The Cleveland Cavaliers are done for this season and if LeBron James decides to bounce and join another game, they will be done for much longer.
Just for the record, as much as I thought Cleveland had the team to win it all this season, I predicted before the season began it wouldn’t even make it to the NBA Finals.
Who did I pick: The Los Angeles Lakers to win back-to-back and beat the Orlando Magic again. They’re both still alive. Who would have thunk it?
As for the Cavaliers, they won 60-plus games in consecutive regular seasons, James won back-to-back NBA MVPs and didn’t make to the finals last season or this season.
Something is wrong with that picture?
Who is to blame?
Well, let’s start at the top. Or near the top.
Danny Ferry: Had a chance to bring in Amare Stoudemire before the trade deadline and instead went for Antawn Jamison. Didn’t want to part with Zydrunas Ilgauskas and J.J. Hickson. Well, he didn’t want to part with Hickson, but if you’re in the business of winning now, not later, you ship the second-year forward out of N.C. State and bring in Stoudemire to have him and James run the best pick-and-roll the planet has ever seen. By continually changing the roster the last three years after reaching the NBA Finals in 2007 and adding older big guys like Ben Wallace in 2007-08 and Shaquille O’Neal this season, chemistry became an issue when everything was on the line in the playoffs.
Mike Brown: It’s difficult coaching at player like James because James can do so much. If you can win 60 games by handing the ball to the best player in the game and let him dictate the action, most coaches would do that, but by not playing James off the ball, Cleveland’s offense was too predictable. It’s easier to win that way in the regular season, but when a team can study you more in the playoffs, got to come up with new stuff. Brown didn’t.
There are two bigger problems with Brown, though.
One, he’s a defensive coach and Boston picked his defense apart. When you play team defense, that’s supposed to cover or hide the leaks. Brown was unable to dot that against the Celtics as they exploited Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison to no end.
Two, he coaches everyone else and let’s James do whatever. You’re not going to win when there is a double standard. Can’t treat James like everyone else because he’s not like the rest of them, but you’ve got to hold him accountable to a point the other players say, ‘Hey, coach really ripped James about that.” James and Brown aren’t on the same page and maybe have never been.
For example, the day before Game 6, James said film work does you no good at this point because teams know each other so well. Brown, on the other hand, said they had their best film session that day. That same day, James was asked point blank if Boston coach Doc Rivers was out-coaching Brown. James said, ‘I’m not going to get into that man,” and continued to say the media was trying to divide the team.
If James really was in full support of Brown in a must-win situation, James would have said, “No, Coach Brown is doing the job.” He didn’t say when answering a direct question about the situation.
LeBron James: The two-time MVP can’t do it all and the injured elbow was certainly a problem in the playoffs, but what he can do is lift his team with spirited play. More than anyone in the NBA, James gives his teammates an energy that makes them play beyond their abilities. They feed off the guy.
So when he doesn’t bring the effort or plays passive or doesn’t make the plays to get his team going, then they don’t play as well. Then when he’s playing reckless as he did in Game 6 with the nine turnover, then the Cavaliers just lose it. They had 22 turnovers in that game Thursday night.
As great as James is, he’s got to change his game a bit. Someone his size shouldn’t play 35 feet away from the basket. Now that’s something Brown could fix, but James is smart enough to know how to win. Time to apply that and do what your team needs and it’s not pounding the ball all the time at the top of the key. It’s moving without the ball.
Look at Ray Allen. He knows the best way for his team to win is for him to stay in constant movement to make the defense react so other guys can get shots. If LeBron moved and caught the ball in different spots, the defense would have to react and then that would open it up for others. Since he has had such control of the team, he failed to do other things to help his team.
Plus, he’s the leader and when the team fails, he fails.
‘The Others’: People love to say stuff like, ‘Other guys have to step up.”
This is what I say. Other guys need to already play at a high level so they won’t have to step up. It’s not easy to just turn it on, but if you’re already switched on, it’s much easier to stay there. Williams was stinking it up other than that third quarter in Game 1 so to all the sudden say he’s got to deliver in Game 6 is unrealistic.
Had he been delivering, maybe there wouldn’t have been a Game 6 or Cleveland might have entered the game up 3-2 instead of down 3-2.
Then you got Jamison, who was playing soft as whipped butter. People point to him not being able to guard Kevin Garnett, but Jamison lost loose ball rebounds, couldn’t keep people off the board and got in foul trouble early in games. He’s a bad defender, but you got to be solid in terms of boxing out and standing firm when playing defense. He gives ground too easily.
Now James and Brown can share some of this. It’s James who lifts the spirits of his teammates. He didn’t do that so therefore, they suffered. Then Brown’s rotations in the series were so erractic, it was hard to develop a rhythm.
However, when you’re the supporting cast for a great player, you have to do your part. They didn’t do that good enough to win a title.
Chicago Bulls: What the Bulls, particularly their point guard, Derrick Rose, did was show Cleveland can’t handle penetrating guards even affte constant film study. Boston point guard, Rajon Rondo, proved that in dicing up the Cavaliers’ defense. Even though the Bulls lost in five games to Cleveland, they also showed the Cavaliers weren’t as good as we thought.