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News, Scores, Teams, Stories & More on Northeast OH Sports on cleveland.com

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    A quarter of the Indians season is gone in a blur of bad baseball and injuries. What awaits the Indians and their fans for the remainder of the season doesn't look so hot either.

    sizemore-cc-sliding.jpgIf Grady Sizemore's ailing knee keeps him out for a prolonged period this summer, there would be little reason to believe the Indians' offense can ever get in gear.

    HOT CORNER
    Moving day: This is the time of year that the Indians start moving their prospects to the next level. Outfielder Nick Weglarz jumped from Class AA Akron to Class AAA Columbus this weekend after Shelley Duncan was promoted to Cleveland. Alex White, the No. 1 pick in 2009, just moved from Class A Kinston to Akron following Kelvin De La Cruz. Left-hander Nick Hagadone, obtained from Boston in the Victor Martinez deal last year, is expected to move from Kinston to Akron in the next 10 days.
    Third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, the top pick in 2008, won’t be moving anytime soon. He has an impingement in his right shoulder and will be shut down for the next several days. The Indians are still deciding if he’ll go on the disabled list.

    Central casting: The Twins went into the interleague portion of their schedule with a 108-72 record since 2004. They’re tied with the Angels for the best record in baseball from 2004-09. “I have no rhyme or reason,” explained manager Ron Gardenhire to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. ... Lots of smoke surrounding the disappointing White Sox. GM Ken Williams has already had to say he’s not ready to fire manager Ozzie Guillen and his coaches. ... When Royals pitchers play catch between games, new manager Ned Yost has them throwing off the mound to catchers instead of playing catch with each other on flat ground. ... The Tigers had an all-rookie starting outfield of Brennan Boesch, Austin Jackson and Casper Wells on Wednesday for the first time, according to STATS, since July 4, 2003.

    Nose for the game: There’s nothing like rich owners and their toys.
    When the late Charlie Finley owned the Oakland A’s, he let his pet mule eat in the press room. Marge Schott, late owner of the Reds, let her St. Bernard romp on the field before games. Former Braves owner Ted Turner once tried to manage his team from the dugout.
    Now you have Mark Lerner, principal owner of the Nationals, who got hit in the nose while shagging fly balls in the outfield before Thursday’s game. It took 30 stitches to stop the bleeding, but Lerner says it won’t keep him out of the outfield. Next time he may want to consider a catcher’s mask.

    THE RANT
    In spring training, the Indians went 5-0-1 against the Reds. They share the same ballpark in Goodyear, Ariz., so it was easy for them to play each other.
    On Friday the Reds arrived at Progressive Field to start the six-game interleague series with the Indians. They were a half-game out of first place in the NL Central, while the Indians were last in the AL Central. It proves that spring training is more a snapshot than a three-hour feature film of what the upcoming season could look like.
    While the Reds may be playing better than projected, the Indians are meeting most preseason predictions head on. Does that mean new manager Manny Acta didn’t prepare the Indians the right way in February and March? Not at all.
    Acta took the only approach he could take — be aggressive, bring his team together in mid-March and win as many Cactus League games as possible in an effort to start the regular season at full stride. After watching the Indians stumble through April on the way to 97 losses in 2009, he had no choice.
    The Indians were 9-13 in April. Certainly not the start Acta wanted, but with an impotent offense, lacking power, speed and high-average hitters, serious injuries to Grady Sizemore and Asdrubal Cabrera and a roster bound to get younger, 9-13 might look like a Usain Bolt 100-meter time by the end of this season.

    STAT-O-MATIC
    10 count: Boston’s Josh Beckett, 1-1 with a 7.79 ERA (37 earned runs in 45 2/3 innings) in his last 10 starts, was placed on the disabled list last week.
    Save me: Trevor Hoffman has already blown five saves this year for Milwaukee after blowing four in 41 chances last year.
    Good first impression: The Royals are 6-2 since Yost replaced Trey Hillman as manager on May 13.
    -- Paul Hoynes
    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- In spring training the consensus for the best adjective for the Indians' 2010 season was ... bad. So far, the consensus is right.

    The Indians completed their 40th game Friday with a 7-4 loss to Cincinnati. It made them 15-25 and the sole proprietors of last place in the AL Central with a quarter of the season gone. Even their occasional cellar-mates, the Kansas City Royals, moved out last week after a two-game sweep at Progressive Field.

    The immediate future doesn't hold much hope for improvement. The injuries to shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and center fielder Grady Sizemore are devastating. Cabrera is scheduled to miss eight to 10 weeks with a broken ulna bone in his left forearm. Sizemore is on the 15-day disabled list with a bruised left knee.

    Cabrera, if all goes well, might be back by August. Head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff said Sizemore's injury could require surgery. The Indians, at the moment, don't really know when he will return.

    "We're gathering medical opinions," said GM Mark Shapiro. "There is a broad range of potential return dates."

    That sounds more serious than a two-week breather on the DL.

    Which leaves manager Manny Acta with a nonexistent offense, a teetering rotation and a bullpen in need of closer Kerry Wood to convert the few save situations the offense produces.

    So let's cut to the chase. When does catcher Carlos Santana make his way from Class AAA Columbus to Cleveland? If all is lost, isn't it time to go young across the diamond?

    It seems not. At least where Santana and Michael Brantley are concerned.

    Santana's bat would certainly look good in Acta's lineup, but the Indians' concerns about Santana's defense appear to be real. Scouts say certain parts of Santana's defensive game would get exposed at the big-league level if they aren't corrected in Columbus.

    Besides, Lou Marson has done a solid job behind the plate after a shaky start in April. He'd help himself if he started to hit, but the same could be said about every position player outside of Shin-Soo Choo and Austin Kearns.

    Trevor Crowe, not Brantley, is batting leadoff and playing center field in the absence of Cabrera and Sizemore. The Indians believe Crowe had just as good, if not a better season, than Brantley last year. He's their No. 1 pick from 2005, and for all the beating they've taken for their drafting record, it's clear they'd like him to turn out to be a useful player.

    Crowe, recalled from Columbus when Andy Marte went on the disabled list with an infected ingrown hair on his abdomen, is hitting .310.

    Brantley is hitting .313 at Columbus, but the Indians want him to drive the ball more and put his speed to better use on the bases.

    Rotation-wise the debate over Justin Masterson -- starter or reliever? -- is still unanswered. The only place there's no argument is in the front office, because they have no options. If they did, it would probably be David Huff, not Masterson, who would be sent to Columbus.

    Right-hander Carlos Carrasco would be the first to get the call, but he's been inconsistent at Columbus. Hector Rondon is on the disabled list and Jeanmar Gomez has struggled.

    Cabrera's injury has left them thin in the middle infield as well. If they did have some depth, Luis Valbuena would have been sent out days ago. Now it's rookie Jason Donald at short and Mark Grudzielanek, 40 on June 30, and Valbuena at second.

    Prospects Cord Phelps and Jason Kipnis are still a year away at least at Class AA Akron and Class A Kinston.

    Eyes have it: The Indians, with the fifth pick in the June draft, were scheduled to scout Ohio State right-hander Alex Wimmers against Minnesota on Saturday. Wimmers, considered the top pitcher in Ohio this year, was returning from a hamstring injury after winning his first nine decisions.


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    Shaquille O'Neal was a gamble that was well-intentioned, but in the end unrewarding, says Terry Pluto.

    shaq-horiz-jk.jpgShaquille O'Neal had some good moments for the Cavaliers, but his thumb injury proved critical in the team's inability to develop a reliable offensive attack in the playoffs, says Terry Pluto. Terry PlutoCLEVELAND, Ohio -- We're still four weeks away from the official start of summer, but it's always hot around the Cleveland sports world for Terry Pluto, who is talkin' ...

    About the Cavaliers ...

    1. When the Cavs traded for Shaquille O'Neal, they knew it was a gamble. Not in terms of what they gave up -- Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic. They had no intention of keeping Pavlovic, and they knew Wallace was battling injuries. But they also knew while bringing in O'Neal that he could get out of shape, he could get hurt and his skills could diminish as he'd end the season as the NBA's oldest player at 38.

    2. O'Neal's conditioning was respectable. His skills slipped, but he was still acceptable as a low post threat and a massive body to defend the area near the basket -- at least, when he was healthy. The playoff problems stemmed from O'Neal's broken thumb, which required surgery and cost him the final 23 games of the regular season. In the previous four seasons, O'Neal missed 23, 42, 21 and seven games. He sat out 29 with the Cavs, which would not have been a problem if he could have played the last month of the regular season so that he was peaking for the playoffs.

    3. When O'Neal returned, he seemed slow to react, unsure where he fit in the offense. That's because the Cavs traded for Antawn Jamison at midseason. O'Neal and Jamison played only four regular-season games together before O'Neal's injury. By the playoffs, they had no flow and Jamison wasn't sure where he was supposed to be on the court.

    4. The Cavs say O'Neal's attitude was generally positive. He was frustrated by his own play, and how he sat out the fourth quarters of some playoff games. But the coaches have no complaints about his conduct. The trouble was O'Neal and Jamison were a poor defensive combination, especially when opponents used pick-and-roll plays. Compounding the situation, Anderson Varejao was suffering back spasms (some severe) in the playoffs. He wasn't running or jumping with his usual passion. That meant he couldn't make his usual impact on the boards or drawing charges in front of the rim.

    5. Other than O'Neal, there was much more that went wrong in the Boston series. Jamison shot only 42 percent and averaged 11.8 points. Mo Williams shot 41 percent. Fans know about the up-and-down series for LeBron James. O'Neal actually was the team's second-leading scorer (13.5) and No. 3 rebounder (5.0) in the series, averaging 28 minutes.

    6. Why did the Cavs deal for O'Neal? It was a way to battle the height of Orlando and the Lakers. They also thought he'd help draw some fouls on Boston. It also was James' free-agent season, and the pressure was enormous to make a big move, win now and convince James to stay.

    7. That was the same story back in 2005-06, when James was in a free-agent season. Owner Dan Gilbert wanted new General Manager Danny Ferry to sign the best veterans available to make the playoffs right now. That led to big contracts to Damon Jones, Larry Hughes and Marshall. While that led to salary cap consequences later, the immediate return was a 50-victory season, James' first playoff experience, and his contract extension expiring this summer.

    8. After making $20 million this season, O'Neal is a free agent. It's doubtful he'll play here again. Zydrunas Ilgauskas also is a free agent. He wants to play again, but it may not be here. That is especially true if Mike Brown returns, as the relationship between the veteran center and the coach cooled after Brown didn't play him in a game early this season.

    9. Jamison is under contract for two more years, and he's a key part of the team moving forward -- with or without James. That trade was made for more than this season. Jamison averaged 15.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and shot nearly 49 percent. The Cavs just need to use him more effectively. He can score in the low post. He moves well without the ball in pick-and-roll plays. But in the playoffs, he too often was reduced to nothing more than a guy shooting long jumpers.

    10. One of the debates about retaining Brown is this -- who replaces him? It's not a great candidate list. Notice that 58-year-old Doug Collins was hired by the 76ers. He's a quick-fix guy who hasn't lasted more than three seasons at his previous stops -- Chicago, Detroit and Washington. Others with NBA head coaching experience who are available include Avery Johnson, Mike Woodson, Vinny Del Negro, Eddie Jordan and Byron Scott.

