- RSS Channel Showcase 9533197
- RSS Channel Showcase 8304127
- RSS Channel Showcase 6717816
- RSS Channel Showcase 9315193
Articles on this Page
- 03/23/18--13:13: _Retirement a real g...
- 03/23/18--13:22: _Is the excitement b...
- 03/23/18--13:41: _What did the Cavali...
- 03/23/18--13:59: _Cuyahoga Community ...
- 03/23/18--15:07: _Cavaliers activate ...
- 03/23/18--17:00: _Cleveland Indians' ...
- 03/23/18--16:31: _Mike Clevinger goes...
- 03/23/18--22:03: _Cavaliers getting h...
- 03/23/18--20:14: _Ashland loses in NC...
- 03/23/18--19:13: _Corey Kluber, surpr...
- 03/23/18--19:54: _Mike Napoli says he...
- 03/23/18--22:12: _Cleveland Cavaliers...
- 03/23/18--21:18: _Cavaliers have 10 g...
- 03/23/18--21:57: _Mike Clevinger stri...
- 03/23/18--22:50: _March Madness 2018 ...
- 03/23/18--18:22: _Josh Allen shows of...
- 03/23/18--13:13: Retirement a real game changer for outdoorsman Joe Thomas
- 03/23/18--15:07: Cavaliers activate three injured players, none will start
- 03/23/18--22:03: Cavaliers getting healthy and good, beat Suns 120-95
- 03/23/18--22:12: Cleveland Cavaliers rallying around Tyronn Lue's absence
Joe Thomas was preparing for his post-Hall-of-Fame football career almost before it started and he found a way to combine it with his passion for fishing and the outdoors.
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- When Joe Thomas settled in at offensive left tackle with the Cleveland Browns, one of the people he called early in his career was Jim Liberatore, head of Sports Time Ohio, the Cleveland Indians television network.
Thomas wanted to get started on a broadcasting career while playing professional football. He wanted to learn interviewing skills, but also wanted to have fun. Thomas was thinking more along the lines of a fishing and hunting show, his passions off the field.
Liberatore, now the president and CEO of the Outdoor Channel, broke it to Thomas that Sports Time Ohio already had an outdoor show. He didn't want to pass on Thomas and his football fame, so he signed him to a performance contract.
Then Liberatore called me.
I was the producer and host of the Outdoors Ohio show on STO at the time, and Liberatore asked if I'd be willing to add a very large, young, energetic co-host to the show.
Everyone in town knew Thomas loved fishing. He skipped the 2007 NFL Draft in New York to go fishing with his father, Eric Thomas, chasing Lake Michigan salmon and trout.
An early surprise was his competitiveness off the field, with a rod and reel or a shotgun in his hands. NFL players have little time to play in the woods or on the waters, or film television shows. Thomas was very good at all he did, whether it was playing football, breaking clay targets or squeezing his large frame into a canoe to run the Vermilion River.
Figuring to create an episode of Outdoors Ohio that would be a play on Thomas's noteworthy draft day story, Eric Thomas and Wisconsin friends were invited to go fishing on Lake Erie. The goal was to put Joe and his dad on Capt. Mark Cahlik's 30-foot fishing boat, Mark I Charters. We would cast for big walleye for the camera.
Cahlik is an expert at putting anglers on hungry walleye. The Thomas boys were skilled at catching them.
I'd watched Thomas enjoy Ohio's outdoor scene as we filmed the shows. He had quickly become comfortable doing interviews, as well as learning new outdoor skills. A fledgling fly-rodder, after a long search for waders that could handle the 6-foot-8, 320-pounder, Thomas was soon casting a fly and catching Northeast Ohio's fame steelhead trout. He crossed trophy muskies off his bucket list at West Branch Reservoir one afternoon, and tagged a few Ohio white-tailed deer and wild turkeys. His Labrador retrievers were slick in the pheasant fields and the duck marsh.
On Lake Erie, it was fun to watch father and son rib each other that day as they caught walleye after walleye. Who would catch the biggest? It was an all-out competition.
Eric Thomas is a commercial banker, with shoulders just as wide as those of his son. Joe is a bit taller, but his father is an athlete, too.
We had a cooler filled with cold drinks and food on the boat. After a few hours, I reminded them that they could take a break and kick back on a calm, sunny afternoon on Lake Erie.
"In a little while," said the younger Thomas. "Dad's caught a bigger walleye than I have."
Eric Thomas just smiled, but he kept casting, too.
"It's really nice that Joe can take me fishing for a change," he said.
I don't remember whose walleye was the largest of the day. There was no doubt, though, that both loved fishing, competition and being with each other.
Now that Thomas is retired, they'll have far more chances to get together and hang out the "Gone Fishing" sign.
Cleveland sports fans wonder about the importance of NFL pro days, Jordan Clarkson's interest in dinosaurs and whether the NFL catch rule is any easier to understand.
Cleveland.com columnists Bud Shaw and Doug Lesmerises discuss the meaning of the Cavs big win over Toronto. Watch video
CLEVELAND, Ohio - So what did the Cavs win over Toronto Wednesday really mean?
Interim head coach Larry Drew thought it might be a turning point for his team. The Raptors no doubt would say it didn't mean as much, given they were playing their third game in four nights.
We kicked around that topic as part of our video debate series Prepare for List Off (hold your applause, please.)
Cleveland.com columnist Doug Lesmerises makes the very good point that it showed how invested LeBron is in the team he will take into the postseason. Missing key players, James had a stat line for the ages and simply wouldn't let the Cavs lose.
