Weirdly enough, I was hoping LeBron would listen to Bill Livingston.
Cleveland's All-Star forward ended uncertainty about his status with the U.S. national team on Tuesday night by saying he will play in next month's FIBA America's Tournament, where the Americans will try to qualify for the 2008 Olympics.
"I'm going to play," James told The Associated Press. "I've had enough time off, and knowing my body more than anybody, I'm ready to play. I don't know how much I'm going to play or how extensively, but I'll be ready."
For several months, James had said he was "50-50" about playing for Team USA this summer. He and his girlfriend recently had their second son, and with the Cavaliers making it to the NBA Finals, James may have wanted some extra time off after playing more than 100 games since last October.
However, the 22-year-old, who played on the U.S. Olympic team at the 2004 Athens Games and for the U.S. squad that won a bronze medal at last summer's world championships, intends to honor his three-year commitment with USA Basketball.
"It was a long and tough year," James said. "But for me, if I make a commitment, I want to keep it. I'm a loyal guy. I committed to three years and I'm going to hold up my end of the bargain."
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Would the Mike Bibby we know and love (the guy who hit big shots versus the Lakers) look good in a Cavalier uniform? Of course. The problem is, I'm not sure the Cavs would be getting that guy.
But last year Bibby posted career lows in FG% and assists. And that FG%? A Larry Hughes-esque 40.4%. He's 29 years old, which isn't over the hill by any means, but it's not a good sign when you're approaching 30 and your number take a dip. He also doesn't play defense.
And oh, by the way, he'll make more money than Larry Hughes over the next two seasons.
I probably sound a bit harsh. Could Bibby have simply had a bad year? Sure. There was a wrist injury that bugged him all year long which could explain his poor shooting (and the poor shooting could explain the lack of assists, etc). And is he a better point guard than anyone on this roster? of course. But it worries me to go off trading for a guy with an eight figure salary... coming off his worst season.
IF Bibby opts out of his contract (he has an early termination option) and the Cavs can sign him to a more team friendly deal (remember, LeBron's extension kicks in this summer as well) then I'd be all for it. But Bibby doesn't want to risk the (insane amount of) guaranteed money (I mean, er... he wants to give it a shot with his new coach) so the only way he'll be available is through a trade.
And if you think that, since the Cavs and Kings were close to a deal at the deadline, they'll be able to easily put something together now, you're wrong. I'll let Brian Windhorst explain:
There seems to be some belief out there that the Cavs and Sacramento Kings will re-start talks over point guard Mike Bibby, but in reality the time might have passed. The Kings wanted some expiring contracts in the deal; that was a large component of the original talks. With the season over, the Cavs no longer have the same assets to offer. Never say never, but don't assume it's much of an option.So let's calm down on the Bibby trade scenarios. What Sacramento wanted, the Cavs no longer have. Plus, part of me feels like trading for Bibby and his contract mid-season for a playoff push is OK. But in the offseason, when time isn't of the essence and you can afford to work a bit more, taking on Bibby isn't the best move.
I think it's obvious that the Cavs need to make some moves this summer. They need to upgrade the point guard position. I personally think that Hughes needs to be dealt (I think it''ll be good for all parties involved) and I wouldn't be shocked if he asked for a trade (again?). I'm not saying Bibby isn't a possibility, but I don't think it's the slam dunk move that everyone thinks it is.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
He loves Durant. It's pretty obvious that he thinks Durant should be the top pick. That's fine. But here's the thing, Simmons ends the column with this gem:
Face it: No GM has the testicular fortitude to pass up a potential superstar center, not even for someone as potentially game-changing as Durant. If you want to compete from now until 2020, take Oden. Simple. But as soon as the Blazers pass on Durant, he will instantly be more dangerous. Because from that moment on, he'll be playing with a chip on his shoulder. As Karl Malone, Gilbert Arenas, Carlos Boozer and others have taught us, a draft slight is a scary thing: It's a contract-year push that never ends. Each season, you want to stick it to everyone who didn't believe in you all over again. (Note: The term for this phenomenon is "anti-Darkoism.") So the Sonics might one day look as if they were the ones who caught the break on May 22. I just don't know.So lemme get this straight, if you're drafting first and you want to be competitive for the next 10+ years, you take Oden. But Durant is more dangerous?
Look, everyone tells us that the league is getting faster, the Suns and Warriors are the future and blah blah blah blah. But I'd just like to point out that, since 1999, the NBA Champion has looked like this: Duncan-Shaq-Shaq-Shaq-Duncan-Detroit (against Shaq)-Duncan-Shaq-Duncan.
Durant may be the next Jordan (as Kobe and LeBron before him). That is wonderful. He may very well dominate the league and be a Hall of Fame player. But the league is full of players 'like Jordan'; long athletic swing men are littered across the NBA map (we got guys in Atlanta, LA, Cleveland, Houston etc).
Meanwhile, Oden compares favorably to exactly two NBA players (and by 'compare' I simply mean being projected as a dominant center) and those guys happen to each own four rings each and at least one of them has appeared in every NBA Finals since 1999.
So ya. Pass on Greg Oden.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
The Cavs played well during some stretches in the final game, but they still just couldn't match the Spurs for a full 48 minutes. They just weren't as good.
Which brings me to my main point (which Erik touched on): STOP CALLING THIS "THE SWEEP"!!!
Are we really that self loathing? Are we really that eager to add another notch in our belt of Great Cleveland Losses? I, for one, am not.
Those other losses (The Drive, The Shot, The Fumble, The Mesa) get names because of the nature of the losses. Those were devastating, soul crushing losses. Cleveland was winning and then lost late. They choked. They blew it. They failed when it mattered.
"The Sweep"? Please, this wasn't a devastating loss. Sure, it sucked and it definitely wasn't fun. But the Cavs were outplayed, outclassed and outvictoried. They were the inferior team. These losses weren't devastating, they were sobering.
These losses showed us how far the Cavs have to go in order to compete with the best teams in the NBA. They showed us that the Cavs have work to do. This series exposed the Cavs (and LeBron's) problems.
