The Disappointment Zone

Musings from a Cleveland sports fan

Archive for May, 2007

I hate the Pistons

Posted by disappointmentzone on 31 May 2007

The Pistons are smug, pompous, over-confident pricks.

“Ain’t nobody perfect. Even though the majority of the time we come through in the fourth and make the right plays, we’re not perfect. It’s not going to go the way we plan all the time.” — Tayshaun Prince

“We raised the bar so high, especially in late-game-type situations, always making the right play so that when we finally do make the wrong play, it sticks out even greater.” — Chauncey Billups

“Our ‘A’ game and their ‘A’ game are different. We haven’t played our ‘A’ game yet. Hopefully, it’s coming soon.” — Chauncey Billups

So are the Detroit media.

“It would be one thing if the Pistons were blown out in both games at Quicken Loans Arena and had no chance to win. But that hardly was the case. In fact, just as easily as the Pistons lost, they could have won both with some execution on offense down the stretch.

And for those sports-talk radio heads screaming that the sky is falling: Relax. No one picked the Pistons to sweep this best-of-seven, Eastern Conference finals series against LeBron James and the Cavaliers.” — Rob Parker, Detroit News

Michigan sucks.

Go Cavs!

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Posted in Cleveland Cavaliers | 1 Comment »

Daequan Cook stays in draft, unless hurt

Posted by disappointmentzone on 31 May 2007

ESPN.com is reporting that Daequan Cook will stay in the NBA draft but will wait to sign with an agent. The only way he will drop out of the draft is if he is injured in the next two weeks, the article reports.

So you know what that means, OSU faithful.

I suggest breaking his right leg. Not a serious break, mind you. Just enough to warrant a cast up to his knee and the occasional use of a wheel chair. If you damage his left leg then you run into the prospect of losing a little spring in his jump. You damage the right leg and you probably just lose a little quickness, at least at first. But it’s early in the summer (or will be in a day) and he’ll be more than healed by the time practice rolls around. In the meantime, no NBA GM in his right mind would consider wasting a pick on him, especially in draft as deep as this one. This forces him to stay in school, where he belongs, lest he turn into an Omar Cook-type player.

Send your warm wishes and goodbyes. One of our sons is going to the NBA!

Posted in Ohio State Buckeyes | Leave a Comment »

ECF: Game 4: Watch out

Posted by disappointmentzone on 30 May 2007

Don’t look now but the Cavs have the Pistons on the ropes. I realize the series is tied 2-2 with only one more game to be played in Cleveland, but Detroit cannot like what has happened this series, let alone what happened in game four. The Cavs had their typical sleepwalking third quarter, allowing the Pistons to outscore them by nine, 24-15, but the Cavs outscored the Pistons in the other three quarters and after a nice outburst in the middle of the fourth quarter the game was never really close. Detroit has yet to play particularly well in the series and by now you have to chalk that up to the Cavs’ defense.

The game ball has to go to Daniel Gibson, who played inspired basketball that belied his youth and inexperience. Many Cavs fans had been waiting for Gibson to replace Hughes — or at least for Hughes to depart for the bench — but in the moments leading up to tipoff I was quite nervous about how Gibson would respond.

So quickly did we find out.

4-7 from the field, 12-12 from the line, 21 points — an extremely satisfying line from a position we’ve come to expect nothing from. Of course, we all knew Gibson could score. But Gibson played quite well against Billups, too. Sure, Chauncey scored 23 points, but he only shot 6-16 from the field, missing his final six shots, and had five turnovers. With the exception of a couple baskets Billups lived mostly on the outside, which played right into Gibson’s defensive strengths (quickness) while mitigating his own offensive advantage over Gibson (size).

The evolution of Daniel Gibson is a sight to behold.

It is worth mentioning that Hughes played valiantly in spite of his injured foot. You probably can’t overstate the importance of Hughes starting the game instead of Gibson, for it allowed Gibson to continue in his normal role off the bench and it allowed Hughes to establish the defensive tone of the game in the way he had the previous three games. I rip on Hughes a lot on this blog, but I have nothing but positive words for him after game four. Heck, I’m not even going to mention that he shot just 1-6 from the field….oops.

