The Path Isn’t Paved

David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

First, a note to those who are ripping LeBron in northeast Ohio: shut up. Did he play poorly? Definitely. Did he lose a bit of aggression? It appears to be the case. But this doesn’t make sense. The last 7 years have been the best Cleveland basketball has ever seen and the worst thing that could happen is for LeBron to leave. So your response is? Booing and labeling him as the source of your losing when a lot of the responsibility lies on his teammates for not defending or making shots. Could he have played better? Absolutely, but this isn’t going to help your cause this year or in the ensuing offseason. He deserves to be criticized for his performance, it was bad. He hasn’t had too many of those in his career, although “3” seems a bit under the truth. I expect him to come out guns blazing in game 6, otherwise the Cavs will be cast aside this season and possibly for the next several.

Enough of that.

Rajon Rondo, as much as the Champ will hate to see this, is rapidly becoming one of my favorite players in the league. Sure, its easy to say that now with his incredible playoff performance thus far, but when I heard he was a bit of a math wiz in high school and Kentucky I became smitten. My basketball game is not similar to Rondo’s, that would be ridiculous. However, I have a spotty jump shot and prefer to drive and dish to teammates, I have steadily improved my J, and I’m into the math scene.

He really has taken command of this team. The Cavs essentially shut him down in the first half, only to have Paul Pierce finally get going. Kenny Smith’s leaky wall analogy might be spot on, this team isn’t something that a glob of instant cement can medicate. You need a complete crew to come in and fix this. Putting LeBron on Rondo for stretches gave Pierce room and confidence. Ray Allen will always be Ray Allen. KG appears to be putting in his final good season and he is well aware of his narrowing window of performance.

Even Kendrick Perkins is making hook shots over Shaq. This team firing on all cylinders is dangerous. The bench works well with the starters and vice-versa.

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The unlikely has turned into the seemingly inevitable.

Boston wasn’t supposed to win this series, yet it appears that they are going to advance to face Orlando. That being said, Cleveland can win in Boston and can certainly win at home, so nothing is guaranteed, plus who knows what LeBron is planning. But, Boston has been the better team in 4 of the 5 games thus far. In game 1 the Cavaliers were lucky to escape with a win.

Boston was supposed to be dead at the end of the regular season. They weren’t even picked overwhelmingly to beat Miami in the first round, let alone advance beyond there. This is what experts speak about when they talk about veterans and leadership carrying a team. That, and the fact that the team is comprised of three hall-of-fame caliber players who are just on the downslope of their careers with Rondo blossoming into a top 3 point guard.

Unless Cleveland can pull of the amazing, the future is very dull and scary. Mike Brown may have very well lost his job last night, as hard as that is to believe. Sometimes it seems that his moves are strictly to appease the masses after losses. He put Zydrunas in last night after calls for his play, only to leave out Hickson. And Z responded fairly well, in 14 minutes he had 5 points but the Cavs were +9. He left Shaq in a long time after being criticized for not reinserting him into game 4 despite foul trouble and heavy minutes.

I feel that Brown should do what he believes in. If you are going to go down, go down sticking to your guns. It isn’t an enlightened perspective to be stubborn in the face of elimination, but before he arrived in Cleveland the Cavaliers were not a good team. Since he has become the head coach he has never won less than 45 games, winning 50 or more in 4 seasons. Listening and adjusting to players is natural and encouraged, but game to game he appears to be changing a lot. His rotations are messy, confused, and appear to be without purpose.

Is he trying to be bigger, faster, smaller, or more athletic than Boston? Even when the Cavaliers play big, they get out-rebounded. When small they are beat to loose balls and are out-hustled. When they go fast Rondo and Tony Allen match their speed. More athletic? They don’t have the firepower. They were out-rebounded 41-31 and Shaq had only 4. Paul Pierce had 11. Glen Davis is getting the foul calls that Mo Williams wishes he could and is racing down the floor on every defensive rebound.

The real juice to the story is LeBron, who has been called disinterested and bored in this series. Is that the case? I can’t believe it is. He knows and respects how good Boston is and can be. If he is, then he isn’t the player we all think he is. That isn’t the mentality of a modern day champion. It is easy to bring up MJ or Kobe and their zeal for winning no matter the consequences or expenses. If this is the case, then LeBron isn’t in that class.

I can’t believe that is the case. Nothing he has done up until this series would give a hint of nonchalance or ineffectualness towards winning. He had a bad game, not to write it off as one bad game because it was more than that, but it will be seen as little if the Cavaliers win this series. Every player sucks at some point when it counts, and LeBron sucked last night. It was ill-timed for Cleveland, as losing was the worst case scenario. At one point, I received a text from the Champ to the effect that he is now on “suicide watch”. So, yeah, this game was important for the Cavaliers and their fans.

However, bounce backs are in LeBron’s wheelhouse. We will see what he is made of in game 6. His legacy isn’t at stake, but winning can bolster it and losing can influence it. He knows how important this stage is, and if he has already made his mind up about his future as some conspiracy theorists have theorized, then maybe game 6 will show it.

On a lighter note, I think that Shelden Williams is the fat lady. Once he gets onto the court you know the game is over.


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