The Disappointment Zone

Musings from a Cleveland sports fan

Archive for November, 2006

Notes on amateur athletics

Posted by disappointmentzone on 30 November 2006

ESPN.com is reporting that The Ohio State University has set aside roughly 1,100 tickets for the national championship game for students. So far 6,000 students have entered a lottery for the right to buy one ticket at the $185 dollar price. The game will be played in the University of Phoenix Stadium, which has a seating capacity of about 72,000 people. It is possible that the OSU student population will represent less than 2% of the fans in attendance. This number does not include the football players, also students, also in attendance (presumably. I mean, I hope…).

Here are a few more numbers to consider: The University received 16,000 tickets for the game. These tickets have to cover alumni, media, the student band, faculty, staff, administrators, trustees, season ticket holders, and boosters, among other groups. That’s a lot of interested people and not a lot of actual tickets. There is no fair way to distribute the tickets evenly. The number of ticket requests far exceeds the number of available tickets, and setting ticket priority among the various competing groups is a tricky proposition. Is a faculty member more worth of a ticket than a member of the staff? It’s hard to see how any University-affiliated fan is more entitled to a ticket than any other University-affiliated fan. The fact is, most fans will not receive tickets. Most fans will be disappointed.

Like many things, ticket allotment is a political issue. One way to dull the political edge would be to allot tickets based on the size of the populations interested in buying tickets, so that the chances of any member of a given population receiving a ticket would be the same irrespective of which group he or she belonged to. If there were 10 faculty and 100 staff the school could allot five tickets for faculty and fifty tickets for staff, for instance. This would eliminate the more-deserving problem, and is probably one of the fairest ways to allot tickets. So how did the University decide to allot the tickets?

The largest portion of tickets — about 5,000 — have been set aside for donors and sponsors. Let’s put that number in perspective. In the entire Ohio State University system there are approximately 52,000 students. For this population the school has set aside 1,100 tickets, or roughly 7% of the available tickets to satisfy 2% of the total population. I do not know how many donors and sponsors there are, but they have been allotted 31% of the total tickets. If the school allotted tickets according to population size, then there are roughly 240,000 donors and sponsors. I do not know how many donors and sponsors there are, but I would venture a guess that 240,000 is probably off by — oh, let’s be conservative — about 200,000, and probably a lot more. In the ticket-allotment game, the deck is stacked in favor of the sponsors and donors.

Whichever school OSU plays will also receive 16,000 tickets. The most likely opponent is USC. USC’s ticketing director is quoted in the ESPN.com story as saying that only about 1,000 students from USC will be able to attend the game with tickets purchased from the school. When you factor in the USC student population buying tickets from the school, the total population of such students in the University of Phoenix Stadium on January 8th rises to a staggering 3%, or roughly 3% of the combined population of both schools.

Needless to say, a lot of students are upset over how few tickets are available for purchase through the university. What’s more, it is very possible that the ticket price might limit the number of students who could attend the game even more so than the volume of tickets available for purchase. $185 is a lot to drop on a ticket to see a football game two time zones over. These are college students, after all. How can they afford to spend so much money on a ticket to a football game in Arizona of they live in Columbus?

Which brings me to the larger point of this post. The NCAA is a ruthless, irresponsible, specious governing body. (Don’t worry, it’ll all make sense shortly, I hope)

Consider the case of Ramon McElrathbey. McElrathbey is a cornerback for Clemson. Last summer he gained custody of his younger brother because his parents, one a drug addict and the other missing, were unable to take care of him. The two were living in his cramped apartment, struggling to get by, until local paper published a story about their plight. Soon after McElrathbey was overwhelmed with donations and gifts from readers, and for a while it appeared as though some of the burden of raising a younger brother without the benefit of an income would be lifted. But things changed quickly. Clemson wouldn’t allow McEltrathbey to be the recipient of any gifts, and because he had initially accepted gifts he came close to being kicked off the football team. Why? McElrathbey is a student-athlete. As such his life is regulated by the NCAA, which prevents any student-athlete from being the benefactor of any financial (pecuniary or material) assistance. College athletes are supposed to be amateurs. To accept gifts is to compromise that status. Not being paid is what it means to be an amateur. The NCAA ensures amateur athletes remain amateurs.