Drew Gooden might get overshadowed by Gibson and James, but Gooden was fantastic, making up for a lackluster series. If there were three game balls to go around he would get one.

Then there is LeBron, who might be on a vendetta after games one and two. I do not envy Tayshaun Prince.

Oh, and we are just two more Rasheed Wallace technical fouls away from a one game suspension. I doubt he’d ever pick up a technical at home, but you never know. If I were Mike Brown I would advise Varejao not to shower for the rest of the series, on the hope that his rancid Brazilian odor might drive Wallace over the edge. Hey, any advantage you can get.

game4.jpg

As you can see LBJ was the player of the game. Gooden and Gibson were almost identically excellent. The rest of the team played poorly (except Eric Snow, but he only played one minute so he doesn’t really count). That might be just as good of a sign as Gibson playing well: some of those guys are bound to bounce back. If Gibson sticks to form then I like the team’s chances in game five.

Posted in Cleveland Cavaliers, statistics | 1 Comment »

Aston Villa: Year in Review

Posted by disappointmentzone on 29 May 2007

A big thanks goes out to Soccer Spot for providing outstanding coverage this season of Cleveland’s second-best football team, Aston Villa. Soccer Spot is now blogging about FC Barcelona for The Offside (probably the best soccer blog in the universe) and is currently in contract negotiations with the DZ for a second year as the outfit in charge of keeping us informed about Villa. We are hoping to lock him up in a long term deal. His words follow. Enjoy!

Aston Villa 2006/07: Success, in moderation. Lots of moderation.

So the EPL season is over. 38 games and our line looks somewhat familiar: 50pts from 11 wins, 17 draws, and 10 losses; all that places Villa squarely in the middle of the table in 11th place. Not quite good enough for top half, not really bad enough for bottom half. Instead of decrying that this was a wasted year, there are several things to build on that should be discussed.

Here is a quick look at the stats for Villa:

villastats.jpg

The thing is, Villa were only 3 wins from being in the UEFA Cup (Everton, in 6th, ended with 58 points). The middle of the pack was tightly squeezed with Everton, Bolton, Reading, Portsmouth, Blackburn, and Villa all scrunched in between 58 and 50 points. Convert a few of those draws (any of the 17) to wins and Villa are in Europe again, even if it is the NIT of international club soccer. FC Sevilla of Spain seems pretty pleased with itself after winning the Cup for the second year in a row. Happy enough, anyway, to be envied. Not that I have gained any respect for the UEFA Cup or anything. It’s still hardly mentionable.

In the end, it seems that the issues Villa dealt with weren’t on the defensive end, especially not at home. With the 6th fewest goals allowed overall (4th at home and tied for 7th away), the backline held firm enough. The goals for, while 2 more than goals against overall, put Villa in 12th (15th at home, while tied for 3rd away). It’s impressive that Villa averaged 1.21 goals per away game (23 in 19), but their mediocre tally at home (1.05goals/game, or 20 in 19) consigned them to always fighting an uphill battle. Villa also accounted for fully 1/7 of their total home goals (3) in their final game against Sheffield United, a team that was relegated, though just barely.

Perhaps the biggest reason Villa were unable to score more goals were their forwards. At the start of the season Milan Baros was the star striker and Juan Pablo Angel was his solid backup. Both are gone now, the former at Olympique Lyonnais and the latter at New York Red Bull. A look at Baros’ success at Lyon and his replacement John Carew’s relative anonymity at Villa would suggest that the move was not a positive one. 3 goals for Carew since January is hardly thrilling, but he came at a far lower price than did Watford’s Ashley Young, who joined Villa at the same time yet has only registered 2 goals. Chris Sutton also failed to deliver, scoring only once in 8 EPL appearances, but he was brought in as a third-stringer, really. Plus, dude is 34, which isn’t a particularly young age for a pro soccer player. An early injury to Luke Moore caused some of the goal-scoring issues, but the rise of Gabby Agbonlahor has been a most welcome and necessary part of Villa’s “fortunes” this season.

