Saturday, August 14, 2010

The obligatory 'Lebron James going to the heat' post.

I really did not want to write about this. Frankly, I am sick of seeing James in a Heat no. 6 jersey already, and the season is months away. Now here is my dilema, I don't want to contribute the vast amount of drama, bitterness and conjecture about Lebron James. So my aim is to be as constructive and reflective as possible. I will break it down into two posts; the effect of LeBron's move from Cleveland to the heat. As to keep it relevant to the green and white the 2nd post will relate to how I believe the Celtics and Heat match up at each position. So here goes.

From all the things I have read and seen on the topic of Lebron's 'decision' , it's implications and his apparent greatness have been summed up most succinctly in an email from my cousin Mike. It is a beautiful piece of writing, and to me hits the nail on the head. 

"Yes, it was handled very badly, but the thing that really pisses me off about it is that is simply a symptom of a much deeper cynicism that is inside LeBron, and the reason why I believe he will never be considered as one of the game's best in years to come, and Simmons touched on the reasons why: The great players have that hunger to win and that unstoppable drive to achieve their goals.

Obviously it's impossible for LeBron to take over a game every night, but he can do it often enough that just by brute force his team will always make it to the playoffs and likely go pretty deep. But when you have to play the best it's not enough. Michael Jordan could take over games as well as or even slightly better than Lebron can, but the difference was in the days he couldn't quite get it going. Where LeBron sulks and shows his frustration, Jordan would compensate in other areas, working extra hard on defence, drawing double teams to open up teammates and all the other little intangibles that don't count on a stat sheet. 

Basically Lebron is Michael Jordan minus Shane Battier. Their abilities are probably almost equal, but its that shit cleaning, scrappy, never give-up edge that Jordan had that makes him an order of magnitude better than LeBron. And I feel the same way around this Miami team too, I think the problem lies less in the talent around LeBron (although of course it's important) and more in that attitude that when the pressure is on he gives up and blames it on someone else."

So while they're sure to go deep in to the playoffs this year, and may even win it with the benefit of Wade filling in when LeBron can't muster it, there's an equal if not bigger chance the same thing that happened to Cleveland this year will happen to Miami next year, that they will stumble at the last hurdle. And then shit will hit the fan. I predict that if they don't win a championship in the first 2 years, maybe even in the first year, that LeBron demands a trade. And by then the damage will be done to his psyche and he may never win a championship. I truly believe there is a 75-80% chance of him not doing so. This is a huge risk on Miami's part, and I can't see it going anywhere nearly as smooth as people seem to think it will. But that might not come out until late in the playoffs or even finals when they get beaten. Then shit hits the fan.

The comparison to Jordan is elegant, and sums up what is at the heart of the matter and perhaps the crux of LBJ's persona. LeBron's decision was his to make, that is his right. I believe how he made showed poor judgement and a lack of maturity. There was a time to make this decision the right way, and in my opinion that was directly after or within 72 hours after game 6 of the 2nd round of the 2010 play offs after Boston sent them packing. 

At the press conference after game 6 LeBron is saying all the right things - but I swear his face showed visible contempt. There is a great big 'gestural shrug' on his lips, that is a facial mannerism indicating contempt or disgust. It is impossible to know what he was thinking; but if you had lost again in the play offs after your organisation tried to do everything it could to get you to the finals - If it where me I would be angry and extrememly frustrated. The game 6 press conference or some time immediately after that (for me again 72 hours is the limit) was the time to for James to make 'the decision'.

Instead of drawing it out over the off season and not informing the Cleveland of his intentions until it was aired live (for attention and validation as I believe James did), all he had to say was something along the lines of; 

"I have decided that this was my game for the Cavaliers, I respect this organisation more than I can say, but our failure to in game 6 has motivated me in this incredible hard choice....". 

He wouldn't have to say where he was going and the shock and derailment of the Cavs organisation would still occur, but at least Cleveland would know the score and start to prepare better than they have been able to. Having stated his intent to leave LBJ should have said (with me as his manager) good stuff about the fans / team mates / Akron / Cleveland. 

And at that Moment, after a crushing defeat by Boston, Cavs fans would be sad but the reasons why he wanted to leave would make sense and you could even understand it. The purpose of his actions were about setting up the best situation for himself and drawing as much attention and media fervor and perhaps that is who he is. A person seeking validation and through his actions and choices, who needs to feel not just that he is the best player but he has to feel that people believe he is the best player. Joining the Heat and the other two best free agents in the game today proves this point. Why play against these guys if I can join up with them and beat all the haters?  

As for the Heat franchise, despite how I feel about the way it all went down, It is a move for the heat organiasation that improves their team and chances at winning a title. But as Mike said the chances of faltering are still there. Wade, House and Haslem are the only players who have played on teams that have won a finals series. This is virtually a new Heat team, playing together and building chemistry are all things that need to form at their own pace. Except that every other NBA team won't go easy on them while they gel. Every team worth their salt will be gunning for them in the initial stages of the season. They will lose games and there is always a team that, despite their ranking, can cause your squad match up problems (09 - 10 Cavs lost 3 - 0 to Bobcats in the regular season). 