    About Jim Brown and LeBron ...

    brown-shaw.jpgJim Brown's sensitivity to the media criticism and attention paid to LeBron James begs an obvious question -- what does Brown (or James) think will happen if he plays in New York, Chicago or Miami?1. Speaking to a Baltimore radio station, Jim Brown said: "It's so unfortunate that a man that's got so much would feel so bad right now because of what he couldn't do. I think he's being treated unfairly. I think the expectations were too high, and I don't think he's gonna stay in Cleveland because of it. I think as one man, there's only so much you can do, and for people to analyze you and to basically say humiliating things about you, when you've given all those things through the years to that franchise, I think it's an atrocity."

    2. Brown should ask himself this, "Where did the severest criticism come from?" It was not here, it was from the national media. Yes, James took a lot of heat for a few poor playoff performances, but it's not like the fans and media in Northeast Ohio were the main source. The first shots were fired on the network pregame, halftime and postgame TV coverage of the playoffs. Look at the national Web sites, etc. The harshest shots at James were fired there.

    3. No matter where he plays, James will be a lightning rod for criticism. Brown should know that. If he signs with Chicago, New York or anywhere else -- the expectations will be outrageous. In most of his possible landing spots, the roster James would inherit doesn't match the talent here. Yet, he will be expected to win big. If he does sign with Cleveland, the sense of relief from the fans will probably temper some of the great expectations. If his goal is to not play in a pressure cooker, home is the best place.

    4. In a New York Times story, James' co-author Buzz Bissinger wrote that James needs to leave because "He's too loved, and therefore too coddled and too easily forgiven. ... In a place like New York, the tabloids would have screamed 'LeBomb James!' In Cleveland, there were a few boos, but they amounted to nothing compared to the desperation of the fans to keep him for next season and beyond."

    5. So Brown thinks James should leave because he's not appreciated here and has been unfairly criticized. Yet, James' co-author believes being so loved at home is not good for James: "In such an atmosphere, human nature inevitably takes over: You stop constantly pushing yourself because there is no real incentive."

    About the Browns ...

    1. Eric Mangini and others believe receivers sometimes make a huge jump between their rookie and second seasons. It's part of the reason the Browns have not been in a rush to acquire a veteran receiver. It's very early, but Brian Robiskie has been very impressive in OTAs and the other voluntary workouts.

    2. Robiskie appeared in 11 games, caught seven passes and needed at least eight games to figure out what the coaches wanted. The Chagrin Falls product set career records at Ohio State for catches (118) and touchdown receptions (34). He has talent, and this season, there is a chance for him to show it.

    3. This is the 12th season since the Browns returned, and it's only the third year that a veteran quarterback is in place. The fact that Jake Delhomme is set to start immediately puts him in a leadership position, and brings a sense of order. The other seasons with veterans were Jeff Garcia (2004) and Trent Dilfer (2005). Neither worked out well. Yes, Ty Detmer was the opening starter in 1999, but it was no secret Tim Couch would soon play.

    4. It's seems having Delhomme and an experienced backup in Seneca Wallace has to help the receivers. It's hard to believe that Jerome Harrison and Mohamed Massaquoi led the team with 34 receptions. You have to go back to 1974 (Hugh McKinnis, 32 catches) to find any team leader in receptions with fewer than 40.

    5. Chansi Stuckey and Jake Allen also had some nice moments catching the ball this week. Not sure if the receivers looked better because of the improved quarterback play along with being in the offense for a while -- or simply that they were so bad last season.

    About the Indians ...

    crowe-flyball-crow.jpgTrevor Crowe will get an extended chance to prove that he was a worthy first-round choice of the Indians back in 2005.1. Carlos Santana will probably join the Indians within the next two weeks. The Columbus catcher entered the weekend batting .324 with nine home runs and 39 RBI. He leads the Class AAA International League in on-base percentage (.446), walks (29) and is second in OPS (1.035). It seems this move must be made sooner than later, because Lou Marson really looks like a solid backup. Scouts say Santana is a big-league-ready hitter now, and he can work with coach Sandy Alomar on his catching and English.

    2. Marson entered the weekend hitting .213 (.536 OPS) with one RBI. He has improved on blocking balls in the dirt and has thrown out eight of 24 base-runners (33 percent). Anything over 30 percent is excellent. But Santana is the catcher of the future, and that future should be now.

    3. The Indians have had some discussions about moving Aaron Laffey into the starting rotation. That could happen if David Huff (1-6, 5.36) is sent to the minors, which is a possibility. It would also be considered if they put Justin Masterson in the bullpen -- but for now, they want to continue with Masterson in the rotation.

    4. One of the reasons the Indians didn't promote Michael Brantley is that manager Manny Acta wanted to give Trevor Crowe a few weeks as the regular center fielder. "I liked how he played in spring training," said Acta. "He brings us energy. He can run, switch hit. I think he'll be a part of the team as we move forward." Crowe also is 26, and a first-rounder from 2005.

    5. The Indians were giving serious consideration to sending Luis Valbuena to the minors and promoting Jason Donald when Asdrubal Cabrera broke his arm in a collision with Jhonny Peralta. Donald was recalled to replace Cabrera. But the Indians have no other middle infielders at Columbus considered prospects, so Valbuena stays.

    6. While Matt LaPorta has struggled, the Indians don't think a trip back to the minors would help. They believe he must work through his troubles at the big-league level.

    7. Mitch Talbot has impressed Acta in two of his worst outings. In his first start, he was shelled for four runs in the first three innings but still pitched into sixth. In his last game, he gave up six runs in three innings, then threw three scoreless innings. "Mitch has saved our bullpen in those games," said Acta. "He kept his poise when he gave up those early runs. I like that."


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    Jennings won't be charged with a crime, because the doorman hasn't signed the complaint, an official close to the investigation said.

    chris-jennings.jpgCleveland Browns running back Chris Jennings (34) runs past Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback William Gay on a 10-yard touchdown Dec. 10.CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Cleveland Browns running back Chris Jennings reached an agreement with the doorman he was accused of assaulting last month.

    Jennings won't be charged with a crime, because the doorman hasn't signed the complaint, an official close to the investigation said.

    The incident happened April 17 at a Warehouse District dance club, The Velvet Dog.  A sheriff's deputy arrested Jennings about 2:15 a.m. on suspicion of assault.

    Details of the agreement haven't been released. Jennings' attorney could not be reached this morning.

    The 24-year-old joined the Browns in August.


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    Jhonny Peralta's RBI single in the sixth propelled the Indians to victory at Progressive Field.

    UPDATED: 8:11 p.m.

    donald-dp-crow.jpgIndians shortstop Jason Donald hurdles a sliding Scott Rolen and easily turns a double play to close the eighth inning Sunday afternoon at Progressive Field.
    Box score | Photo gallery
    Given a chance, Shelley Duncan provides a lift for the Tribe: Indians Insider
    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Reds reliever Daniel Ray Herrera did Jhonny Peralta did a favor in the sixth inning Sunday afternoon.

    Instead of coming back with another Bugs Bunny screwball in a 1-2 count, the left-handed Herrera attempted to sneak a fastball past the Indians' third baseman.

    Pitchers should know better than to challenge Peralta when it's not April, the temperature is reasonably comfortable and the speed of the pitch is 86 mph. Peralta lined a two-out single to drive in Trevor Crowe for the go-ahead RBI in the Indians' 4-3 victory over the Reds at Progressive Field.

    heisley-nocatch-cc.jpgReds outfielder Chris Heisey is out of room as a third-inning drive by the Indians' Shin-Soo Choo bangs off the left-field wall Sunday afternoon at Progressive Field. Choo was credited with a triple, and eventually scored on Russell Branyan's sacrifice fly.

    ON DECK: INDIANS VS. WHITE SOX
    When: Monday through Wednesday.
    Where: Progressive Field.
    TV/radio: SportsTime Ohio Monday and Tuesday; WTAM AM/1100.
    Series: Indians lead, 5-1, this season. They trail, 1,016-982, all-time.
    Pitching matchups: RHP Justin Masterson (0-4, 5.65 ERA) vs. LHP John Danks (3-3, 2.26), Monday at 7:05; RHP Mitch Talbot (5-3, 3.88) vs. RHP Jake Peavy (3-3, 5.74), Tuesday at 7:05 p.m.; and RHP Jake Westbrook (2-2, 4.56) vs. LHP Mark Buehrle (3-5, 4.55), Wednesday at 12:05 p.m.
    Indians update: They are 16-26 after their victory over Reds on Sunday. They have won five straight over the White Sox since losing to Buehrle, 6-0, on Opening Day in Chicago. Talbot owns one of the victories; the other four come from two pitchers, Jensen Lewis and Fausto Carmona, who will not be involved in this series. Lewis is in Class AAA Columbus. Talbot beat Buehrle, 6-2, April 16 in Cleveland. ... RF Shin-Soo Choo is 6-for-21 (.286) with one homer, seven RBI and six walks in six games against White Sox this year.
    White Sox update: They are 18-25. They lost to the Marlins, 13-0, Sunday in Chicago. 1B Paul Konerko is hitting .270 with 14 homers and 31 RBI. Three of Konerko’s five hits against Indians this season have been homers. White Sox are hitting .190 against Cleveland. ... OF Alex Rios is hitting .311 in 40 games. ... The White Sox have 47 steals.
    Injuries: Indians — RHP Anthony Reyes (elbow), INF Andy Marte (non-baseball medical issue), INF Asdrubal Cabrera (left forearm) and OF Grady Sizemore (left knee) are on disabled list. White Sox — none.
    Next for Indians: Four-game series against Yankees begins Friday in the Bronx.
    Dennis Manoloff
    The Tribe (16-26) snapped a six-game losing streak and improved to 7-12 at home, winning despite leaving 12 on base. The Reds (25-19) were denied a first-ever sweep in Cleveland. They are 11-4 against the Tribe since the beginning of 2008.

    Herrera, who stands 5-6, struck out Lou Marson looking to open the sixth in a 3-3 game. Crowe singled and raced to third on Shin-Soo Choo's single. Choo finished 3-for-4.

    Travis Hafner struck out swinging -- and looked bad doing it. The final two strikes came when he flailed at screwballs clocked in the mid-to-high 60s.

    "I saw how he pitched Hafner and thought he'd do the same with me," said Peralta, who swung and missed at a 67 mph pitch, took an 86 mph fastball for a ball and swung over another screwball. He would have looked more comfortable bobbing for apples.

    Doubling up with an off-speed pitch, especially to the opposite side, can be dangerous. But it absolutely made sense in this spot given this screwball's cartoon, wiffle-ball action.

    "He's really slow," Peralta said. "That's a tough pitch. I figured he'd come with another one."

    Instead, Herrera brought the "heat." Catcher Ryan Hanigan set up inside, but the pitch leaked over the middle and Peralta ripped it to left.

    "I think if he throws the slow one, he's got me," Peralta said. "He threw me the fastball, and I put a good swing on it."

