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Pick One; L.A. or Boston?

The Lakers and Celtics are set to tip off this Thursday for the 12th time in NBA Finals history. Boston owns the edge in the series with a 9-2 record and the Celtics fully expect to extend that mark by one more at the conclusion of the title round. But Kobe Bryant and the rest of the Lakers are the defending champs and will be heading into this rematch of the 2008 Finals with a little redemption in the back of their minds.

Maybe the telling sign of an excellent matchup is the varied opinions on who the winner will be. The AFRO sports desk has been at it all week over who will close the 2009-2010 season as NBA champions. Stephen D. Riley says Boston. Perry Green says Los Angeles. The AFRO says read their back and fourth debate.

SDR: Celtics will win in six games. Boston’s defense has been unbelievable so far this postseason. They’ve dealt with big time scorers LeBron James and Dwayne Wade and contained superstar big men past and present in Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard. They’ll formulate a gameplan to contain another terrifying wing scorer in Kobe and limit Pau Gasol, just like they did in 2008. Boston’s rotation is 10 deep and it’s full of defensive-minded guys with things to prove. The Celtics have the size and toughness to make things problematic for the finesse Lakers.

PG: The Celtics may have the tools to beat the finesse version of the Lakers but this isn’t 2008 and L.A. isn’t exactly a soft push over anymore. Boston may have contained Shaq and Howard but neither of those “supermen” can score the rock as well as Gasol can.  There isn’t a better scoring big man in the league than Gasol, who will be able to play his natural power forward position, unlike 2008 when he was forced to center due to an injured Andrew Bynum. With Bynum on the court, L.A. has two 7-footers to match up with the Celtics’ size. Not to mention 6-foot-11 star Lamar Odom will offer support off the bench while Ron Artest, the best perimeter defender in the NBA, will make the Lakers a very tough team to beat. Lakers win the series in seven games.    

SDR: The thing that makes Los Angeles so tough is their twin towers in the middle with Bynum and Gasol but Bynum (just like in 2008) is hobbled with a knee injury. His minutes have decreased in each round of the playoffs from 29.7 in round one, 24.8 in round two to a paltry 18.2 in the Western finals. A gimpy knee against a physical Boston team spells trouble for Bynum and the rest of the Lakers. Kevin Garnett has the offensive game to attack Gasol in the post and get him in foul trouble. If that happens then the Lakers’ strength suddenly becomes a weakness and if Odom has to defend Garnett and/or Rasheed Wallace in the post on a regular basis it could become a long series for L.A, 2008 all over again.

PG: But there’s a difference between not playing at all and simply playing banged up. Bynum was completely absent from the 2008 Finals but trust and believe he will play this time around. And with an opportunity to help L.A. seek revenge from ’08 that may be enough motivation to mentally overcome his banged up knee and get the job done. Let’s not forget Paul Pierce was the hero of the series in ’08 but this time he’ll be guarded by either the very physical Artest or Bryant. Both are as good as it gets at defending swing forwards, which gives L.A. an advantage.

SDR: There’s also a difference between playing major minutes and being a liability. You would be wishing upon a star to expect Bynum to contribute anything significant in this series. Yes, his presence will help to provide a big body but he won’t be out there in the stretch of the game and he won’t be out there in the closing minutes of the game. Artest or Kobe checking Pierce could limit Boston’s main scorer but this is Rajon Rondo’s team now and the Lakers don’t have a point guard on the roster who can contain him. Bryant checked Rondo exclusively in ’08 but he won’t have that luxury again. Boston goes as Rondo goes and he flat out annihilated Jameer Nelson and Mo Williams (All-Star point guards in ’08) and he’ll do the same to Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmar.

PG: I agree, Rondo is the real deal, and may be the best overall player left in the postseason besides Kobe. But that still shouldn’t worry the Lakers. Fact is, L.A. has eliminated the Suns, Thunder and Jazz, three teams with three excellent point guards. Some would argue that Jazz guard Deron Williams is the best point guard in the league and Steve Nash is a two-time MVP. Fisher had to defend both of them just to get to this point and was embarrassed at times by their excellent skill. Yet L.A. still survived, nonetheless, mainly because of one player: Kobe Bryant. The “Black Mamba” has been playing in a league of his own the entire playoffs, scoring at least 30 points in 10 of the last 11 games. The man simply cannot be stopped on his quest of stamping his legacy as perhaps the greatest player in Lakers’ history. Good luck on trying to halt him, Boston. They’ll need it. 

