Tag:Cleveland Cavaliers
Posted on: April 12, 2009 6:23 pm
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Will someone smash the guitar over LeBron's head?

It's easy to draw kneejerk conclusions from a blowout over the defending champs in the final week of the regular season. I'm not going to do that. I will give the Cavaliers this: The path to the Larry O'Brien Trophy goes through Cleveland this year, plain and simple.

It's hard to say whether the Celtics are flat-out playing second fiddle to the Cavs now, especially since everyone knows the Celts aren't at full strength and probably won't be until the sometime in their second-round playoff series. Kevin Garnett is expected to chip the rust off in Boston's regular season finale against the Washington Wizards. Even after that, it'll take some time for the Celtics to find the rhythm and cohesiveness that led them to banner No. 17 last June.

I understand there was a reason the Cavs were dancing, strumming air guitars, and mugging for the ABC cameras during a 107-76 evisceration of the Celtics on Sunday afternoon. Not only were they proclaiming their superiority in the East, the Cavs also were celebrating the stranglehold they have on homecourt advantage in the NBA Finals if and when they get there. With their 65th victory of the season, Cleveland would have to lose both of its remaining games and the Lakers would have to win both of theirs for the Cavs to lose their grasp on home court. (If somehow all that happened, the Lakers would get the nod because they were 2-0 against Cleveland this season.) The way the Cavs play at home -- 39-1, for goodness sake -- it would be hard to imagine a more confident team going into a Game 7 against the Lakers in mid-June.

But ... and this is a significant caveat ... the Cavs are better than this. How can you be better than 39-1 at home? For one, you can show class -- not crass. You can show sportsmanship -- not gamesmanship. You can act like you're auditioning for a championship, not "Dancing With The Stars." I want to get LeBron, Mo Williams, and Delonte West in front of Bruno Tonioli for five minutes. They'd never pull stunts like this again.

The Cavs sure looked better than the Celtics on Sunday. A lot better. You can argue that LeBron can do whatever he wants on the bench during the fourth quarter of a blowout he'd so expertly orchestrated. He is the MVP in the league, hands down. His drive to the basket for a 3-point play -- dragging two defenders with him and getting fouled three times -- was awe-inspiring. So was the way he chased down a play from 60 feet and swatted Ray Allen's layup attempt away from the rim. He is an awesome talent at both ends of the floor, and there may very well be no one who can stop him and no team that can stop the Cavs.

But you don't show up the defending champs the way the Cavs did Sunday. You just don't. You celebrate when the season is over and when you are holding the gold-plated trophy on your home court. Not on the last Sunday of the regular season, in the midst of an eminently meaningless regular season game.

The Celtics will remember this. As to whether they're good enough to do anything about it, only time will tell. But I don't like it one bit. One of these days, somebody is going to take that air guitar and smash it over LeBron's head.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on: March 29, 2009 7:14 pm
 

Kobe: 'We can win anywhere'

ATLANTA -- The ship may have sailed Sunday on the Lakers' chances of securing homecourt advantage for a potential NBA Finals matchup with Cleveland. Just don't expect to find Kobe Bryant standing on the pier waving.

"We can win anywhere," Bryant said after shooting 7-for-19 from the field in the Lakers' 86-76 loss to the Hawks. "No question about it. I just feel like we’re a very good road team. Confidence, maturity, having seen the worst of the worst last year in Game 6 (against Boston) and then having to learn from that and then obviously the road success wthat we’ve been having this year. We’re fine playing on the road."

If they face LeBron James and the Cavs in the Finals, they better get used to it. Cleveland became the first team to 60 wins Sunday, and more importantly, opened a two-game lead on the Lakers for home court if the teams meet in the Finals. If they wind up tied, the Lakers own the tiebreaker by virtue of beating Cleveland twice.

After the Lakers shot 35 percent from the field in a team-wide meltdown Sunday -- the same day Cleveland was blowing out Dallas to extend its league-best home record to 35-1 -- Kobe was asked if the Lakers can catch Cleveland with only nine games left.

"Probably," he said. "They’ll have to give us a couple. But it’s fun. It’s a good challenge for us to see what happens."

The Lakers have won titles with homecourt advantage and without. But last year against Boston, they lost Game 4 of the Finals at home and thus had to go to Boston in Game 6 facing elimination. They were, of course, eliminated.

