Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Would they sign both?

First there's this good news:
In a move that was considered shocking in corners Monday, the Milwaukee Bucks decided not to offer young free-agent power forward Charlie Villanueva a qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent. He now will be unrestricted, which makes him significantly easier to sign because the Bucks will not have matching rights. According to sources, Villanueva now will be one of the Cavs' free-agent targets when teams are allowed to speak with them Wednesday.
As you're aware, Ben likes this.

The Cavs are expected to go after him:

Villanueva has a good relationship with Williams, who became close to him the two seasons they played together in Milwaukee. Williams could serve as a recruiter much in the same way he helped bring another of his close friends to the Cavs, former Bucks teammate Joe Smith, when he was a free agent last March.

Villanueva also has a long-standing relationship with LeBron James. The two were in the same high school class and played with each other in various tournaments and summer camps as they were growing up. Following their senior year of high school, Villanueva and James became closer while taking part in two national All-Star Games, including the McDonald's All-American Game in Cleveland. They have kept in touch ever since.

The Cavs have been looking for a "stretch" power forward like Villanueva for some time. Because he is a good mid-range and decent long-range shooter (35 percent on 3-pointers last season), he is potentially a good fit alongside players such as James and Williams, who like to drive and kick out passes. Add in O'Neal, who succeed earlier in his career with stretch power forwards such as Robert Horry in Los Angeles and Antoine Walker in Miami, and that option creates an even better fit.

Yes. This is a good fit. However, what about the future?

The team is expected to consider other players this week who can play that role, including Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess.

The decision to seriously go after Villanueva is part of a larger decision the team must make. Do they go attempt to go after some older players and get them on one-year contracts to preserve the chance at the 2010 free-agent mega class? Or do they not follow the crowd of teams who are protecting cap space for 2010 and take advantage of being a buyer in a sellers' market and create a stronger core now?

Using the entire midlevel exception on a player like Villanueva, using the biannual exception of $2 million on a wing player and re-signing Anderson Varejao would pretty much take the Cavs out of the 2010 market for the top names besides re-signing James.

This is the rub. How much to they consider 2010? Obviously, they want Chris Bosh. And hey, I'd like Bosh as well (or Amare). My question is, if the Cavs can grab Villanueva, do they need to resign Varejao? Or would that be even possible?

If Andy wants a ton of money or demands to start, I'm not sure it's worth it to keep him, especially if they get CV. Because, Charlie Villanueva should start over Varejao, especially with Shaq in the lineup. Now, having the bench bigs be Z and Varejao is not a bad thing in the slightest, but would Andy want (or take) that lesser role.

Plus, we know that Ferry doesn't overpay his own guys (Varejao, Pavlovic, West and Gibson all got reasonable deals) so if Varejao's looking for a big payday, he may have to look elsewhere.

But I'm not sure what the market would be like for Varejao. How many people are gonna over pay for a PF with limited offensive game and medicore athelticism (especially in this economic climate)? Maybe a sign-and-trade could be worked out. I dunno.

Personally, if Andy walks, I'd like the Cavs to use the bi-annual on Sheed and have him come off the bench. Having Villanueva and Sheed as your two power forwards wouldn't be a bad thing (especially playing next to Shaq and Z).

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Random Thoughts from the Weekend

1. I've only seen one Tribe game all season. This was in Chicago and they blew an extra inning Save with a throwing error and a wild pitch. Haven't watched before or since.

2. I'm not sure which is more sad, the fact that the fire sale is beginning before the All-Star break or that Mark DeRosa is second on the team in both homers and RBIs.

3. However, the trade doesn't look too shabby. The bullpen needs crazy help.

4. Now that double DeRosa jersey is even more worthless, if that was even possible.

5. I dunno if firing Wedge is the answer. However, it's not like this guy has done a bang-up job over the years. This is a team who routinely gets off to bad starts and has to dig themselves out of deep holes.

6. Great article on the Tribe's mistakes (link not safe for lunch). Jesus, those draft picks are awful...

7. Terry Pluto says that new DC Rob Ryan is in charge of reviving Kamerion Wimbley's career. Let's hope he does a good job, two years ago I thought Wimbley was gonna be a stud (he looked like a beast in the preseason in his 2nd year).