    Peralta had been 6-for-43 against lefties. He went 1-for-4 against all pitchers Sunday and is hitting .236. He was at .224 by the end of April.

    In the top of the seventh, Peralta made a superb play to charge a bunt by Hanigan and throw accurately to first for the first out of the inning.

    "Jhonny had a great at-bat and great play coming in on the bunt," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "He was huge."

    The slick defensive work proved significant because, with two outs, Indians reliever Chris Perez plunked Orlando Cabrera and walked Brandon Phillips. Lefty Tony Sipp, who had not given up an earned run in his previous 14 innings, relieved to face left-handed Joey Votto, one of the game's best young hitters. Sipp won the duel when Votto flied deep to left.

    Sipp has not allowed any of 14 inherited runners to score. He pitched a scoreless eighth, then gave way to Kerry Wood, who earned his first save, the second out coming on a whiff of pinch-hitter Laynce Nix. Nix swung threw a filthy breaking pitch.

    All Nix had done the previous three games was amass eight hits, including three homers, and drive in seven. With Tribe lefty David Huff on the mound, Nix did not start as part of a platoon.

    Huff (2-6, 5.25 ERA) gave up the three runs on six hits in six innings. He walked one and struck out four. Scott Rolen tagged him for two homers, both on off-speed pitches that missed their spots. Huff has given up 10 homers in 48 innings.

    The Tribe's victory leader last year with 11 as a rookie, Huff has been solid his past two starts after Acta and pitching coach Tim Belcher pulled him aside in Kansas City. Huff had just given up six runs on nine hits in 5 2/3 innings to fall to 1-5.

    "They pretty much lit a fire under my butt," he said. "They said, 'Look, you're getting away from what you should be doing. You've got a good fastball and change-up and you're not using them. Stop giving those guys so much credit and get after them.'"

    Rolen gave the Reds a 2-0 lead in the first with a two-out homer. The Indians answered with two in their half of the inning. Crowe led off with a walk and moved to second on Choo's single. The runners advanced on Homer Bailey's wild pitch.

    With the infield playing deep, Hafner hit a slow roller to second. Phillips made the bare-hand pick, but the throw had no chance as Crowe scored. Hafner extended his hitting streak to 11 games. After two flyouts, Shelley Duncan ripped an RBI single to center.

    The Tribe inched in front in the third. Choo led off with a triple off the left-field wall. The ball kept carrying, just as Rolen's homer did. Russell Branyan hit a sacrifice fly to center.

    Cincinnati tied it, 3-3, in the sixth when Rolen launched a 1-2 change over the wall in left-center.

    "I'm surprised you guys didn't hear the cuss word I threw out there," Huff said. "I've got to make a better pitch there."

    Bailey exited after 2 1/3 innings because of right-shoulder tightness.




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    So says shoe-endorsement and youth basketball magnate Sonny Vaccaro, who has known James for about 10 years and thinks Jay-Z will steer James toward the Knicks or Nets. Jay-Z has a small ownership share of the Nets and is close to James.

    lebron-james-jay-z.jpgLebron James (left) and Jay-Z (right) arriving at a dinner during the 2009 NBA All-Star weekend.There are 39 days remaining before July 1, when the Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James and several other NBA stars can become unrestricted free agents if they don't sign new contracts with their current teams before then.

    We are going to hear all kinds of rumors and speculation about where James will wind up playing in the 2010-11 season.

    Individuals will act as if they're in the know, such as Sonny Vaccaro. He has long been considered among the most powerful influences in amateur basketball, and is given much of the credit for the lucrative explosion of sneaker sales and endorsements.

    The New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets are among the teams poised to pursue James. Marc Berman writes for the New York Post that Vaccaro, who has known James since James' early high school years, thinks rapper and small-share Nets owner Jay-Z will strongly influence James' decision:

    Vaccaro said Jay-Z's influence may even trump that of his top inner circle of childhood friend/business manager, Maverick Carter, notorious confidant William Wesley and agent Leon Rose.

    And Vaccaro says that bodes well for the Nets and Knicks. Jay-Z has a 1.5 percent piece of the Nets, but also is an occasional celebrity-row occupant at the Garden, with his wife Beyonce.

    "I don't think the Nets would be involved without Jay-Z," Vaccaro told The Post. "LeBron and Jay-Z is something that is inseparable and you almost have to include that in the equation. I think he will be consulted. It's a very good relationship. Jay-Z was LeBron before LeBron was LeBron. That's the respect LeBron shows him."

    One NBA source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person didn't want to offend James' inner circle, told The Post, "If you ask me who the most important person in this is besides blood, I'd say Jay-Z. That helps the Nets, but Jay-Z will understand it as a friend if he doesn't come. But I think (Jay-Z) helps the Knicks a lot more than Chicago."

    Another NBA insider said Jay-Z's dream scenario would be James signing a contact with the Knicks with an opt-out after three years, then darting across the Brooklyn Bridge once the Nets are ensconced there. James would still be in his prime at 28.

    According to a Jay-Z spokesperson, the rapper is touring Europe much of June and July but assured he and James communicate regularly. Jay-Z's public wooing of James before July 1 could be construed as tampering by paranoid NBA commissioner David Stern. Carter, James' top advisor, said James will sit down this week to look over his options.

    New York ain't gold

    The Chicago Bulls are another team that wants James. John Jackson writes for the Chicago Sun-Times about some issues Bulls fans ponder as July approaches. Indeed, Cavaliers fans are just as - no, more - curious about topics which Jackson notes, such as:

    3. James can make more money off the court if he plays in New York.

    FICTION. Jordan and Tiger Woods have racked up more endorsement money than anyone in history, and neither has had any affiliation with New York. Neither would have made a penny more off the court if he lived in New York.

    The myth that it's more valuable to have success in New York is just that: a myth perpetuated by the inflated egos of New Yorkers.

    Wherever he plays, James will continue to haul in a ton of cash, just like he has the last several years in Cleveland.

    Check it

    Plain Dealer Cavaliers and LeBron James coverage includes a column by Bill Livingston; "Bud Shaw's Sunday Sports Spin;" "Terry Pluto's Talkin;' " Plain Dealer Cavaliers beat writer Brian Windhorst's "Hey, Brian;" "The LeBron rumor mill;" a Starting Blocks poll asking about any possibility of James and Chris Bosh playing together in Cleveland.

    Hopes LJ stays

    LeBron James would benefit more from winning a championship in Cleveland than anywhere else, writes Gene Frenette for Jacksonville.com and The Florida Times-Union:

    Now if James were 32 or older, had given the Cavaliers all the best years of his basketball life, then I’d say do the Karl Malone thing. Pull up stakes and pursue that championship where it’s most convenient.

    But at 25, entering his prime, James makes any team an instant contender for a minimum of five years. It just wouldn’t feel right for Akron’s own to abandon Cleveland, a sports city whose psyche is more fragile than fine china.

    If James goes elsewhere, that means he leaves Cavaliers fans with the indelible memory of two blase playoff games against the Boston Celtics. He was a human turnover in one game, and the other was seemingly disinterested in trying to rally the Cavaliers during a home blowout.

    That’s not a farewell befitting of a player with the “King James” monicker. It’s simply not acceptable for LeBron to say goodbye to the home folks that way. This is basketball, so a makeup call should be in order.

    However, the biggest reason I’d like to see the Cavaliers win the LeBron sweepstakes is this: One title in Cleveland is worth 10 times more to James’ legacy than three anywhere else.

    Wouldn’t you have a lot more respect for James staying put, and removing 46 years of emptiness for that city’s major pro sports teams, than if he helped the Bulls, Knicks or Heat raise a banner?

    Jim Brown fumbles

    Legendary Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown this week told Baltimore radio station WVIE AM/1370 that LeBron James might leave the Cavaliers because, says Brown, "I think he's being treated unfairly" by Cavs fans.

    Les Levine writes for the News Herald and Lorain Morning Journal that Brown should not have hinted that Cavaliers fans haven't been supportive of James:

    Jim Brown’s loyalty?

    All you need to know is, in between stints as an adviser to the Browns, he spent several years on Art Modell’s payroll in Baltimore. Obviously Modell was contributing to Brown’s Amer-I-Can foundation, based in southern California, but loyalty didn’t seem a factor, as the greatest running back in history aligned himself with the greatest traitor in Cleveland sports history. The loyalty to the Browns suddenly returned when the Lerner family got on board, reportedly with contributions to Amer-I-Can and a high six-figure salary for consultant fees to the team.

     

      


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    President says 'I don't want to meddle' before urging the Bulls, but adds that best choice could still be Cleveland.

    Chasing down rumors about LeBron James' basketball future could be a full-time job. Every day we'll compile a list of the rumors we're hearing about James and his next contract. Just remember these are just rumors, not necessarily facts.

    It's going to be a long and rough ride, Cavs fans. Buckle up.

    obama-hoops-ap.jpgIf his suggestion wasn't quite as pointed as during a campaign speech, President Obama still made it clear who he thought would be a good acquisition for his former hometown team in Chicago.• This is what you would call a mismatch. President Obama on Sunday again said Chicago would be a wonderful place for LeBron James to live and play basketball.

    So, if the most powerful politician in the country is lobbying for Chicago, who can Cleveland call on for support? So far, all we have is Governor Strickland in that embarrassing/ignominious/ridicule-inducing video begging James to stay in Northeast Ohio.

    Anyway, here's what the president said while being interviewed on TNT.

    "You know, like I said, I don't want to meddle," Obama said. "I will say this: [Derrick] Rose, Joakim Noah it's a pretty good core. You know, you could see LeBron fitting in pretty well there."

    Obama was interviewed about a number of basketball subjects by broadcaster Marv Albert on the White House basketball court. The interview will be shown Tuesday night at 8 p.m.

    "I think that the most important thing for LeBron right now is actually to find a structure where he's got a coach that he respects and is working hard with teammates who care about him and if that's in Cleveland, then he should stay in Cleveland," Obama said. "If he doesn't feel like he can get it there, then someplace else."

    • Marc Berman of the New York Post reports that Jay-Z could have a major influence on James' decision.

    Berman talked to Sonny Vaccaro, the Adidas sneaker king who has known James since James was in ninth grade.

    Vaccaro said Jay-Z's influence may even trump that of his top inner circle of childhood friend/business manager, Maverick Carter, noted confidant William Wesley and agent Leon Rose.

    Vaccaro says that bodes well for the Nets and Knicks. Jay-Z has a 1.5 percent piece of the Nets, but also is an occasional celebrity-row occupant at the Garden, with his wife Beyonce.

    "I don't think the Nets would be involved without Jay-Z," Vaccaro told The Post. "LeBron and Jay-Z is something that is inseparable and you almost have to include that in the equation. I think he will be consulted. It's a very good relationship."

    One NBA source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person didn't want to offend James' inner circle, told The Post: "If you ask me who the most important person in this is besides blood, I'd say Jay-Z. That helps the Nets, but Jay-Z will understand it as a friend if he doesn't come. But I think [Jay-Z] helps the Knicks a lot more than Chicago."

    According to a Jay-Z spokesperson, the rapper is touring Europe much of June and July but assured he and James communicate regularly. Jay-Z's public wooing of James before July 1 could be construed as tampering by NBA Commissioner David Stern.

