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

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    Playing against the stingy Nuggets defense, which entered the night ranked fourth in the NBA, the ball movement from Tuesday's win stopped.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The good vibes that surrounded the Cavaliers after appointing Larry Drew "acting" coach lasted five quarters.

    One game after routing the hapless Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland got off to a magnificent start Thursday night, able to carry that repaired confidence into the first quarter while building a 12-point lead against the lethargic Denver Nuggets. But as has been the case for seven of the eight games during a drama-filled and gloomy season, the Cavs couldn't sustain that level of play.

    It vanished quickly, as the Cavs lost 110-91.

    "We just could not recover," Drew said. "And as I told the guys at halftime, I mean looking at that second quarter, you would've thought if you had known who played last night, you would've thought we were the team that played last night because we just, we could not sustain the energy we did in the first quarter."

    Playing against the stingy Nuggets, who entered the night ranked fourth in defense in the NBA, the ball movement from Tuesday's win stopped. The Cavs had 18 assists.

    The mid-range jumper, the most inefficient look in basketball, was the shot of choice. Too often the Cavs aimlessly hoisted late-clock jumpers -- stymied on their initial drive attempts. It led to shooting 34-of-83 (41 percent) from the field, including 5-of-18 (27.8 percent) on triples. 

    "That's where I think we got a little hurried, we got a little out of ourselves," Starting forward Sam Dekker said. "Good teams are the ones that can get out of those funks and correct the ship. We're not there yet."

    The Cavs looked indecisive and untrusting, throwing the ball away repeatedly and fueling the Nuggets' ruthless fastbreak game. The Cavs committed 14 turnovers, which the Nuggets converted into 19 points.

    Denver also finished the game with 16 fastbreak points.

    Rodney Hood's breakout game turned out to be nothing but a tease. Hood's streak of double-digit scoring games ended at seven. He tallied just eight points on 1-of-9 from the field and 0-of-3 from beyond the arc. 

    It wasn't much better on the other end, as the defense was leaky, looking like Tyronn Lue was back putting an ill-conceived plan together.

    The Nuggets whipped the ball from side to side and repeatedly bludgeoned the Cavs with open shots and long-range bombs. The Nuggets ended the night shooting 10-of-26 on 3-pointers. They sliced through Cleveland's paltry pick-and-roll defense and left players scrambling to recover, with poor communication once again a problem. 

    "With this team, even though it shouldn't be, guys offensively if they're not getting in a rhythm sometimes take a step back defensively," Tristan Thompson said. "I think that's just the nature of the NBA, the nature of basketball.

    "For our team, like LD said, he hit it right on the head, the margin of error is so small that we can't have those kind of screwups. We've got to be sharp every night just to give ourselves a chance to be in the ballgame."

    When the game started to slip away, during another lackluster second quarter, there was finger-pointing and eye-rolling. At one point, veteran point guard George Hill slammed the ball out of frustration, bouncing it all the way across the Quicken Loans Arena hardwood to a waiting official. 

    On Thursday night, just 48 hours after celebrating their first win and toasting to a new era, the Cavs reverted to old habits -- the flaws that led to that horrible 0-6 start and eventually Lue's abrupt release.

    "We've got some bad habits, we've got guys that have got some bad habits," Thompson said. "That's fine, it's a learning process at the end of the day. They don't have enough wins on their resume to know what (a bad habit) looks like. Some guys win 25 games and think it's a good season. That's terrible. Guys just have to learn how to break bad habits and that's what we're going to have to do."

    The honeymoon ended before it really started.

    The Cavs looked like the team playing their third game in four nights and the second of a back-to-back while losing an hour coming from Chicago. That was the Nuggets, by the way.

    With some circumstances in Cleveland's favor heading into the night, it was an opportunity to take another step forward.

    For Drew, it was a chance to send a message once again, to put more pressure on the front office during these back-and-forth contract negotiations that are said to be progressing. 

    Instead, it was another blowout loss, their fifth of that kind this season.

    The coaching change didn't fix everything. Bad habits are tough to break.

    Lousy second quarter

    It's been their vulnerability all season. Firing Lue hasn't corrected it. The Cavaliers produced a sloppy second quarter, which was as bad as the first quarter was good.

    The Cavs scored 15 points on 5-of-22 from the field to go with six turnovers. By the end of it, the Nuggets had turned a 12-point deficit into an eight-point advantage, winning the quarter, 35-15.

    From the 5:26 mark until the end of the period, the Cavs made just one basket, a putback dunk by Larry Nance Jr. to beat the quarter buzzer.

    Part of Cleveland's issue is its bench. The second unit has been scoring in bunches this season, ranked second in the NBA heading into the night. But scoring numbers can be deceiving. Three of the team's second unit mainstays -- Nance, Jordan Clarkson and Collin Sexton -- rank in the bottom six in net rating.

    That stat helps illustrate their effectiveness. Or lack thereof.

    Support for JR Smith

    Chants of Smith's name echoed through the mostly-vacated arena late in the fourth quarter, as fans wanted Smith to get some playing time. It never happened.

    Smith was one of two players not to see action. Channing Frye was the other. 

    Smith, who said early Tuesday morning that he was hoping for a trade and felt unwanted, hasn't played in the team's last two games. He is not expected to get back in the rotation unless something unforeseen happens.

    Up next

    The Cavs will hit the road for a pair of games. Their first stop will be Charlotte for a matchup against the Hornets on Saturday night. 


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    The 19-point drubbing highlights why Drew wants a new deal before becoming the interim coach for the remainder of this year -- and possibly beyond.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Larry Drew left Quicken Loans Arena on Thursday night without a restructured contract. All he carried was the weight of another blowout defeat for the Cleveland Cavaliers, this time it came from the seven-win Denver Nuggets.

    The 19-point drubbing highlights why Drew wants a new deal before becoming the interim coach for the remainder of this year -- and possibly beyond.

    It's also why the Cavaliers seem to be inching toward that.

    "Talks are moving forward in a positive direction," Drew said Thursday night. "There's some progress being made. Things are moving in the right direction."

    For clarification, Drew spoke to his agent, Andy Miller, late Wednesday and was happy with what he heard. But the back and forth between all parties has been taking place since Sunday and this particular negotiation is awfully tricky for a variety of reasons that have been laid out already.

    On Monday afternoon, when Drew labeled himself the "voice" as opposed to interim, he talked about how difficult this challenge would be.

    The Cavs are in a strange place. They entered this season with hopes of overachieving. But general manager Koby Altman has slowly started to shift. He's now honestly assessing whether that's even still possible while weighing the short- and long-term goals and trying to determine if there's a way the two can still align.

    That's why Drew wants a new deal. It's why he's seeking more security.

    "Certainly when you talk about rebuilding, it's not an easy thing to do," Drew said recently. "It's usually something that takes a little time. If it's going to take some time, I'd like to be part of that. I made the organization pretty aware of that, that this is something that's not going to happen overnight."

    Thursday was the perfect example.

    Just a few days removed from crushing the Hawks and feeling good about the team's progress -- pointing to an unselfish brand of ball and a complete team effort -- all of that hard work crumbled quickly, as the Cavs were completely overmatched by the Denver Nuggets.

    In the final three quarters, Cleveland was outscored 95-64. Tristan Thompson said players started "straying away from the game plan" when adversity came. 

    "We wanted to be aggressive and set a tone early," Thompson said. "That's what we tried to do. We jumped on 'em for the first 19, 20 minutes, then after we got away from what we were supposed to do that's when they jumped on us."

    If everything works out and the Cavs give Drew what he wants, he would be in for a long season.