8. Joey J is suing the Browns over his staph infection, of course he is. It's stories like this that had me on Kellen Winslow's side during that whole debacle.

9. Great article on Bernie Kosar by Dan Le Batard. Livingston talks Bernie as well.

10. I found the Kosar article because Le Batard brought it up during his appearance on Bill Simmons' podcast. I do enjoy those BS Reports.

11. However, I think Simmons and Chard Ford were unfair to Cavs GM Danny Ferry during their recent podcast. They basically lambasted Ferry for surrounding LeBron with veterans and not young guys like Thunder GM Sam Presti is doing with Kevin Durant.

12. It's unfair because Ferry got the job right before LeBron's third year. They had missed the playoffs by a game each of LeBron's first two years, so they were never picking anywhere near the top of the draft. Also, Jim fucking Paxson had traded a ton of picks (so even if the Cavs HAD sucked enough to draft high, they wouldn't have been able to).

13. Yes, Ferry whiffed on Larry Hughes (along with Marshall and Jones), but the Cavs DID make the Finals with those signings (in an admittedly weak year). But I still say Ferry HAD to make those signings, because if the Cavs would've kept starting Ira Newble, there's no way LeBron re-ups.

14. Obviously, at this point I'm not thrilled with the amount of vets on this team (I'm still not quite sold on Shaq), but I'm not sure what other options Ferry had. He didn't have picks, they didn't suck enough to draft actual talent and it's not like this team was full of vets that would've brought them back nice picks via trades. I mean, this team won 66 games and lost to an Orlando team playing out of it's freaking mind. Could he do better? Sure, but he hasn't done bad.

15. Brian Windhorst discusses the Cavs free agent options.

16. My main target is Milwaukee's Charlie Villanueva. I keep seeing conflicting reports on whether or not the Bucks will present him with the qualifying offer. If they don't, he'll be an unrestricted FA and things could be looking waaay up. (If he's a Restricted FA, the Cavs would probably have to work out some kind of sign-and-trade).

17. I'm curious to see what the Cavs do with Anderson Varejao. If they go after Charlie Villanueva hard, it may piss off Andy (and/or his agent). But it's gonna be imperative, with Shaq on the floor, that the Cavs have a power forward who can consistently knock down the open J. I'd lose my mind if I spent 82 games watching Varejao brick 13 footers.

18. BW brings up Jason Kidd and Rasheed Wallace. Part of me thinks that these guys would be great for a 1-2 year run. But part of me feels like we'd have a Miami 06 team on our hands. Lot's of ring chasing vets... meh. However, a championship is a championship is a championship. If and when the Cavs do win a title, I'm not gonna bitch that it wasn't won with home grown talent.

19. I know next season is championship-or-bust (and convince James to stay), but say the Cavs win the title with a team build around Shaq, Kidd, Sheed, Z and LeBron... why would LeBron sign long term, when most of those pieces are gonna be put out to pasture within the next 3 years? Signing CV would at least give the Cavs a young nucleus of Williams, Villanueva and LeBron to build around.

20. The Cavs still need a wing player for defensive purposes and I'm undecided on their best option. Matt Barnes isn't a bad idea (I do like his moxie) but I'm not sure how he'd fit here offensively (his last two stops were Golden State and Phoenix. Not sure how he'd adapt to Le-Iso). Anthony Parker would probably be a good signing, if a bit boring.

21. Livingston likes the Shaq signing. If nothing else, next year should be very interesting.

22. Patrick McManamon makes a good point:

Think back to Game 7 in Boston in 2008. James set up Ben Wallace for a dunk in the final minutes with the game in the balance. Wallace threw the ball outside to Delonte West for a 3-pointer, which he missed.

Shaq is probably going to dunk that ball — with force.

23. I just hope all the band wagon Cavs fans know what year it is (2009) and that asking a 37 year-old, 7-foot, 300+ lbs man to stay healthy for an entire NBA season (whether he's motivated or not) is a lot to ask. Yes, they dealt two guys who weren't gonna contribute but it's not 2002 anymore.

24. Well, I'm gonna have to buy a #33 Cavaliers jersey.

25. For the most part, I'm OK with the Cavs draft. Sure, Christian Eyenga is a project, but he's supposed to have a high ceiling (and crazy athletic abilities AND a 7-1 wingspan). Plus, by stashing him overseas, the Cavs will save some cash this season.