If you were devastated by these losses, then you are a moron. At the very least, you haven't been paying attention to the NBA all season and most likely just started watching the Cavs after LeBron dropped 48 on Detroit. If this loss was devastating, then you were probably one of the people bitching about 'no respect' when everyone was picking the Spurs.
The Cavs are a good, but not great team. They didn't blow this series. They didn't choke. They got beat by a (much) better team with a (much) better coach. Would I have liked them to win a game? Of course. Getting swept sucks ass. But the Cavs have nothing to be ashamed of. The fact that they got there at all was a miracle in and of itself.
They don't have an offense to speak of, their 3pt shooters can't shoot, they don't have any type of enforcer and/or shot blocker and they don't have a point guard. This team went as far as it could go. It beat all the teams that it should've beaten and it made the Finals and lost to a better, more experienced team.
So don't even attempt to put this up there in Cleveland sports heartbreak lore. It just doesn't work. Nothing phenomenal or amazing caused this sweep. This was a good team losing to a great team. Nothing more, nothing less. There's no shame in getting swept by the Spurs.
And if you really want to call something The Sweep, try these guys. The Cavs don't even compare.
cause you really want to see more of this
...and yes, I sported the LBJ jersey throughout the whole weekend (it now needs to be cleaned, scrubbed and then burned), even though they lost Game 4 on Thursday night. I got a lot of support from a surprising amount of Cleveland fans and one hateful look from a guy wearing a Chris Webber Pistons jersey (talk about a waste of 50 bucks...)
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
(got back into town late Monday night, worked Tuesday and I have a paper due at 5:30 today. Regular blogging will resume shortly. Also, I haven't watched Game 4 yet (or read anything about it) so I'm sure I'll have something to say about that)
Friday, June 15, 2007
The plan was to watch Game 4 from the movie tent.
And, that didn't work out.... and it's not even my fault (I was there and sober!). The satellite box got fried last night around 7:50 (CT) and we missed the entire game. I'd have a whole list of thoughts and such if I knew anything at all about what went on. But I don't.
Though I do know that they lost. I'm not too upset about it (you can definitely put me in the "just happy to be here" camp) because the devastating loss was Game 3. After you get down 3-0, you can't really be upset when you lose.
Well, I'm off to watch the Kings of Leon (I'm currently in the beer lounge (Broo Tent) listening to a polka band play Bob Dylan's Rainy Day Women #12 & 35). Ya... I'm not taking this loss too hard...
Check back later this weekend for pictures.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
About that last play. James was fouled. Bruce Bowen intentionally fouled him. LeBron James was intentionally fouled on a game tying 3 pointer, at home, in the NBA Finals and it wasn't called. So I guess the NBA isn't rigged...
And when I say they had their chances, I mean it. The Cavs were down 67-57 with 6:18 to play (and yes, that is 67-57 with six minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Offense wasn't exactly on display); things looked bleak. But they made a run and cut the lead to 67-63 with 5:05 to go. But the Cavs could not seem to cut that deficit. LeBron missed a couple layups in traffic, Gooden got tangled up for a jump ball (which led to a forced jumper from Pavlovic) and Varejao dribbled the ball off his foot. It took them six chances to change that score (this whole time they actually stopped San Antonio, go figure) and James finally cut lead to 67-65 on two freebies with 1:54 to go.
Then we have the play of the game. Let's set the scene: the Cavs are down 72-70 with 25 seconds to go, they just stopped the Spurs and they're coming down the court with a chance to tie the game or take the lead. The Cavs have their defensive team on the floor (Eric Snow and Varejao) but they don't call time out (Brown was trying to, but the Cavs didn't want the Spurs to set up their defense). LeBron has the ball, drive the lane, gets cuts off and passes to Varejao. This is where things go bad. Some people are going to be bitching that LeBron gave up the ball in that situation (Michael Reghi was making a big deal out of it after the game) but I don't buy it. When LeBron passed to Andy it was because he was cut off and he wanted to reload the play- once LeBron got rid of the ball he immediately bounced out and called for it (meaning, he didn't have his shot and he picked up his dribble). Varejao had two options here, pass it back to LeBron James or drive the ball one on one against Tim Duncan and force up the ugliest finger roll ever. Unfortunately for Cleveland, Varejao chose the finger roll and surprisingly, it didn't tie the game. Should Brown have called a time out? Maybe. But I like the idea of attacking the Spurs while they can't get set; I just don't like the idea of Varejao being the attacker.
Gibson started and didn't do particularly well (Hughes was 'injured'). 2 points, 1-10 from the floor, 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal in 36 minutes; that is a Larry Hughes stat line if I've ever seen one). Maybe the starting point guard position is cursed or something. Part of Gibson's problem was the extra attention the Spurs gave him but he also took some shots that he doesn't normally take. He missed all five of the 3s he took and a lot of them weren't good looks (though on one he was blatantly fouled and there was no call. My best friend is a Spurs fan and even he was wondering what the deal was). The was also a stretch in the first half where LeBron picked up his 3rd foul and the Cavs had to run the offense sans LBJ; this led to some shots by Gibson and Pavlovic that they shouldn't have been taking.
Z and Pavlovic showed up for the first time all series. I'm not really shocked that this happened at home. Pavlovic had 13 points, including a huge 3 with a minute to go and the Cavs down five. Z had 12 points, 10 offensive boards and 8 defensive boards. He missed a couple of makable jumpers, but he scored efficiently enough (6-13 from the floor) and the dude did have 18 boards. This is usually where I say that LeBron will need both of these guys if they want a shot at this series... however, they're down 0-3 so I'll skip it.
LeBron only had eight free throw attempts. Look, again, I don't want to point the finger at the refs; the Cavs had their chances in Game 3 and didn't capitalize. But twice the Cavs were fouled on 3s and nothing was called (Gibson and LeBron). LeBron and Pavlovic each could've gotten to the line at least a couple of extra times (I mean, these were plays where LeBron falls down and Pavlovic gets hit. I know its the playoffs and man up and shit. But come on).
