Blame

Bill Simmons:

Q: What should I have done differently?
— D. Ferry, Cleveland

SG: You mean other than trading Wally Szczerbiak’s expiring contract in February when 20 teams were dying to save money and you had a chance to turn a zero into a crunch-time guy? Besides that?

You looked around at the playoff landscape, shrugged your shoulders and said, “Yeah, we’re good,” even though you didn’t have a backup center or a true perimeter player with size other than LeBron. If you turned Wally into Antawn Jamison and Brendan Haywood, that could have worked. If you turned Wally, J.J. Hickson and a future No. 1 into Marcus Camby and an expiring deal, that could have worked. If you turned Wally into Richard Jefferson (whom the Bucks were trying to give away), that would have worked. If you turned Wally and Pavlovic into Shaq and Matt Barnes when Phoenix was desperately trying to shave money, that REALLY would have worked. By doing nothing, you basically said, “We can win with what we have.” And you didn’t. Note to Cavs fans: If you’re looking for a place to direct your anger and dismay, start here. Your front office choked. Not only could Shaq have defended Dwight Howard without help, he could have out-Tweeted him after every game. You were robbed.

Would Shaq have been an upgrade over Z with regards to defending Howard? Of course. But would he have stopped him? I don’t think so. Shaq had to resort to flopping while playing Orlando this season.

And Wally, JJ Hickson AND a first round pick for Camby? That’s quite a bit. Sure, Camby would’ve been nice to have to defend Rashard Lewis (I mean, seriously) but it’s not like he’s getting in Dwight Howard’s way either.

In hind sight, yes, Danny Ferry should’ve done something with Szczerbiak’s deal. But at the same time, no one else did any deals at the deadline either. The Blazers ended up sitting of Raef Lafrentz’s big expiring deal. Everyone expected teams to dump salary but no one wanted to be the next Chris Wallace.

Meh, at the end of the day, no one here is blameless. Mo Williams should’ve been more assertive, Mike Brown should’ve been more creative, Ferry should’ve pushed for more pieces and even LeBron should’ve done more. While everyone in the national media is staring at LBJ’s eye popping stats, they’ve glossed over some the little things. Erik touched on this in the comments:

For all the strides he’s made in his six NBA seasons (really, how much more can a guy grow during his late teens and early 20s?) this series proved that LeBron is still maturing. He’s not totally there yet.

The post-series pout is the most visible example, but I also wonder about the standing and dribbling for large chunks of the fourth quarter in the first five games. Mike Brown didn’t help matters with his minimalist offensive coaching, but the fact that LeBron’s teammates were left standing around is as much on LBJ as anyone.

LeBron doesn’t yet seem to totally understand that a leader doesn’t always lug his team around on his back, compensating for their shortcomings, making everything all better. A leader needs to demand more from his teammates. If Mo’s shots aren’t falling, then he dang well better be busting his hump on D and at least trying to penetrate and get to the line on offense. Get in Z’s ear, Andy’s ear. Maybe they’re athletically overmatched by Howard, but they can at least not get caught napping while Howard sneaks back door and flushes an alley-oop (That happened WAY too much in this series, BTW).

Word. The highlighted part was most apparent in Game 6 when the Cavs were attempting to mount their comeback. The Cavs had climbed within 10 by having Mo Williams and Delonte West dominate the ball; they got their own shots, they set up teammates and they made things easier on James. But once the Cavs got close, LeBron would take the ball and start initiating the offense, often ignoring Williams. This led to boatloads of Le-Iso and lots of drive-and-kick threes (and it looked to me like LeBron was driving simply to set up the kick-out. The Magic weren’t buying it).

At the end of the day, this was still a really good team that suffered a tough exit. Sure there’s blame to go around, but to me, this loss can be explained by a combination of little things rather than just one person or one decision.

(Let me take this opportunity voice my support for making this LeBron’s Low Post Summer. It’s time. He’s a monster on the block and he could not only dominate now but extend his career. It’s really a no-brainer).

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