I think (and Doug agrees) it also told us Toronto is pretty good and not the playoff straight man they've been for the Cavs the past few seasons. It's hard to imagine this Cavs team, even at full strength, sweeping the Raptors again. It's not nearly as hard to imagine a long, difficult series.
Wednesday's win also reminded us of the importance of Kevin Love, who buried a big corner three (off LeBron's 17th assist). The question of how Love will fit in with all the new pieces might not be answered quite yet with Rodney Hood and Larry Nance Jr. out, but I think we can say Love is the difference between returning to the NBA Finals for a fourth consecutive time, or falling short.
In fact, I'm pretty sure I said exactly that.
Hear us out, then come back give us your thoughts.
Cuyahoga Community College will play its final game in the NJCAA Division II National Basketball Tournament on Saturday.
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Cuyahoga Community College Challengers dominated Southern Maryland on Friday, 91-68, in the consolation round of the NJCAA Division II National Basketball Tournament at the Mary Miller Center in Danville, Ill.
Quinton Dove was among four double-digit scorers to lead Tri-C. Dove finished with with 18 points followed by James Anderson with 14. Josawah Bradford and Wade Lowman scored 12 points each.
The Challengers dominated in the first half with a 42-25 advantage and held Southern Maryland to 26 percent from the field in the first half. For the game, Tri-C shot 61 percent from the field compared to 36 percent for Southern Maryland.
Tri-C (31-2) advanced to Saturday's game at 1 p.m. against Grand Rapids Community College. That game will decide seventh place in the national tournament.
Tri-C won its second straight game after losing the opener to Arkansas State University Mid-South on Tuesday. The Challengers followed that loss with a victory over South Suburban College and Southern Maryland.
Larry Nance Jr., Tristan Thompson, and Rodney Hood are all back and playing tonight against the Phoenix Suns, but none will start, acting coach Larry Drew said. Watch video
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Larry Nance Jr., Tristan Thompson, and Rodney Hood are all back and playing tonight against the Phoenix Suns, but none will start, acting coach Larry Drew said.
Drew said all three players -- who have been out with various injuries -- would be on minutes restrictions.
Drew said LeBron James, Jose Calderon, George Hill, Jeff Green, and Kevin Love would start tonight. Drew and coach Tyronn Lue would talk Saturday about lineup changes for the upcoming road trip.
"I really didn't want to disrupt the starting five that we have out there right now and those guys will be playing limited minutes, so I wanted to get them slowly back and acclimated to what we're doing," Drew said. "There's a chance that there could be some early substitutions to get the guys in there. I'm not ruling that out, but right now I just kind of want to stay with the flow, stay with what we've done the last couple of ballgames and then we'll probably after tonight we'll see as far as where we stand as far as starters are concerned."
Thompson was out the longest of the three, missing nine games with a sprained right ankle.
As for Lue, who is still away the team addressing his own personal health issue, Drew said he visited with Lue Thursday at his Bay Village home, and the two settled on this starting lineup for tonight.
Drew said he did not know if Lue would join the Cavs for a three-game road trip that begins Sunday against the Brooklyn Nets.
"I haven't heard anything," Drew said. "I'm just going to proceed and take it a game at a time until I hear something different."
Kyle Korver is away from the team after the death of his brother, and Cedi Osman is nursing a left hip flexor strain.
Left-hander Ryan Merritt, out of options, will open season on disabled list. Watch video
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Lefty Ryan Merritt will open the regular season on the disabled list with a tired left shoulder. Manager Terry Francona told reporters Friday that it stemmed from a left knee injury Merritt suffered in the offseason.
The injury saved the Indians from putting Merritt on waivers because he's out of options.
"Ryan battled a knee during the winter," said Francona. "He was trying to make a club so he didn't say much about it. His velocity has been down.
"We grabbed him a couple days ago and said, 'level with us. We know you're competing,'" said Francona. "He admitted that he's way behind. . .because of his knee he had to cut short some of his long toss program.
"So we're going to disable him. Whether you say it's a sore knee or sore shoulder, I don't think it really matters. I think he just had a tired arm, but I think it was because of his knee.
"So we're going to get his knee good and strong and that arm good and strong. Then when he's ready to be himself, then we have to make a decision about where he fits. I think in fairness to him, it's the best way and I think he completely agreed."
Merritt will join utility infielder Giovanny Urshela on the disabled list to start the season. Urshela was out of options as well and he's going on the disabled list with a hamstring injury.
In five appearances this spring, Merritt went 1-3 with a 9.31 ERA. He struck out 10 in 9 2/3 innings, but allowed 10 earned runs on 17 hits. In his last appearances against the Cubs in Las Vegas, Merritt's velocity hovered in the low 80s. Merritt has never been a hard thrower, but his normal velocity is about 87 mph.
Indians Michael Brantley makes his second spring-training start on Friday night when he faces Arizona. Watch video
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Does life imitate art or is it the other way around? And just how does a video game fit into all this?
Mike Clevinger was sitting in the Indians' clubhouse Friday afternoon playing the video game MLB The Show on one of the many flat screes TVs in the team's re-designed dressing room. Naturally, Clevinger was controlling Clevinger as he pitched against the Atlanta Braves.
When Clevinger retired the Braves, he controlled the Indians hitters who were facing the Braves.