    Jay-Z first met James when he was in high school. Their shindig at All-Star Weekend -- "The Two King Dinner and Afterparty" -- has become a fixture for four years. In Dallas last February, it was attended by a series of Fortune 500 executives, Nets President Rod Thorn, Chris Paul and Jason Kidd, among celebs.

    • The Charlotte Observer, the hometown paper for Michael Jordan's Bobcats, seems to have a good sense where the LeBron speculation is headed.

    NBA writer Rick Bonnell writes: "NASCAR writers have a term, 'silly season,' for the time period each year when drivers are looking for their next ride. If that's silly, then this will be bizarre in an "Elvis' Martian Love Child" nature.

    "It's not an overstatement that James becomes the most consequential free agent in the history of American sports. James' body language, as his Cavaliers were eliminated by the Boston Celtics (disinterest? exasperation?), reinforces the impression he might be looking to move.

    "Combine all that with this Internet-driven media age: ESPN.com seems to have 14 writers all churning out the same hurry-up-and-wait speculation six weeks prior to James' contract actually expiring. Add the Fanhouse-Yahoo-CBSSportsline crowd, plus 80,000 Twitter feeds, and this will get old long before it's technically new.

    "Most anyone who mattered among NBA player-personnel executives was at the Chicago Sheraton Thursday and Friday for the combine. I ran into a longtime source in the hotel lobby and asked a simple, open-ended question: What happens this summer?

    "'Anyone who claims to know,' the source replied, 'is a fool. Or a liar. Probably both.'"


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    The right-handed White, 21, was the Indians first pick in the 2009 draft. After excelling in eight starts at Advanced A Kinston, White pitches six shutout innings for the Aeros before yielding two seventh-inning runs. He gets the 5-2 win.

    alex-white.jpgAlex White, the Indians' first pick in the 2009 draft, is making steady progress in his climb through the Cleveland organization.FARM REPORT

    AA Akron Aeros

    Aeros 5, Senators 2: RH Alex White, the Indians' first pick and 15th overall pick in the 2009 draft, pitched seven strong innings to pick up the win in his first Akron start after being promoted from Advanced A Kinston. White, 21, allowed two runs on five hits and a walk while striking out two, before 6,825 fans at Canal Park – the Aeros' second-largest home crowd of the season. Harrisburg scored both of its runs off White in the seventh inning. Akron (18-25) catcher Miguel Perez (.304) and DH Matt McBride (.252) both singled, doubled and drove in two runs.

    Notes: White, in his first professional season from the University of North Carolina, was 2-3 with a 2.86 ERA in eight starts spanning 44 innings at Kinston. He struck out 41, walked 19 and held batters to a .204 average....RH Bryan Price and RH Steven Wright each pitched scoreless innings in relief of White, with Wright earning his first save....3B Lonnie Chisenhall (.261) was placed on the disabled list, retroactive to May 19, with a right shoulder injury. Chisenhall has not played since May 12....3B Jared Goedert, second in the Eastern League with a .341 batting average, singled to extend his hitting streak to 12 games and drove in his 26th run....2B Cord Phelps' 0-for-3 dropped him to .329, fourth in the league....The Aeros again did not score in the eighth inning, keeping alive one of minor league's baseball's most amazing statistical oddities of the season. Akron has not scored a run in the eighth inning all season....Besides Sunday's fine turnout, crowds of 5,979 on Friday and 5,892 on Saturday were Akron's second- and third-best crowds, respectively, of the season....The Aeros' team ERA, at 5.66 earlier this month, is down to 4.99....The Aeros begin a four-game series at Canal Park on Monday night at 7:05 against Altoona. LH Scott Barnes (1-4, 6.11) will start for Akron.

    AAA Columbus Clippers

    Knights 5, Clippers 0: Charlotte RH Dan Hudson (5-2, 4.47) fanned 11 Clippers, allowed three singles and walked one. CF Jose Constanza (.350) got two of the three hits for visiting Columbus (27-18). Clippers RH Jeanmar Gomez (2-5, 6.02) pitched a complete game, giving up four earned runs, 10 hits and two walks while fanning five.

    Notes: OF Jordan Brown, the International League's leading hitter (.336) last season, was activated from the disabled list (lower back tightness) and went 0-for-2. Brown started the season on the disabled list after having arthroscopic knee surgery, and has just 30 at bats....3B Wes Hodges is 1-for-18 in his last four games, dropping his batting average to .296....The Clippers have hit one home run in their last six games....The lineup has been shaken up by several promotions of players to the Indians, and the team batting average has dropped from .289 to .282 - from first to third in the IL - in the last several games.

    Advanced A Kinston Indians

    Indians 2, Keys 1: Two-out singles in the top of the 12th inning by 2B Jason Kipnis (.307) and 1B Doug Pickens (.250), followed by a Frederick error, gave the Indians (23-21) their 13th win in the last 16 games. Kinston RH starter Marty Popham allowed one unearned run in five innings; RH relievers Travis Turek and Brian Grening pitched three and 2 2/3 scoreless innings, respectively; RH Cory Burns pitched a hitless 12th for his second save; but it was RH Matthew Langwell (2-1, 1.93) who got the win by retiring the one batter he faced.

    Notes: Popham made his first Kinston appearance. He was promoted from Lake County after going 3-1 with a 3.71 ERA for the Captains. Burns, also promoted from Lake County in the last week, has a save in both of his Indians' outings. Burns' combined numbers with the two teams: 0-0 with 14 saves in 14 opportunities, spanning 16 games and 18 innings; 29 strikeouts, while allowing 14 hits, two walks and no homers....Kipnis, Pickens, CF Jordan Henry (.349) and catcher Alex Castillo (.308) had two hits each.

    A Lake County Captains

    Silver Hawks 6, Captains 3: Lake County catcher Chun-Hsiu Chen (.321) doubled twice and singled, and SS Casey Frawley (.306) singled twice, but it wasn't enough for the Captains (30-14) as they lost at Classic Park in Eastlake. Lake County LH Matt Packer (2-2, 2.86) made his first start of the season, allowing three South Bend runs (two earned) in three innings.

    Notes: Chen's .321 batting average is tied for seventh in the Midwest League. In his 112 at bats, he has produced 11 doubles, three triples, three homers, 19 RBI and a .554 slugging percentage that is tied for third in the league....Chen catches about a third of the time behind regular C Roberto Perez (.240). Of the two, the one not catching is often in the lineup at DH....RH reliever Jeremy Johnson pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning, following his Captains debut on Saturday night, when he struck out the side in the ninth inning and got credit for Lake County's 4-3 win over South Bend....CF Delvi Cid (.192) continues to struggle at the plate, but his 19 stolen bases (in 21 attempts) rank second in the league....The Captains host South Bend on Monday night at 6:30.

    Independent Lake Erie Crushers

    Beach Bums 8, Crushers 4: Traverse City scored four runs in the top of the 11th inning to hand the Crushers (1-2) a loss at All Pro Freight Stadium in Avon. Lake Erie 2B Andrew Saylor (.333) slugged his first homer, a solo blast, and C Joel Collins (.625) had three singles. Crushers RH Josh Roberts made a solid start, allowing two runs in six innings on four hits and no walks, with four strikeouts. RH reliever Alberto Rolon pitched 2 1/3 hitless, scoreless innings, fanning two and walking two.

    Notes: Crushers 1B Eddie Tisdale (.333) singled, doubled and walked, and SS Jodam Rivera (.154) doubled and drove in two runs....The Crushers are idle Monday, then play at home against the Oakland County Cruisers on Tuesday night at 7:05.


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    Sheldon Brown learned from veteran cornerback Troy Vincent when the two played for the Philadelphia Eagles. Still a solid pass defender, Brown looks to pass his knowledge on to the Browns young DB's.

    sheldon-brown.jpgThe Philadelphia Eagles' Sheldon Brown (24) trying to break up a pass to the New England Patriots' Deion Branch (83) during the 2004 season Super Bowl.When an NFL team loses 11 of its first 12 games like the Cleveland Browns did last season, there are a lot of weaknesses to address in the offseason. That reality did not change when the Browns closed the season on a four-game winning streak.

    One of the position groups the Browns knew they needed to bolster was the defensive backfield. They took steps in that direction during the draft. And, when they acquired accomplished veteran cornerback Sheldon Brown from the Philadelphia Eagles.

    Writes Matt Florjancic for ClevelandBrowns.com:

    In Philadelphia, Brown learned how to be a professional from former Eagles defensive back Troy Vincent. Vincent spent 15 years in the NFL, including eight with the Eagles, four with the Dolphins, three with the Bills and his final year, in 2006, with the Redskins.

    During his career, Vincent defended 50 passes, including a personal-best 24 in 2001. He also had 47 career interceptions and returned 3 for touchdowns. Vincent scored on interception returns of 58, 69 and 90 yards.

    Fast forward eight years and now Brown finds himself in the role of mentor to the other Browns defensive backs. Brown is especially looking forward to working with the team’s draft picks from April in defensive back Joe Haden, along with safeties T.J. Ward and Larry Asante.

    “Joe’s been great,” said Brown. “He’s one of those guys that grabbed me immediately, as soon as I walked in, and he’s willing to learn and listen. He kind of reminds me of when I came in. Troy Vincent was there with all of his knowledge. He’s willing to listen and I’m willing to give it to him.

    “They’re willing to learn,” he added. “They’re willing to listen and they have been great thus far. They are flying around, that’s what’s important."

    About the Browns

    Plain Dealer Browns coverage includes beat writer Tony Grossi's NFL Insider and his "Hey, Tony;" beat writer Mary Kay Cabot's story about newly-acquired linebacker Scott Fujita; columnist "Terry Pluto's Talkin.' "

    Impact player?

    Defensive lineman Ahtyba Rubin made significant contributions to the Browns last season, and could be even more of a factor in 2010. Writes Mike Wilkening for ProFootballWeekly.com:

    Rubin, who turns 24 in July, impressed when he got a chance to start in place of (Shaun) Rogers at the end of the '09 campaign, notching 14 tackles in five starts and thriving with increased playing time. Such was Rubin's progress that head coach Eric Mangini has hinted that Rogers could move to end in the Browns' 3-4 scheme this season. 

    "We talked about that a little bit," Mangini told Cleveland reporters at the club's rookie minicamp in May, "and have to take a look at it, I think, have to see how (it) looks and look at (Rogers) at the right side and the left side.

    "I think Rubin did a nice job last year. I'm excited about seeing his continued growth. I think he played well and I think he made a really strong case to continue to play and that's a good thing."

     

     

     


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    Minor-league veteran's first start in the Indians' outfield proved productive for the Indians on Sunday.

    Indians left fielder Shelley Duncan tracks down a long fly hit by the Reds' Joey Votto to end a Cincinnati threat in the seventh inning Sunday. Duncan singled and walked twice in the Tribe's 4-3 victory at Progressive Field.