    With player development at the center of this plan, part of his responsibility is to nurture franchise building blocks Collin Sexton, Cedi Osman, Larry Nance Jr. and maybe some others. That's quite an obligation. 

    Given the talent deficiencies, with role players camouflaged as starters, the losses would likely pile up, which can threaten to pull teams apart.

    Drew would also have to manage the JR Smith situation. The veteran with a checkered past was out of the rotation for the first three games before Tyronn Lue ignored the front office's desires and surprisingly put Smith back out there for two straight games against Brooklyn and Detroit. Smith did little to convince anyone he deserved that promotion, scoring seven points on 3-of-12 from the field and 0-of-5 from 3-point range in 38 minutes over that stretch.

    Those performances, on the heels of an inconsistent training camp and two dreadful seasons, led to Smith's demotion.

    But it's clear the 33-year-old shooting guard who started the last three seasons isn't happy about his new role. He said early Thursday morning that he was hoping for a trade and it's tough to put on a happy face and pretend everything is fine. It was an understandable response, but one that speaks to the chaos Drew would be signing up for. 

    He would have to keep Smith in line, making sure he remains a good teammate and positive influence behind the scenes.      

    Still, Drew's toughest challenge became glaringly obvious against Denver. It's breaking bad habits that have infected the locker room.

    "It's one of the toughest things to do when you take over a situation where guys do have bad habits," Drew said. "When you're a young team, something that you as coach you're going to have to live with some of the things, particularly with the young guys. Hopefully the more they play, the more they'll learn. Bad habits are things we'll continue to try to correct them with by showing them on film, sitting down with them, just kind of explaining things. You have to stay with it. Right when you think you're going to turn the corner and they see it, all of a sudden they go right back to those habits, so we just have to stay with it and just keep teaching."

    That helps explain the drastic turnaround during the game. Drew said the bad habits come from having young players and new guys in different roles.

    The Cavs are still trying to find an identity. They are searching for a defensive scheme that will allow them to be something other than a disaster at that end. Kevin Love remains sidelined with a toe injury, significantly decreasing Cleveland's chances of competing with upper-echelon teams like the Nuggets. 

    Thompson, who didn't want to single anyone out, said he senses the bad habits as well.

    "It's a learning process at the end of the day," he said. "LeBron said four years ago guys are going to have bad habits because they just don't know what it takes to win or to be in position to win. They don't have enough wins on their resume to know what one looks like.

    "Some guys win 25 games and think it's a good season. That's ass in the NBA, that's terrible. Guys just have to learn how to break bad habits and that's what we're going to have to do."

    Drew also recognizes that some of the answers he seeks come with experimentation, something Lue also explained prior to getting fired on Sunday morning.

    "After tonight's game and I had a conversation with my staff, I really see some things that we're probably going to have to make some adjustments with and that's just part of this game," Drew said.

    He wouldn't reveal those tweaks. But the second quarter, when the Cavs tend to lose energy, will be put under the microscope. It could also lead to an altered rotation or a few different lineup combinations.

    This tends to happen with a new group, which is why having someone with Drew's experience would be beneficial.

    Yes, the Cavs have some holdovers from the 2016 title team. Sure, they brought players back from last year's squad that advanced to the NBA Finals.

    But there's plenty of new here. As Thompson said, four years ago it was James who had to teach the youngsters how to win.

    This time, Drew doesn't have James to stand idly by in the corner while letting Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters take turns dribbling the air out of the basketball before chucking contested jumpers -- trying to show them the value of the team game. 

    It's on Drew to get it fixed. For now anyway.

    Like everyone else, he recognizes the steep climb ahead. Nights like Thursday, when the Cavs got blitzed off their own floor, are probably going to be more common than a 22-point win. Not easy on anyone. 

    Nights like Thursday are why Drew's adamant about a new deal.


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    Cleveland Browns have new man in charge of offense in Freddie Kitchens

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- At least on the surface, new Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens would appear to be very different from his predecessor Todd Haley.

    Kitchens has never been a coordinator, although he did get to call plays in a preseason game this year against the Detroit Lions. In that game the Browns had 261 yards passing and 163 yards rushing in a 35-17 win.

    Haley has experience as an offensive coordinator and calling plays. He also had been a head coach in Kansas City.

    One interesting comparison is the two men's college experience. Haley was on the golf team at Florida and also Miami while Kitchens quarterbacked the Crimson Tide.

    So what will the Browns offense look like with Kitchens in charge of the offense? Probably not that much different, but at least there shouldn't be any controversy between the interim head coach, defensive-minded Gregg Williams, and the new OC about play calling.

    Crowquill, by Plain Dealer artist Ted Crow, appears three times a week in The Plain Dealer and on cleveland.com.


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    Doug Lesmerises predicts the score as the Buckeyes try to bounce back from a loss at Purdue. Watch video

    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State has a history of bouncing back big after losses.

    When the Buckeyes lost to Virginia Tech in 2014, they beat Kent State 66-0 the next week. (Yes, it was Kent State.)

    In 2015, when they lost to Michigan State, they beat Michigan 42-13 the next week.

    In 2017, after losing to Oklahoma they beat Army 38-7 and after losing to Iowa they drubbed Michigan State 48-3.

    That victory over the Spartans is the one to really reference now as the Buckeyes host Nebraska following an off week after their 29-point loss to Purdue. 

    The only time in the Urban Meyer era when the Buckeyes didn't look strong after a regular-season loss was a 24-20 win over Northwestern the week after the Penn State loss in 2016.

    But I think this week against the 2-6 Cornhuskers will look more like what happened after those other defeats. Here's my pick for the game.

    Watch the video to see a full explanation of my pick. And to see scarecrows.

    * Doug Lesmerises: Ohio State 52, Nebraska 21

    Take Ohio State -18

    Ohio State game picks record

    Doug: 7-1, 3-5 against the spread


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    Doug Lesmerises talks with L.A. Rams writer Rich Hammond and NFL writer Ben Solak about how the Browns can learn from the Rams coaching search and the names that should be on their coaching list.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- It's an obvious comparison, but that's fine. The Browns shouldn't stop thinking they can find the coach that can help them start winning immediately.

    Just like the Los Angeles Rams did.

    Jared Goff was the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Jeff Fisher was his coach. Goff, who sat for the first half of the season, struggled when he finally played and went 0-7 his first season. Fisher was fired with a 4-9 record after 13 games, and the Rams hired Sean McVay in the offseason.

    Goff improved. McVay led the team. They went 11-5 last season and now they're 8-0.

    You're up Browns.

    Baker Mayfield was the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Hue Jackson was his coach. Mayfield is 1-4 as a starter, though he also led a victory in relief in his first game against the Jets. Jackson was fired with a 2-5-1 record after eight games.

    Now, the Browns need to make the right hire with their new coach.

    To figure out how to do that, we have two great guests on Takes By The Lake this week.

    First is Rich Hammond of the Orange County Register, who has covered the Rams since they returned to Los Angeles. He wrote a great story about how the Rams hired McVay that you need to read. And he told me how the Rams got it right, even with a front office that often gets it wrong. So there's hope for the Browns.

    Then we have Benjamin Solak, who wrote a smart story about matching the Browns coaching candidates to Mayfield on thedraftnetwork.com. He also knows current Minnesota offensive coordinator and former Browns quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo well, since Ben covers the Philadelphia Eagles and DeFilippo served as the Eagles QB coach in 2016 and 2017. Read his story on DeFilippo as well.

    It's a great conversation on how the Browns can get this coaching hire right. Sorry we didn't get to a Takes podcast for the last two weeks, but we're glad to be back and glad to have you back. 

    There's an Apple podcast channel for Takes By The Lake.

