The Aftermath

LeBron and Cleveland
Dan Wetzel with Yahoo Sports:

When the improbable, seemingly impossible, was done, when Cleveland’s championship was, at long, long last, won, LeBron James simply went to his knees and wept. There was nothing else to do.

Wept for the accomplishment, his Cleveland Cavaliers defeating the Golden State Warriors here Sunday, 93-89 in Game 7 to become the first team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 Finals deficit. Wept for the performance, 27 more points, 11 more assists and 11 more rebounds to cap a three-game stretch (averaging 36.3 points, 11.6 rebounds, 9.7 assists while facing elimination) as great as any player, ever.

Wept, too, because of Cleveland, because of Akron, because of The Decision and because of The Return, because of the Drive, the Fumble, the Shot, because of Jose Mesa and Rocky Colavito, because the people and places back home made this bigger than him, bigger than a single team, bigger than it even should be, a basketball game understandably meaning so much to so many.

“Just knowing what our city has been through, Northeast Ohio has been through,” James said. “You could go back to the Earnest Byner fumble, [John] Elway going 99 yards

…Our fans, they ride or die,” James continued. “For us to be able to end this, end this drought, our fans deserve it. They deserve it. And it was for them.”

LeBron’s coming home letter was perfect PR, it was emotional, well written, and effective.  Was it honest?  I am not naivete enough to believe that if the Cavaliers hadn’t had some important pieces to be competitive immediately that LeBron might not have come back to Cleveland as soon as he did.  I do believe that he wanted to bring a championship to Cleveland, he has city pride, and that he was willing to sacrifice a better situation to help out a city that meant so much to him.

The cynic will always point out that Miami looked gassed when he left and didn’t have as much promise.  Cleveland had a future #1, plus a star in Kyrie Irving.  They were younger and looked more appealing than a washed up Dwayne Wade and an ineffective Chris Bosh.  Acknowledging that, I still think Miami was a better situation.

Miami is a first class organization with a great reputation and a culture of winning and professionalism.  Miami had proven stars that had led teams into the playoffs.  Both, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving couldn’t check either of those boxes.  Organizationally?  The Cavaliers were atrocious.  They lacked a winning culture, stability, and professionalism.  They went through coaches like Kardashians go through men.  They needed a complete rehaul and it was unlikely that it could be done unless he did it himself.  The letter was a great PR stunt.  Charles Barkley, Colini Cowherd, Jim Rome, and many others all loved that letter.  All admit that Cleveland had assets and could be a contender with LeBron.  But, let’s be honest, in the Eastern Conference who wouldn’t be a contender with LeBron?

LeBron took a worse situation, a lot of risk, and put his career on the line, trusting in himself, as a leader and a basketball player, in order to bring the City of Cleveland a championship.  It’s admirable.  LeBron says and does a lot of things that doesn’t make him likable, to me.  His sacrifice to go back to Cleveland in hopes of bringing them a championship to a city he loved, I applaud.  Maybe there are things that I don’t know that make this move self interested, but without that information I choose to see the move as noble.  Last Night was a great ending.

LeBron’s place in history

Chau for The Ringer writes:

He has always felt out of place and time — out of this world. LeBron has never needed a contemporary, because his race is with the history of the game itself. His greatest rival is and will always be the idea of LeBron James…

Still: James was the series leader in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks; he logged only the third triple-double in a Finals Game 7; his block on Andre Iguodala with under two minutes left in the game, with his arms canvassing both sides of the rim and crashing down like the flaming sword of Uriel, will stand as one of the greatest plays in playoff history.