    INDIANS CHATTER
    Clubhouse confidential: Among those responsible for Fausto Carmona’s strong start this season was Jose Lima, a former 20-game winner and All-Star.
    Lima, who played for five teams over a 13-year career that ended in 2006, died Sunday in Los Angeles at 37.
    “I can’t believe it,” a choked-up Carmona said after the game. “This is so sad. He was a great guy, a funny guy. He helped me a lot.”
    Carmona struggled to throw strikes to left-handers during a problematic 2009 season, which ended with a 5-12 record and 6.32 ERA in 24 starts. When Carmona pitched for Aguilas in the Dominican Republic in the winter, teammate Lima suggested that Carmona move to the first-base side of the rubber.
    “We were going to make that suggestion to Fausto, but I didn’t want to do it during the winter ball season,” Indians manager Manny Acta said in spring training. “When I went to the Dominican to see Fausto, I was happy ‘Lima Time’ had already suggested it.”
    Acta thought the move would help Carmona throw strikes to both sides of the plate. Acta has been correct so far.
    Acta said Sunday that he spoke with Lima when the Indians were in Los Angeles in late April.
    “He was very happy that he had contributed to helping Fausto,” he said. “He was a great guy, so full of life. I found out before the game, and I’ve been very sad.”

    Hard core: Pro Football Hall of Famers Leroy Kelly and Anthony Munoz threw out ceremonial first pitches. Kelly gained his fame with the Browns; Munoz, with the Bengals.

    Stat of the day: The all-time series between the teams is tied, 33-33.
    Dennis Manoloff
    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Shelley Duncan is contributing more and more each day.

    On Friday, he pinch-hit to give the Indians six father-son combinations in history. On Saturday, he went 1-for-1 as a pinch-hitter and scored. On Sunday, Duncan started in left and was 1-for-2 with an RBI single and two walks in the Tribe's 4-3 victory over the Reds.

    The Indians promoted Duncan from Class AAA Columbus last Wednesday when Grady Sizemore was placed on the disabled list.

    "I know I'm not going to get a lot of at-bats; when I get them, I need to be ready," he said. "I prepare myself like an every-day player. That way, nothing can sneak up on you."

    The International League MVP in 2009 had not started in the majors since Sept. 28, 2009, when he was with the Yankees. Batting sixth, he hit a two-out single in the first to tie the score, 2-2.

    "He had good at-bats all day," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "We wanted to get Shelley out there to keep him sharp."

    Valby hanging in: Luis Valbuena sat slumped in his chair Saturday afternoon, facing his locker.

    For a player hitting .143 through 30 games this season, the snapshot made sense. Except that Valbuena was not in the dumps, he was simply checking messages on a hand-held device hours before the Indians played the Reds.

    Valbuena is not going to allow an awful start destroy his confidence. It might be dented, but it's nowhere near destroyed. Valbuena insists a turnaround is imminent.

    "I'm close," he said. "The good moment is coming. I can feel it."

    The eyes spoke volumes for the hard-nosed Valbuena. They indicated that he is not claiming he's close because he thinks the words sound good, or that he needs to convince himself.

    "I really believe it," he said. "I've been working very, very hard and I'm more comfortable than I've been in a while."

    Valbuena started at second on Sunday and went 0-for-3. He has two hits in his last 33 official trips. It would have been 3-for-33 if not for a terrific defensive play by Reds shortstop Orlando Cabrera in the fifth. Cabrera turned what might have been an RBI single into a forceout with a nifty back-hand pick and throw to second.

    Valbuena opened the season as the starting second baseman but lost his job to 39-year-old Mark Grudzielanek, who does not play every day as a concession to age. Valbuena also lost his job as fill-in shortstop for injured Asdrubal Cabrera; Jason Donald is getting the chance to be the regular while Cabrera recovers from a broken left forearm.

    Valbuena entered Sunday at 12-for-81, the .148 average ranking lowest of any player in the majors with at least 80 official trips. The two closest in average and at-bats were Kaz Matsui of Houston (10-for-71, .141) and Garret Anderson of the Dodgers (9-for-65, .138).

    The major leaguer with the worst average after 100 official at-bats entering Sunday was Akinori Iwamura of Pittsburgh (20-for-132, .152).

    "I understand the whole situation," Valbuena said. "This is a team, and I've been struggling. But I know my manager still believes in me."

    Acta points to Valbuena's work last season when, as a rookie, he hit .250 with 38 extra-base hits in 103 games. He hit .281 in 65 games after June 30.

    Valbuena has five extra-base hits this year.

    "I don't think he's overmatched," Acta said. "You're not overmatched when you hit a line drive to short like he did [Friday] and hit some balls like he did a couple of days ago. We need to make sure he still gets at-bats, to give him a chance to snap out of it. It hasn't been easy, but this guy had (38) extra-base hits last year. We have to continue to work with him."

    The top priority is to get Valbuena to return to a compact swing. A strong 5-10, Valbuena does not need to muscle up to find the gaps.

    He's human: Last Tuesday at Tampa Bay, Tribe catcher Mike Redmond set a major-league record with his 253rd consecutive errorless game at the position.

    Redmond did not play again until Saturday. In the fourth inning against the Reds, his clean sheet ended with a throwing error on Jay Bruce's steal of second. Bruce advanced to third.

    Redmond had not made an error since July 20, 2004, when he was with the Marlins.

    "It was a heckuva run," he said. "If it were any other player, it would probably be a bigger deal, but I'm not a front-line guy, so pretty much everything I do goes under the radar.

    "I think I got lucky that nobody really made a big deal of it for quite a while. That kept it relatively quiet, which is good. Finally, the other day, after I broke it, people were talking about it. Right then I knew I was in trouble."

    Redmond sweated through the days leading up to the Tampa Bay game.

    "I hadn't thought about it for a long time, then I guess my son's Little League coach said I needed three more games," he said. "My son brought it up to me. My wife didn't want him to say anything, but he did. I thought, 'Uh, oh.' But I got the record, which is nice."

    Typical of Redmond, he first credited others for his accomplishment.

    "I've had the opportunity to play with a lot of great middle infielders who have helped me out," he said. "I couldn't have done it without them. It's not like every one of my throws is right on the money."

    Redmond signed with the Florida organization as a free agent in 1992. He made his major-league debut with the Marlins in 1998. He signed with Cleveland in January.

     


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    The Celtics are dominating the Orlando Magic even more completely than they dominated the Cavaliers. Bud Shaw says that's still not likely to be enough to help Mike Brown keep his job.

    brown-horiz-jk.jpgIn the playoff finale of Game 6 against Boston, Mike Brown (flanked by Michael Malone, left, and Melvin Hunt) looked like a head coach who had lost the ear of his team, says Bud Shaw. That development, as much as the series defeat, works against any possibility of his staying with the Cavaliers. Bud ShawCLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Celtics are dominating the Orlando Magic more completely than they owned the Cavaliers.

    Unfortunately, the time for that to qualify as consolation around here has come and gone. It's not likely to work in Mike Brown's favor, for one. Maybe in his next job, but not here.

    Ten days worth of perspective probably won't save Brown's job. If watching the Celtics-Magic suggests the Cavs weren't as awful as they seemed -- that Boston might've actually had something to do with how bad they looked -- then the conference finals also provides perspective concerning the Cavaliers' team dynamics at the end.

    Nobody came to Brown's defense after the meltdown against Boston the way Orlando's Dwight Howard spoke up for head coach Stan Van Gundy after Saturday night's travesty left the Magic beaten down and trailing, 3-0, in the series.

    "They outplayed us, outhustled us and worked harder than us," Howard told reporters. "Coach has done everything he could. This is not on the coach. This is on the players. There is no strategy for effort."

    The Cavs were beaten to the same loose balls as the Magic were. They stood just as flat-footed. They looked -- as Howard also said of the Magic -- like their "hearts weren't in it."

    brown-vert-jk.jpgAlways a coach who focused on defensive excellence, Mike Brown's long-term security with the team may have been undermined by the acquisition of offensive talents such as Shaquille O'Neal and Antawn Jamison during the 2009-10 season.Instead of leading the charge in support of his coach, LeBron James let it be known he didn't agree with some of Brown's in-game decisions. As if better choices would've given Mo Williams a playoff swagger. Or cleared Delonte West's head. Or made Kevin Garnett any easier for Antawn Jamison to handle.

    Sorry, you don't beat the Celtics the way they're carving up teams in the postseason by giving J.J. Hickson and Boobie Gibson more playing time. It wasn't going to happen, not without everybody following James' MVP lead, maybe not without somebody in wine and gold striking a deal with the devil.

    Brown never wowed anybody with his acumen on offense. Then again, his superstar often worked best without a blueprint. But his defensive tenets were the foundation of an under-talented team making it to the NBA Finals against San Antonio and, a year ago, winning 66 games.

    Once Shaquille O'Neal and Jamison came aboard, joining Williams in the lineup, defense was greatly compromised. Brown might as well have been conducting his skull sessions in Mandarin.

    With the Cavs getting outplayed and outcoached in consecutive postseasons, nobody will be surprised if owner Dan Gilbert changes head coaches this week. But blaming Brown is way too easy.

    Take a hard look at the Magic. Van Gundy's team took a 14-game winning streak into the Celtics series. He didn't go Mensa to moron overnight.

    Will seeing the Magic get embarrassed by Boston (and very possibly swept) help Brown with Gilbert? Who knows. But it seems a pretty big longshot.

    Head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers is a poker chip to be played in the bidding for James' services now. Maverick Carter, one of James' buddies, says James isn't looking to pick his next coach. But James sure didn't rush into the corner of the one who helped turn him into a first-team all NBA defender.

    During the Boston series, Brown tried to arouse his players by challenging them in the media. James all but yawned. Brown took the cue and backed off the next day.

    His departure is probably inevitable. If he leaves shouldering the blame, it's also a shame.

     


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    New Browns linebacker Scott Fujita hopes to help restore the Browns and Cleveland to glory, much as he experienced in New Orleans.

    fujita-vert-jk.jpgScott Fujita found a big salary and another chance to help revive an NFL franchise in accepting the Browns' free-agent offer. “We love to explore new areas of the country and for us that’s part of it," he said. "It’s not just playing football. We also know there’s a great fan base here, so we’re excited about that.” BEREA, Ohio -- Scott Fujita had the same gut feeling about coming to Cleveland this year that he did about New Orleans in 2006: it wasn't just a football team that he could help, but a city too.

    "The Saints were coming off a 3-13 season and we moved there seven months after Hurricane Katrina," said Fujita, signed as a free-agent linebacker in March. "The place was a train wreck, and a lot of people thought we were crazy for even wanting to visit that team. But there was something about that -- the idea of turning the place around."

    Fujita and his wife Jaclyn moved into the heart of New Orleans, near the French Quarter, and dedicated themselves to restoring the region and the coastal wetlands. To them, it felt like a higher calling, a chance to do something bigger than football.

    Fujita also worked tirelessly on other charities in the city, especially the two that are closest to his heart, children's services and breast cancer research. Born to a teenage mother, Fujita was adopted at six months old by Helen and Rod Fujita, who also adopted his older brother, Jason. Fujita volunteered countless hours for the Covenant House in New Orleans and other children's agencies. His mother is a two-time breast cancer survivor.

