Preparing for an Indian Summer and hoping for Cavalier changes: While We're Waiting...

The Cleveland Indians are in first place in their division, but does fan interest depend at all on the outcome of the NBA Finals? And the Cavaliers need to make some changes if they want any chance of winning.

Happy Tuesday, WFNY!

The Cleveland Cavaliers are in the NBA Finals trying to end Cleveland’s championship drought, so of course we’re going to start there this morning. Right?

Hmm, maybe not. You know what? There’s a different Cleveland team that deserves top billing this morning. That’s your first place Cleveland Indians. The Tribe took down the Seattle Mariners last night in Seattle and with that win now sit 2.5 games in front of the Kansas City Royals for first place in the American League Central Division. The Indians have won seven of their last ten games, including six in a row now. The Chicago White Sox, who led the Central for much of the early part of the season, have completely fallen back to their expected level of quality and now sit in fourth. The Royals have all kinds of fundamental problems and are a bit of a mess right now. In third place, the Detroit Tigers are a bit of an enigma. The point is, this division is there for the taking if the Indians so want it.

https://twitter.com/JacobLRosen/status/740111540209262593

I’ll be the first to admit, I haven’t been paying as close attention to the Indians as I should. With everything going on in the NBA Playoffs lately, I’ve been pretty focused singularly on the Cavaliers and their run to the Finals. I’m pretty sure the last time I wrote about the Indians, I was lamenting them getting off to yet another slow start to the season. Since I wrote about them, the team has mostly been on a tear, with the exception of a few slip ups against some of the better teams in the league.

As I sit here and think about the Cleveland Indians this morning, I find myself pondering what the fans’ collective reaction to this team will be. And will the outcome of the NBA Finals have any bearing on that reaction? A shocking comeback Finals win for the Cavaliers would obviously steal the spotlight from the Indians for a while, but I’d like to believe the euphoria of finally winning would provide so much goodwill for Cleveland sports teams that Cleveland fans would support the Indians more than ever. I worry that the more likely scenario, another disappointing loss in a Championship appearance, will have a more severe impact.

I could certainly see a situation where fans are so worn down by another series loss that the focus becomes LeBron’s future, what changes the Cavaliers need to make, what went wrong in the Finals, etc. Everything but the Indians. And then before you know it, everyone starts getting excited about Browns training camp. Suddenly it’s August and nobody is talking about, watching, or paying attention to a Cleveland Indians team with a chance to get into the MLB Playoffs. That thought bums me out.

But make no mistake, I am part of the problem. I will probably be one of those people unable to shake myself out of my post-Finals malaise. I already feel it circling around me. I never thought the Cavaliers were going to win this series. I’m not surprised by anything I’ve seen so far in that series. So why am I so sad about? Because I love the players on this Cavaliers team and it makes me sad to see them unable to do anything about the Warriors. And I now fear that sadness will leave a cloud over my head that will obscure my view of what the Indians are doing.

This shouldn’t be a binary thing. I talk to people all the time about how much I loathe how fractured Twitter seems to make sports fans. Or is this just a Cleveland thing? I honestly don’t know. But we apply labels to it. There’s Cavs Twitter, Indians Twitter, and Browns Twitter. Somehow there’s not just Cleveland Fans Twitter. It feels like we are constantly drawing gratuitous lines in the sand and holding a gun to our own heads and forcing ourselves to pick a side.

We’re all on the same side of those lines. We just don’t see it that way, sometimes. I shouldn’t let my feelings about one team affect how I feel about the other teams. If the Cavaliers lose, I need to shake it off and get right back into it with the Indians. That’s what the spirit of waiting for next year is all about. No matter how many losing hands we may be dealt, we’ll always deal ourselves a new one and try again.

The bottom line here, and the point of all of this, is that the Indians are in first place despite having some key injuries to overcome. They currently have the fourth best record in the American League and they have the fifth best run differential in all of baseball. This is a good team capable of big things, and that’s something worth embracing.

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Are the Cavaliers done?

As the Cavaliers currently sit in an 0-2 hole in the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors, the question everyone wants to know the answer to is whether or not coming home for two games can make a difference.