    You can subscribe on Google Play.

    If you have an Android device, find a way to subscribe.

     


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    Mullens had a night to remember in his NFL debut.

    Nick Mullens made his NFL debut on Thursday Night Football and he put on a show. The Southern Mississippi alum finished the game with three touchdowns, 262 yards and got a call from fellow Golden Eagle and NFL legend Brett Favre. Since Mullens broke all of Austin Davis' and Favre's records at Southern Miss, some believe he will be just as successful in the league -- especially after seeing his first performance. Others, however, don't believe one good performance should qualify anyone for the Hall of Fame. What do you think? 

    PERSPECTIVES

    Nick Mullens had a night to remember. Not only did he notch 262 yards and three touchdowns in his first start, but the 49ers quarterback also drew comparisons to fellow Southern Miss alum Brett Favre. Is Mullens ready to take the "gunslinger" mantle?

    ESPNMullens puts up historic numbers in 49ers debut

    As Rodger Sherman stated, scoreboard. Mullens has eclipsed Favre at Southern Miss and had a historical debut that puts Favre in his rear view mirror. The second-year quarterback showed poise and the ability to make all of the throws. We may be witnessing the birth of the next gunslinger.

    So one good game means he's going to be a legend? Please. The dude barely has his training wheels off. People would be smart to wait and see whether this kid can really play or not after teams watch some tape on him.

    The Tylt is focused on debates and conversations around news, current events and pop culture. We provide our community with the opportunity to share their opinions and vote on topics that matter most to them. We actively engage the community and present meaningful data on the debates and conversations as they progress. The Tylt is a place where your opinion counts, literally. The Tylt is an Advance Local Media, LLC property. Join us on Twitter @TheTylt, on Instagram @TheTylt or on Facebook, we'd love to hear what you have to say.


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    Quality matchups in the SEC (Alabama-LSU, Georgia-Kentucky), the Big Ten (Penn State-Michigan) and the independents (Notre Dame Northwestern) make for a strong Saturday TV slate. Watch video

    CLEVELAND, Ohio - This may be the biggest weekend of the college football season with head-to-head matchups that should set the stage for who plays in the College Football Playoffs this season and who is left on the outside looking in.

    At the top of the list is No. 1 and undefeated Alabama at No. 4 and once-beaten LSU. It's a Southeastern Conference matchup as well with the Crimson Tide heavily favored. But with the game being played in The Swamp, and both teams coming off a bye to prepare, the intrigue is there.

    Here are the prime matchups Saturday.

    No. 6 Georgia (7-1) at No. 11 Kentucky (7-1), 3:30 p.m. CBS - Not much talk about Kentucky in the national picture, but a home turf upset over the Georgia Bulldogs could get the Wildcats into that conversation.  

    No. 14 Penn State (6-2) at No. 5 Michigan (7-1), 3:45 p.m. ESPN - This is a trickle-down game, as a Penn State victory would add some luster to Ohio State's resume, while a Michigan win would not only keep the Wolverines in the CFP conversation, but continue to build interest in that season-ending matchup with the Buckeyes.

    No. 1 Alabama (8-0) at No. 4 LSU (7-1), 8 p.m. CBS - The Crimson Tide is a two touchdown favorite in this game, on the road, against a Top 5 opponent, which tells you all you need to know about No. 1. If there is any doubt about Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa walking away with the Heisman Trophy this season, a victory here should erase that notion.  

    No. 3 Notre Dame (8-0) at Northwestern (5-3), 7:15 p.m. ESPN - The trap game of the week, as Northwestern has played some very good football since that early season upset loss to the Akron Zips. The Irish are not only in the midst of their national schedule, coming off a road game vs. Navy in San Diego, and with a home game vs. staggering nemesis Florida State upcoming, but still have another west coast trip (USC) down the road.

    Top 25 Games this weekend

    • FRIDAY
    • Pittsburgh at No. 23 Virginia, 7:30 p.m. ESPN2
    • SATURDAY
    • Louisville at No. 2 Clemson, noon ABC
    • Nebraska at No. 8 Ohio State, noon Fox
    • No. 22 Syracuse at Wake Forest, noon ACC Net
    • No. 25 Texas A&M at Auburn, noon ESPN
    • No. 6 Georgia at No. 11 Kentucky, 3:30 p.m. CBS
    • No. 12 West Virginia at No. 15 Texas, 3:30 p.m. FOX
    • No. 19 Iowa at Purdue,  3:30 p.m. ESPN2
    • No. 14 Penn State at No. 5 Michigan, 3:45 p.m. ESPN
    • No. 24 Boston College at Virginia Tech, 3:45 p.m. ACCN
    • Missouri at No. 13 Florida, 4 p.m. SEC Network
    • No. 16 Utah at Arizona State, 4 p.m. Pac-12 Networks
    • No. 17 Houston at SMU, 7 p.m. ESPNU
    • No. 3 Notre Dame at Northwestern, 7:15 p.m. ESPN
    • Louisiana Tech at No. 21 Mississippi State, 7:30 p.m. SECN
    • No. 1 Alabama  at No. 4 LSU, 8 p.m. CBS
    • No. 7 Oklahoma at Texas Tech, 8 p.m. ABC
    • No. 20 Fresno State at UNLV, 10:30 p.m. CBS Sports Network
    • Cal at No. 10 Washington State, 10:45 p.m. ESPN
    • No. 18 Utah State at Hawaii, 11:59 p.m

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    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Cavaliers All-Star Kevin Love had surgery on his toe Friday and will be sidelined for approximately six weeks.  According to league sources, the Cavaliers, Love and others made the final determination to have surgery on Thursday, believing it was the best course of action to finally move past this issue.  The surgery, deemed successful, was performed...

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Cavaliers All-Star Kevin Love had surgery on his toe Friday and will be sidelined for approximately six weeks. 

    According to league sources, the Cavaliers, Love and others made the final determination to have surgery on Thursday, believing it was the best course of action to finally move past this issue. 

    The surgery, deemed successful, was performed at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City by Dr. Martin O'Malley. 


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    "Bottom line, running the ball is just attitude, and I think we got away from it a little throwing the ball so much," Isaiah Prince said. Watch video

    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Ohio State offensive linemen don't appear to like RPOs, or run-pass options. Offensive line coach Greg Studrawa expressed his frustration with that style of play call a few weeks ago.

    Right tackle and captain Isaiah Prince had so much to say about RPOs this week I finally just asked if he hated them.

    "I don't hate RPOs," he said, "because usually in the past people knew we were so dominant in the run game, they just stacked the box, and that makes it harder to run the ball. So I think RPOs help loosen the box up."

    They do. If a defense knows quarterback Dwayne Haskins might look at the defense and instead of handing off throw a quick bubble screen outside, the defense has to respect that and defend the edge as well.

    Here's the problem for the Buckeyes lately. They're so busy loosening a defense with those quick throws, they either never bothered, or forgot how, to dominate with the run game.

    That has to change against Nebraska this week, as the Buckeyes ran for just 92 and 76 yards the last two weeks. That should mean fewer RPOs -- which, shhhh, I think the linemen do actually hate. They at least admit the style of play can make them tentative.

    "We don't have a running quarterback anymore," Prince said. "We have a quarterback who stands in the pocket and throws. On an RPO, it's run first, so my job description is to run block first."

    Prince then explained a sequence that particularly aggravated him against Minnesota two games ago. First, he was penalized for being an illegal man downfield as he run-blocked while Haskins held the ball, then threw a pass. Then he gave up a sack while he was run blocking and the defensive end was pass rushing.

    So as I stated in the immediate aftermath of the Purdue loss, I think the Buckeyes need to get away from so many RPOs and back to more standard run plays.

