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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

LeBron Comes Up Empty as Celtics Obliterate Cavaliers in Cleveland

Ray Allen scored 25 points to pace six Celtics in double figures as the Boston Celtics dealt the Cleveland Cavaliers their worst home playoff loss in franchise history, 120-88. A stunned sellout crowd of 20,562 fans booed two-time regular season MVP LeBron James and the other Cavaliers and then left en masse long before the final buzzer of what has to be considered one of the most stunning collapses by a top seeded team in NBA playoff history, a debacle topped perhaps only by Dallas' loss to the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the 2007 playoffs. Granted, this series is not over yet and James may very well lead the Cavs to the two straight wins they need in order to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals but even if that happens it is still unbelievable that the team with the best regular season record in the league for the past two years--a team that has been all but unbeatable at home--has suffered two blowout losses in Cleveland in the past eight days.

Prior to this game much was made of how important it would be for the Cavaliers to contain All-Star guard Rajon Rondo, who erupted for 29 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists in Boston's 97-87 game four win over Cleveland on Sunday. The Cavs won that battle to some extent--limiting Rondo to no points, three assists and one rebound in the first half, though he scored 12 points in the third quarter--but lost the larger war as Boston's Hall of Fame "Big Three" had their best collective performance of the series: in addition to Allen's output, Paul Pierce had 21 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, while Kevin Garnett added 18 points and six rebounds. Starting center Kendrick Perkins contributed 10 points and seven rebounds, while key reserve big man Glen Davis produced 15 points and four rebounds.

The Celtics outshot the Cavs .550-.412, outscored them 44-30 in the paint and outrebounded them 41-31. Shaquille O'Neal led Cleveland with 21 points on 7-11 field goal shooting, Anthony Parker scored 14 points on 5-9 field goal shooting and Anderson Varejao scored five points with a team-high eight rebounds--but they were the only Cavs who played at or above expected levels and the only ones who displayed any energy. Zydrunas Ilgauskas had five points and three rebounds in a 14 minute cameo, which is about as much as could be reasonably expected after he had been mothballed recently.

There is no way around the fact that the number one story emerging from this game--with all due respect to the excellent effort by the 2008 NBA Champion Celtics, a team that clearly has a lot of pride and determination--is the lethargic performance authored by James: not only were his numbers subpar--15 points on 3-14 field goal shooting, seven assists, six rebounds--but he had very little real impact on the overall course of the game at either end of the court; for most of the night he looked like about the seventh best player in the game. James--who owns the third highest regular season scoring average in NBA/ABA history and the third highest playoff scoring average in NBA/ABA history--did not make a single field goal until the 6:15 mark of the third quarter. James' mysterious elbow ailment has been the subject of seemingly endless speculation but--as I wrote last Friday--I really do not want to hear any more about that: TNT's Kenny Smith righly noted that if James had not dramatically shot a late game free throw left handed versus the Bulls then no one would even suspect that James is injured; James shows no signs of being physically limited and just two games ago he produced a stat line of 38 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in a 124-95 Cleveland win at Boston, scoring a team playoff record 21 first quarter points to set the tone right from the start. Unfortunately for the Cavs, James also set the tone in game five--but this time the tone was one of indifference. James did not attack the hoop, spending most of the game loitering aimlessly behind the three point line. Kobe Bryant was once senselessly criticized for supposedly quitting in a playoff game during which he scored 23 first half points before scoring just one point in the second half but there is a valid explanation for that dichotomy: the Lakers were getting blown out despite Bryant's early productivity, so Coach Phil Jackson decided during halftime that the Lakers should use their "inside man" strategy to attempt to slow the game down. Bryant followed Jackson's instructions and attempted to feed his big men but the game soon got out of hand.

James' performance on Tuesday was not part of some game plan made by Coach Mike Brown; it is vividly apparent that to beat the Celtics the Cavs need to be very aggressive at both ends of the court and James must be the leader in that regard. He failed miserably. After the game, James displayed the same nonchalant attitude that he had after Cleveland's blowout loss in game two of this series, which ironically was the night that he officially received the 2010 MVP trophy. James admitted that the fans had every right to boo as the Celtics pulled away in game five but he also acted as if his bad performance is no big deal because he has rarely had an off night during his seven year career. It is true that James has been remarkably consistent and productive but that does not excuse his lack of intensity while pursuing what should be his ultimate quest: the drive to win a championship. An off night in the fourth game of five nights during the dog days of the regular season is one thing, but James stunk up the joint in a pivotal game five on his own homecourt.

