Scott Van Pelt and Charles Barkley defend Cleveland, slam Bill Simmons

13 - Scott Van PeltBill Simmons may be bulletproof in the eyes of various ESPN employees, but that didn’t stop a few high-profile ones from coming out and defending Cleveland in the wake of the 2014 NBA Lottery results. When it was revealed that the Cleveland Cavaliers—once again—have the first pick in the NBA Draft, Simmons quickly took to the airwaves to say that the league “needs new rules” and that he was done with “karma for Cleveland.” You know, as if the town has so much to hang their hat on in the way of championship banners.

Nevertheless, ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt and Ryan Russillo kicked off Wednesday afternoon’s radio show with some shots fired back in defense of the lakefront city.

Van Pelt: Cleveland got the pick—got the No. 1 pick. And I was just amazed at how mad everyone was. Like so many people were mad at Cleveland. Here’s [Bill] Simmons—and again, Simmons, you got a lot of nerve, Simmons, getting mad at Cleveland, like they’ve had such great luck in life.

[Simmons sound byte]

It’s funny, and I love—he’s got the sort of status where he can say and do anything, which is great. It must be fun to have a bulletproof shield, and he’s got it.

Russillo: Yeah, but that’s why he’s on the [NBA pregame] show. He represents the guys at home watching the lottery. he’s not some hardcore journalist or a former NBA guy worrying about his next job. It’s a perfect role.

Van Pelt: Yeah. Also, Grantland worked, and “30 for 30” is good and he’s a giant earner for the company so he’s earned the right to be bulletproof. But it’s funny. I take issue with this—they weren’t rewarded. The ping pong balls, that’s what they got. Philly would have been rewarded for, as you said earlier, trotting out a garbage roster all year. Better not to reward that. Cleveland got lucky.

Now if you want to get mad about last year, who were they supposed to take? They didn’t pass on Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing to take [Anthony] Bennett. I’m not telling you Bennett’s good; he was lousy. Maybe Nerlens Noel is going to turn into a good player. I’ve seen people suggest they should have taken him. Alright, I don’t know that—

Russillo: But wait. People are only suggesting that because they didn’t see him play and watched all the other draft picks play.

Van Pelt: Exactly. The same reason everyone loves [Dante] Exum in this draft class is because he’s the one guy no one has seen. So if you want to be mad that they didn’t take the right guy in a draft class when there was no obvious guy, OK. The Mike Brown piece—I have no arguments for that. And if it’s all about saying, “Hey, we don’t think LeBron [James], in the future, would be psyched about this—let’s do everything we can to lure LeBron back,” then that’s a separate topic. But as it relates to just this, and Cleveland getting lucky, I just shrug and say, if any city deserves just a little bit of good fortune in their life, it’s Cleveland. Because they’ve had zero. Forever.

Later in their show, Van Pelt and Russillo had NBA legend and TNT analyst Charles Barkley on to discuss the NBA Finals and LeBron. As has been the case for much of the last four years, Barkley was on Cleveland’s side.

“I’ve always thought he was going to go back to Cleveland. Nobody dislikes LeBron. I think LeBron made a huge mistake with that ‘Decision’ crap. He’s come back and since admitted that. That’s the only thing people hold against LeBron. He’s a great player, a great person. I hope he goes back to Cleveland. Those fans in Miami are not real fans, those fans in Cleveland are real fans. I’ve always hoped he would go back to Cleveland. That would be a great way to finish his career.”

Simmons, though bulletproof, hasn’t tweeted since the night of the Lottery. The last piece he wrote for Grantland.com was about his “NBA Draft Lottery Karma Rankings,” where he had the Cavaliers ranked dead last.

Photo: Jon Cole/WFNY

  • Garry_Owen

    Avoid the clap.
    – Jimmy Dugan

  • mgbode

    My father was a drunk, a gambler and a womanizer. I worshipped him.
    -Warrant Officer Paul Brenner

  • Steve

    They’re a year behind us in getting their star, and younger, and yet they won one more game, with a better scoring differential in a much tougher conference and with bigger injury issues. Maybe the injury issues are not going to go away, but I’m failing to see how they haven’t done a better job, a much better job. That we’ve fired three guys in key front of says enough about how poorly the Cavs have been run. Maybe the new guys are a big step up, they need to be, but you know I’m going to be skeptical.

    Kyrie is mind-bending in games where defense is not up to NBA standards. And I’ll take the entire history of big man signings in the NBA (almost always way overpaid) over the Bobcats deal with Jefferson.

    I guess we have very different degress of “decent”. 33 wins in one of the weakest conferences that the league has ever seen does so little for me.

    “but one that just needs to add a few pieces to get there”

    This is Simmons point, and its frustrating to have to keep reiterating it. Four picks in the top four of three drafts should not leave a team still in such dire need of a few more pieces.