    In January, after the Saints won the Super Bowl, Fujita donated half of his $83,000 championship earnings to gulf restoration and Haitian Earthquake relief. For his efforts, he was named Saints 2009 Man of the Year, an achievement that meant just as much as the Lombardi Trophy.

    But Fujita was just as passionate on the field as he was off it.

    After spending his first four seasons in Kansas City, Fujita was traded to the Cowboys in 2005, where he spent the season with then-assistant coach Sean Payton. In 2006, when Payton took over as Saints coach, Fujita was the first free agent he signed. The second was quarterback Drew Brees, and in many ways, the two laid the foundation for the Super Bowl victory that was to come.

    In his first game as a Saint, Fujita showed his appreciation by excelling against the Browns. Starting at strongside linebacker, he made seven tackles, an interception and forced a fumble en route to a 19-14 victory. Fujita went on to lead the Saints with 119 tackles, helping lead them to the NFC Championship Game -- a remarkable feat for a team that had gone 3-13 the year before.

    The emotional leader of the defense and a team captain, Fujita led the team in tackles again the next season, and finished fourth in 2008. In 2009, he missed five games with knee and calf injuries, but still managed 75 tackles and made an impact in the postseason, including six tackles and a fumble recovery against Minnesota in the NFC Championship Game.

    Fujita, 31, hoped to have a chance to repeat with the Saints, but they didn't show nearly the commitment that the Browns did: a three-year deal worth $14 million, including $8 million guaranteed. With incentives, he can make up to $16 million.

    "It's a huge change, but it's a change that my family's embracing," Fujita said. "We love to explore new areas of the country and for us that's part of it. It's not just playing football. We also know there's a great fan base here, so we're excited about that."

    Fujita and his wife, who have twin young daughters, so loved what they saw and felt in Cleveland that they canceled their visit to Arizona the next day.

    "I do know the city to a certain extent is suffering right now," Fujita told the Associated Press soon after he signed in March. "Unemployment is really high and I know they want great football again."

    Fujita also saw that the Browns were assembling a locker room full of high-character guys -- his No. 1 priority. They added other team leaders such as Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace, Tony Pashos and Ben Watson.

    "All the guys are great," said Fujita. "No one's afraid to go to work. One thing I learned I down in New Orleans is that you bring in good people and that's how you win and I found that here. Couple that with all the players who are already here and showed a lot of resolve in the last four or five games last season, people who are hungry to win -- that's something I want to be a part of."

    Scott Fujita talks about his upbringing as an adopted child to a family with a Japanese heritage.


    Fujita will also finally get a chance to play for defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, whom he met in 2002 on a pre-draft visit to New England, where Ryan was linebackers coach.

    "I wasn't recruited coming out of high school, and my only visit coming out of the draft was to New England," said Fujita, a walk-on at California. "Rob took me out to lunch and bought me a hamburger, and I thought it was the coolest thing. It was a little dive bar, but still, somebody bought me a hamburger."

    Fujita thought the Patriots would draft him, but the Chiefs took him in the fifth round instead. Ryan kept in touch and tried to land Fujita again in 2006 when he was with the Raiders, but Fujita signed with the Saints.

    "When I came here, he said, 'it's about time I finally coached you,'" Fujita said. "I've always respected the way he coaches, and I'm excited to play for him."

    Fujita, who worked with the first team at right outside 'backer during OTAs, said he's in his prime despite playing eight seasons and can play inside or out.

    "I've done a lot of both and feel comfortable both ways," he said. "I think they're going to turn the guys loose and let them play."

    Fujita will travel to New Orleans on June 16 to receive his Super Bowl ring, then he'll get back to work here the next day.

    "Now I'm on the same mission, which is to win a championship and try to bring that to Cleveland," he said.


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    After a disappointing finish to the season, the Cavs fired coach Mike Brown on Sunday.

    Updated at 7:30 a.m. with statement from team

    Cavaliers lose to Celtics, 94-85Mike Brown was NBA Coach of the Year in 2009, but couldn't get the Cavaliers past the second round this past season.
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    The LeBron rumor mill: Obama pitches the Bulls; deciphering the Jay-Z Effect

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The most successful coach in Cavaliers history is now a former coach.

    In a move expected since the team lost three consecutive games to be upset by the Boston Celtics in the conference semifinals, the Cavs fired coach Mike Brown on Sunday according to a league source. The news was first reported by ESPN.

    It ended his run as the franchise's 17th coach after five seasons in which he broke numerous team records and was named the NBA's 2008-09 Coach of the Year.

    The team announced the firing this morning. The reason the act had to be done before the end of the weekend was there was a clause in Brown's contract, an extension signed in 2007, that guaranteed him about half of his salary for next season of $4 million if he was let go within 10 days of the end of this season.

    Cavs majority owner Dan Gilbert, who hand picked Brown and gave him his first head coaching job after an extensive coaching search in 2005, is believed to have been the driving force behind the decision. Though it followed more than a week of intensive meetings in which the merits and drawbacks of a coaching changed were deeply discussed.

    Some Cavs' players, including LeBron James, also seemed to lose patience with Brown after some of his adjustments and rotations didn't work against the Celtics in the playoffs.

    However, James is not believed to have made a personal push with management for a coaching change. He left it to the front office to make the final decision.

    Brown seemed to struggle with his rotations after having to incorporate Shaquille O'Neal back into the team in the playoffs after O'Neal missed the final six weeks of the season. He started a lineup in the first game of the playoffs that he hadn't used all season and the turbulence from multiple players changing roles appeared to upset the balance of the team.

    Those problems plus, according to sources, some disagreement over some game plans for playoff games with some of the team leaders eventually led to some discord in the locker room during the Celtics series.

    The day Brown was hired, June 2, 2005, he promised he would make the Cavs a defense-based team. It was a pledge he would back up, using defense to win 100 regular games and four playoff series in just his first two seasons.

    After some improvement in his first season, Brown's help-and-recover defensive system started to take hold. In the 2006-07 season, the Cavs allowed just 92 points a game in the regular season and just 86 points a game in the playoffs as the Cavs reached their first-ever Finals.

    When the Cavs won a team-record 66 games in the '08-09 season, the Cavs allowed just 91 points a game and 43 percent opponent shooting.

    Perhaps some of Brown's strongest work was his ability to help James become a better defender. After being suspect on defense his first two seasons in the NBA, James steadily improved under Brown. He was named first team All-Defense in each of the last two seasons.

    But over the last two seasons, Brown's defense has struggled in the clutch. In losing in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2009, the Cavs allowed 103 points per game and 48 percent shooting. In getting ousted by the Celtics in the second round this year, the Cavs gave up 100 points and 47 percent shooting per game.

    During his tenure Brown was often criticized for his offensive systems. But over the last two years made assistant coaches offensive coordinators and the Cavs had their best offensive year in Brown's tenure this season. The Cavs were one of the top six offensive teams in the league, averaging 102 points and shooting 48 percent per game.

    Brown's regular season record was 272-138, a .663 winning percentage that was the best in team history. Brown also set a team record for playoff wins, finishing 42-29.

    “I have truly enjoyed working with Mike Brown.  Mike has played a huge role in turning around the Cavs organization,” said Danny Ferry in a statement released by the Cavaliers this morning. “Over the past five years, Mike established a work ethic, defensive identity and culture of winning that was not here previously.”

    Brown was named the 2009 NBA Coach of the Year by members of the media. 

    “Mike Brown is a class act. On behalf of the entire Cavaliers organization, there is only gratitude and appreciation for Mike's accomplishments over the past five years," stated Cavaliers Majority Owner Dan Gilbert. "I think it is clear that Mike Brown has been instrumental in contributing to the growth and progress we have experienced in recent years. We wish Mike and his family the best of luck in any future challenges that Mike chooses to accept going forward.”

    “After a long and deep analysis of all of the factors that led to the disappointing early ends to our playoff runs over the past two seasons, we concluded that it was time for the Cavaliers to move in a different direction," Gilbert added. "The expectations of this organization are very high and, although change always carries an element of risk, there are times when that risk must be taken in an attempt to break through to new, higher levels of accomplishment. This is one of those times.”


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    After firing coach Mike Brown, the Cavaliers have a list of possible replacements. They'll start by thinking big despite numerous challenges.

    jackson.JPGThe Lakers have said they will not pay Phil Jackson $12.5 million next season.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- No NBA team makes a coaching change without considering who will be the next coach. Some plans are more feasible than others, of course.

    After firing Mike Brown after five seasons on Sunday, the Cavs have thrust themselves into a complex and uncertain coaching search. For one, they are one of six teams now looking for a head coach. Also without a firm handle on the future of free agent LeBron James, the team will certainly be limited in how it can pitch its job to the top-flight coaches they may look to attract.

    Usually, teams want new coaches in place before the draft and the start of free agency. But with the circumstances, the team may not be able to make a decision until after James does. That might not be until July.

    Nonetheless, the Cavs do have a list. Here's a look, according to sources, at who is on it.

    The dream choices:

    Phil Jackson

    A 10-time world champion who made his mark by coaching in Chicago and Los Angeles. Until he retires for good Jackson would be at the top of any search. There are two reasons why he will be at the top of the Cavs' list.

    One is that his contract with the Lakers is up at the end of the playoffs, making him the James of coaching free agents. The second is Jackson has said Lakers' owner Jerry Buss wants him to take a sizeable paycut from his $12.5 million annual salary. It has been reported that Buss wants Jackson to take as much as a $7 million cut.

    Never afraid to spend money and already assured of some payroll relief compared to the past three seasons, there is a chance Cavs owner Dan Gilbert would be willing to outspend Buss for Jackson.

    Five years ago, Jackson did accept an interview with Gilbert before going back to the Lakers.

    Even so, this would be considered an extreme long shot. It is hard to see Jackson coaching in Cleveland. Actually, it is hard to see him coaching anywhere but L.A., especially because his longtime girlfriend is Lakers' executive Jeanie Buss.

    Mike Krzyzewksi

    This is the second time the Duke legend's name has come up with an NBA job this year. The other was in relation to the New Jersey Nets, speculation that Krzyzewski shot down by saying: "You would be flattered if someone would offer you a job, but I would not be interested."

    The Cavs, however, have some factors going for them that may make Krzyzewksi at least listen. The central reason would be James, who now has a strong and respectful relationship with Krzyzewski after three summers of playing for him on Team USA. The two developed a bond as James matured as a team leader of the national team under Krzyzewski's encouragement.

    Also, Cavs general manager Danny Ferry has a long-standing and deep relationship with his former college coach. Ferry went to three Final Fours under Krzyzewski and won National Player of the Year honors in 1989. Coming to Cleveland may seem like a crazy move for the man known as "Coach K," but knowing Ferry was there to work with him could sweeten the pot to a certain degree.

    Ferry and Krzyzewksi also share the same agent.

    In his recently released book, "The Gold Standard," Krzyzewksi revealed that he was very close to leaving Duke to join the Lakers as head coach in 2004 when Kobe Bryant made a personal pitch. Now at age 63 and coming off a national championship, it may be Krzyzewski's last chance to coach a superstar in the player's prime.

    In the years since, Krzyzewksi has earned NBA respect because of his success as the head coach of Team USA, something he didn't have six years ago.