We have already seen several momentum swings in this series as the teams have traded blowouts and proven that they can win on the road. Though history shows that the game five winner of a 2-2 series is the overwhelming favorite to advance, it certainly is not beyond the realm of possibility that James and the Cavs will awake from their self-induced comas, play up to the high standard that they set throughout this season and beat the Celtics two times--but James has seemed so nonchalant during this series (except for game three) that at this point it is difficult to believe that he and the Cavs really have the necessary mental fortitude to beat a proud, championship-level team in an elimination game.

I do not believe in making too much out of one game; James' performance does not invalidate the MVP awards that he earned with consistently outstanding efforts over the course of two regular seasons, but it does show once again why it is so necessary to be judicious about throwing around the title "greatest player ever." Not too long ago, I read and heard some discussions about whether James should already be considered a candidate for that mythical title. In my Pantheon series I made the important point that it is difficult, if not impossible, to select one player as the absolute greatest--but even if it were possible to do so it should be noted that James' accomplishments, while quite impressive, do not yet exceed the individual and/or collective feats of Pantheon members Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Earvin Johnson, Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West and Julius Erving.

James' current concern is not so much his place in history but rather making sure that the Celtics do not turn the Cavs' current season into history. Even though the Cavs got blown out in game five they did establish some positive things that they can build on in game six: O'Neal showed that he can still score in the post and get opposing big men in foul trouble, while Parker demonstrated that he can play solid perimeter defense and also hit timely jumpers to loosen up Boston's defense. Antawn Jamison (nine points, six rebounds) is most effective versus Garnett when he is on the move and the Cavs should make a conscious effort to get Jamison more involved in the offense. The Cavs led 29-21 early in the second quarter before the Celtics used a 16-0 run to take control of the game, a pattern that is eerily reminiscent of how the Cavs built early leads versus Orlando in the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals only to fall apart later. The Cavs have the necessary personnel to match up with the Celtics and the Cavs have proven that they are capable of playing excellent defense while also being efficient offensively, so game six must consist of 48 minutes of focused energy. This series will not be decided by James' elbow but rather by his mind, heart and spirit, because he and the Cavs possess the necessary physical tools to get the job done.

*****************************
Notes From Courtside:

Zydrunas Ilgauskas is a two-time All-Star who was the starting center for Cleveland's 66-16 team in 2008-09 and who was a major part of Cleveland's rotation this season both before and after being forced to go on hiatus for 30 days as part of the Antawn Jamison trade. However, he only made cameo appearances versus Chicago in the first round and he had played just five minutes versus Boston prior to game five. During Coach Brown's pregame standup, I asked him, "I know that you have a minutes sheet that you always go by in terms of your rotation. Was it part of your plan coming into this series that Ilgauskas would really have such a reduced role--or no role--or is that something that has developed as a result of how each game has gone?"

Coach Brown replied, "Yeah, I keep a minutes sheet on a card in my breast pocket. It's like a rough draft, something to go by--like a game plan. When you have a game plan it helps you to prepare for the game. The minutes sheet, although I have it, I don't know if there has been one time in my entire career that I have followed it to the 't.' If you looked at my minutes sheet from the last game you would say, 'That doesn't match what you did.' So, again, it's just a tool to help me think and help me prepare for the game but very seldom if at any time at all have I followed it person by person or minute by minute. I just kind of go by the flow of the game; I threw J.J. (Hickson) in a couple games ago and he played well so I went with him but it wasn't (written) anywhere going into the game that I had Z sitting and J.J. playing. I play who I think can help us out."

***

Boston Coach Doc Rivers received his nickname--his given first name is actually Glenn--because he was such a huge Julius "Dr. J" Erving fan as a kid, so near the end of Rivers' pregame standup I asked him, "Doc, today is the 30th anniversary of Dr. J's famous baseline move. Since you are named after him and rooted for him as a kid, what do you remember about that play and what are the most 'iconic' plays--that is the term SportsCenter used today--that you remember from your career either as a player or as a coach?"