26. The Christian Eyenga pick is easier to swallow when you read things like this:

Were it not for San Antonio's theft of Blair, Cleveland taking Green at No. 46 would be the steal of the draft. He's a knockdown outside shooter who hit 42 percent on 3s and 85 percent at the line last season, and he's a solid defender at the wing with good size. My Draft Rater had him as the No. 8 college player in the draft, and he should be able to contribute right away.

Moreover, this is exactly what the Cavs need. In addition to their inability to contend with Dwight Howard, their biggest issue in the playoffs against Orlando was a lack of wing talent -- in particular, wing talent that can knock down all the open looks LeBron James creates. Green helps answer that need.

27. re: Michael Jackson's death: I have no idea how many times I listened my cassette tape of Thiller, but I played the hell out of that thing during countless school trips (on an insanely bulky walkman). Dangerous was one of the first albums I bought with my own money (also on cassette, my first CD was PotUSA). I was in NYC visiting an aunt just when HIStory was coming out (people forget how big of deal that was, I mean, 'Scream' was a big freaking deal at the time). Not gonna lie, I was definitely intrigued by his recent comeback attempts in London (in a train-wreck kind of way, but holding out hope for some nuggets of awesome).

28. After listening to a lot of Jack-O over the past few days, I've forgotten how practically half the time I have no idea what the hell he's singing. Take 'Wanna Be Starting Something,' I get maybe 55% of those lyrics (and that doesn't even include the whole 'mamase, mamasa, ma-ma coosa' ending).

29. This:

For future reference, "I was sitting in front of my computer masturbating to that Farah Fawcett poster" is not a good answer when someone asks you where you were when you heard Michael Jackson died.

30. If you have a moment, make a call for Ohio Libraries. 70% of Ohio Libraries gets 100% of their funding from the state. The libraries in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati will take hits, but they'll keep ticking (though you'll notice the difference). Libraries in small, rural Ohio towns will be absolutely devastated. For more, go here and here.

* Call the Governor's office at 614-466-3555
* Call your local state representative
* Call your state senator

Thursday, June 25, 2009

What's Next

So the Cavs grabbed some dude from the Congo with the 30th pick. Who's excited? Anyone? Whoo! (Though Danny Green at 46 makes some sense).

So the Cavs are gonna need a power forward who can shoot, right? I mean, in LA, Shaq had Robert Horry knocking down open looks and in Miami he had Udonis Haslem and Antoine Walker spreading the floor. The Cavs have got.... ya...

My pick would be Charlie Villanueva. He's young, he can shoot and he may even want to be here:

It's clear that Villanueva is well aware of the Bucks' difficulties in trying to re-sign him this summer, when he will be a restricted free agent. It's possible the Bucks won't even be able to make a one-year qualifying offer of $4.6 million, which they are required to do by June 30 if they want to retain the right to match offers by other clubs.

Bucks general manager John Hammond has stated the team will not exceed the luxury tax level to re-sign its free agents.

Villanueva was asked what he thought about the possibility of joining the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are expected to make some lineup changes after being ousted by Orlando in six games in the Eastern Conference finals. The Cavs were bitterly disappointed at falling short of the Finals after posting the best regular-season mark in the NBA with 66 victories.

"I understand the situation Milwaukee is in financially," Villanueva told Coleman. "They don't want to go over the cap or what not (actually the luxury tax level). Whatever team decides to make the best offer, I'm going to think about it.

"Cleveland definitely is not a bad spot. I've played with LeBron. I played with LeBron in the McDonald's All-American Game, and we played well together. Is there a possibility? Yes. Will it happen? Time will tell."

Coleman asked Villanueva if he could be a difference-maker in helping Cleveland reach the NBA Finals.

"I think I would be able to help out a lot," Villanueva said, "just the fact I bring my versatility and create mismatch problems. One of the reasons Orlando is in the Finals is because of Rashard Lewis. They have a legitimate big man (Dwight Howard) that demands attention, and they surround him with guys that can play on the perimeter."

That was pre-trade. Now that the Bucks saved all that money, surely they'll make that qualifying offer, right?