  • Steve

    Finish the quote:

    “If you want to avoid the bottom, make better picks, make smarter trades and spend your cap money wisely. Minnesota had four top-six picks in three years and ended up with Jonny Flynn, Ricky Rubio, Wes Johnson and Derrick Williams. Sacramento had the no. 4, no. 5, no. 7, no. 5 and no. 7 picks in the past five drafts and has only DeMarcus Cousins and Ben McLemore left. The Wizards earned the no. 5, no. 1, no. 6, no. 3 and no. 3 picks in the last five drafts and batted 40 percent on moves. The Cavs had the no. 1, no. 4, no. 4 and no. 1 picks in the past four drafts and can’t make the 2014 playoffs.”

  • The_Real_Shamrock


    WFNY does not condone these kinds of posts -5,000!!!

  • Garry_Owen

    Wait. I thought that’s what we’ve been doing. Did I miss a memo?

  • RGB

    “I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.”
    – Ellen Ripley

  • It’s not THAT bad!

    I dunno. The “we had top 5 picks in the last 3 drafts” thing is a seriously flawed argument for the cavs “incompetence.” Kyrie was a lucky break in terms of talent, TT vs. Valenciunus is the only argument i’d really entertain, and i don’t think that is 100% one way or the other. Dion seems to have been the right choice over all other options save for Drummond, which I won’t blame the Cavs for passing on him. And Bennett…… Bennett sucked. But the Cavs could have drafted #1 through #10 last year and still had a terrible team regardless of how they managed it. They improved 9 games from last year, which is a way more realistic improvement than jumping into the playoffs.

    The Mike Brown/Chris Grant thing is something I can’t really argue as a good/bad thing. I liked the hire, and I can’t really argue against the fire of Brown. I don’t know that I would have fired Grant – I see his failure more of bad luck than bad management – but I can’t really argue against that either. If you’re bringing in a new GM, you have to be ready to bring in a new coach, simple as that.

    The Cavs have been bad for the past 4 years, but I don’t think they’ve been the dumpster fire that everyone would like to paint them as in the “compare this to Lebron” era of things. They’ve been a team that had the rug pulled out from under them, started a rebuild, and are still rebuilding while slowly (arguably too slowly) getting slightly better. Its a frustrating process, sure.

    Either way, in the context of being a decent team…. the cavs are just below that. They have the reigning All star MVP, a young 2 guard who has improved year over year, a couple young bigs with varying degrees of promise, and a ton of cap room. The Bulls were 33-49 the year before they got Rose (sound familiar? it’s the cavs 2013-14 record). They had a Noah coming into his 2nd year, and no one thought he was going to be as good as he is now. During the pre-rose year, they traded ben wallace to the cavs for larry hughes (et al). They weren’t that “decent” as they sound in hindsight. Thibs wasn’t a coach until 3 years later. The cavs are not that far off from that team, in all honesty.

  • Mike E

    Your point is missing the fact of how terrible these past drafts have been…Who do your Simmons take in these drafts that makes our team so much better? This is a stupid argument.

  • Mike E

    What this guy said!

  • Steve

    If we reorganize each of those three drafts by win shares, the Cavs 2013 pick (#1 overall) comes in 58th out of 60, the Cavs 2012 pick (#4 overall) comes in 22nd out of 60, and the Cavs 2011 picks come in at 5th (Irving) and 8th (Thompson).

    If we change it to WS/48, Bennett is still at the bottom of the list obviously. Waiters drops to 18th of 22 who have played 2000 minutes, 31st of 37 to have played 1000 minutes. Thompson is 12th among those who have played 3000 minutes, and 13th among those who have played 1500, with Irving 6th in each.

    To put it more simply, we have come away well short on talent, even once you take into account that those were weaker drafts.

    I think the Mike Brown thing is the perfect example of the problems with the front office, and yes Grant was not a good manager. His topping off the Irving-Waiters backcourt with Jack was icing on the cake. Gilbert fired Brown then went in a completely separate direction with Scott, only to go back completely the opposite again with Brown, and not give him a chance to put his system into place. Sound familiar? It’s happened a bit closer to the lake multiple times over the last 15 years, and we all recognize how incompetent that managing is/was.

    No, the Cavs have not been dumpster fire bad, I’ll give you that, but I don’t see how it’s much of a consolement. They’re still quite bad and have quite a mess to fix.

    The Bulls made the playoffs three straight years before slipping into the lottery. They most certainly were not screwing around at the top of the draft over and over again before getting a huge break.

  • Vesus

    My issue with New Orleans is that they should have been tanking for another pick, THEN moving forward with “competition” moves like trading for Holiday and signing Evans.

    I believe they attempted to accelerate their rebuild before they were ready to, and I consider that poor management. The Cavs, on the other hand, had already endured 3 lotteries, added some young talent, and were ready to try and make a playoff push.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    “This is Ohio. I mean, if you don’t have a brewski in your hand, you might as well be wearing a dress.”

