Okay, so I watched the Cavaliers and Bulls game and had a couple thoughts, actually a lot of thoughts, not all of which is directly related to the actual play of the game. I could have just done a list of random thoughts but I thought it might be better if I explained my thoughts as to leave no confusion about exactly what I am saying.
The first of which is something that I have thought for a long time and have gotten some negative feedback on. That is that Anderson Varejao should be coming off of the bench. Not that he hasn’t played well enough to start, because he has. No, I am saying that he is much more effective coming off of the bench giving that spark off of the bench. To draw an analogy to the recently departed baseball season, he is like Jonathan Papelbon. As a starter, he was sort of effective, still able to produce, but not with the impact that he has when he comes in to close and shuts down the opponents. It is easier to expel all your energy for a limited time than try to stretch it out over the period of time that a starter deserves.
Also, on a lesser note, Joakim Noah and Anderson Varejao are the same player. They are the exact same player. They are effective mostly due to their size and energy, have little to no ability to shoot, rebound well, and draw fouls. They even have crazy hair. It is eerie every time the Bulls play the Cavaliers. This is not an original thought, but I have had the same thought since Noah came into prominence while still at Florida.
The next thing that came to mind was that Derrick Rose is very similar to LeBron in the idea that if he can consistently knock down a mid range jumper, he will be unstoppable. I also had the thought that he is one of the top 3 quickest players in the NBA with the ball in his hands. The other two are debatable; you wouldn’t be incorrect to mention Tony Parker, Chris Paul, or Rajon Rondo. However, even though he is still recovering from injury and not close to his former self that we all saw in the playoffs last year, he almost easily blew by his defender each time up the court.
Then the men at TNT began speaking about Delonte West and his legal troubles. There is a very real chance that Delonte West could miss significant time because of a jail sentence. However, thanks to the diligent reporting of one David Aldridge I now know that often these cases are settled with a plea bargain, often resulting in house arrest. This is good news, however, perhaps he will be made an example of.
Then I noticed something about Mo Williams. He has fallen in love with the move of driving towards the basket, stopping in mid air and passing behind himself with a very dangerous pass. I don’t know why he has become smitten with this move, apparently it is effective, but I feel that the rest of the league will eventually figure this out and it will become a detriment to his game.
Here is another observation that I made: Anthony Parker is everything that the Cavaliers wanted Sasha Pavlovic to be, except I don’t think he is as good of a defender. He makes most of those open shots that LeBron creates (which I will get to later). However, when he tries to create his shot it just gets ugly. Mike Brown needs to limit his opportunities to create his own shot, let someone else control the ball and have him sit beyond the 3-point arc like a Pietrus or Rashard Lewis.
These are a lot of thoughts, but here is another: I have said this before, but the Chicago Bulls stockpile athletes like the Soviet Union stockpiled assault rifles. Taj Gibson came in and almost completely fulfilled the spot left open by Tyrus Thomas. And while on the subject of Tyrus Thomas who played the game recovering from the flu, it is really impressive. Professional athletes playing with the flu doesn’t seem so impressive until you get the flu, then you realize how difficult it is to run and jump while dealing with headaches, a fever, the chills, body aches, and all the other symptoms that come along with the flu.
**Side Note** If you had told me that the Tennessee Titans and the Cleveland Browns would have the same amount of wins this year, I would have told you to stop drinking or that the Browns are having an outstanding year.
Now lets talk about LeBron James and the possibility of him leaving Cleveland to go to Los Angeles and joining the Lakers. First of all, it is not going to happen. And if it did, I’m not sure it would work. Reggie Miller made the beautiful analogy that no Indian tribe can have two chiefs. LeBron and Kobe are two alpha dogs, and that just doesn’t work in the NBA. And in addition to that, they both need to have the ball and score for a majority of the game.
LeBron is by many accounts the best player in the game. If he believes himself to be that, which he does, he wont bring himself to go to LA where he will definitely play second fiddle to Kobe even if he is or becomes better than Kobe. It is Kobe’s team and it always will be for as long as he stays there. I really can’t envision this scenario at all. Some analysts are already drooling over the concept of LeBron joining Kobe and forming the greatest duo in the history of the NBA. Even if it happened, I’m not sure if it would work.
Sure, LeBron is perhaps the most unselfish great player in the league who doesn’t play the point. But, that doesn’t translate to him always deferring to Kobe during the game. It worked in the Olympics, sure, but Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, Chris Paul, and Carmelo Anthony also surrounded them. Everyone on that team was the best player from his respective team, so there was no jealousy. We have all seen what happens when Kobe had to coexist with a player who is as significant as he is when Shaq still played his home games in LA. I could be completely wrong because LeBron doesn’t portray himself as the typical great player in the league who wants to prove that he is solely great enough to carry a team to glory.
Lets get back to the game. Mike Brown needs to stop playing both Z and Shaq on the court at the same time. It just doesn’t work. It creates too many bad mismatches and easy opportunities for the opponent in order for it to be beneficial. The Cavs are practically fighting an uphill battle with just one of them on the floor at a time, let alone when they are both in their huffing and puffing while they slowly sprint down the court. It is not as if they provide an advantage offensively either. I don’t know the exact figures but I never think to myself that they are consistently pulling down more rebounds with that duo than with Varejao on the floor. They often fall victim to the quicker forwards who can maneuver around Z or Shaq for the rebound. They are so bad defending the pick and roll that it is almost a guaranteed bucket for the opponent each time up the floor.
During the game, the Bulls never got intimidated like you would expect a young team to get. Maybe that is a result of their playoff series with the Celtics last year or maybe it is due to Vinny Del Negro and his wisdom, I honestly don’t know. However, you never felt like the Bulls were about to wilt away during the game. Somehow they always manage to hit the clutch shot to bring it back to a close game or take the lead. This Bulls team is not afraid to play any team in any situation.
Charles Barkley said something that really struck a cord with me. He essentially said that the Cavs offense basically shackles LeBron instead of frees him to be everything offensively that he could be. He is right. The Cavs offense is LeBron takes the ball, either down the court or at the top of the key, and the rest of the team watches him operate. If he were in a Phoenix Suns style offense he could average over 35 PPG over the course of an entire season. His biggest strength is running up and down the court and jumping high over defenders for a giant finish.
If I may I would like to get back to the Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo controversy that I touched on briefly before. Chris Paul had a gross overreaction to what Rondo said, going so far as to approach the Celtics locker room after the game and was heard shouting that Rondo was going to “respect me like a man”. Maybe this comment ignited some fire deep inside of Paul. Perhaps Rondo awoke a beast that the rest of the league had hoped didn’t ever wake up. Paul is more than capable of carrying his team further than it should go. Maybe this will inspire him to lift his already immaculate play to the point that the Hornets become a viable championship contender. Or maybe, this was all much ado about nothing and the Hornets will be lucky to survive the first round.
Okay, since we are onto more general NBA topics, lets delve into the Allen Iverson fiasco that is rapidly unfolding. Iverson knew going into the situation, as we all did, that he was going to be a bench player on a below average team. Now, only a few games into the still nubile season he is already complaining that he has to come off the bench. Iverson knew this was going to be the case yet he is still complaining about it. He shouldn’t be in Memphis, he should be in Charlotte where they desperately need a scoring presence, yet he insisted on being the renegade he has always been. You only get what you give.
This post was a bit jumbled, but that is pretty much what ran through my head as I watched the Cavaliers and Bulls battle one another.