in the city of Cleveland and next year could see more gold brought home to The Land.

 

Views From the 216: Cavs-Raptors Eastern Conference Finals Preview

cavs-raptors

Cavs Second Round: Swept Atlanta 4-0
Raptors Second Round: Beat Miami 4-3

Season Series: Toronto won 2-1
Game 1: Toronto at Cleveland, Tuesday, May 17 at 8:30 p.m.
Game 2: Toronto at Cleveland, Thursday, May 19 at 8:30 p.m.
Game 3: Cleveland at Toronto, Saturday, May 21 at 8:30 p.m.
Game 4: Cleveland at Toronto, Monday, May 23 at 8:30 p.m.
Game 5: Toronto at Cleveland, Wednesday, May 25 at 8:30 p.m. (if necessary)
Game 6: Cleveland at Toronto, Friday, May 27 at 8:30 p.m. (if necessary)
Game 7: Toronto at Cleveland, Sunday, May 29 at 8:30 p.m. (if necessary)

Cavaliers point guard, Kyrie Irving. Photo Credit: Erik Drost

After steamrolling through the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Cavaliers are back in the Eastern Conference Finals for the second straight year. The Cavs will open up the ECF tonight at the Q against the Toronto Raptors. Cleveland has dominated their opponents so far by averaging a postseason-leading 16.8 three-pointers made on 46.2% shooting. If the Cavs can keep up their impressive shooting, this could be an ugly series. Cleveland’s NBA record 25 three pointers in Game 2 against Atlanta was a thing of beauty and it shows just how dangerous this team can be. Toronto is playing in the conference finals for the first time in franchise history. The Raptors enter this series after winning their first two matchups in seven games and they are a little banged up. Toronto center, Jonas Valaciunas will not play in Game 1 and is doubtful for Game 2 with an ankle injury. Raptors forward, DeMarre Carroll also battled a wrist injury in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. The depleted Raptors will need their two All-Stars, Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan (both have played with injuries of their own) to play at a high level to make this an interesting series. The duo combined for 63 of Toronto’s 116 points in Sunday’s game 7 win over Miami, but they are shooting a combined 36 percent after the first two rounds. If the Cavs can keep Lowry and DeRozan in check, this will be a quick series.

Key Matchup

Raptors point guard, Kyle Lowry. Photo Credit: Keith Allison

The matchup to watch for in this series is between point guards, Kyrie Irving and Kyle Lowry. This year’s Eastern Conference Finals will feature a clash between two All-Star point guards and perhaps the two best guards in the Eastern Conference. Despite Lowry’s poor shooting percentage, he has shown up when it matters the most for Toronto this postseason. He struggled is a Game 1 loss to the Heat going 3-for-13, but on Sunday during Toronto’s second straight Game 7 this postseason, he was brilliant. Lowry scored 35 points on 11 of 20 shots and added 9 assists in the series clinching win. He has been battling a right elbow injury since January and he had it drained in late March, which may explain his recent troubles. Kyrie Irving has been terrific so far this postseason leading the Cavaliers in scoring, averaging 24.4 points in eight games. Kyrie has showed a strong defensive effort so far in the playoffs by handling Detroit’s Reggie Jackson and Atlanta’s duo of Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder. Irving will have more of a challenge against Lowry as he is a tough defender, and he hit can hurt you from both inside and outside of the paint. This will be an entertaining matchup to watch and I give the advantage to Kyrie Irving. Kyrie has been on a roll so far this postseason and I think that will lead into success against Lowry.

Lansky’s Crazy Stat

The Cavaliers can become the first team in NBA history to go 12-0 on its way to the Finals with a sweep of Toronto.

Prediction

The Cavs will knock off the Raptors in 5 games. The Cavaliers are coming off another week of rest and are ready to go. It has been a historic year for Canada’s only basketball franchise, but their magical run will come to an end in the Conference Finals. Unfortunately, Toronto is too injury plagued to make this the competitive series that it could be. The question for Cleveland is can they continue their historic three point shooting from the first two rounds. It’s hard for any team to shot like that, but this Cavaliers team is special and is poised for a monumental run in June. The Cavs have shown that they are a legitimate championship contender and they will prove that once again by advancing to the NBA Finals for the second straight year.