    "We have run plays that are like downhill runs, get physical, move them off the ball," Prince said. "And we've get to play better with the RPOs."

    Or just play less with the RPOs.

    Prince said he's up for whatever the coaches call. But whenever the Buckeyes lose, the linemen want to run block in the next game. And not "maybe run block with an RPO." They want to get after someone.

    "Bottom line, running the ball is just attitude, and I think we got away from it a little throwing the ball so much," Prince said. "We need to get that attitude back and that demeanor back when it comes to running the ball."

    Prince said there were more practice drills in the run game this week. He said he saw an angry team in practice. He said he's personally ticked off about the 29-point Purdue loss.

    You should see all that Saturday. Urban Meyer and play caller Ryan Day need to capitalize on the anger of the line, after two months of an offense that has at times confused them and prevented them from playing the way they've played in the past. 

    Against Purdue, Ohio State ran it 25 times and threw it 73 times. That's not going to work. Ohio State has to run more, with real run plays, to run well. That's for the linemen and for tailbacks Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins.

    Meyer said it's too late in the season to undergo a major stylistic change. But they can certainly lean toward the run in the game plan.

    "Schematically we've adapted some things, but it's a matter of two things in my mind," Meyer said. "That's, first of all, getting the players in the right position. Number two, being more physical, and, you know, breaking tackles."

    Personnel changes on the offensive line may not be a major part of any changes, though Meyer said he has been impressed with redshirt freshman guard Wyatt Davis. Meyer said he will play, and if he does, expect Davis to take time away from Demetrius Knox at right guard.

    But maybe it's not about changing who plays. It's more about changing enough of what they do to get back to who they are.


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    The Cleveland Cavaliers (1-7) will open a two-game road trip against the Charlotte Hornets (4-5) on Saturday night.

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Cleveland Cavaliers (1-7) will open a two-game road trip against the Charlotte Hornets (4-5) on Saturday night. 

    When: 7 p.m. 

    Where: Spectrum Center

    TV: FoxSports Ohio 

    Radio: WTAM 1100 AM; WMMS 100.7 FM, La Mega 87.7 FM

    Online: FoxSports Go apps

    Last meeting: The Cavs beat the Hornets 118-105 on March 28, 2018. 

    Cavs minute: This is the first of four regular season meetings between the two teams (Nov. 13 at CLE, Dec. 19 at CHA, April 9 at CLE). ... The Cavs have won nine straight contests over the Hornets, their longest active win streak against a single opponent. ... Cleveland is 13-1 in the last 14 meetings against Charlotte, which includes a 6-1 mark on the road. ... The Cavs have at least 10 steals in three of their last four games, including 11 against the Denver Nuggets on Thursday. Since Oct. 25, they are averaging 11.0 steals. ... The Cavs' reserves have put up at least 40 points in seven consecutive games. ... Collin Sexton, who scored 12 points against Denver, has reached double figures in five straight. ... Jordan Clarkson has now scored double-digits in all eight games this season. He ranks fourth among all NBA bench players in scoring, averaging 16.1 points. ... Tristan Thompson (2,700) is 51 defensive rebounds shy of passing Jim Chones (2,750) for the sixth-most in Cavaliers history. ... Kevin Love had surgery on his left foot and is expected to be sidelined for at least six weeks. Despite missing the last four games, Love still leads Cleveland in points (19.0), rebounds (13.5) and assists (3.5). 

    Hornets minute: Kemba Walker is the NBA's third-leading scorer, averaging 29.1 points. ... Walker has scored double figures in 12 straight games, dating back to last season. ... Tony Parker, an off-season addition, recorded 24 points and 11 rebounds on Oct. 30 -- his first double-double since March 17, 2016. ... Through nine games, the Hornets have made 115 3-pointers, the third-most triples in the NBA. ... In the last two seasons, the Hornets are winning at a .494 clip with Cody Zeller in the lineup and hold a .362 winning percentage when he is out. ... Charlotte ranks top 10 in scoring as a team, averaging 114.6 points. ... The Hornets are also top 10 in points allowed, giving up 109.7 per game. 

    Probable starters:

    Cavs

    F Cedi Osman

    F Sam Dekker

    C Tristan Thompson 

    G Rodney Hood

    G Collin Sexton

    Hornets

    F Nicolas Batum

    F Marvin Williams

    C Cody Zeller

    G Jeremy Lamb

    G Kemba Walker

    See Cavs stats

    See Hornets stats


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    Doug Lesmerises wonders when we'll see J.K. Dobbins get back to his freshman season form. Watch video

    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Since the Purdue loss, Urban Meyer and everyone else have focused on the disappearing Ohio State run game.

    But there's a name that should be connected to that run game: J.K. Dobbins. What the sophomore tailback has done in 2018 may be the most surprising single season of any Buckeye this year.

    Dobbins has just one 100-yard effort in eight games, when he gained 121 yards on 18 carries against TCU. He's averaged fewer than 4 yards per carry in each of his last four games.

    * Watch for a change in the run game

    Taken in total, against Penn State, Indiana, Minnesota and Purdue, Dobbins ran the ball 64 times for 198 yards. That's a 3.1 yard average in the last month that's hard to wrap your head around. 

    As a freshman, Dobbins was 18th in the nation in rushing and 14th in yards per carry. As a sophomore, Dobbins is 89th in rushing and out of the top 100 in yards per carry.

    So what's a key to the game to watch when the Buckeyes host Nebraska on Saturday?

    It starts with Dobbins. Watch the video.


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    While he didn't want to go deep into detail with specifics, Drew said the tweaks are with his rotation -- an effort to improve Cleveland's erratic bench.

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Cleveland Cavaliers acting coach Larry Drew hinted at some changes following Thursday's blowout loss against the Denver Nuggets. 

    He's not planning to change the starting lineup. 

    While he didn't want to go deep into detail with specifics, Drew said the tweaks are with his rotation -- an effort to improve Cleveland's erratic bench.

    "I'm looking for some certain things, particularly out of that second unit," Drew said following Saturday's shootaround. "Just moving forward I want to make sure that I try to put these guys in the best possible position I can and if that means doing some things differently and tweaking some things then we are prepared to do that." 

    Drew was asked specifically if this means he will consider playing JR Smith, who has bounced in and out of the rotation in the first eight games and failed to get any playing time in the last two.

    Smith, who said he was hoping for a trade, was also at the center of the push-pull between former head coach Tyronn Lue and the Cavaliers front office. 

    "I've considered playing every guy that's on that bench," Drew said. "JR has not been in the rotation. Big Z (Ante Zizic) hasn't been in the rotation. Channing (Frye) hasn't been in the rotation. I'm considering all players and all possibilities. That's something, moving forward, I will continue to look at different things and what's going to give us the best chance to win."

    The Cavaliers rank third in bench scoring, averaging 47.6 points. The reserves have tallied at least 40 points in seven straight.

    But the second unit has also been partially responsible for giving up first-quarter leads -- exactly what happened Thursday night against the Nuggets, when a 12-point edge vanished quickly. 

    Net rating is a stat used to identify a team's point differential per 100 possessions while a player is on the court. According to NBA.com stats, Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson -- two mainstays in the reserve group -- are two of three with the lowest mark.

    Frye is the other. Frye has only played one game so it's tough to make anything of that. Still, it's worth thinking about, especially if Drew opts to go back to him. 

    Prior to leaving for Charlotte, the Cavaliers held a film session. The team went over many of the issues that plagued them in Thursday's loss, feeling plenty is fixable. During that session, Drew let the players voice what they were seeing and feeling. 