(A few weeks after the story broke — the story about the NCAA preventing McElrathbey from accepting assistance from his neighbors, not the story published in the local paper about McElrathbey raising his brother — the NCAA did an about-face and allowed him to receive some of the donations and gifts.)

So the NCAA is in the business of ensuring that collegiate athletics maintain the essence amateurism.

Except, that’s not what the NCAA is in the business of, and the gross politics of the OSU championship game ticket allotment is just one manifestation of the maleficence of the NCAA. The NCAA isn’t in the business of amateur athletics; it’s in the business of amateur athletes. And in the case of McElrathbey, the NCAA is literally in the business of amateur athletes.

The notion that collegiate sports are somehow “amateur” is tenuous at best. As Peter King reported (from an article in USA Today), in 2007 Jim Tressel will earn $200,000 when OSU plays in the national championship game, $400,000 if he still is the coach on Jan. 31, $500,000 in salary, $625,000 as a “consultant” for Nike, $675,000 in coaches’ show and promotion income, along with $10,000 per personal appearance at Coca-Cola-related events. He also gets to use a private jet for 10 hours each year, as well as for his recruiting. Tressel is not even the highest paid coach in the Big Ten. That honor belongs to Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz. OSU will earn a few million dollars for playing in a BCS game this season. The Fiesta Bowl will earn a ton of money from advertising. The companies running their advertisements during the game will probably earn considerable profits.

The donors and sponsors are getting the lion’s share of OSU’s allotment of tickets because the donors and sponsors are the ones giving money to the school, and the amount of money each donor or sponsor gives is certainly much more than $185. The school has a financial incentive to allot a lot of tickets to the people who give them money. In that regard, the school is bucking any notion of “amateur” in the interst of getting paid.

Which is completely fine with me. If people want to gives large sums of money to a school on the promise that if that school’s football team makes a major bowl game then they’ll be in an ideal position to secure tickets to that bowl game — that’s fine. It’s the exact sort of practice that happens in the professional world. Even though I’ve been a Cavs fan for as long as I remember, I don’t think they owe me a chance to get playoff tickets (although I’m thankful that they do). They are a private enterprise and they can do whatever they please. When you are a school and you are allotted 16,000 tickets to a game and you give 5,000 of those tickets to people who gave you money and only 1,100 to the people who constitute your school (I mean, what’s a college without students?), then you are participating in something that looks identical to what goes on in the professional world. Which, as I said, I’m fine with. If those are the terms, so be it.

But if those are the terms, then college sports aren’t amateur and the NCAA ought to reconfigure itself in light of this. You can’t have it both ways. Doing so is called hypocrisy. As Malcolm Gladwell put it: “To be an amateur is like being a virgin. It’s not situational. It’s absolute. Surely if you want to defend an absolute ethic, you have to defend it absolutely.” That means preserving amateurism across the board. It’s not enough to be for amateur athletes. You must also be for amateur athletics. And when you “protect” (that is, exploit) these athletes under the guise of amateurism while others are making money while operating in the same venue, it undermines the whole project you ostensibly exist to embody. When you allow for coaches to be paid; when you allow for coaches to trade on their celebrity for money from companies; when you sell advertising time to companies; etc.; etc.; etc., then it doesn’t make much sense to prevent athletes from, say, getting help from friendly neighbors in times of great person crisis.

The OSU students are pretty outraged that of the 16,000 tickets their school has been allotted, they are only going to receive 1,100. And they should be. It’s all one big joke, and the punchline is the student.

[Jumping off the soapbox….now.]

Posted in Cleveland Sports, flotsam and Jetsam, Ohio State Buckeyes | Leave a Comment »

Slow decline to terrible just accelerated

Posted by disappointmentzone on 29 November 2006

Ryan Tucker is arguably the best offensive lineman on the Browns (active) roster. That said, if you’ve watched the Browns play this season you know that last sentence doesn’t necessarily carry much weight. I mean, the offensive line is bad. But now we’ll be able to assess just how critical Tucker is to the O-Line because they will no longer have him there to participate in the orgy of missed blocks and holding penalties that occurs every Sunday afternoon. That’s right: Tucker will miss the rest of the season.

