So many people have asked about Ted Stepien that I am starting to get a complex. They want to know why I virtually ignored him in both of my books. I'll tell you. It was not an oversight. It was intentional.
There is no question that Ted was one of the most bizarre characters I have covered over the last thirty years. This website is actually named after him. His very name has become a Cleveland punchline. And that's my problem. I don't like to pile on. Ted is long gone. First his wife died. Then Ted passed. Out of respect to their five daughters. I'm not going to kick their father around, even though you might say he deserves it for his inept management of the Cavaliers in the early 1980s.
Some people took advantage of him. I'll never forget the day he called a press conference to announce the signing of a free agent. Ted thought he had the deal done, but no papers had been signed. The press conference was set for noon at his "Competitors' Club,"a girlie bar in the basement of the Statler Office Tower.
Half an hour before the press conference, Ed Keating, the player's agent, said to me, "Wait right here. I'm gonna get another million out of Ted."
Both Keating and Stepien had offices in the Statler Office Tower.Keating asked Stepien to step into his lair, where he had his secretary type up a fresh contract that raised the player's salary by an extra million dollars.
"Sign it or cancel the press conference," said Keating.
Stepien should have cancelled the press conference and sent everybody home. He should have told the caterer to take away the tray of cold cuts and close the bar, but Ted caved in. With his back against the wall, Stepien signed the contract and held the press conference. In the corner of the room Keating laughed his rear end off. Keating could be vicious. That's how people did business with Ted. They squeezed every dollar out of him.
Others took delight in getting under his skin. One of the best was Doug Clarke, a columnist for the Cleveland Press. In April of 1982 Doug wrote a withering column about Ted, who responded by banning Clarke from press row. I think he tried to ban him entirely from the Richfield Coliseum, but that was difficult to enforce. There were too many entrances.
That was during the ten weeks that Doug and I worked together at The Press. Being teammates, we worked out a game plan. I distracted the usher's attention to allow Doug to slip past and take his usual seat on press row. In those days the media sat on the floor at courtside. It was a civilized arrangement, quite unlike the press facilities downtown at the Q. However, I believe that security eventually escorted Doug to the exit.
When I write my next book, maybe I'll include a chapter on Ted. I surely will include his softball toss from the observation deck of the Terminal Tower. That was part of the 50th anniversary of the Terminal Tower. One of Ted's softball players was supposed to catch the ball, but his first throw dented a car and his second throw broke the arm of a lady passerby on the Square.
"Ted, they're taking her to the Lutheran Hospital emergency room. Please go to the hospital and apologize to her," pleaded Dan FitzSimmons, who put together the anniversary festivities.
"Then send her flowers," FitzSimmons said.
Ted said no again. There was no saying no to her lawyer. Once again, Ted paid through the nose.
I'm starting to think that Ted does deserve a chapter.
Editor's Note: This is the coolest blog entry I've ever had the privilege of posting here at Stepien Rules. Dan Coughlin has covered the Cleveland sports scene for 45 years, as a sportswriter for The Cleveland Plain Dealer (1964-1982) and on WJW-TV 8 (since 1983). He was twice named Ohio sportswriter of the year and was honored with a television Emmy. Dan has written two books: Crazy, With the Papers to Prove It and Pass the Nuts. He blogs at Coughlin Forever. We are beyond honored that Dan has taken the time to write this for us here at Stepien Rules. Thanks a ton Mr. Coughlin, I owe you a beer.
So many people have asked about Ted Stepien that I am starting to get a complex. They want to know why I virtually ignored him in both of my books. I'll tell you. It was not an oversight. It was intentional.
I will be doing an interactive Twitter Q+A using questions from #Cavs fans later on tonight with Cavaliers phenom Lester Hudson, so tweet @ me a good question to #AskLester and I will ask him. Try to to make the question something you don't think people will already be asking him, use a little creativity, and if it's a solid question I will ask him and use it in the Q+A that's published from there.
For some background on Lester here is a post I wrote about him on Monday, and here is also another one that Scott Sargent wrote earlier today. For the questions I do use in the Q+A, I will be posting your Twitter name and question in the transcript, and linking back to your Twitter account. I'll also tweet his answers at you once it's published too. Here's an example of the format I'm talking about if you were wondering.