SDR: Fisher was carved up repeatedly in the first three rounds but the Lakers survived because of mitigating circumstances. The Thunders’ lack of experience, the Jazz’s lack of healthy bodies and the Suns’ lack of defense. Boston will come equipped with all three elements plus a point guard who can attack. Plain and simple, the Celtics are built to beat the Lakers; an attacking point guard, a slew of tall defensive minded big men who can shoot and draw Gasol and Bynum away from the rim and a pair of scorers in Pierce and Ray Allen who can make Bryant work throughout the course of the series. Kobe ‘s been playing out of his mind so far this postseason but he hasn’t had to work defensively. All three of Boston’s primary scorers could make life miserable for Bryant. Allen will run him off screens and Pierce will make him work while Rondo will attack with his speed.

PG: But Kobe doesn’t mind working. He had to work defensively against the great scoring of Kevin Durant and also had to work to stop excellent scorers like the Suns’ Jason Richardson and Grant Hill. Like Boston, the Suns also played tremendous defense down the stretch of the postseason, a prime example being their dominance against the Spurs during the Western Conference semifinals. But L.A. still prevailed. Point is, this series will be tightly competed and both teams have a great shot at winning it all. But my money is on the defending champs.

May 31, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

2014 Super Bowl Cold Idea but Warm Reasoning

So the NFL awarded the New York City area the 2014 Super Bowl last Tuesday and online weather reports for four years down the road immediately went into overkill. Fierce winds, blistery temperatures and mixtures of sleet and snow are already being projected for what is being fortuned as the coldest game in NFL history. While NFL enthusiast are worrying about the weather, marketers are worrying about the bigger picture; the money.

A Super Bowl in the heart of the most marketable city in North America would probably classify as one of if not the biggest sporting event(s) in recent memory. The bright lights, mobs of civilians and advertisement possibilities would help to clarify the little to no sense that it makes to play a game that strongly depends on weather conditions in the middle of winter along the East Coast.

The teams will be fine, whether they’re accustomed to playing in domes or warm weather, coaches will formulate a successful gameplan in the event of cruel conditions. The players and coaches will be A-OK, they’re used to it. Football is made to be played in the cold, the colder the game the better the war story. But Super Bowls are meant to be played in ideal weather conditions. January and February championship games in California, Arizona or Florida make for short sleeves, sandals, shorts and tailgating with ease for the most important participants, the fans.

You can’t ask people to pay upwards of $1,000 to willingly stand outside and embrace sub degree winds. But the NFL played it smart. The only cold weather section suitable for raking in Super Bowl cash would be the New York/New Jersey area. People enjoyably embrace the face cracking winds to stand as part of New York’s annual New Year’s Eve celebrations as well as other events so NFL owners probably had that notion resting in their back pockets when it came time for their decisions.

While other owners will be clamoring for Super Bowls in outdoor city stadiums in Chicago, New England and Washington, D.C., you can wish them good luck; those cities just don’t have the marketing appeal that the Big Apple does. Chicago’s brutal winter winds and New England’s blizzards could draw a Super Bowl Sunday into an ugly picture. And D.C. isn’t big enough to handle the masses of people that would invade its District.

In lieu of the NFL owners vote, the league is still all about its fans. While the 2014 Super Bowl will set a landmark, don’t expect a revolutionary wave to begin. An association can only ask people to accept the unappealing but so many times and hopefully New York will be about as far as the league goes.

May 27, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Seems Like Old Times, Celtics/Lakers Set for Rematch

The shorts are a little longer, the names a little different but the Celtics and Lakers are still the highlight of the league. (Courtesy Photo)

Thanks to a rejuvenated Kevin Garnett, we can do without a pair puppets and a possible Kobe/LeBron matchup because we’ll be getting the next best thing; Boston vs. L.A. No disrespect to Orlando and Phoenix but let’s be serious; it’s all about the Lakers and Celtics this year, again. It’s typically out of my character to just write teams off in the middle of a series but why not? Everybody else is doing it. I couldn’t wait to get a crack at previewing this series, with so many twists and plots, it should be another great one.

