Monday, May 28, 2007

With Apologies to ESPN Classic...

As a staunch Cleveland Cavaliers fan, I am happy to see that the Cavs have at least made a series of this Eastern Conference finals, winning game three by staving off a late Piston run, on the back of Lebron James, who hit some very tough shots down the stretch to gave the Q faithful something to cling to. It has become apparent that win or lose, this series, win on lose, will most dramatically effect how Lebron, above everyone else on either team, is remembered this off-season. I can't stand it, it just isn't fair. This kid is one of the top five players in the league, but that is never good enough for the media, and it never will be.

Now, I know the series isn't over, and that the Cavs should really be winning this series considering how badly the Piston backcourt is playing, but I present to you, in the first of a continuing Monday segment, the Top Five Reasons you can't blame Lebron James for losing to the Detroit Pistons.

5. The Dwayne Wade factor.
This guy kind of ruined for all young superstars. He was the leader of the Miami Heat team that won the Championship a year ago, and played remarkably. If you look back on the regular seasons Wade had last year and Lebron had this year, the results are remarkable.

Wade's line last year: 27.2 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 6.7 APG

Lebron this year: 27.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 6.0 APG

Pretty damn similar. So, what was the difference? Without a question, it was Shaquille O'Neal. Shaq during the regular season last year averaged about six more points as Wade's number two than Lebron's number two did, Larry Hughes. For those of you who will say that six points is pretty negligible, I would contend that number one it isn't, and number two, the two games that the Cavs have lost so far in the Eastern Conference finals? You guessed it, a combined 6 points. Also, last year in the playoffs, the Miami Heat only had one game--one game!-- where they scored less than 80 points, the Cavs this year have two in this series alone. The Shaq factor is even bigger when you consider how you have to account for him on every offensive series. The Cavs cannot claim that they have someone of a similar caliber.

In addition to Shaq, Wade led a group of players that were hungry. Antoine Walker, who was written off as a failure after not leading the Celtics to thier 17th world championship. Gary Payton, at one time the best point guard in the game, a player that had come so close to tasting the Larry O'Brien trophy at the height of his career in Seattle. Alonzo Mourning, the face of the Miami Heat, whose return to the NBA after his health issues meant only one thing: he wanted to win the big one. The Cavs have Donyell Marshall. Oh, and would you rather have Mike Brown, or Pat Riley leading your team? Thought so.

Lebron and Wade will always be measured together, along with Carmelo Anthony, since they were all taken within two picks of each other in 2003. Wade set the bar for for the other two, but taking a closer look as we just did will make you realize that Wade wasn't the one man wrecking machine he is sometimes made out to be.

4. The State of the NBA
This is not your father's NBA, or even your older brothers. There also is a transition currently happening in the NBA that puts a premium on athleticism more than ever before. It was back in the 80's if you would have a player like Magic Johnson, you would almost always be in the Finals, if not winning the Championship every year, because he was leaps and bounds ahead of anyone athletically in the game at that time. Now? There is no one player that can dominate a game like Magic, or MJ did, because there is just so much more athletic talent spread out across the league. For example, look at what the Warriors did to the Mavericks. How did they win that series? Better athletes. The talent pool is deeper now. The problem is that even though this is true, there are still those that look to Lebron or Kobe or whoever to be the next overarching mega-superstar. Kobe Bryant went for more than 50 a crazy number of times this year and not a single human being with a brain picked the Lakers over the Suns this year in the playoffs. The superstars in this league, and those that will follow will always be playing in the shadows of players who played during a time where having a big time center was the order of the day, and those teams that had a player with great athleticism could overcome a team that had a Ewing or a Hakeem. The league has changed, the legends still linger.

3. Mike Brown

This guy has no idea how to run a NBA squad. He is an exalted assistant coach who should no have the responsibility of coaching one of the greatest players of the day. Now I could get into all of his faults, which are many, but I would like to maybe just point out that all great superstars that have won Championships have been led by Hall of Fame coaches. Riley got magic and Wade thier rings, Phil Jackson got it done for Michael, Shaq, and Kobe. Red Auerbach was pulling all the strings for those great Celtic teams in the 80's. And Gregg Popovich, who has a better playoff winning percentange than any of the coaches I just mentioned, is on his way to leading Tim Duncan to his third ring. Charles Barkley never made it to the promised land. Why? You tell me... can you name the coach who led the Suns to the '93 finals? Paul Westphal. Now I can see the chicken and the egg argument, but lets just say that I'm pretty sure it is a no brainer the Cavs fans would feel a lot more comefortable with a Hall of Fame coach pacing the sidelines, rather than one who is as unproven as the players he is coaching.

2. His teammates

Jordan was the most talented player ever to grace an NBA floor, and everyone knows that he had Scottie Pippen that made that team legitimate. But you know who else Jordan had? He had other players on his teams who knew what their roles were. John Paxon hit the game winning shot to beat the Suns, Steve Kerr did the same things to drop the Jazz. These were two players who knew why they were on the team, and knew that when they were called upon, they were expected to execute. Too many Cavs think that they can just allow Lebron to take all of the blame, with the caveat that he gets all of the credit as well. Now, Jordan had a reputation of instilling fear into the hearts of his teammates if they didn't succeed for him. Lebron doesn't have that, but in no way should he be held responsible for Larry Hughes missing a six footer or Donny Marshall not nailing a wide open three. These players are older than him, and they are also professional basketball players that shouldn't need Lebron James' motivation to do something they are paid millions to do. There is nobody on this team that really plays with any type of consistency. The crew around Wade and MJ, as mentioned were far superior.
1. Cleveland
This city is so hungry for a title, so desperate for a taste of glory, yet so used to being dissapointed. It has been well documented, and re-hashed over and over again. Detriot is a familiar foe, and all things being equal, they tend to beat the Cavs. Cavs fans know this, and can become disheartened very quickly when ti comes to the support of the team. The Game five crowd for the Nets game was pathetic. Lebron is expected to not only raise this team, but also this city, all while dealing with an inferior team, coach and-- oh yeah-- the Pistons. Lebron has a lot fo growing up to do and his best years are still ahead of him, I just hope that some of the blame can be spread out among the peasants in King James' court.

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