Why?

Undisclosed illness.

Hmmmm…

That sound you just heard was half of Cleveland vomiting because they just imagined the prospect of watching the Browns play professional football with an even worse offensive line than the one that’s been playing.

Of course, our illness has a name. One that we are more than willing to disclose.

It’s called Being A Browns Fan.

There is no cure.

Posted in Cleveland Browns | 4 Comments »

OSU #1 in fairly meaningless poll

Posted by disappointmentzone on 28 November 2006

For all the huss and fuss over the BCS, the AP rankings, the Coaches’ poll, the Harris poll, etc., that now goes hand-in-hand with college football, it’s nice to see that college basketball provides the casual fan with the sort of rankings that are super meaningful in college football but are ultimately meaningless in college basketball. I mean, how are we supposed to know which teams are good in basketball without these rankings? We’d be lost, that’s for sure, until the middle of March, when things become clear in a way that they can never be clear in college football.

Ohio State is the #1 team in the country in the new USA Today/Coaches’ poll. OSU is riding that rare mix of 1) a super recruiting class (the prime piece of which has not yet played), 2) not playing anyone (and therefore not losing to anyone), and 3) watching other teams lose games, all the way to the bank. I have no idea what to make of this ranking — it seems to be based more on what other teams are doing and the potential of what OSU could do in the future — but with the Buckeyes also #1 in the BCS, this marks the first time in school history in which both the men’s basketball and football teams have been ranked #1 in the same week.

So we have that going for us.

Posted in Ohio State Buckeyes | 1 Comment »

Coleman dead; Dellucci an Indian

Posted by disappointmentzone on 28 November 2006

Casey Coleman died yesterday after a long and noble battle with pancreatic cancer. The sports boadcasters in Cleveland generally fall into two camps: absolutely terrible or absolutely wonderful. Colemen was the leader of the absolutely wonderful camp. He’ll be missed.

***

Fox Sports is reporting that the Indians have reached a three-year, $11.5M deal former Texas and Philly OF David Dellucci. Ken Rosenthal suggests that Dellucci will platoon with Jason Michaels in LF while Choo will man RF. Casey Blake will play 1B, meaning that Garko could very well be used as trade bait in the Indians’ ongoing effort to find a solid RP.

Posted in Cleveland Indians, flotsam and Jetsam, Trade Rumors | 2 Comments »

Charlie Frye: QB Score: Week 12

Posted by disappointmentzone on 26 November 2006

I am writing this just a few hours after the Browns lost to the Bengals, 30-0, so there hasn’t been much in the way of published blog posts or news editorials about how poorly the Browns played today, although one blog has already identified whatever it was the Browns did this afternoon (“played football” might be a stretch) as disgraceful. As sure as there will always be an England a lot of noise will be generated in the greater Cleveland area in the next few days, which is to be expected when one’s team gets shut out by the worst defensive team in the league, a team that hadn’t shut out an opponent since 1989. Should Romeo be fired? Should Lerner sell the team? Should…

So allow me to get in on the action early with a post about our intrepid leader, Charlie Frye.

He’s not a good quarterback.

There. I said it. That’s all there is to say, really.

This isn’t a personal attack on Frye, and my comments aren’t the result of his poor play this afternoon. Since the preseason I have been leery about Frye’s ability to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. What happened this afternoon was more the final nail in the coffin than the game that launched a thousand yells of “He stinks!”. If you want a more level-headed breakdown of why there is little hope for Frye, here is a nice post from one of the Football Outsiders. But that’s just the statistical backing for whatever thoughts are floating around in your head. Occular proof is all one needs in this instance. There is no nuance.

Frye had his worst game of the season today. His QB Score was -148. His QB Score per play was an atrocious -4.23. Four INTs didn’t help his cause, but even if the Hail Mary INT at the end of the first half were removed from his boxscore he would have had his second-worst game of the season. Any way you cut it Frye had a terrible game. Just ask Braylon Edwards.

