Links: Finals Thoughts

by Lang Whitaker

Monday. Spent most of the morning/early afternoon at the vet with Starbury the Wonder Dog, who had a few bouts this weekend struggling with the same problem that afflicted most of the Cavs the last two weeks: Choking. I think Starbury’s going to be fine. As for Cleveland…we’ll get to that shortly.

• Congrats to the Orlando Magic for making all us NBA “experts” look like dummies. Actually, I guess that thanks should be going out to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Before the season began, I picked a Lakers/Celtics Finals. Once it became apparent that KG was injured, I switched my pick to Cleveland, because the Cavs had been awesome all season.

Hey, I was a believer. Watching LeBron dominate in the first two rounds of the Playoffs, I was convinced that the same Cavs who won 81 percent(!) of their games in the regular season would pick right up where they left off when the season ended. During the regular season, they were so good defensively that I thought it would just translate right over to the postseason. But it didn’t. Orlando basically exposed Cleveland as being too unathletic to win a title.

Now, answering some questions…

• Was Orlando’s advancing thanks to Dwight suddenly becoming a great free throw shooter? I know Dwight was a better free throw shooter in the Playoffs, but let’s not pretend he morphed into Micheal Williams out there. Dwight shot 59 percent from the line during the regular season, but in these Playoffs he’s only at 64 percent, which is about one more made free throw per game.

• Did LeBron fail? Yes and no. His team didn’t make the Finals, so I guess they (and he) failed in that sense. But at the same time, I don’t really think he failed. The kid—and yes, he’s still just 24 years old—just averaged 35.3 ppg, 9.1 rpg and 7.3 apg in the postseason. No matter how I look at it, I can’t fault LeBron for the Cavs failing. To me, the failure with Cleveland rests with Danny Ferry and the Cavs’ front office for failing to construct a championship roster.

• Will the Lakers double Dwight? They say they won’t, which makes sense to me, because doubling Dwight is what allows all the other dudes so many open looks from the perimeter. More importantly, the Lakers have guys (like Ariza, Shannon Brown, even Kobe) who can guard Orlando’s bevy of athletic wing players. Cleveland had no answers for those guys, mostly because the Cavs had such an odd roster. Other than LeBron, Mo Williams and Delonte West, nobody on Cleveland could create their own shot, and the Cavs didn’t have the size to deal with Orlando, either inside or on the perimeter. LA is much tougher math-up for Orlando.

• How do you fix the Cavs? If I was running Cleveland, I’d be open to trading any player but LeBron. Really. Delonte West is a two guard in a point guard’s body, and I’m not sure Mo Williams or Sasha Pavlovic could guard me. Wally Sexyback hasn’t been able to run for two years, but the Cavs still refused to trade him for Shaq. Ilgauskas became an almost entirely perimeter player, which is odd for a guy who’s about 7-9. And Cleveland’s best back-up center (Ben Wallace) was suddenly  smaller than LeBron.

When you think about, it’s kind of amazing that Cleveland was able to win 66 games with this roster. (Which explains all the votes for Mike Brown as coach of the year.) Without adding some depth on the wings and figuring out some way to get low-post offense, this team will not win a title.

• Will LeBron leave in the summer of 2010? People have been asking me that for two years now, and my answer has always been the same: I don’t think so. I think LeBron’s continual reluctance to talk about signing an extension with Cleveland has more to do with sustaining the only bargaining power he has. I’ve said all along that the only way to ensure LeBron doesn’t leave is to build a Championship contender around him. And Danny Ferry doesn’t seem to be able to do that.

• Who will win the NBA title? I’ll say either L.A. or Orlando.

• OK, seriously, I’m thinking this is L.A.’s to lose. They’ve got big men who can kinda sorta keep up with Dwight, they’ve can match-up with pretty much everyone Orlando uses, and offensively, the Triangle is going to present Orlando with something they haven’t faced yet in the postseason. So I’m picking L.A. in 5.

• Then again, I’ve been wrong before.

• The new PSP has leaked. Kinda like a Sidekick but better.

• I think Khalid would refuse to wear these. But I might have to cop a pair.

• Jimmy Fallon isn’t doing it for me at 12:30 a.m., so I’m excited about Conan returning tonight (with Andy!) at 11:30 p.m. Here’s a bunch of Conan’s best moments.