So if Boston and L.A. do eventually matchup for the 12th time in NBA Finals history, things should be pretty interesting. Despite the historic brilliance of both clubs, the Celtics/Lakers Finals series has been pretty one-sided so far. Boston owns a 9-2 edge in the series with their last victory coming in 2008 when visions of a Boston comeback, a Boston blowout and Doc Rivers being doused with Gatorade defined the series. But things could be different this time around. Or could they?

After all, Pau Gasol is a better player, Kobe Bryant is still Kobe Bryant and the rest of the Lakers are more experienced and better equipped to scrap with a rough and rugged Boston squad. But Boston is also sporting a different look these days. Gone is the dominance of the “Big Three” and in is the superstardom of All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo. Rondo’s emergence has continued the Celtics’ image of a lock and block defensive unit while upping the tempo and transforming them into a fast-paced drive and dish team.

The Lakers have had a history of being openly victimized by athletic point guards and a new defensive game plan will have to be in order for a Finals rematch. Bryant exclusively locked up with Rondo in the ’08 Finals in an effort to give him a rest on defense and out of chasing Boston sniper Ray Allen off screens. But Rondo was nowhere near the scorer in ’08 that he is now so Bryant typically gave him an open cushion and the green light to launch jumpers. While perimeter shooter still isn’t one of Rondo’s strengths, it would be a huge mistake for the Lakers to put Bryant on him again should the teams meet. Rondo has stamina to burn while Bryant, 31, is nowhere near the thoroughbred he used to be. But L.A. will be in a tough position regardless because putting Derek Fisher on Rondo will be just an open invitation to the rim for the Celtics point guard.

Bryant will have more help next time around should his Lakers meet up with the Celtics (Courtesy Photo/AP-Yonhap)

There’ll be a lot of clashes in this possible series to keep note of; Ron Artest vs. Paul Pierce and Gasol vs. Kevin Garnett will both weigh heavily on the outcome but Boston doesn’t have a man to check Lamar Odom off the bench and with the way Odom is playing right now, the Celtics will definitely have to key on him.

Everything about this series screams television viewership records from the names on the front of jerseys to the ones on the back. No other teams are hotter right now than the Lakers and Celtics. Los Angeles has turned into a scoring machine while Boston has been the premiere defensive unit of the postseason.

It shouldn’t be long now, just have to wait for Orlando and Phoenix to lie down and let history take its course. The last two NBA Champions set to slug it out in what could be the last hurrah for both clubs. Kobe vs. LeBron would’ve been nice but who needs puppets when you got the Celtics and Lakers?

 

May 20, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Despite Lottery Results, Nets Still Looking ‘Jerseylicious’ for Next Season

A few offseason acquisitions should help redefine the New Jersey Nets next season. (Courtesy Photo)

Every offseason, sports writers around the globe are on the lookout for the next best thing. Last summer, roundball writers drooled over Oklahoma City’s potential. This summer, the focus should be in Newark. OK, so John Wall isn’t going to New Jersey, big deal! The Nets will still be an alluring destination team this summer thanks to Mikhail Prokhorov, the self-made Russian billionaire owner with cap room and money to blow. Prokhorov should also be aided by the team’s relocation plans for Brooklyn in 2012 and one of the best up and coming rosters in the league. Seriously, who wouldn’t want to come to Jersey?

Even though the Nets only won 12 games last season, their roster is stacked with young and attractive talent. A 7-foot center in Brook Lopez who’s already one of the best big men in the league at just 22-years-old. A prototypical sized, lighting quick and fast-twitch point guard in Devin Harris (who probably benefitted the most from Washington winning the lottery since many forget he was an All-Star in 2008). A trio of athletic wings in Terrence Williams, Courtney Lee and Chris Douglas-Roberts. Throw in serviceable bigs Josh Boone and Yi Jianlian, who averaged 13 points and nine rebounds to close the month of April, and New Jersey’s roster is only a couple of spectacular pieces away from being dangerously nasty.

While Lopez and Harris get most of the pub, Williams may be the most intriguing member of that group. A rookie last year who didn’t start receiving consistent minutes until the last two months of the season when he averaged over 14 points, 5.6 assists and 6.2 rebounds a game in only 31.2 minutes of action. Consistent minutes and a year of seasoning could turn Williams into a certified player next year but the salivating doesn’t stop there.

