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.
After a Cavs’ loss to the Washington Wizards DeShawn Stevenson said of LeBron James, “He’s overrated. And you can say I said that.” Apparently he and LeBron had been jawing on the court since the opening tip of the game. The Cavs had a chance to win, but LeBron missed a game-winning three pointer and the Cavs lost by two… in Washington… on the second night of a back to back after playing the previous night in New Jersey… After embarrassing Washington by beating them with a starting five of LeBron James, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Devin Brown, Damon Jones and Eric Snow in Cleveland after the big trade. I guess I might be salty too if my team couldn’t beat a team made up of also-rans and NBDL’ers the way the Cavs were on the night that they embarrassed the Wizards in Cleveland.
But I guess that would lead one to understand just how LeBron James isn’t overrated in any way shape or form. And certainly such criticisms ring hollow when they come spewing out of the mouth of a player like DeShawn Stevenson who never lived up to the hype like the target of his criticism.
Just like LeBron, Stevenson skipped out on college to enter the NBA. Unlike LeBron, Stevenson couldn’t get his career going between his off-the-court problems including charges of statutory rape for an incident allegedly involving a 14-year-old girl when he was 20, and his splintered ass from not being able to find his way off of an NBA bench, he is probably quite jealous of The King. Maybe it was the sweep that LeBron and company hung on the Wizards in last year’s playoffs?
Either way, despite the victory that the Wizards put up on the Cavs the other night, it is safe to say that DeShawn Stevenson is still LeBron’s bitch. And by the way, whenever someone says any variation of, “And you can quote me on that” after their quote, they even know they are full of shit.
Michael Redd nailed a long three-point shot to skip overtime last night in Milwaukee versus the Cavaliers. Normally, I wouldn’t be upset about a Cavaliers loss like that, because Michael Redd is just that good to be able to pull out a huge win on a last second shot. But today, I am upset about the game because Michael Redd’s shot isn’t the story for me. The story comes down to three names; Mike Callahan, Pat Fraher, and Brian Forte. Those were the officials for last night’s game in Milwaukee and they cost the Cavs a game.
The free throw differential for last night’s game was 37-14 in favor of the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks did a nice job of converting those opportunities on the night by hitting 32 out of 37. But last night the Cavs had a game come down to three points and the officiating was so one-sided (by TWENTY-THREE free throws) that they just couldn’t pull out the victory. That will put a sour taste in just about anyone’s mouth.
It is a long season, and one game doesn’t make it, but this one stings a bit.
Oh, and as for the refereeing crew of Mike Callahan, Pat Fraher, and Brian Forte, they are making quite a name for themselves. They are the same crew that ended up ejecting Kobe Bryant the other night with two technicals, and Kobe isn’t exactly known to be the Rasheed Wallace of the Western Conference. Mark Cuban has made this an issue for a while now, and he is right. The NBA needs to have some structure in place to deal with refs who are incapable of calling a decent NBA contest.
Not since Magic Johnson (yeah the guy who owns the movie theaters) did it in the 1987-88 NBA season, has anyone had two sets of back-to-back triple double nights in an NBA season. LeBron finished with 31 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists last night against the Indiana Pacers in a victory. On top of that, it was a road game after a home game in back-to-back nights of basketball. LeBron’s line in Houston the prior night was 26 points, 13 rebounds, and 11 assists. Unfortunately for the Cavs, the first of the two games was a sloppy, sloppy loss to Houston at home.
Regardless, I think it is safe to say who is the clubhouse leader for league MVP at this point. LeBron leads the league in scoring and has led the biggest group of also-rans the NBA has seen in a long time to relative greatness. The Cavs are holding on to the fifth playoff spot in the east despite a host of holdouts and injuries. Add to that some serious trade rumors and it hasn’t been an easy road for the defending Eastern Conference Champions.
Last night’s victory over the Pacers didn’t come without a price. Another Cleveland player went down with injury. This time Daniel Gibson had his legs chopped while Travis Diener was going for a loose ball in the third quarter. At the time, Gibson was 5-8 from the field (5-5 from three point land) with 15 points in only 19 minutes of work. The good news is that x-rays were negative, so hopefully Gibson won’t be out too long.
So, the Cavs are now in a position where the trade deadline has passed. No more help is coming. They will have to treat each player returning from injury like an acquisition as they try to find a cohesive, healthy team to finish their run to the playoffs to try and defend their Eastern Conference title. It won’t be easy. In fact, it won’t even be probable. But then again, it wasn’t probable last year when the Cavs went out and beat the Pistons either.
Was this what the Cavs thought they were getting when they committed about $13 million per season to Larry Hughes? If so, it doesn’t explain Larry Hughes’ inability to perform at least half as well as he did last night with consistency. In beating the Orlando Magic last night in Orlando, Hughes caught fire for 40 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals. He shot 12-19 from the field including 4-5 from three point range. He had Cavaliers color commentator (and resident homer*) Austin Carr using a falsetto on the television broadcast to draw his last name out for more than 5 seconds, kind of like “Heeeeyoooooooooooooooze!”
And Hughes’ performance was needed for the Cavs to beat the Orlando Magic 118 to 111. LeBron made his presence felt again in the fourth quarter by scoring eight straight points for the Cavs when they needed to at least trade baskets with Orlando. But the game isn’t really the story. The way it looked to the people who watch the Cavs night in and night out is the story.
This game looked totally different than most. Because Larry Hughes brought that level of unconscious scoring, LeBron was able to drive to the hole. Instead of having constant double teams, or in some cases having an entire team’s five defenders cheating toward LeBron’s side of the court, they had to play him with only single and double coverage. This enabled LeBron to use his best attribute, speed, around the corner and explode to the basket. It enabled those eight straight points in the fourth and very well could be the overall reason that the Cavs were able to beat the Magic last night.
Even more amazing is that this was the second night of a back to back – an away game after a home game no less. Don’t get me wrong here. It isn’t time to start printing tickets to the finals or anything. Hell, it isn’t even time to start those Larry Hughes trade rumors. It was just one night. Knowing the Cavs’ (and Larry Hughes’) luck so far, it probably won’t ever happen again. But still, it is nice to dream Cavs fans, isn’t it? Dream of a two headed, or even one and a half headed monster?
*Austin Carr may be a complete homer for the Cavs, but he knows it and he doesn’t hide it. It is a well known fact that he started welling up and crying when the Cavs got the number one pick in the draft to get LeBron James.
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.
Mike Brown’s offense is confusing, inconsistent, repetitive and doesn’t lead to as many high percentage shots as a good offense should.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So, when LeBron and the Cavs are playing horribly through three quarters and they appear to be on the brink of losing to the Toronto Raptors, just sit and enjoy it. If you taunt LeBron, he might just come back almost single-handedly and score 24 points in the fourth quarter to steal the game. It will be even more embarrassing for you if you happen to be Chris Bosh’s girlfriend. It must have been an awkward dinner later that night with Chris and his girlfriend.
This is the first podcast of 2008. There were three participants today. Wood from WKNR2, Antonio Castro and yours truly did about a half hour today on the Browns, Cavaliers and looking ahead to the BCS National Championship on Monday night between Ohio State and LSU down in Louisiana.
This is our last show before we go live next Saturday. That show will be available for streaming on the web and you can call in and contribute if the feeling strikes you. I will be sure to post more info on that later this week.
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.