I hate to say “I told you so” about Carew, who scored once in 7 league games and once in two Champions League games with Lyon during the first half of the season, but, well, I told you so. Perhaps he will adjust to the English game and Martin O’Neill’s system, but I doubt it. Ashley Young, on the other hand, I had expected a little more out of, especially after he scored on his Villa debut against Newcastle. Both Carew and Young have assists (2 and 3 respectively), but they certainly aren’t playmakers. Young has the chance to prove himself over the next year, but he’ll likely start on the bench behind Moore, who was one of the leading lights of the team until a knee injury kept him out for several months. Both Young and Moore are in their early 20s (both are currently 21, but Young will turn 22 in July) and so they have yet to realize their full potential. Young has perhaps the better “upside” but Moore has proven himself more consistent so far.

Overestimating Moore’s impact is, of course, easy to do, but his record is decent, especially when compared to Young’s. 2 of his 4 goals came after his injury and perhaps that means he’ll be able to reproduce his form from the 2005/06 season which saw him score 8 goals in 16 appearances (7 starts, 11 substitutions).

As I said, Young should also improve and the other young players on the team should be more comfortable with Martin O’Neill’s system. Still, the year was slightly disappointing overall. 11th in the league means nothing more than 17th or 7th (The UEFA Intertoto Cup is the NIT of the NIT of soccer. Like if you went 0-8 in your conference and you still got a bowl bid based on your 2-2 non-conference record. Fantastic! I wish we were in it. Oh wait, no I don’t). However, the UEFA Cup was a possibility that never materialized even though Villa are such nice guys. Going out early-ish in the FA Cup to Manchester United in the 3rd round was a tough break as ManU have proven somewhat good this season and the loss came only after second-string keeper Gabor Kiraly made a silly error and gifted the second goal of a 2-1 defeat in stoppage time. A loss nonetheless. [The other goal was Henrik Larsson’s first of two goals for Manchester United. I’m a big Larsson fan from his few days at Barcelona, but I was definitely rooting against him in that game…] The Carling Cup ended in a disaster in Round 4 after a 4-0 drubbing by eventual champions Chelsea. A pathetic performance with only 1 shot on goal, but it was against Chelsea’s first team. Still: ouch.

The team made strides and finished the year strongly, not losing in their last 9 games (4 wins, 5 draws), which bodes well for next year, though there will no doubt be some rather large changes either through arrivals or departures will which cause Villa to need to re-bond as a unit in order to not finish in the bottom half of the league table. Some analysts have suggested Villa look for more strikers, but a stronger midfield should also be on the agenda. Nigel Roe-Coker of West Ham has been suggested and Steven Naismith, the Scottish Premier League Young Player of the Year as well as keeper Craig Gordon could be on their way to Villa Park, but with Jlloyd Samuel off to Bolton, a solid defender should be found at some point, though not an expensive one since all the serious cash should be put towards someone who can create goals. There are several players in Scotland that O’Neill would like to nab, but maybe looking to the continent, especially Spain, would do some wonders for Villa.

Next season, arch-rivals Birmingham are back in the Premier League and Villa are going to have to soundly beat them in 2 matches. Sounds like a good old time.

For now, a good season and until the preview of the next one, enjoy the other Cleveland sports.

Posted in Aston Villa/English Premier League | 2 Comments »

Thank you, Mike Brown

Posted by disappointmentzone on 28 May 2007

You did it, Mike Brown. It may have taken a slight injury to get you to pull the trigger, but whatever. We don’t care how you got there, we are just celebrating that you showed up at all. So welcome to the club, Mike Brown. May you keep Larry Hughes on the bench permanently.

Here are the numbers:

game3.jpg

As you can see, the game ball goes to LeBron. He was much more aggressive on offense, establishing early on an inside presence. His one mistake was not taking Hamilton to the block when Hamilton was guarding him, which was quite often in the fourth quarter. James ended up knocking down about three huge shots with Hamilton on him, but they were low-percentage shots. I understand that James was feeling it. That said, he could have easily punished Hamilton down low.

Sasha Pavlovic finally stepped up, grabbing his first rebound of the series in addition to his first assist. He finished with five assists and a number of critical field goals. Lest it go unnoticed, Pavlovic played outstanding defense, too.