Chris Mannix of the Vertical:

The horn sounded, the benches emptied and in that moment the weight of a city lifted off LeBron James’ squared shoulders… This is the stuff legends are made of, folks, and it’s time we ask: Is James the best we have ever seen? He will forever be compared to Michael Jordan, will be clubbed by MJ’s perfect Finals record and shrugged at by aging players with a warped perception of just how good their day was. But this is six straight Finals for James, with three championships to show for it. He won in Miami, now in Cleveland, and there is a reasonable argument that he has been the best player in every series he suited up in…

Let the debate rage, the pro-Jordan, the pro-Larry Bird, the pro-Magic Johnson factions have at it. Arguments for each have merit. But the most talented player of this generation has just added another trophy to his shelf, the most physically imposing forward in NBA history has just overpowered the team that once seemed destined to be considered the best of it. Any list of all-time greats has James on it; soon, even his fiercest critics will have no choice but to put him at the top of it…

The LeBron conversation has never been how good he is among current players, but has always been in the conversation of the basketball immortals.  I don’t think there will be many that will put him outside of the top 5, but many will put him in the top 3, and now some will put him with Jordan.  He deserves all of it.  He is great, when he needs to be great.  Curry still deserved the regular season MVP, he was better in the regular season, but in the playofffs there is no doubt.  He dominated the series and showed up when he needed to show up.  Hail the King, he is no longer just in the room as the immortals, but has a seat among basketball’s all-time royalty.

KYRIE LETS CLEVELAND DIE ANOTHER DAY

Shams Charania of the Vertical:

“For one night, Kyrie Irving showcased the youth and the skill set that could form the best sidekick LeBron James has ever had. Right place, right time. Irving is healthy now, nearing his prime years, and there’s no slowing him down. Those 41 points silenced the Oracle Arena crowd and any Golden State runs.”

Matt Borcas for The Ringer:

“What an incredible advertisement for hero ball. I’m not sure what’s crazier: that Kyrie dropped 41 points on a mere 24 shots, or that anyone would suggest that his time in Cleveland may be coming to an end as recently as eight days ago. We’ve seen Kyrie go off like this before, but his Game 5 performance felt revelatory — one LeBron James said “will go down in the all-time greatest performances in Finals history.” Down 3–1 in the Finals to the 73-win Warriors, facing a hostile Oracle crowd — this is when max-contract players need to step up. And Kyrie finally did that on Monday night.”

Dave McMenamin writing for ESPN:

“You’ve got a guy like this who is very special,” James said. “It’s probably one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen live.”

Asked to characterize Irving’s demeanor, James said, “Just calm. Just calm for 48 minutes. Obviously he played 40 minutes, but even in the eight minutes that he was sitting down, he was just calm.”

It’s a trait that will help Cleveland face the overwhelming task of becoming the first team in Finals history to come back from a 3-1 deficit to win it all, breaking an 0-for-32 mark while also becoming the first team in 52 years to win one for The Land.

It’s unprecedented stuff that the Cavs are after. Kind of like the night Irving had in Game 5.

James was asked if he had ever seen anything before quite like Irving’s performance.

“Nobody has,” he replied.

Jack Winter for Uproxx.com:

Compared to expectations, Irving definitely has Curry beat on offense. He’s been much more careful with the ball and made a few more difficult shots. Their disparate on- and off-court efficiencies can’t be overlooked. Irving’s certainly had the more memorable single-game performance, too.

Marc Berman writing for the New York Post:

It’s hard for any Cleveland critic to dare suggest LeBron James doesn’t have a superstar sidekick after he and Kyrie Irving did their 41-41 act to destroy Oracle Arena’s party Monday night in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

Irving’s postseason has been glorious. His first full Finals could still turn out that way, too, if the Cavaliers become the first club to rally from a 3-1 deficit in the championship-deciding series.

Zach Harper for Cbssports.com writes:

The Warriors tried a lot of different defenders on Irving and they all seemed to get cooked. Part of that was the absence of Draymond Green, and certainly the loss of Andrew Bogut early in the second half. But Irving was still taking it to Golden State when it played good defense on him. Klay Thompson couldn’t stop him. Stephen Curry got outplayed by him. Harrison Barnes couldn’t use his size to bother him. And even the rare moments Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala got a turn, they couldn’t get Irving off his game either.

“Kyrie was great tonight and had my number,” Thompson said after the game. “Hit some tough shots, but there’s nothing you can do about it. Sometimes you put your hand up and it just goes in.”