Cavs-Hawks Round 2 Preview

cavs-hawks2

Cavs First Round: Swept Detroit 4-0
Hawks First Round: Beat Boston 4-2

Season Series: Cleveland won 3-0
Game 1: Atlanta at Cleveland, Monday, May 2 at 7 p.m.
Game 2: Atlanta at Cleveland, Wednesday, May 4 at 8 p.m.
Game 3: Cleveland at Atlanta, Friday, May 6 at 7 p.m.
Game 4: Cleveland at Atlanta, Sunday, May 8 at 3:30 p.m.
Game 5: Atlanta at Cleveland, Tuesday, May 10 (If Necessary)
Game 6: Cleveland at Atlanta, Thursday, May 12 (If Necessary)
Game 7: Atlanta at Cleveland, Sunday, May 15 (If Necessary)

Cavaliers power forward, Kevin Love. Photo Credit-Erik Drost http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode

After a more than a week off, the Cavaliers begin the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals tonight against the Atlanta Hawks. The Cavs know the Hawks all too well as they swept Atlanta in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals and won all three regular season matchups this season. Cleveland has absolutely dominated the Hawks over the last year and this series could see more of the same. During last year’s conference finals, the Cavs were without Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving was out for the majority of the series with knee tendonitis. Both players are healthy and they looked great during Cleveland’s first round sweep of the Pistons. The Hawks are a very good defensive team holding opponents to a league-low 43% field-goal percentage. Atlanta is led by the front court duo of Paul Millsap and Al Horford. Millsap had an impressive first round averaging 16.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game against the Boston Celtics. Atlanta has struggled offensively at times this season, but Millsap and Horford have kept them in games with their rebounding. The Cavs have rebounding machines of their own in Love and Tristan Thompson. Cleveland’s big men must create as many second chance opportunities as possible to keep pressure on the Hawks, which will ultimately led them to victory.

Key Matchup

Atlanta Hawks small forward, Kent Bazemore. Photo Credit-Wikipedia

The matchup to watch for in this series is between LeBron James and Kent Bazemore. Cavalier fans remember Bazemore for his comments after the Hawks went down two games to none in last year’s conference finals. He said, “I still think we’re the better team. We just haven’t shown it yet.” Cavs fans responded accordingly as Bazemore was booed during the next two games at The Q. The Hawks will most likely throw Millsap and Thabo Sefolosha at LeBron during the series, but it will be Bazemore who will start off guarding King James. Bazemore and LeBron have a little bit of history as the young Hawks forward talked trash towards James on Twitter in 2012. One tweet read “LeBron is the equivalent to 7eleven, he doesn’t close.” Bazemore also shoved LeBron during game two of the conference finals. I think this will be a fun matchup to watch given Bazemore’s beef towards James. LeBron hasn’t responded to Bazemore and I doubt he will. King James is a man on a mission and it is pretty hard to get in his head, just ask Detroit’s Stanley Johnson.

Lansky’s Crazy Stat

LeBron James is on track to make some more history during this series. He will tie former Cavaliers coach, Byron Scott for 14th place all-time in playoff games tonight with 183. LeBron needs just three more treys to pass Robert Horry for 8th place in postseason three-pointers.

Bonus Stat

The Cavaliers are undefeated against the Hawks in the postseason. Cleveland swept Atlanta in the 2008-2009 Conference Semi-Finals and the 2014-2015 Eastern Conference Finals.

Prediction

The Cavs will win this series in 5 games. Cleveland is well rested and will continue their dominance of Atlanta, but the Hawks are due to win at least one game. The Cavaliers are clicking at the right time and their strong play will propel them to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second straight year.

Cavs-Pistons Round 1 Preview

cavs-pistons

Season Series: Detroit won 3-1
Game 1: Detroit at Cleveland, Sunday, April 17 at 3 p.m.
Game 2: Detroit at Cleveland, Wednesday, April 20 at 8 p.m.
Game 3: Cleveland at Detroit, Friday, April 22 at 7 p.m.
Game 4: Cleveland at Detroit, Sunday, April 24 at 8:30 p.m.
Game 5: Detroit at Cleveland, Tuesday, April 26 (if necessary)
Game 6: Cleveland at Detroit, Thursday, April 28 (if necessary)
Game 7: Detroit at Cleveland, Saturday, April 30 (if necessary)

Cavaliers forward, LeBron James. Photo Credit: Erik Drost http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode

