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Tuesday, September 30th, 2008 at 8:00 am  |  42 responses

Cleveland Cavaliers Season Preview

Ma’am, in this brochure it says, “this tour is crunk.” What does that mean?

We continue previewing the Central Division with the Cleveland Cavaliers. You can read past previews here.

by Jake Appleman

The Cavs had just been dismantled by the Celtics in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals and LeBron James sat in front of his locker, staring straight ahead, understandably pissed off. Before the game, LeBron had been publicly regurgitating what I’m 99% sure were some Weezy lyrics–quite loudly, in fact–either to himself in a fit of blissful obliviousness, or indirectly to a mostly blind horde of assembled media members that were slowly starting to congregate near his designated personal space.
Actually, with so many folks crowding Bron’s lyrical zone, those two options weren’t mutually exclusive. While it was possible that the lyrical mood (The Weeze?) may have just struck him, it seemed that the exercise combined a) an attempt at pumping himself up and b) sending a message to said media horde. Since I don’t indulge in song-songy rappers that don’t have much to say–no offense to Lil’ Wayne, every soccer mom’s favorite glorified hedonist–I can’t tell you what song LeBron was rapping word for word. I seem to vaguely recall strawberries, Henny and a 50 percent chance of fellatio, but don’t quote me on that. Regardless, the context seemed fitting enough: something about rising above the haters, or another equally played out cultural theme.

Anyway, LeBron James succeeded at pumping himself and his teammates up, as the Cavs jumped out to a 21-11 lead, before losing the rest of the game 78-52, which is is kind of like landing a solid body blow before getting shot in the face.

As memory serves, after the game it was me, Lebron, Boobie Gibson, and LeBron’s bag of Mickey D’s in the locker room. Some of the other Cavs may have still been lurking, or they may have cleared out by then. I don’t remember and it’s not really important. LeBron and Boobie had been talking about something when I slowly approached and meekly tried to interrupt–stupid me–in search of a quote for a story I was working on.

LeBron told me I could ask him the question in the press conference just like everyone else, something I was already aware of. In doing so, he made a legitimate point. I countered by saying my question had nothing to do with the game and I didn’t want to waste the time of a hundred or so other people. Even though LeBron was probably in the right, as his biographer‘s illegitimate test tube baby, I expected more.

Having had my SLAM card pulled by none other than the guy that we consistently vouch for lit a mini-rage inside of me, unjustifiable as it may have been. Deep down, I knew I could have gotten the quote at shoot-around had I chosen to attend instead grabbing brunch at IHOP–which would have been stupid because IHOP is awesome–but in the moment that didn’t matter.

All of this is a long winded way of saying that the collective silent anger in that room was so f*cking palpable; it’s hard to believe that steroids weren’t involved. I was mad because I thought I had been wronged (kind of), but by my own standards I knew I f*cked up. And LeBron was mad because he was facing an 0-2 hole, and having already missed a golden opportunity by shooting 2-18 in Game 1, may have realized that he already f*cked up as well. And hot damn, if it wasn’t for a clutch P.J. Brown elbow jumper and some missed open 3 balls that Boobie Gibson might have converted had he played, the Cavs STILL WOULD HAVE PULLED IT OFF.

Will they turn their anger into vengeance? Read on.

BURNING QUESTIONS

Will Sasha Pavlovic come out of his tree house and play?

As much as I want Sasha to succeed, waiting for him is kind of like being a fourteen year old that worries too much about minimal acne: you shouldn’t waste so much time waiting for a breakout that probably won’t come.

Can the Cavs succeed in the postseason by throwing two 4′s out there that won’t be expected to score more than a basket or two per game?

Trick question. The true answer lies in whether or not rookie J.J. Hickson is a player. And LeBron’s been compensating for his teammates’ offensive shortcomings for years; though Joe Smith’s solid midrange game and veteran presence will be missed, it’s not that big of deal.

Will people continue to underrate Ben Wallace (relatively speaking) come playoff time?

Yeah, unless they play the Celtics or Pistons in a wrestling ring.

What do you think of Delonte West re-signing?

ONIONS!

What do you think about the possibility that LeB–?

STOP WASTING EVERYBODY’S TIME WITH IRRELEVANT SPECULATION THAT WON’T BE SOLVED FOR ANOTHER TWO YEARS. DAN GILBERT, YOU CAN MAKE THAT CHECK OUT TO CASH. THANKS, SUB PRIME LOAN HOMIE!

What’s your opinion on the Mo Williams trade?

