For years, I’ve done The Boots as a way to give practical thumbs up (Boot Up) and thumbs down (Boot Down) to various topics in the sports world. I’m bringing it back yet again this morning.
Boot Up: Jeff Green. Let’s start with the positives here. Jeff Green, signed for the veteran’s minimum and with the lowest of low expectations entering the season, has arguably been the Cavs’ third- (or maybe, dare I say, even second?) -best and most consistent player through five games thus far.
Green’s connection to the Cavs was through head coach Tyronn Lue, due to their shared tutelage under former Celtics and current Clippers coach Doc Rivers. Green, the No. 5 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft out of Georgetown, has sorta been out of the spotlight throughout the bulk of his professional career.
Maybe you can blame that lack of notoriety on his presence on the Oklahoma City Thunder, just before they were quite good. Or maybe his presence on the Boston Celtics, in an odd stretch of down years for that storied franchise. Or even last year’s performance on the all-too-forgettable Orlando Magic. At age 25, as he neared his prime, he also missed the entirety of the 2010-11 season with a heart condition (a la his new teammate Channing Frye).
But now Green is coming back into the light for these slow-starting Cavaliers. He has a clear chemistry on the court with LeBron James. His length, athleticism and versatility have provided much-need two-way play for this banged-up and bored roster. If nothing else good comes from this first half of play prior to Isaiah Thomas’ return, let at least the discovery of Jeff Green be one of the major highlights and surprises.
Boot Down: The Brooklyn Pick. Man, that was a poor showing of basketball. I’m not sure if it was the 20-plus turnovers, or the odd rotations, or just the general happenstance normal-feeling nature of it all, but that was just not a very enjoyable night of Cleveland basketball on Wednesday in Brooklyn.
I was there, along with a crowd that was decidedly two-thirds pro-Cleveland (or at least two-thirds pro-LeBron). The crowd cheered a competitive game down the stretch. They even had some decidedly interesting “Broooooklyn” chants toward the end, too. But man, that game sucked. There were some straight-up laughable moments down the stretch.
I had a bad feeling the Cavs, as per usual, would play down to their competition during an early-season back-to-back against lowly Chicago and Brooklyn. The same signs are all over this weekend’s back-to-back against New Orleans and New York. Of the four teams, is it wrong to say that Brooklyn may actually have the best playoff odds? At somewhere around 20-30 percent perhaps?
New Orleans, of course, is probably better. They have the three best players (Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Jrue Holiday). But in the Eastern Conference and with up-and-coming head coach Kenny Atkinson, the Nets look competitive. They’re a 41-point Aaron Gordon outburst away from being 4-1. The Nets play up-tempo, they’re scrappy, they have a shot to compete even without Jeremy Lin for the season. All that points to this lottery pick looking closer to the No. 7-10 range, rather than top-5 territory.
Boot Up: Dave Roberts. As an Indians fan, where do your allegiances lie during the 2017 World Series? It’s not too often when the World Series doesn’t feature a major powerhouse (Giants, Cardinals, Red Sox, Yankees) nor an American League Central Division foe (Royals, Tigers, White Sox, Twins, in chronological order).
For me personally, let me make a claim for you to cheer for Dave Roberts and his Los Angeles Dodgers during the Fall Classic. Sure, I have nothing wrong with the Houston Astros. They’ve never won it all. It’d be a great story for the city of Houston. But of all non-Cleveland-oriented storylines and all people in professional sports, Dave Roberts remains No. 1 for me.
Roberts was the nicest person ever to me as a young fan. He’s a Red Sox hero already, but it’d be so wonderful for him to be a Dodgers hero as well. Check out my WFNY post from when he was named as LA’s new manager two years ago.
Boot Down: Jay Bruce & Michael Brantley. It sure is a bummer the Cleveland Indians season ended so suddenly. It felt just like 1999 or 2001 or 2007 when a playoff series lead vanished out of thin air and the season ended prematurely. It’s still kinda weird seeing non-Indians team surviving along.
But as the roster shapes up for 2018, let me make my early preference clearly stated: The very top off-season priority should be retaining Carlos Santana. I’m totally comfortable with Jay Bruce and Michael Brantley not returning. Santana should be the priority, beyond that perhaps any veteran outfield or pitching depth.
Santana has gotten bad fan reception for most of his career. He started hot as a rookie, but many fans perceive his walk-oriented offensive approach as unuseful. Breaking: Santana is an extremely useful offensive contributor and is more consistently proven than Bruce. I’d go all in to keeping Santana and letting the other two big-ticket free agents walk.
Boot Up: The Chosen Rosen. The Cleveland Browns are 0-7. Even in some fanciful best-case scenario, it’s hard to see the team winning more than 3 games max in 2017 at this moment in time. Every other NFL franchise nearly seems to just be playing a different sport every time they line up against the Browns. There likely won’t be very many truly competitive ball games.
For me, amid the unknown quarterback conundrum, I have one clear personal favorite outcome: UCLA QB Josh Rosen. Is it homerism? You bet. Rosen may not necessarily be any better than Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, USC’s Sam Darnold or whomever else emerges as the draft’s top signal-caller. None of them may be worth a top-3 pick in the draft.
But c’mon Browns, I just desperately want to buy that Rosen jersey. That’s all I’m asking for in the short-term future. Secret to happiness is low expectations, right? This is all I’m asking for anytime soon.
Boot Down: Um, Browns? At the Nets-Cavs game last night, former New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz was shown on the Barclays Center video board. My friend Elliott asked me if I thought I’d prefer Cruz on the Browns right now compared to the umpteen practice squad-esque receivers getting considerable playing time. But at this point, does it really matter much?
Ricardo Louis, Richard Higgins, Kenny Britt and Kasen Williams. With the injury to Corey Coleman, that is the wide receiver depth chart for the Browns. It’s pretty incomprehensible when you take a step back for a moment. Cruz, who turns 31 in two weeks and thus would be an clear elder statesman on this roster, had 39 catches for 586 receiver yards in his 2016 comeback season.
That would make Cruz one of the most proven offensive playmakers in the locker room, easily! Even given that he missed the entirety of 2015. But alas, why bother? Is a marginal receiver upgrade going to mean much? Is spending any more brain power on hypotheticals for the Browns that valuable? This season is just so tough to bear.