Posts Tagged ‘Chris Bosh’

When you look back at this series in a few years, or maybe even next week, Game 4 will stand out as the defining game of the series, one way or another. From a team perspective, if Dallas doesn’t win you can chalk it up. If Miami wins, they show their fortitude by coming into Dallas snatching two quick road wins. On the other hand, there are the performances of the top billed stars. Dwyane Wade keeps hammering the Mavs like a hurricane, but fumbles away his chance at a historic closing chance. Dirk Nowitzki’s heroics now beat the clock…and illness. Chris Bosh keep reasserting himself. And LeBron James has a funeral in the middle of the game…for himself (but I’m not even sure if he showed up for that).

That last part is major and tells the whole story of everything else that went on, has been debated and will paint the picture of everything going forward. But for now it frames why this series is tied up and is headed to what could be a race to the finish. Will the Heat’s co-star regain top billing, or did he doe irreparable damage to his standing (and legacy)? Has the Mavericks confidence and home support been repaired to the point that, as a unit, they now know they can win this thing again? There’s a lot that Game 4 told…and opens up a Pandora’s Box of scenarios. Today in 3 TRUTHS I’m taking on all of the major plot lines that showed their faces, varying from ugly to promising to downright horrible on Tuesday.

TRUTH #1-LeLOST: Where do you start? The numbers are clear and were already beaten Washington Generals-level dead before the game even ended, so let’s go beyond that. I’m going at exactly how it happened. LeBron stood around at the top of the key and dribbled back and forth non-stop, and was often hard to spot in the flow of the game. Now stop, that’s what stands out to me the most: just how much he didn’t stand out. He was timid. Even in the light of the larger than life effort by Dwyane Wade, it was still the loudest silence I’ve heard in long time. Matter of fact he disappeared, and when he resurfaced the results show one of the absolute worst performances for a leading man in Finals history.

Even in November that would’ve been unacceptable performance, but now it’s magnified to a major level. LeBron is no stranger to the spotlight, but the effort he put up on Tuesday was the first time I ever saw him basically drop back from it. He’s not the first major superstar to have a game like this in the Finals, as once again, the Jordan comparisons are inappropriate (a look at Magic Johnson’s clutch failings early on paint nearly the exact picture as LBJ currently). The main difference: Magic proved he could win already, he had climbed the mountain that LeBron looks like he’s on the edge of falling off right now. However, he put himself in a unique position that breeds unparalleled expectation. This is the position he forced himself to get to from the moment from the second he aligned himself with the Heat and immediately made them the spectacle they are. So to get here, and continually decrease your profile in the Finals to the point where you nearly have to get out a flashlight and search and rescue dogs just find out if he even played? Nah, this is plain unacceptable. 25-year-old ex-MVPs cannot become zombies in the Finals. No exceptions. While it’s far too early to look at this as a deciding point in his career, it is a mark that he must overcome now, once again, in a similar fashion that Magic did in route to re-establishing himself.

LeBron can't hide from how bad that performance looked...and his legacy may not be able to either

In the end, the issue is that great players are expected to step up and be undeniable forces in close games, especially in during the pinnacle series of the season. However, so far LeBron has managed nine points in 48 minutes of fourth quarter basketball in the Finals. And like it or not, that is the only reason the NBA season is still going on right now. You got to carry that weight LeBron, because you asked for it.

TRUTH #2 – MORE FOR LESS: This series is playing closer than any Finals series in history, so the first 40 minutes have become basically nothing more than the undercard to what is on deck in the end: how far ahead can the Heat get before Dirk inevitably starts his Blitzkrieg (I’d been want to work that reference in all series, I’m relieved now).  In a complete opposite take on what was just relayed about the life and times of LeBron in the last 48 minutes, Dirk has total 44 points in the fourth quarter thus far. That’s right, nearly a point a minute ridiculously efficient output. And the biggest issue may have become in this series for the Heat may have become not stopping Dirk, but how far ahead can they get before the inevitable charge he leads comes. They may just have accept the fact they can’t stop him from getting his late, and just do everything humanly possible to try to limit it instead.

At this point, even King Koopa probably can't slow Dirk up down the stretch. He should just wear this fit tonight instead.

By limiting it, I don’t mean trying to play tougher defense against him, because clearly that’s not possible anymore (seriously, he’s playing like he gets the invincible star from Mario to start every fourth quarter now). By limiting him, they’ll have to get ahead by so many that even Dirk can’t bring them back. But for that to be, it all comes back to LeBron once again and if he can find a way to play with D. Wade and share the clutch minutes as much has he does headlines. The only game they successfully “Dirk-proofed” was Game 1, when they turned the last two minutes into an 2-on-8 fast break show and pulled off the biggest margin of victory of the series yet. So even saving them from Dirk is all in LeBron’s hands, which right now, is a scary proposition.