The good news is that the Browns have some clarity heading into the offseason. Frye is not the guy to lead the team back to the playoffs, let alone .500 football. That said, the talk about possibly drafting Brady Quinn or Troy Smith (see: today’s PD) is a little absured. The biggest problem on the team isn’t Frye. It’s the offensive line. Peyton Manning could be at the helm right now and the team would still be struggling. Before the backfield should be addressed the offensive line needs fixing. Only then would it make sense to persue alternatives for the quarterback position. Which is why I think in the long run the Browns will be better if Frye is the quarterback next season. Whatever money the team has — whatever draft picks the team uses — needs to go to improving both the offensive and defensive lines. The worst decision the team could make at this point is throwing money or a high draft pick at a quarterback. It’s the same decision the team made back when we drafted Tim Couch, and it’s the sort of decision-making that’s been haunting the team ever since. The good news is that the 2006 draft class is coming along nicely, so I have hope that the 2007 draft class will be able to contribute to the team right away. But if we spend our high draft pick on any quarterback or running back or another skilled position player, my hopes will come crashing down, and so will the 2007 season.

How’s that for drastic?

Posted in Cleveland Browns, statistics | 9 Comments »

Notre Dame hates Michigan

Posted by disappointmentzone on 26 November 2006

In case you somehow missed it, Notre Dame lost to USC last night, 44-24, in a game that was not even as close as the final score would indicate. Surprisingly, both teams had nearly the same offensive total in yards (ND: 402, UCS: 407), but there was absolutely nothing impressive about ND’s offense — other than a general inability to catch simple passes and convert fourth downs — and USC’s secondary and defensive lined played quite well. I’m not sure how ND ended up with 400 yards, actually. Of course, 60 of those yards came on Brady Quinn’s scamper, which was the longest run for ND this season. But still. 400 yards seems like a lot. That said, the 400 yards was more sound and fury than anything else. When ND needed to move the ball crucial yards — on fourth down and within the red zone — they may have well been playing an NFL team they looked so helpless. When the yards mattered ND struggled to move the ball. It’s no surprise they lost.

What does USC’s victory mean? A few things.

First, Notre Dame clearly hates Michigan. After the third week of the season it was clear that ND wasn’t going to make the BCS championship game. So what did they do? They ran off a nice string of victories over underwhelming opponents, wooed the AP and Coaches into voting them high in the rankings, reached a point where Michigan’s victory really started to look like a legitimate beat-down of a top-5 team, and then once they finally were in position to almost secure Michigan’s spot in the BCS championship game — all they had to do was beat USC and Michigan was probably in — they go out a lay an egg against USC. Of course, I can’t actually substantiate whether Notre Dame hates Michigan. Why? Because…

Second, Notre Dame had NO CHANCE against USC. Even if ND was in love with Michigan they were still going to be helpless against the Trojans. Notre Dame has been overrated for about…oh…let’s call it 24 months. Maybe this loss will finally put Notre Dame where they belong: out of the top ten. Now that the regular season is over here is a nice fact: Notre Dame played two top-25 teams this season and lost to both by a combined 46 points. And let’s follow up that fact with an Aflac Trivia Question: When was the last time ND beat a team that finished the season in the top 10? I’ll play the role of Bob Davie and say I’m not sure. Did Michigan finish the 2004 season in the top 10? If so, that’s the last time it happened. If not, we might be looking at 2002, if not earlier. I have no idea where ND will be ranked in the preseason next year, but until they beat someone there can be no more talk about Charlie Weis being a SuperCoach or ND being a powerhouse or anything of that nature. Unfortunately, this certainly won’t happen. Why? Because…

(Third) Notre Dame is going to face Michigan in the Rose Bowl. Just the rematch you wanted, right? Me, too. With USC and OSU on the path to Glendale, the Rose Bowl will grab Michigan to fulfill its Big Ten tie and then get an at-large pick to replace the departed Pac Ten team USC. Will the Rose Bowl pick, oh, Boise State? Probably not. Notre Dame is the sexy team and will most likely be the team Michigan plays on New Year’s Day. Start warming up the hype machine. All we’ll hear about for the next month is the tradition of each school’s football program and the quiet dignity of Brady Quinn and the perserverance of Michigan in light of Bo’s death. Sounds like fun. Shoot me now.