    The Cavs are hoping that will lead to positive results starting Saturday night against the Charlotte Hornets, one of nine teams with a record below .500 on the season. 

    "There's a lot of things we can improve on," George Hill said. "Communication is key, getting back in transition, moving the ball, not necessarily settling for a good shot, but trying to find a great shot. As a young team we have to learn that. When we learn those things we will be all right."


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    The Buckeyes held on to beat Nebraska 36-31 but it wasn't the kind of win to get the Buckeyes right back on track.

    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State fans know when they don't recognize something.

    In the first half Saturday, that didn't look like Ohio State.

    A wheezing run game and a vulnerable defense had cropped up during seven wins at the start of the season and had reached a shocking level of panic during the loss at Purdue.

    But that was on the road two weeks ago, and back in Ohio Stadium after a week of supposed fixes, any OSU backer before the game could have crystallized what he or she was searching for.

    Let the Buckeyes look like the Buckeyes.

    When Urban Meyer talked over the last 13 days after what needed to be fixed - the defense and the run game - he could have used the same shorthand.

    Let's look like Ohio State again.

    So how did the high-flying, pass-happy Buckeyes of 2018 try to find their way back to their tougher, more physical roots in a 36-31 win?

    With two tight ends as blocking fullbacks and an offensive guard as a blocking tight end.

    After failing to score a touchdown in the red zone (inside the 20-yard line) in their last two games, falling short on eight efforts against Minnesota and Purdue and settling for either a field goal or no points, the Buckeyes painted the red zone scarlet again against Nebraska.

    This wasn't the kind of bounceback domination that solves everything, far from it. That kind of 30-point blowout is what the Buckeyes dished out after losing to Michigan State in 2015 and Iowa last season. That's what I expected Saturday. That's not what they delivered.

    There was more than a hint of lingering panic in this attempt to respond. OK, the panic was everywhere when Ohio State followed a 29-point loss by hitting the locker room at halftime trailing by 5.

    Out of halftime, the Buckeyes responded by marching 60 yards in seven plays -- and then quarterback Dwayne Haskins threw an interception in the end zone from the 18-yard-line that left TV cameras zooming in on offensive coordinator Ryan Day in slow motion, his mouth agape.

    The next time the Buckeyes reached the red zone, they called out the reinforcements.

    Tight ends Jeremy Ruckert and Luke Farrell went into the backfield as lead blockers for tailback J.K. Dobbins, the sophomore who hadn't gotten rolling through the first eight games. Redshirt freshman guard Wyatt Davis, whom Meyer had promised would play this week, checked in as a 315-pound jumbo tight end.

    Dobbins ran, the Buckeyes scored, and they'd hold onto that lead, barely, for the rest of the game.

    The jumbo adjustment was a nod to the red zone failures. 

    In four red zone trips Saturday, the Buckeyes scored three touchdowns and threw that one interception. Dobbins ran in from 10 yards out in the first quarter, scored from 3 yards out in the third, and Parris Campbell scored on what was basically a run play, but officially was a 9-yard touch pass, later in the third.

    This all surrounded Haskins' roughest day of the season. The nation's second-leading passer, averaging 350 yards per game, missed several throws over the middle, one on a third-and-2 that led to a punt. He threw that end zone pick, and he fumbled when he was sacked from behind in the second quarter.

    He just looked off, even on a fourth-quarter deep ball to Terry McLaurin that was there and Haskins put just a bit too much air under it.

    This wasn't going to be a day for the pass game. Ohio State needed to find a way to run again.

    But Haskins has been so good in his first year as a starter, every miss stands out. And there were misses, as he finished 18 of 32 for 252 yards.

    There continued to be misses on defense as well. Starting safety Isaiah Pryor sat with an injury, as did third corner Jeffrey Okudah. And the other starting safety, Jordan Fuller, was ejected in the second quarter for targeting.

    Ohio State has adjusted its scheme, moving away from its traditional man-to-man coverage. So Nebraska didn't pile up big plays. But the Cornhuskers did move the ball on a regular basis, gaining 450 yards to Ohio State's 481.

    For many OSU fans, when an opponent rolls up and down the field in Ohio Stadium, the Buckeyes will never look like the Buckeyes. If Nebraska hadn't missed on a couple throws that were there for the taking, Ohio State would have been in a lot more trouble.

    As it was, after Dobbins ran in from 42 yards out in the fourth quarter for his third touchdown, Nebraska immediately answered with a drive for a touchdown.

    The Buckeyes then leaned on Dobbins and the run game to put it away. That seemed familiar.

    Much of the rest of this still wasn't. The Buckeyes are 8-1 and headed to Michigan State next week. They ran for 229 yards, led by a season-high 163 from Dobbins.

    They won. But they're still looking for who they want to be. And fans are looking for the Buckeyes they remember.


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    Doug Lesmerises and Stephen Means break down the Buckeyes' 36-31 win over the Cornhuskers. Watch video

    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Nebraska coach Scott Frost was thinking about what could have been after Ohio State's 36-31 win over the Cornhuskers on Saturday.

    "We had every chance in the world to win that game," Frost said at his postgame news conference. "The great thing coming out of that locker room is that our guys are mad. They are upset that they didn't win the football game. The coaches are upset we didn't win the football game because they came here expecting to win. That is a big step forward."

    So a five-point road loss was a step forward for a team that fell to 2-7.

    What is it for a team that rose to 8-1 with the victory?

    How should the Buckeyes, and their fans, take the win?

    Urban Meyer pointed to the three turnovers the Buckeyes lost, a fumble by Dwayne Haskins, a fumble by K.J. Hill, and an interception in the end zone by Haskins, and thought Saturday could have felt much better than it did.

    "I'm very upset with the turnovers," he said. "That would have been a different game."

    But it wasn't. It was the Buckeyes, as 18-point favorites, coming off a 29-point loss and a bye week and beating a two-win team by five.

    Watch the video (new guy alert) for our breakdown of how we're thinking of the Buckeyes after this one, then vote in our poll.

    >


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    The Yellow Jackets dominated most of the game, hoping to make their first playoff appearance since 2004.

    BEREA, Ohio - Baldwin Wallace dominated most of the game before holding on for a 48-41 win over Ohio Northern on Saturday, setting up the Yellow Jackets for their most important football game in years.

    The Yellow Jackets, hoping to make their first playoff appearance since 2004, play their regular season finale at playoff-contending John Carroll next Saturday.

    "Our offense was hitting on all cylinders," Baldwin Wallace coach Jim Hilvert said after the Yellow Jackets piled up a 41-10 lead in the first two-and-a-half quarters at George Finnie Stadium.

    "We have a big game ahead of us. If we win, we're in. (John Carroll) is very strong up front, has a very good offensive line and tries to pound the ball, and has a very good quarterback (Anthony Moeglin). I know our guys are excited to play in a game of this magnitude."

    Baldwin Wallace, ranked 24th among the nation's Division III teams, and No. 10 John Carroll are both 8-1, 6-1 in the Ohio Athletic Conference. Both teams' lone loss was to OAC leader Mount Union (9-0, 8-0), the defending national champion and No. 1 in the current rankings.

    John Carroll won at Baldwin Wallace, 24-21, last season.

    Yellow Jackets quarterback Jake Hudson completed 20 of 29 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns, and Chad Steinwachs returned an intercepted pass 106 yards for a touchdown against Ohio Northern (5-4, 4-4).

    "It's a battle," Hudson, a senior, said of Baldwin Wallace's games against John Carroll. "That's a reason we come to these schools and want to play in these kind of games.

    "We'll be emotionally ready but must make sure all of our assignments are on lockdown, and try to be ready to face adversity at some time against a very good team."

