As we continue to wait for the WCF to start, some here are some morning links and fast break thoughts before we get back into full preview mode this afternoon…
*Waiting this long for a series to start can be maddening. I feel like the Lakers haven’t played for a month. If it weren’t for all the Lebron talk (more on that later), I would have forgotten it was even basketball season. That said, that’s just us fans. The players are surely gearing up for Monday and all this sitting around is allowing them to think long and hard about this match up. And if you’re a Laker thinking about the Suns, does your mind venture back to those playoff defeats of years past? Mike Bresnahan gives us the skinny on what the Lakers do and don’t focus on from those past match ups.
*We’ll be talking more about this in the afternoon, but obviously a big factor in the WCF will be the three point shooting of the Suns. They’re the best deep shooting team from the regular season (even better than Orlando) and the Lakers are one of the best defenders of that shot. Paul Coro of the AZ Republic says something has to give. Which will it be?
*Speaking of giving, how about doling out some credit to the Celtics? Sure that sounds strange coming from a Lakers fan, but the C’s won that series versus Cleveland much more than the Cavs losing it. The team that was too old showed that experience and mettle (and Rondo!) matter and for that I give them their due. The C’s were the better team and (Via TrueHoop) Bob Ryan is reminding folks of that fact this morning.
*Now for my take on the Cavs and Lebron. I agree with many that the hype machine was in full effect in building up Lebron James. And I understand that some of (if not most of) the criticism that he’s receiving is based off Lebron being built up in the manner that he has. I mean, when you’re proclaimed to be the best and get all the credit in good times you must also deal with a healthy heaping of blame in the bad times. That said, Lebron is a great, great player. He’s fantastic. The things that he’s done so far in his career deserve recognition and praise. But in the series against the Celtics he ran into a defensive buzz saw. The C’s were a top 5 defensive outfit all season and that was something that James nor his teammates could overcome. I think this result shows that Lebron still has things to improve upon in his game. His lack of a post game hurt him in this series. As did his relatively average mid-range game. When Lebron didn’t have the driving lanes and was completely dependent on shooting from outside the paint (or taking highly contested shots from close in) his game suffered mightily. And while he was still very, very good it was not enough because the Cavs needed “great”. I think this also proves that system basketball is what wins in this league and not superstar basketball. What I mean is that the Cavs were built completely on the skill set of Lebron. He needed to create, he needed to score, he needed to be the fulcrum of their offense. He was not only the engine, he was the transmission, the starter, and the keys to the car. And when that is the case, you’re always going to suffer when that player is limited. Always. This isn’t to deflect blame from Lebron or to place all fault at the feet of Ferry and Mike Brown. But, this is a team game where games are won and lost by everyone in an organization. Lebron needs a more well rounded game to take the next step that his talent level says is available to him. And his coaches and front office need to better assemble and prepare the team for the times when giving the ball to Lebron and telling him “go to work” won’t be enough. This was a loss that is on everyone in Cleveland. And now their fans suffer – and I empathize with that. Us Lakers fans have seen the depths of these types of losses. If you don’t agree, go back to the Del Harris days when the Lakers had Shaq, Kobe, Eddie Jones, Van Exel, et al and were getting swept out of the playoffs. I remember how that felt and those fans in Cleveland are feeling that way too today. Ouch. One last note on Lebron – in a way I feel like his career really starts now. Sure he’s already a veteran in this league, but remember he’s only 25. And now he’s facing some real adversity. Sure there were some that questioned if he really was the real deal when he came out of high school, but those doubts were quickly erased in his rookie season. However, now there are really, substantiated doubts and those concerns are only going to become more entrenched as he goes through his free agency this summer and signs his next contract. So, with a new number and potentially a new team, it’s time for Lebron to start anew. Chapter 2 is about to begin and (no pun intended) we will all witness what happens to one of the premier talents this league has seen. As a basketball fan, I’m fascinated by how this is going to play out.
*So now here we are again with Lebron bounced early and the Lakers still competing for that big gold trophy. Arash Markazi explores how once again that Kobe/Lebron final is on hold (hat tip to Land O’ Lakers).
*One last note on revenge. I mentioned earlier that there are surely some Lakers players wanting to satisfy that feeling when playing the Suns. But I know that there are several fans that want that same feeling over the still alive Celtics. Personally, in that Cavs/Celtics series, I didn’t have a rooting interest. But, I know that makes me a minority from that series as many Lakers fans were actually rooting for the C’s in hopes that they’ll advance to the Finals where (if the Lakers can beat the Suns) we’ll get a rematch of 2008. Let me know in the comments if you’re one of those folks.