TRUTH #3 – ALMOST FAMOUS:  Despite the big name successes and failures ringing out the loudest after Game 4, for the majority of Tuesday the biggest noise in Dallas was made by the supporting cast that was coming to play finally. Other than Dirk, team depth was a great strength for Dallas coming into the series, but it had not shown itself at all yet and they had labored along due to it for much of the first three games. However, with Nowitzki struggling from a high fever most of the game, it was a must that the rest of the Mavs finally step up and shoulder some of the burden, collectively. Shawn Marion has been putting in work each game, but has often been the only supporting member of the deep Mavs squad to show up. Tyson Chandler inserted himself on the glass finally, and his 16 rebounds were the first time he completely dominated the glass in the series. His presence shifted what had been a great advantage for the Heat: control of the glass on both ends of the floor.

If Chandler's rebirth can spark the rest of the supporting Mavs, they may be about to take series control.

Chandler’s reemergence was just the first step in Dallas being able to make a legit run at taking the two of the next three games in this tied up and restarted series. Jason Terry has to get more shots falling earlier on so the Mavs can establish real leads to protect. But most critical is Jason Kidd has to find a way to get the ball to everyone in smarter places. Dirk is the only player capable of creating his own shot, so the rest of the Mavericks are waiting on Kidd find his self, and find them. The outcome of the next three games (and I’m calling a seven games now), may hinge on it.

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While the series shifted from one American Airlines supported venue to another (Center to Arena) and to Dallas, it was nearly a complete repeat of the previous game in Miami. The Heat break out early, have a dunk contest and get way ahead. Then Dallas chips away at that lead, and finally gives it to only Nowitzki to close it out.

The only difference came this time in that Chris Bosh was given shooting the last shot duty, as opposed to defending it, and Dirk didn’t make his last second suspense-filled jumper to bring the Mavs back, and the Heat survived to pull ahead 2-1. But what’s really going on? Game 3 was so similar to Game 2 because there are some definite factors and identities that have been developed between these two teams that are pushing it in down the same avenues over and over again. Who do they favor? Can the Mavs continue to live inch by inch and do the Heat have what it takes to drive the stake into them and keep them down?

Here’s my 3 TRUTHS on those issues and a few more.

 

TRUTH #1 – GAME OF INCHES: So far this series has been remarkably close, with no game not being decided in the last two minutes. Games 2 and 3 were nearly twins, with just a style. The type of affair where you’d think your DVR messed up if not for the last 30 seconds. However, there’s a lot more to it than just the game of tag it has appeared to be so far. Game 3 established one major consistency that does not bode well for the Mavericks winning three more games this year: they cannot build on their leads.

Bosh looked much better taking the last shot instead of defending it, and it made the difference in the game.

Dallas has been playing catch up all series and are keeping it just close enough for Dirk’s one man show to pull them back into it (he scored 9 consecutive to end Game 2 and went on a 12 point spree to pull Game 3 even). That’s not the way to get a championship run done; just ask the Indiana Pacers of the 90’s. The Heat have been able to play for too comfortably for too long and that’s why it seems like they are always up by a million regardless of what is on the scoreboard. Somehow, Dallas has to play like the last two minutes starting in the first two, and no time better than the present to make it happen, at home with the fan motivation. But…..

 

TRUTH #2 – MOTIVATION: The Mavs are falling behind because they are a mixture of flat (basically anybody not

Cuban changing approach could be the spark the Mavs need.

named Dirk or Marion), confused (Rick Carlisle) or sedated (surprisingly, Mark Cuban). However, while it led to their downfall once, the Heat have been fired up the whole series, and their style of play as shown it. I’m going to take this one off the floor and say the biggest catalyst they could use is a fired up, intense Mark Cuban. Make your boys sweat out there Mark, you’re the biggest sideline presence in the game. Like vintage Spike Lee, only with the power to actually get under the refs skin and put the fear of leaving the luxurious lands of the Dallas Mavericks locker room in your players. At this point something has to give, and if the page is going to turn on this series it’s going to have to come from a spot on the bench that isn’t required to shoot or defend, just yell and write checks.

 

TRUTH #3 – THE DAGGER: So far LeBron has been doing the in-between work, playing a much lower profile game than usual (aside from a truly disrespectful dunk every quarter or so. I wonder if anybody has reclaimed Ian Mahinmi’s soul yet after Bron Shang Tsung’ed it with that dunk on Sunday). He’s played a game where he’s embraced the Scottie Pippen-type of role: making the assist, playing masterful defense and second hand scorer (an a step back from his role as the 2nd leading scorer in the League this year and Chicago Bull killer). His handling of the details has played a major role in Dwyane Wade being able to focus on being an outright carnivore against each severe mismatch that keeps get fed to him by the Mavs.