    The Polar Bears made the final score close by tallying two touchdowns and a field goal in the final nine minutes, with the help of a recovered onside kick and a Baldwin Wallace miss on a short field goal try. 

    The Yellow Jackets' first two touchdowns came on a 6-yard run by Jon Murray Jr., and a 43-yard pass from Hudson to Rob Wolfington, who ran a slant and caught the football in stride at the Polar Bears' 30.

    Baldwin Wallace led, 14-10, before scoring three touchdowns in the last 5:21 of the first half.

    First, wide receiver Matt Lowry, lined up as the wildcat quarterback, turned left end for a 40-yard touchdown sprint. Then, a 43-yard deep sideline pass from Hudson to Wolfington set up Hudson's 3-yard scoring run.

    On the final play of the half, Steinwachs - a standout wide receiver playing in the secondary as part of the Yellow Jackets' prevent defense - picked off Anthony McFadden's long pass as he neared the left sideline, six yards into the end zone. Steinwachs ran out of the end zone, juked two would-be tacklers between the Yellow Jackets' 25- and 40-yard lines, and raced the rest of the way for the score and a 35-10 Baldwin Wallace lead.

    Though Steinwachs brought the football back 106 yards, as determined by Baldwin Wallace officials, the play is officially considered a 100-yard return by NCAA rules.

    "It was crazy. It was a lot of fun," Steinwachs said. "When I caught it and looked in front of me, saw all of our linemen blocking - that's when I thought maybe I could do it."

    Baldwin Wallace scored second-half touchdowns on Hudson's 5-yard pass to Deion Greer and Murray's 1-yard run.


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    The struggling Cavaliers will be without their leading scorer and offensive focal point during a stretch when the team is trying to recover from a horrifying start to this season.

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Shortly before boarding the team plane Friday afternoon, ready for their first stop on this two-game road trip, the Cleveland Cavaliers learned Kevin Love's fate. 

    The All-Star would be sidelined at least six weeks -- and maybe even longer -- following successful surgery on his left foot to relieve troublesome pain that's lingered since the first preseason game on Oct. 2. 

    That leaves a gaping hole at power forward, one Sam Dekker will occupy for the foreseeable future. It also means the struggling Cavaliers will be without their leading scorer and offensive focal point during a stretch when they are trying to recover from a hideous start to this season and are in desperate need of some stability.

    From that standpoint, the timing couldn't be worse. 

    "Unfortunate that it's this part, the very beginning of the year," acting coach Larry Drew said prior to Saturday's matchup against the Hornets. "I reached out to him yesterday and just told him to get well and we will be here waiting on you and we're going to miss you. He hit me right back. We have to move on. We wish him a speedy recovery and we will be ecstatic when he gets back."

    His return is still a bit of a mystery. Everything surrounding this injury, one that had Love in a walking boot recently and clearly impacted his performance in the first four games before getting shut down completely, is ambiguous.

    The press release the Cavaliers sent out Friday afternoon indicated that Love will undergo an extended period of treatment and rehabilitation. His timeline for a return will be updated in approximately six weeks. 

    When Drew was asked whether there's a chance Love is shut down for the season, he paused for a moment before answering.

    "I'm not concerned about that," Drew said. "I haven't gotten anything from our side as far as missing for the year. I'm going to proceed with the whole fact that he is going to be out for a period of time and that's how we have to prepare. Like I said, I'm hoping he will be back sooner than later. But I have to prepare this team as best I can since he's not here." 

    With Dekker moving into the starting lineup, the Cavs are thin in the frontcourt.

    They have used David Nwaba as a small-ball power forward, hoping his 7-foot wingspan can make up for the size and strength he typically gives up. JR Smith, out of the rotation the last two games, was used briefly as the backup 4 before Tyronn Lue got fired. Kyle Korver has taken minutes there as well. 

    During Thursday's double-digit loss against the Nuggets, the Cavs opted for a bigger-than-usual frontline featuring Tristan Thompson and Larry Nance Jr. 

    With Thompson and Nance together, the offense suffered, finishing with a rating of 75.0 in four minutes. Defensively, the tandem held their own, with a defensive rating of 77.8. 

    "I think we would be a defensive nightmare," Nance said recently. "Good luck trying to keep us off the glass, too. Obviously the big question would be floor spacing, but we don't seem to have too much of that now. I would love to see the lineup."

    But here's the thing: None of the options are all that appealing.

    No matter who the Cavs turn to, that player won't be able to fill Love's shoes. That's why Drew's message centers on the committee approach. 

    "I'm looking for us to step up as a team," Drew said. "I don't think the way to tackle this is to try to pinpoint an individual as far as them trying to step up their game. As I told the guys, it's not going to be everybody's night every night. Will be some nights where it may be Rodney (Hood), one night it may be Cedi (Osman), another night it could be (Jordan) Clarkson, another night it could G Hill.

    "We have to rally together and it's going to take a total team effort to try to replace (him)."


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    Sometimes there aren't any answers. That was Cleveland's latest lesson in Saturday's loss to Charlotte.

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Cleveland Cavaliers continue to try any and everything to crawl out of their incredibly deep early-season hole.

    They use different players each night. Various lineup combinations to find the right mix. They've altered the scheme on the defensive end a few times, minimizing the frequency of switches. They've tweaked the offense. Tried playing big and small.

    They break down film constantly and are able to identify errors after losses. Say all the right things and ask the pertinent questions.

    Sometimes there aren't any answers.

    That was Cleveland's latest lesson in Saturday's 126-94 loss against the Charlotte Hornets.

    Acting coach Larry Drew spoke about needing to make changes in the aftermath of yet another blowout loss on Thursday against the Denver Nuggets.

    Two days after he wished for a trade, JR Smith was back in the rotation. He popped off the bench early in the first quarter, as Drew was looking for a burst of energy and a little floor spacing. Smith finished with 14 points on 6-of-13 from the field. But the Cavs were outscored by 25 points during Smith's 24 minutes.

    "Yeah, he's part of the team," Drew said. "He's part of the team. Guys who have not played, there are chances that they could play. Big Z (Ante Zizic), gave it a different look. David Nwaba didn't get in the first half. But yeah, I'm searching. If we find something good to come out of this rotation certainly he's going to play."

    The change in substitution pattern was apparent, as Jordan Clarkson and Collin Sexton entered the game at the same time in the first quarter.

    Kyle Korver logged minutes with and without Smith. Korver even played some 4 in the team's small-ball lineup.

    None of those changes yielded the desired results.

    "I haven't been on the job long, so I still have some time to try and find it but I'm very happy with our squad," Drew said. "I think we've got a good group. I think we just gotta get it out of them."

    Even if ideas come from the right place, execution remains paramount. Sometimes the greatest intentions turn out wrong in the end. That -- and an overmatched roster -- remains the biggest issue. There was no greater piece of evidence than with four-plus minutes remaining in the third quarter.

    Down by just 10, rookie Sexton showed terrific defensive awareness snagging a pass from Charlotte's Jeremy Lamb. Sexton quickly fired the ball up the floor to Clarkson, who tossed one extra pass to Sam Dekker spotted up in the corner for a wide-open 3-pointer. 

    Clank. Tony Parker rebound. Kemba Walker 3-pointer. Six-point swing.

    The Cavs did everything right on that possession. Clarkson, not known for his passing, gave up a decent look for a great one, exactly what the Cavaliers have been preaching since training camp. Only Dekker couldn't capitalize. Instead of cutting the Charlotte lead to single digits, the Cavs watched the lead balloon to 13. Then 15. And 17.

    Eventually it finished at 32 -- the largest deficit Cleveland has faced this season. 