Fourth, lost in all the madness of the weekend is the tragic story of a very good Wisconsin team. With Arknasas, Notre Dame, and West Virginia losing this weekend, Wisconsin will certainly rise in the BCS standings. My guess is that they’ll jump from #8 to #6. Unfortunately, Wisconsin won’t play in a BCS game because only up to two teams from any one conference are allowed to be in the BCS each season. OSU and Michigan will represent the Big Ten. Wisconsin, despite being ranked so damn high, will probably play in the Capital One Bowl, which is still a nice bowl game, but my heart will sink a little bit when an inferior Notre Dame team plays in the BCS instead of Wisconsin.

Finally, from top to bottom the SEC is the beat conference in college football. But the Big Ten has the three best teams. There is no way I’d take Florida over Wisconsin, and after watching the Arkansas-LSU game, I’m not sure I’d take Arkansas either. OSU, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arkansas, and Florida is the order of the top five teams from the Big Ten and SEC. This should be noted. Now it is.

Posted in Ohio State Buckeyes | 6 Comments »

Game 13: L

Posted by disappointmentzone on 25 November 2006

Don’t look now but the Cavs’ guard play as of late has been terrible, and it’s no surprise that the team has been dropping games (and coming close to dropping games). With under a minute to go in the fourth quarter in yesterday’s loss to the Pacers, the Cavs had scored in the second half as many points and they scored in the first quarter. How does this happen? Well, at this point in the fourth quarter the Cavs’ had two assists in the entire second half, which is a fairly incredible stat. If you happened to switch over to ESPN after the Cavs game to take in a little of the Suns/Nets game you would have been witness to the sort of things that can happen when a team has a great point guard. In the first quarter of that game the Suns shot 16-19 (84%).  The Suns weren’t shooting particularly well so much as they were taking a lot of very easy shots. Why? Because Steve Nash in a tremendous point guard, capable of creating open shots for his teammates seemingly at will. In the first quarter he had six assists, and if my numbers are correct of the 16 made field goals 14 were assisted. My guess is that assisted shooting percentage is much higher than unassisted shooting percentage (anyone have any idea if anyone keeps this stat?), and when the Cavs score all of nine points in a quarter it’s not much of a stretch to think that the low total is directly linked to a dearth of assists.

Once again the front court played well (only Marshall was a below-average player [-.351]; Gooden was the most above-average [.108]). This is the standard for the Cavs. Whatever you think of revolving door that is the PF/C, it is working fairly well. Gooden is having a career season. Ilgauskas is finally finding a level of comfort in the offense and defense, as evidenced by his recent performances: in four of the last five games Z has been an above-average center. Varejao plays like a college kid — eventually he’ll develop a reputation as a modern-day Vlade Divac — but all that hustle work really pays off in the end: his rebounding is prolific and he gets a lot of scrub baskets as a result. Marshall comes and goes. When he rebounds he is quite effective. When he hovers around the three point line for long stretches he tends to play poorly. And LeBron James is pretty good, too. No revolving door there.

But then there is the Plague of the Guards. Eric Snow is one of the league leaders in assist-to-turnover ratio. That he doesn’t turn over the ball is by far the biggest contribution he makes to the team. That said, he’s not recording that many assists, he doesn’t score many points, nor does he generate many steals or rebounds. In other words, Eric Snow isn’t doing much to help the team win games, and it shows in his statistics. Damon Jones, as I wrote in my analysis of the point guards, works much better as a shooting guard in the rotation than he does as a point guard, but he isn’t getting that much time as a shooting guard because Snow has been playing so poorly. David Wesley is just not good. I have nothing else to say about him. At this point the smart move is to start giving Daniel Gibson more and more minutes as the PG. This early stretch of the schedule is the easiest the Cavs have all season. There is nothing in his history to suggest the Snow will suddenly improve come December or 2007. What we see right now may very well be about what we can expect from Snow for the rest of the season. And so why not give Gibson Snow’s minutes? With Hughes out Jones should slide over to the SG spot and Gibson should move in to replace Snow. That’s a fairly unintimidating back court with respect to defense, but it may very well be a formidable offensive front court (‘formidable’ relative to whatever else the Cavs can offer). As we saw yesterday the problem with the Cavs is not so much defense as it is offense. And the problem with the offense lies entirely with the guards. Until the Cavs can figure out some way to make the guards more productive, the Cavs won’t win many games.