The first half was the best half they played. The Cavs came out strong (had the lead after the first quarter), the crowd was involved and they build the lead up to eight during the second quarter. And they were still down two at half. That couldn't have been a fun locker room. The Spurs ended the half on a 10-0 run to turn a 38-30 deficit to a 40-38 lead. LeBron was on the bench during all of this with 3 fouls. Now, maybe you'd think Mike Brown would have learned to keep LeBron on the floor despite foul trouble (see Game 2) but nope.
Hey ABC, fuck you. Honestly, what the fuck are you doing? OK, this is the first time the Cavs are in the Finals and they're down o-2 to the heavily favored Spurs, what should we do for halftime? Oh, I know, let's show a whole sequence of Cleveland teams losing big games and series. You know, Michael Jordan, John Elway, Jose Mesa, Grady Sizemore losing a fly ball in the sun. All those things. Great. Thanks a lot guys. It didn't help matters that the Spurs closed the first half on a 10-0 run to take a two point lead going into the break. I'm sure the greater Cleveland suicide help line was going off the hook.
The Spurs are a great team. I know everyone has been giving the Cavs grief about how they're the worst team to ever make the Finals and how Chicago was better and blah blah blah (while we're here, fuck all of you too. Did the Cavs have a nice draw, facing Washington and New Jersey? Yes. But you know what? Chicago could've had that seed themselves, but they lost on the last day of the season. And the Cavs beat the team that Chicago lost to. So I'm sorry that the Cavs beat all the teams they faced while the Bulls lost key games. Our bad?) but the Spurs are really really really good. It's going to suck if and when the Cavs lose this series, but there is no shame losing to this San Antonio team. It seemed every time the Cavs built their lead, San Antonio would just hit a back breaking 3 (and Tony Parker hit a killer with a minute left that I though would've sealed it, but Pavlovic came right back and cut the lead to two). Bruce Bowen was 4-5 from beyond the arc and Brent Barry was 3-4. The Spurs were 10-19 from the land of trey while Cleveland was 3-19.
Hey, they out rebounded San Antonio for the first time all series. Sure they still lost, but I don't care, they needed to win the rebounding battle if they wanted to have a shot and they did, 48-41. It basically boils down to is this: the Cavs have to play perfect to beat San Antonio (shooting, rebounding, defense, free throws, etc) while the Spurs can win games where things don't go their way (Duncan had 14 points, Parker had 17 and Ginobli had 3). The Cavs may have played well defensively and won the rebounding battle, but they didn't execute on offense and the Spurs gutted out a win.
Just send it back to San Antonio, that's all I'm asking for. I know the Cavs don't have much of a shot any more (if any) but I would at least like to them to A) not get swept B) not let San Antonio win in Cleveland and C) just play one solid game during the Finals (just one!). I don't think this is too much to ask (though if I have to ask for anything else, it'd be to get it into Varejao's head that he doesn't have an offensive game and he shouldn't be taking spot up jumpers or driving one-on-one).
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
I guess all we need now is to see some kids practicing a step through, shot put hook shot or growing their hair out and falling backwards.
Though I think the Drew Gooden patch thing has to top the list of Things Not to Take Away from the 2006-2007 Cleveland Cavaliers.
Monday, June 11, 2007
LeBron picked up two fouls in the first three minutes. He finished the game with three fouls. When Mike Brown sat LeBron with nine minutes to go in the first quarter, I expected it. And for the first six or so minutes, it wasn't a total mess. With to go 3:49 in the first, the Cavs trailed 16-13 and by 1:21 they were down 28-13. They were fighting uphill from here on out.
When the Cavs look bad, they look really bad (also, the Spurs are kinda good). The Cavs won 50 games, they won the Eastern Conference crown but when they have a bad game, it's not just bad, it is mind numbingly awful. With LeBron out, we got to witness Larry Hughes hoist terrible jumpshots, Z plod through the key for ugly hooks, Eric Snow doing Eric Snow-type things and Sasha Pavlovic getting owned on his drives towards the hoops. Are all these players that bad? No. But they all had terrible games. At the same time. While LeBron was on the bench. Great.
The lack of rebounding hurts the most. The Cavs have been outrebounded in both games so far. They gave up 13 offensive rebounds in Game 1 and cut that down to 12 for Game 2 (little things!). The Spurs are a tough team to guard offensively as it is, the Cavs can't be giving San Antonio second and third chances and expect to win (or even be close). This means everyone has to box out and crash the boards, not just the big men (and Daniel Gibson). Anderson Varejao led the Cavs with 10 boards, LeBron had 7 and Drew Gooden had 6. No one else had more than 4.
I thought we had all agreed that Larry Hughes and Eric Snow wouldn't share court time. Honestly, this should never happen. Especially if LeBron has to sit. This means that both your guards can't shoot, so it's pointless to just feed Z, because he's going to be doubled and hounded because they'll simply let the guards shoot. Also, I'm not sure which scenario angers me more: those possessions where Snow holds the ball until there's 10 seconds left on the shot clock (practically guaranteeing a rushed shot) before starting the play or those Hughes just runs down and shoots a pull up for no reason. Both are sweet.
It is time Daniel Gibson starts. Actually, it's past time. Does Brown not want to make the switch because of egos? What that says about the Larry Hughes signing? Doesn't want to upset the chemistry of the team? I'm out of ideas. All I know is that Gibson scored 15 on 6-12 shooting while Hughes dropped a 0-5 for zero points (and this is after Gibson had 16 compared to Larry's 2 in Game 1). It isn't secret that the Cavs usually make these nice offensive comebacks while Gibson is on the floor and Hughes in on the bench. Now let's cut to the chase and play Gibson from the start. Blame it on Hughes' injury for all I care, just put the best players out on the floor (and the injury does play a part, especially defensively. Hughes can't stay in front of anyone right now, let alone Tony Parker).
To a surprise to no one, Tony Parker is killing the Cavaliers. 30 points..... on 13-20 shooting! For the series, San Antonio's PG is shooting 58% from the floor. That is ridiculous. The idea is to make Parker shoot jumpshots. But he's simply too fast and I'm not sure the Cavs have an answer for him. Hughes is too slow, Snow is too slow, Gibson is quick but not sound defensively and the Cavs are having LeBron guard him for long stretches of time. That's what we want... LeBron chasing Parker around... But there is no good answer here. Parker is going to be a handful for the entire series.