Before the trade, it was anticipated that the Bucks' most dire needs for next season would be at power forward and point guard, since it appeared likely they would lose restricted free agents Charlie Villanueva and Ramon Sessions.

But the deal, which brought the Bucks some financial flexibility, is casting a different light on that free-agent situation. And, with Jefferson gone, the Bucks are now thin at small forward.

It's still highly unlikely the Bucks will make a $4.6 million qualifying offer to Villanueva, since that would lock them back up in fiscal handcuffs.
Hmmm... me likey.

And then there's this:Yes, Charlie. We DO need a power forward. One with range... who's athletic...

Just sayin'


Here we go:

The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Phoenix Suns have come to an agreement on a blockbuster trade that sends Shaquille O'Neal to Cleveland to team with LeBron James, according to sources.

The deal has been agreed to in principle and is expected to be finalized Thursday, according to sources.

Cleveland will send Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic to Phoenix for the future Hall of Famer. Sources said the Suns will also receive the 46th pick in Thursday's NBA draft and $500,000.

The best thing about this deal is that the Cavs gave up diddly squat. Wallace would've retired and Pavlovic sucks ass (sometimes, anyways. But that's the problem), so they're getting O'Neal for nothing. Which is kinda neat (if J.J. Hickson would've been thrown in, I would be chained to the Q right now in protest).

Now, despite my misgivings about dealing for a 37 yr old fat guy, I'm finding that I'm actually excited for this deal. If nothing else this guy demands a double-team and if he's motivated (and there's no way he shouldn't be) he should be able to open things up for some of the other guys (including LeBron).

Plus, it's fucking Shaq. The dude is a presence. He's hilarious. Having this guy run around town will only be entertaining. Cleveland could use some good vibes and some star power.

On the other hand, I did write this yesterday:

And let me take this opportunity to voice my opposition to Shaq. No thanks. I don't need a 37 year old center who ***news-fucking-flash*** can't guard Dwight Howard, who still demands the ball (you thought the offense was ugly NOW, wait til you see a night like this: LeIso-Shaq post-LeIso-Shaq post-Shaq post-LeIso. On the plus side, LeBron can get to stand around and watch Shaq, so he could get some extra rest) and who gets into verbal spats with Orlando's coach (you know, the guy who outcoached the Cavs). No thanks. Plus, he costs a shit load of money (he makes $21 million(!!!) next year).

And I stand by this (I mean, this doesn't reek of desperation just a tad? A little?).

Did we forget how the Cavs lost to Orlando? Their big men were too slow and their guards were too small. Now, obviously the Cavs aren't done making moves (they have to get a big guard, especially with Pavlovic gone), but I'm not sure how much better Shaq will be against Howard (sure he can maybe play him one-on-one a bit more and Shaq can probably make him work defensively, but O'Neal doesn't have the foot speed to match Dwight).

Also, doesn't this just make you just a wee bit sick to your stomach:

The Cavaliers were also in talks with New Orleans about obtaining Tyson Chandler. If they had not made the trade for O'Neal, they would have traded for Chandler, according to a source.

Ugh. You mean they could've had a young, defensive-minded athletic center? A guy who could've been around for a few years. A long term replacement for Z? And they chose the one year rental? Awesome. (Obviously, they're holding out hope for a 2010 signing like Bosh/Amare/Yao).

We're putting a lot of faith in Mike Brown and the Cavaliers coaching staff (we'll see how Shaq likes Coach Mike's defense) to be able to work this thing out. Shaq ain't the easiest guy to incorporate into a system. We're also putting a lot of faith in a 37 year old, 7 foot, 300+ lb body. This may require a lot of praying.

Obviously, I hope this works out. I really, really do. LeBron and Shaq is an awesome story and if they pull out a title, lord help us, that parade will be ridiculous (and who cares about the "can't win w/o Shaq" argument. I just want to win. Period). There's no possible way that I won't own at least one Shaq Cavaliers jersey.

But this can't (and shouldn't) be their final move. Anderson Varejao is in a tricky situation, because you normally like to have PF's who can knock down face-up jumpers next to O'Neal, which is not Anderson's forte. And they still need a big, athletic wing player to help out defensively (and be able to knock down open looks).

