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LeBron and Company Bring Gold Back to USA

I went to bed at 11:30 PM on Saturday night.  I woke up at 2:30 AM Sunday morning to watch the gold medal game between the United States and Spain.  I am quite happy that I made the effort.  I got to see the United States and LeBron James play one of the most entertaining games that I have ever watched.  The US led the game almost wire to wire, but the margin was constantly in jeopardy.  The US would go up by ten or twelve and then all of a sudden the talented Spanish team would tighten up on defense and bomb some threes and it would be back down to six points, and then four.  I think a couple times it even got down to two.

There was additional drama provided by a sketchy international referreeing crew.  The US got into foul trouble early.  After five minutes passed LeBron James and Kobe Bryant both had two fouls each.  Certainly this was not the preferred scenario for Mike krzyzewski and the US Olympic team.  That is where the depth of such a team comes into play.  When your first team gets in foul trouble and your team strategically has left Dwyane Wade on the bench to come in and overwhelm opponents with his tenacious attack of passing lanes, it is a bit of an advantage. But then the referreeing started to even out.  At the end of the game, I think both teams had a right to complain almost evenly about the foul situation and inconsistency.  Considering that Spain had to foul the US intentionally at the end of the game, the fouls were almost even as the US had 26 whistles blown against them, to Spain’s 29.

So, now the gold is back in US custody.  It felt great to see the US team celebrate on the court with an almost tearful Mike Krzyzewski clapping for his guys at center court.  You could tell that the players and coaching staff were full of different emotions.  Instead of just expecting to win, this team seemed not only happy and satisfied, but also relieved.  Relieved that their hard work playing in all the off-seasons of their hectic NBA lives for three years would actually pay off.  That it would not only make them more competitive, but put them over the top for the next four years.

As a Cavs fan, it isn’t like winning a championship, I don’t think.  But, it does show LeBron as a true leader amongst any group of basketball players.  He didn’t have the flashiest box score of anyone on the team.  He didn’t hold the ball all the time.  He didn’t take the biggest pressure shots, instead opting to help set teammates like Kobe and Dwyane Wade up.  What he did was play perfect team basketball.  He was defending the fast break, defending the weak side, driving to the basket to stop streaks, and looking for assists.  LeBron insists on playing basketball the right way at all times, even as it has led to criticism at times in Cleveland.

But now, his style and substance has helped Team USA bring the gold back.  It doesn’t feel like the gold is rightfully ours and has been stolen since 2000, like the original Dream Team would have had us believe.  This is a new era with very talented international teams vying for this gold every four years.  It feels like a great accomplishment, rather than just a rite of passage.  In the scheme of things, this is good for the game of basketball and good for the United States.  It is now the kind of accomplishment that seems worth getting up in the middle of the night to watch.

Why Give Mike Brown An Extension?

Yesterday, when I heard they gave Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Mike Brown an extension, I had nothing else to say but, “WHY???!?!?!!?”  And seriously, don’t assume that I am overstating things with the capital letters and all that additional punctuation.  If extending Romeo Crennel’s contract was a bad idea, then extending Mike Brown’s contract was the worst one ever.  You see, in football there are at least two coordinators that can help with the game planning.  And to Romeo Crennel’s credit he is very good about letting his coordinators coach without too much interference.

Mike Brown, on the other hand, is on record as saying that he wouldn’t hire any offensive coaching help after last season.  If anyone needed an offensive coordinator after last season, it was Mike Brown.  He didn’t want there to be any confusion on the team with too many voices making noise from the sidelines.  Seriously.  That’s what he said.  I would think that the Cavs would be better off with a little bit of confusion about who is talking rather than the widespread general confusion with which they run their offensive “sets” on a nightly basis.  But what do I know?

So, what were Danny Ferry and Dan Gilbert thinking?  None of this makes any sense to me.  The problems with the Cavaliers from a coaching standpoint have been well-known since Mike Brown got here and yet none of them have been addressed.

