Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hardwood Paroxysm's 2008-2009 Season Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers

Never in my life have I seen a man that can exchange so many ingredients and still make the same pie. Danny Ferry could turn pepper and curry powder into stale lime pie. He could take rice and tuna and make stale lime pie. Yeah, it's stale lime pie, but at least it's pie, and at least it's consistent ... ? Your opening preview is by Trey Kerby.


Every Wednesday and Friday morning I play basketball before I go to work. The competition isn't great, but the games are usually pretty close and everybody's friends. Aside from one guy who's played overseas, there is not a gross talent discrepancy. Sure, some guys are better and some guys are worse, but as long as you realize you're playing at an open gym, things are even.

Nonetheless, sometimes you get stuck on the team that is mostly the guys that are just a little worse. This is endlessly frustrating. It's just a minor deficiency on your team's part, but the results tell another story. Open shots are missed. Defense is a joke. Turnovers abound. It's easy to get jaded and angry and irritated.

Now let's imagine that exact same scenario, only you've always been the best player on your team, you make millions of dollars, and an entire franchise depended on you to succeed in every conceivable way. This is why LeBron bites his fingernails.

It seems like the story has been the same since LeBron came to the NBA. There's LeBron, an adequate post scorer, a guard that only can shoot, a shooter, and a dirty work guy. Whether these roles were filled by Carlos Boozer, Wally Szczerbiak, or Mo Williams, the basic make-up of the Cavs has remained the same. I suppose the current team is the best iteration of this strategy, but it's still not enough and time is ticking.

While LeBron has insinuated that he won't bolt the second his contract expires, Cleveland fans have to ask themselves why he'd stay. In due time, he'll be able to choose where he wants to go; and with that he'll get a fresh start. Surely he'll want to go to a contender, but there's a chance he'll just want something, anything that's different than what he's experienced thus far. And that's unfortunate.

(Danny Ferry's tried. He really has. He's brought in who he could, to a place no one would want to go. He's surrounded LeBron with the kind of players that he needs, they're just not quite good enough. If LeBron leaves, it's not his fault.)

But for now, that's not the point. Well, it kinda is. The Cavs need to win now. To keep LeBron, yes; but also because the window is closing fast. Boobie's not getting any better; Wallace and Ilgauskas are getting worse, Delonte West and Mo Williams are peaking. This is a team built to win now, but the odds are slim.

However, they do still have LeBron and his contrived multiple personalities. Frankly, that might be enough. We've never seen so talented a player. No matter how good you think he is, he's better. And for now, he's in Cleveland.


LeBron. LBJ. The King. Bron. Bronny. Doesn't matter what you call him, if you love the game, you love watching him because this guy is out of this world-basketball transcending-freak of nature-strongman-amazing. To watch him play basketball is to wait in anticipation of amazing happening. Yeah, those damn commercials could be centered on Bron and his amazingness.

After the offseason, we've also got Mo Williams on this squad and that will be fun to watch. After the grit he showed in the preseason game against the Sixers, going up against Dre Miller, he could bring some fire to the team, which I'm sure Bron will appreciate. Daniel Gibson is one to love, plays with heart, plays with love for the game and just looks like a kid out there, hoisting shots and having fun. I absolutely love when Zydrunas Ilgauskas has a big night because I love typing out his name in my recaps. It also always stuns me that he was in the same draft class as Kobe. He just seems… Older. Or something.

Anyway, Eric Snow is another reason to smile when you see the Cavs. Good guy, Mr. Snow and he just seems like he'd be a great teammate to have around, to teach the young guys all of the ins and outs of the league. Wally Szczerkjkjasdk is that pretty boy I love to hate, but really don't hate at all and I'm rooting for Delonte West, his tattoos and his dedication to come out early pregame and shoot jumpers for what seems like hours. Another reason to watch these guys is to see if Ben Wallace will make anyone fear the fro (or anything else) again. Also, see if the pregame fireworks will make him get dizzy like in Boston last year. Finally, although he's got some wrist issues going on right now, I'm also pulling for rookie Darnell Jackson out of Kansas. Led by LeBron, the Cavaliers are looking like they'll be must-see TV. Have I mentioned I'm in love with League Pass?