Free throws hurt. The Cavs shot 19/29 for 65% while the Spurs hit 21/26 for 80%. This has to improve if the Cavs want to win a championship (be it this year or in the future). They can't keep tossing away free points. LeBron was just 7/11...
The bench wasn't awful. For the most part, the bench showed up. Gibson had 16 points, Varejao had 8 and 10, Jones hit a couple 3s and Eric Snow was solid. Marshall looked shaky, again. Whenever he puts the ball on the floor he is a charge waiting to happen.
Coaching questions. Did you think about bringing LeBron back in before the end of the first quarter? Why is Larry Hughes starting (the game and the second half)? Can't you find more minutes for Drew Gooden (24 minutes)? Do the Cavs have any trap or press defenses? If so, when are they used, because I would've liked to see some pressure on the Spurs' guards during the fourth quarter comeback. Why haven't we seen any of Scot Pollard and his 6 fouls?
I'm still not worried (well, kinda). I'm just waiting to see how the Cavs look and perform at home. The Cavs have shown signs of life here and there (they scored 29 and 30 in the third and fourth, respectively) and they need to put together a complete game effort. I wouldn't be surprised to see if Z and Pavlovic come out with better games; both players can seem to get overwhelmed when a situation turns sour. Hopefully the Cavs defensive and rebounding efforts will be energized simply by having a home crowd to feed off of; I can take bad shooting (I've seen that all year) and I've seen them win with bad shooting nights. But if the defense and rebounding fail to return, the Cavs will get swept.
Friday, June 08, 2007
The third quarter demons returned. The Cavs were down 5 at half and 15 at the quarter break- not good. I'm not sure if I put the quarter on the Cavaliers' shoulders or on the Spurs (though it was probably a combination). Cleveland wasn't completely awful, but they just gave the Spurs too many opportunities.
The rebounding was the most disheartening aspect. I (somewhat) expect the Cavs to shoot poorly (42%) and I expected Tony Parker to have a big game (27 points, 7 assists) but I didn't expect the Cavs to give up that many offensive rebounds (13) or get out rebounded by that much (43-32). There were a couple brutal second half possessions where the Spurs got three shots at the hoop (hint- everyone needs to box out, not just the big men). The offense is somewhat understandable, getting beat by good player is understandable. But getting outrebounded? Not a good sign for things to come.
First game jitters. Sasha Pavlovic was pressing early and Z was pressing all game. Pavlovic eventually found a rhythm (13 points on 6-12 shooting) but Ilgauskas never got into it (1-8 from the field). This wasn't exactly surprising, but they really need Z to bounce back with a strong game (he really needs to make the Spurs pay for doubling LeBron so much).
The Spurs trapped LeBron and made him give the ball up. Part of me wishes James would've been more aggressive but he wasn't getting the calls (I'm not sure how Oberto didn't get called in the first half....) and the Spurs left the rest of the Cavaliers wiiiiide open. James finished with just 14 points on 4-14 shooting (6 of those 14 came on late 3s...) and got to the line twice (he made all four freebies). It's imperative that LeBron gets the Spurs in trouble, he can't allow himself to settle for fade-away jumpers. He needs to force the issue more; their entire defense is locked on him and he needs to exploit that further.
It would help if Mike Brown had an offensive game plan. Seriously, do something. Have LeBron set screens, put LeBron in the post or move him off of screens. Just setting up and running a pick isn't going to cut it.
Tony Parker is going to be trouble. You remember the season? How the Cavs couldn't stop quick point guards? How Tyron Lue and the entire Knicks team killed the Cavaliers? Ya, that's not going to end well. Parker is too fast for Hughes, Pavlovic and Snow (even though Mark Jackson really wanted the Cavs to put Snow on Parker. That would not have ended well) and he's stronger than Gibson. I think Gibson is the best matchup, but there really is no good answer here (James checked Parker for a time as well. He gave Tony the jumper. And he hit it).
I'm not a fan of Larry Hughes. He took some bad shots, he made some poor decisions and he's not healthy. Play Daniel Gibson! The kid can ball. Gibson led all Cavaliers with 16 points and he also pitched in 4 steals and 4 assists (which was 4 more assists than the starting backcourt had, combined). Boobie was 7-9 from the floor in 28 minutes; I think it's time he gets more 30+... seriously, play the kid. However, on the flip side, every time Hughes does make a basket, it feels like gravy. Cause honestly, at this point I expect nothing from the guy; when he scores, it feels like a free possession (you mean that pull up 20 footer off the fast break went in? Alriiiiight).
Tim Duncan is good at basketball. 24 points (10-17 shooting), 13 rebounds and 5 blocks. Ugh. He might be an issue in this series. His defense is astounding and the Cavs just try to force him into jumpers at the offensive end. Duncan was also 4-5 from the line; I'd foul him more often (say, with Scot Pollard) and A) make him earn his points and B) hope he misses his freebies and gets himself into a funk at the line. He got a couple of baskets off of Parker drives and/or second chance points.
I'm not too concerned... yet... Like I said earlier, I wasn't expecting a whole lot in Game 1 and this game certainly could've been worse. The Cavs' inexperience showed (nerves) and LeBron didn't have a particularly good game. Even though the lead ballooned, the Cavs never quit; they got within 8 (with a chance for 5) and ended up losing just by 9. Game 2 is the key game- you don't want to go down 0-2 and because you'd then HAVE to sweep your home games. The Cavs showed some life (albeit late) and hopefully they'll play a more controlled game in Game 2. Oh, and if the Cavs want to win in San Antonio... LeBron has to give them more than just 14 points.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
Keep telling LeBron that his team is the worst in Finals history (or maybe second worst). By the way, the 1980-81 Houston Rockets were below .500, I'd make the case that the Cavs are a wee bit better.... oh well.