On Friday night, Clevinger left his joystick behind and stepped onto a real mound at Goodyear Ballpark to pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Clevinger, named to the rotation earlier this spring by manager Terry Francona, is 1-0 with a 4.73 ERA in five spring starts.
The opposition is hitting .184 against Clevinger, who has struck out 18 in 13 1/3 innings.
Clevinger, 27, went 12-6 with a 3.11 ERA in 27 games last year for the Indians.
SS Francisco Lindor.
2B Jason Kipnis.
3B Jose Ramirez.
LF Michael Brantley.
DH Edwin Encarnacion.
1B Yonder Alonso.
RF Lonnie Chisenhall.
C Yan Gomes.
CF Bradley Zimmer.
RHP Mike Clevinger.
LF David Peralta.
RF Chris Ownings.
1B Daniel Descalso.
C Alex Avila.
SS Kristopher Negron.
3B Drew Ellis.
CF Marcus Wilson.
2B Camden Duzenack.
LHP Patrick Corbin.
More at-bats for Brantley
Brantley made his second spring start Friday night after hitting a home run in his first at-bat on Wednesday night.
Francona hit him in the cleanup spot, dropping Encarnacion to fifth, to break up the the string of of left-handed hitters oin the Tribe lineup.
"That was one way of doing it," said Francona. "There are going to be days when we just stack them (left-handed hitters) up and try to beat the starter. We have who we have. And we're short a switch-hitter (Carlos Santana) that we've had for years. That changes the look of the lineup a lot. That's just the way it is.
"I think Brant can hit anywhere, and he's willing to. And Edwin doesn't care if he hits fourth, he just wants to hit. So I'd like to not let a team that has one really good lefty just face three or four in a row. That doesn't seem to be doing our guys any favors."
Brantley will get more at-bats Saturday when he plays in a minor league game, but it's still questionable if he'll be ready to open the season Thursday in Seattle as he recovers from right ankle surgery in October.
Brandon Guyer is another outfielder trying to make it back as soon as possible. He's recovering from left wrist surgery and will make his Cactus League debut on Saturday against Texas.
LeBron James scored 27 points with nine assists in the Cavs' fourth straight win. Watch video
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Cavaliers are getting healthy and, just maybe, good again.
They returned three players from injury and won their fourth straight, clobbering the Phoenix Suns 120-95.
LeBron James (who else?) paced the Cavs with 27 points and nine assists in just three quarters of work.
"It was great to have (more) bodies that looked good," James said. "Before we even ran out, our huddle was almost complete, so it was a good step in the right direction."
If we're getting technical here, this one was somewhat of a personal failure for him. He missed 30 points for the first time in five games. Then again, between the 17 assists he posted Wednesday, his last two assists in Monday's win, and a hot start Friday, James went 28 assists without a turnover.
According to Elias Sports, that's the most assists without a turnover of his career and the longest streak for any player since Jimmy Butler had a streak of 37 in March 2017. James had four turnovers Friday.
Kevin Love added 20 points and six boards, and Jordan Clarkson contributed 13 off the bench. There's more to report from the stat sheet. Please hold.
The Cavs have won five of their last six games, swept this three-game homestand, and hold a 1.5-game lead over Philadelphia and Indiana for third place in the East with 10 to play.
"At the end of the day, you keep that excitement and that's what we want," James said. "At the same time you understand what we're trying to accomplish over the last 10 games and trying to get better and better."
The Suns, meanwhile, are losers of 10 straight and owners of the NBA's worst record (19-54), have lost 10 straight. They haven't won in March, and their top two scorers Devin Booker and TJ Warren didn't play.
Phoenix was led by Troy Daniels with 20 points.
Now, back to the Cavs, who haven't played a game together as a full unit since the organization made franchise-shifting trades on Feb. 8. But that day is coming.
Larry Nance Jr. last played March 13 in the Cavs' 129-107 win over Phoenix. He posted 15 points and 10 rebounds in 22 minutes on Friday. Jeff Green started but was gone from the game before halftime because of an illness. He finished with five points.
Nance took Green's place to start the second half and piled up 13 points.
Tristan Thompson returned after nine games out with a sprained right ankle, and four points and nine rebounds.
Rodney Hood contributed nine points on 4-of-8 shooting in his return from a three-game absence caused by a lower back injury.
"Every game that we step into, like I told the guys, we have to come out every single ball game and just knowing that we have a bulls-eye on our back," Cavs acting coach Larry Drew said. "And nobody is going to feel sorry for us. We have to, we just have to be ready each and every game that we play. I don't care if we play against a team that's in the playoffs, or a team that's not in the playoffs. Everybody wants a piece of us and they understand that."
Drew said before the game that he and head coach Tyronn Lue would consult to determine a starting lineup moving forward now that players are getting healthy. Cleveland's still waiting for Kyle Korver (bereavement leave), Cedi Osman (left hip flexor), and Lue (health issues) to come back.
For at least one night, Ante Zizic was the odd man out. His minutes came in garbage time in the fourth quarter. Jose Calderon could be the next to go, though he started Friday and the Cavs improved to 20-8 this season when he's the starting point guard.
JR Smith knocked down three 3s and finished with 11 points.
It's almost news these days when James doesn't get a triple double. He finished with six rebounds (and, of course, was an assist shy, too). But he logged 20 minutes in a game where the Cavs led by as many as 30 in the third quarter. James finished 11-of-16 shooting.
The Suns actually led 27-23 after one quarter and were ahead by as many as seven before their roof caved. Cleveland missed its first seven 3s and then drained five of the next six. Runs of 12-0 and 32-10 made it 62-45 Cavs at halftime, and, yeah, that was it.