"Home court is important," Bryant said. "But in my years of experience, if you’re gonna be a champion, you should win on the road anyway. The better team is going to advance no matter where you play. It’s just the way it is."

Coach Phil Jackson has been trumpeting the importance of winning on the road all season, so he's not about to change his tune now.

"The fact that you can establish home court for as long as you possibly can in the playoffs is an added bonus," Jackson said, "but it’s not a determinant about whether you’re going to win or lose." Asked if a two-game deficit with nine to go is insurmountable, Jackson said, "We have no idea. Who knows what's going to happen with Cleveland? They're going to have to win, and we're certainly not going to win out. But we'll continue to put pressure on them."

As Bryant was shaking off the effects of a sore ankle -- it was fine, he said -- and an upset stomach that caused him to miss the morning film session, I asked him to assess the state of another race: the one between he and LeBron for MVP.

"I don’t even think about it. At all," he said. "It’s not something that crosses my mind. It didn’t cross my mind last year, either. I really, really, really, really, really want that championship. Really, really, really want it."

If they wind up playing Game 7 in Cleveland, a game like Sunday's is one they're really, really, really going to wish they could get back.

 

 

 

 

Posted on: March 16, 2009 11:50 am
 

Real Madness: Cavs, Lakers in race for home court

You know there is really something wrong with me when I'm more obsessed with the intriguing battle for playoff position in the Western Conference and the mad dash for playoff berths in the East than with my NCAA Tournament bracket. Truth be told, I don't even have an NCAA Tournament bracket. Who has time for that when a game-and-a-half separates Houston, Denver, New Orleans, Portland, and Utah for the third-through-seventh seeds in the West?

Who has time for the Alabama State-Morehead State play-in game when the Knicks actually have a chance to make the playoffs?  

I know, I know. The last two weeks of March are sacred ground in basketball for those who prefer the "amateur" variety. But if you want the whole truth, what really intrigues me more than all of this is what will transpire over the next two weeks between the Lakers and Cavaliers in the battle for the best record in the NBA.

As we sit here today, L.A. and Cleveland are dead-even with 16 games left (53-13). Should they meet in the NBA Finals, chances are home court will be decided between now and March 31. With a 98-93 victory over the Knicks Sunday, the Cavs embarked on a crucial two-week stretch in which they'll play eight of nine games at home, where they have the best record in the league at 29-1. The Lakers opened a three-game homestand Sunday with a 107-100 victory over Dallas. Starting Saturday at Chicago, the Lakers will play seven straight on the road over a 10-day period. After the Bulls, they'll visit Oklahoma City, Detroit, New Jersey, Atlanta, Charlotte, and Milwaukee. The Cavs are finished playing out West (until a potential Finals trip), having swept the Clippers, Suns, and Kings on their final long trip of the regular season.

What does it all mean? While the Lakers are packing their bags and heading East one more time, the Cavs need to do what they've been doing all season -- keep winning at home. This is especially true this week, when they host Orlando Tuesday, Portland Thursday, and Atlanta Saturday. If they wind up tied with the Lakers, L.A. holds the tiebreaker because they won both games with the Cavs.

To me, this is the real March Madness. It only got more interesting Sunday when the Lakers' Andrew Bynum guaranteed that he'll return from a knee injury sometime in April. (Click here for the story and video.) So while everyone else will be frothing over the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight in the last week of March, I'll be in Atlanta to see if the Lakers are running out of gas as they near the end of their seven-game road trip. And I'll have one eye on the Cavs, who will be putting a stamp on the month with Dallas and Detroit at home.

Call me crazy, but I'll take NBA March Madness any day of the month.

 

 

 

 

Posted on: March 4, 2009 9:31 am
 

Cavs play catch-up

The Celtics and Magic improved themselves with deadline and post-deadline additions. Now the Cavs have done the same.

Veteran Joe Smith has agreed to return to Cleveland for the rest of the season, hoping to help LeBron James win a title. Smith's inside presence was sorely needed once Ben Wallace went down with a broken leg last week -- especially considering Boston's addition of Mikki Moore and Orlando's deadline trade for Rafer Alston.

Other news that has gone exactly as expected: Drew Gooden will sign with the Spurs and Luther Head with the Heat.