Posted in Cleveland Cavaliers | 2 Comments »

Mixed signals

Posted by disappointmentzone on 24 November 2006

Lest we not forget, the Browns’ offense scored six points last week against the Steelers. A few weeks ago against the Chargers we kicked about 41 field goals. The team has one more win than they’ve had offensive coordinators. Winslow was complaining about the offense seemingly from the start of the season, and now Edwards has added his voice to the cacophony. Oh, and then there are us bloggers and fans. Find me one person who likes the Browns offense and I’ll

wait a minute….

John Clayton of ESPN.com thinks that this week against the Bengals Charlie Frye could pass for over 300 yards! He writes:

Charlie Frye is getting some positive things going with tight end Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards. The way the Bengals’ defense has been playing of late, any quarterback could throw for 300 yards against them…

OK. So Clayton said that any quarterback could potentially pass for 300 yards against the Bengals, which is a statement more about the Bengals than it is about any quarterback. And since Frye is in fact a quarterback (seriously, I checked) he falls into that camp of players who could pass for that many yards.

But Clayton continues:

[Carson Palmer] doesn’t want to get into an offensive shootout with the Browns.

Huh?

On the whole I like John Clayton. Any person who can put up with Sean  Salisbury on a weekly basis without killing Sean Salisbury has the patience and strength of a saint and has more than earned my respect and admiration. The only person who could endear himself more to me would be the person who’d actually kill Sean Salisbury. That said, Clayton might be a little nuts. Don’t expect 300 yards passing — should it happen at all — to be part of a stat line with whatever else one would expect to accompany 300 yards passing (3 touchdowns or something). Until further notice there can be no talk about other teams worrying about the Browns outscoring them. It just sounds ridiculous. 300 yards passing and four field goals sounds more like it. And something tells me Cincinnati will score more than 12 points.

Posted in Cleveland Browns | Leave a Comment »

Game 12: L

Posted by disappointmentzone on 23 November 2006

Three times this season the Cavs have played back-to-back games. Three times this season the Cavs have won the first game of a back-to-back. Three times this season the Cavs have lost the second game of a back-to-back. In two of those losses the Cavs were blown away in the fourth quarter; in two of the losses the Cavs were blown away early. Last night’s loss was the bridge between the two extremes: the Cavs were both blown away early and blown away late. If basketball games only lasted from the second quarter to the fourth quarter the Cavs might be fine. For now, at least, that’s not that case, and there is no sign that David Stern is interested in changing the format of the game. So perhaps a new strategy is needed, because whatever the plan is right now…it’s not working.

Fortunately, the Cavs have 20 back-to-back series this season. Excellent.

It’s worth noting that Mike Brown rested Anderson Varejao against Memphis, limiting him to only 13 minutes. This appeared to be a move to ensure that at least one important player had fresh legs for the Toronto game. The move worked. Anderson was one of only three players to have an above-average game. Sasha Pavlovic was limited to 14 minutes against Memphis. He was also one of the three player to have an above-average game. LeBron James was the third.

I’m not going to post a Disappointment Zone Boxscore for the Toronto game (unless there is some outcry, which I doubt). Doing so would be too, well, disappointing. It’s a lot of negative numbers and not much else. Again, only LBJ, Varejao, and Sasha had above-average games. Everyone else sucked. The suckiest of the sucky was Donyell Marshall (-.465). The least sucky of the sucky was Drew Gooden (-.072).

Once more, none of the guards is average and the Cavs lose. This is something to keep an eye on.