Those tough shots were probably the most demoralizing part of the night for the Warriors defense.

Kyrie Irving went off, in every sense of the word.  He shot effeciently and made big impact plays when they needed it most.  His baskets were more timely then LeBron’s 41 with a higher degree of difficulty.  Golden State played off LeBron and dared him to shoot, which he torched them.  The Warrior’s defense was all over Irving.  Irving was hot in the first half of game 4 and he was on fire in all of game 5.  Golden State needs to do something from preventing him from taking over the game offensively.  Luckily for the Warriors, Draymond Green will be back, and that will help.  This game doesn’t give Cleveland the upper hand for the series, but for a night it shows us how good, Irving’s good is, and that good–is incredible.  I don’t feel like he will be able to match this output again, but for a night he was untouchable.  He truly saved Cleveland for a night.  They live to die another day.

The Internet vs. LeBron James

NY Daily News Stefan Bondy:

“The great contradiction with LeBron James, or the flaws that have held him back from realizing his birthright as the greatest ever, is how he carries a supreme arrogance in every facet of his basketball life except with a ball in his hands.

James thinks the world of himself, which is understandable from a mega-athlete who has been worshipped since he was in high school. James undermines coaches because he can, because, perhaps rightfully so, he believes he knows more about the game than a David Blatt does. He plays the role of GM, through back channel influence if not by straight demands, even though he’s proven to be subpar over the years in constructing a basketball roster. He takes up all the oxygen in the room, dictating the mood and tenor of his team. If James is not the center of attention, he’ll send out a couple of cryptic tweets to make certain the spotlight is where it belongs.

Basically, LeBron does everybody else’s job but not his own when the time arrives to take over a game. Then he defers.

 

Jack Winter of uproxx.com writes:

“It’s no secret the four-time MVP never quite managed to find his wayward jumper in 2015-16. The Warriors probably understand that even better than the rest of the league, too. They forced James into dismal 29.3 percent shooting from outside the restricted area en route to a title last year. And unfortunately for Cleveland, the only thing that’s changed between then and now is his willingness to improve on that number…The analytically inclined fawn over shot charts that look like this.”

“…James’ ailment has infected his entire team. And unless he magically finds a cure for it, his jump shot will continue plaguing the Cavaliers as their title hopes go from rapidly fading to vanishing altogether.”


Echoing LeBron’s poor shooting is Ethan Strauss for ESPN:

“But 10 games is enough of a sample size. In the last 10 regular-season and playoff meetings between the Warriors and Cavs, James has shot 32-of-91 (35 percent) with Iguodala as his primary defender. In that span, James has yet to solve Iguodala’s combination of speed, savvy and well-timed swipe-downs.

So Iguodala has been dominating James defensively since June 2015. It’s an effort augmented by a team of similarly sized wings who switch and defend with intelligence. It’s an effort augmented by whatever happened to James’ jumper after he left Miami. The Warriors are going under on screens for James and switching with ease thanks to the apparent lack of a shooting threat.”

Harvey Araton on Pro Basketball for the NY Times:

“Losing in the finals to a Golden State team that won a record 73 regular-season games, if that is the inevitable result, would be no disgrace. But if the series continues this way, and so far it has not been remotely competitive, the epitaph for the Cavaliers’ season should be: This is the team James wanted, and assembled.

…Love is just one example — although the most egregious — of what can happen when a player, even the very best player, enjoys the kind of executive leverage James has had since rejoining the Cavaliers in the summer of 2014.

The denials from his camp and the Cleveland front office have naturally been vehement. They say James did not insist on trading Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 pick of that year’s draft, to Minnesota for the overrated Love, a deal that deprived the Cavaliers of a superior young athlete James might have mentored.

…But agents who have had business with the Cavaliers speak of Griffin’s telling them he would get back to them after checking matters with James. League people remind you that Michael Jordan never had such power in Chicago and, based on the personnel decisions he opposed, probably would not have won six titles if he did have it.”

