What you saw in the last two weeks helped us display what's real and what's not.
What was real was that the Boston Celtics have hopped into the Hot Tub Time Machine and look like the 2008 squad that made us all believers of what a collection of players who believe in each other can do. They had leaders, they had players who excelled in their roles, and embraced the concept of team.
What we saw in the 2010 Cleveland Cavaliers was that this team was put together in the interest of keeping LeBron happy. This team was put together to keep LeBron in Cleveland. This team was put together for all of the negative things that are associated with Cleveland. In a nutshell, this team was not built to win a championship.
I'm not sure what you expect someone to do when they receive the ball 30 feet away from the basket, with 9 people on the court in front of you and you are supposed to make this unbelievable play every time you touch the ball. That's absurd. Its absurd that he's even able to do that once in awhile, and because of that coach Mike Brown got it instilled in his head that he could do that whenever he wanted. We saw this last year, when Cleveland played Orlando and the offense was, "Get LeBron the ball, and everyone get out of the way."
Boston is a championship team for a reason, and after LeBron lit them up early in that 3rd game, Doc Rivers figured it out. Doc realized that no one on that court outside of LeBron could beat them off the dribble. Plus, with LeBron having the ball and having elbow issues there's no point in giving him the angle and going over the screen. Paul Pierce was leisurely going under screens and his only thought was to cut off the driving lane.
This is why you have to have more of an offense than, "Get player X the ball, everyone else get out of the way." Now LeBron's hurt and his already streaky jumper is now null and void due to the elbow. Boston smartly said, "Ok, he can't shoot the jumper. As long as I can keep him in front of me then he was to pass." Which is what he did, he'd pass. Some good passes, some not so good. With the inability to get past the defender, thus drawing in the defense, you are unable to create any type of advantage for your teammates...and we've seen how his teammates perform under these type of situations.
I give Maurice Williams credit, he actually looked like Mo in the first half last night by putting up a 20 spot. Second half? Shot 1-8 from the field for two points. Hello Month Williams, glad to have you back. Don't take anything away from Shaq, I actually think he played quite well, however he should have never been selected for this team. Cleveland's biggest weakness was their inability to stop the pick and roll in the 2009 NBA Playoffs. Orlando torched them with that play. So you're telling me that you go out and get the WORST pick & roll defender you can find? Like...didn't Cleveland watch the same Shaq we saw in recent memory. He was struggling to guard the P&R in L.A. and Miami. Then he goes to Phoenix and gives up one of the more memorable plays in history...
That's right, Shaq actually stopped moving...didn't even attempt to give help on the Tim Duncan 3-point attempt...and you expected him to be able to help out on Kevin Garnett? Rasheed Wallace? WTF...you didn't even get a chance to have him help you against Dwight Howard. That's Epic General Manager (Danny Ferry) Fail #1.
Epic General Manager (Danny Ferry) Fail #2. Antawn Jamison. Now, this partially falls on the responsibility of the coach, but how do you explain bringing in a guy who was getting 20 & 10 by dominating the ball in D.C and leaving the Wizards in an anemic position to win on a nightly basis. So fine, you bring him on to Cleveland to be a piece, but why does that just kill all of the opportunity that a budding star (in my opinion) in J.J. Hickson? Let it be known that if I were the coach of Cleveland (filling out my application on Monster.com right now) that I would only feel comfortable in crunch time of putting in a lineup of Mo, Delonte, LeBron, Hickson, and Sideshow Bob. Why? Because that gives me the best opportunity defensively and we can leverage our true athleticism again an old Boston team. Antawn Jamison's role should've been the same role he had in Dallas and become the 6th man of the team. That way, he could be the scoring punch that Cleveland desperately needed when LeBron was on the bench.
Epic General Manager (Danny Ferry) Fail #3. (Yes, I'm saying Danny Ferry's name as much as possible, this is as much his fault as anyone else's.) You know how a swiss army knife has a tool that can do everything? You know, its a screwdriver, it has scissors, it has tweezers, a bottle opener, a corkscrew, and one or two blades. LeBron is the ultimate Swiss army knife. He can literally do anything on the court pretty well at the very least. However, have you ever actually USED a corkscrew on a Swiss army knife? Yes, it works and it can get the job done, but your hands feel all bombed out and depleted after a while. Sometimes, if you get the good wine like me, the corks are a little older and that funky Swiss army knife corkscrew simply isn't going to work. For Cleveland, there's no reason why they shouldn't have had at least one person who could actually just be a point guard and have ball distribution qualities as an asset. Let the record show that Boobie Gibson, Delonte West, and Month Williams aren't PG's. They just have PG bodies. I actually told someone a couple days ago that Sebastian Telfair should play. I got immediately laughed at. Hell, he's the quickest guard on the team and he's probably the second best passer on the team. Yeah, he can't shoot worth a damn and might start staring at cheerleaders once or twice, but he would've been better off on the court than some of the guard rotations Mike Brown used.