    Despite all that, this also would have to be in the long shot category. Krzyzewski's reputation is beyond reproach and his place in history secure. Not to mention he's one of the highest-paid college coaches. He has shunned NBA opportunities for years.

    Tom Izzo

    Like Krzyzewski, the Michigan State coach has been a target of NBA teams numerous times in the past. Well-respected for his work ethic and ability to teach defense and rebounding, Izzo has established a reputation as a blue collar coach who routinely gets the most out of his teams. His persona would fit in well with the Cavs' desires to have a coach who establishes a system and a culture with his team.

    Gilbert, a Michigan State graduate, has a relationship with Izzo and is believed to like him.

    Coming off another Final Four appearance, Izzo would have little motive to leave the Spartans. He's turned down chances to make more money in the past. He did, however, recruit James for awhile when James was in high school.

    More realistic big names

    John Calipari

    One of James' close friends, Calipari has vehemently said he is staying at Kentucky. The problem is, few people in the NBA believe that he would not consider the right NBA job. Would the Cavs be that job if James' re-signs?

    Despite what may be assumed, it is not believed that James would actively push for Calipari in Cleveland or anywhere else he may look to sign that has a coach opening. But simply because of the relationship plus the long list of players Calipari has sent to the league, he will likely be on the Cavs' list.

    Calipari is known for a more open offensive style that takes advantage of the constant talented perimeter players he has.  It is a drive-and-kick style that opens lanes and doesn't need a post player to be successful. That may make him attractive to some in the Cavs organization after the offense has struggled at times during Brown's tenure.

    Byron Scott

    Other than Brown now, Scott has the most impressive playoff resume of any coach currently on the unemployment line. He turned around both the Nets and the Hornets by devising systems that incorporated the several stars that both teams had. He took the Nets to the Finals twice. His career playoff record of 33-24 is a testament.

    In both stops, Scott was known for making a positive impact in his first 2-3 seasons on the bench but then losing the support of his team farther down the line. Both times he was fired, including last season in New Orleans, came after trouble with core players on his teams.

    But he was very close with point guard Chris Paul, a golfing buddy as well as player, and Paul and James have a strong relationship.

    The Sleepers

    Jeff Van Gundy

    There are those who think Van Gundy is the most accomplished former coach without a current job. He's a defensive specialist who is also known for taking a hard line with players and challenging his stars. It would be, in many ways, a direct opposite of the player-inclusive style that Brown used.

    However, sources indicate Van Gundy isn't itching to return to coaching yet. He has a lucrative contract with ESPN as an analyst. Yet the chance to coach James could be a draw.

    Mike Budenholzer

    If the Cavs consider a candidate without head coaching experience, figure Budenholzer to be at the top of that list. He's been with the San Antonio Spurs for the last 16 seasons and for the last three has been Gregg Popovich's lead assistant. He has a relationship with Ferry and other members of the Cavs organization.

    The belief is that Budenholzer is the coach-in-waiting for when Popovich decides to give up coaching duties. The Spurs may not be willing to give him up.

    Also on the list:

    Former head coaches

    Dwayne Casey: Current Dallas assistant, a candidate for other current openings including Atlanta.
    Maurice Cheeks: Solid resume, currently assistant with Thunder.
    Lawrence Frank: Hard-working young coach who did a quality job with Nets.
    Mike Fratello: Long shot, former Cavs coach badly wants back in somewhere.
    Avery Johnson: May not be best fit, up for other jobs at the moment.
    Sam Mitchell: Former Coach of the Year with Raptors.
    Eric Musselman: Interviewed for Cavs opening in 2005.
    Terry Porter: Saw some success but seemed to get raw deal in both Milwaukee and Phoenix, last two stops.
     
    Rising assistants

    Tyrone Corbin: Getting interviews around league after studying under Jerry Sloan in Utah.
    Dean Demopoulos: Nate McMillan's lead assistant in Portland who has been on radar for several years.
    Bill Laimbeer: Won titles as WNBA coach in Detroit, now on Timberwolves staff.
    Dan Majerle: Former Cav now on Phoenix staff getting interest in league.
    Mike Malone: Respected for his knowledge and work ethic, Cavs assistant could get interview.
    Tom Thibodeau: Celtics defensive wiz is one of highest-paid and respected assistants in business. Has been getting interviews for last three years.
    Elston Turner: Has been lead assistant with Rick Adelman in Sacramento and now Houston. Already interviewed for several opening this year.
    Monty Williams: Young assistant with Blazers who is getting attention is on the short list in New Orleans.


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    Mike Brown is now the former coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Brown's regular season record of 272-138, a .663 winning percentage, was the best in team history. Brown also finishes with the best playoff record in franshise history at 42-29. So which type of coach do the Cavaliers need now?   Who should become the next coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers?Market...


    Mike BrownMike Brown Mike Brown is now the former coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Brown's regular season record of 272-138, a .663 winning percentage, was the best in team history. Brown also finishes with the best playoff record in franshise history at 42-29.


    So which type of coach do the Cavaliers need now?


     




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    Like many of us from time to time, LeBron James must decide where he is going to work next. This has created a smattering of interest. ESPN, for instance, has created a Web page called the “LeBron Tracker,” which includes a countdown-to-free-agency clock; when it hits zero, I assume James will drop out of the sky onto Times Square. Actually, best I can tell from reading the New York papers, James is going to sign with the Knicks and the Nets.

    Cavaliers lose to Celtics, 94-85Where will LeBron James end up next season? So far, nobody knows.Like many of us from time to time, LeBron James must decide where he is going to work next. This has created a smattering of interest. ESPN, for instance, has created a Web page called the “LeBron Tracker,” which includes a countdown-to-free-agency clock; when it hits zero, I assume James will drop out of the sky onto Times Square.

    Actually, best I can tell from reading the New York papers, James is going to sign with the Knicks and the Nets.

    Here is a rundown of the most likely places LeBron will land:

    Cavaliers: James has reached the proverbial fork in the road. If he follows the same route to The Q, they'll name the highway after him. But if he takes the interstate out of town, he'd better take all his belongings because nobody's letting him come back home.

    I guess it says something about our culture that, if LeBron leaves Cleveland, the town will go into a 20-year depression. (If he leaves Cleveland for New York, you can add a zero to that.) I'm not good at professional advice, but I'll offer LeBron this: Stay the course at home and keep bringing sunshine to a city clouded with doubts. You don't want to become Art Modell, do you?

    Los Angeles Clippers: If Nike ran the NBA, James would join Kobe Bryant for a Tinseltown marketing bonanza! Can you imagine LeBron and Kobe in the same arena? That would be like Gypsy Rose Lee and Blaze Starr working the same pole. But there are problems. First of all, traffic is so bad in L.A., Kobe commutes to Staples Center by helicopter. (For real.) Second of all, the team is owned by Donald Sterling, who also owns apartment buildings; frankly, his properties – including the Clippers – all look like they could use a fresh coat of paint.

    New York Knicks: Really, outside of New York, who wants to see LeBron end up in New York? It remains a great city and a grating sports town. And for all its greatness, the Big Apple has no vacancies – all the best addresses are gone. You think LeBron's going to live in a fifth-floor walkup with no doorman? Not to mention, with or without LeBron, the Knicks stink. I can smell the stench from here and I'm 2,400 miles away. There's virtually no difference between the team's current roster and the line of people at Radio Shack waiting to buy phone chargers.

    New Jersey Nets: Who wouldn't want to work for a Russian billionaire and Beyonce's husband? And supposedly the Nets are moving to sexy Brooklyn in 2012, though that arena might not get built until 2512. Until then, the team will play in Newark, N.J., which, stunningly, is the Nets' ace in the hole. Newark – on the uptick – is now Paris on the Turnpike. Newark is close to the Atlantic Ocean (a top-five ocean); it's home to Port Newark, one of the world's top shipping ports, and, most important, it's no more than a 10-minute helicopter ride into Manhattan.
    Ask The Slouch!

    Q:The St. Louis Cardinals have the worst offense in baseball. How come Mark McGwire hasn't been able to teach them how to hit? – Francis Cox, Houston

    A:I don't think you can teach hitting – it's one part instincts, two parts human growth hormones.

    Q:Is it fair or accurate to compare a workout on a recumbent bicycle to what you do for a living? – John Swope, Irwin, Pa.

    A:Actually, I often go days without moving my lower body.

    Q:Will we ever see you as a participant on “High Stakes Poker”? – Ben Semiatin, Wheaton, Md.

    A:If they ever lower the stakes, sure.

    Q:Why can't Jay-Z just move to Cleveland? –Ken Elinsky, Cleveland

    A.Pay the man, Shirley.

    You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just e-mail asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!


    Miami Heat: OK, Dwyane Wade's a great player and a good phone pal, but if he and LeBron are on the same team, the NBA would have to change its end-of-game rules to allow the Heat to inbound two balls into play. And let me ask you this – considering that Florida has no state income tax and mild weather, why doesn't everybody live there? Exactly. Heck, more people live in Albuquerque, N.M., than in Miami. Besides, Albuquerque is just as sunny as the Sunshine State, so if I'm LeBron, I'd just move to New Mexico and demand the NBA bring a team to me.

    Chicago Bulls: Upside: Cosmopolitan big city, good roster in place, blessing of President Obama, unmatched deep-dish pizza. Downside: Wind off of Lake Michigan in the winter, shadow of Michael Jordan, Jay Mariotti. Plus, Lou Malnati's – one of the deep-dish specialists – overnights pizzas in dry ice to just about anywhere in the U.S., so you don't even have to live in town to enjoy the awesome food.

    West Ham United F.C.: This would be the gutsy move for LeBron – head to England and the Premier League for a team that has never won a Premier League title. In fact, the city of West Ham, I believe, has not seen a title for any of its pro sports franchises in 46 years. The team is without a manager, so LeBron could bring in his own guy. Granted, he's never played soccer, but, then again, David Beckham's a big deal and I don't think he ever plays soccer, either.

    Norman Chad is a freelance writer in Los Angeles.

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    Bloomberg Business Week reporter Scott Soshnick writes that LeBron James should give the Cleveland Cavaliers one more chance. He writes that James should give the Cavaliers at least one more year, as in a one-year contract, as a gift before he says goodbye. Give the Cavaliers one more season, one more chance. Make it clear that, absent a National...

    Bloomberg Business Week reporter Scott Soshnick writes that LeBron James should give lbj-pregamejk.jpgLeBron James the Cleveland Cavaliers one more chance. He writes that James should give the Cavaliers at least one more year, as in a one-year contract, as a gift before he says goodbye.

    Give the Cavaliers one more season, one more chance. Make it clear that, absent a National Basketball Association championship, there won’t be another reprieve. Fans, local celebrities and elected officials shouldn’t bother asking, pleading or singing hokey songs. It won’t work. Nothing will.

    Win or leave home.

    He writes that at least one more year would give team owner Dan Gilbert one final opportunity to prove that he and management can figure out what it takes to win it all. 

     

    Cleveland wins

    When it comes to the LeBron James free agency sweep stakes, only one team comes to mind as the winner when Pat Ewing was asked --- Cleveland.