Dieter Kurtenbach from FoxSports.com writes:

“You can hear the hot-take cannons being prepared as we speak –€” artillery shells with his soon-to-be NBA Finals record –€” “2-5” –€” emblazoned on the side, ready to be fired off as justification for alleging one of the greatest basketball players of all-time isn’t a “great winner.

…The Cavs might lose these Finals in embarrassing fashion, but no matter how it goes down, you can’t pin the loss on LeBron.

It’s not LeBron’s fault that Kyrie Irving has no interest in passing the ball, or that Kevin Love, before his concussion, decided that defense was something he only did for the Timberwolves, or that JR Smith can’t find the space to shoot, or that Tristan Thompson is being worked down-low by smaller players who are hungrier than the once insatiable forward, or that Tyronn Lue doesn’t appear to have any idea what he’s doing, or that the Warriors are ruthless winning machines that crush the souls of anything in their wake (so long as they don’t have three 7-footers.)”

We have the typical, LeBron isn’t alpha male enough. I don’t think that this is LeBron’s ultimate weakness. When Kobe was going total alpha male, his critics railed on him for being too selfish. LeBron can’t win. He went total alpha male last finals, and it still didn’t work. They did win two games, but this Warriors team is better than last year, and it seems that the Warriors figured out a way to beat the total alpha male.

A legitimate concern is LeBron’s shooting. That stat chart reminded me of the first time that I realized Michael Jackson was born black, it was surprising, but made a lot of sense.  There has been a lot of chatter about this that he can’t hit shots away from the basket. Zach Lowe, Brian Windhorst, Ryan Rusillo, and countless others who watch this team all season have brought this up. The shot chart strengthens the argument.

Is this LeBron’s team? Well, yeah, he has built the team. Does that mean, it is all on him if he doesn’t win a championship with them? Well, no. He is in the NBA Finals, which 30 other teams can’t claim, and they all have someone that put together those teams as well. It’s not like he is Coach K choosing his Olympic dream team and ending up with Channing Frye and Tristan Thompson. He can only choose from those players who are willing and available. He orchestrated the resurrection of the Cavs since his return, and any other general manager would love to be in his position. It is bad luck that he has ran into the greatest team ever (allegedly).

LeBron is past his prime, his jump shot has eluded him, and he can’t beat the Warriors. He is still arguably the best player and his ability to instantly make any team he is on a finals contender is remarkable. He is fighting against a proven incompetent organization. A team who was irrelevant, both before and after his stay there. Cleveland should be grateful as long as it’s lasts, title or not.

LeBron Explained

Brian Windhorst writing for ESPN:

“Things were still far from perfect. James, a stickler for punctuality, was continually upset by players not being on time. Film sessions, buses, flights — the lack of professionalism burned James. Sometimes it was Blatt, who was supposed to be setting the example himself, who was late. And on a January afternoon when the Cavs were practicing in Dallas, James got so fed up he tweeted about it, writing: “No RESPECT for time! #PetPeeve”

Within two weeks, Blatt was fired and Lue, his replacement, was preaching accountability from the first moments. Cavs general manager David Griffin talked about accountability when he made the change, but he might as well have said “culture” as well.”

LeBron was making a lot of noise and taking a lot of heat for his cryptic tweets and passive aggressive attitude. This article reveals the reasons behind his actions. I agree there are better ways to convey his miffed attitude towards teammates and management. Importantly though, he was holding his teammates to a higher standard. Cultures are powerful and difficult to change, but once they are changed, it is much easier to teach and maintain greatness. It seems that Cleveland needed this very much.

This article highlights two main things: LeBron’s leadership and secondly it illustrates why Cleveland has been so awful for so long. The Cavaliers’ organization and culture doesn’t produce success, it breeds practical jokers and a lack of professionalism. The immature and rudderless mess left them in the lottery every year and a carousel of coaches to blame it on. Does LeBron have a lot of power? Does LeBron run Cleveland? Yes and yes. But, clearly, the Cavaliers organization doesn’t know what they are doing and LeBron’s plan at least has both leadership and direction.