Wait for it... wait for it... wait for iiiiiiiiittttttt.



What else did you expect? The Mo Williams signing? A frontcourt without any visible offensive aptitude? Wally? No, those are all too easy. Too nitpicking. Sometimes you just have to go fishing with dynamite. And boy, did I ever detonate that carp pond this time.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, if you read the Cavs lovers (tip: there are some on the internets) they will assure you to no end that Bobbie is set to break out, Mo Williams can finally handle the ball well enough to leave Lebron to roam the wings like a lion on the Serengeti, the frontline is healthier and more focused than ever, the defense is actually better(!?) and Delonte West is not just a walking vampire. They are wrong. The Cavs are still Lebron's human toilet and I think he had Indian for lunch. They aren't enough to keep him in Cleveland two years from now. They aren't enough to help him lead the league in scoring (mainly because they are all somehow infected with Larry Hughes-itis - he must have left a fungus in the locker room). They aren't enough to hit a big shot at the end of a game or pass effectively (sans Mo). They are what they are. The best assemblage of talent for a franchise that cannot spend outrageously and who has Danny Ferry for a GM.

I don't think that it is any coincidence that it took so much pressure and retaliation to get most of these guys on board. Varejao strong armed them last summer. Delonte West lost his MF mind this summer. Mo Williams had to leave Milwaukee to get there (upgrade?). Wally lives in constant fear of being towel snapped. This is not to say these pieces don't fit. In an odd way, they do. As long as the defense is strong, Lebron can certainly carry them through the stretch, both of individual games and throughout a season. He is the truly transformational figure that can lead a team this battered and miscalculated to a conference championship. If there is any man in the league who might strike fear deep in the heart of KG, its LB. But truly, this team is like having the person just before you in the stall use the last of the toilet paper. It''s gonna be squishy, tense and Macgyver-esque, but it can be done. Just not cleanly.


Delonte is my hope.

No, it's not probable, logical, reasonable, or expectant. But Delonte West is my hope for this team. When the Cavs added West before the trade deadline, he was largely a throw-in. A nice sidepiece, maybe he can be useful somewhere.

Then there was this.

Freeze it at the 8 second mark. He's got his man off the dribble. West can take him. But he knows who runs the show. This is an exact duplicate of what happened in Round 1 later that year. West gets out on the break, and as opposed to most of the Cavs players who have a set series of fundamentals and options they've worked on their entire lives, Delonte West knows "Who cares if I can lay this in? Where the f*ck is LeBron?" He built a relationship with the King, on the court with his play. Moreso tha Hughes, Gibson, Ilgauskus or Wally have been able to do. West gets him. Because West is the lunatic disciple whose fundamentals are so screwy, he can put the King first. James and Gibson may be closer personally, and I'm sure LeBron is stoked about Mo Williams, but Delonte West is a guy that LeBron knows can get up and down the floor with him.

West's recent admission of depression only makes me like him more. Let's be clear. West being completely batsh*t has nothing to do with his depression. The two have nothing in common. West suffers from a condition that many people suffer with, that many people in my family suffer with. It's hard, but it's treatable. It's rough, but it's manageable. And for him to be open with it take cajones the size of watermelons. Dude needs a wheelbarrow. But that has nothing to do with his bizarre interviews or fear of the internet. The two are separate manifestations of character. One is the real Delonte, an actual living human being with thoughts and feelings. The other is a small guard in the NBA who goes off the cuff. They're two in one but they're not the same.

And I love them both.

Newsflash: Mo Williams will not be the answer. If this team gets over the hump, it'll be because Mike Brown can coach some defense, and LeBron James is incredible. Period.

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