No Hooks To This One For Cleveland...(Game 6 Retrospect)
Come on, tell me I'm wrong. I dare you.
Tell me how much of a "hater" I am and I'll tell you what a fool you are for doing so. I'll laugh as I point out that the Cavs in two straight years have won 60 games, gone into the playoffs as the consensus pick to win the East and win it all, only to flame out in the Conference Finals and Semifinals (TWICE IN THREE YEARS NO LESS). Tell me that Cleveland's just fine and I'll tell you you're absolutely naive...or maybe you're Mike Brown, which might be one in the same. This team did something I don't think I've seen in all my years of watching basketball.
They rolled over TWICE in two consecutive Do Or Die games. Tonight, I watched as they whittled a 14 point defecit in half and then late in the game, just seemed bamboozled. Hoodwinked. Run amok. Led astray...by themselves. It was like LeBron was looking for someone else to do something and someone else was looking for LeBron to do something. Get my drift? It's ironic that I'm listening to "Crown Royal" by Run-DMC and I'm going to put this hook down because it's why I've refused to refer to LeBron by the media-imposed moniker handed to him, "King".
The King's a ruler, The Ruler rules
The King's a ruler, The Ruler rules
So now that this series is over, time to put it into perspective (and trust me, this won't take long). For the last 9 years, I lived in Akron. I can tell you without reasonable doubt, damn near everything there, revolves around one man. LeBron. To this day, it amazes me that they haven't erected a huge statue of him in Downtown Akron for all to bow before. (If they hope to keep him, they might want to get cracking on that.) Still, I can remember telling people for years that as good as LeBron was, he wouldn't win his first title until he left the state of Ohio. This, ironically enough, was not well received by most "Witnesses". Well, what now Witnesses?
Ownership has come out and given support to Mike Brown, but that as they say, is most likely MOOT if nothing else. I mean, Mike Woodson gets canned for taking a team as far as they can go...but Mike Brown retains his job because hey, it's not everyday your best player basically throws his hands up and spits in the coach's face in the postgame press conference more or less acknowledging that Boston had a gameplan and Cleveland did not. Dan Gilbert yet again, sticks it to LeBron. Say, remember what I said during my NBA preview? Can we get folks to cue that B-roll?
(Rewinds back to October of last year...)
Oh but I'm sure some might be of the thinking, why not Cleveland? Well, I figure for a few reasons...
A) Every talking head you see from here to Yuma will do it for me. I'm in Ohio, I'm up to my hairline with Cavaliers are title contenders talk, I think I deserve a fucking break from it don't you?
B) Because when you peel away the bullshit you're going to be hit with from now until late April, you will see exactly what I see. That this is NOT a championship caliber team. They're not a team you can put opposite of Los Angeles or San Antonio and see taking 4 out of 7 from them. Shaq's older. That supporting cast is probably as thin as it has ever been and in spite of the additions they made, last year's disappearing act of Mo Williams and Delonte's mental meltdown has me set on what I've said all along...
They're not yet ready for prime time.
C) Mike Brown is your reigning Coach of the Year. Make no mistake, he earned it for what he did last year. But last year's playoffs push spoke to the major deficiency that this team simply hasn't corrected...
They're not offensively fit to win a title. Defense wins championships, that remains true. But if you stop the other guys and you don't score yourselves, what great is that defense doing you? That's what did Cleveland in last year. It's what's going to do them in again this year. They don't have enough offense outside of LeBron, possibly Mo and Shaq on a consistent basis to bang with Boston and Orlando in the East.
Well, was I wrong? Too many people expected Boston to roll over and play dead, because well, they did it for most of the regular season. Unfortunately what was forgotten by most everyone was this...
A year ago, they were without KG and as such, they had nobody to keep that fire stoked and it allowed Orlando to take two straight to win that series. Now, we'll see what's really great now that all parties are at full strength. Cleveland back in the 90s, would be fodder for Jordan and company if everything was the way it is presently. Hell, Cleveland would barely get as much hype as it's getting now back then. But times have changed and now, it's a 'let's overlook the obvious' world. I think it took Cleveland falling into the hole they're in now with Boston pouring cement over it, for everyone to FINALLY acknowledge the obvious. Sadly, it's too late now. Cleveland management bought the hype, fans who were too naive to think otherwise or even want to for that matter, bit down on the thing and wouldn't let go.
I watched and listened to Game 6 last night and pretty much, Boston controlled it all the way through. There was a time when something in LeBron's skull went off, when he hit those two threes back to back but then it's like when he snapped to and saw what was around him...he fell back into the lull he was in during Game 5. Only instead of not being able to hit the rim if he were launched at it full speed, he simply lost the ability to make sound decisions with the rock. The Cavs had no ability whatsoever to make sound decisions with a little under a minute to go in their season and quite possibly, LeBron's career as a Cavalier. Down by 9, they let Boston dribble the game away when they could've EASILY fouled someone, ANYONE and put em' at the stripe. If you're going to go down, go down swinging. Instead, the best player (allegedly) in the NBA, laid down. It was the "Finger Poke Of Doom"...only Boston was playing the role of Hollywood Hulk Hogan.