NEXT: The Cavs start a three-game road trip at 1 p.m. Sunday against the Brooklyn Nets.
Central Missouri stunned Ashland, 66-52, in the NCAA Division II women's basketball national championship game Friday night in Sioux Falls, S.D. Ashland's winning streak ended at 73.
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Paige Redmond scored 22 and Megan Skaggs was terrific down the stretch as the sixth-seeded Central Missouri Jennies shocked the top-seeded Ashland Eagles, 66-52, in the NCAA Division II Women's Basketball Tournament championship game Friday night at Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D. Ashland's winning streak ended at 73; its previous loss was March 12, 2016.
Ashland entered having averaged 99.8 points this season, with a +35.0 margin.
The Eagles (36-1) made their first seven shots from the field in building a 16-6 lead with 5:27 left in the first quarter. They did not commit a turnover in that span.
The Jennies (30-3) rallied to pull within 16-15, then missed a shot for the lead. At the end of the quarter, Ashland was ahead, 20-15, thanks in part to cashing seven Central Missouri turnovers into 11 points. Laina Snyder had six points.
With 6:33 remaining in the half, Central Missouri's layup off a full-court inbounds pass cut the deficit to 22-21. Ashland, which had shot 2-of-16 since the perfect start, called timeout.
One minute later, Redmond's layup gave Central Missouri a 23-22 advantage. Central Missouri led, 35-27, late in the half before Ashland scored four unanswered. The Jennies scored 32 points in the paint in the first half. The Eagles struggled late against the zone.
It marked just the second time this season that the Eagles trailed at the half.
Redmond, a guard wearing No. 00, excelled as Central Missouri built a 49-44 advantage through three quarters. Redmond notched her 18th, 19th and 20th points of the game on a late 3-pointer that turned out to be the final scoring of the third.
Skaggs' shot in the paint increased Central Missouri's lead to 55-48 with 3:22 left. Ashland answered with four points; Jodi Johnson's short shot cut the deficit to 55-52 with 2:20 left.
Skaggs' runner made it 57-52. She continued to impose her will the rest of the way. She finished with 13 points, nine of which came in the final 3:24.
Redmond was named the tournament MVP.
Corey Kluber will make his fourth straight opening day start for the Indians on Thursday against Seattle. Watch video
GOODYEAR, Ariz. - It's been a foregone conclusion all spring, but manager Terry Francona spelled it out Friday - Corey Kluber will be the Indians' opening day starter.
Not exactly a man bites dog story here. Kluber has won two Cy Young awards in the last four years, including last season. He's also been an 18-game winner in three of the last four years.
"We have other guys who could do it," said Francona. "I mean in the playoffs last we were put Trevor Bauer first and Kluber second and Trevor pitched a heckuva game. Carlos Carrasco is one of the top handful of guys in the league.
"But I think when you've got a guy who has won the Cy Young a couple of times, with the way he works, it's an easy choice."
Kluber went 18-4 with a 2.25 ERA last year despite missing a month with a back injury. He led the AL in ERA and WHIP and was tied for first in wins.
This will be Kluber's fourth straight opening day start and it was never in doubt. In Francona's 1-on-1 meeting with Kluber at the start of camp in February, he told him, "Hey, just be ready for opening day."
The Indians open the season Thursday against Seattle at Safeco Field. In four spring starts, Kluber is 3-0 with a 1.98 ERA. He's struck out 19 and walked three in 13 2/3 innings.
Kluber will make his final start of the spring on Saturday against Texas in Surprise, Ariz.
"He's done a good job of getting ready. . .It seems like every time out he gets a little sharper and a little deeper into the game," said Francona. "It seems like his velocity goes up a tick every time out."
Mike Napoli is weighing his options as the end of spring training approaches.
GOODYEAR, Ariz. - Mike Napoli is still in no man's land.
The Indians technically released him Thursday after he played against the Padres.
On Friday he said he expected to re-sign with the Indians, but it's unknown how much longer he'll be with them. He almost certainly won't make the 25-man roster and it's uncertain if another big league team will offer him a job or he'll go to Class AAA Columbus with the Indians before the start of the regular season.
"When that decision comes up, I'll make that decision about what I'm going to do," said Napoli, when asked about going to the minors. "I'm still undecided about what I'm going to do. I'll just ride it out to the end and see what happens and then make my decision."
The Indians break camp on Tuesday after playing Arizona at Chase Field in their final exhibition game of the spring. They open the season Thursday against Seattle at Safeco Field.
Manager Terry Francona would love to see a big-league team, preferably in the National League, give Napoli a job. He thinks he still has a lot to offer on the field and in the clubhouse. If not he'd like to see him stay in the Indians' organization. Where that might be is a question.
When the Indians signed Napoli to a minor league contract in February, they did it as a favor. He was working out in the players association's camp in Bradenton, Fla., for unsigned free agents. The Indians, loyal to Napoli because he helped them reach the World Series in 2016, brought him to Arizona where he could get some at-bats and be seen by other teams.
They told him that the only way he would have a chance to make the Indians is if something happened to DH Edwin Encarnacion or first baseman Yonder Alonso. Encarnacion and Alonso have made it to the end of camp in one piece. As Napoli said, "It's still the same situation. Nothing has changed."
Francona said Napoli would play Saturday against Texas and then talk to Chris Antonetti, president of baseball operations, about what his decision may be.