    Who knows what would've happened had Dekker drilled that corner bomb. It's tough to pin this on him, as he was the only starter in double figures, with 11 points. Perhaps it would have been the same end. Winning games will be a season-long challenge for these young, new-look Cavaliers who are a shell of what once was.

    But that third-quarter play provides a window into Cleveland's unavoidable reality.  

    It doesn't matter much what they try. It doesn't matter how many changes they make during this chaotic season. There are no answers, just never-ending lessons.

    Sexton's teaching moment

    There are no breaks in the NBA, especially for a young point guard. On Saturday, Sexton's matchup featured an All-Star (Walker) and a future Hall-Of-Famer (Parker). The teenager wasn't ready.

    It's not entirely his fault. He's young, he's still learning. But while he tries to slow the game down and get the kind of experience that will benefit the Cavaliers' future, the team is paying a steep price.

    In his first five-minute stint against Walker and Parker, Sexton picked up three fouls and the Cavs were outscored by 10 points.

    Sexton finished with as many points (four) as fouls. He made one of five shots. He had two assists against one turnover.

    Korver provides spark

    After being glued to the bench for the first 18 minutes of Saturday's game against the Hornets, the Cavaliers went to Korver, who provided a spark.

    Korver scored nine points in his first six minutes, a trio of 3-pointers. He also dished out four assists, helping the Cavaliers stay within seven points, a manageable margin, heading into halftime.

    Everything changed in the second half. 

    Korver finished with 11 points on 3-of-6 from the field. His lone shot attempt after halftime came in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter. 

    Up next

    The Cavaliers will wrap up their brief two-game road trip with a matchup against the Orlando Magic on Monday night.


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    The Cavs are no longer just tussling with their opponent. But also the disharmony that has started to contaminate a group that entered this season with the best intentions

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The visitor's locker room inside the Spectrum Center provided the backdrop for the Cleveland Cavaliers to air their frustrations.

    The Cavs are no longer just tussling with their opponent. But also the disharmony that has started to contaminate a group that entered this season with the best intentions.

    "Team is in a very weird place right now," JR Smith said following his return to the rotation in Cleveland's 126-94 loss to the Hornets.

    You can say that again.

    "We have to figure it out, whether it's a players-only meeting or coaches or front office meeting or whatever it is, we have to figure it out and let everyone know what their individual role is and what to expect," Smith said.

    Smith is a fine place to start. His season is the definition of bizarre.

    Whether he chooses to admit it or not, Smith was informed, along with his people, that his spot in the rotation was dicey prior to training camp. A logjam on the wing and new organizational goals, with player development at the center, made the preseason incredibly important for him. But hip and elbow issues derailed his chances of earning that spot.

    The 33-year-old shooting guard played four total minutes in two games before being told, along with Kyle Korver and Channing Frye, that he was out of the rotation -- an effort for the team to play the youngsters more frequently. But after an embarrassing loss in the home opener against the Hawks, then-coach Tyronn Lue put Smith back in the mix. He was pulled out once more, logging just six minutes, in Lue's final game.

    Now Larry Drew is acting coach -- taking over for Lue in part because he defied general manager Koby Altman by playing Smith after a directive had come down to give more minutes to younger players -- and Smith is playing again.

    Two days after expressing his desire to be traded, Smith was entering the game in the first quarter. He played 24 minutes on Saturday, the most of any reserve.

    "Unfortunately I have been in this situation before a long time ago, being in and out of rotations and stuff like that," he said. "I'm somewhat used to it, but never thought I would be in this position with the Cavs. Something has to shake with us. Whether it's effort, knowing what your individual role is, something. Somebody has to say something."

    Two coaches have now wanted to play Smith while the front office points to on-court evidence as to why he should be plastered on the bench.

    So who is right in this situation?

    Smith is coming off a pair of horrendous seasons. He's made very little positive impact in his sparse minutes this year.

    How much should his championship ether matter? How relevant is what he did back in 2016?

    The argument for playing him is he's a veteran, one of the few guys, according to others in the locker room, that knows what he's doing. He may not always be in the right place, but he at least recognizes where he should be.

    Altman recently sat Smith down because of what was perceived as poor body language and a change in attitude. It was that negative shift that led to Altman asking if Smith even wanted to be around the team. The goal there was to protect the young players and keep any bad juju away.

    Smith has a tendency to "say the right things but not back them up," one member of the organization told cleveland.com.

    Saturday was an ideal example. Smith even admitted as much following the game.

    "I did an OK job the first half and the second half they ran off a couple of runs, had a little bit of bad body language from myself," he said. "Just didn't do a good enough job of leading these guys in the second half."

    Smith scored a team-high 14 points. He made his first four 3-pointers of the season. And yet, he made very little impact.

    Smith finished with the fourth-worst net rating, which is a stat that measures a team's point differential per 100 possessions while he is on court.

    In one moment, as the game was getting out of hand, Smith walked slowly back to the bench, stayed away from his teammates and stared to the rafters instead of participating in the huddle.

    "I had talked to JR, told him that I wanted to get him in the rotation, because I wanted to get something, I wanted to give it a different look," Drew said. "See how it will pan out. I thought he did well too, given the circumstances, but I'm still searching."

    Drew believing Smith played well is a problem. The front office twice telling Smith he's going to be out of the rotation, only to have the coach play him, is a problem. Smith being around the team with admitted poor body language is a problem.

    Smith isn't going to make a significant difference either way. He's just one piece of evidence that points to a much larger problem within the organization.

    With constant experimentation -- a need to find combinations that work along with proper substitution patterns -- comes plenty of uncertainty. About roles. About playing time. Everything. 

    It becomes maddening for a player unless it's communicated properly, which, according to some, it hasn't been. It's also prevented the team from building chemistry.

    "Obviously we are down without Kev," said Tristan Thompson, referring to Kevin Love's absence, which will be at least six weeks. "But for us it's just we have to figure out who we are, what we are, who is going to play, who is not going to play, figure out rotations. I think once we can figure that out then we can start building.

    "At this point, it's kind of just we're throwing guys out there right now. Obviously the guys who have played with each other for a while have that connection and now we have to figure out how we're going to bring the new guys in and the young guys in and how to make it mesh with the young guys that we have."

    The young vs. old thing has been bubbling beneath the surface for quite some time.

    "No one knows what they're supposed to be doing other than the vets," Smith said. "Within those guys we understand what it is, we've been there and we went to The Finals with this team and some of these guys last year."

    There is no singular voice anymore. Like everything else with the 2018-19 Cavaliers, it's a committee approach.

    "I hate to keep reiterating it but only the guys who have been here long enough. So, me, Swish, Channing, you know, Kyle. That's the voice of the locker room because we know what we're talking about and our resume shows it," Thompson said. "We have the results to back it up, so obviously there's a way to lead."

    The "young guys" aren't clearly defined. But reading between the lines it's Collin Sexton, Cedi Osman, Ante Zizic, David Nwaba and Sam Dekker.

    Yet the only first-year NBA player is Sexton, who had another rough night.

    The Cavs were hoping his development would happen through meaningful on-court minutes in pressure-packed games. But as one veteran said Saturday, that throw-them-into-the-fire approach rarely, if ever, works. It can lead to bad habits, losing habits, which become incredibly difficult to change. It can lead to a sense of entitlement that minutes are promised no matter the production. 

    In Sexton's case, he doesn't look ready. He doesn't yet know how to play. Some are starting to recognize it. 

    His vision to get teammates involved is lacking, as he has just 20 assists in nine games. He takes an inordinate amount of 2s. He plays out of control, committing 19 turnovers. While he crouches down in his defensive stance, Sexton still doesn't understand how to guard, especially the pick and roll. Nor does he get the nuances of being a quality team defender.