I've outlined throughout my many pieces on LeBron that virtually every sign imaginable is pointing to him NOT returning. Boston in this series, had what Orlando had a year ago...fire. Boston was sick of hearing how old it was, hell, even I proclaimed them to be Team 50. They got rich and stopped trying. Well, they're not done trying as we were led to believe during the regular season. They're healthy. They're motivated and now, they want the team that has what was theirs just a year ago. The Eastern Conference Championship. Boston played this series like a team that wanted what it lost almost unfairly to a point a year ago. Orlando fired on all cylinders and Boston, just seemed worn out after a 7 game firefight with young Chicago to fend off Orlando. KG's health was paramount this season and well for that matter, a long playoff run. I more or less figured Orlando would run through its half of the bracket with no Boston to oppose them and boy did they ever. Conversely, Cleveland was doomed the second it had Boston pop up on its side of the bracket. Cleveland could've and probably would have muscled Atlanta, just as they did a year ago in 4 uneventful games. I knew they wouldn't be able to do the same to Boston.
Flipping it to Cleveland, I'm honestly uncertain how Mike Brown keeps his job after this. I really don't know how it's justified. Sure, he won Coach of the Year last year. Sure, he has won 60 plus games in back to back years. But so did Avery Johnson (well not winning 60 plus mind you in back to back years) and consecutive playoff failures cost him his job in Dallas. I can't say for certain if Mike Brown is just a great regular season coach who can't get it done in the postseason or not, but in this instance...something looked really really OFF. He just could not get the right combination of switches hit in time, to get Cleveland to get up off the mat and take Boston down as most everyone (except for Dan Shaughnessy, who predicted on Jim Rome Is Burning the Celts would win the series) expected. As for LeBron, he had the look of a guy who simply had enough. Was sick of going 1 on 5 all the time, sick of his supporting cast looking great when it hardly matters (the regular season) and then vanishing into thin air when it counts (the postseason). He looked like he was absolutely pissed that for the two MVP trophies he has hoisted in front of his home crowd, the only real title he has seen on his home floor was the one San Antonio celebrated in June of 2007. Again like I said, rather than take the improbable run and build upon it, Cleveland simply decimated it. LeBron never said a word about the cast around him changing that year, he said HE had to improve. Of course, a year later after they got much older and more talent depleted, then LeBron stated the roster had to change.
This time around, he stated he and his team had a gameplan and they'd execute it. Hell, he even found time to compliment Doc Rivers and his staff for their gameplan during the series. Again, not exactly a ringing endorsement for the only other guy to ever coach LeBron in his career. (Say, anyone got Paul Silas's number on speed dial?) At the end of the day, you simply look at LeBron and yeah, this will sit on the doorstep of his palatial place up in Bath Township for the next two and a half months. He'll wake up every morning from here on, faced with the fact that for the second year in a row, his team didn't and couldn't get to the NBA Finals as virtually every talking head has pre-ordained as it were.
LeBron was outmanned. Again. (Reoccuring theme, isn't it?) But this time, it was different. Having watched LBJ over the last few years, there was something more "off" about this year than any other. Watching LeBron it was like, he ruly and truly, didn't give a shit. He played like a man who knew that on July 1st, he'd be able to walk and he was sick of carrying this team of body bag occupants to 60 wins every year...only to get his head caved in after the fact in glorified 4 on 1 or 5 on 1 gang bangs. This time however, Mo Williams actually surfaced and had 20 plus, but they couldn't hold on to the ball if it were hair on the back of their hand. Let's be clear...
LeBron led the Cavs in EVERY STATISTICAL CATEGORY in Game 6. 27 points, 19 boards, 10 assists, 3 steals, 1 BLOCK. (Okay, he was tied with at least three people in blocks on his team.) Oh, almost forgot the NINE TURNOVERS he had on his own. Great players step up and lift their teams when it matters most. Great players don't roll over and play dead when it counts the most. If your supporting cast isn't up for it, you've gotta take the bull by the horns and make it do what it do. Every major player you can think of has done it throughout the years, LeBron...has only done it once. 2007 Eastern Conference Finals versus the Pistons in what turned out to be Detroit's Last Stand as it were. One of the most underrated moments in recent memory (in my mind) is the sitdown that The Association's Platinum Standard (Bill Russell) had with Kevin Garnett just weeks before KG got Boston its first title since The Big Three's era. Bill told Kevin that you cannot drag your team to a title. They have to be walking with you, in unison towards one goal.
A great player can win a series for you. Sure. A great player by himself, CANNOT win you a championship. So now, as the NBA's Final Four gets set to play, it is without its alleged 'Best Player In The Game'. So what do I think on his next stop and what his next step should be? I shall reveal that in a letter to LeBron...later. Conference Finals previews are on deck.