Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Sunday, June 13, 2010
As the Cavaliers dive deeper into what is becoming an increasingly headline grabbing off-season, fans may be pondering if Dan Gilbert is getting dangerously close to emulating another young pro franchise owner who’s known more for splashy acquisitions than for his organization’s athletic success.
That’s not to say the Cavs don’t need to make changes. The team has been overmatched and outcoached in their last two playoff series’ losses - glaring failures that rightly fell at the feet of Mike Brown as well as a roster that still doesn’t have a second superstar to go along with LeBron James.
However, Gilbert’s dogged pursuit of Tom Izzo is eerily reminiscent of the logic-defying one-upmanship that has made the Washington Redskins’ cash-rich-but-championship-poor Dan Snyder one of the most divisive owners in sports. Snyder’s modus operandi since buying the ‘Skins in 1999 has been to chase the most coveted free agents on the market. The results speak for themselves, as Washington has enjoyed just three winning seasons during Snyder’s tenure.
Gilbert is operating under a different scenario, of course. The Cavs are coming off of a perplexing playoff punk-out while the team’s 260-pound prima donna superstar free agent prepares for a whirlwind wine-and-dine with a half-dozen major markets. In the owner’s eyes, that means it’s “go” time, with Mike Brown representing the first casualty of the Cavs’ post-season pratfall and Danny Ferry amicably following Brown out the door.
Now Gilbert’s in the decision-making forefront, and here’s where the situation is edging worrisomely into Snyder territory. While it’s natural that Gilbert wants to show his star that he'll do whatever is necessary to keep this organization among the tops in the NBA, throwing huge dollars at a college coach, even one with the pedigree of Izzo, smacks of star-f*cking desperation.
Is there anything to recommend Izzo as an NBA coach beyond the “wow” factor? The man certainly knows how to coach up a group of talented 18-21-year-old kids, but that doesn’t prove he knows a thing about juggling the egos of a group of coddled millionaires. And of course, the recent track record of college coaches making the translation to the pros is poor to the point of cliché.
The forthcoming Summer of LeBron, and the attendant tens of millions of dollars the franchise could lose upon James's departure, may be forcing Gilbert to sell the sizzle before considering the steak. Still, that unfortunate circumstance doesn't necessarily save the Cavs' owner from seeming like he's cribbing notes from the Snyder playbook.
If the end-all of this overture gets James to re-sign, many fans will consider the hiring a good one. All we could do then is hope that Izzo starts a new trend of college-to-NBA success, and Gilbert didn't just have stars in his eyes.
They'll call it a gift goal. An early Christmas present. Fluke play or choke job, maybe. Or perhaps the invisible hand of God, obviously no longer interested in saving the Queen, reached down and put some extra spin on the ball that darted hopefully from Clint Dempsey's left foot and proved too much for goalkeeper Rob Green to handle. The American players will hear many things this morning about being unworthy beneficiaries. I hope they don't buy in. While it's cliche to state that successful teams make their own luck, I can't help but figure the United States deserved the result they earned. After all, England caught their own good fortune when American striker Jozy Altidore's potentially game winning shot deflected off Green's gloves and found the post instead of the back of the net. In "the beautiful game," the breaks have a way of evening out over ninety minutes.
Things kicked off as they often do for the U.S. in the World Cup Finals- a quick goal from the opposition, resulting from a few out of position and lead-footed American defenders. Stephen Gerrard's sudden run was less sly and ubiquitous and more about Ricardo Clark's lack of focus. It was arguably the only mental mistake of the match for the Americans. Seemingly more united and opportunistic then their highly-skilled English counterparts, the U.S. squad turned in a scrappy and resolute performance after falling behind. Early on it appeared that, from a play-making perspective, only midfielder Landon Donovan could match wits with the talented English trio of Gerrard, Frank Lampard and superstar Wayne Rooney. But Rooney struggled to find a niche, stifled by U.S center backs Jay DeMerit and Onyewu Onyewu. Midfielder Steve Cherundolo, neutralizing the finesse and flair of Lampard and Gerrard, was an absolute workhorse on both ends for U.S. Coach Bob Bradley.
Tim Howard, however, was the Man of the Match and the Americans will likely go as far as he can carry them. Brilliant between the pipes, as always, Howard carries on a long tradition of impressive Team USA goalkeepers at the international level...from Tony Meola to Bay Village's own Brad Friedl. That's no surprise for a nation that prides itsself on hand-eye coordination, but Howard's play was beyond stellar in the opener. He was the heartbeat of Sam's Army, pumping belief into his teammates with every blast he turned away that would've given England an insurmountable 2-0 advantage. Space was hard to come by for the Americans, who characteristically went through long stretches of kick-and-run dryspells, so Howard's stabilization after a first-half collision with Emile Heskey was all the more essential.
With two inferior opponents on the horizon, it would now be a major disappoinment for the Unites States not to advance out of Group C. Expectations in single-elimination play will be non existant. The 2002 Cup produced an unexpected quarterfinal run, sandwiched by an embarrassing showing in 2002 and a lackuster effort four years ago. For decades, the road to respectability for soccer in America has been paved with pratfalls and pity. A draw against England, after months of anticipation, hardly silences even the mildest critic. Still- if one game can change everything, as they claim, well then...so can one goal. Or, in this case, one gaffe.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Well, Adrian Wojnarowski really rips apart LeBron, the Cavs, LeBron's boys, Dan Gilbert, and basically all of the shenanigans going on right now in preview of the July 1 free agent deadline. "NBA stands at LeBron's beck and call..." indeed.
It wasn't until Tom Thibodeau – who swore he never again wanted an agent – signed with William Wesley's CAA that the Chicago Bulls grew serious about the coach's candidacy.
Something pushed Bulls officials to get on a plane, fly to Los Angeles on the eve of the NBA Finals and meet with the Boston Celtics assistant coach. Within 48 hours, the Bulls had a deal for Thibodeau to become their head coach. For several weeks, the Bulls had chances to interview him. They never did. Just a year ago, Thibodeau couldn't get offers from the Sacramento Kings, Detroit Pistons, Philadelphia Sixers and Minnesota Timberwolves. The Celtics see him as a career assistant and wouldn't even consider him as a candidate to replace Doc Rivers.
Only now, Tom Thibodeau has a three-year contract to coach the Chicago Bulls.
And Wojnarowski says Ferry was just miserable, and LeBron was not the perfect employee...
Ferry convinced Gilbert to step back, let him do his job. But more and more, the owner's impulsive need to inject himself into everything took over the franchise. Most of all, Gilbert had become the biggest enabler of LeBron James and his inner circle, and that only promises to get worse. Ferry never loved the players' pregame skits, the hiring of James' buddies, the associates' riding on the team plane, but Gilbert seldom said no to anything. He behaved like the permissive parent who believed his kid would love him more if he spoiled him rotten. And it got the Cavs a superstar, James, who never respected anyone and a cast of associates who had the run of the place. Had James wanted Ferry to still be the GM, Gilbert would've backed down and Ferry would have a new contract.....The message to James and his people is unmistakable: Whatever you want here, you'll have. Your way is our way now. That isn't how it works with winning organizations, and the tragic part is that James may well recognize that and bail on Cleveland anyway.