"I just want him to be comfortable with whatever he does," said Francona.
Napoli, 36, believes he can still play. In 2016, he hit .239 and set career highs with 34 homers and 101 RBI. Last year with Texas, he hit .193 with 22 homers and 66 RBI.
"I feel like I can still produce and do some things in this game that will help a team win," said Napoli. "Last year was a little rough. I fought through some things during the year, but I'm happy where I'm at physically and health wise right now."
Testing, testing, testing: Danny Salazar threw off the mound for the first time this spring on Thursday to test his sore right shoulder.
"He's good," said Francona. "He's bouncing around, which is good to see. We're going to leave him back here (when the Indians break camp). The weather is warm and he can get his work done here."
Salazar will open the season on the disabled list.
That kind of adversity at this time of the season -- just weeks away from the postseason when teams are trying to sharpen their knives, according to Tristan Thompson -- could've sent the Cavs any which way. Watch video
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Cleveland Cavaliers' week began with bad news.
With the urging of general manager Koby Altman and others in the organization, head coach Tyronn Lue decided to step away for an undisclosed amount of time to focus on his health.
That kind of adversity at this time of the season -- just weeks away from the postseason when teams are trying to "sharpen their knives," according to Tristan Thompson -- could've sent the Cavs any which way.
The reigning Eastern Conference champs could've let the latest bit of turmoil push them the wrong direction, interrupting their process and preventing them from finding a rhythm. Or they could've rallied around Lue's absence. Cleveland chose the latter, polishing off a 3-0 homestand while showing the mental toughness of a champion -- something that was questioned more than once throughout this turbulent season.
"Sometimes you have to play the hand that's dealt to you," Larry Drew said. "And certainly, it was unfortunate what happened with coach Lue. And the way our guys have responded, you go through the course of a season and you deal with a lot of different things and when you do that, you don't know whether you're going to be able to overcome it. And I think for our team, we really rallied, No. 1, around coach Lue, when the organization made the decision that he was going to step away for a few games. We rallied around him, we rallied around one another."
Hours after learning of Lue's absence, the short-handed Cavs topped the Milwaukee Bucks. Then came a statement win against the East-leading Toronto Raptors, one Drew believes can be season changing, as the Cavaliers rallied from 15 points down without five key rotation players for a three-point victory.
The promising three-game stretch ended Friday night with a blowout win against hapless Phoenix Suns, who have one win since January.
So what's it all mean?
"It says that we are very capable of persevering," Drew said about the week that was. "And certainly when you look at our year and everything that has happened, we have persevered. And to me that's a sign of a team that is mentally strong and a team that is mentally capable. Personally I'm very proud of how they've responded to everything. They could've gone the other way, but they didn't. They've responded very well."
Adversity is nothing new for the Cavaliers. Former GM David Griffin always said the team shined brightest in darkness.
There's been plenty of that. The season started with a roster overhaul, a handful of moves forced by Kyrie Irving's trade demand. Then came the first wave of injuries followed by finger pointing, losing streaks, sulking, more upheaval and a second rash of injuries.
"It's funny, we've had so much happen to us over the last three or four years, we've almost seen it all now," Love said. "Having a coach go down, it just shows us we're down but not out. A lot of guys missing for different reasons, but L.D. has done an awesome of kind of rallying the troops.
"The biggest moment at least for him was halftime of last game really brought us all together and had us come up and fight in that second half of the Toronto game. It was a good win for us today, a good week for us overall. Just shows our togetherness out there on the floor."
The Cavs are certainly hoping the toughest stretch is over. And it appears things are starting to normalize once again. James could sense it in the pregame huddle, noticing something different.
"Before we even ran out, our huddle was almost complete," James said. "It was a good step in the right direction."
On Friday night, Thompson returned after missing nine games. Rodney Hood, still showing signs of rust, played for the first time in more than a week because of an achy back. Larry Nance Jr. was flying high once again, showing no ill effects from of an injured hamstring that sidelined him the previous four games.
The picture isn't completely clear. Lue is still at home, well enough to communicate with coaches on off days and following games, but not yet to return. Cedi Osman is still nursing a sore hip and Kyle Korver remains away from the team following his brother Kirk's death.
All of that while Cavs coaches are trying to figure out lineup combinations and establish a rhythm before the playoffs.
But things are starting to come into focus. Right in time.
"Just be in the best shape of your life," Thompson said of the final 10 games. "That's how I view it. Be able to do your job at a high level when the postseason hits. I think that's all that matters. At the end of the day no one really remembers Game 65 or Game 78. People only remember what you do in the playoffs. As long as you're playing your best and on the top of your game then that's all that matters."
Despite the positive week -- which James praised because the Cavaliers have been playing the right way, sharing the ball, communicating on the defensive end and not straying from the game plan -- he's staying steady.
After all, James knows -- and has seen firsthand -- just how quickly everything can change.
The Cavaliers got a reminder of that this week, uniting to push through the latest obstacle in their title quest.
"You can have a great week like this week and then you can have a horrible week next week," James said. "I'll stay even keel. We got better this week. We played well this week. We won some really good games versus teams that are at the top, teams that are at the bottom and we worked our habits. We just want to continue to not get too high about what we just accomplished.
"We did what we wanted to do and we want to try to continue to do that going into next week."
Cleveland.com Cavs writer Joe Vardon goes inside a 120-95 win over Phoenix. Watch video
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Cavaliers have 10 games left before the playoffs start.