As a heads up, if your question is good enough there's also a chance it ends up at Cleveland.com's Sports Blog Network too, in addition to here at Stepien Rules. So tweet @StepienRules with a good question when you get a chance, or hit me up during the game tonight. #AskLester #Cavs
I wrote an article for Cleveland.com earlier today highlighting the fact that the Cavaliers are in a position to use only two drafts in order to acquire the same number of core pieces that the Oklahoma City Thunder did in three.
Here is a link to that article, and below is an excerpt:
They followed the Durant pick by selected Russell Westbook and Serge Ibaka 4th and 24th overall in 2008, and then drafted James Harden 3rd in 2009. During Durant's first two seasons, however, the Thunder won a combined total of only 43 games. They lost enough in Durant's second season, with a record of 23-59 overall, to be a lottery team able to take Harden 3rd that following summer. That doesn't need to happen for Cleveland in year two of the Kyrie Irving Era though, and shouldn't based on the current position the Cavs have put themselves in.
If the season ended today, and the Lottery balls bounced according to wins and losses, the Cavaliers would find themselves picking 4th, 26th, 33rd, and 34th overall in the 2012 Draft. If you include the two first round picks last season of Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson, that would mean the Cavaliers would have been able to add a player drafted 1st, 4th, 4th, and 26th in the last two drafts heading into next year. When compared to the 2nd, 4th, 24th, and 3rd selections OKC spent on Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka, and Harden respectively over that three-year stretch, the picks are just about identical.
Check it out if you get the chance, and thanks if you do.
Full Article at Cleveland.com: On the Cavaliers 2012 Draft and accelerating the "Oklahoma City Model"
Follow Nick Mancini on Twitter @NickMance
Playoffs were never on my mind for the Cavaliers this season. Being in the top five of the draft was.
As it stands right now, the Cavs would have the fourth most Ping-Pong balls in the lottery. With this years' draft being called a deep one, that bodes well for Cleveland fans. On ESPN’s mock draft lottery, the top five picks are any combination of Kentucky’s Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kansas’s Thomas Robinson, Florida’s Bradley Beal and UCONN’s Andre Drummond. Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist will most likely go one, two by just about everyone's estimation.
Any one of those players would look great in Wine and Gold though, but I don't see the Cavs going after Robinson with Tristan Thompson locking down the 4. Davis is the clear-cut number one pick and rightfully so. He dominates games on the defensive end so well that he doesn’t have to score to be the best player on the court, as seen in the National Championship game. The Cavs would have to win the lottery to grab him, but that would be not only a dream scnearion, but also a great way to press fast forward on this rebuilding process.
Pairing him with Thompson would give the Cavs one of the best, and youngest, defensive frontcourts in the game. Drummond, on the other hand, is a bit of an enigma to me. At times this season, he was as dominant as advertised. Other times, he disappeared for long stretches. Someone of his talent shouldn’t have that happen, but that can be helped with proper coaching. Also, like Davis, he would be able to pair with Thompson as well for a superior defensive frontcourt and could be available for the Cavs if they want to go in that direction.
In Beal and Kidd-Gilchrist, the Cavs would come away with players who fill gaping holes. Beal would be able to step in right away and give the Cavs that athletic, scoring two guard they have been lacking for, oh, a while. He has unlimited range and would be an ideal running mate next to Kyrie Irving for seasons to come. With Kidd-Gilchrist, his spot is being occupied by Gee, but, Kidd-Gilchrist is just such a pure basketball player, I think he would have no problem playing with Gee.
Plugging him into the 2 or 3 would help the Cavs immensely. He is an elite defender, rebounds very well for his position and is able to finish in traffic almost anytime he wants. While anything can happen between now and the end of the season, the Cavs seem to be well on their way to a top five draft pick. And I would love to have any of those five guys on our team.
It's that other tale, sometimes told, that I'll always find more compelling than the one traditionally summarized in an NBA Boxscore. From Rick Telander and Darcy Frey, to Arthur Agee and William Gates, that hoop dreams story personified is one that will never sound repetitive to me. When truly realized, and put on display for all of us to see, however long that moment lasts, its something that will always move me. Not because I can specifically relate, or that my five foot eight inch frame ever allowed me to personally leap up and touch anything higher than that box connecting the rim to the backboard either. But because there's always something within that basketball story, every time a new chapter's written, that inspires us all to continuing dreaming ourselves. No matter who we are, or what those dreams entail.
