I am starting this at the beginning of the fourth quarter of the Cavaliers and Celtics game, around 9:45 PM. The one thing on my mind is that “Sons of Anarchy” is about to start. At first I wasn’t sold on the show, I thought that a show about a motorcycle club wouldn’t really tickle my fancy. But it is much more than that; it has a strong Hamlet vibe to it. The son who has a father figure forced upon him by the mother that he cares deeply for. Needless to say, but I will say it anyway; I have been drawn in by the show. Each week I debate whether or not to watch it, but then I do and then I love it. But this is not a plug for an FX network show; this is a response to the first night of the basketball season.
What strikes me most about the game is how surprised I am by the Cavaliers. Their offense looks lethargic, and without a pulse with James on the bench. It is very reminiscent of the Cavs before last year when their offense would cease to be without the King on the court. The Cavs cannot win deep in the playoffs if they can only score points with James on the floor.
It is the same issue they have struggled with since they drafted their superstar. The tendency for Mike Brown is to leave James in for a staggering majority of the game, which is not a good sign for the Cavs. To be completely honest, I took a giant nap that went until part way through the second quarter, so I missed quite a bit. I can only assume the Cavs looked much better in that first quarter when they jumped out to that lead that the Celtics slowly chipped away at until they overtook and overran the Cavs.
Another thing I keep noticing is actually something that isn’t there, namely, Delonte West. This stagnant offense is exactly what I couldn’t describe when asked why Delonte is so important to the Cavs success. You could argue his starting hurt them against the Magic when the Cavs’ lack of size was exploited. However, what was more detrimental was the bigs of the Cavs inability to effectively guard Dwight Howard and keep up with the forwards.
Without West the Cavs only have two true playmakers on the team, let alone in the starting lineup. Those two are Mo Williams and LeBron James. Sure, Shaq has his moments but he can no longer take the ball in the post and easily muscle his way to a dunk or easy layup. Perkins made him work for each and every basket, and it showed. But back to the West situation.
I am not saying that Anthony Parker isn’t a quality ball player, but he is certainly not the type of player that West is. Last year, when Williams inevitably went to the bench midway through the first quarter, West came in and filled that slashing and shooting role that Williams had with the Cavs and, more importantly, Mike Brown felt comfortable leaving James on the bench. With West, Williams, and James, the Cavs had multiple guys who could create their own shot. Of course West and Williams were and are aided by the attention James draws from the defense, however they were still able to produce.
Daniel Gibson has yet to prove he can be an adequate playmaker with the ball in his hands, let alone his defensive aptitude. It is certainly a drop off when West isn’t on the court. Gibson isn’t anywhere near West defensively and it showed each time Allen posted him up on the block. I guess you don’t know what you got, until its gone.
This could be interpreted as a big overreaction to a heavily contested game between Eastern Conference superpowers where the Celtics play the league’s best defense and are looking to prove they still got it. I don’t know, and I wont know until much further down the road.
On the subject of the Celtics, I don’t really feel Kevin Garnett’s presence. Maybe his presence can be felt the most in the box score, mostly in the Cavs’ scoring column. However, I didn’t ever feel like I was watching the old Kevin Garnett who intimidated opponents and used a steady midrange jumper to make defenses look foolish. Most of that can be explained away with the fact that this is really the first extended playing time these guys have had in months and he is coming off of major knee surgery.
Still, wouldn’t we all have liked to see that roaming Garnett who went after every loose ball, every rebound, and every shot like it was his last? The game of basketball is better when Garnett is healthy, just as it is when Gilbert Arenas is healthy.
The Celtics resorted a lot to Rasheed Wallace throughout the game, which I guess should be expected since he is still one of the better players in the game. Still, it took me some time to adjust to seeing Sheed in that Celtics uniform. He wasn’t on during the game, but I think that is due to him trying to find his place on this Celtics team. He is now the fourth option for the Celtics, a role he hasn’t found himself in his NBA career.
Rajon Rondo looked like he always does, penetrating and grabbing seemingly too many offensive rebounds that frustrate me beyond no end. Not that I am a big Cavs fan, but Shaquille O’Neal and the other big men for the Cavs should not be getting outrebounded or outworked by Rondo.
What does this game mean for the Cavaliers and Celtics? I don’t know if it means much at all in the grand scheme of things. Sure, it is a notch in the loss column for the Cavs, and at home, which is a somewhat of a novel idea for the Cavs who lost only 2 games at home last year. This being the first game, really the adjustment game for every team, you can’t read too much into it.