Rivers answered, "That's a good question. I think that as a coach, probably P.J. Brown's jump shot (that helped Boston win game seven of the 2008 Eastern Conference semifinals versus Cleveland)--since we're in Cleveland (laughs). But I do remember the (Erving) play. I was sitting there watching the game--I'm assuming that it was probably tape delayed since most of the games back then were. It was just an amazing play. It was great TV today because they showed all the different angles of it. You appreciate it more now watching the angles than you did then. As a player, I don't know--hell, any play that Dominique (Wilkins) made. He was the Human Highlight Machine: the dunk that he made on Bob Lanier in the playoffs was the best play I've ever seen."

Although the Hawks did lose 3-2 to the Bucks in the first round of the 1984 playoffs, I am pretty sure that the Wilkins dunk over Lanier that Rivers is thinking of actually took place in a January 6, 1984 regular season game and can be seen near the end of his video:




Jim Chones, the 10 year NBA veteran who I spoke with at length during game five of the Cleveland-Chicago series, averaged 10.6 ppg and 6.9 rpg for the 1980 Lakers' championship team. He had an up close and personal view of Erving's baseline move; Chones told me that he shifted toward the baseline to deny a passing angle to Erving but Erving countered by simply hanging in the air until he floated to the other side of the hoop so that he could shoot a reverse layup. Chones said that this was "the best move I ever saw," which is a sentiment shared by many people--though some other ABA veterans (Chones began his professional career in the ABA) insist that during his ABA days Erving did several moves that were even more incredible.

***

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced the winners of the prestigious Curt Gowdy Media Awards that are annually presented to members of the electronic and print media. Cavs radio play by play announcer Joe Tait will receive this year's award for electronic media. Tait has been the voice of the Cavaliers for a total of 38 seasons. Prior to being hired by the Cavs he worked as a pre game host for the Indiana Pacers in the ABA. Tait also briefly served as an announcer for the New Jersey Nets (1981) and Chicago Bulls (1982) before rejoining the Cavs after George and Gordon Gund bought the team from the infamous Ted Stepien. Tait is the 21st winner of the Gowdy Award for members of the electronic media; Doug Collins received the honor in 2009 and previous winners include Hubie Brown, Marv Albert and Dick Stockton.

Jackie MacMullan will receive this year's award for members of the print media. She is the first female honoree. MacMullan wrote for the Boston Globe from 1982 until 2008 and she co-wrote the bestselling book When the Game was Ours with Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Previous Gowdy Award winners for print media include Pete Vecsey, David DuPree, Mark Heisler, Jack McCallum, Phil Jasner and Bob Ryan.

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posted by David Friedman @ 8:40 AM

22 comments

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22 Comments:

At Wednesday, May 12, 2010 10:51:00 AM, Anonymous JackF said...

David,
Do you buy the excuses that people like Chris Broussard are saying that Lebron doesn't have as much help as Kobe does with the Lakers, the celtics or the magics for that matter. I laugh at that because i was just waiting for people to make that excuse. Cleveland's collective cast is way better than that of the Lakers, Celtics. It's probably on par with that of the Magics only. So the notion of people saying that Lebron doesn't have enough help are fooling themselves.
I think there's just something else going on. But I still expect the cavs to come back and win the series though because the Celtics know that the Cavs is better than them and they also know that they are no match for the cavs at their best.

 
At Wednesday, May 12, 2010 2:40:00 PM, Anonymous JLK1 said...

The next game or two will be defining moments in James's career to date. If he bounces back and leads the Cavs to consecutive victories, his lackluster game 5 performance will go down as a mere historical footnote. Plenty of people have speculated about what might happen if the series ends early. It is sufficient to point out that many basketball fans in New York are openly cheering for the Celtics.

You've talked a lot about the Cavs supporting cast, and how deep and effective they have been in the regular season for two years. I agree with your assessments, but after watching the Cavs this year in the playoffs, I'm starting to feel like these guys are overrated. Varejao has disappeared. Anthony Parker isn't very good. Delonte West has been ineffective. Mo Williams has had one 20 point game against Boston, and two single digit scoring nights. Jamison has been good but not great.