    – Christian Slater in “Heathers”

  • Steve

    Mgbode will back up that I was big on Jonas, Drummond, and Noel, repeatedly saying this team needed a big man. But, as shown below, even when we take into account the talent of each class, the Cavs have underperformed expectations, and quite wildly 50% of the time.

  • Vesus

    Yet Simmons lavishes praise on Anthony Davis, and apparently lacks the self-awareness to see HOW New Orleans acquired him.

  • Steve

    I can totally buy that argument. Collect a couple aces before moving all in. They haven’t been ideally run, but I still think they’ve been much better run than the Cavs.

  • Steve

    Is he praising the Hornets management or just pointing out that Davis is a great player? If Irving played that well, Simmons would heap similar praise on him despite the Cavaliers poor decision-making.


    I think your argument is well stated. Where the line ends for me is that the supposition is that the Cavs having won the lottery is a direct reward FOR bad management. Using his own argument, Sacramento had a 300% BETTER chance of “being rewarded for bad management.”

    If they’d won the lottery, would he have said the same thing? Who knows?

    My problem with Simmons’ argument is that each and every sport sets up their draft to “reward bad management”. Between 1990 and 1994, his beloved Patriots picked in the TOP 4 of the NFL draft three times in five years, including the #1 overall pick once (Drew Bledsoe). They clearly weren’t well-managed over that span (no playoffs), and they were rewarded for it. And they didn’t have to rely on ping pong balls to get that #1 pick.

    So, yeah, every single sport “rewards” bad management by setting up its draft order based on how poorly the team has played. So, to make this argument intellectually honest, Simmons needs to come out and say that ALL SPORTS DRAFTS should be based on a completely evenly weighted draw. I mean, under those rules, I’m sure he’d be happy if the Heat got to pick in the top 5 this year, because hey, at least we wouldn’t be “rewarding bad management”.

    Methinks the root of this argument for him still goes back to 2007 when the Celts were the 2nd worst team in the league and ended up picking 5th, missing out on Oden/Durant.

  • Steve

    I guess I’m not seeing the “FOR” like everyone else is. I’m reading his complaint as if you substitute “in spite of” instead. That’s a big difference, and I could just be on a different page than everyone else

    And as I said in yesterday’s thread, the “reward bad management” issue rears a much bigger problem in the NBA than in other sports, as one player can make such a larger difference.

    If the Browns picked #1 and got Clowney, everyone would be excited, but also fully admit there was still a lot of work needed to get this team to the playoffs. The Cavs can pick Embiid if he’s healthy, Wiggins if he’s not, or trade the pick for Love if the Wolves want to rebuild and still make the same bad decisions they always do and we might be in the running for home court advantage in round 1.

  • Vesus

    I feel that Irving has played that well; he just isn’t much on defense and hasn’t greatly improved since his amazing rookie year. He and Davis also have the same injury concerns.

    Irving had a disappointing year when many expected him to take a leap, and suddenly (in Simmons mind) he’s the next Devin Harris or Steve Francis.

    I can’t WAIT for the national pundits to hold Davis to the same standard they hold Irving (if and when the Pelicans struggle) – although I suspect it will never happen.

  • Vesus

    It’s way too early to write off Bennett. The entire team seemed to regress under Mike Brown and Bennett was no exception.

    He is set up to dominate Summer League and hopefully take a major step next year. Kid oozes talent, but lost confidence.

  • mgbode

    yes, you were. always in search of a center. you got me around on Noel before the draft last year too.

  • mgbode

    I agree with the last sentence to a point (2013 was such a terrible draft is the main sticking point).

    I think that Kyrie will surprise you if he has legitimate options around him. His handle is so good that if you have to respect the pass, then you have no chance.

    but, yes, I think we just disagree on where the line for decent actually is and that is fine.

  • mgbode

    Kyrie took a step back last year. I’m a big fan, but it was pretty obvious. He needs to jump up next year and take the league by storm (as his talent suggests he should).

    and, Stevie Franchise wasn’t such a bad player once upon a time. I don’t want Kyrie to be the next guy like him.

  • Wow

    Simmons has been a hack for years. He started off fine then like any ESPN employee got popular and annoying really fast.

  • Steve

    I’m not writing off Bennett. I’m saying that you don’t get to throw up your hands and say there wasn’t a better way to improve the team.

  • Steve

    You think that the Wolves might deal Love and the #13 for the #1, Waiters, and really, whatever else they want?

    I think the offense could really hum with Irving and Love and a guy like Stauskas (who I had sold myself on before the lottery). You should still have a bunch of money to throw at Monroe, and maybe a wing defender.

    I think Irving playing with Love and Stauskas instead of Waiters and Thompson is such a better fit, even ignoring the big step up in talent. They’ll still need a big and to improve the defense, but I think it’s a core they can actually build around.

  • mgbode

    Saving good stuff for the JFF parade

  • mgbode

    I’m not big on stauskas, but I would love that including Monroe. Really hard to tell what Minnesota might get offered but that could end up best