If anyone cares to rank these contenders' trade deadline/waiver deadline moves, have at it. You'd have to start with Alston and go from there, but it's an interesting debate as to which team after Orlando has helped itself the most.

Another interesting debate: Breakin Down the Game makes a reasonable argument for why a rookie should win the most improved player award this season. Look at Russell Westbrook's month-to-month numbers:

* November: 12.2 points; 4.1 assists; 3.3 rebounds

* December: 15.5 points; 5.1 assists; 5.1 rebounds

* January: 16.5 points; 5.5 assists; 4.9 rebounds

* February: 20.4 points 5.9 assists; 6.1 rebounds

Not bad. I'll buy it, D-Miz.

 

 

Posted on: February 27, 2009 9:49 am
 

What do the Cavs do without Big Ben?

With the news that the Cavaliers have lost Ben Wallace for 4-6 weeks with a broken leg, the obvious questions are:

1) Where do the Cavs turn for inside help down the stretch?

2) Do the Celtics (who signed Mikki Moore) and Magic (who traded for Rafer Alston at the deadline) now have the inside track on a 1-2 battle for homecourt advantage in the East?

As for question No. 1, you had better believe that Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti will be hearing from Cavs GM Danny Ferry -- if he hasn't already. Presti has a former piece of Cavs property, power forward Joe Smith, who many predicted would be traded or released by now. So far, Presti has held onto Smith and his $4.8 million expiring contract. Smith would have to be bought out and waived by Sunday in order to be eligible for the Cavs' playoff roster.

There's no trading for Smith now, but there are such things as favors in the NBA. If Presti releases Smith, he might find a little IOU from Ferry in his mailbox. Stay tuned.

Another option is Drew Gooden, another former Cav who is expected to be bought out by Sacramento. Gooden just returned from a month-long absence due to a groin injury, but was effective Wednesday night with 12 points and 13 rebounds in 26 minutes against Charlotte.

As for question No. 2, we'll have to wait and see how the Cavs fill the void. But as of now, the answer is a resounding yes.

 

 

 

 

Posted on: February 11, 2009 12:05 pm
 

Mike Brown listened to me

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."

 

Posted on: February 10, 2009 5:42 pm
 

Is LeBron happy now?

See, it all works out in the end.

Chris Bosh gets hurt, and Mo Williams finally gets named as an All-Star reserve.

I'm waiting for the email from Cavs owner Dan Gilbert. Something pithy, like, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice ..." etc.

The truth is, little Mo is having too big a season to pass him over three times for an All-Star spot. It took the misfortunes of Jameer Nelson and Bosh, but the two guys you could argue are the most deserving guards in the East -- Williams and Ray Allen -- will be going to Phoenix.

I'm happy because Mo deserves it, but mostly because the Cavs won't be whining anymore.

 

Category: NBA
Posted on: February 4, 2009 7:42 pm
 

LeBron: One All-Star is 'smack in the face'

NEW YORK -- An hour before taking the floor where Kobe Bryant scored an arena-record 61 points two nights ago, LeBron James had a lot on his mind. One topic about which he did not mince words: The Cavs getting slighted with only one All-Star in voting by fans and coaches.

"That’s totally disrespectful to give us one All Star," James said in the Madison Square Garden interview room before Cleveland played the Knicks Wednesday night. "... You look at all the teams with some of the best records in this league. You look at the Lakers, they have two All Stars. Orlando, two All Stars. Boston, two All Stars. San Antonio, two All Stars. These are all the good teams in the league that have really good records. And then you look at us -- one All Star. So it’s a total smack in the face."

The Cav who was snubbed, Mo Williams, probably will be selected by commissioner David Stern to replace injured guard Jameer Nelson of Orlando. If Stern wasn't leaning toward selecting Williams over Boston's Ray Allen for Nelson's spot, he probably is now. LeBron knows what newspapers (and websites) the commissioner reads.

Cavs coach Mike Brown said he wouldn't ask his fellow coaches whether they voted for Williams; they wouldn't tell him the truth, anyway.

"Guys are gonna say, 'Yeah, I voted for your guy,' but you really don’t know," Brown said. "I'll never find out. I just know that our team should have been more represented, in my opinion. And that’s not to say this person should have been off and that person should have been off. We should have had at least another guy on that team from the beginning."

 
 
 
 
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