Just keep criticizing him. Please, we've seen how that works out.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Speaking of Bron, Kevin from Cleveland passed this along: "Here's a link from the News-Herald, a local paper just east of Cleveland, in which sportswriter Roger Brown puts you at No. 3 on the list of the six people who have done the most damage to their reputations since the Cavs-Pistons series. Here's what he wrote:This whole scenario cracks me up. First of all, is Roger Brown allowed to tear into a guy for ripping a Cleveland player? That's all Brown does. He finds a guy that the fans likes and rips him. That's it (well, not true, he also informs us which Browns lineman bought a house in Lakewood).
"Simmons spent months ripping and mocking James as an overhyped fraud -- and gained lots of national attention in the process. But after James' historic Game 5 performance, Simmons scrambled to save face in embarrassing fashion. He wrote a column on LeBron that was more slobbering and fawning than a 13-year-old girl writing a fan letter to Justin Timberlake."
Sorry, I have to respond to this one. First of all, if Roger can produce anything I've ever written that called him LeBron an "overhyped fraud," I will send him a $200 check to double the salary that the News-Herald is paying him every week. I think he has me confused with Charley Rosen.
Second, I love the idea that me "ripping" LeBron gained me national attention ... really? From who? Did I happen to be in a coma at the time? I criticized him in my Anna K. column from Miami (and rightfully so, Bron mailed in a game on national TV); my All-Star column from Vegas (where Bron's lack of enthusiasm for the season was a major topic, and if you don't believe me, check out the ESPN.com column by Brian Windhorst from March once LeBron started playing hard again, and this from a writer who's covered LeBron for his entire career); when LeBron made the absurd "global icon" comment; and a couple of times during the playoffs when Bron-Bron didn't seem properly enthused by the proceedings (and he wasn't). I don't regret a single thing I wrote about LeBron in the past year. Everything still stands.
And third, before Game 5 of the Detroit series, I picked the Cavs to win in 6 and wrote an extended section about LeBron showing signs of turning the corner and getting it in Games 3 and 4, to the point that I had my hopes up for Game 5 because there was a chance something truly special might happen. Here's the exact quote:
"The fact remains, No. 23 happens to be the only interesting thing about this painfully disjointed Pistons-Cavs series. ... Like many others, I'm looking forward to Game 5 solely because of LeBron. Like many others, I want him to shift into fifth gear, hush the crowd, rip Detroit's heart out and make the Vivid Video face after everything's said and done. Like many others, I will be disappointed if this doesn't happen."
Bottom line: If you're going to rip another writer, make sure you've actually read the guy first.
As for Simmons... Well done on the Charley Rosen crack, I hate that guy. But you can't deny that the tone of his LeBron writing changed after that 48 point game. Before that he's handing out back handed compliments and saying shit like: "If LeBron James is the future of the NBA, sign me up for a different professional basketball league, please." Sure, was he justified in his criticism? To a certain extent. But he is also completely reactionary; LeBron has a bad first half of the season (after dominating last season) and we're going to witness the next superstar to never reach his potential. Then when he drops 48 points, he's made LeLeap.
You see, I'm still getting used to the Cavs having LeBron James. Oh sure, I'm used to seeing him night after night, but I'm not sure I'll ever get used to the Cavs (or any Cleveland team for that matter) having a player with the star power or "Q Rating" of LeBron James. I'm used to LeBron but I'm not used to "a LeBron", if that makes sense.
For instance, watching Cavalier road games and seeing Cleveland Cavalier jerseys in the stands simply blows my mind. This doesn't happen. I'm not sure I could've ever imagined that happening. No Cleveland player is supposed to be on The Daily Show or talking with David Letterman. I think this is why we get upset when Simmons rips LBJ or when there's entire segments on Sports Center where they debate whether or not James is "clutch".
Cleveland fans (and myself) aren't used to this kind of national attention.
We're not used to being interesting and being popular. We're used to playing the "no respect" card and having good (even great) players who aren't superstars. We wear our failure as a badge of pride. You can't make fun of us, only we can make fun of us.
Our teams choke. Our losses get names. Our teams lose to superstars.
Things are changing.
Let me backtrack a bit.
Like it says on my bio at Swerbs, the Cavaliers have always been my team. Maybe it's because a Cavs-Rockets game was the first sporting event I ever attended (or remember going to), maybe it was because of Mark Price or maybe it was simply that they were actually good when I started paying attention ('91-92 season) but for whatever the reason the Cavs have always been Number 1 while every other Cleveland (and Ohio State) team has been tied for Number 2 (or moved into 2a at various times).
I took in as much Cavs basketball as I possibly could. I read Terry Pluto and the ABJ daily (and I didn't care for the PD. They didn't like the NBA as much as I did. I knew this even then). We never had cable growing up; if the Cavs weren't on channel 43, I was getting my Cavs basketball from Joe Tait. I remember sitting in front of the radio in my parents kitchen and excitedly turning on Joe Tait for the first game of the preseason.
But when the Cavs were good, no one cared. It was all about Michael Jordan (and in some ways it still is). Despite the Cavs winning 57 games and having some great players (if not exactly stars), I was one of the few kids at school to wear Cavs gear (and actually got shit for it). I could not understand how someone from Ohio could root for Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls- the enemy. Maybe it's because I've always had a fierce loyalty to my teams (and friends and hometown and state), I dunno, but I just couldn't wrap my head around it.
One winter a kid I knew (who's name escapes me now) and his buddy shoveled Brad Daugherty's driveway (Daugherty, and other various Cavalier players and coaches, lived in Hudson, which is about 10 minutes from the Richfield Coliseum). Daugherty invited him and his friend in for some hot chocolate and when the kid took off his jacket he was wearing a Chicago Bulls sweatshirt. This would've never happened to me (a few years later an aunt gave me a Bulls championship t-shirt for Christmas because I "liked basketball". I was a pissed off 12 year old- first of all, clothes!? But Chicago Bulls clothes?!).
Then the Cavs got injured and the team broke up. Mike Fratello came in and slowed things down. Cleveland fans started paying attention to the Tribe. But I bought the new uniforms with the new logo. I hoped that Terrell Brandon and Vitaly Potapenko could develop a two-man game. I wondered if the Hill-Mills-Phills combo could cause some trouble in the playoffs. And when Shawn Kemp showed up... God damn that was Christmas. Finally, a superstar in Cleveland. A dunker. Highlights! They made the playoffs with four rookies (Knight, Derek Anderson, Cedric Henderson and Zydrunas Ilgauskas) and Kemp. Things were looking up, the Cavs were back.