Which is why I appreciate what Lester Hudson did not just last night, but this whole weekend. When the camera followed Hudson to the Cavaliers' sidelines late in regulation on Sunday against the Nets, and we saw him leap up to celebrate his fourth quarter of basketball wizardry with Manny Harris, I could only imagine the emotions he was feeling. About seven years ago, Lester first followed his hoop dreams to Southwest Tennessee Community College. He then moved on from there to the Ohio Valley Conference, and played well as guy nobody really heard of for the University of Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks. He'd then play so well that he'd eventually become that Conference's Player of the Year, and go on to be drafted late in the second round by the Boston Celtics in 2009. If his journey from college basketball anonymity to the most storied franchise in NBA history ended there, it would be hard to not deem such a run ultimately successful.
He'd then play for, and be cut by, three NBA teams from there however, and as recently as this year he was a member of the Chinesse Basketball Association. He signed with the Guangdong Southern Tigers in January of 2011, and then a team named Quindago DoubleStar in November. As opposed to other American players like JR Smith, Wilson Chandler, and Kenyon Martin, he wasn't playing in China because of the NBA Lockout. He was playing one million miles away from his native Memphis, Tennessee because it was the only place that would pay him to do so. On March 30th, he then signed a 10-day contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and last night he'd score 26 points in 29 minutes against Deron Williams and the New Jersey Nets. The three pointer he hit from the corner with under one second to play in regulation would be enough to not only extend that game for his new team, but extend the very dreams that got him there in the first place.
I don't know what the future holds for Lester Hudson and the Cleveland Cavaliers. I'm not sure he's a long-term piece, but I am sure he isn't a guy that should be simply dismissed at this point either. In his last two NBA games, he's averaged 24.5 points, 3 rebounds and 5 assists in 30.5 minutes of work. He helped this short-handed group to a win in Toronto on Friday, and did everything he could to do the same last night in New Jersey too. In the process he's forced people to take notice of not only who he is, or what he can do on an NBA floor, but what he overcame to get there. He grew up in one of the roughest areas of Memphis, made mistakes common to those growing up in similar circumstances, and would be 24-years old when registered a quadruple double as a junior in college. For at least one night on Sunday though, everything that happened to Lester Hudson before he arrived on that NBA stage made everything he did that much more special while on it. He gave not only himself, but everybody who watched, a reason to believe in the Legend of Lester Hudson. As well as a reason to keep dreaming ourselves all the same.
If I wasn't actually in awe of the fact that the Cavaliers are currently executing the greatest tank job in NBA history right now, I might find some of this either funny or upsetting. Instead, it's all just simply incredible really.
Anderson Varejao has been out for a while. Daniel Gibson is out now too. Kyrie Irving is also out, and Ramon Sessions was traded three weeks ago. And now today, after exploding for a career high 27 points in a losing effort, Anthony Parker has been ruled out of tonight's game with the Toronto Raptors as well. He's probably going to be out on Sunday too, as a heads up for anybody planning to start AP on their Fantasy Team this weekend.
Fair or not, the following message appears to have been sent recently with this injury to Parker as well: if anybody else feels like showing off, just know you're being watched by the same people dreaming about how good Anthony Davis and Micheal Kidd-Gilchrist might look running the floor with Kyrie Irving next season.
I'm not alleging anything there either. I know it all really is just a coincidence, and here's hoping Donald Sloan and Lester Hudson play like Isiah and Dumars later on tonight in fact. Lessgo Cavs.
Since Bosh & LeBron both left: I tweeted this out earlier today, but to reiterate...heading into tonight, the Cleveland Cavaliers have won 36 games since LeBron James left for the Miami Heat. Meanwhile, the Toronto Raptors have won 42 since Chris Bosh fled Canada to join him. I know this not because it's really that important, but because I was trying to think about why tonight's Cavs game in Toronto might be interesting. That was all I came up with really.
Earl Boykins ballin in H-Town: Earl Boykins is the best, and I'd argue that he's the greatest basketball player to come out of Cleveland in the last 30 years. You might out-debate me if you replied by saying, no, Charles Oakley is, but there's not too many other guys you can say besides that. Boykins played over a dozen seasons in the NBA, and he's still going right now at the age of 36. He signed a 10-day deal with the Rockets just about 10-days ago, and this week they locked him into another 10. There's a good chance he finishes out the season there too, and he's currently averaging 6.4 points and 3.0 assists per game in 18 minutes of work over 5 games. Keep doing you Earl.
The Cleveland Cavaliers lost again last night (107-98 in MIL) but don't blame Anthony Parker. He was ballin.