I’ve been perfectly clear from early on in the regular season. I do not think the Cavaliers match up well with the Warriors and I don’t think they will beat them in a best of seven series. I remember talking about this months ago on the WFNY Podcast with Craig Lyndall, that I simply think this is about the worst matchup you could possibly find for this Cavaliers team. There are definitely other NBA teams who match up with the Warriors much better than Cleveland does.

But are the Cavs done? Not quite yet. The Cavs are capable of playing out of their minds for two games at the Q to even up this series and make it interesting. It’s perhaps not the most likely scenario, but it is plausible. It could happen. But how?

A lot of people made a lot of noise about how different this Cavaliers team is from the team that lost in six to the Warriors last season. And that’s accurate. But so often that noise was made with the assumption that the Warriors are the same. And they’re not. They are so much better than the team Cleveland played last year. They are playing with a confidence and certainty that they didn’t always have last year. But still, if I were Ty Lue, I would go back and try to figure out what was working in Games 2 and 3 last year and see if there are ways to replicate them this year.

As rough as this season has been for Timofey Mozgov, maybe it’s time to try starting him for a game. With Tristan Thompson struggling with this matchup, and with seeing the way Oklahoma City’s raw size bothered the Warriors at times, maybe it’s time to dust off Mozgov and see if he can muster up the ghost of Mozgov past for one more series. Maybe the Cavaliers should consider playing Kyrie Irving and Matthew Dellavedova together. I wouldn’t be totally opposed to a starting lineup for Game 3 of Delly, Irving, James, Love (assuming he’s cleared to play), and Mozgov. Maybe JR Smith starting the game on the bench will settle him down a bit. Maybe mixing things up and putting Irving, JR, and Frye on the floor together will create a little bit more spacing to get the perimeter shooters more shots and open looks.

Anything is worth trying at this point. Doing the same thing again and expecting different results is foolish. The Warriors are not bothered by what the Cavaliers have tried. It’s time to try something different and see what works. And when you find what works, stick with it until Kerr counters. And when Kerr counters, recognize it quicker and make an adjustment of your own. These are things that must happen if the Cavaliers are going to have any chance.

And finally, the Cavaliers need to start knocking down some shots. The Warriors crush opponents’ wills by routinely knocking down tough shots when they need them. And when they get an open look? Forget about it. That ball is going through the net. The Cavaliers? It seems like a prayer even when they get wide open shots. Regardless of what we can say about defense or shot selection or anything like that, at the very core of this situation, the Warriors are simply shooting the ball better than the Cavs.

Less than 5ft

5-9 ft

10-14 ft

15-19 ft

20-24 ft

25-29 ft

Cleveland Cavaliers

49.3% 8.3% 35.7% 25% 25% 30%

Golden State Warriors

64.1% 50% 44.4% 61.5% 30.8% 43.8%

Game 3 is about as “must win” as a game can get without being an actual elimination game for the Cavaliers. Basketball is such a reactionary sport to follow. When a team makes shots, we celebrate them. When they take the same shots but miss them, we lament the “awful” shot selection. When a team wins two games in a row, we call them unbeatable. When a team loses two in a row, it feels like they can never possibly win even one game in the series. Win the next two games, and suddenly this series will feel very different for both teams.

So no, this series isn’t over. It’s just getting very close.

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Get ready for the JR Smith reality show!

The timing of this is pretty awful, what with JR Smith playing in the finals and all, but JR is trying to launch his own reality show and he is using Kickstart to fund the project.

I’m sure JR will probably get some heat for the optics of this campaign launching during the Finals, but let’s be real. This is all being handled by the professionals who are actually creating the show. JR is just the name and face applied to the page. There’s no way this is an actual distraction.

But having said that, I hope this project gets funded because I would love to watch a show chronicling one of the most infinitely fascinating players I have ever followed in the NBA. The show is taking a deeper look at JR’s family life off the court and the reformation of his character and image in the league. It will definitely be something I’ll be looking out for.

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That’s all I have for you today, WFNY. Enjoy the rest of your week and here’s to the Cavaliers turning around this series, and here’s to a summer full of meaningful Indians baseball!


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