From what I can see, James is the best player on either team, but the 2nd through 5th best players all play for the Celtics, now that Garnett is healthy and Ray Allen is playing well.

 
At Wednesday, May 12, 2010 3:05:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

JackF:

No, I don't buy that excuse--or any other excuse. The Cavs had the best regular season record in the NBA last year and then significantly upgraded their roster before once again posting the best regular season record in the NBA this year. LeBron has an outstanding group of players around him; the Cavs have so many good players that it is actually impossible to put all of them in the rotation. Only the Magic have comparable depth. The Lakers have a quality starting five but their bench is terrible, something that I have been saying for quite some time but that the national media has apparently only recently figured out.

I agree with you that something else is going on with the Cavs that has nothing to do with talent. There seems to be a disconnect between Coach Brown--who understands the gravity of the situation--and LeBron, who acts like nothing is wrong. Though the Cavs are certainly capable of winning this series, I think that the Cavs will probably lose in Boston on Thursday.

 
At Wednesday, May 12, 2010 3:38:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

JLK1:

I tend to be hesitant to call one game the "defining moment" in a player's career, particularly when the player in question will likely play for at least 10 more seasons, but there is no question that LeBron's reputation has taken a serious hit after game five; even his staunchest advocates cannot defend the way that he played--not just his subpar stats but, more importantly, his obvious lack of passion.

I still think that he would be nuts to go to New York to play for a bad team whose coach does not value defense--but I also think that it is nuts to spoil a golden opportunity to win this year's championship, so it is impossible to predict what LeBron might do or to figure out what he is thinking at the moment.

There is no denying that the Cavs have a deep team; one player--no matter how great--cannot lead a team to the best record in the NBA for two straight years: go down the line and you can find plenty of examples of all-time greats--including MJ and Kareem--who played on sub.-500 teams. I have heard many people say that if LeBron had Kobe's supporting cast then LeBron would go 80-2--and I hope that Tuesday's debacle put that kind of nonsensical thinking to rest permanently. Kobe carried Smush Parker and Kwame Brown to a playoff berth, while LeBron apparently cannot get out of the second round with Shaq, Jamison, Varejao, West, Williams, etc. The truth is that if Kobe had a team that was 10-12 players deep then he would be able to cut his minutes to 34-35 mpg and he would destroy people every single night in the fourth quarter; Kobe would likely have won 70-plus games with a team this deep.

Varejao bruised his knee in the Chicago series and has not quite been the same since that time, though he is still hustling and getting rebounds. He is an outstanding defensive player and a very good pick and roll player offensively.

Parker has filled his role well: knock down open three pointers and use length to be a good perimeter defender. He shot .414 from three point range in the regular season and has improved that number to .439 in the playoffs.

West has been inconsistent but he is a versatile player who started for the Cavs' 66 win team in 2009. He has had some well documented off court issues that periodically affect his play, so I am not sure what his mental state is at the moment (he has not spoken with the media since training camp).

Jamison has been underutilized during the playoffs but he is a proven All-Star level player in both the regular season and the postseason.

Mo Williams has unquestionably been a disappointing playoff performer the past two seasons.

After all of the talk about how much James "makes other players better" it is worth wondering why so many talented players do not raise their games in the postseason when playing alongside him. In contrast, look at how Gasol, Odom, Ariza and Shannon Brown were all at their best in the 2009 postseason while playing alongside Kobe. "Making players better" involves a lot more than just racking up gaudy assist numbers, particularly since assists are a semi-bogus stat anyway (due to their subjective nature, especially in recent years); LeBron had seven assists last night, which is more than Kobe averages, but no one in his right mind would suggest that LeBron did a good job of "making his teammates better" in that game. The truth is that the dominant ballhandler on a team that does not run a system like the Triangle Offense will get X amount of assists just because he is the player who consistently initiates the offense: Stephon Marbury racked up tons of assists despite being a selfish player who consistently "made his teammates worse" (to coin a phrase), as shown by the records of his teams before and after he arrived. In contrast to Marbury, Kidd has consistently "made his teammates better" but there has been a lot more to that than simply posting good assist totals.

 
At Wednesday, May 12, 2010 5:43:00 PM, Blogger Bhel Atlantic said...

Does Tim Duncan not qualify for your pantheon list after leading his team to 4 titles? What about Kobe Bryant, if he wins another title next month?