The biggest news of the night had to be Daniel Gibson. He played outstanding basketball, taking and making a couple big shots late int he game. He also came up huge defensively (the official stats as of 11pm CST do not credit Gibson with any steals, which is a mistake; his WS should be higher). His strip against Prince was about as big a defensive play as there was all game. It’s probably a poor strategy to have Gibson switch on pick and rolls — Prince has almost a foot advantage over Gibson to compliment a nice low-post game — but my guess is that Mike Brown was not planning on playing Gibson during crunch time and this will be fixed before game 4.

Speaking of which, kudos to Brown for playing Gibson and double kudos for benching Hughes. Hughes hurting his foot might be the best thing to happen to the Cavs this series. Interestingly, the TNT crew reported during the game that Hughes was able to play and that Brown elected to stick with Gibson. So triple kudos to Brown for making the smart basketball move. A lot of us had wondered if you had it in you. I guess you do.

Posted in Cleveland Cavaliers, statistics | Leave a Comment »

ECF: Game 3: positive thinking

Posted by disappointmentzone on 26 May 2007

So the Cavs suffered two crushing blows at the hands of the Pistons in Detroit. That’s the bad news. The good news is the the Cavs could have won both games easily. Cavs show up in the third quarter? 2-0, Cleveland. Marshall and James? Refs? Hughes? Andy? come through in the clutch? 2-0, Cleveland. Refs pull their whistles out of their throats? 2-0, Cleveland.

Now the scene shifts to Cleveland.

If the Cavs can hold home court against the Pistons then I give the team a greater than 50% chance of beating Detroit. That’s right. If the Cavs head back to Detroit 2-2 then I like where the Cavs are sitting.

There is no amount of magical thinking that will allow the Pistons to overcome the thought that they are lucky to be leaving Detroit without dropping at least one game. The Pistons can give all the lip service they want about how “both teams played hard” or whatever it is they are saying so that their quotes don’t show up on the bulletin boards in the Cavs’ locker room, but the Pistons clearly think they are far superior to the Cavs. You know how Tim Duncan overtly exculpates himself after every slight infraction, eyes bulging from a head cocked in disbelief, unsure how it is that a referee could whistle him for a foul? That sort of attitude is born from a deeply-held belief in one’s superiority. The Pistons have reacted in a similar fashion after every whistle this series, and the actions are clear: the Pistons think they are above the Cavs and that the margin is not even close.

So how is it that the Cavs have twice held the lead in the fourth quarter? How is it that the Pistons have had to rely on their good fortune twice (Marshall missing an open three; Hughes missing a dinker) in order to win?

After a few days one thing has become crystal clear: the Cavs lost the first two games. The Pistons won both games, but they did not win both games. The difference is slight but the importance is undeniable.

The Pistons have not played like a team that is of a different order than the Cavs. The Pistons are aging, they are undersized, and they lack the sort of verve you see in some of the faces of the Cavs. They act as though they are entitled to a place in the NBA Finals, but their performance so far does not suggest they do.

And there is no way that thought has escaped their minds. Deep down the Pistons must realize how lucky they are to be up 2-0 on a team that has played two terrible second halves, on a team plagued by no-calls and missed shots.

If the Cavs come out Sunday night and avoid their typical problems — sluggish third quarter, referee discrimination, Larry Hughes — then they should win decidedly. The Pistons will chalk it up to “taking care of home court” and “doing what they are supposed to do”. It’s what the Pistons did last year. It’s what the Pistons will do this year. It’s what the Pistons do.

But make no mistake: that little kernel of honesty in every Piston heart telling them that the Cavs aren’t a doormat, telling them that they should be thankful they aren’t down 3-0, that kernel will soften and grow.

And if the Cavs win game 4, suddenly that kernel will grow into the sort of doubt that can’t be put out of mind. Going back to Detroit the Pistons will be riding a losing streak and the Cavs will be hot. Given the margin in the first two games of the series, confidence may be all the Cavs need in order to pull out a win. And if they do — look out.

The Cavs could have eliminated the Pistons last year. They botched their chance and everyone chalked it up to a valuable learning experience.

It’s time to cash in.

Win two in Cleveland and it’s a whole new series.

