Sometimes expectations can be a curse.
Take the Cavs.
Before the season many pundits (including myself) picked Cleveland to win the Eastern Conference. After all, the Cavs were coming off a 50-win season and a trip to the second round of the playoffs, where they took the heavily favored Pistons to seven games.
Plus, they had LeBron James.
But a funny thing has happened to the Cavs on their way to the Finals: They haven't played all that well.
After a strong start to the season, LeBron and Co. (27-21) had lost eight of their last 12 games through Tuesday to fall to fourth in the East. Nothing to panic about. But nothing to get Cleveland fans dreaming of a championship parade along Lake Erie either.
Stupid lofty expectations, here's what I said before the season started:
My first thought was to brush this off, I mean seriously, how could the Cavs be the best in the East without a point guard? But then I thought about it, if it isn't Cleveland, who among the rest of the East's big four is it?
Miami? I thought they were overrated last year, and true, they did win the title last season. But how motivated are these guys? Their point guard situation isn't a whole lot better than Cleveland's right now and they are pretty old. At times during the playoffs last season, Shaq looked done (really really done) and I doubt he'll be able to muster even last years performance. True, they still have Wade and his 900 free throws a game, but everyone else is a year older (and I don't know if Zo and Payton are as hungry now that they have the ring).
Detroit? Sure they lost Benny Wallace, but they still have Hamilton, Rasheed, Billups and Prince. But the Cavs took them to 7 (well, 6 1/2) games last season and I don't think Nazr Mohammed and Flip Murray really make up for Big Ben. Also, Detroit has been remarkably injury free the past few years while playing a ton of games. I think that one of their big four will miss some time this season. Finally, with Ben Wallace gone, the Pistons have to rely more on
Rasheed Wallace. Good luck with that.
Chicago? They're a trendy pick right now, but as I've written before, I don't buy it. I don't care to rehash all the reasons I wouldn't pick them, but I will say this (I'm not sure who first made this argument, but I'm stealing it): if Detroit lost in the playoffs last season with a lineup of Ben Wallace, Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince, what makes anyone think that adding Wallace to a lineup of Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, Adres Nocioni and PJ Brown. As much as I like the Bulls lineup (and they're all pretty good), none of them are any better than their Piston counterparts.
The Cavs are returning almost all the players on a 50 win squad, that should count for something. Plus, as Hollinger points out, their 3 key '05 free agents (Hughes, Marshall and Jones) all digressed last season, if just one of them returns to form they'll be alright. It looks like Marshall is in better shape and is looking to return to a complete player (not just one who jacks treys all game, but post moves). And Jones? Well, he says he's in his best shape since he left Miami (Umm... that means he's in the best shape in year. Awesome).
So have I drank the Kool-Aid? Are the Cavs the best team in the East? Um... maybe. Part of me says yes, but the part of me that's a Cleveland fan is laughing and saying "hell no". That Cleveland fan part reminds me that the Cavs still don't have a point guard (but they do have a new floor!) and that they're bringing back everyone from an offense that looked terrible last year. It's great that Marshall wants to use his post moves more, it really is, but I'm still waiting for the Cavs to use Z's post game for more than just the opening minutes of the halves. I'm pretty sure Cavs fans wouldn't mind if LeBron would post up every once in awhile either. Also, Larry Hughes is a slasher not a jump shooter, use his strengths (can ya tell I love this offense?).
I do believe however, that if Hughes, Wesley and Shannon Brown get the minutes that went to Pavlovic, Graham and Newble (after Hughes went down), the offense should improve just by lack of Newble alone. I think we can all agree that the less time Newble is on the floor, the better things are for the city of Cleveland.
If the offense goes right and the Cavs stay healthy... yes, I've talked myself into it. I think the Cavs could win the East. There, I said it. Going out on a limb and daring to dream, right? But do I believe they will win it? Come on, don't ask me that, as a Cleveland fan you know I'm not allowed to have that much optimism.
Couple things stick out to me:
1) that post had pictures. For a brief time I tried to color up my posts with some photos. That quickly stopped due to laziness. Plus, I'm sure there are copyright issues involved as well (but that really hasn't stopped me. I'm an idiot).2) I was way too optimistic about David Wesley, Larry Hughes and Shannon Brown. With Wesley, I figured if nothing else he could at least shoot (turns out that's his one fatal flaw). As for Brown, he's been hurt and never played anyways. Hughes stinks.
3) I was pretty down on Sasha Pavlovic. Sasha is playing well right now (really well) so it looks kinda stupid that I was down on him. But there's always that chance that Pavs will commit 3 charges and 5 turnovers tonight and he won't get off of Brown's bench for the next month.
4) That article was more like a column, which I haven't done a lot of recently (which is probably why I'm never on Swerbs- besides the crappy writing and postss litterde whit typoes)
5) I've been consistent with my calls for more post action (and my lack of enthusiasm for Donyell's post game)
6) Was it really that hard to see that this Cavs team was full of problems? I'm the biggest Cavs fan I know and I had to talk myself into entertaining the mere thought of the Cavs leading the East.
7) The weird/sad thing is that the Cavs still very well could win the East. It's just that bad.