Keep in mind this year’s third pick in the draft should net New Jersey one of Evan Turner, Derrick Favors or DeMarcus Cousins. While many would argue for Turner if he’s available, consider that Williams is already giving the Nets what Turner would but he’s doing so with a few extra drops of athleticism (check his youtube). Besides, stacking up on athletic bigs is never a bad thing. Look no further than the Lakers and Celtics for an example of what two long and athletic front courters can do for a team’s roster. Pairing Cousins or Favors with Lopez would give New Jersey a pretty stout and athletic front wall rarely possessed by teams in the NBA.

And then there’s free agency, where a few extra dollars could land the marquee player this team needs to be a true contender. LeBron James anyone? Guys like Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer will likely wish to partner with James or Dwayne Wade (who’s also a free agent) somewhere where they could run the league but James is the linchpin here. Unlike Bosh, Stoudemire and Boozer, James doesn’t necessarily need to pair with a huge name to win and his a one-man band game is more than capable of leading a group of misfits (as he’s already done) deep in the playoffs. Not that the Nets roster is any slouch but if any of the freebies could come to New Jersey solo and successfully run a group of highly-skilled talents, it’s James.

If it’s not James then maybe Prokhorov should throw his dollars at Memphis restricted free agent Rudy Gay. The 6-foot-9, 23-year-old small forward is coming off averages of 19.6 points and six rebounds and adding him to an already capable squad could form Oklahoma City-like results in the East next year. Gay’s Baltimore ties might force him to consider relocating somewhere closer to home and the Grizzlies are going to let the market set a barometer for Gay but if Prokhorov throws some ridiculous figure out there, Memphis might likely decline to match.

Regardless of which free agents or if any signs with the Nets, with the third pick in the draft and a move to Brooklyn on the horizon, the Nets are clearly a team on the rise in the NBA.

May 20, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Pink Slip Debate, Should Wiz Part Ways with Arenas?

Even Gilbert Arenas doesn't know whether or not he'll be in Washington next year (Courtesy Photo).

When the Washington Wizards won the NBA draft lottery on Tuesday night, AFRO sports writers Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley went into full John Wall mode. Both Riley and Green believe the Kentucky point guard would be a welcomed addition to the Wizards as Wall should represent new life around the nation’s capital after a disastrous season.

But while both writers are set on the Wizards selecting Wall, they remain torn over what Washington should do with current point guard Gilbert Arenas. Should the Wizards jettison their once –loved star or should they hold on to him? The AFRO sports desk debates.

SDR: Forget the Cherry Blossom Festival or walks alongside the National Mall, the best scene in D.C. next year is going to be Wall and Arenas blasting down the court on fast breaks. Arenas has the size to move over to shooting guard and his experience should lead for a smooth transition for Wall as he adjust to the pros. Arenas was never much of a great floor leader but the addition of Wall might actually help D.C.’s favorite gunner (no pun intended) become a more efficient player. Wall was part of a two point guard backcourt during his tenure at Kentucky so joining a starting unit with Arenas should be a seamless transition.

PG:  There’s little doubt that John Wall could co-exist on the court with a prolific scorer like Arenas. But it’s the off-court relationship between the two that I would avoid. No disrespect to Gil, but the man is a notorious jackass. He has a long reputation for being a practical joking attention-whore willing to push the line between humor and outright disrespect. His often offensive behavior led to the breakup of the team last season, so I don’t know how wise it would be to keep him around during the rebuilding process of a new team. Everybody deserves a second chance, but Gil’s shouldn’t be here in Washington.

SDR: Good point but maybe Arenas has learned his lesson. He’s been suspended, imprisoned and ripped apart by the media. I can’t vouch for Arenas’ behavior but if the Wizards were set on dumping him then they should’ve done so already. The past is the past. Washington could eat Arenas’ contract but that would be more for proving a point than making a smart basketball decision so holding onto the controversial star might be in their best interest. Arenas is still the best scorer on the roster and his ability to play both point and shooting guard makes him a vital piece in Washington’s attempt to regain respectability.