Posted in Cleveland Cavaliers | Leave a Comment »

Nothing new here

Posted by disappointmentzone on 26 May 2007

I happen to be a fan of Mike Brown. I think he has worked wonders to get this team to play such good defense so quickly after arriving in Cleveland. We should not forget how horrible the team was in this capacity in the seasons before Brown arrived. Now the Cavs are one of the top defensive teams in the league. With LBJ in tow the Cavs should always have a chance to win provided they play good defense. In the Mike Brown Era, that happens more often than not and the last two games against Detroit are perfect examples. Keeping the Pistons to 79 points in two consecutive games is something to hang your hat on. Both games could have been won.

That said, the mark of a good coach is how well one adjusts. Steadfast resoluteness is more often a flaw than a virtue. What we are witnessing against the Pistons is not a new set of problems. The crappy offense and terrible third quarters have been blatant issues the entire season. Allow me to dip into the archive for examples:

The dreaded third quarter

I’ve figured it out

Posted in Cleveland Cavaliers | Leave a Comment »

Get your Cavs ECF Champions tee shirt

Posted by disappointmentzone on 25 May 2007

Count the NBA Store among the loyal faithful still giving the Cavs a chance to win the Eastern Conference Finals. To prove their faith is strong and true they’ll sell you a Cleveland Cavaliers 2007 Eastern Conference Champions tee shirt! Just $19.99.

tee-shirt.jpg

Just so you don’t think this is a joke, here is the link to the order page.

I’d act quickly.

PS: I’ve added a few more Cleveland sports blogs to the old blogroll. Cast your glance to the right sidebar for some good times.

Posted in Cleveland Cavaliers | Leave a Comment »

That’s it!

Posted by disappointmentzone on 24 May 2007

I’m about to list all of the qualities Larry Hughes brings to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Ready? Here we go.

1) Slightly above average defense.

2)

3)

4)

5)

6)

7)

8 ) Pretty tattoos.

9)

10)

That’s it.

What more proof do you need?

In only one season in his entire career has Hughes ever been within three-point distance of being a good basketball player. That was the year before he signed with the Cavs. That was also — wait for it — his contract year! He scored more points than he ever had and the front office panicked after losing out on Allen and Redd. When you put two and two together you get a $60 million noose around the team’s neck. I used to be bothered by Hughes’s bloated contract.

No longer.

Now I’m bothered by his sheer inability to play basketball well. I’m not talking about playing basketball like a $60 million superstar should, or playing great basketball, or even good basketball. I’m talking about playing basketball at a standard that warrants more than 20 minutes a game and a spot on the floor in the final seconds.

You know what would make me happy? A back court of Gibson and Pavlovic, with Snow coming off the bench. What does Hughes offer that Snow doesn’t? Both are good on defense and terrible on offense. Both can defend multiple positions (and Snow is more versatile than Hughes, being able to defend PG-SF). Neither can shoot well. We all need to wake up and realize that they are practically the same player.

But there are two key differences, and those differences tip the balance to Snow.

First, Snow doesn’t turn the ball over as often as Hughes. I’m not talking about bad passes and other typical turnovers — both are plagued roughly the same in this regard. I am talking about your piss-poor shots that have a 14% chance of going in that Hughes just loves to take (especially early in the shot clock). As far as I’m concerned those shots are just as detrimental to winning as a bad entry pass. (NB: Per 40 minutes Hughes averages more turnovers than Snow)

Second, Snow actually generates assists. Per 40 minutes, Snow averages 6.9 assists. Hughes? 3.9. It is incredible that Hughes can play with one of the most dominant scorers in the NBA and still only record three assists in game 2 of the ECF. You know who else had three assists in game 2? Drew Gooden. In 16 minutes. Daniel Gibson had three assists, too. Took him all of 19 minutes. Hughes played 38 minutes, in case you were wondering. (The Gooden-Gibson combo also only had two turnovers, or the same number as Hughes)

So what has prompted this bit of outrage? Larry Hughes missing a WIDE OPEN six-foot jumper as time was expiring. The shot was telling. Not only did Hughes miss it (No surprise there — he actually cannot shoot. Just look at the numbers. I’m not just being ornery here. I am not making things up. The guy can’t shoot. It’s as simple as that) but Hughes also didn’t try to bank it in. In that situation the backboard should have been his best friend. If he knew how to shoot he would have tried to bank it. But he didn’t. The clank of the ball colliding with the iron is still reverberating across the Erie coastline.