LeBron making more impacts like he did over Mahinmi could be what finally breaks Dallas' spirits.

However, coming out of Game 3 and looking forward, a visit from the Bulls series version of LeBron could break the Mavericks spirits. No player in the league finishes at the rim with the style he does, and if it can be found in the flow of the game (and still secondary to Wade’s all-out onslaught thus far), it could be the dagger in Dallas’ spirits. LeBron did a great job of constructing and playing within the best overall team performance of the series from Miami in Game 3, but now that they have the lead again, he’s got to go for the throat. Dallas will have to adjust their focus to be heavy on Wade in Game 4, he’s just doing way too much damage to them the way they are approaching him now. This equals more openings for LeBron in getting looks at the rim, and that’s the poison of playing the Heat: you have to give up a lot to stop a lot. If LeBron focuses this into attacking like Juggernaut for 4 quarters tonight, Game 5 may just be a formality.

 

For more on this, in-game rants and outtakes for Game 4, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan and @STLSport360

I usually reserve the 3 Truths tag for when something of controversy or major split opinion sporting news takes place, but there was just too much that happened in the game last night that made a really strong statement for me to pass on breaking it out today. So, I’m not even going to delay with the setup here (cause the Heat definitely didn’t), let’s get into it.

 

TRUTH #1-THE HEAT OWNED THE PAINT: The Mavericks aren’t a good rebounding team, mostly due to the fact that much of their advantage comes from the bevy of outside shooters they bring at you. However, if they want to stay in this thing, they have to get more from Tyson Chandler (4 rebounds in 34 minutes). Even if it just means keeping Chris Bosh honest around the rim. Overall, three Heat players totaled nine boards or better, while only Shawn Marion hit double figures on the other side. The most telling stat is the 16 offensive boards the Heat grabbed, while only surrendering 6 (one of which Brendan Haywood almost broke his arm trying to dunk back but getting severely hung…like, dude, you’re seven feet tall. Really?). If the Heat can own the area around the rim and live on put backs like the Mavs let them yesterday, this series won’t make it too far into next week.

Wade owned the glass for six more boards than Tyson Chandler. That can't happen again for the Mavs to make it.

TRUTH #2-WHERE WERE THE REST OF THE MAVS? The greatest advantage the Mavs have is their depth, as I discussed yesterday, their ability to deploy many different matchups and overall depth at is the best thing they have going. Well, they didn’t subscribe to that idea yesterday, as they only got 5 points from their non-Jason Terry bench. Peja Stojakovic, JJ Barea and Brendan Haywood combined to go 1 for 12 from the field, with nothing from behind the arc. Even Terry had a tough go at it, as he was surprisingly guarded by LeBron James much of the time and worked overtime hard to end up with the 12 points he did, going 3 for 10 from the field against his physically superior matchup.

If the other Mavs don't fill in their roles soon, Dirk could average 30 a game and it wouldn't be enough to pull it out.

The good news is that this most likely will not happen again, as they are too experienced to not adjust and find a way to impose themselves in the next few games, but the Heat did a masterful job of playing team defense and contesting the Mavericks all over the court.

TRUTH #3-DID THEY GIVE IT ALL THEY HAD? This game was close throughout, with the Heat only pulling away at the end; however that raised the biggest question of them all for me: could this just be the warm up for Miami? The Heat are closing games out as aggressive as any team I’ve seen in a while right now. In the last two minutes, LeBron and Dwyane Wade basically shredded the entire Mavericks team by themselves, concluding with a ridiculous NBA Jam-style oop that drove the dagger not just into Dallas chest, but through their back too. However, when I look at James (24 points on 9 of 16 shooting, nine rebounds and five assists) and Wade’s (22 points on 9 of 19 shooting, 10 rebounds and seven assists) stat lines, I just know they have even stronger efforts to turn in.

Despite a convincing 8-point win, could the Heat still be in route to widening that margin in game 2?

They did the majority of that damage in the second half, after a bit of a slow start from both clubs. However, there was nothing that Dallas was presenting that seemed to challenge them very much, even before they switched into fourth quarter overdrive. And this is all without mentioning how easily Chris Bosh asserted himself deep under the rim, which is definitely not his game.

I bring up all of that to lead to this: this isn’t the best effort they have in them on the offensive side. If the Big Three asserts itself in its fourth quarter fashion a bit early, continues to play stellar all around offense and the Mavericks don’t find some way to get those shots outside falling AND to throw their bodies around more underneath, this could be the shortest Finals since 2007….with a certain controversial Heat forward on the other end of the deal this time.

Here in part 2 of the CHEAP SEATS look at the NBA Finals, which tips off in a few hours, this time breaking down the Miami Heat and last stop on their coming of age in the Playoffs.