If you're going to crucify LeBron, then I need you to do it for the right reasons. Not because he "quit" on his team. He didn't quit on his team, however, I think he realized that with the limitations he had physically (elbow) and the limitations of his actual team (no second option) and his coaching staff (horrible rotations, misuse of personnel) that he did realize that he was handcuffed. I'm not sure what else he was supposed to do.
So here's the alley-oop I throw to you the basketball fan if you want to crucify the man. Crucify the man for not being a jerk, an asshole, or insensitive to another man's thoughts. LeBron, for everything he's done in his career, as a person...dude just seems like a cool dude. Look at how his teammates revere him, they joke around, they dance at unnecessary times of the game, the take fake photographs, and when things are rolling its all smiles for the Cavaliers. However, when you win 66 games in the regular season, when you lose a game or two and your star player doesn't seem all that affected by it, that permeates into the the rest of the team as well. Its not necessarily LeBron's fault, because his mindset is that he's not going to let one loss get him down. He's going to play better and keep it moving. This is the time I'm going to compare him to MJ and Kobe, the only time. If Mike or Kobe lose a game, they're pissed, breaking backboards, and either not saying a word or they're saying a lot of words that are 4 letters long.
You know what that does to their teammates? It puts the fear of God in them, and it makes them feel like they HAVE TO play better for them to win. Just for the fact that they are terrified of what could happen if they lose again. LeBron's biggest equivalent isn't to MJ or Kobe or anyone else, in my opinion he compares most to Tony Dungy. Someone who in my personal opinion, was one of the nicest and calmest coaches I've ever seen in NFL history, only won one championship with arguably one of the 5 greatest quarterbacks of all-time at the helm. LeBron is in that similar situation, he's too nice. He's not going into the locker room and tearing into the soul of Mo Williams. He's not going to berate Antawn Jamison about getting yammed on by Tony Allen. He's not going to take shots at any players in the press, he's just going to sit there and be quiet. He's only able to lead by example at this point.
So when his "example" wasn't at 100%, that wasn't a good look for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
LeBron, you can only move forward from this. The things you have done in your first seven seasons have placed you in an orbit that no one, and I mean no one has "witnessed" in our lifetime. You were the prodigy, the golden child, and we crowned you because of it. I will contend that you deserve all of the adulation and success that you have attained thus far in your career. You didn't ask for it, you didn't clamor for it, but you've accepted it and understood that financially there are other goals you could have instead of blowing it on "making it rain" in the club and the like. You have a goal to be a billionaire, that's hella dope and I want you to achieve that. However, we all must realize that it was us that crowned you to be "King James" and it was us that bought into Bron Bron, the MVPuppets, and the megastar you become.
What I witnessed after game 5 was as simple as crabs in a barrel. Folks were ready, no...they were just looking for a reason to tear you down. These people came strong with it too, the Cavaliers fan base turned on you quicker than folks pulling illegal U-Turns when they're late for work. Folks were already saying where you would go next and the damn series wasn't even over yet. In the press conference last night, I don't think I heard one question about the actual game itself. It was all elbow and the future.
Its a sad day, when a man averages 27/9/7 for a series and folks say that you "quit". That's how you know you've set the bar so high that you're performance is something that any player in the world would dream of, was underwhelming for the standards set by you. LeBron James is one of the two best players of this generation, and he's still got a ways to go. The man is 25 years old, and hasn't played with a true basketball mind for a coach, and hasn't had a player that LeBron respects as someone close to equal. (Realize that Bron's only played with 2 of the iffy-est all-stars in history with Big Z ('03 & '05 all-star) and Month Williams ('09). LeBron deserves a new nickname, "Miracle Worker" because I just don't see how he's realistically supposed to win a title in a time where there are just simply better all-around players in this league. It can't happen.
Kevin Garnett might've said it best when referring to what's next for LeBron. He said, "Loyalty is something that hurts you at times because you can't get youth back." KG's the spitting image of comparison for LeBron, he carried inept teams in Minnesota for a decade, with inept coaching and sub par teammates. He watched as his contemporary Tim Duncan played with superior coaching and awesome talent to win 4 titles. Everyone's biggest argument was, "What if you put KG on the Spurs-like team, how many titles do they win?" A lot, they win a lot. Yet, KG wasted his prime on teams that weren't worth a damn. Listen to Garnett, because I think the reason he acts so psycho now is that he realized that Boston was his saving grace. LeBron's got to seize this opportunity and go to an organization that is smart and already has pieces that he BELIEVES in, otherwise it won't work.
Where will he sign? I don't know, and I don't care. I'm a basketball fan, and I've got some more playoff basketball to watch. So do you, and so does LeBron.
P.S. If you missed our live show, you can download our weekly podcast of "Unsportsmanlike Conduct" on the ETSF Radio Network, as we are live Wednesday's at 9pm Eastern at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/edthesportsfan!