In 31 minutes and 56 seconds of NBA basketball artistry, AP scored 27 points. He launched 14 shots, connected on 11, was a sniper-esque 4 of 7 from three point range, and went 1 for 1 from the FT line as well. But it wasn't just about the prolific scoring from AP last night. The Bucks couldn't do anything to slow his relentless attack of the boards either, and he collected 7 rebounds as a result. This, to go along with 4 assists, 3 steals, and those 27 points.
Anthony Parker the Cleveland Cavalier, now seven years removed from his EuroLeague dominace which resulted in international fame and glory, was simply this guy all over again last night:
I know it is 3 minutes and 43 seconds long, but you should honor AP by watching the above highlight video from the 2005 Maccabi Tel Aviv season in its entirety this morning. With the volume on full blast.
The 27 points that Parker scored last night matched his career high in the NBA. According to StepienRules.com statistician Dave Wooley, the last time Parker went for 27 was on April 8, 2007, against the Bulls, in a 103-89 Raptors win. Starters for that game (and the points they scored) were as follows:
Toronto: Chris Bosh (22), Anthony Parker (27), Joey Graham (19), TJ Ford (3) and Rasho Nesterovic (6) Chicago: Ben Gordon (27), Kirk Hinrich (13), Loul Deng (13), PJ Brown (9) and Ben Wallace (0)
The Cavaliers looked awful last night at home against San Antonio. They allowed twelve Spurs players to score in the game, a guy they cut for Manny Harris went for a game-high 19, and the Cavaliers leading scorer (Antawn Jamison, 15 points) also posted a team worst +/- of (-26). They lost the game by 35 points (125-90), and in the end it wasn't even actually that close really. They completely embarrassed themselves, showed no effort, and looked like a team the Charlotte Bobcats might actually be able to beat when they come back to town next Tuesday.
But absolutely none of that matters to me at this point, and it really shouldn't matter to you either.
This Cavs season, for me, ended when Ramon Sessions was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. It was over then. I've already begun the process of reflecting back upon the good times we had this year too. Those game winning shots by Kyrie Irving were fun. The times Tristan Thompson went for double/doubles were encouraging. The improved play of Alonzo Gee was cool too. The fact that I know Anthony Parker's career in Cleveland is coming to a close is a relief, and the shared understanding that Ryan Hollins now plays for Boston is also. I'm satisfied with the progress made in year one of the Kyrie Irving Era, and I am not going to spend any time complaining about the avalanche of losses that will continue to mount as this season dwindles to its ultimate close.
The Cavaliers have lost their last 8 games in a row, and they could lose their next 15 too starting tonight in Milwaukee. That really could happen, I'm not suggesting they end the season on a 23-game losing streak for effect. Even if they did though, by the time Draft night comes around, I'll have completely forgotten about all that. If we have anything here in Cleveland as sports fans, it is plenty of chances to moan and complain about losing. Now is not one of those times. The Cavaliers have won this season, and now they are tanking in a way so perfect it may live to redefine the art of NBA tanking itself. They are alone with the fourth worst record in the NBA right now, and putting Nick Gilbert in a better position with every passing game to do what Nick Gilbert does.
The Cavaliers head now to Milwaukee tonight to play a Bucks team that I think will eventually catch the Knicks for the 8th spot in the Playoffs. I wrote an article for SLAM Online this morning about the newly formed Bucks backcourt of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings too, and I found it interesting to discover that Milwaukee is leading the League in Assists as a team since the addition of Monta.
Below is an excerpt of my latest at SLAM, and I'll leave you with that on this fine Wednesday in Cleveland:
While most people wondered whether there’d be enough shots available to make the pairing of Jennings and Ellis in the same backcourt successful, it’s working out just fine so far.
“Playing alongside Monta has been working because he’s a willing passer, and I am also,” Jennings told SLAMonline. “So we’re just going to keep working together. It’s only been a few games, but it can only get better once we really get going.
“He gives us another scorer, a guy who can go out there and get points for us, and it takes a lot of pressure of myself”, Jennings noted. “But Monta’s also a distributor too, a guy who can score and pass, so he’s a guy defenses really have to focus on also.”
It is that ability to do both, according to Coach Scott Skiles, that has made his new backcourt a difficult one for teams to match-up with on a nightly basis right now.
“Monta plays, even though he’s scored the ball so well in his career, he plays somewhat like a point guard,” Skiles said. “When you put him in pick and rolls he’s going to make good decisions. He’ll come off the screener, move the ball to the other side of the floor, and he’s played a very unselfish game for us. Both guys have good quickness, both guys can score the ball, and both guys will give it up too.”