As for LeBron's best chance to win a championship, it seems to me that the best course of action is to join the Bulls, and then the Bulls could maybe trade Hinrich and/or Deng for another of the top FAs. That would be a killer team. Yes, I live in Chicago, but I am not a Bulls fan.

Antawn Jamison has never experienced any playoff success, aside from one win by the Wiz against the very young Bulls in 2005. Recall when Jamison was on Dallas in 2003-04. They were stacked with Nash/Finley/Nowitzki/Jamison/Walker, yet they lost in the first round to the inferior athleticism of Bibby/Christie/Miller/Divac/Stojakovic/injured Webber.

 
At Wednesday, May 12, 2010 10:15:00 PM, Anonymous Stephen said...

I too have encountered the ridiculous statements such as a LeBron led Lakers team "could go undefeated."

In reality this notion (that the Lakers would be some unstoppable force with LeBron because the Cavs are supposedly only a good team because of LeBron) should've been killed during the '08 playoffs.

Averages through the first four games against Boston:
LeBron
18.8 5/20 9 assists 6 Reb 6 TOs

The series was tied 2-2 with the average score being 85-82 Cleveland.

Kobe
26.8 10/22 6 assists 5 Reb 3 TOs

The Lakers trailed 3-1 with an average score of 96-92 Celtics.

LeBron went on to struggle virtually the entire series yet Cleveland took Boston the full 7 games. I fail to see how then he could have led the Lakers to victory when a more efficient Kobe was eliminated quicker and easier.

 
At Wednesday, May 12, 2010 11:18:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Stephen:

I made that exact point during that time frame. The 2008 version of LeBron James was a very poor perimeter shooter, so the Celtics defended him by going under all screens, conceding the outside shot while taking away his driving lanes and passing angles. That resulted in LeBron's low FG% and high turnover rate. In contrast, the Celtics guarded Kobe by crowding him at all times and daring any other player on his team to make a shot. LeBron has become a more proficient outside shooter but Tuesday night's debacle strongly suggests that he still does not completely understand or accept what he has to do/how he has to play to perform at a championship level on a consistent basis.

 
At Wednesday, May 12, 2010 11:31:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Bhel Atlantic:

My Pantheon series (written in several parts from 2006-2008) only includes retired players but in the concluding fifth part I discussed four active players who are most likely to be Pantheon-worthy by the time that they retire: Shaq, Duncan, Kobe and LeBron.

Why do you believe that the Bulls' roster you described would be any better than the current Cleveland roster? The Cavs have posted the best record in the NBA two years in a row.

Jamison owns career playoff averages of 18.5 ppg and 7.8 rpg, not far below his regular season averages of 19.8 ppg and 8.1 rpg (statistics tend to decline in the playoffs due to tougher competition and slower pace). He has been a consistent and effective playoff performer during most of his career.

 
At Thursday, May 13, 2010 1:03:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

MARCEL

the revisionist historianship going on here is comical only kenny smith and skipbayless thought the celtics would win this series i thought cavs in 5 and they still to me have a good chance of winning it.

but this lebron plays with nobody excuse cavs fans are makeing is comical now and makes no sense he had the deepest team in league this year and a very good won last year. some people say kobe quit in game 7 vs suns 06 but kobe had a severely undermanned team they won 45 games not 60 back to back and was not favored to win ring both years and have mvp in league both years.

plus kobe had to play great to have a chance vs anybody let alone suns lebron supporting cast is way better than that one come on chris broussard j a adande who have been makeing biggest excuses for lebron today.

everybody at beginning of last 2 postseason say the cavs going to win ring and king will fnally get ring and when it falls apart they say its lebron teamates fault not lebron.

also the disconnect between mike brown and lebron is intresting mike brown is too much of a fan of lebron than his coach to me.

he should go to chicago cleveland cant get any better if he loses this year they capped strap chicago got rose noah and another free agent if you bring lebron in you have a great team to me. ny got to get another coach to brin g lebron in dtoni not defensive oriented.

if he loses he leaves if he wins ring this year than he will have to stay because you cant walk out on a team just won a championship.

 
At Thursday, May 13, 2010 6:43:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

You are right that it is absurd to suggest that LeBron has a weak supporting cast.