It didn’t quite go down like everyone thought it could in Miami this season, as a non-stop slaughter of likes we haven’t seen since the ’96 Bulls, but nonetheless the Heat are in the NBA’s final act. They have gotten back to full availability on their roster and are clicking and imposing their will for the full 48 minutes now. However, now that they are facing the deepest team they’ve played all Playoffs, with another great in Dirk Nowitzki that is playing unstoppable basketball more often than not, will they be able to impose their will in the same undeniable fashion they did on their Eastern Conference competition? Here are the keys to keeping the wheels moving towards their unparalleled expectations or falling just short and back into the media scrutiny hell they know awaits any failure:

 

3 UP: How the Heat Take the Ring

1. PUSH, PUSH, PUSH:  They have the two best open court players in basketball in LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, so backing off the gas shouldn’t be an option at any point. This requires them to make quick starts to each half and establish that as the flow of the game, a flow that the Mavs can’t keep up with. With the multiple shooters that they be responsible for guarding on Dallas, they will be spread out all over the floor and guarding plenty of passing lanes, so capitalizing on any lazy passes (as they do so well) and turning them into points should be an emphasis.

2. LEAD IN SHIFTS: They’re greatest advantage is the ability to feature two of the top 3 players in the NBA at the same time, so why play that down now? They have a greater matchup advantage in this series with LeBron and Wade, as the Mavs have no one capable of sticking with either in even a pure athletic sense. Shawn Marion is the only one that can really do so and he’s only one man. So take the ball away from him and kill the severely over matched part of the equation on the Dallas defense. The end goal could even lead a frustrated Mavs defense to shade Dirk on LeBron, which is the ultimate match up advantage to him, as it will wear down their best offensive option trying to stop LeBron from brutalizing him on the way to the rim. So let each take their time with the ball and insert themselves as a featured guy for a while, then come back and let the other one dominate the same match up later on. They’ll wear down Marion, DeShawn Stevenson and maybe even Jason Kidd if they let him take a turn with Wade for a while (which would be a very bad decision).

A balance between Wade and LeBron playing together on the run and asserting themselves individually is the best way to take on Dallas' depth.

3. WIN IN BETWEEN THE LINES: The Heat’s main advantage is the clear one I just outlined; however as was seen on and off all season, teams have to win because two players cannot alone. Despite the fact they are less deep than the Mavs overall, they do have some areas they can take an advantage in outside of Bron/Wade. Most notably on the glass, where they have more size and more bodies to throw at the Mavs under the rim. Basically, they have to out tough the Mavs with their second team and make them earn everything inside the arc.

3 DOWN: How the Heat Would Meet their End

1. KEEPING IT TOO CLOSE: This may seem like a bit of an obvious point in the spirit of competition, but there’s more to it than just face value: they would be much better suited ending these games before it comes down to the last-minute. The Mavs have shooters everywhere and the hottest player on the planet right now (who also doubles as the biggest match up problem in the NBA since Shaq in his prime) in Nowitzki. While LeBron has put to rest many of the questions about his ability to close out games recently, there still is the outright bad closing execution the Heat displayed most of the season that still lingers in the background. Letting these games come down to a final shot scenario should be avoided, because it doesn’t favor them.

2. GETTING BEAT TO THE POINT: Kidd gives the Mavs an experienced floor general that’s not only been to the Finals before, but has led a team there on his back. That gives them one decisive disadvantage, as the Heat has had problems shifting between Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers at the position all year. Whoever gets this assignment has to play tough nosed ball against Kidd and keep him from getting in to the key too often to find the many options that will surround him at all times too often. Also, the job of stopping the explosive JJ Barea can’t be under sold either. If he sees too many openings, he can make the difference between a close game and serious problem.

A steady Chalmers solves multiple issues, especially in containing against Dallas' PG duo.

3. TIT FOR TAT: Nobody expects them to be able to shoot with Dallas; however somebody has to be a dependable outside option for them besides James Jones. That was to be Mike Miller’s role, but he’s offered them next to nothing in any role given to him. With that problem, the attention goes back to either PG to step up and hit the needed open shot. If this can’t happen, the Heat will lose games (plural) in this series due to not having enough answer back firepower to keep up with the three-point barrages that the Mavs will go on at some point.

 

With both teams +/- done, it’s time to pick a winner from me…..and that’ll will go on Twitter and Facebook in an hour. Follow me over there, see how I’m going and let’s talk this one out. Follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan and on Facebook at Matt Whitener (send me a note on why you’re requesting me if we’re not linked up already. Not just everybody gets in over there).