Posted in Cleveland Cavaliers, statistics | 4 Comments »

Game 11: W

Posted by disappointmentzone on 22 November 2006

In each of the first nine games of the season LeBron James was an above-average player, usually by a considerable margin. The next most consistent performer was Drew Gooden, who was an above-average player in five of the first nine games. After that there is nothing approaching consistency among any of the remaining players, except for David Wesley, who has been the most consistently bad player. He’s had only two above-average games. In the first of those games he played four minutes. In the second game he played one minute. So don’t read “above-average” as equivalent to “positive impact” or something. The Cavs won both games during which he was above-average; one of those games the final margin was 19 points. He was above-average in scrub time, mostly, which isn’t particularly difficult. And in neither of the cases was Wesley particularly above-average.

So the formula for the first nine games was [LeBron James plays better than everyone else] + [whoever else steps up, probably Gooden, maybe Ilgauskas] – [rest of the starting lineup] + [one or two bench players] – [rest of bench] = seven wins, two loses.

Since the Washington game, however, things have changed. LeBron James has been below-average in the last two games, and not surprisingly the Cavs lost one of those games (against Washington) and barely held on to win the other (against Memphis). When LeBron James plays worse than an average small forward the Cavs struggle to win, which isn’t much of a surprise. Of course, in the other two loses LBJ was above-average, but in those games practically everyone other than LBJ, Gooden, and Z were below-average, and most of those players were well below-aveage. It’s fairly telling — if we can read into the three loses with any depth — that the Cavs have the most problems when the back court plays poorly. Eric Snow is providing the Cavs with very little. Prior to getting injured Larry Hughes was playing alright, but not really. After the first game of the season Hughes went on a nice run of seven games in which be was a below-average player. And then he hurt himself (suprise!). In fact, Hughes has been the most consistently bad player on the roster. So the Cavs get practically nothing from the starting back court (at least the back court isn’t highly paid. Wait a minute…). But that’s the norm on this team. It’s to be expected. The one constant in the three losses, however, is terrible production from the guards coming off the bench.

From game to game there is little consistency in the roster among particular players (other than LBJ). But the formula I laid out a few paragraphs ago is approximately what happens in each game. So far the individual inconsistency has been muted by the overall consistency of the team: LBJ and a couple other front court players (usually Gooden, often Marshall, sometimes Z or Verejao) play great games and one or two of the back court players plays a good game. From game to game it’s hard to say who will be the good or great players, but in each game the Cavs have a number of them, mostly from the forwards and centers but almost always from at least one or two guards.

A lot of credit has to be given to Mike Brown. He’s done an admirable job delegating the minutes to the players who are playing the best in any game. The Cavs go about ten deep, and they go ten deep out of necessity. Outside of LeBron the Cavs have no other superstar. Winning consitently without two great players is very hard to do in the NBA. Just cast glance at, say, the last 20 NBA champions. As David Berri has noted about the Washington Wizards, it’s difficult to imagine them being able to improve much with their current roster. The Wizards have one great player (Arenas) and a smattering of decent players, none of which have shown any signs of being able to transform into great players.

This is precisely what the Cavs are doing, however. Granted, we are only 11 games into the season, so the long-term effects of not having a reliable #2 option might not yet be apparent. But so far this season when the Cavs have had at least two players who have played well above average in a game (WS/min at least .100 above average), that player (like, the guy who’s not LBJ) has played at least 20 minutes, and more often than not plays more than 26 minutes. Only once has there been a player who’s played well above average not during scrub duty who’s played less than 20 minutes, and that time the player played 17 minutes (Snow, 11/18). Again, the likelihood of that #2 player being a starter is about equal to the likelihood of that #2 player being a sub. Regardless, however, Brown is finding ways to make sure that player plays a lot of minutes. This is fairly incredible. Trust me.

You can see the same thing going on out West, with the Utah Jazz. Just look at a handful of Jazz boxscores and you’ll notice that Jerry Sloan is doing exactly the sort of careful juggling act as Brown: playing a lot of players but making sure that the most productive players are getting a lot of minutes even if who those productive players are changes from game to game. Both the Cavs and the Jazz are getting an astonishing amount of production from the bench. That has as much to do with the coaching as anything. Jerry Sloan is an elite NBA head coach. Mike Brown certainly hasn’t earned that status. But so far this season Brown has been as good as anyone.

The Disappointment Zone Boxscore from last night’s game:

11112.jpg

Posted in Cleveland Cavaliers, statistics | Leave a Comment »