Thursday, May 13, 2010

So, uh, big game tonight, eh?

Here's some reading material to get you through to the start of Game 6:

Kareem Adbul-Jabbar thinks LeBron would've benefited from college.

Adrian Wojnarowski has another solid (if a bit over the top) take:

What appeared to be a physical issue with LeBron’s elbow early in the Eastern Conference semifinals turned into something perhaps more perplexing, more troublesome: a mentally checked-out James, on and off the floor. When the Cavs needed him most in a humiliating Game 5 loss, James looked like he was in a sedated state, a trance, a thousand miles away. The reaction of Cleveland fans has been resounding and remarkable. There’s a sense of almost betrayal in their voices, a fear that maybe he isn’t just leaving them this summer in free agency, but that he’s already gone.

With James, who knows? Maybe this is one big rope-a-dope, a purposeful Game 5 pout to show everyone how he can hang a season out the window of a high-rise before plucking it out of harm’s way. Already, James and his inner circle appear ready to try to make coach Mike Brown the fall guy. Brown probably wouldn’t keep his job with a loss in the conference finals to Orlando again, never mind the semis against Boston.

Yet James needs to elevate these Cavs on Thursday and again on Sunday unless he wants to discover the wrath that came for great players until they won titles. As a superstar, an MVP, the burden of proof is on you. Boston is the worst possible hurdle for him now, a smart, tough and well-schooled defensive team with a history of controlling him. Privately, the Celtics hope James will try to do too much scoring in Game 6 just to silence the noise, because they know that a collapsing defense leaves gaps for teammates everywhere on the floor.

James has it in him to completely dominate these next two games, to transform himself from the maligned MVP into the triumphant conqueror of critics. What he refuses to acknowledge is that the immensity of his talent is a big part why people are apt to come down so hard on him. Still, circumstances have changed for him. There’s too much talent on these Cavs and too much of a cast for James to slip out of this series untouched. He loves the drama, loves the attention and it comes in Game 6 with a fury that he’s never witnessed in his life.

Whatever his issues now, his motives, give him this: He’s managed to make Thursday night one of the most-anticipated playoff games in years, maybe a decade, and that speaks to the power of his persona, the genius of his talent.

John Calipari could be the Cavs next coach, if that's what LeBron wants.

Dr. Jack Ramsay doesn't like the job Coach Mike is doing (and apparently Hubie Brown went off on Coach Mike on Jim Rome's radio show today, but I didn't hear it). Coaches rarely rip one of their own. Great.

Brian Windhorst is on today's B.S. Report (the 2nd half, at least). I highly recommend a listen.

Kelly Dwyer has an excellent post on LeBron:

If you don't think I understand the ridiculousness behind someone like me advising LeBron James, a man who has spent thousands upon thousands of hours in a basketball gym just in the years since I've discovered high-speed Internet, then you're off. I know how this comes off, and I don't like it.

But outside of NBA coaches, scouts, executives and Brian Windhorst, I think I've watched more hours of this guy playing basketball than just about anyone else I can think of. I've seen him succeed time and again, and have endured the painful result of having my credibility questioned when I point out that I've seen him succeed time and again, more efficiently and more effectively than any other player in the NBA.

But there are nights off, and there are NIGHTS taken OFF. And Tuesday night was, well, absurd. It was so unrepresentative of James' gifts and stature and abilities and production levels, that I don't know how to discount it even if he averages 45-12-12 from here on out and leads his team to a championship before signing a contract extension. That isn't to say I'm dismissing him regardless of the production or expecting the worst. It's only to say that, when you've seen someone act as weird as he has, it has to be considered as an option. However unlikely.

Joe Posnanski points out that the Cavs are a bit of an oddity compared to other Cleveland sports failures (with 60+ wins and the 2-time MVP, they're actually expected to win).

Michael Rosenberg thinks that Danny Ferry did a shitty job. Of course he does. Whatever. I still say Ferry did as well as he could with the hand he was dealt (if you want to blame anyone, blame Gordon Gund for keeping Jim Paxson. Who knew the GM responsible for the 17 win season that landed LeBron wasn't the right guy to build a championship team).

Terry Pluto wrote an open letter to Mr. James and has some pre-Game 6 scribbles:

2. So what will happen tonight? I'd like to be an expert and have some great insight, but the truth is I have no clue. You can tell me the Cavs will win by 12 or lose by 20, and I can imagine the game going either way. We really haven't had a close game in this series, so maybe that is what will be next. I'm not so shocked that the Cavs have lost three games to Boston -- I thought the series could go seven games. But to lose three games by an average of 20 points? Never dreamed that in my worst Cavs nightmare.

3. A few days ago, I wrote that the Cavs have a better team than Boston. Now, I'm being swamped with emails saying only a moron can make that statement. Or a homer. We'll, I didn't hear many Cavs fans insisting Boston was better when the Cavs were up 2-1 in the series. But a better piece of evidence is that ESPN.com had 10 "experts" pick the series. All 10 took the Cavs. These are national writers and broadcasters. Not a single one thought Boston would win? Why? Because they all thought the Cavs have a better team.

4. The Cavs are being outrebounded in the series (248-231), destroyed on the offensive boards (51-38) and overwhelmed in the past two games, 46-14, on second-chance "hustle" points. For the series, Boston has attempted 40 more shots. This screams that the Cavs need a guy who can rebound and hustle. It means they need more of Anderson Varejao, who has played about 20 minutes a game -- 6.2 points, 5.8 rebounds. I do sense his back is bothering him more than he wants people to know, but he's a guy who can help when Kevin Garnett gets hot. He can stand in front of a driving Rajon Rondo and try to draw a foul. He can give them an emotional jump, and he is second team all-defense this season.

Their rebounding has been atrocious and I think that's because Varejao isn't getting the run that he's used to (or that's needed).

Part of me feels that the worst thing to happen to the Cavs all series was Shaq scoring that hoop during crunch time of Game 1 (the up & under against Perkins to break the 90-90 tie). I feel like Brown is forcing O'Neal out there simply because he's Shaq and he's a Future Hall of Famer and of course he should be playing in crunch time and blah blah blah blah. The Cavs don't need Shaq. He had 21 points in Game 5 and they lost by 30. They won 66 games last year and went 21-4 this year without him.

Maybe Anderson Varejao is really hurt but they need floppy haired spark plug. He gets them extra possessions, he doesn't get afraid and he's a great help defender. They getting killed by Jamison and O'Neal defensively and Shaq only slows down the offense. Mo Williams has been awful defensively, but they can overcome his lapses if he's their only bad defender. But having Williams out there with Jamison and Shaq is asking too much. The two new bigs have been awful with their defensive rotations.

At the end of the day, I think the Cavs will come out and win, but like I wrote yesterday, I'm ready for absolutely anything.

Cleveland sports, baby! Never boring!

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1 comment:

Dustin said...

CLEVELAND FANS KEEPING THE FAITH!!!! YEAH BABY!