PG:  If the mission is to gain respectability, keeping Arenas around is the last thing Washington should do. The Wizards already traded away two members of the “Big Three” so you mean to tell me you’re going to keep around the one player who has been the least productive for you during the past three seasons? Sure, trading away Gil’s contract may be very difficult, and eating the contract by simply releasing him is a bold move to make but it’s been done before. The New York Knicks reached a buy-out agreement with troublesome star Stephon Marbury just two seasons ago. They ended up eating nearly $20 million dollars in one season just because they wanted him away from their new rebuilding process.  The Wizards may be able to do the same thing by simply convincing Arenas that he has a chance for a fresh career start somewhere else in the league.

SDR: It was nothing for the Knicks to eat Marbury’s contract in 2009 because he only had one year left on his deal. Washington still owes Arenas four years and $80 million which makes him pretty tough to move. Arenas may be a lot of things but let’s not make him out to be some notorious thug who has a history of league fines, violations and suspensions. He made a mistake and paid for it. Aside from being an infamous prankster, he’s also a tireless worker who built his game up from a second round pick into one of the league’s more marketable stars before he shredded his knee. A guy with that kind of work ethic would provide a great example for an incoming wide-eyed rookie.

PG:  But see, John Wall doesn’t need Arenas to show him how to work hard. Perhaps the greatest point guard of all time, Magic Johnson, already vouched for him being a true gym rat with crazy work ethic. Wall also doesn’t need Gil around trying to haze him as most rookies are when entering the league. There are stories swirling around the Wizards locker room that Arenas once dropped a load of human feces in forward Andray Blatche’s shoe when he was a rookie.

Another story has him stealing the rims and tires off of one of his teammate’s car during a road game, and we all saw the fruits of his latest prank. And 2009 wasn’t the first time Arenas saw legal trouble. He also had a gun charge in California in 2003. When it boils down to it, Gil simply plays too much off the court and hasn’t played enough on the court when they’ve needed him the most. So how can you trust him to not disappoint, again? If I’m in charge, I sit Arenas down, offer him half of what he’s owed from his contract, and set up another team interested in his services to pay the remainder. We still got love for ya Gil, but it’s time to move on!

May 19, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

From Wall to Washington, Kentucky Point Guard a Likely Selection for Number One

The only thing faster than Wall will be the Washington Wizards' selection of the Kentucky point guard on June 24. (Courtesy Photo)

So John Wall it is! After winning the NBA draft lottery on Tuesday night, Washington should waste no time running to the podium on June 24 and slapping a Wizards’ cap over Wall’s head. But what about Gilbert Arenas you ask? Well, what about him? No matter if Arenas stays or goes, Wall is the pick. The type of athletic point guard reminiscent of Rajon Rondo that can run team and control a game isn’t necessarily a bad thing to have.

Ohio State’s Evan Turner might be the more polished player and perhaps even a better fit with his size and playmaking ability but he’s simply not the headliner that Wall is. Wall’s catlike quickness, speed and leadership skills were on full display during his lone year in Kentucky’s run and fun scheme last season. Anticpated by the feats of John Calipari disciples Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans, Wall’s freshman year at Kentucky was laced with expectations but closed under the name of “Blue Jesus,” a nicknamed dubbed for Wall at local barbershops, an indicator of the success of his one year Kentucky trial. The 6-foot-4 point guard often made fools out of would-be defenders while outshining nearly every player in the country on his way to Freshman of the Year honors and finishing just behind Turner for the Player of the Year award.

Far from a finished product, Wall could use some work on his shooting and improve his decision making. A five-turnover, 7-of-18 shooting performance in Kentucky’s Elite Eight loss to West Virginia magnified that. But improving his game shouldn’t be a problem for Wall, whose work ethic scouts have raved upon. And for a player that knows he has a ways to go, results should be expected sooner rather than later.

“I’m doing everything I need to right now,” Wall told ESPN inside the home of his agent, Dan Fegan, on Tuesday night about improving his jumpshot. “You just got to get a lot of reps in, that’s all it’s going to take. I think my techniques and my mechanics [are] straight, all I [have] to do is get a lot of reps up and just keep working on it everyday.”

An improved jumper might push Wall into future All-Star considerations but his speed, passing ability and athleticism will be put to use right away in the District. Wizard fans haven’t had a player to fawn over since Arenas injured his knee three years ago and with the return of a healthy Arenas coupled with the arrival of Wall, things could be on the up and up in Washington.