I’m not completely sold on it yet for one simple reason: the way the Cavs operate. LeBron dominates possession of the ball, as he should, and he’s usually looking to create for others. Often, Mo Williams makes plays for himself. While LBJ and MW will no doubt make each other better in certain situations, it’s worrisome to think about Williams potentially jacking up shots and trying to create for himself when the offense gets stagnant. What I hope to see is a wrinkle, preferably wrinkles, on Mike Brown’s dry erase clipboard that can take advantage of LeBron’s off-the-ball presence and Williams’ ability to create for himself. Be they various screen/roll combos, or sets that stack the floor in a way that marginalizes the opposing defense, the Cavs need to start excelling on both ends. The defensive bedrock is there, now they need to maximize the cohesion of their singular parts to become a more complete team. Or not. It almost worked for them last year.

Anything else the Cavs should be doing to win more games?

Yeah, spread the floor. They’ve got four bona fide shooters (midrange and from distance) in Boobie, Wally World, Delonte West and Mo Williams. Spacing the floor gives LBJ and MW maneuverability for penetration and can open up the low post for Z to operate, not to mention providing long caroms–off of long jumpers–beneficial to the positioning of their active, scrappy bigs.

Is LeBron the best player in the league?

Don’t care. We have a list for that shit. I guess he’s either 1 or 1a right now, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that he needs to get a go-to post move, improve his late game free throw shooting and bring some of that Beijing defense to the regular season.

PREDICTION:

If the Cavs play as well as they can in a seemingly inevitable rematch with the Celtics, LeBron might be rapping something of true quality before he wins his first championship. Then again, if the Cavs can’t put it together, the mainstream media will again start impersonating fire sirens, imploring LeBron to come to the BK or the Mecca because apparently New York solves everything; the stock market, traffic and kids in striped shirts picking up STDs after downing $10 mixed drinks are all prime examples.

New York: many think it’d solve everything. Even when there’s not that much wrong to begin with.

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  • baron samedi

    hahahahaha!!! first! yay

  • http://www.slamonline.com James The Balla

    i could have it first but i wanted to waste no time and read this one!! Well Lebron is good, the cavs are not, and they will not win the east this year, plus he is 2A not 1A… and is there alot of STD’s in new york?

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    I’m not sure about the Cav’s chances, but Jake dropped a bag full of one-liners in there that made my morning.

  • andrew

    Solid writing dude. Key questions answered and raised. I’d like to see Bron win a chip, but some not so small part of me wants to see him beaten a few more times, just to turn him to even more of a beast come playoff time 2011.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Should be “ma’am.”

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    Like TAD, I laughed my ass off several times. I like that Jake didn’t really commit himself to a bottom line prediction, but yeah, depending on Bron’s health, they should be right there in the running for one of the Conference Finals spots.

  • fluxland

    Somehow reading this with Sepultura playing in the headphones made it 10 times more enjoyable. “Don’t care. We have list for that s***”

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    Awesome stuff, Jake.
    By the way, JJ Hickson IS a player (one of the steals in the draft at that spot) I was as high on him last year as I was on Beasley.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    It was interesting to me that, when LeBron WAS out of the line up for several games last year that the Cavs won games and (say what you want about the competition) did it well, they still scored the 90+ points and ran their offense well and it was more ‘equal opportunity’ if you will.

  • Lz – Cphfinest3

    Good work Jake, loved that Lil’ Wayne line.

  • Lz – Cphfinest3

    Agree with Cub, from what I’ve seen JJ could easily be the new David West.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    Hickson was a beast down low for NC State last year. How tall is he? 6’9? 6-10? He’s got a solid hook shot and short jumper and is pretty athletic for a big guy, if a little unco-ordinated sometimes. But thats probably just growing into his body, he’s only 19 or something.(Frosh).

  • neaorin

    Nicely done Jake. The Cavs’ list of needs (yes, there’s a list for that s*** too) reads:
    1. stay healthy 2. a real offense with player and ball movement 3. a scoring big (but NOT Zach Randolph) 4. get something valuable for Wally Szczerbiak’s massive expiring contract (see 3) 5. find a way to resign Varejao to a reasonable contract. Oh, and make those damn free throws.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    They have the worst free throw shooter in NBA history neaorin. That might be a problem.

  • neaorin

    And they know it, that’s why they don’t throw him out there in crunch time with the game on the line. Didn’t Detroit win with the very same player in their lineup?

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    Shhhhhhhh………..

