Alright, I haven’t exactly been thrilled with the Cavaliers’ recent stretch of play. They’ve played .500 basketball since the trade, the defense comes and goes and the offense seems to have reverted back to 2006.
But (and trust me, it’s weird to write this) Bill Livingston makes a good point in his recent column:
They took a six-game West Coast road trip early, when they were undermanned by
the holdouts. Record: 3-and-3.
They played 21 back-to-back games, with the second on the road 17 times. Record: 8-and-13.
Suddenly daring, General Manager Danny Ferry swung a three-team trade in February that had players flying hither and yon.
The deal tore up the roster, yet still provided many shooters who can’t defend and defenders who can’t shoot. Record with the new players: 14-and-13.
They won their “Alamo game” after the trade, beating Washington with six players and two minor-league call-ups.
Most of all, LeBron James missed seven games and did not finish an eighth.
Winning just five of those games would have increased their victory total from 45 to the 50 victories of 2006 and 2007.
The Cavs have not had good luck this year. Karma bit both Varejao and Pavlovic in the ass, Z, Big Ben and LeBron have all had back issues and Daniel Gibson missed signifcant time with his ankle injury.
The trade hasn’t exactly been a flying success, but at the same time, key Cavaliers (Z, Gibson, Pavlovic) all missed serious, post-trade action. Mike Brown hasn’t figured out how to use these guys properly; most of the blame would lie at his feet, but you can only expect so much when you overhaul the roster mid-season (when guys can’t stay healthy). All of this can easily account for 5 victories (and I think we’d be resting a bit easier if this Cavalier team had 50 Ws again).
However, I’m still not confident heading into the second season. They’re limping into the postseason, Brown can’t find a lineup he likes (with Pavlovic out, I’d like to see them start Wally and bring Devin Brown off the bench) and the defense doesn’t show up consistently. They are not playing they’re best basketball and everyone knows it.
Washington seems very confident, but I’m not sure how much that is going to actually help them. This series scared me at first (and it still does to a certain degree) but the Wizards keep yapping and talking trash. I’m not sure that’s the best idea with LeBron James suiting up for the opposition.
Also, the post season is when Mike Brown does his best work. I’m not sold on Brown as a game day coach; I don’t like his sub patterns, I don’t care lack of fire (I could use some more well placed technical fouls) and they routinely get caught off guard following time outs (mostly from zone defenses). I also don’t like that he’s been experimenting with the lineup this late in the year (Damon Jones deserves to be on the court) but some of that can be explained by the injuries. That being said, Brown plans well for series. He has grasp of the ‘big picture’ issues (how they’ll defend, what they’ll try to do, etc) and I don’t see why this will be any different (I don’t care how good LeBron is, you don’t be a much better Detroit team without a coach with some talent).
As for my prediction… I’m torn. I understand every reason why someone would choose the Wizards this time around. The poor trade results, the injuries, the lack of cohesion… I get that (plus, you have to factor in Washington’s revenge factor). But I don’t know if I’d bet against LeBron, especially considering how well he’s played at times this year.
King James just got a bunch of days off… it’s playoff time… and DeShawn Stevenson has been calling him overrated for weeks now… I don’t see myself picking again LeBron and co. in this siutation.
Cavs in 7.