 

The deadline for voting for the NBA All-Star game is in a few days. Nobody is going to make a monumental jump into the contention in the next four days, so I’m ready to cast my ballot now. I refuse to be restricted by the NBA brass to just voting for five players, that’s communist and easy. No, I want the whole shebang, bench and all. That’s where you have to make the critical

Rose won't be waiting long to take the court in this year's ASG, his first as a starter.

decisions, and you have to take a look at a lot more than just the top five scorers from every night. This is where the details come out and you have to look outside Miami, Boston and Orlando, although, in the top heavy Eastern Conference, that is hard to do. Looking at the rosters of those three teams alone you can fill out half the Eastern rosters, with a little help from New York (which is still strange to say again) and Atlanta. Does this mean that nobody else in the Conference is doing anything? Not exactly, however there is a clear divide in effectiveness from the cream of the crop towards the middle, if there even is one.

***STARTERS***

F: LeBron James: 25.6 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 7.2 APG

F: Amare Stoudemire: 26.4 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 2.4 BPG

C: Dwight Howard: 22.0 PPG, 13.3 RPG, 2.2 BPG

G: Dwayne Wade: 25.1 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 4.2 APG

G: Derrick Rose: 24.7 PPG, 8.0 APG, 4.7 APG,

A change is cities has changed LeBron's ASG starting status, nor his presence in the MVP race.

Four of the five Eastern starters work themselves out pretty easily. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have found their combined stride, and have began to turn the Heat into what they were envisioned to be, while still putting up their usual numbers. In Orlando, Dwight Howard is still the top terror in the paint in the NBA, and has even added a scoring touch this season that hasn’t been there before for the rebuilt Magic. Amare Stoudemire has brought the Knicks back from oblivion, and has been one of the premier scorers in the NBA. The only debate that holds some weight is at the other guard spot, where I give Derrick Rose the nod over Rajon Rondo. I make this call on the fact that while Rondo is the league’s leading assist man and the glue of the East’s best team, Rose is the entire world to the Chicago Bulls. The Celtics have shown they can keep going even with Rondo down, albeit not as smoothly. However, seemingly every night it comes down to Rose’s performance that makes the difference for the Bulls, and he is raising his game to a nearly un-guardable level this year.

**RESERVES**

Rajon Rondo (PG): 10.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 13.4 APG

Joe Johnson (G/F): 19.6 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 5.6 APG

Paul Pierce (SF): 19.0 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 3.5 APG

Danny Granger (F): 21.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.8 APG

Kevin Garnett (PF): 15.1 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 0.7 BPG

Al Horford (C): 16.2 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 1.1

Andrew Bogut (C): 13.1 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 2.8 BP

On the bench, there are a few guys that have spots on reserve here, outside of Rondo. Paul Pierce is a yearly lock, and has done nothing to change that this season. Joe Johnson’s all-around game is lands him my vote again, and stands out amongst a shallow backcourt pool in the East. Danny Granger gets the nod as one of the most quiet, yet consistent producers in the NBA once again. He’d be a big time star if he played in one of the more televised NBA destinations, but the Pacers are coming along behind his top shelf play. They take the nod over other swingmen such as Wilson Chandler, Josh Smith and Gerald Wallace, as well as backcourt contributors Raymond Felton and Ray Allen, who are having great seasons as well.

While he has been a perennial starter for the last decade, KG is still and asset and will be a force off the East bench

However, the front court spots are a bit tougher to separate, as there is a tight group of players that are nearly equally eligible. The space in-between Kevin Garnett, Chris Bosh, Andrew Bogut and Al Horford is tough to separate. Garnett, around his usual set of injuries, is still the toughest frontcourt player in the league and is nearly averaging a double-double for the C’s still, despite a fall off in shot blocking. Bosh has taken a while to find his niche in Miami, but is still putting up numbers superior to most any other Eastern forward or center not named Stoudemire or Howard. Bogut is once again in the league’s elite in boards and blocks, and snatched 27 rebounds earlier this month versus the Heat. In Atlanta, the always just under the radar Horford is the axis that the Hawks work around on both ends of the floor, and is shooting closer to 60 percent than 50 for the season.

 

In the end, I’m going with Bogut, Horford and Garnett from this group, as they each have a more distinguishing role for their clubs and impact in their success. Horford and Garnett are the easier picks, due their status amongst top tier clubs and being big contributors on them. Taking Bogut over Bosh breaks down simply to the fact that he puts up numbers on a team that’s surrounded him with nothing else to make that load easier on him. Plus he’ll be able to go to war with the West’s Kevin Love for anything that comes off the rim. This just proves that being a big talent on a successful team is the only route to recognition in my book (word to Monta Ellis and Tyreke Evans in that regard as well out west).

 

Tomorrow, I’ll be back with the Left Coast.

 

Last Thursday it all came to a screeching halt, and while I’m not certain, I’m pretty sure the earth’s axis came to an ESPN-produced screeching halt.