    That is what Ewing told New York Daily News reporter Frank Isola.

    "The league designed it that way," Ewing added. "If you stay you can make $30 million more. And if you already have a good team, why leave?"

    The Knicks, Ewing's former club, are hoping that James does leave money on the table to come to New York this summer and end the team's streak of nine straight losing seasons. Ewing lives by the credo of "once a Knick always a Knick," but he won't campaign, sway or advise James on what his next move should be because as an assistant coach with the Orlando Magic, Ewing's loyalty lies with his current employer.

     

     Decisions, decisions

    It was reported that LeBron James had nothing to do with the move to fire Mike Brown, but New York Daily news reporter Mitch Lawrence writes James is now looking at making two major decisions.

    Not only will James decide which team he will play for this summer, but James, if he stays in Cleveland, will help make the decision on the next coach.

    Among the coaches James and the Cavs figure to look at are Avery Johnson, who sits atop the Nets' wish list and also has drawn interest from the Bulls; ex-Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy; and Kentucky coach John Calipari, who is a friend of James but has insisted over recent weeks that he is staying in Lexington.

     

    No more issues

    Remember when Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah had issues with LeBron James during the playoffs? It was Noah who had a problem with James dancing, and it was Noah who put down the city of Cleveland.

    But since you can't beat him, Noah wants LeBron to join him.

    "I'm excited to have a chance to play with the best player in the world," the Bulls' center-forward said yesterday at the iS8 Nike Spring Classic in Queens.

    "That's always your goal, to play at the highest level with the best players in a place like Chicago. It'd be a great opportunity to one day win a championship."

     
     

     


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    Cleveland sports bloggers continue to discuss LeBron's future as well as breaking down Mike Brown's dismissal as Cavaliers' coach and looking back on what went wrong in 2009-2010; also, check in on the Browns and a second round pick that didn't see much time on the field last year.

    Want more Cleveland sports blogs? Check out more headlines on our Fan Blog page.

    lebron james.jpgView full sizeLeBron James.Cavaliers

    WaitingForNextYear:
    "That isn't to say the Cavaliers have the best roster in the league right now. They are a deep team, but they don't have the best second option. Derrick Rose is better than Mo Williams. Dirk Nowitzki is a better big man than anyone on the Cavs' roster. There are handfuls of rosters that could be compared favorably to the current supporting cast in Cleveland. That isn't the point. To be more exact, that isn't the whole point. LeBron's choice isn't about making a decision around a single year. LeBron needs to make a decision that will benefit him for the next three years and probably longer." » Read more

    Cavs HQ:
    "While I believe it was time for Mike Brown to go, Danny Ferry deserves some of the blame for Brown's shortcomings this season. He gave too many players to a coach who struggles with rotations, and he gave a group of players who don't defend very well - namely Shaquille O'Neal, Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison - to a coach who specializes on defense. Just like a coach has to put his players in a position to succeed, the GM has to put his coach in a position to succeed. While Ferry added talent on paper, he did not always take his head coach into account when adding that talent." » Read more

    Stepien Rules:
    "Whatever the case, its over - Mike Brown's out - and let the 'who's going to coach now?' questions fly. ... If the Cavs should end up not resigning LeBron James, it may be difficult / impossible to land a head coach that will do a better job next season than Mike Brown would have done had he been retained." » Read more

    Browns


    Cleveland Reboot:
    "Robiskie is this year's Jerome Harrison in some respects. While I'm not suggesting that Robiskie is going to channel Harrison's late-season surge of 2009; I will predict the following: If Robiskie can't break through this season – considering the lack of talent at his position – he never will. Much like Harrison in 2009 playing behind a broken Jamal Lewis, Robiskie is staring down the ultimate opportunity to get some precious playing time in 2010. Other than Mohammed Massaquoi ... and Mohammed Massaquoi, the Browns feature virtually nothing at wideout. If Robiskie again cannot crack the lineup, then it was truly never meant to be." » Read more

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    Firing Mike Brown is the easy part for the Cavaliers. Now, who replaces him as coach?

    Xplutobrown00195_9.jpgView full sizeThe hard work is just beginning for the Cleveland Cavaliers after firing Mike Brown on Sunday, Terry Pluto says.CLEVELAND, Ohio -- If Mike Brown were fired by another team -- and the Cavaliers needed a coach -- he'd probably be a serious candidate for the job.

    That will be the case for teams without coaches, such as New Orleans, Chicago and Atlanta. Brown will look good to them, as well as to the Nets. Five years, five playoff appearances, never losing in the first round.

    Overall record is 272-138, the .663 percentage is the best in Cavs history.

    Brown was fired Sunday for one reason: He didn't lead the Cavs to the NBA Finals this season. There are other issues. His offense was sometimes stagnant. Defensively, the Cavs fell apart against Orlando in the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals, and again in this season's second-round loss to Boston.

    Another argument against him is five years with the same team is an eternity in the NBA, where the average coach's survival rate is shorter than a one-term president.

    In the end, the Cavs decided they need a new voice.

    But who?

    As times passes and Orlando continues to play even worse against Boston than the Cavs, replacing Brown seems even more challenging than when the Cavs were wiped out in six games less than two weeks ago.

    Most of the names being floated sound like a kindergartner's Christmas list.

    Sure, Phil Jackson will leave L.A. where his girlfriend is the owner's daughter and he has Kobe Bryant under contract for next season. You bet, a 63-year-old Mike Krzyzewski can't wait to leave Duke for Cleveland, where he may -- or may not -- have a chance to coach LeBron James.

    Tom Izzo may be the best college coach in the business, but is the man from Michigan State capable of adjusting to the NBA -- where most veteran college coaches have been dismal failures? Does he even want to, as he has turned down other pro opportunities in the past.

    John Calipari? If you hire the Kentucky coach, he comes to town as the man picked by James to coach James. Is that healthy or wise? And is Calipari even the right fit for the NBA? His greatest strength is recruiting, which is not near the top of the list as attributes needed to coach in the NBA.

    Most successful NBA coaches are former pro players such as Doc Rivers, George Karl, Lenny Wilkens, Don Nelson, Pat Riley, Nate McMillan, Scott Skiles or Rick Adelman.

    Or they are veteran pro assistants: Stan Van Gundy, Alvin Gentry, Gregg Popovich, Flip Saunders, Mike Fratello or Mike Brown. Larry Brown was a little of everything: A tremendous guard in the old American Basketball Association, a coach at UCLA and Kansas, along with lots of pro teams.

    Guess you can write Larry Brown's name on the list for the Cavs, assuming he could get out of his deal with Charlotte. Then again, Brown and James did not enjoy the pleasure of each other's company during their summer vacations together with USA Basketball.

    As you consider the realistic and available candidates -- Mike Woodson, Avery Johnson, Byron Scott, Lawrence Frank, Vinny Del Negro -- their resumes are not any better than that of Mike Brown. Scott went to the Finals twice with the Nets, Johnson once with Dallas.

    A few e-mailers mentioned Hubie Brown. I actually like the idea, but does Hubie Brown want to coach again at the age of 76? Does that even make sense?

    Boston's Tom Thibodeau, San Antonio's Mike Budenholzer and Houston's Elston Turner are the assistant coaches who are supposed to be excellent candidates to take over a team. But who knows what they can do?

    Do you hand the Cavs over to a guy who has never been a pro head coach before?

    Cavs owner Dan Gilbert probably would. He claimed experience "can be good or bad," meaning you can have a lot of experience in mediocrity.

    As the Cavs begin their search, they can't worry about what James wants in a coach -- unless it's a guy who has a reputation of clashing with most superstars. They need to find the best coach possible, because who knows what James will do.

    Yes, Mike Brown had a two-time MVP in James. Yes, he had tremendous support from ownership and the front office. But his five years reveal that this man of exceptional character did a very solid job as coach of the Cavaliers.

    Replacing him will be even harder than the Cavs or their fans believe.


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    Hall of Famer says he might return if the situation is right.

    lennywilkens.jpgLenny WilkensNow that the Cleveland Cavaliers have fired coach Mike Brown, many names of potential replacements will surface over the next few days.

    SI.com reporter Frank Hughes writes that since Hall of Famer Lenny Wilkens, 72, has agreed to serve as a consultant to the South Korean National Team, it could be a precursor to Wilkens returning to the league.

    Wilkens says:

    "If the situation was right, I certainly would consider [coaching again]," Wilkens said. "I have not explored it. But Cleveland certainly has a good team. So does Chicago. A few teams are good and need coaches. Let's see how everything shakes out and then we'll see."

    Wilkens coached the Cavaliers from 1986-93. He retired from coaching in 2005 after 32 seasons in the NBA with 1,332 career victories.

     


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    Cleveland Cavs coaching records: Mike Brown has the best winning percentage and ranks third in victories among the 17 coaches in Cavs history.

    george-karl-bill-fitch-lenny-wilkens-mike-fratello-cleveland-cavs-coaches.jpgCavs coaches George Karl, Bill Fitch, Lenny Wilkens and Mike Fratello.Cavs coaching records
    (chart below)


    CLEVELAND, Ohio - Mike Brown, the 17th coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, has the best winning percentage of any coach in team history and ranks third in victories.

    Only three Cavs coaches have compiled winning records. They are Brown (.663), Lenny Wilkens (.551) and Mike Fratello (.539).

    Wilkens leads the club in victories with 316, followed by Fitch with 304 and Brown with 272.

    Most Cavs coaches have also coached elsewhere. They include three of the winningest coaches in the history of the NBA.

    Wilkens has 1,332 victories with six teams, George Karl 986 victories with five teams and Fitch 944 victories with five teams.

    Also: Find other Cleveland sports stats with the Data Central index.

    Coach Cavs Record Pro Record
    Years W L Pct. Teams W L Pct.
    Bill Fitch 1970-79 304 434 0.412 5 944 1,106 0.460
    Stan Albeck 1979-80 37 45 0.451 5 344 311 0.525
    Bill Musselman 1980-82 27 67 0.287 4 85 210 0.288
    Don Delaney 1980-82 7 19 0.269 1 7 19 0.269
    Bob Kloppenburg 1981-82 0 3 0.000 2 3 9 0.250
    Chuck Daly 1981-82 9 32 0.220 4 638 437 0.593
    Tom Nissalke 1982-84 51 113 0.311 7 371 508 0.422
    George Karl 1984-86 61 88 0.409 5 986 671 0.595
    Gene Littles 1985-86 4 11 0.267 2 44 111 0.284
    Lenny Wilkens 1986-93 316 258 0.551 6 1,332 1,155 0.536
    Mike Fratello 1993-99 248 212 0.539 3 667 548 0.549
    Randy Wittman 1999-01 62 102 0.378 2 100 207 0.326
    John Lucas 2001-03 37 87 0.298 3 173 258 0.401
    Keith Smart 2002-03 9 31 0.225 1 9 31 0.225
    Paul Silas 2003-05 69 77 0.473 4 355 400 0.470
    Brendan Malone 2004-05 8 10 0.444 2 29 71 0.290
    Mike Brown 2005-10 272 138 0.663 1 272 138 0.663

    Sources: Cleveland Cavs; basketball-reference.com


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