If LeBron cannot win a ring with this Cleveland team then what makes you think that he can win a title in Chicago? The Bulls do not have a better roster than the Cavs.

 
At Thursday, May 13, 2010 7:34:00 AM, Anonymous Patrick said...

David,

I appreciate you being one of the few basketball commentators, maybe even the only one, who hasn't favourably compared LeBron's game 5performance to Kobe's in game 7 against the Suns in 2006. Certainly in Simmon's latest article he proports a littany of apparent failures on Kobe's part in the play-offs, and Adande calls Kobe's seconds half display even worse than LeBron's on Tuesday. Whilst I disgree with both entirely, highlighting poor shooting statistics does not in of itself denote a poor overall performance, it seems that both are missing the most important issue. As you rightly identify, in Game 7 Kobe was already down by a sizeable margin at halftime and subsequently asked to feed the ball inside, he however did not seem to "quit" on his team as LeBron did. Indeed, it seems no-one argues that even taking the Suns to 7 games, a much superior Suns team in fact, was an achievement in of itself. What seems most damning to me isn't that LeBron missed jumpers or even settled for them, its that he seemed entirely disengaged on either side of the ball all to often seeming to hide passively on the weakside, something you cannot attribute to an injured elbow or accuse Kobe of doing in the games highlighted. A physical ailment can certainly not be said to lead to mental disinterest.

I also agree that you cannot call his supporting cast "not good enough" when this same group of players has secured the league's best record for the past two seasons.

What seems most concerning to me was LeBron's manner post game. His comments of people being spoiled by his game, do not indicate to me a player that is overly concerned by the loss and his own performance. Indeed, after their earlier loss in Cleveland, LeBron demonstrated a similar lack of urgency or sense of the gravity of the situation his Cavaliers team was in.

Do you feel that in terms of mentality, this is where LeBron needs to improve his game most? Though I do not think he is the most fundamentally sound or technically gifted player in the league, I believe Kobe owns this accolade, he is without doubt the most physically dominant at this point, particulary with Kobe's many injuries. Though LeBron can do with improving his jumpshot, developing a more sophisticated post game and better on and off the ball defence, it would seem he needs to appreciate that winning a championship requires the attitude of a champion, an all consuming desire to win, and this is something I don't know if LeBron has within him.

 
At Thursday, May 13, 2010 10:26:00 AM, Anonymous JackF said...

@David
I know you think Boston will close it out tonight but I think Cleveland will beat Boston tonight and push it to seven games. i think Boston fears Lebron and his ability to destroy them.
Writers changing their tunes: They are trying to say that Kobe is the best player because of Lebron's performance in game 5. My response to them is that it is stupid to change their mind just based on one game. Kobe doesn't have the physical prowess to be the best player in the world for 48 mns a game anymore. His skill set is still better than Lebron but overall Lebron is the best player in the world.

Writers Making excuses for Lebron: What do you make of writers making excuses for Lebron? Hollinger for example blamed the elbow, yet before the series started he picked the Cavs in 5(knowing that James had elbow issues in the previous series).
Chad Ford said Lebron shouldn't be criticized. Broussard said Lebron doesn't have a great supporting cast. Henry Abbot said that most of Lebron backlash is coming from the Legion of the Kobe/Lakers fans masquerading as Cleveland fans.

On Jerry West: Did you hear Jerry West proclamation that Kobe is the best post player in the game and Pau Gasol is the second best post player in the game?

On Mike Brown: this guy is set up to look as the fall guy. If they win then he is the guy that doesnt get credit but if he loses then he is the one that takes the blame. Great defensive coach but lacks offensive understanding of the game. Since Cleveland doesn't play in a system(flex offense, triangle...) it depends a lot on Lebron creating for others. One player dominating the ball makes it hard to implement an off. system.

 
At Thursday, May 13, 2010 11:18:00 AM, Blogger Codysseus said...

They don't have a better roster, though they surely have a better young core in Rose and Noah. Lebron to Chicago would only make sense if they were able to also land a shooter at SG and a center who could matchup with Dwight Howard...Noah's fantastic and all, but Dwight bullies him pretty easily.