When LeBron James opened his mouth answer the question posed by Jim Gray on behalf of everyone in the sports world, and world at large, the collective fates of the several U.S. cities were on the wing. When he announced he was going to South Beach, everything changed everywhere else in the NBA. He went immediately from hero to tragic villain, in a matter of seconds in many places. It was symptomatic of what his real worth and purpose is in several different places. In Chicago, New York and New Jersey the business plan took a detour, but continued on. But the story in Miami and Cleveland was drastically different, where the results on each team leave an effect similar to the Berlin Wall.

The Heat have a World Class tandem. Now the real work begins.

For Miami, they completed perhaps the most talented trio of players ever assembled. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, on talent and impact, could immediately enter the discussion of the greatest duos of all time. Only Jordan/Pippen or Malone/Stockton being able to be potentially mentioned with their potential as a long-term duo. Add in Chris Bosh to the equation and the only the 80’s Bird/McHale/Parish led Celtics or Magic/Kareem/Worthy led Lakers could stand up to them. So, in other words Miami has more than enough tools to get it done now and build one of the great runs in NBA history. Perhaps anything short of this would be deemed a great failure.

This could be the expectation bar set for the LeBron/Wade pairing. Can even they jump enough to reach it?

In Cleveland, the situation is much different. The departure of LeBron is painting Cleveland as a post-apocalyptic

The Jim Brown-led 1964 Browns are still Cleveland's most recent champs.

wasteland. He takes with him much of the revenue and all of the spotlight that had been shed on a city that has not won a major sport championship since the 1964 NFL Championship (pre-Super Bowl) win of the Cleveland Browns. He was the most dynamic competitor the city had boasted since Jim Brown led those Browns. In the few days since his announced departure, his image and likeness has been stripped, burned and defaced by both the city, its inhabitants and even his former boss, owner Dan Gilbert. In the history of sports, I cannot recall a fallout over a departure of a sports figure since, well…..the original Cleveland Browns left to become the Baltimore Ravens. To sell it short, the city of Cleveland is cursed and this may be the final ingredient it needed to make it irreversible.

Post LeBron Cleveland? Take your pick at who is the city’s athletic pride point now. The Cleveland Indians are back to resembling the take on them from the take of them from the “Major League” movies of Wild Thing Rick Vaughn fame. Their record in 2009? 65-97, 4th in the American League Central. So far this season they have accumulated a 34-54 record and are firmly entrenched in the last place. With star Grady Sizemore out with his second consecutive season-ending surgery, don’t look for this to change anytime soon.

How about the Browns, who have had more seasons (6) in last place than winning seasons (1) since LeBron first put on a Cavs jersey in 2003. They have averaged 5 wins per season over this stretch and have not boasted one single player that has even been close to turning the tides of their fortune.

How about the Cavs? They could regroup in the post LeBron era and remain the face of Cleveland, right? Boasting such talents are Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison, JJ Hickson and Anthony Parker, they could make some noise and be the rallying point for the Cavs.

The King's abdicated court is wasting no time removing any memoirs of his reign.

No? Okay, now that we have established that as a fantasy point, lets hit the reality of the situation. LeBron raised Cleveland from a 17-win season before he arrived into a 61-win team by his final season in Cleveland, and pushed them to their only NBA Finals appearance in 2007. His departure will set this team back into perfect attendance level participation in the NBA Draft Lottery, again. Free agents aren’t even looking at Cleveland now and once Jamison and Williams contracts expire they will leave too. There is no drawing point to want to play in Cleveland now and they will be more competitors with Detroit or Indiana for last place than Chicago or Milwaukee for first place. This could be Clippers East for the next decade at least.

However, is this LeBron’s fault. Hell no. If anything, it goes to show why he made the right decision in heading out of Ohio. If you can take one player off of a team and watch its value plummet like the Cavaliers’ has, then clearly he wasn’t playing with a group of peers and there is only so much one man can do by himself. Even if that man is maybe the most supremely talented player of his generation. In the NBA, no one player does it by himself and he was never given what his contemporaries were given to reach the summit of the league. When Kobe Bryant struggled to push the Lakers over the hump, they gave him Pau Gasol. He rewarded them with two championships, and counting. To get over a playoff hump, the Nuggets grabbed Chauncey Billups to ease up Carmelo’s load and they gave the Lakers all they could handle in 2009. Wade got Shaq and he gave Miami a Championship in his next year in the League. The list goes on and on where teams aggressively added to their roster to maximize what they could do. Did Cleveland ever honestly do this? No.