The Miami Heat should take some lessons from a 'super friends' team from the golden era of the NBA. The Knicks did it when they won the title in '69 - '70 with 'Earl the Pearl', Walt 'Clyde' Frasier, Willis Reed, Bill Bradley and Dave DeBusschere. But that took at least three years to get to the point of winning it all, as a roster slowly took shape. That immortal Knicks team amassed a 60 - 22 record and won the title but they had to do it in 7 games. Willis Reed came back out onto the floor in game 7 battling through pain and sinking two shots. That was enough to inspire his team mates to get it done and is one of the most treasured moments in Knicks franchise history. They where a stacked team for their time but they proved they had fortitude and guts. The question is do the Heat have the same level of integrity and perseverance? Will they care enough about each other to step up when  players go down? Will Bosh, Wade or Bron bring it and bite down like Willis did if that is what it takes to win? When they lose a few will the team muster strength or fold? These are things you can't recruit or bring together through acquisition. They are intangible because this what comprises real and defining team character. The positive relationship between players and the character of the team contributes fundamentally among other things to teams winning rings.

Green and white for life.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Celtics signings.

The Celtics are making something of the off seaon remaining 'in the conversation' having signing significant players in Von Wafer, Shaq and Jermane O'Neal. 

Wow! Who would have thought that Boston would finally get Von Wafer! 

I have been dying to write or say that, because one of these new Celtics is garnering more than his fair share of media attention and genuine excitement from fans (myself included), and it is not the player who sounds like a German biscuit. All these acquisitions are significant, 
filling a need for big bodies and rebounders at the and the 5 and filling the thin wings at the 2 and the 3. But what does this all mean to the C's in a 2010 - 2011 season where the NBA landscape has significantly altered?

Von Wafer is a guy who has been in the league just under half a decade and has been followed by a bad rep. I am not condoning players making unreasonable demands and putting a great big 'I' in the word  team - but sometimes a player just needs the right environment and a coach to give a little. Doc is 'giver' but he is also a hard liner in relation to players destroying team chemistry. Von Wafer explained to media that he was willing to do what Doc said and be a part of the team, saying that Rivers stressed he wants a team player in Wafer if he wears the white and green in 2010 - 2011. Von Wafer even said he wanted to get into the gym and study Celtics defensive schemes - a mandatory thing to mention at a press conference to establish good credibility as a player.

But Danny Ainge has taken a calculated risk in Von Wafer. This risk  could potentially pay off; Wafer is natural Athlete, can score from any where on the floor (when his game is on) and at 6' 5'', can play the 2 and the 3 if needed. He is a shake and bake instant offense kind of player, Boston could do with a little more of this. Along with Nate Robinson, the C's have two wild cards to unleash on the parquet. Boston's lack of points off the bench shall be boosted with the acquisition of the former Florida State baller. This, I believe could make up for his perceived lack of D, but he in the right place to learn how to clamp down.

Shaquille O'Neal. Ok, well a 38 year old O'Neal. And a lot has been said about the big fella. We all know the things Shaq has achieved. 4 rings. Dominating the low post. Missing free throws over three decades (sorry, couldn't help it). He is a player who had a significant impact on the game when he entered the NBA 18 seasons ago. Now, he is less 'Impact' and more 'impact off the bench'. In the modern NBA, offenses run and players are like eagles. Shaq is condor with a bit of albatross. He ain't an eagle. But if the condor / altatross can get the offensive glass then get the outlet pass to Rondo, finish at the rim with authority, box out players with their massive frame and get other players into foul trouble - then the eagles can afford to give him 20 minutes a game at least. 

Jermaine O'Neal is possibly the most potential laden and option at the 5 for the C's (Sorry Semih, you gotta play first). Jermaine is an efficient center, and that is vitally important for the Celtics. Why? He is one of the least turn over prone centers playing today. Perk is a great a center and defender of all star bigs, but suffers a bit in the turn over department. Think about what that could do for a team like Boston that turns the ball over a lot? J.O'Neal has has a consistent shot, could possibly slide to the 4 in certain line ups, is a great shot blocker and rebounds. All good when he is healthy. If 'big J' get into a groove, avoids being hurt and commits to what Doc Rivers is setting down he could have a renisance year.

News that broke whilst this post was being written; Rasheed has been waived and is retiring which leaves a roster spot and need for Luke Hangody. The rook will get on this Celtics team based on his potential, great summer league games and his nose for the ball. If he can get into a groove playing at the 3, that would see him getting even more minutes and really propel him to become a piece of the of the next generation for the Green and White. I really like this kid, I hope he gets a run.

More news as it comes.

Green and White for life.