 
At Thursday, May 13, 2010 11:58:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

MARCEL

derrick rose is way better than anybody on cleveland and noah very good as well add a good free agent b ecauswe they can get two with they cap space and lebron theres a pretty good team like the celts did two years ago add other role player pieces deng and heinrich is good as well. plus rose 21 noah 25 there very young and could be great for years to come.

I dont know cleveland cap space who they can add next year if they can add someone else could be diffrent but this is not a team bult to win rings jamisoN fina be 34 shaq 38 willams west is 27 a piece varejo young. but if youre lebron with this roster your a east semi east final team the last two years if they lose we dont know yet but what makes you think youll win the ring next year and years to come with this team if they dont upgrade? youre secod best player 34 4th best 38 willams has never delivered last 2 playoffs i like going to chicago better

 
At Thursday, May 13, 2010 3:27:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Chicago might work for Lebron because Rose has that killer instinct. He could be Kobe to Lebron's Shaq.

As for the negative backlash, it was bound to happen. Dude has been riding nothing but positive waves and his vaunted "skies the limits" potential since he was 17 years old. While he's put up otherworldly regular season stats, the fact remains he has yet to win a championship. He's all hype and potential. And now that the stage is set for him to step up and actually earn everything he has up to this point been handed on a silver platter, he stumbled, badly.

Seems reasonable that people would be frustrated.

 
At Thursday, May 13, 2010 4:01:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Patrick:

Simmons has repeatedly proven that he is extremely biased for Boston sports teams and against Kobe Bryant. He is an entertainer, not a sports analyst or an NBA analyst, so anything he says/writes has to be considered in that context; for that reason I will not even waste my time addressing his "analysis" of LeBron, Kobe or anything else about the NBA.

Adande is all over the map; sometimes he is right on target and sometimes he misses the mark completely.

You are right to note that it was a remarkable accomplishment for Kobe to push the Suns to seven games with Kwame and Smush as his running mates.

Game five is an aberration for LeBron, though the first warning signs regarding him and this team were detectable in the embarrassing game two loss. I really am not sure what to make of this in terms of LeBron's mentality. I don't want to fall into the trap of making too much about one game. After game two, I wrote James and the Cavs Need Less Talk, More Action and James responded with a huge game three--but since then he and the team have fallen flat. All that can be said now is that James and the Cavs need "less talk, more action" in the next two games.

I have repeatedly noted in the past year or so that Kobe's skill set is still equal to--if not superior to--LeBron's but that LeBron has surpassed Kobe as a regular season performer due to LeBron's physical dominance, superior health and the fact that LeBron significantly narrowed what was once a sizable skill set deficit with Kobe (specifically regarding midrange and free throw shooting plus defense). LeBron has worked very hard to improve so I don't think that he lacks passion for the game; that is what makes his game five dud even more inexplicable.

 
At Thursday, May 13, 2010 4:13:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

JackF:

I picked the Cavs to win the series so I certainly think that they are still capable of doing so but watching game five in person made a very bad impression on me. LeBron and many of his teammates look like they just don't care and if they didn't care at home in a must win game then how will they muster up the necessary effort to take down the Celtics in Boston? I know that the Celtics played poorly at home at times during this season but clearly the Celtics are a different team now than they were earlier in the season. The Cavs could win and I would not be shocked if they do but I cannot honestly say that I expect them to win; momentum does not generally transmit from game to game within a series--as we have already seen in this series, with the teams trading blowouts--but many of the people who are closest to the Cavs keep saying that there is just something wrong with LeBron (and they don't mean his elbow) and that whatever his problem is has affected the entire team.

If LeBron drops 50 tonight in a Cavs win then in my opinion it makes his lack of effort in game five even more shameful; the issue is not that LeBron had an off night but rather that he did not put forth much effort/resistance.

I have already made it quite clear what I think of "writers making excuses for LeBron." In the past I have also made it clear of what I think of many self-proclaimed basketball experts in general, so there is no need to repeat myself in that regard; their writing--and mine--speaks for itself.

I did not hear West's comments about Kobe and Gasol but would be interested to know exactly what he said and the context in which he said it. I respect West greatly but I don't think that Kobe and Gasol are the two best post players in the NBA, though you could make a case that Kobe is the best post player among the league's shooting guards.