All LeBron ever got was Antawn Jamison, a Shaq that was so over the hill he was back on flat ground and Mo Williams, who achieved his All-Star status as a result of open shots made by playing off of LeBron. That is a huge cut below what is needed to make it with teams with the depth of Orlando and Boston. The Cavs played the hometown loyalty card and leaned on being able to pay more, and lost. In the end, he decided that he had done more than enough for the hometown team and that the money was not the issue. He left to go play with the type of players that he needs to play with to achieve the level of success a talent of his level deserves. The Cavs wouldn’t do it, he decided that seven years of waiting was more than enough. He gave as much as could be expected and maximize what he could do with the tools he had.

The main criticism of him now is how he made such a grand stage of everything leading up to him deciding who he would play with, from the individual neutral site meetings with teams, to the individual ESPN showcase for him to make the simple statement of who he would play with, to the bold statement of who he will be playing with for the next 5 years. It is to be expected that the forthcoming results following this announcement will need to be as bold as the steps that led to it to justify it (if possible still). It is a rare case of the Supernova overtaking the star in place. The Miami Heat now are only Wade’s in theory that he has longer tenure there. This is LeBron James’ showcase now. All of the attention and blame will fall on LeBron now due to the way the decision played out, so it is his responsibility to make sure that the world of expectations placed on the Heat come to play out. A four-to-five championship streak is not totally out the realistic realm of expectation.

It's a nightly All-Star game on South Beach. Can they deliver on the hype?

What has happen is simple: he has put himself in a win-only scenario. There is no more room for any reasoning why he should not become a multiple time champion now. LeBron must take his NBA version of the Justice League into battle, and live up the role of Superman. He has to go into LA and Beat LA, the MVP performances must continue to happen. Anything short of an unprecedented domination of this decade of professional sports would be missing the mark now.

The pre-game show is over, it’s time turn up the spotlight even brighter. There’s no limit to what can be for this pairing of players, but when there are no ceilings, there can be no excuses.

There are many days that have historical significance in the U.S. and are properly observed as so.

July 4: The Independence of the United States from the British Empire

December 25: Recognition of the birth of Christ ……well this may or not be stretch in this instance, stay tuned….

Oh, I know…..how about:

February 2nd: Groundhog’s Day, where it is judged how much longer winter will go based on if the chosen Groundhog sees its shadow or not.

That’s a fitting holiday for new day that should be set aside as a national holiday, July 8 – LeDecision Day. There shall be no work and all will rejoice. For this is a date that should be celebrated in the streets of all 50 realms of the United States and the globe at large. “Behold the day that the Chosen One has laid aside to fulfill the prophecy and choose his destination of basketball based entertainment!” Sound the trumpets. Playing the role of the groundhog of the sports world, LeBron James must have seen his shadow and allowed the mania that has built following his decision on whom to join, or rejoin, for the next few NBA season to continue for as long as possible. Now the day is upon us where the “The Decision” (as it is entitled for the hour-long ESPN special that will accompany it….wow….is called) is finally here.

Happy LeDecision Day....but what are we Witnessing?

The speculation on where he will land has reached Beatlemania levels. It seems everyone from the New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers to Invaders of the MBA (Martian Basketball Association, of course) are in play for LeBron and every inside source has a scoop from his “inner circle”, which has apparently grown to around 3,000,000 on a low-end estimate. I don’t know LeBron or his people, but I’m gonna take my swing at joining the “source community” and throw out what makes sense to me here and give my final shot in the crowded room of educated guesses and hope I hit something.

Cleveland Cavaliers: The bottom line here is loyalty and legacy. He has been in the unique position of being able to craft his entire legacy from high school forward in the same location. The state of Ohio has raised him and he is without a doubt the most important individual in the entire state, regardless of profession. His involvement in Cleveland supports a huge part of the city’s financial income and no doubt supports many people he has been associated with for years since he first showed his potential as a breadwinner.

On the court is a different matter altogether. I don’t think loyalty to the Cavs is a huge issue at all. He would have become “LeBron James, Superstar” with any team he played with. He has done way more for them than they have done for him. A career of having to lean on cores consisting of Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Drew Gooden, Maurice Williams and Larry Hughes isn’t much to brag on. Only adding Antawn Jamison, who is far past is former All-Star form and an over the hill Shaquille O’Neal as impact sidekicks is weak too. LeBron will get money anywhere is goes, so I don’t think the contract makes a huge difference. But the inability to project a championship will be and unless he feels a strong desire to build his own legacy from start to finish, Cleveland may not be the place. However, I will not count them out, because its still home and that could pull him to do it there and keep his center of control under his grasp.

ChicagoBulls: Chicago seemed like the most viable option if he could’ve taken Chris Bosh with him. There’s a hole on the floor that still could welcome him there, but it seems like a long shot for some reason now. Even with Bosh join Dwyane Wade in Miami, the Bulls still boast the most overall talent of team in the chase. There are two All-Stars in place already in Derrick Rose and newly acquired Carlos Boozer, as well as a strong starting core ready as well. If he could consider playing in Miami with Wade and his style of play, then playing in Chicago with Rose, who is far more willing to defer in his style of play. For whatever reason, it doesn’t seem like this will happen, which doesn’t make much sense to me.