Hughes’s line: 4 points. 3 assists. 2 turnovers. 1 loss.

Yes, you can pin that loss entirely on Hughes. He played terribly bad basketball.

2-9 shooting? 3 rebounds? 38 minutes?!?

Why was Hughes on the court at the end of the game? The Cavs needed to score. Hughes is not a good scorer.

OK, so you can pin some of the blame on Mike Brown as well.

My favorite moment was right after Hughes missed. The camera cut to Daniel Gibson and Damon Jones. Both are better shooters than Hughes. Both were on the bench.

Mike Brown would get taken to the cleaners if he had Eric Snow on the court in the final seconds of a game with the Cavs trailing by one and with possession of the ball. It’s about time to wake up to the fact that Hughes is a marginally better shooter than Snow.

No more ranting and raving.

Hughes sucks. Play Gibson. Bring Snow off the bench. If both of those guys get in foul trouble or are in desperate need of a break, then bring in Hughes.

I am 87% serious.

Posted in Cleveland Cavaliers, statistics | 11 Comments »

Gooden at PG?

Posted by disappointmentzone on 23 May 2007

That headline is a joke, but I’m going to toss out a few interesting stats that might make you think otherwise (though probably not).

In the 2007 playoffs LeBron James leads the team with an assist ratio of 23.55. Assist ratio is a measure of the number of assists a player generates per 100 possessions. 23.55 is quite good, especially for a small forward.

Sasha Pavlovic is second, generating 14.20 assists per 100 possessions. We all pay attention to his inconsistent-but-pretty shooting stroke and rightly note his poor ball-handling, but who’d have guessed that he’s our second-best assist man? I mean, it’s not like he gets that many touches per game. I’d put him at #4, with only Gooden getting fewer touches.

As you’d expect, Larry Hughes is third on the team, with an assists ration of 12.85. He is the point guard, after all. It’s his job to distribute the basketball to people who will score. (1) By sheer virtue of playing the position he has to dish out a few assists, right? And he does! Just not that many.

You’d never guess the two players vying to take over that coveted #3 assist man spot: Drew Gooden (10.77) and Anderson Varejao (10.24). (2) What might be even more surprising is how close they are to catching Hughes.

But being a point guard is about more than dishing out assists. You also have to secure the ball, which means one must factor in turnovers as well. This is where things get interesting.

Just as you can measure assists per 100 possessions you can also measure turnovers per 100 possessions. And who’s the big leader in this category? Pavlovic! His turnover ratio is 25.33, thanks to that wonderful propensity to dribble the ball off of his butt. Next in line? Hughes! His turnover ratio is 24.85. Varejao is third at 19.01. Where’s Gooden? Near the bottom, actually. His turnover ratio is just 12.60. This is mostly due to the fact that he doesn’t touch the ball that often, but still. Gooden has routinely been under-appreciated and this is just another area where he is better than most people think.

To wit: If you take the difference between assist ratio and turnover ratio he comes in second on the team, behind only LeBron, who is the only player on the team with a positive differential in the playoffs (Daniel Gibson is darn close, at -.689). Gooden’s differential is just -1.827. Hughes (-11.999), meanwhile, is battling Ilgauskas (-12.027) for the worst differential.

Anyone who still thinks that Hughes could be the answer at point guard must hope he learns how to a) generate assists and b) not turn the ball over. So far there are no signs of that happening.

Good luck, Mr. Ferry.

1: What does it mean when your starting point guard has a relatively pathetic assist ratio when he has one of the most dominating scorers in the league on his team? Does Hughes just not pass to LBJ? How does this happen?

2: Quick: Is it pathetic that these two big men generate almost as many assists as our point guard or pathetic that our point guard generates almost as many assists as our starting power forward and backup center?

Posted in Cleveland Cavaliers, statistics | Leave a Comment »