If nothing else, this is fun. Having Shaq here will be extremely interesting and hopefully mostly drama-free. He's gotta know he's near the end of the line and the fact that he's coming to a 66 win squad (with the reigning MVP) should keep him in check (I hope). While this is a panic move (at least in my opinion) it is pretty bold. Ferry is going for it, you gotta give him that.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


What to do?

And the offseason begins:

Multiple league sources indicated Tuesday that the Cavs are now mulling some offers to move up significantly from the 30th pick in the draft. Most involve largely economic deals that would require the Cavs to take on salary.

The Cavs' array of options could have changed somewhat Tuesday as the Milwaukee Bucks and Washington Wizards agreed to major trades expected to be completed today. The Cavs were believed to have been in talks with both.

The San Antonio Spurs acquired small forward Richard Jefferson from the Bucks for veterans Kurt Thomas, Fabricio Oberto and Bruce Bowen. It is a salary-dump deal for Milwaukee, not unlike the trade it made with the Cavs last season for Mo Williams. The Bucks then flipped Oberto to the Detroit Pistons for young forward Amir Johnson.

The Cavs had some discussions with the Bucks involving Jefferson in February but were not believed to be seriously looking at him this time around. However, the Bucks' moves could change some of the Cavs' strategy.

All three players the Bucks picked up in the trades have expiring contracts and it saves the team the $15 million Jefferson was owed for next season. Bowen's contract is partially guaranteed so the moves could save the Bucks around $5 million this season if they cut Bowen.

The trades, it seems, were aimed to free up money to re-sign restricted free agents Ramon Sessions and Charlie Villanueva. The Cavs are said to be targeting Villanueva, a young and talented power forward, as an option to get younger on their front line depth. It was believed that the Bucks might be willing to let Villaneuva go because of their deep salary commitments. Now those have been eased.

I never was a big Richard Jefferson fan and when I first saw the trade, I didn't immediately think of the Cavaliers. But Windhorst is right, this probably means that if the Cavs want Charlie Villaneuva (and I think he'd be a great fit), they'll probably have to bring more than just cap relief to the table.

I do like the idea of moving up in the draft, though it doesn't entirely make sense. Meaning, the Cavs need some dudes who can play RIGHT NOW. This is a veteran team that won 66 games last year. They expect to go deep in the playoffs. Rookies don't usually get a lot of run in the Conference Finals (and especially Mike Brown coached rookies). I'm all for the Cavs getting younger and bringing in some fresh legs.... I dunno, I guess I won't know how I feel about them moving up until I see who they take.

And let me take this opportunity to voice my opposition to Shaq. No thanks. I don't need a 37 year old center who ***news-fucking-flash*** can't guard Dwight Howard, who still demands the ball (you thought the offense was ugly NOW, wait til you see a night like this: LeIso-Shaq post-LeIso-Shaq post-Shaq post-LeIso. On the plus side, LeBron can get to stand around and watch Shaq, so he could get some extra rest) and who gets into verbal spats with Orlando's coach (you know, the guy who outcoached the Cavs). No thanks. Plus, he costs a shit load of money (he makes $21 million(!!!) next year).

Be it the draft, free agency or trades, Danny Ferry has got his work cut out for him.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

This is neither funny nor about sports

Not there's ever a great time to cut funding to libraries, but a recession is especially bad. Libraries help people find job, get educated and get entertainment (DVDs, books, CDs) for free.

Say you worked at Ford and you lost your job. You don't have a computer, you don't have internet access... what do you do? Hello libraries! They got some good stuff. (I work at the Brook Park branch of CCPL and I can tell you that our usage has gone way up since things took a turn for the worse economically).

You may not know this, but Ohio has ridiculously good libraries. Why? Ohio libraries get state funds, where most libraries around the US don't. So, for a big city, it doesn't make that much of a difference (but look at the top 2!), but for small towns? Woah. A city the size of Stow or Twinsburg, were it located in Indiana or Michigan, would not have nearly the same type of library (or library service).

Gov. Strickland is proposing cutting the state funds of libraries by 50%. Not good. Mike Stein (who you know from this blog) is covering this issue over at the blog The Library is Now Closed (or is it The Shuttered Library?). I highly suggest to go over there and read this post.

Please make a phone call.