New York Knicks: The Knicks will cater to his wishes bring in whoever he wants around him. They have no problem withspending money and have already landed Amare Stoudemire as a drawing piece. But beside him, there’s literally nothing to say they will win any quicker with him in the fold. 2 players don’t win championships, teams do. The Knicks do offer the biggest stage available of anyone in the Big Apple, but with a star the size of LeBron, he brings the media to him wherever, so I don’t see the Knicks as being answer. If they had a more solid core intact, ala the Patrick Ewing years, maybe. But no matter how much glitter they throw at the situation, it’s still a base level rebuilding project and that’s not what he needs. He’s already rebuilt one team in Cleveland, and now as he’s approaching the half way point in his career I don’t imagine he wants to spend the second half doing the same thing, regardless of what city it is in.

New Jersey Nets: The Nets are similar to the Knicks in that they are rebuilding. However, they are building around actual pieces in place that show potential to make the jump with the right leader on court. Adding Avery Johnson’s proven track record on the sidelines shows they’ll make strides on the court, and they have maybe the most brash ownership in the NBA this side of Mark Cuban in Mikhail Prokhoroz and Jay-Z, so they’ll continue to make headlines and be active. With all these benefits, there’s just too much in flux in Jersey. They are only a year off of a historically terrible season and are moving to another city soon. It doesn’t fit what LeBron should be in the market for, stability and a continued reign at the top of league. But with the twists and turns in this entire saga, this surprise could happen.

Los Angeles Clippers: Nope, not happening. I’m not even wasting the characters or considerably low typing energy addressing it. On Friday morning, Danny Manning or Loy Vaught will still be the best Clipper ever, not LeBron. The End.

Miami Heat: While I said who I feel about him landing in Miami yesterday, it’s seeming like this is a strong possibility. I can see why he would want to go there and I don’t blame him (do blame the Heat if they sign him though). If he goes to Miami he’ll immediately come under criticism. He’ll be pegged as not being able to get it done on his own and needing Wade and Bosh to make it to the top. Let’s look at this a few ways. True, he would be giving up his chance to make his own legacy, by joining up with the Heat. But he would be assured of being even deeper into the championship picture than he has ever been before (despite making the 07 Finals, they had NO shot at beating the Spurs).

However, it would impossible to say he isn’t concerned about winning, because this would be the quickest way to that goal. It seems like a match made in heaven, but I really see such a star laden team having huge chemistry problems that would be magnified when they struggle, and they will do that inevitably. I don’t think you can replicate what the Celtics did when Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett joined in Paul Pierce in 2007-08. They were older than Bron, Bosh and Wade, so they were more focused on ending the legacies that they had created individually. They were ready to cap them off. Of the guys in Miami, specifically Wade and LeBron, are still making their place in both the current power struggle in the league and of this era of the NBA. I’m not convinced they can totally divorce the individual to win together yet and this could keep LeBron elsewhere. Which isn’t totally selfish of him in his decision, but could cost the ultimate goal, but Kobe and his Lakers could still do that anyway, so who knows.

After all of this, it’s really only going to make sense to him. There’s probably more moving and shaking behind the scenes than we’ll ever know, but I’m gonna take my shot at what makes sense with what’s available. I’m predicting:

Cleveland

In a close turn over joining the party in Miami (and I mean very close, I erased and rewrote this five times myself), he stays home. LeBron seems to have a strong sense of both his own self value, loyalty and ego. By staying in Cleveland he appeases all of these contradictory elements at once. He makes his homeland happy by staying home and achieves the largest payday possible. He also locks in his chance at being one of the truly defined greats of all time, by leading a single franchise to a championship level. For him to truly achieve his place as a great of both this era and all-time, he does in one place. Wade, Kobe and Tim Duncan are the measuring sticks of achievement in this era of the NBA, and have done it in one location. Michael Jordan (save for his very end stint in Washington), Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Bill Russell are at the summit of NBA greatness, and did it by building and leading one team up with them.

The King stays in his castle....for better or worse.

I believe he wants this. It feeds his ego/legacy appropriately. While it is far from being a guaranteed shot and he will have to contend with Dwight Howard’s Orlando clubs still and the double-headed Miami monster, I think he takes on that undertaking. He has shown he can raise an otherwise mediocre Cavs roster to the 60 win level, and I doubt he will return without some immediate guarantees on upgrades to the roster to push them further than they have been since 2007. It’s a commendable and brave endeavor with an uncertain endgame, but what isn’t.

And in the end, there’s always the Clippers. If just for shock value alone.