I like Mike Brown. Contrary to what some of you may think, I like the Cavs. If the Lakers are No. 1 when you're handicapping title contenders, Cleveland is 1(a) and Boston is 1(b). Even if they don't make a trade by next Thursday, the Cavs have an excellent chance of winning Cleveland's first major pro sports championship since the Browns in 1964.
Some of you took it the wrong way when I criticized the Cavs -- and their owner, Dan Gilbert -- for constantly whining about officiating and the fact that Mo Williams was passed over twice for an All-Star spot. Politicking is one of the jobs of a coach. After the Lakers ended Cleveland's 23-game home winning streak Sunday, I wrote that LeBron and Gilbert should zip it when it comes to these topics and let their coach do the dirty work for them.
So I am pleased that Brown took my advice. After LeBron was called for a questionable foul on the Pacers' Danny Granger with two-tenths of a second left Tuesday night, Brown took direct aim at the official in question, Joey Crawford. Replays showed LeBron got his hand on the ball, but fouled Granger with his body. Granger made 1 of 2 from the foul line to seal a 96-95 victory, the Cavs' second straight loss. A foul you'd normally see called that late in the game, against one of the league's premier superstars? Nope. Which is why Brown did his job, ripped Crawford (though not by name), and decided to take one for the team (and his superstar) in the form of what undoubtedly will be a hefty fine.
"That last call on LeBron was the worst call I've ever been a part of," Brown said after the game. "I cannot imagine another worse call than that by that official. It was an awful call and for him to take away a basketball game from a team with (.2) seconds on the clock is irresponsible. That is an irresponsible call."
We can debate whether it was a foul or not, or whether Crawrford should've blown the whistle. But clearly, the most significant thing that comes out of this is that Brown and his superiors -- Gilbert and G.M. Danny Ferry -- have decided that the gloves are off when it comes to how LeBron is officiated. This is a good thing, because it's the coach's job to crtiticize the officials and the league, not the players' job or the owner's job. (Dan, there can only be one Mark Cuban.)
After the Lakers beat the Cavs Sunday, I asked Lamar Odom how much of an edge coach Phil Jackson gives L.A. by going to bat for his players and incessantly working the officials.
"It makes us want to work harder for him," Odom said. "When a coach has your back, you’ll always have his."
Some of you Cavs fans out there disagreed with what I wrote and ripped me six ways till All-Star Sunday about it. So if the Cavs rally around Brown's bolder approach to criticizing the officials, and if the Cavs get more calls against the Lakers than they otherwise would have, I don't expect any thank you notes. I'm good. But I'll be back to say, "You're welcome."