They're guaranteed a spot, thanks to Detroit's loss in Houston on Thursday night, so congratulations.
But there's 10 games before the "real" season begins, the season in which they try to make a fourth straight Finals, where their success or failure will weigh heavily on LeBron James' mind when he decides his future this summer.
Tyronn Lue is still out. So is Kyle Korver. And Cedi Osman. They're still 28th in the NBA on defense.
So, yes, the Cavs beat Phoenix 120-95 on Friday night for their fourth straight win. But there is much to be done and little time left.
Cleveland's acting head coach, Larry Drew, said the Cavs want to use these 10 games so that "we have some sense of one another, we have some sense of a rotation, we have some sense of exactly what we're going to be doing from an offensive standpoint, from a defensive standpoint.
"But more than anything, for the first time just getting everybody together," Drew said. "It's hard to imagine or go through an 82-game schedule with all the different personnel changes we've had."
Until Friday night, Larry Nance Jr. had never played with Kevin Love before. Love had also never been on the floor with Rodney Hood. And Tristan Thompson returned.
Korver is going to miss at least one more game -- Sunday at Brooklyn -- for the funeral service for his brother, which is Monday.
Lue could come back at any point from his health issues.
This is after, well, the craziest of what's been a crazy four seasons since James returned.
"It's funny, we've had so much happen to us over the last three or four years, we've almost seen it all now," Love said.
"Just trying to find a way no matter what's been going on with our season," James said. "Find a way. Stay composed. Stay even-keeled, that's always my motto and just continue to get better and just push the envelope as much as we can, so it was a really good week for us."
Beware of the Brooklyn trap
By the way, Sunday's game at Brooklyn is a major trap game. The Cavs are flying to New York in the early afternoon. The nightlife is, shall we say, abundant, and it's a 1 p.m. game. Cleveland's already lost at Brooklyn once this season.
Nance shakes off the rust, finds Love
Nance's return was the best. He finished with 15 points and 10 boards, but 13 of those points came in the second half -- when he started in place of Jeff Green, who left the game sick.
"Shook the rust off a little bit," he said.
As previously mentioned, this was the first time he's ever played with Love, who finished with 20 points and six boards. Nance could very well start alongside Love Sunday, maybe for the rest of the season.
"A couple of things I picked up on already," Nance said. "One, we've got another guy on the court that can shoot, dribble, pass, can do it all. Also having two All-Stars (LeBron and Love) is better than one.
"Another thing I kind of picked up, I haven't played with him before, is people don't respect his passing enough. He can really see the court, so I'm starting to learn that. It's been impressive thus far."
Thompson calls for Cavs to be in 'best shape'
Thompson is the other candidate to start next to Love, that is, if the Cavs don't do what they've done during this winning streak and stay with Green. Anyway, Thompson gave them four points but 10 boards off the bench.
"Just be in the best shape of your life," Thompson said was his approach to these final 10 games. "Be in the best shape of your life. That's how I view it. Be able to do your job at a high level when the postseason hits. I think that's all that matters. At the end of the day no one really remembers Game 65 or Game 78. People only remember what you do in the playoffs. As long as you're playing your best and on the top of your game then that's all that matters."
Hood pledges to play rest of the season
Hood scored nine points on 4-of-8 shooting. His movements, especially early in the game, still looked labored. He was out with what he said was a "strain" that was "spasming up." He says it's all better now.
"I'll be here from (Sunday) on out," said Hood, in what effectively was a pledge to not miss any more games. "That's the reason I was out a couple more games than I thought I was going to be, just to take my time and make sure I was right this time."
Drew thought Hood looked "rusty." He shot 4-of-8."When you're out a little bit and you get back into playing, all the bumping and the grinding that goes on through the course of the game, it puts wear and tear on you," Drew said. "It's going to take Rodney a few games to get into a rhythm, to get his timing, which I along with everyone else expected. That's why I look at these last 10 games that we have, these are games that will allow us to get into some type of a rhythm."
Bradley Zimmer, in the sixth inning, scored from second base on Francisco Lindor's sacrifice fly to right field. Honest, he really did. Watch video
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Right-hander Mike Clevinger, in his last start of the spring, Friday night struck out seven and allowed one run in 5 2/3 innings as the Indians beat the Arizona, 6-1, at Goodyear Ballpark.
Yonder Alonso and Bradley Zimmer led the offense. Alonso hit his team-leading seventh homer to start the sixth inning for a 3-0 lead. Yan Gomes and Zimmer kept the inning going with consecutive singles to right field. Gomes scored from third on a passed ball as Zimmer stole second.
Francisco Lindor followed with a sacrifice fly that Chris Owings caught against the right field wall. Zimmer scored all the way from second, using a headfirst slide as he tagged the the plate with his left hand just ahead of the relay throw.
"I don't think that's the last time you'll see something like that," said Francona. "I thought Sarby (third base coach Mike Sarbaugh) did a good job of being heads up and keeping him coming.
"Zim was hustling all the way. It's fun to watch. His strides are pretty special."
The Tribe built a 2-0 lead against left-hander Patrick Corbin with runs in the third and fourth innings. Jose Ramirez doubled home Jason Kipnis in the third. In the fourth, Lindor singled to right with Gomes on second and Zimmer on first.
Gomes scored and Zimmer was making the turn at third when Lindor was thrown out stretching at second base to end the inning.
Tyler Naquin pushed the lead to 6-1 with a double in the eighth inning.