  1. Mike Brown’s offense is confusing, inconsistent, repetitive and doesn’t lead to as many high percentage shots as a good offense should.
  2. At the ends of quarters, halfs, games and on important inbounds plays the plan usually consists of getting LeBron the ball and watching him dribble and probably shoot a fade-away jumper.
  3. Mike Brown does not develop young talent.  Daniel Gibson had to force his way into the lineup.  And even still, Gibson has done nothing but perform and Mike Brown continues to start Larry Hughes and Sasha Pavlovic in front of him.
  4. Mike Brown’s player rotations are continually mind-boggling.  He can have guys start who disappear completely before the game is over.  Drew Gooden and Zydrunas Ilgauskas are usually the most likely candidates for disappearance.  But the weird thing is how Ira Newble or Damon Jones can show up and play for two weeks, not play too badly and then disappear completely for two months.  This also contributes to number three and specifically Shannon Brown who got some playing time, seemed to be getting comfortable and then had “DNP – Coach’s Decision” next to his name in the box score for two months without warning or explanation.
  5. The 3rd quarter has been, and continues to be a HUGE problem for the Cavs.  They come out flat, they give up leads, the fall further into deficit.  Whatever.  It has been ongoing for as long as Mike Brown has been in Cleveland.

Now, I can’t take anything away from Mike Brown’s commitment to defense, but these other things are real bona fide problems with Mike Brown as a coach that he hasn’t been able to rectify.  Maybe I overstate the negatives, but I can’t help but feel like this team would do better with someone who was a complete master of the game.  At this rate and with the numbered problems above, I still view Mike Brown as a defensive specialist who hasn’t figured out his weaknesses and how, as leader of the team in the East with arguably the most talented player in the NBA, to overcome those weaknesses.

Maybe this is a result of my fears that LeBron is going to leave this town and this team at the end of his contract if they don’t win a championship.  I feel like that fear is relatively tangible and it feels too real to be fake.  With those stakes in mind it confuses me to think that Danny Ferry and Dan Gilbert think that Mike Brown gives the Cavaliers their best chance to protect their market value by winning a championship and subsequently keeping LeBron here.

I sure hope they are right.

The Cleveland LeBrons Are Back

When I panic too early in an NBA season again next year, can someone please remind me that LeBron James is on the Cleveland Cavaliers? Also, it doesn’t hurt that 16 teams get the “honor” of playing in the NBA playoffs. And maybe my panic wasn’t totally unjustified. Sasha Pavlovic held out. Anderson Varejao held out and said he didn’t want to play in Cleveland anymore. Larry Hughes looked horrendous and then got hurt. Right after an impressive win where LeBron willed the Cavs to victory over the Boston Celtics, LeBron got hurt. The Cavs lost six in a row and I was starting to be convinced that the season was over.

That might have been a bit premature. Pavlovic came back. Varejao signed and said he wanted to put the past behind him. Larry Hughes got better, health-wise and talen-wise. Finally, LeBron came back from his finger injury. Since LeBron has come back from injury, the Cavs are 6-5 but they are getting better as they have one three out of the last four games including an impressive performance last night against a much improved Atlanta Hawks team.

The team is finally playing a bit of defense, although you wouldn’t know it from the score – 94 to 98 – in favor of the Cavs. The Hawks were bombing threes and making them at the end of the game, which accounted for the high score. Joe Johnson of the Hawks was 4-6 from three point land including two huge threes with very high difficulty at the end of the game.

The problem was that he was facing the most untradeable player in the NBA according to Bill Simmons. LeBron started slowly, but scored 36 points. He scored 32 points in the second half and 19 in the 4th quarter. Anderson Varejao played that crazy, energetic style off the bench and picked up 11 rebounds. Larry Hughes shut up his critics (myself included) for another night as he was 6-10 from the field. Slowly but surely, this team appears that they might be starting to play like they did last season.

And that is why I need someone to remind me about who LeBron James is next year when I panic early.

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