Then Kemp got fat. Z got hurt. Henderson was out of the league and John Paxson drafted Andre Miller and Trajan Langdon. Knight and Anderson (the backcourt of the future!) were shipped out of town. Chris Gatling. Lammond Murray. Ricky Davis. Darius Miles. Milt Palacio. Smush Parker. Dajuan Wagner. 17 wins.
Then LeBron James shows up and everything changes. The Cavs got a break (or a hand) in the lottery. They not only got a super(duper) star, but a hometown one at that.
During this time, I was living in Columbus and attending The Ohio State University. Of course my friends and I were watching LeBron and the Cavs. This isn't exactly surprising, if you hang out with me for sometime, eventually you're going to find yourself interested in basketball, so we followed James and co. (hell, my best friend downloaded the Milt Palacio desktop background from Cavs.com the previous season. Sure, he did it ironically, but still. The was at least one person out there with Milt as their background).
But I really had no idea how big the Cavs have gotten in Northeast Ohio.
Everyone is following this team. Kids, stoners, punks, little old ladies at supermarkets, people at work... fucking everybody is following the Cavaliers.
The Cavs have always been the redheaded stepchild of Cleveland sports. Cleveland will always be a Browns town. I was reminded of this on draft day. During the weeks leading up to the draft, you would've thought that the Browns were the only team in town. And day on draft? You'd never know that the Cavs had a playoff game later that night (you know, the level of competitiveness that the Browns are trying to reach- I'm not bitter).
And the Tribe? Well, a few years ago we sold out every game. But that sure changed hasn't it? The team we have now is good. Really really good. Good hitting, good pitching. This is a team that will be in the playoffs. But the attendance has been abysmal (though I haven't seen any figures for this yet).
Which is why I was dumbfounded by the crowd in the street the other night. That kind of crowd? That kind of outpouring of emotion? For the Cleveland Cavaliers? The team I was picked on for cheering for? The Cavs really have this city enthralled right now (even if it's taken the Plain Dealer awhile to catch on) and I love it. Is part of me cynically asking where these long suffering Cavs fans were for the last ten years (and where they'll be when LeBron leaves, via free agency or retirement)? Maybe. But right now I don't care.
Forgive me for getting too optimistic, but we could be entering a Golden Age of Cleveland sports. All three teams have bright futures- the Cavs are in the NBA fucking Finals, the Tribe leads the Central Division and the Browns just drafted their franchise quarterback AND left tackle.
Plus the franchises are full of stars. LeBron. Daniel Gibson (you don't think he's gonna be big? You watch). Brady Quinn. Kellen Winslow. Grady Sizemore. Travis Hafner. Casey Blake. Quite frankly, this is unprecedented.
Repeat after me: the Cavs are in the NBA Finals. We get to watch LeBron James. The Cavs are going to be the team that ABC slurps and other fans get sick of. This is going to be the start of something special.
We're going to have to stop our complaining. We have the stars. We have the teams. Our schitk won't work anymore. We can't be the cynical hard luck losers anymore.
Change is good.
Monday, June 04, 2007
Remember that guy (Greg Boose) who ripped Branson Wrightin a "Hey, Branson!" column (I mentioned it here)? Well, he also got kicked out of LeBron's birthday party a couple years ago. Well done good sir.
Terry Pluto always sounds amazed that LeBron is even exists. I know how he feels.
Charley Rosen has to compliment the Cavaliers and it seems half hearted at best...
Rosen also calls Detroit a brief dynasty. Ridiculous. I'll let the Cavalier take it:
We have no idea why people treat this as if a dynasty has been dethroned or something. The recent Pistons were a good team that won ONE (1) title and went to ONE (1) other Finals. Hell, the Rockets won 2 straight in the 90s and nobody gave them near the “aura” this DET team was given.Speaking of national media members I loathe, has anyone seen Skip Bayless since LeBron dropped those 48 points on the Pistons? I hate that guy.
Great long piece on Daniel Gibson (lemme toot my own horn here, I was all about this kid before the season even started).
If these don't get you in the mood for the Finals... you have no pulse.
and a couple personal notes:
Thanks to those who have emailed me about watching the game and listening to Joe Tait at the same time. I still haven't figured anything out quite yet (for those who are wondering, I have Direct TV with Tivo hooked up). The issue is that the radio is quicker than the satellite, meaning I just can't pause the Tivo and let the radio catch up. There is a product out there built specifically for this problem. However, it costs $150. But who am I kidding, I'll get to hear Joe Tait rather than whatever schlub ABC throws out there. $150 is a small price to pay for never having to hear Mark Jackson again (though that may happen whether or not I spend buy this).
Speaking of spending money I don't have... I'm trying to find a ticket for Game 3. If anyone out there has a hook up or extra ticket, drop me an email (don't worry, you'll get paid one way or another. Be it money, sexual favors or simply basking in my presence). I'll be damned if the Cavs are going to play in the Finals and I won't make an attempt to get in. The plan right now is to try to scalp after the first quarter (I work til 9 that night, but in Brook Park, about 10 miles from The Gund, I shouldn't be too late). Unfortunately (sorta) Game 3 is the only game I'll be able to attend as I'll be at Bonnaroo during Game 4 (and 5, if necessary), meaning I won't be able to attend any Yaysports! Read Summits if held after Game 3.
But don't worry dear reader, I'll still be doing game recaps during the festival. I'll be bringing my laptop and Bonnaroo has wi-fi and a movie tent set up that will be showing cult movies, concert flicks and NBA Finals games. Now, I can't promise how coherent these recaps will be, but if you've ever wanted to read Cavalier basketball analysis done by a guy tripping on mushrooms (that doesn't involve Bill Walton), now is your chance (just kidding Mom!).
Sunday, June 03, 2007
Hey, this "playing basketball in June" stuff is pretty sweet. As a franchise, the Cavs are 1-0 in the month of June. Cavs fans, these are uncharted waters and I'm not really sure what I should be doing (all I know is that I can't stop grinning like a god damn fool- it's really all I'm capable of right now). The Pistons hadn't lose four straight games all season.... and yet, here we are.