In the competition for one of the final spots in the bullpen, veteran right-handers Matt Belisle and Carlos Torres each threw a scoreless inning. They both have outs in their contracts and Francona told them he'd let them know Saturday who made the club.
"It's (going to be) really tough," said Francona, when asked about the decision. "We're probably going to have to tell somebody now who deserves to make it."
A look around the sights and sounds of the NCAA Tournament from reporters at the games and surrounding events Friday.
A look around the sights and sounds of the NCAA Tournament from reporters at the games and surrounding events:
NBA AIN'T GOT NOTHING ON THE NCAA: The top-seeded Vilanova Wildcats continued their outside feast in the NCAA Tournament, downing the fifth-seeded West Virginia Mountaineers, 90-78, on Friday night to earn their second trip to the regional finals in three seasons.
West Virginia senior Jevon Carter, who had 12 points, said he was proud of his classmates' four-year run. Friday's game marked the 10th career NCAA Tournament game for Carter and teammate Daxter Miles -- tying them for the most in school history.
Carter said the tournament will always mean a lot to both of them.
"It's everything. Everybody is in tune with March Madness. I feel like it's bigger than the NBA playoffs," he said. "Anything can happen in March. ... Unfortunately we lost in the Sweet 16."
In his news conference, Villanova head coach Jay Wright described his team's mental toughness to advance to the Elite Eight.
BAD BREAK: Purdue star center Isaac Haas, the team's No. 2 scorer and rebounder, could only be a cheerleader -- and a one-armed cheerleader, at that -- in his team's 78-65 loss to Texas Tech on Friday night.
After breaking his right elbow in the first-round game against Cal State-Fullerton, he tried to convince the coach he could play; the Purdue engineering department even pitched in, designing a special brace for his right arm.
But Haas remained on the bench, replaced by Matt Haarms, a redshirt freshman who at 7-foot-3 measures an inch taller but at 40 pounds lighter is hardly the force under the basket of that his senior teammate has been. Haarms finished with four points and three rebounds.
STILL BEST BUDDIES: After Duke narrowly got past Syracuse, 69-65, Friday night, the Blue Devils' coach only had good things to stay about the Orange, including its star guard Tyus Battle.
"Battle is one of the best players in the country...He's a big-time player. I love Tyus," Mike Krzyzewski said. "I love their team. I love their coach even more. He does such a great job with them."
But when asked about Kansas, Krzyzewski demurred, saying it was out of respect for Syracuse and his good buddy, Boeheim. Krzyzewski said he'll talk KU Saturday.
THE BANNERS ARE STAYING: The players are getting a bit of a history lesson at this year's East regional in Boston.
The banners honoring the Celtics and Bruins championships and retired numbers were allowed to remain in the rafters at the TD Garden this year -- a change from previous events here.
"Part of the allure of being in Boston is playing beneath our championship banners," TD Garden president Amy Latimer said. "We are proud to have them on display and part of the student-athlete experience."
When NCAA tournament last came to town in 2012, the banners were replaced by ones noting past college basketball champions. The 17 Celtics championship banners and six for the Bruins were brought to a Salvation Army facility, where fans lined up to take pictures with them.
The Celtics also have three banners to honor their 23 retired numbers. The Bruins have retired 10 numbers.
DOGS IN THEM: Michigan is aware of the dilemma it faces Saturday with Florida State's pressing, shot-blocking "junkyard defense," which has deserved its colorful name.
"Just really getting after it," Florida State's Phil Cofer said. "We say 94 feet. That's picking the ball up early and playing hard to exhaustion. That's one of the key things of our junkyard defense. When everybody is locked into that, we can take ourselves all the way to the top."
ANN ARBOR WEST: Florida State has plenty of fans in Southern California, but Michigan had a truly impressive crowd in the Staples stands for the victory over Texas A&M. Beilein expects more of the same Saturday.
"Those people didn't travel here to see this game," he said. "They live here, and that's what's great about coaching at Michigan. We're everywhere."
The Final Four is within our grasp.March 24, 2018
A CUT ABOVE: Scissors maker Fiskars issued a news release Friday noting that, for the 10th year in a row, it is providing the official net-cutting scissors used by victorious teams during the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments.
Its "iconic" orange-handled scissors are a special edition with serrated, gold titanium blades etched with the NCAA logo.
Allen shows off his big arm, improved accuracy and excellent footwork during his Pro Day at Wyoming.
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Browns closed out their quarterback workout week with a bang Friday at Josh Allen's dazzling Pro Day at Wyoming.
The Browns sent eight staffers to the school -- more than any team -- including Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, coach Hue Jackson, GM John Dorsey, assistant GM Eliot Wolf, offensive coordinator Todd Haley and quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese.
Allen made their trip worthwhile as well as that of representatives from 15 other teams, including Giants coach Pat Shurmur, who has the No. 2 overall pick.
Launching about 60 throws -- including a few in the 70- and 80-yard range -- Allen impressed coaches and scouts with his big arm, improved accuracy and uncanny ability to throw on the run. After shortening his stride with quarterback guru Jordan Palmer, Allen alleviated concerns about his 56.2 completion percentage at Wyoming and kept himself firmly in the conversation for the Browns No. 1 overall pick, along with Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, and probably to a lesser extent, Josh Rosen.
Haslam, who spent time chatting with Darnold's parents at his Pro Day on Wednesday, did likewise with Allen's parents on Friday. The fact Haslam took the time to accompany the evaluators to the Pro Days and get to know the QBs and their families is significant.