However, it turned back into the LeBron James show instead of the LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers show. This is worrisome for the Cavaliers and their many fans in Northeast Ohio. As I watch the TNT postgame/pregame analysis they are saying the exact things that I expressed earlier. It is evident that with all of the moves the Cavs made, they didn’t add any playmakers that can help them against the elite teams in the NBA. Yes, Shaq will help somewhat come playoff time, but you can’t rely on Anthony Parker or Jamario Moon to create significant scoring against an Orlando or a Boston.
The Celtics on the other hand proved a lot. The game was much more significant for the Celtics than it was the Cavs. They had to show that they weren’t too old to stay relevant in the Eastern Conference, that Garnett was at least a little reminiscent of his former self, and that they were still capable of playing defense. They proved all of those things yesterday, but they know that the real important thing is to prove it throughout the season.
And I’ll touch on the Lakers and Clippers a little bit. I am writing this just before the game and I am currently watching the ring presentation. Lamar Odom looks like a satisfied man, the kind of man who has just gotten done eating a couple pounds of snickers or M&M’s.
The Lakers are the favorites in the West, and how could they not be. It would be foolish to assume otherwise, which I guess could make me a fool for thinking the Spurs will somehow manage to uproot the Lakers. However, even I can’t deny that the Lakers will be the team to beat with Kobe Bryant never fully able to satiate his hunger for winning. Still, I have this sense that he is just a bit more satisfied after finally winning that championship without Shaq that he desperately wanted.
What about the Clippers? Are they cursed? That is absurd. So the first pick is sidelined with an injury to his leg. By that logic, the Trailblazers were cursed two years ago. Would they be better with Griffin? I have to believe that is the case, otherwise why even draft the supposed stud. It is just unfortunate that we wont be able to see Griffin for the next month and a half.
If I may go onto a tangent I would like to talk about the mess that is the Cleveland Browns. I realize that this is primarily a basketball website but this issue strikes a nerve with me. What I mainly have an issue with, besides the entire thing, is the quarterback situation.
Some of you might not know, but I have a gigantic bias towards Brady Quinn. It is almost as big as the Champ towards the Cavaliers. Anyhow, he was benched the infamous 10 quarters into the season, and I could see some of the logic of that. Mangini wanted a spark and Anderson’s arm tends to provide that. However, now that Anderson is struggling, and I mean struggling, he hasn’t flipped the script and put Quinn back in. And its not like Anderson has played well enough to quell the Quinn uprising that should have already taken place, because he has been the worst quarterback in the league, including Jamarcus Russell. Well, maybe not worse than Russell, but certainly not much better.
Quinn will probably never be the gunslinger that some want as a quarterback, the guy who can throw the ball through a brick wall. He is a quarterback who, to put up numbers, relies entirely on the supporting cast. He can nickel and dime you to death given the proper surroundings. He would be best in a situation where he has an athletic, scoring threat at tight end, and possession receivers who can run the proper routes. He needs reliable weapons and possibly some who can make plays once the catch is made. The Browns do not have those things, and I place the blame squarely on the shoulders of Mangini.
If you don’t remember, he got rid of Kellen Winslow, who by many measures is a top 5 tight end even when battling injuries. I didn’t like the move then and I like even less now. Then they get rid of the troubled Martin Rucker who saw hardly any playing time last year. Basically, they took away the main options for Quinn, who was then forced to force the ball into situations that he wouldn’t otherwise go into. If you want proof look at the Denver game from last year when Quinn consistently found Winslow to the tune of 2 touchdowns.
So you take Quinn out and he was struggling, you wont get an argument from me about that. Then again, he has yet to play half a season in today’s NFL, and he played against some stout defenses thus far into the season. So Anderson comes in and is given apparently limitless rope where he can’t throw a bad enough or horribly timed interception that will land him on the bench. He relied entirely on Edwards to make the big plays in the clutch, and then Mangini got rid of him.
I am not a fan of Mangini at all. At all. Why is he making all of these moves? Why does he think the only way he can get the team to be successful is to treat all those who speak out as heretics and cast them to the New York Jets? Only a limited amount of coaches can pull this maneuver off without questioning. Those would be Bill Parcells and Bill Belicheck. And what do they have in common? The rings on their fingers.
Mangini doesn’t have any hardware to gloat about infront of this team. And its not like they have responded well to this strict interpretation of his rules, in fact, they have seemingly done the opposite. Not that they don’t play hard, but they don’t have the personnel to play well. And you have to blame the coach and GM because they had the same starting set as the team that was very successful just two years ago. Yet, somehow, they aren’t even close to that level. They aren’t even competitive on a weekly basis.