May 19, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Checkmate! The King has Options this Offseason, Should He Stay or Go?

The Cleveland Cavaliers finished as the regular season’s best team for the second straight year in a row. But just like last season, the Cavs fell short of their championship goal. After losing in the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Boston Celtics, many critics believe Cavs megastar LeBron James should leave his Ohio hometown and venture off to another franchise if he wishes to win a title.

Read below as AFRO sports writers Stephen D. Riley and Perry Green debate whether or not King James should give up on Cleveland.  

 

SDR: Save the sob stories and city allegiance, it’s time for LeBron to bounce. He’s given Cleveland seven of the city’s best years in its basketball history. You look at the Cav’s roster up and down and you see a bunch of guys who can’t finish layups, convert open threes or make clutch baskets on a regular basis and when it counts in the playoffs. The Cavs’ second and third best players –Anderson Varejao and Delonte West– wouldn’t start for any of the remaining playoff teams and let’s not get started on Cavs head coach Mike Brown.

PG: There’s no reason LeBron should leave Cleveland. The legacy of King James is and always will be tied to his home state. The greatest of the greats in NBA history didn’t leave town to win their championships, and I don’t think LeBron wants to leave either. It all comes down to how he wants to be remembered. Will LeBron’s legacy mimic the likes of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, or will his career reflect less greats like Kevin Garnett and Shaquille O’Neal? All four players are Hall of Fame worthy (as James is already) but MJ and Kobe are argued as the greatest of all time, while Garnett and O’Neal are merely mentioned amongst the best.

SDR: O’Neal and Garnett’s accomplishments aren’t frowned upon because they left town to win elsewhere but because big men hardly get any love around NBA circles. It’s the guards that lace the titles of the NBA’s best ever because they’re just the more exciting specimens to watch. Do you know how many times Tim Duncan ousted Kobe in the playoffs? Or can you explain why Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Jordan always seem to receive more praise than Bill Russell’s 11 titles? But that’s besides the point. James leaving Cleveland would probably have an even greater impact on his legacy than if he stays.

If he goes to New York or Chicago, he has a chance to revive two historic basketball franchises that haven’t won anything in quite some time, especially New York. If he goes to New Jersey (where I think he should) then he would help elevate a traditional downtrodden team to unforeseen heights, especially once the club moves to Brooklyn in two years. And if he does all of this while Cleveland falls back off the face of the NBA map then it will only prove his worth. The thought of Cleveland even winning 45 games let alone over 60 as they’ve done in the past two seasons was unheard of before James arrived and will resume once/if James leaves.

PG: Tim Duncan is considered by most basketball experts as the greatest power forward to ever play the game, and Bill Russell easily takes the crown as the best center to ever play. Why is Duncan’s and Russell’s legacy deemed greater than KG’s and Shaq’s? Certainly the amount of championships won between Duncan and Russell (15) is the primary determining factor, but let’s not ignore how both players won their titles with the same team throughout their careers. I also won’t ignore how Garnett’s legacy would have been even greater had he brought a championship to his original team, the Minnesota Timberwolves. LeBron should use Garnett as a learning example and make sure his front office doesn’t make the same mistakes Minnesota made.

SDR: Duncan’s and Russell’s legacies are deemed greater than KG’s and Shaq’s because they won more titles, plain and simple, not because they didn’t relocate. It didn’t take long for San Antonio, Los Angeles and Boston to surround their stars with talent once they got a hold of them. It’s taken Cleveland seven years to surround James with Jamario Moon, Anthony Parker, “Boobie” Gibson and a near 40-year-old O’Neal. And the one chance they did have at landing a marquee talent, they balked.

Cleveland’s front office had a deal on the table in February to land Amar’e Stoudemire but elected to trade for Antawn Jamison because they didn’t want to relinquish J.J. Hickson to the Suns. How did that pay off? Hickson totaled nine minutes and zero points in Cleveland’s last three playoff games while Jamison netted 14 points of 6-of-20 shooting in the Cavs’ last two games. As for Stoudemire, well, he’s been a beast while giving out dunk facials and averaging over 20 a game so far this post season. Get out while you can LeBron, this coaching staff and front office will be the reason why you’ll never win in Cleveland.

PG: I’d be insane to even attempt to argue that the Cavaliers’ front office didn’t drop the ball on the potential Stoudemire trade. There’s no doubt the presence of a star talent like Amar’e Stoudemire would have made a greater difference in the Cavs’ success this postseason. Instead, LeBron had to rely on a 33-year-old former All-Star past his prime in Antawn Jamison who can’t defend the elite big men of the NBA and struggled on offense throughout most of the semifinals against Boston.

But even with that said, part of the reason Mike and Kobe are thought of as GOATs is because they stayed with one team and took that team to multiple championships. LeBron is simply one more star player away from bringing Cleveland an NBA title and the summer of 2010 will be a feeding frenzy for teams looking to sign a high-profiled free agent. If I’m LeBron, I demand the Cavs front office to make a huge splash this offseason.

SDR: Cleveland is in an impossible position to land a free agent. No free agent is going to want to go to Cleveland without the assurance of James being there and James isn’t going to resign without the assurance of a free agent coming aboard. It’s not like Cleveland is New York, Chicago or even the Los Angeles Clippers where the city is appealing and the market is huge. Similar situation to Garnett in Minnesota and we all saw how that ended.

PG: All it would take for the Cavs to lure a quality All-Star is to offer that potential contributor the chance to play with the best young talent in the game and help him win a ring. The Lakers solidified Kobe’s legacy when they traded for All Star Pau Gasol in 2007. But in 2006, Kobe and the Lakers were eliminated in the playoffs similarity to how the Cavs were this posteason. If Cavs owner Dan Gilbert knows best, he’ll do what the Lakers did and bring LeBron help now. Cleveland may have screwed up on the potential Stoudemire trade, but it’s not too late to right the wrong. Toronto Raptor’s All-Star Chris Bosh will be a free agent this offseason, and so will Stoudemire. Both players would be an ideal fit for what the Cavs need to get over the hump.

May 17, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Down With the King

I admit it; I’m a LeBron James fan. I think he’s better than Kobe, better than what he just showed in last week’s Eastern Conference semifinals and better than the lambasting he’s been receiving from critics in the wake of Cleveland’s recent playoff exit. Funny how James’ last two playoff games has now prompted many to question his heart and desire and stamp his career as an underachiever. Maybe he was hurt, maybe it was something else (and the rumors are wild) but for a man that averages 31 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists when facing playoff elimination, I’m not ready to say he doesn’t have the heart to be great.

Regardless of your position, you have to admit that James is a phenomenon, a once in a lifetime talent in the same breath as some of the NBA’s past legends, just without the hardware. Personally I think James is the Michael Jordan of his era; a revolutionary player that wows observers, strikes fear in opponents and commands respect as one of if not the best basketball player in the league. But then there’s that pesky argument of championship rings and title T-shirts and blah, blah, blah which James is going to have to eventually answer to one day. And for a 25-year-old who’s already bagged more individual accomplishments than most players achieve in a lifetime, it’s time for ‘Bron to go into full championship or bust mode. And that’s why it’s time for him to bid adieu to his hometown and escape for greener pastures.

Wouldn’t it be beautiful for ‘Bron to bring a banner to the Buckeye State (say that three times)? Yes, of course, but not at the expense of a diminishing reputation. Look at all the heat he’s taken for the last two years while a bumbling coach, a laughable crew of sidekicks and outstanding playoff numbers get thrown to the waist side. With James’ free agency on the horizon, commitment or championships are his only two options. But for as long as he remains in Cleveland, he’ll always be hard pressed to find the help he needs to achieve the latter.

Cleveland isn’t exactly Chicago, not quite New York and it’s not as warm as Los Angeles or Miami. Other than LeBron’s shadow, what incentive would a headline free agent have to sign a long term deal to play in a Midwest town with no beaches, crucially cold winters and a lack of tourist attractions? Besides loyalty, I’m struggling to find reasons why James should even remain there myself. LeBron’s free agency puts Cleveland in a lose-lose situation. He probably won’t resign unless he knows help is on the way and a marquee free agent(s) or head coach isn’t going to sign there unless they know James is coming back.

But LeBron could make it easy on himself and just bolt for a team he knows will give him the best chance to compete for a title. He’s already done more for himself and the state of Ohio than most people could’ve asked for. Now the consensus is asking for titles, and leaving home is his best chance in fulfilling those wishes.

May 17, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment