Team S. Dot Timeout: LeBron & the Rip City Boys
LBJ’s refinement, Portland’s point guard issues.
For some reason, my Fridays are always my busiest days of the month. I’m always locked up with plans or trying to finish some projects or writing or whatever, and it can be a serious time crunch just trying to make sure things are going accordingly. I had been planning to watch LeNike and the Cavs play in New York that night, so I made sure to be free for that. After a badly needed weight workout and doing some editing for a friend in grad school, I was sure to be home, and I was. Needless to say, I was excited to see LeBron James and the gang play at New York, not because of the sophomoric rah-rah that’s been going on for the last three years, but sincerely because I was thinking that the Cleveland Cavaliers were gonna bring in the noise and bring in the funk (shouts to Savion Glover)–and they did.
One of the most impressive things about watching LBJ is that he improves so subtly, but also so dramatically. For years, I’ve heard people like Skip Bayless (who I have a significant amount of respect for) bash King James for not living up to His Airness or other seemingly nonsensical goals and achievements that may or may not have even been on James’ radar. Particularly, his jump shot was always called into question. It’s funny, though, how most fans (it seems) don’t remember that second season he had in the League, back in ’04-05. That rookie year in ’03-04, LeBron was out of this world with raw talent. Playing point guard and not really having consistent range beyond 15 feet, the boy wonder ended up with a fairly deep jump shot in the second year–I remember LeBron consistently shooting fadeaway three-pointers, and making them. Even since then, people had stuff to say about his range, but it was clear that in New York, the King clearly has refined his stroke and I was happy to see that.
I didn’t really take much away from the rest of the Cavaliers, outside of the fact that Anderson Varejao is much better coming out as a sixth man, like he had been a couple of seasons before. It just makes more sense. He’s a starter for many other teams, but for the Cavs, he’s best on the bench.
Shaquille O’Neal has clearly slowed down, and while that’s not news, it’s particularly evident when comparing how fast his 6-9 1/2, 275-pound superstar teammate is to him. It’s sad to see Shaq on that team, actually; he belongs on the bench as well, not so much as a demotion, but because he’s best there. Furthermore, Zydrunas Ilgauskas probably needs to come back to the starting lineup, it’s just better than way.
I’d also suggest that LBJames start the game as the power forward, allowing Jamario Moon to come in as the small forward. When his number is up, you can switch out Moon for JJ Hickson or Varejao and move LeBron down the list. Either way, LeBron is still the point guard. He’s always been the point guard, and he always will be a point guard. I don’t know why people don’t realize this. It’s interesting because I wonder if he’ll end up playing like Anthony Mason did as with the New York Knicks, Charlotte Hornets and the Milwaukee Bucks, where he literally played point guard from the post–he was so good when he was in his prime.
I don’t have much more to say about Cleveland right now. Maurice Williams still has to get involved, I’m wondering about Danny Green’s play, and Anthony Parker is looking like the first-round pick he was back in 1997 out of Bradley.
Also, the New York Knicks are regrettably less than exceptional. I don’t want to pile on with them, but gosh. *sigh*
I was overjoyed after that game was finished, and I ended up seeing that the San Antonio Spurs were gonna be on as well, playing the intriguing Portland Trail Blazers. There’s so much to like about both of those teams, it’s not even funny, and there’s so much riding on them, also, that it makes for good drama any time that they are playing other teams, never mind each other.
For Portland, I really wonder what Nate McMillan is planning as far as implementing new schemes in Portland’s game plans. With so much structure, the essence of basketball is to play a free game. I like a free game. I myself love playing free games. I’m pretty sure the Roy enjoys playing free games, too.
Speaking of Brandon Roy, I mentioned this in the previous 21 Questions column, but why all the fighting and tit-for-tat over the point guard position? I say this because it’s indisputable that the best point on the team is Roy, and while I’m fond of Andre Miller, this whole thing could’ve been avoided altogether by not signing him, or better yet, just starting him from the beginning. This is a big boy’s league, and if Steve Blake is going to cry a little bit about not starting, tough. I know that Kevin Pritchard and McMillan have been doing the usual “He’s Our Point Guard” rounds with the media, trying to justify why Blake should continue to be the starting point guard, but in reality, Blake was there out of necessity. Jerryd Bayless (whom I also love and believe will be a more explosive version of Terrell Brandon) wasn’t ready. The departed Sergio Rodriguez was wasting time on the bench (a McMillan failure, by the way), and for some reason, no one had the gall to say, “Roy is not only our best player, but clearly revisiting the talent of Scottie Pippen as a big point guard–let’s play him there full-time”. NO–everyone wanted to do something different and more conventional and so Steve Blake was the man by default. Nothing is inherently wrong with that, except for the simple fact that when you bring in a high-quality starting point guard as your prime free agent acquisition, you play him accordingly.
Now, giving credit to Steve, I’ve followed him since he was a Maryland Terrapin, and I honestly believe he was better than Juan Dixon (his former teammate at Maryland, with the Washington Wizards and in Portland) back in college, and that he was a first-round pick back when he was actually taken in the second round in 2003. He’s a good guard, very sound, very good in terms of distributing the basketball and shooting–he’s just a very sound player, and the type of player that most championship teams need and often covet when it comes to playing high-quality roundball. The simple fact is that he is somewhat inferior to Miller as the primary lead guard in the lineup. It’s not any diss to Blake, it’s just that Miller is quite good, very good. End of story.
Watching Martell Webster come back from his injuries and early struggles in developing in the NBA is also good to see. He’s so mature and sound-minded about himself and his role, and he’ll be especially valuable to Portland in upcoming months.
Greg Oden is coming along, and I believe he’ll become an All-Star. He’s becoming more NBA-coordinated and just now learning how to use his body again (which by the way, is a different machine altogether since he’s been rehabbing and added significant muscle–he’s really coming around).
The rest of those guys on the Blazers I’ll have to check later on, but I do know this–Portland overpaid for LaMarcus Aldridge, and while I’m not big on putting prices on peoples’ heads, I don’t think his game is worth $65 million. Maybe $50-55 million, but not $65 mil, so I’m trusting that he’ll develop into that kind of player. Then again, that’s a much better investment than throwing that money into Andrew Bogut–he’s not a bad player either, but I remember his extension, and I was absolutely vexed by that indignity of Milwaukee’s. His game is easily worth $15 million less than what his contract calls for.
Sandy Dover is a novelist/writer, artist, fitness enthusiast, as well as an unrepentant Prince fan (for real). You can find Sandy frequently here at SLAMonline, as well as at Associated Content and Twitter.