Friday, May 29, 2009

King James

Cleveland Cavalier Forward LeBron James put forth another outstanding performance to keep his team alive in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals. He had a triple double (37 points, 14 rebounds, and 12 assists). Remarkably, with the game on the line in the final 12 minutes LeBron had a hand in 29 of Cleveland’s 34 points either by scoring or dishing assists.

It amazes me that the Cavs have come this far. Yes, the team had an NBA best 66 wins during the regular season, but LeBron’s supporting cast is absolutely dreadful. Only Mo Williams is a decent player. If we ranked the top 8 players per the 4 teams in the conference finals (teams in the playoffs usually go with an 8-man rotation) for a ranking of 1 to 32, the top 4 would be LeBron, Kobe Bryant (Lakers), Dwight Howard (Magic), and Carmelo Anthony (Nuggets). With the remaining 24 players, the Cavs’ players would take up the bottom 7 slots. If you took the second best player off any of the 3 other conference finals teams and put him on the Cavs, this best-of-7 series would, at least, be in the Cavs’ favor if not already over.

Just to be down 3 games to 2, LeBron has to play out of his mind and be near exhaustion every 4th quarter because of the lack of help. The Cavs’ front office has committed professional malpractice in trying to support LeBron with talent. This team is no different than 2 years ago when it went to the NBA Finals and the supporting cast was dreadful back then. The Cavs’ big moves in the interim in bringing in Wally Szczerbiak and Ben Wallace have failed miserably as both can barely get minutes in the postseason. The only move that has worked has been bringing in Williams this season.

This reminds me of the late 1980s to mid 1990s for the New York Knicks and Patrick Ewing. No, Patrick was not the caliber of player LeBron is, but he was still a hall of famer in the making and, in his prime, a top 5 player in the NBA. Like the Cavs’ front office, the Knicks did a pathetic job in surrounding Patrick with talent. Delusional Knick fans would argue that John Starks and Charles Oakley were good, but let’s get serious here. Oakley was a Chicago Bulls castaway and a thug and Starks was a glorified CBA player (the pseudo minor leagues of the NBA at the time). Whenever the Knicks faced the Bulls, Rockets, or Pacers, Patrick was no worse than the 2nd best player on the floor (only Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon being better), while the next best Knick was always worse than the rest of the opponents’ top players.

NBA fans know that LeBron will be a free agent going into the 2010 season. Cavs’ fans fear he would leave to a team like the Knicks, which happens to be one of the worst teams in the NBA at the moment. Fans talk about the rumor that he has a special clause in his endorsement contracts whereby he would get more money if he played in New York. The Knicks should be well under the salary cap to afford LeBron. If he does leave for the Knicks, I don’t think it would have anything to do with endorsement deals as it is the Knicks would have the cap space to bring in another good player. That is something the Cavs have failed to do since LeBron has been there.

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