    George Hill has offered to mentor the teenager, teach him how to play defense. But Sexton has, to this point, rebuffed that. While teammates don't think he's a bad kid and recognize he's trying his best in an extremely tough situation, they are also growing frustrated with Sexton because he doesn't show anger or disappointment following losses.

    This isn't to pile on Sexton, who is only 19 years old and trying to navigate the treacherous NBA waters. Heck, this has been a whirlwind first few weeks in the NBA, more so than it usually is for a rook. It just helps show that balancing the present and future simultaneously isn't easy and it can lead to fissures.

    The Cavs have good intentions. They've been trying to do this the right way since LeBron James' departure. But every move has been a failure.

    "I know a situation like this is definitely going to show what we're made of," Thompson said. "On a basketball team it's always a puzzle so you have to be able to match it up correctly in order for it to work. Something is not clicking so we have to reconstruct the puzzle to see if it's going to work. I think that's what LD is trying to do right now. Obviously it's been three games in and he's got a lot of experience, he knows what he's doing and I trust LD a lot so he's going to figure it out and be able to put it together his way as long as they allow him to do it."

    Drew's contract situation hangs over the franchise. The decision on which path to take does as well. That could create the next problem.

    A number of players, including Love and Korver, were told repeatedly that the plan was to compete. When James left in free agency, Korver actually asked the Cavs to trade him. That was the deal he thought he had with the organization upon re-signing in 2017 and wanted it to happen in July.

    Only the Cavs took the admirable try-to-compete approach and Korver was part of that. It's what the organization needed to say, what it should have said. The Cavs had to have that hope and belief going into the season. 

    But without Love their chances of "overachieving" are nil.

    Cleveland is 1-8, with its lone win coming against the woebegone Hawks. The Cavs have lost six games by double figures. Forget winning, this group can't even stay competitive for four quarters.

    So if the front office reverses course and makes this season all about the future, going into a complete rebuild earlier than expected, the veterans may believe, even if it's the best approach, they have been sent mixed messages. That feeling of deception could lead to them completely turning against the front office -- at least, until they are sent away ahead of the trade deadline.

    That's why the next question is whether the Cavs have the right players in that locker room, a group capable of getting through this without fracturing.

    "I don't know the answer to that question honestly," Smith said. "It's a different group of guys and different mentality so definitely figure out what guys are made of and whether this is the group that's going to get us out of here, I don't know. That's not my job to figure out."


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    The Buckeyes moved away from run-pass options in Saturday's win over Nebraska and the OSU linemen and running backs loved it.

    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- So how many RPOs did Ohio State run against Nebraska on Saturday?

    "To be honest, I don't think there were any RPOs today," right tackle Isaiah Prince said, "not any that I remembered."

    And a smile slipped from his lips.

    If the RPO, the run-pass option, has actually been banished from the Buckeyes offense after this 36-31 win over Nebraska, Prince and his fellow offensive linemen kicked it out the door, threw its suitcase in the gutter, called it a name and wished it good riddance. 

    And the Ohio State running backs stood on the porch and nodded in agreement.

    "Honestly," running back Mike Weber said, "we didn't have any reads today. I think it was just give the ball to the running back and let him make a play."  

    That was the plan. Two games ago against Minnesota, tailbacks Weber and J.K. Dobbins combined for 23 carries and 86 yards. Against Purdue, they ran it 20 times for 69 yards.

    Saturday, that jumped to 32 carries for 254 yards.

    There was no deception to it.

    On run-pass options, quarterback Dwayne Haskins starts to give the ball to the running back, but as he reads the defense, he can pull the ball out and throw it. And he often does. 

    The tailback doesn't know if he's getting it, and neither do the linemen, who aren't sure what's happening behind them.

    Saturday, Weber said the Buckeyes focused on "downhill" runs. That's a straight handoff, when the back and linemen know a run play is coming. The defense often knows it, too, but if it's blocked well and the back runs hard, it doesn't matter.

    "It was more legit runs instead of RPOs and reads," Weber said. "We came in trying to run the ball and we didn't care about how many guys were in the box."

    Left tackle Thayer Munford also smiled when using that same word, downhill, to describe the joy of the run game Saturday and the escape from the RPO.

    "The whole offensive line was happy about it," he said.

    There actually looked like there were RPOs on a few calls on which Haskins threw slants. But even if the count was more than zero, it wasn't very high. Completely gone were the passes that the Buckeyes say they count in the run game. Those are quick bubble screens at the line of scrimmage to receivers like Parris Campbell, who then has other receivers blocking wide for him.

    You could tell Ohio State was ready to stop using Campbell that way, and to give up that RPO, because the Buckeyes found a new plan for Campbell in the run game, using him more on jet sweeps and even a few backfield handoffs.

    They want Campbell involved like that. 

    But they also wanted, and needed, the line and tailbacks to get their mojo back.

    After the Purdue loss, the top item on my list of five potential drastic changes was moving away from RPOs. It doesn't mean I was right. It means that anyone watching the Buckeyes could see that wasn't working. That included the coaches.

    "It makes a big difference," Prince said of blocking on a straight run instead of an RPO. "You can fly off the ball, come off the ball hard and not have to worry about it. When you do an RPO and the quarterback pulls the ball, you lose sense of where the defense is supposed to be."

    The Buckeyes had to do what they did Saturday. After scoring 20 in the Purdue game on 73 passes and 25 runs, they scored 36 on a day with several damaging turnovers on 32 passes and 40 runs.

    "To be honest," Munford said, "I know from everybody that we were sick and tired of getting hounded because we can't run the ball. So let's pound the ball and see what you say now."

    Well, we say kill the RPO.

    Prince, trying to be diplomatic, said the Buckeyes will do what works best against an opposing defense. Weber, trying to be diplomatic, said running backs have to be ready to carry the ball each play, even if Haskins pulls the ball a lot. So he said a straight run isn't all that different.

    But it's a little different.

    And that made a big difference.

    Dobbins, especially, seemed to hit some holes harder and pop into the second level the way he used to last season.

    Haskins wasn't at his best Saturday, missing several throws while completing 18 of 32 passes for 252 yards. That should be more coincidence than anything.

    The Buckeyes should soon be able to pair Haskins throwing in a pro-style attack and the tailbacks running with this purpose on straight handoffs. If they do that?

    "Then watch out any defense," Weber said.

    "You're at Ohio State," Prince said, "you've got to be able to run the ball."

    Saturday, they could.

    While RPOs have spread through all levels of football, and many teams run them with great success, the Buckeyes have to stick with this style of more straight handoffs.

    It's their only option.


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    Doug Lesmerises and Stephen Means break down Ohio State's 36-31 win over Nebraska.

    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- There have been plenty of questions with Ohio State this season - the run game, the red zone offense, the defense in general.

    But after the Buckeyes' 36-31 win Saturday over 2-7 Nebraska, some fans questioned something else - Ohio State's leadership, energy and will.

    On this postgame Buckeye Talk podcast from the hours after the Buckeyes moved to 8-1, Doug Lesmerises is joined by new cleveland.com Ohio State writer Stephen Means, who covered his first game in his new assignment on Saturday.

    As usual, your questions drove the discussion. And despite the fact that Ohio State did get a win after losing to Purdue two weeks ago and then getting a week to fix things, there weren't a lot of positives in the discussion.

    So what do the Buckeyes still need to fix? And will they find their way?

    It's another episode with a search for answers.

    Subscribe to Buckeye Talk at any of these places:

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    Thank as always to ShopOhioState.com and MinuteManTickets.com for supporting Buckeye Talk.


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