SLAM / Full Article: Plenty of Shots to Go Around in Milwaukee
In early March, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Cleveland Cavaliers were both threatening to surpass the New York Knicks for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Then on March 14th, the Bucks traded the struggling Stephen Jackson to Golden State for a prolific offensive talent in Monta Ellis. The next day, the Cavaliers dealt Ramon Sessions to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Luke Walton. The overachieving season ended there as a result for the Cavs, no offense to Luke, and the natural tank job began.
The New York Knicks have gone 8-2 in their ten games since, the Bucks 6-4, and the Cavaliers have stumbled to 1-8 heading into tonight's game with the Spurs. In those ten games for Milwaukee, Monta Ellis is averaging over 14 points, 5 assists, and 3 rebounds per night. He's helping his new team stay within a 2.5 game striking distance of New York in the process, and pairing better than most people thought alongside Brandon Jennings in that Bucks backcourt too. Meanwhile, in Cleveland, Luke Walton has appeared in 6 games for the Cavaliers, averaging 2.5 points, 1.2 rebounds, and 0.8 assists per contest. The Cavs have now fallen to 8.5 games behind New York, and will almost certainly lose again to San Antonio tonight as well.
After a season in which the Cavaliers exceeded expectations for just about two thirds of the year, however, they are now in a position that many Cavs fans feared their winning ways would prevent them from being. They are in the ultimate NBA free-fall, sinking fast, and rising up the draft lottery board all at the same time. Their latest loss to New York on Saturday now has Cleveland (winning percentage: .340) percentage points ahead, or behind, of Toronto for the 5th worst record in the NBA. The fourth worst record by season's end, in a move past the Raptors, better than only Charlotte (.140), Washington (.226), and New Orleans (.245), is certainly attainable. Which is why I sat last night watching Michael Kidd-Gilchrist help Kentucky win the National Title picturing him starting alongside Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson next season for just about the whole game. But I'm getting ahead of myself there.
The better talent it now seems the Cavaliers will be in a position to acquire by way of the draft this June, as opposed to where they were a month ago, is certainly an encouraging aspect of all this losing. But what I'm also encouraged about, moving forward, is that the Cavaliers have not only put themselves in a position to draft high, but have also taken winning steps along the way this season too. How many times have teams been in the playoff race after the All Star Break and then ended up with the 4th worst record in the League, is what I'm getting at. Something I think will benefit the Cavaliers long-term, because winning organizations are never built on the idea of tanking for better draft picks alone. You do need to compete, which is why I celebrated each and every one of the Cavaliers wins this season, and still firmly believe those victories were valuable parts of this rebuilding effort. Even if that means losing out on an Anthony Davis, for example, as much as I'd like to have him here too.
I was able to get in touch with Cleveland Cavaliers legend Mark Price over the weekend, and thoroughly enjoyed my time speaking with him by phone. We talked about his current role as Shooting and Development Coach for the Orlando Magic, his thoughts on Kyrie Irving and the current direction of the Cavaliers organization, as well as recalling his playing days in Cleveland. We also discussed the 1986 Cleveland Cavaliers Draft as well, and how that could end up comparing to the opportunity these Cavs have now with four picks upcoming in June.
The link to our conversation at Cleveland.com is right here, and below is a brief excerpt of that:
StepienRules: Who would you compare Kyrie Irving's game too as far as guys you've played or coached against in the NBA?
Mark Price: Kyrie, to me, reminds me a little bit of Isiah Thomas, a guy that I played against. He has the ability to score the ball, but also has done a good job of running the team and getting his other teammates involved too. He's probably a little bit bigger than Isiah, but the way that he played, he's a guy that I look at as a good comparison to the way that Kyrie plays.
Full Article: Catching up with Cavaliers legend Mark Price
I did not include this last note in the Cleveland.com write-up however, but I also did ask Mark about the following play too.
I asked him if remembered that play with Golden State against Allen Iverson as a rookie, and if so, did he recall what Allen was saying to him, and what he might have said in response after crossing Allen up and burying that shot on him.
Mark responded by saying: "I remember when Allen came into the League, I don’t really remember that specific play, but I definitely remember when he came into the League and remember playing against him."
I concluded by telling Mark Price that it was an honor speaking with him, and I'll always appreciate everything he did for Cleveland in his time with the Cavaliers. He said thank you for saying that, I really enjoyed my time in Cleveland, and that means a lot.
Mark Price everyone, greatest person to ever live.