Cavaliers forward, LeBron James. Photo Credit: Erik Drost

For the second year in a row, the Cavaliers will open up the playoffs against an old foe. Last year it was the Boston Celtics and this year it is the Detroit Pistons. The Cavs and Pistons had some epic playoff matchups in 2006 and 2007 and now they will renew their rivalry once again. Pistons point guard, Reggie Jackson has already given the Cavaliers some motivation when he was asked about the series. He said “I don’t want to fight Goliath’s homeboy or little brother. I want to fight Goliath.” The Cavs struggled against the Pistons this season dropping 3 out of the four meetings. Despite that fact, Cleveland has playoff experience and this young Detroit team does not. The Pistons are making their first playoff appearance since 2009 when they were swept by LeBron James and the Cavs in the first round. The Cavaliers have gotten into a groove over the last month and are finally looking poised to make a deep postseason run. Cleveland is the better team in this series, but there is one area where Detroit has an advantage, which is rebounding. Andre Drummond is a monster on the boards for the Pistons and he will give Tristan Thompson a tough time. However, Drummond can’t do it all on his own and his teammates must step up if they want to make this series interesting

Key Matchup

Detroit Pistons guard Reggie Jackson dribbles during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015 in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

The matchup to look for in this series is between point guards Kyrie Irving and Reggie Jackson. Irving has had an up and down season after returning from a knee injury in last year’s NBA Finals. Kyrie has struggled to find his form, but I think that will change now that the playoffs have arrived. He looked great in Monday’s win against the Atlanta Hawks scoring 35 points, including 13 in the fourth quarter. Kyrie was so encouraged by his performance that he told management that he wanted to play in Wednesday’s finale against the Pistons, but coach Tyronn Lue ultimately opted to rest him. Detroit point guard, Reggie Jackson, is the Pistons only starter that has playoff experience, appearing in 30 postseason games with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Jackson missed Detroit’s final two games with an abdominal strain, but he will be ready for game one on Sunday. Jackson averaged 18,8 points and 6.2 assists per game this season. If Jackson stays healthy during the series, this matchup between the two young point guards will be a fun one.

Lansky’s Crazy Stat

LeBron James has never lost a first round playoff series in his career. The King has won 40 of 47 first round games as a member of the Cavaliers and the Miami Heat.

Prediction

The Cavs will win this series in 5 games. You could make the case that the Cavaliers sweep the Pistons, but Detroit is a scrappy team and I think they will win game 3 at home at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Cleveland’s playoff experience led by the Big 3 will guide them to victory over their division rivals.

Rapid Reaction: Cavs Add More Depth to Bench

The Cavaliers made a move before yesterday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline that will improve their bench by acquiring Channing Frye from the Orlando Magic. In a three team trade, the Cavs traded power forward, Anderson Varejao and a future first round pick to the Portland Trail Blazers as well as trading guard, Jared Cunningham and a future second round pick to Orlando.

New Cavaliers forward/center, Channing Frye

New Cavaliers forward/center, Channing Frye

I think that this was a good move for the Cavs to make because of Frye’s varied skill set. He is a versatile big man that can play both the forward and center positions. Frye will allow the Cavs to space the floor creating more open paths to the basket for LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. For a team that has struggled on defense this season, he is a solid low post defender and a good shot blocker. I think the best skill that Frye brings to the wine and gold is his three point stroke. Frye is shooting 39.7 percent from beyond the arc this season and he will prove to be another weapon off of the bench. Will this trade alone put the Cavs over the hump and knock off the Golden State Warriors in a potential NBA Finals rematch? No, that will all be determined if the Big 3 can play together as a unit as well as receiving contributions from role players like J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert. This trade adds another solid rotation piece that will improve the bench with his wide range of skills.

Former Cavaliers power forward, Anderson Varejao. Photo credit-Keith Allison

Former Cavaliers power forward, Anderson Varejao. Photo credit-Keith Allison

This trade was bittersweet because it saw the Cavaliers part ways with longtime fan favorite Anderson Varejao. The Wild Thing played all twelve of his seasons with the Cavaliers always bringing a huge boost of energy whenever he stepped out on the floor. He remained loyal to the franchise even when LeBron left for Miami, vowing to stay here and help turn the team around. The one thing Varejao wanted most was to win a championship for the city he loved so much. Sadly, Andy’s days in Cleveland are done, but he will always be loved by Cavs fans. Thank you for all of the memories Wild Thing and good luck in the next chapter of your career.