Two thoughts:
1: So wait… LeBron fired Blatt for being late to a meeting? He’s as strict as Belichick.
2: Is it just me, or does Cleveland Owner Dan Gilbert need to give LeBron part interest in the Cavs for his next contract? Think about it.

Elon Musk on the Future

Elon Musk from the Code Conference:

The strongest argument for us being in a simulation is the following: 40 years ago, we had Pong. Two rectangles and a dot. Now, 40 years later, we have photorealistic 3D with millions playing simultaneously. If you assume any rate of improvement at all, then the games will become indistinguishable from reality, even if that rate of advancement drops by 1000 from what it is now. It’s a given that we’re clearly on a trajectory that we’re going to have games that are indistinguishable from reality. It would seem to follow that the odds that we’re in base reality is 1 in millions.

This fascinated me. Elon Musk, one of America’s brilliant minds, gives his opinion of the future, which is basically some version of The Matrix, Vanilla Sky, or Surrogates.  If you watch the video you find out this is something that he has thought about so many times, that he has created rules to prevent himself from talking about it too much.  Incredible.

*On another note, this explains Steph Curry’s range.  No one could be that accurate “for reals”.

Post Season/Regular Season, not the same team, but the same team

I certainly don’t want to overreact with regards to game one, but I will. The Cavs are no Thunder, after the Western Conference Finals this game seemed like a regular season game, where the Warriors won 73.In the days leading up to the game, the idea that his Cleveland team was completely changed from the team that was dominated by Golden State in the regular season, which the Warriors average margin of victory was 17, was unfounded. Yes they had a new coach, added Channing Frye and seemed to have a new style of offense, but, the Cavs shot 7-21 from three which was 5 three’s fewer then they averaged against the Warriors in the regular season.  Frye was irrelevant attempting only one shot and this offense still didn’t produce.
Point being, the Cavs weren’t drastically different then they were in the regular season. They lost by 15, shot less three’s, Channing Frye was forgettable and it was more of the same. I picked this series in 5 for the Warriors and maybe sold them short. RIP Cavs.

NBA Finals Game 1, Bench Dominated

Jonathan Tjarks from theringer.com:

“Game 1 offered a specific reminder of last year’s championship bout: the Finals MVP wasn’t any of the three marquee names on the Warriors roster. On a night when Steph Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 20 points on 8-for-27 shooting, the Warriors bench more than made up the difference in Golden State’s 104–89 win over Cleveland. Shaun Livingston, Andre Iguodala, and Leandro Barbosa scored 43 points on 18-for-24 shooting; Barbosa’s net rating for the game was comically high after a perfect 5-for-5, 11-points-in-11-minutes performance; the Warriors were dominant in the 26 minutes that Iguodala and Livingston shared the court — and those gaudy numbers still might understate the bench’s impact on the game.”

The extra effort to stop Curry and Thompson left easy buckets for the role players.  It is looking bleak in Cleveland.

LeBron Vs. Steph, Part 2: How legacies are defined

LeBron vs Curry

Michael Lee of The Vertical:

“I don’t get involved in all of that,” James said. “Underdog, overdog, whatever the case may be. It’s stupidity. … We’re better built to start the Finals than we were last year. Doesn’t matter who it’s against.”

If the opponent weren’t Curry, James might’ve sounded believable. James has been denied a rival for most of his career. The difference in age made it hard for it to truly be Paul Pierce and the difference in age and position made it impossible for Tim Duncan, despite three Finals meetings. Curry, nearly three years James’ junior, presents a threat that neither James nor anyone else in the league could’ve foreseen – the uninvited guest looking to crash the party (again) and own the whole house.

Three years removed from his last NBA title and MVP award, James has never had a better opportunity to regain the standing he has yet to fully relinquish. Knocking off James for a second time would give Curry the respect that somehow continues to elude him. The motivations are different, but the quest to cement legacies remains the same.

This series is must see.  I love watching the best two players in sports meet up for the biggest stakes.

%d bloggers like this: