June 01, 2009

Fun Times in Cleveland Again! A WITNESS to a handshake problem

Well, I guess it was inevitable that the seeds for a Lebron James backlash would be planted, and this handshake thing seems like the moment that has done it. While I don't personally care that he didn't shake hands with Dwight Howard after a very intense and grueling series, it doesn't surprise me that everyone is all bent out of shape about it. And in many ways, I can understand why people are using this incident as a catalyst for a Lebron James backlash. As soon as I heard about the handshake thing, you knew the Jason Whitlocks of the world would be taking shots at Lebron.

I'll preface by saying that I'm a fan of Lebron James. He's one of the few extremely hyped guys in the ESPN era who has actually lived up to the hype. I have never seen anyone with his combination of size and speed and strength on any level of basketball. He couldn't have possibly played any better in the Orlando series. He AVERAGED 38 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists in the entire series plus he hit one of the best buzzer beaters I've ever seen. Absurd! I don't think it's even debatable that he's already the best player in the NBA and still has room to grow. No one else is even close as far as I'm concerned. If he had even one half decent second option on this team, they would have won the title this year.

But I will say that I can at least understand why there would be a backlash against Lebron James. There has been so much attention and so much hype surrounding this guy, and some of it has admittedly been shoved down our throats. All these "WITNESS" commercials and the Nike puppets and the fawning articles, and yet Lebron has never been on a team that seriously threatened to win a championship. He's had a couple teams that went to the Eastern Conference Finals and one team that snuck into the Finals and got swept. I think there are a people out there who think that we should hold off on the Lebron coronation until he's actually won something of consequence in the NBA.

So the stage was set to some degree for a Lebron slip-up that members of the media and fans of other teams could pounce on and use to hammer him. It almost seems like there are people out there who are giddy to have something juicy to rip Lebron for. This handshake thing is a perfect vehicle for a "Lebron doesn't know how to be a champion" angle. When you storm off the court and blow off the media, you come off as a poor sport. On the surface, it's an easy opportunity to take a shot at him and start the momentum for a backlash against Lebron as a spoiled, overhyped player who has never won anything.

Personally, I don't think that's the case. I don't think Lebron is a sore loser or anything like that. I really just think that Lebron was so dialed in and competitive during this series that he didn't know how to react when it was over. The guy carried the team on his back for the entire series and didn't get a lick of help from his teammates, his coaching staff, or his front office. When the series was over, he freaked out and couldn't bring himself to stand there and do some halfhearted handshake. If anything, I actually think it's kind of refreshing that he didn't do the corporate, politically correct thing for a change. Even when he had a chance to apologize and admit he was wrong for not shaking hands with Dwight Howard, he still didn't do it. That sort of convinces me that he GENUINELY doesn't like the idea of doing the postgame handshake and thinks the whole thing would have been a phony move.

Should he have shook hands?? Yes. I'm a golfer, so I think good sportsmanship is always a good thing. But I also am not going to call Lebron a "sore loser" or a poor sport because he didn't do it. He stands by what he did, and I don't really have a problem with it.

As for the future of the Cavs, I still don't see how they can win a title with Mike Brown as the head coach and Danny Ferry as the GM. What have either of those guys done to warrant holding the keys to the Lebron James era?? Mike Brown was so badly outcoached by Stan Van Gundy in this series that it's not even funny. How did Mike Brown never figure out a way to get some bodies out on those three point shooters on the Magic?? Their entire defensive game plan was a joke. If you're going to guard Howard one on one and let him get his points, fine. But at least get out on Lewis and Turkoglu and contest their shots. Offensively, the Mike Brown playoff offense consists of one play. Give it to Lebron and get out of the way. Lebron is good enough to carry a team by himself for long stretches, but at some point it would have been nice to see them create some offense for some other guys.

As far as Danny Ferry is concerned, how could anyone possibly talk about him as one of the better GMs in the NBA?? Are you kidding me?? Has he brought in even one impact guy to build around Lebron in his six years as GM?? He's singlehandedly holding back that franchise. Look at their roster. They don't have one quality big man or low post defender, they don't have a true point guard, and they don't have any other 6'8" type wings who can knock down a shot from the perimeter.

All Ferry has done is work around the margins with over-the-hill journeyman and long term contracts for guys like Pavlovic and Larry Hughes who didn't produce. To make matters worse, Ferry STOOD PAT at the trade deadline!! I don't care about team chemistry. You got Lebron James in his prime, and you're content with Delonte West and Anderson Varajeo as your 3rd and 4th scoring options?? What kind of message does that send to your team?? Why not go make a bold move at the deadline to get a horse?? When you have a chance to win a title, you gotta go all in to get it done.

One look at the Orlando and Cleveland rosters tells you all you need to know about how little Danny Ferry has done in Cleveland. If you were choosing sides for a pickup game between the Cavs and Magic, obviously Lebron goes #1. But #2-5 would probably be Dwight Howard, Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, and Pietrus in some order. Turkoglu is a blast to watch, and Rashard Lewis is an absolute stud. Anyone who is 6'10" with that kind of shot is just about unstoppable from the perimeter. Other than Dwight Howard, the Magic found all these guys in free agency. That's how you build a roster.

The Cavs don't have one guy who can do what any of those guys can do on the floor. Difference makers. Mo Williams is a decent player, but he's one of those guys who should be a #3-4 option on a really good team. Like a BJ Armstrong type.

The rest of their roster is a 25 win type roster. Their bench is comical compared to the Magic. Boobie Gibson and Pavlovic are basically 10th man type guys, and Ben Wallace and Szczerbiak are corpses. You gotta cut your losses with all those guys and figure out a way to rebuild the bench. Same with Big Z. If he's a free agent, move on.

As for the rest of the team, Ferry has to find a way to go all in and bring in at least 1-2 impact players. Rashard Lewis types. I don't know who's available, but I gotta think there a couple forwards out there that they could make a play for in free agency or through a trade.

Isn't Lamar Odom a free agent?? Why not go after him?? The guy is one of the most talented players in the league and pretty much exactly what the Cavs need.

Go get one stud wing and a low post defender and the Cavs are bringing a title back to Cleveland next year. When you have a once in a generation player like Lebron James, you better be doing everything possible to win a championship.

Anyway, if I was Lebron, I'd be wearing my Yankees hat all over Cleveland all summer to subtly send the message to the Cavs that he has other options if they don't seriously upgrade this roster. If Danny Ferry stands pat again this year, I wouldn't blame Lebron is he ends up leaving.

Oh well, at least they make great videos! Seriously, who does use a pay phone??


Anonymous said...

I think what pissed off Lebron more was that Mike Brown left him on the floor until the buzzer rang, instead of taking him off the floor for the last two minutes when the game was clearly out of reach. If Mike Brown had taken him out earlier, Lebron would have had some time to cool-down first.

Jimmy said...

I think you're letting LBJ off a little light Doug. He was a little bitch. You don't become a champion until you know how to humble and admit defeat, as much as it kills you to do so. The fact that he doesn't admit as much, even if he doesn't believe it, is worth one day of media coverage and 1 day only. Not the weeks and months that everyone will try to milk out of it. It's time to move on. The guy is still the best player in the game and will have the Cavs in the same position next year.

Is it me, or can Lebron be confused with a 38 year-old? The man looks frickin mature and old well beyond his years. Are we sure there's no Danny Almonte coverup going on there? Did the Akron school system hold him back a few years?