Larry Hughes, pick the team you want to be traded to, because Cleveland has a point guard. And he answers to Boobie. Daniel Gibson hit all five of the 3s he took and led all players with 31 points. That's right, the Cavs beat the Pistons by 16 in a close out game and LeBron didn't lead Cleveland in scoring. Oh, by the way, Gibson's 31 points came on just 9 field goal attempts and at one point he scored 24 of the 30 Cavalier points (not quite "Video Game James", but rather unreal to say the least). Gibson lined up at the charity stripe an astonishing 15 times in Game 6 and he made 12 of 'em. So he can shoot from the outside AND get to the line? Ya, the Cavs can stop looking for a point guard to compliment James...
LeBron was pretty good too. The was a reason why Gibson was able to get good looks from down town and it might have something to do with that 48 point onslaught in Detroit. LeBron didn't drop a historic game but he 'ended up' with 20 points, 14 boards, 8 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals (does anyone else have to keep reminding yourself that he is just 22? Ya, me too). He set his teammates up early in the game (5 assists in the first period) and there was nothing the Pistons could do after that. His shot wasn't dropping (just 3-11 from the floor) but he attacked Detroit's defense and got himself to the line 19 times (making 14). When the Cavs spread the floor (with shooters) LeBron has a much easier path to the basket (and he is a willing passer, I'm not sure if you saw Game 1...) and he can be much more aggressive.
For the second game in a row, only three Cavs scored in double figures. And for the second time in two games, it was James, Gibson and Z who put up those double digits. I'd be a happy camper if only these three guys shot the ball (with an occasional Gooden baseline jumper thrown in here and there).
The guys I am happy for: LeBron James, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Austin Carr and Joe Tait. Obviously, LeBron deserves the vast bulk of the credit; he single handily beat Detroit in Game 5 and without James, none of this is even possible (also, thanks for riggin' that lottery David Stern, we owe you one). He's endured a lot of (petty) criticism and he's silenced everyone out Then there's Zydrunas... Big Z has been here forever; the big fella could've easily retired years ago (after roughly 1,236,893 foot surgeries) and no one would've thought any less of him. But he fought his way back, persevered and kept working on his game (like how he developed that ridiculous(ly ugly) hook shot this offseason after fizzling out in last year's playoffs). With all that has happened to him this year (plus the fact that he has stepped it up in the posteason), you couldn't help but smile when LeBron jumped into his arms after the final buzzer (BTW- Z finished with 11 points and 12 boards).
Then there is Austin and Joe. I've ripped on Austin a lot this year (and I love the guy, but he can't do color commentary. He's much better in the studio) but the man loves his Cavalier basketball. He's called Mr. Cavalier for a reason and I hope he's enjoying this. Finally we come to Joe Tait. I'm not sure I'd be a Cavs fan (or at least not as big of one) without Tait. The guy is best radio basketball announcer I've ever heard (and it's not even close). Joe has been involved with this franchise since the beginning (I cannot even fathom how much bad basketball he's witnessed over the years) and I am thrilled that I'll be able to listen to him broadcast from the NBA Finals. It's unfortunate that with all the technology these days (plus the delays and all that) that we're no longer able to 'turn down the TV and turn on Tait' because that is the perfect way to take in Cavalier basketball.
How about Coach Mike, eh? Of course, we all knew we'd see a fourth quarter lineup of Gibson, Jones, James, Donyell Marshall and Anderson Varejao. Is his offense sometimes unbearable? Yes. Does he make 'young coach mistakes'? Yes. Is he perfect? No. But you know what? He's been here two years and he has a playoff record of 19-10 and he has the Cavs in the NBA Finals. If I would've told you in the summer of 2005 that the Cavs would be in the Finals in two seasons, I think we'd all take that.
LeBron has matured. Everyone is going to be talking about how vocal he was in Game 6. And I love that. But have you been seeing his defense? He is giving the maximum effort at the defensive end and he completely took Tayshaun Prince out of his game (16-65 for the series). I have no idea what's going to happen in the next round, but if he is this focussed, watch out.
I was a bit worried this game might go down as "The Clock". We had a 21 minute break between the first and second quarters as the entire arena basically stopped working. The scoreboard went out, the jumbotron went out and the 24 second clock went out. Nothing like showing up for the big game... The break obviously affected the Cavs and it really took the air out of the arena (the Cavs had a 6 point lead after one period and the crowd was loving it). Plus, half of the Cavs' offensive plays don't even begin until James gets the ball with 7 seconds left; every time the announcer said "10 seconds" players just starting rushing their shots and the level of play suffered. Things got turned around by the third quarter, but for a little while, it seemed like another weird Cleveland sports moment was going to loom over this game (and possibly cost the Cavs the win and the series).
The Pistons did not keep their cool. Chris Webber and Rip Hamilton picked up technical fouls early (Pavlovic and Varejao seem to annoy people) and Rasheed Wallace went insane late. Wallace fouled out early on in the fourth quarter after wrapping up James and throwing him to the floor. Wallace then proceeded to go off on a tirade and got the pleasure of watching Boobie nail 3s from the comfort of his own locker room. However, I can't blame Wallace for being angry too much- Varejao drew an offensive foul (and Rasheed's fifth) the play preceding Wallace's sixth. And let me tel you, that offensive foul was terrible; Varejao flopped like Employee of the Month. Though I won't exactly shed any tears for the Pistons; I am thrilled that I won't have to see Chauncey Billups or Rip Hamilton fall down anytime they come near one of Cleveland's big men for awhile (I'm also glad I won't have to see Doug Collins's hair or anymore more commercials for Tyler Perry's House of Payne).
Speaking of Billups, how much money did he take off the table with this series? Not only did he make some poor decisions and screwed up crunch time but he even missed his free throws. That is not good for his wallet (and is definitely not the type of crap you want to pull during a contract push).