It means that the Browns are serious about Darnold and Allen as their quarterback of the future, and possibly Mayfield too. Rosen is still in the mix, but doesn't have the same ability to extend the play as the other three, and wouldn't be as seamless a transition from 2018 starter Tyrod Taylor.
Granted, Allen missed a few throws as he commits the new footwork to muscle memory, but by most accounts, it was a stellar Pro Day.
"This is one of the better pro day throwing sessions you're ever going to see,'' NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said on-air. "I can't remember a time when a quarterback has done a better job in the offseason. That's from the Senior Bowl ...he was the talk of the combine. So he won the offseason.''
The problem in Jeremiah's mind, is Allen's inconsistency at Wyoming.
"Every game I watch with Josh, I see things that get me excited, and I see things that frustrate me,'' said Jeremiah. "He'll miss some layups, some easy throws and they're not easy misses, they're big misses, and he'll miss by a good bit, so there are still things that he needs to work through. I don't doubt his talent, but he's the one guy in this group though that needs time.'''
Allen (6-5, 233) is confident that Palmer solved his problem and that his newfound touch and accuracy were on display Friday.
"I really dove into how I was throwing the ball,'' Allen told NFL Network after the workout. "My feet were really jacked up. Anytime that I would miss, my feet were out of whack, they weren't sequencing correctly. I've fixed that and I can self-correct.''
NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks predicts that Allen will go much higher than his uneven tape would suggest, based on the improvements he's made. And as Palmer observed to cleveland.com, if he's come this far in two months, imagine what he can be after 10 years in an NFL locker room.
"He's a fastball pitcher trying to learn how to throw changeups and sliders and it's not necessarily natural for him,'' said Brooks. "However, I am encouraged. The ball was better today when he had to make those layered throws. The big thing when you go and watch Josh Allen at this kind of event, you're looking to see what could he be.''
Question is, what did the Browns see? They had a whirlwhind week in which they worked out Rosen and Mayfield privately and attended the Pro Days of Darnold and Allen. It's a lot to process in a few days, and they'll need a time to let it all sink in. They'll also bring all four quarterbacks, and likely others, to the Browns facility for pre-draft visits.
One thing working in their favor is time. If they like Allen's raw talent and believe he can throw it straight, they can work with him for a year while Taylor starts.
"You're seeing that the best is ahead of him,'' said Jeremiah. "I just throw back the same cautionary advice here: Time is the whole deal here. Do not rush it. If you don't rush it, it could have a big pay off. What happens is fan pressure. Everyone wants to see the shiny new toy, so when we draft him, we put him on the field. Aaron Rodgers sat, and it was the best thing that ever happened to him."
As for the differences between Darnold and Allen, Brooks said, "(Darnold's) a touch, timing and anticipation passer -- Sam Darnold's always going to excel in those areas. For Josh Allen, it's about kind of just the physical presence to being able to overpower the ball. He doesn't throw with great timing or anticipation but his arm is so strong that he can make up for it.''
During the actual workout, the superlatives flew as fast and furious as most of Allen's passes.
"That had a flame coming out the back of it,'' Mayock said of one deep ball. "If that football was a harpoon, that kid would be dead right now.''
After another, he noted, "You can't make a better throw than that right there guys.''
Jeremiah chimed in, "he might step into the league and have the strongest arm. He is so effortless. Very easy.''
Allen was particularly impressive when rolling out our scrambling around. Those completions drew almost as many 'oohs' as the deep balls in the finale.
"This dude just rolled to his left and flicked a pass on the move that,'' said Brooks. "I can see why scouts get excited, because those are things that most quarterbacks are unable to do, so if you have someone like that, it really opens up your playbook. You can take your offense to another level if he's able to master some of the other stuff.''
Still, Jeremiah is skeptical about his ability to nail it in the heat of the moment, when muscle amnesia often strikes.
"If you're going to differentiate it from the workout that we just saw, there was a little better placement with Sam than what we're seeing right here,'' said Jeremiah.
Mayock, who has Allen ranked No. 1 behind Darnold in his top five position rankings, begged to differ.
"I've got no issue with the placement,'' he said. "The footwork has been tied together with his eyes and that adds up to accuracy.''
Mayock observe, that "arm-talent throws are the far-hash comebacks, the deep in-routes and this kid makes throws like that look easy. ....here's a touch throw. The ball is perfectly thrown.''
Jeremiah noted one area where Allen is far ahead of Darnold, and it's important in the minds of many pro coaches.
"He was under center 35.2% of the snaps this year and the previous year's was 53.6% whereas Sam Darnold this year was 4.2%,'' said Jeremiah. "There's a lot more experience he has under center.''
Mayock also got great feedback from the Browns, Giants and Jets on Allen's processing speed, which is one of Hue Jackson's biggest criteria. If Allen is anything like Carson Wentz on the board, he'll be hard to pass up at No. 1
"He's as good as any quarterback in this draft if not better,'' said Mayock. "They said he's outstanding up at the board. He understands pass protections and keep in mind Carson Wentz did also.''
As for comparing him to Wentz, Mayock cited his superior arm talent, and "I got a great look at this big 6-foot-5, 235 pound guy who's a better athlete than Carson Wentz, believe it or not, watching him roll out left or right is just outstanding, and in today's NFL, you've got to live in the pocket and extend the play and this kid brings both of those to the forefront.''
He added, "that doesn't mean he's going to be a better quarterback but as a piece of clay to mold, this is pretty special.''
Special enough for No. 1? He'll find out soon.