I agree with you completely about Coach Brown. If the Cavs rally and eventually win the championship then LeBron will get the vast majority of the credit, with some bones being thrown to Ferry for putting together a team stacked with talent--but if the Cavs lose then Coach Brown will be pilloried by the media and fans before he is almost certainly fired by Dan Gilbert. I'm going to throw something out here as a "clip and save": if the Cavs fire Coach Brown I would not be surprised if he "goes Belichick" and wins a championship with another team as a head coach before the Cavs win a title. Brown started out as a defensive-minded assistant coach on a championship team much like Belichick did; Brown is not a media darling because he is considered boring/bland: the similarities to Belichick are obvious, though in fairness it must be noted that Brown does have a championship-caliber squad in Cleveland while Belichick never did--but it also should be noted that the Cavs' failure (if they do indeed fail) is much more because of a failure to execute than a schematic failure.

 
At Thursday, May 13, 2010 4:18:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Codysseus:

Adding LeBron to the Rose-Noah nucleus would not make the Bulls better than the Magic or Celtics. The Bulls would have to make other moves. Building a championship team requires a delicate mixture of talent and chemistry, plus some time for the players to mesh with the coaching staff. The Bulls don't even have a head coach at the moment. The Cavs have bent over backwards to build a championship team around LeBron and they have been good enough to post the best record in the league two years in a row yet they stand on the brink of elimination in the second round. Something does not add up there in terms of LeBron's ability to get the most out of his team in crucial situations and I am not at all convinced that he would singlehandedly make the Bulls a championship team.

 
At Thursday, May 13, 2010 4:24:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

Building a championship team is not just a matter of stacking together individual pieces. It would be a very risky move for LeBron to start over elsewhere after the Cavs have spent years building a team around him; he may discover that other franchises are less apt to cater to his every whim. The only max level player who left a team in a similar situation is Shaq when he went from Orlando to the Lakers but the big difference is that the Lakers are a franchise with a long track record of contending for titles, so Shaq knew that Jerry West would build a great team around him.

 
At Thursday, May 13, 2010 4:30:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Jordan:

LeBron is a better and more complete player than Rose, so I cannot envision LeBron going to Chicago with the idea of being the second fiddle. LeBron has been the primary ballhandler on his team throughout his career and Rose is not a great shooter so I am not even sure that pairing LeBron with Rose would work as great in practice as you and other commenters seem to think.

The championship recipe in the NBA is to have a defensive-minded team led by one superstar supported by another star or least several above average players backed up with a bench that includes role players who are able to be productive in key moments during playoff games. A team that spends a lot of money to bring in LeBron will not likely be able to put together all of the other parts immediately, so LeBron would be taking a step back with no guarantee that his new team would be able to make a step forward. If LeBron cannot win a championship while playing for a 66 win team and a 61 win team then there is something wrong with that picture.

 
At Thursday, May 13, 2010 6:41:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

David,

I don't think Rose and Lebron is a championship calibre squad. What I meant is Rose has the mental-makeup, that killer instinct that MJ, Kobe, and Bird had, that Lebron seems to have sometimes, but not consistently.

As for your point about Lebron needing the ball, this is why I'm not certain he is the best player. He's like Chris Paul. Awesome and involved in every aspect of the game, but completely dominates the ball at all times.

The Cavs have some great pieces that just need to have the ball more. While Antawn Jameson can hit spot up threes, that isn't his game. He's so much more diversified on offense.

 
At Thursday, May 13, 2010 7:43:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Jordan:

I am not sure that I agree that Rose has more of a "killer mentality" than LeBron. Rose has a very small sample size of playoff games and has not even taken his team out of the first round yet, while LeBron has had several epic playoff games (and series) and has led his team to the NBA Finals once.

This Boston-Cleveland series has been puzzling, even shocking, to watch but it is not over yet so I hesitate to draw definitive conclusions other than maintaining what I have been saying for days: the Cavs need less talk and more action from LeBron--forget about the elbow, forget about July 1 and concentrate on leading a championship-caliber team to a championship.

Your LeBron-Chris Paul comparison is intriguing and has a lot of validity; to some extent both James and Paul's statistics are padded because they monopolize the ball (and because assists are a semi-bogus stat).

I also agree with you that LeBron must find a way to better utilize his talented teammates.

 

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