* Call the Governor's office at 614-466-3555
* Call your local state representative
* Call your state senator

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Still Alive

Got home from Bonnaroo on Monday, worked Tuesday and Wendesday, saw Phish in Pittsburgh on Thursday and went to Chicago on Friday. Despite my best efforts, I'm still alive.

Saw my first Tribe game of the season on Saturday. Needless to say, I'm not regretting ignoring them. Also, this guy must make a lot of money if he can afford buying a half-Cubs, half-Indians Mark freaking DeRosa jersey.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Back from Bonnaroo

This was the first year ever where I didn't watch any NBA while at 'Roo. I got to completely ignore Orlando falling back to Earth and the Kobe love-fest. Ya... not exactly complaining. I would've gone nuts (now you miss free throws Dwight Howard?!). Ugh.

As for Bonnaroo... me gusta. I saw Phish play on Friday for the first time and I have to say, I was really impressed. They were really good and I had that lightbulb click on in my head and though "Oh, that's why people follow these guys around."

They also played Sunday night and, while they were still good, it just wasn't quite there. They really brought it on Friday night.

However, my favorite Bonnaroo discovery was Grace Potter and the Nocturns. They came out during a late night moe. set and were fantastic. I can't find video of that set, but here's a clip from their own 'Roo set:

Monday, June 08, 2009

This is a steep price?

If were actually a realistic scenario, the Cavaliers would be stupid not to do this:
At some point, Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo will likely catch on to Bosh's objective and try to trade him.

As many fans realize, he would be a perfect candidate for the Cavs' front court, which needs an overhaul. He could move in at power forward next to center Zydrunas Ilgauskas. During crunch time, Bosh can shift over and play the "5" spot.

But before anyone gets too excited about the possibility, it's going to be extremely difficult to pry Bosh loose from the Raptors. The Cavs don't have a ton of assets.

In the best-case scenario, the Cavs could deal forward/center Anderson Varejao (in a sign-and-trade), guard Delonte West and contract fodder for Bosh. The Raptors might even want a draft pick.

That's a very steep price for a player who could become a free agent after one season.
Steep price? Really? A power forward with limited offensive game, an undersized shooting guard, contract fodder (Ben Wallace? Boobie?) and a late round draft pick? All for Chris fucking Bosh? Yes, please.

The Cavs would have LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Mo Williams. At that point you just plug in role players. And if he gets paired up with Mr. James, I doubt Bosh is going anywhere.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Oh Goody

Good for the Browns, bad for Ben's mental health:
Cleveland Browns coach Eric Mangini isn't afraid of a quarterback controversy, and he's in no hurry to name a starter.

With next week's mandatory minicamp concluding the offseason workouts, Mangini is content to go through training camp and at least part of the exhibition season before choosing between Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson.

In all seriousness, this is probably a good move by Mangini. Neither Quinn or Anderson is Mangini's guy. Letting them learn the new offense and seeing how things end up isn't a bad plan. The thing is, once preseason ends, I think you have to trade the other guy.

If DA is your guy, by all means go for it. But you can't have Anderson start while Golden Boy Brady is holding a clipboard. I really don't want to go through another season of this bullshit.


Bill Simmons:

Q: What should I have done differently?
-- D. Ferry, Cleveland

SG: You mean other than trading Wally Szczerbiak's expiring contract in February when 20 teams were dying to save money and you had a chance to turn a zero into a crunch-time guy? Besides that?

You looked around at the playoff landscape, shrugged your shoulders and said, "Yeah, we're good," even though you didn't have a backup center or a true perimeter player with size other than LeBron. If you turned Wally into Antawn Jamison and Brendan Haywood, that could have worked. If you turned Wally, J.J. Hickson and a future No. 1 into Marcus Camby and an expiring deal, that could have worked. If you turned Wally into Richard Jefferson (whom the Bucks were trying to give away), that would have worked. If you turned Wally and Pavlovic into Shaq and Matt Barnes when Phoenix was desperately trying to shave money, that REALLY would have worked. By doing nothing, you basically said, "We can win with what we have." And you didn't. Note to Cavs fans: If you're looking for a place to direct your anger and dismay, start here. Your front office choked. Not only could Shaq have defended Dwight Howard without help, he could have out-Tweeted him after every game. You were robbed.

Would Shaq have been an upgrade over Z with regards to defending Howard? Of course. But would he have stopped him? I don't think so. Shaq had to resort to flopping while playing Orlando this season.