I'm not sure why Bill Russell was there handing out trophies, but I approve. Look, anytime that guy is in the state of Ohio (or near the state of Ohio, thinking about the state of Ohio or thinking about being near the state of Ohio), I want him speaking with LeBron. He told LeBron and the Cavaliers they're now representing the entire Eastern Conference and he wants them to make him proud. Yes, listen to Bill Russell. This can only help things.
When am I supposed to stop smiling? Cause I don't want to. I really have no idea what the next round will hold for this team; everyone is going to pick the Spurs, even though the Cavs are 2-0 against San Antonio this year. As well they should. I'm not sure I can pick against the Spurs... but here's the thing, they are basically like Detroit only more emotionally stable. Let's go down the Spurs' roster (and compare it to Detroit's) shall we? LeBron just utterly destroyed Tayshaun Prince- there is no reason to think that he'll wilt against Bruce Bowen (who doesn't have the length to bother James- and no one has the strength to deal with him. I wouldn't put too much stock in Cleveland's regular season record against the Spurs this year (2-0 BTW) but I definitely don't believe that 2-0 number accurately reflects the team matchup properly.
Saturday, June 02, 2007
This series isn't over and just last year the Cavs couldn't close out Detroit in Game 6 at home...
Hell, the Cavs didn't show up for a closeout game at home in the last round...
*think postive thoughts think postive thoughts think postive thoughts think postive thoughts think postive thoughts think postive thoughts think postive thoughts think postive thoughts think postive thoughts think postive thoughts think postive thoughts think postive thoughts think postive thoughts think postive thoughts think postive thoughts think postive thoughts think postive thoughts think postive thoughts think postive thoughts *
Friday, June 01, 2007
Things weren't looking good when... Detroit went on a 10-0 run and turned a three point deficit into a seven point lead with just 3:15 to play. The Cavalier offense was not looking good and Detroit seemed to be hitting their stride. The Pistons took a 88-81 lead and it looked like Cleveland ran out of gas (little did we know).
But I knew the Cavs weren't going to lose when... By the time the clock read 2:16, the score was 88-87. The Cavs made up the deficit in one minute. Once LeBron hit a 3 to pull the Cavs within a point, you just knew that he wasn't going to let them lose. He just put the Cavs on his back and took over.
The degree of difficulty was amazing. LeBron missed a few free throws down the stretch that could've made his life a little easier (like two freebies with 1:52 left in regulation that would've put the Cavs up a point) and the longer the game went on, the more weapons he lost (Gooden, Z and Gibson fouled out- not that they would've gotten the ball, but they are at least convincing decoys). Plus, Mike Brown cost LeBron and the Cavs a chance to win the game in the first OT by wasting their last timeout after a made free throw (but hey, we got a Eric Snow half court heave... so that was neat).
LeBron scored all of the Cavalier points after regulation. He was just sick; nine points in each of the overtimes and the Cavaliers' final 25 points. For the game, he had 48 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists. Afterwards, Drew Gooden called him "Video Game James", which I think is appropriate. LBJ scored in every way possible; he took 3s, he hit the post, he got dunks at the rim (during crunch time) and he was hitting his ridonkulous fade-aways.
Someone finally decked Anderson Varejao. Antonio McDyess got ejected at the end of the first quarter for taking Varejao down by the neck; it was definitely a flagrant foul, but I think the big thing was that McDyess followed through. He didn't just hit Varejao in the neck, he threw him down by the neck (which I think was the difference between staying in the game and watching from the locker room).
I better not hear anything about the refs. I'm not sure how you can argue with McDyess' ejection (but I'm sure Detroit will). Rasheed Wallace is probably pissed at not getting the call on his turnaround late in the second overtime (and I don't blame him). But he got some calls as well (like his 'block' on James with 5 minutes to go in regulation). Calls were missed on both sides here and there, but I don't think anyone gained a real advantage in anyway (hell, the Cavs had three players foul out).
I'm sick of Chauncey Billups and is go to move. The move seems to be dribble around and attempt to run into somebody and shoot some free throws. Seriously, he does this a lot. He'll run into big men and to guards. It is annoying and I want it stopped.
Non-LeBron Cavalier thoughts:
Larry Hughes. Larry started the game, hit a couple 3s and seemed to have much better movement with the foot. However, he was getting abused by Prince or Billups (depending on who decided to go at him) and he didn't get off the bench during the stretch run.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Z finished 16 points (the second highest Cavalier) and 8 boards. For awhile in the fourth the Cavs ran the Ilgauskas based offense (which wasn't pretty, but it worked for a bit). I am really glad that the Pistons let go of Ben Wallace. Z can take Webber whenever he gets the matchup (plus I doubt James could be getting late game dunks with Benny Wallace patrolling the paint).
Daniel Gibson. He committed some dumb fouls throughout the game and they came back to bit after regulation (not all the fouls were dumb or necessarily his fault, but he put himself in situations where Billups could draw a call). Gibson was the only other Cavalier in double figures (11 pts) and he his a huge 3 to end the third period.
Donyell Marshall. Is worthless. He can't guard anyone, he can't play help defense and he isn't hitting his shots. Yuck.
Sasha Pavlovic. I'm not sure to make of Sasha in Game 5. He was the only non-LeBron Cavalier who took shots down the stretch, unfortunately the shots weren't that good. He committed some offensive fouls (some were actually offensive fouls and some where borderline that went against him) and missed his shots, but at least he was shooting (no one else even wanted to think about shooting).
Mike Brown is a coaching genius. Who ever said that stand around and watch LeBron isn't a good offensive set.... great call coach!
I firmly believe that the Cavs will win Game 6 and move on to the Finals. Game 5 is giving me hope and optimism. Maybe it's too soon, maybe I shouldn't commit or maybe I shouldn't get my hopes up, but I don't care. Game 5 was the greatest and biggest Cavs victory in my lifetime. LeBron looked nothing like any other Cleveland athlete I have ever seen; he put his team on his back and basically willed them to victory. He was simply incredible. If LeBron plays like he did in the last three contests, the Cavs are (and I can't believe I am about to write this) moving on t the Finals. They're going to do this.
(I'll have more tomorrow evening, after I finish my final, turn in my paper and work in the afternoon. I'll even have some video highlights!)