  • Randy Brown

    Tha body blow line made me LOL111 or whatever, good reading

  • jE

    sorry to blow up your intro, but Bron was definitely spitting Jay-Z to himself before game2… i think it was ‘U Don’t Know’ .. i remember being mildly impressed in the song selection and loving the fact that it likely made 80% of the other reporters feel awkward and uncomfortable

    and don’t front – those IHOP hashbrowns were better than any stock answer you would have gotten from him at shootaround

  • johnk

    Hursty, they lost every game that Bron missed last year. Something like 0-7.

  • Red

    Hey Hursty, “It was interesting to me that, when LeBron WAS out of the line up for several games last year that the Cavs won games”, they were 0-6 without Lebron last year. What are you talking about?

  • http://www.nba.com/bucks/ Keith

    Don’t know if this has ever been asked in here but, are there any actual Cleveland fans in here and what do they think to Lebron’s situation, his lack of mentioning his desire to stay in Cleveland and his potential to leave in ’10?

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    Keith: I think you were to go over to Lang’s piece about LeBron yesterday, you would see there are a few (upset) Cleveland fans roaming around.

  • eyehatedirk

    Flux Land, I hope it was Arise or Chaos AD…………

  • http://www.nba.com/bucks/ Keith

    Ah my mistake Tad. Cheers. I’ll check it now.

  • http://www.nba.com/bucks/ Keith

    Cleveland fans are angry fans.

  • johnk

    Keith, I’m a Cleveland fan. I think the speculating two years in advance is a little overblown, but I guess I can’t complain because apparently people find it interesting. I think the main thing to consider is he is not going to go from a good team to a bad team. IMO, Cleveland has a legitimate shot at winning a chip in the next two years. The two most cited teams for his departure, Knicks and Nets, will most likely be terrible for the next two years. If that holds true, I don’t think we have much to worry about.

  • http://www.nba.com/bucks/ Keith

    But will the Knicks and Nets be moving some pieces around in order to make their respective franchises slightly more attractive? Are Cleveland set with their squad?

  • fluxland

    dirkhater … Schizophrenia and Beneath the Remains.. anything post 1992 is not my cup of tea.. I really shouldn’t like Arise, but I do. Sooo.. anyone thinks LeBron is headed for NY in the sweepstakes 2010?

  • http://AllAbout-Penis-Enlargement.com Jukai

    Keith: I’m technically a Cleveland fan, but if James goes to the Knicks, I’m a Knicks fan… so… you know..

  • johnk

    I think the Knicks will have a hard enough time getting under the cap that they won’t be able to improve at the same time. I don’t see any evidence that D’antoni (sp?) is going to work miracles- he was a good coach in Phoenix but also had great players. I know less about the Nets’ contracts, but I don’t think they are in a great position to improve either.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com DP

    Mo is going to be alright for the cavs. He will set up his teammates but the Cavs really brought him in for what he does best…score. This is what the Cavs have been longing for, a second option. I just hope he doesn’t turn out like Larry did because before Larry went to the Cavs, he was straight averaging 22 with the Wiz the year before. I don’t want Mo to go down like that in Mike Brown’s system.

  • http://www.freewebs.com/betcats BETCATS

    Well, Wally Sexyback is not the same shooter he once was. He went from wetting open threes to wetting his pants while playing shuffel board. The man has gotten old. Also, as a huge state fan i must tell you: if you are dreaming JJ Hickson will save you have fun in eternal sleep.

  • http://nba.com/celtics Moose

    BET, he’s only 31. Not THAT old . . .

  • http://www.freewebs.com/betcats BETCATS

    well you could have fooled me and the government (who is signing his social security check), Wally shoots like a 65 year old.

  • http://www.freewebs.com/betcats BETCATS

    well you could have fooled me and the government (who is signing his social security check), Wally shoots like a 65 year old.

    (since my comment is in moderation i will just repeat it)

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com B. Long

    He plays like he’s 41.

  • http://nba.com/celtics Moose

    I see what y’all are saying, but look at the numbers. Last year he had 11.5 ppg and a .413 3 point percentage in 23.2 minutes. Sounds pretty good to me.

  • David

    I’m still not sure that Cleveland has much of a plan for building the best team it can. And I think they may have been better off keeping Gooden. At least they got Delonte out of all of that. Did the Cavs have to give a pick to the Thundercats in that trade, too?

  • jE

    it has come to my attention via a gChat with Jake that Bron was doing ‘PSA’ not ‘U Don’t Know’ and that actually happened in game 1 not game 2…i hereby retract my previous post.. IHOP hashbrowns still remain amazing.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    The Knicks will waive their entire roster to get Lebron James if they have to.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    And torch all their contracts.

  • http://deleted David Curran

    he wont go to the knicks, its all jus hype, it wont happen

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