And Wally, JJ Hickson AND a first round pick for Camby? That's quite a bit. Sure, Camby would've been nice to have to defend Rashard Lewis (I mean, seriously) but it's not like he's getting in Dwight Howard's way either.

In hind sight, yes, Danny Ferry should've done something with Szczerbiak's deal. But at the same time, no one else did any deals at the deadline either. The Blazers ended up sitting of Raef Lafrentz's big expiring deal. Everyone expected teams to dump salary but no one wanted to be the next Chris Wallace.

Meh, at the end of the day, no one here is blameless. Mo Williams should've been more assertive, Mike Brown should've been more creative, Ferry should've pushed for more pieces and even LeBron should've done more. While everyone in the national media is staring at LBJ's eye popping stats, they've glossed over some the little things. Erik touched on this in the comments:

For all the strides he's made in his six NBA seasons (really, how much more can a guy grow during his late teens and early 20s?) this series proved that LeBron is still maturing. He's not totally there yet.

The post-series pout is the most visible example, but I also wonder about the standing and dribbling for large chunks of the fourth quarter in the first five games. Mike Brown didn't help matters with his minimalist offensive coaching, but the fact that LeBron's teammates were left standing around is as much on LBJ as anyone.

LeBron doesn't yet seem to totally understand that a leader doesn't always lug his team around on his back, compensating for their shortcomings, making everything all better. A leader needs to demand more from his teammates. If Mo's shots aren't falling, then he dang well better be busting his hump on D and at least trying to penetrate and get to the line on offense. Get in Z's ear, Andy's ear. Maybe they're athletically overmatched by Howard, but they can at least not get caught napping while Howard sneaks back door and flushes an alley-oop (That happened WAY too much in this series, BTW).

Word. The highlighted part was most apparent in Game 6 when the Cavs were attempting to mount their comeback. The Cavs had climbed within 10 by having Mo Williams and Delonte West dominate the ball; they got their own shots, they set up teammates and they made things easier on James. But once the Cavs got close, LeBron would take the ball and start initiating the offense, often ignoring Williams. This led to boatloads of Le-Iso and lots of drive-and-kick threes (and it looked to me like LeBron was driving simply to set up the kick-out. The Magic weren't buying it).

At the end of the day, this was still a really good team that suffered a tough exit. Sure there's blame to go around, but to me, this loss can be explained by a combination of little things rather than just one person or one decision.

(Let me take this opportunity voice my support for making this LeBron's Low Post Summer. It's time. He's a monster on the block and he could not only dominate now but extend his career. It's really a no-brainer).

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

LeBron's Handshake

For the most part, I don't care. I've avoided ESPN for the past few days, simply because I don't want to deal with the post-Game 6 shit just yet. I'm not completely out of the loop... I know that Varejao opted out, Big Ben has mulled retirement and in a surprise to no one, Z is picking up his $11 million option. But in order to keep my sanity, I've avoided most of the LeBron stories.

Will the loss force him out the door? He didn't speak to the media!? He didn't shake hand!?! Some of these stories are somewhat interesting, while others make me want to pull out my already thinning hair.

I think the most "interesting" (if not exactly newsworthy) story is the hand shaking brouhaha. Is it really a big deal? No. Was I disappointed and thought LeBron's actions reflected poorly on himself and the city? Ya. Did I think his explanation was lame? Also yes. Did I forget he's 24 years old? Nope.

Look, there's a couple ways to look at this. He's an article by Adrian "I wrote a 'LeBron's leaving' article after the first game of the year" Wojnarowski acting like a complete ass:

I’m a winner, King James proclaimed. So, there you go. That’s his reason for rushing out of the conference finals without so much as a nod to Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic. That’s his reason for marching to the bus and letting the Cleveland Cavaliers’ spare parts take care of his responsibilities in the interview room.

Funny, but James stayed on the court to make sure the Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks paid respect to him. As it turns out, there’s one thing allowed to happen at the end of a playoff series: Everyone bows down and kisses the King’s ring. Only, LeBron doesn’t have a ring. He’s never won a game in the NBA Finals.

So, yes, maybe they just have to kiss his feet.

“It’s not being a poor sport or anything like that,” James said.

No, nothing like that. Yes, James cares so much that it isn’t possible to be gracious and humbled.

You know me, he told the reporters in Cleveland on Sunday. I’m a competitor. “If somebody beats you up, you’re not going to congratulate them,” James said. “It doesn’t make sense for me to go over and shake somebody’s hand.”

Here’s the question: Who has the guts to tell him that he sounds like an immature, self-absorbed brat?

If you can wade through Adrian "LeBron is going to the Pistons!!!111!1!eleventy" Wojnarowski's smugness long enough, you'll eventually find that he actually makes a decent point. I mean, what Cavalier fan doesn't believe this:

The Cavaliers are terrified of James. When you’re around them, it’s sometimes embarrassing to watch the way they tip-toe and grovel with him. In their defense, that’s how James wants it. As a childhood prodigy, that’s all LeBron’s ever known. The Cavs are at his mercy until he becomes a free agent in July of 2010, and that isn’t going to change. There’s no chance that he signs an extension this summer, because that would be the end of the drama, the intrigue and LeBron James isn’t letting that go away.

Of course they're terrified of pissing off LBJ. James is basically the reason why there's a NBA team residing in downtown Cleveland. He's the reason Dan Gilbert bought the franchise. If he gets in a fight with Mike Brown, guess which one is walking out the door?

LeBron didn't call out his teammates, he didn't rip the coach or GM... he simply didn't shake the hands of the Magic players. Dick move? Yes. Does it make him a spoiled brat and a loser? Not so much.

Now, let's take the head of the Plain Dealer's Dennis Manoloff out of LeBron's behind and see what he has to say (in an article titled LeBron James did nothing wrong):
I have no problem with LeBron James' actions after the Cavaliers were eliminated by the Magic last Saturday night in Orlando, Fla.

Let me reword, so there is no gray area: I have absolutely no problem with James' actions.


I keep hearing that true leaders must be heard from in good times and bad, and that the leader of the Cavaliers let down his teammates by leaving them to explain away the series flame out. More nonsense. His teammates should be forced to explain it, for all the support they gave him. If I'm one of them, having stunk up the joint periodically in the series, I'm thankful LBJ did not speak.

Not only should LBJ not be hammered for keeping his mouth shut, he should be applauded for it. He demonstrated restraint and took the high road, when it would have been very tempting in the heat of the moment to take a swipe at the organization or his own players for not being championship-caliber. Even if he had not been inclined to do so, he must have known somebody in the pack was going to bait him into saying something negative. He was not going to let it happen.

A sore loser would have leaned into the microphone and whined about the referees, Howard's elbows and Stan Van Gundy's politicking. A sore loser would have leaned into the microphone and insisted the Cavaliers were the better team but did not show it, that the Magic was fortunate to move on, not necessarily deserving.

My thoughts? Um, he did something wrong. He didn't kill anyone or run afoul with the law, but at the very least he showed poor sportsmanship. I'm sure the Skip Baylesses of the world are piling on, but let's not act like there's no fire behind this wisp of smoke.

Finally, Bill Simmons takes an angle that I didn't see coming:

When you caused a controversy by storming off the court after Game 6 and refusing to attend your press conference, you did something even better: You brought us back to the days when "rivals" didn't hug each other like Red and Andy after every game, when NBA stars actually took losing personally and treated their peers like enemies instead of friends. I loved it. That was an old-school move. And as reader Brian Naftaly points out, you accomplished something even better: You made your teammates cover you in the postgame press conference, marking the first time all series they did something or helped you in any way. That was genius. Hold your head up high, LeBron James. You could not have done more with the possible exception of coaching the team … and really, that might not have been a bad idea

Old school rivalries? Hmm... I can see that. I highly doubt that this is the last time that the Magic and Cavs will face each other in the playoffs. I never mind some bad blood between teams. Then again, Simmons is the guy who rips Isiah Thomas constantly for not shaking the Bulls' hands when they finally lost.

At the end of the day, this isn't a huge deal. Could he have handled himself better? Of course. But he's still only 24. This is really the first real "bump" on his path to superstardom. He's not throwing the mother of his children out of his house, he's not on any 'stop snitching' videos, he's not getting caught with drugs. I'm not really sure how much more you can extrapolate from this incident other than "LeBron was pissed and he should know better."