Alright. It's over folks. The Cavs have been eliminated in the second round of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics in 6 games. I'm borderline speechless, but at the same time have a lot to say.
Let me start by saying thank you to the Cavs for a fun ride. I started this blog with my friend Wills last summer with the intention of covering the sports World, but my individual focus was on the Cavs. Over time, this blog has turned into a blog that focuses on the Cavs, and the affect they have on the NBA. I've seen and thought a lot about this team during that time period, and obviously it reached an all time low on Thursday night when their dream of winning a championship went down the drain.
I'm not going to focus on the game too much. The Cavs put themselves in a position to win, but they shot the ball way too poorly, and turned the ball over way too much to actually pull out a victory against what may very well be the best team in the NBA. Make no mistake about it, the Celtics came into this season as possible favorites to win the championship, and with the resurgence of KG those hopes are now very much intact. It's tough to swallow, obviously. This Cavs team believed 100% that they were better than the Celtics.
What I really want to talk about is LeBron and the future of this team. I'm going to be posting about this a lot over the next 2 months, but this is just my preliminary feelings on that. First of all, I'm extremely disappointed in LeBron. He showed flashes of being healthy, but could never put it all together on the court. It was so weird to me to watch this man struggle in a way I haven't ever seen him do. He was unable to do ANYTHING on the court. He couldn't finish, couldn't shoot, couldn't pass, couldn't close out on jump shooters... and yet he ends up with 27 19 and 10. Stats don't always tell the full story, and this is a prime example.
I'm all about the "no excuses" policy that many greats have had before, but when it affects your play as much as it clearly did to LeBron, you have to be honest with the media afterwards. LeBron is somewhat of an historian when it comes to the NBA, and if he thinks that this performance won't tarnish his legacy, he is sorely mistaken. Unless we find out over the next couple of weeks that he has elbow surgery, or some other issue, this will be a big red "X" on LeBron's hall-of-fame resume (he'll get in, but there will always be questions about his ability to win, and perform in the playoffs).
People will say that he does everything he can to get his teams wins, but his team just isn't good enough. That was true last year, and the year before... but not this year. As a matter of fact, it wasn't even LeBron's fault this year. It rests on Mike Brown's shoulders. If he is not fired by Monday, there is something seriously wrong with that franchise. In order to bring LeBron back to Cleveland for at least 3 more years, they need a GREAT coach next season. If they are able to bring one in, they have a much better chance of competing in games like these. Instead of constantly being outcoached, they need someone who can put these wonderful pieces together to form the championship team that they should be.
There are also some roster shake-ups that need to made, however they need to make them differently than they have in years past. It's been an arms race in the East for the last couple of years, but every year the Cavs have been competing against a different team. Two years ago they built their team to beat Boston after they lost them, but then they lost to Orlando. Last year they built their team to beat Orlando, but they lost to Boston. Had they gotten to Orlando, they would have had a much better chance than people are giving them credit for. The same goes for LA. They just didn't have the appropriate players to match-up with KG and Rondo this year (Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic anyone?). KG will continue to age, so they shouldn't be focused on him, but they certainly need to bring in someone to play the point. Mo should be a 6th man for this team.
However, getting back to my point, they need to build their team to be able to win regardless of the match-ups. The NBA is a lot about match-ups, but due to Mike Brown's terrible coaching style, the Cavs have focused WAY WAY WAY WAY too much on individual match-ups, and just trying to match-up with the other team, rather than making the other team match-up with them. Look at Orlando. Sure, playing Lewis at the 4 could give them defensive troubles, but it doesn't because they stick to their guns and make other teams put smaller people on the court in order to be able to match-up with THEM. Antawn Jamison may have been the answer for that, but it was a trade that ultimately may have cost them this series. Varejao or Hickson would have done a MUCH better job on KG than Jamison did, and that match-up likely lost them the series.
So instead of looking at the Cavs roster now and looking at what they can do to match-up with the Celtics for next year, I'm going to tell you what I think they can do to make themselves better:
1. They need a starting PG. I'd take a good long look at Darren Collison of New Orleans, or possibly getting a draft pick to take a young guy in the first round. The last couple years have had some really good PGs taken who were not expected to be as good as they have been (see: Rondo). If Mo were coming off the bench with Delonte... man, this team would have been fire.
2. They need a starting SG. Anthony Parker isn't going to cut it. If Danny Green wants to become great, fine, that's cool. Christian Eyenga? Ha. They need a legit 6'6" athletic wing player who can run with LeBron. Ray Allen would be nice, but he's old and likely not going to sign. Once again, this would be nice to get in the draft so they don't have to waste their MLE on this need, because the next need is much more pertinent for immediate success.
3. They need a starting C. Maybe not a starting Center if they can bring back Shaq for a year, but they need someone who will be able to take the reigns from him in a year and be able to defend Dwight Howard with relatively little to no help. I know I'm looking at match-ups here, but the fact is that if you can't defend Centers, you can't win against teams that have shooters. Orlando is that, and they will be the Cavs biggest threat in the coming years.
Looking at all those needs, I have to take a stance on LeBron. He should leave. There is no way in the world the Cavs can get all of those pieces this summer, and LeBron needs to go to a place where they already have people in place. He can't waste his youth on Cleveland any longer. I've thought about whether or not I'd support LeBron in a different jersey, and I would. I wouldn't support his team as much as I have the Cavs, because I have absolutely fallen in love with them, but I will always support LeBron's desire to become the best there is. He's a champion stuck in a loser's body right now, and in order to get into a new body suit, he needs to go to Chicago. It probably won't happen, but if he does, he will redefine greatness in the Chi.
I'll be back for more in the coming days/weeks. Sorry for ramblin'. It's been fun.