Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Sports Guy....Version 2.0

I'm can't say that I am a big Bill Simmons fan. ESPN's "The Sports Guy" is a very talented writer, but the majority of his columns are literally novel-length. Plus, just having lost to the Red Sox in the ALCS, having his over-the-top pro-Boston self ooze onto the pages of was just too much to take. Three out of every four columns this summer was dedicated to sucking the Red Sox off. Reading his diary during Game 4 of the ALCS made me cringe. It was as if the Indians were suddenly the hateable Yankees. The worst thing that could have happened to all non-Boston-reading fans of his was the Celtics regaining prominence with the additions of Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.

But alas, he is a very solid writer, outside of the Boston crap. Why are we discussing him? Simmons wrote a piece
re-evaluating his preseason Eastern Conference predictions. Surprise, Surprise; guess who he has winning the East now? I can't say I disagree with The Sports Guy here. The "PGA Tour" is playing to rave reviews thus far and are the NBA's last undefeated team. What is surprising is what he said about our Cleveland Cavaliers. Picking them ninth at the beginning of the season, Simmons has revised that prediction. Take a look.


Preseason prediction: 39 wins (ninth)

Revised prediction: 45 wins

I picked the Cavs to miss the playoffs for a variety of reasons (better conference, lousy supporting players, year-after hangover, the holdouts by Anderson Varejao and Sasha Pavlovic), but mainly because LeBron seemed like such a strong candidate to break down after a 100-game season and the Olympic Trials. Then I was sitting in the crowd last weekend as LeBron was pulling a Bo Jackson against the Clippers, eventually deciding, "What was I thinking? He's a force of nature; he's never breaking down." You could swing a five-wood into his legs as he's driving to the basket and he wouldn't notice, for God's sake. He's ridiculous. He even added a new wrinkle to his game this season -- suddenly, he gives a crap about playing defense, and it's not uncommon to see him jumping into passing lanes for steals like Scottie Pippen and unleashing Kirilenko-style blocks from the weak side. MJ affected games on both ends; LeBron is starting to follow suit.

So yeah, the Cavs are making the playoffs. I don't know what I was thinking. As long as they're getting 78-80 games from LeBron, they're finishing .500 even if he's surrounded by the NBA Supporting Cast Pu Pu Platter … which Danny Ferry tried to give him and nearly succeeded if not for the occasional Drew Gooden double-double and Zydrunas Ilgauskas' improbable resurgence. Big Z!!! Who knew??? Did he lose weight? Did he come up with a foot remedy that we don't know about? How long can this last? He hasn't moved this well in five years; it's completely inexplicable. I mean, if Big Z can hook himself up to the Juvenation Machine, maybe Larry Hughes will remember how to shoot, dribble, pass and play defense again. Anything's possible.

(On second thought … nahhhhhhh.)

Now, the bad news. I had seats behind the visitor's bench for Sunday's Cavs-Clippers game, which was perfect because I love keeping track of all the bench guys who watch the Jumbotron, don't listen to their coach, search the crowd for girls and crack jokes during 25-point blowouts, and I love the player-coach interactions and even hearing the coaches yell at players and referees if it's quiet enough. You just get a great feel for the general mood and spirit of the visiting team (good or bad). During the third quarter, LeBron drove toward the foul line and made a beautiful dish to Gooden, who didn't gather himself for the pass in time. As the ball bounced out of bounds, a frustrated LeBron jogged back up the court staring at the coaches with one of those, "Did you see that? You saw that, right?" looks on his face. And that would have been fine if it ended right there. After all, we get it -- he's great, the rest of his team sucks, and occasionally, it's going to be a little exasperating.

Well, LeBron wasn't done. He glanced back disdainfully at Gooden again, then back to the bench for an extended pseudo-glare. Reading between the lines, I interpreted the glare to mean either, "Take him out of the game before I punch him in the face" or "If that happens again, I'm running straight into the locker room, getting my stuff and chartering my own jet home." At this point, Gooden was running back upcourt and watching the whole thing -- he was officially getting shown up in front of 15,000 people. LeBron shook his head and glanced at Gooden one more time, then back at the bench for a third time, just in case they missed the message the other two times. What a bizarre sequence to watch from 20 feet away. After tasting the Finals and earning some well-deserved media hype last spring, it's pretty clear LeBron won't accept the Cavs taking a gigantic step backward and becoming a non-contender again. But that's where they're headed. Stay tuned.

Reason No. 12,364 why I love the NBA: The Cavs are paying $30 million this season for Larry Hughes, Damon Jones, Eric Snow, Donyell Marshall and Ira Newble.

Another thing to chew on from Chris Sheridan of With all of this Stephon Marbury madness, Sheridan put out a few trade scenerios which would work salary-wise. The first one involved the Cavs. I don't even know what to make of this rumor-monger putting this out there with ZERO research and fact behind it:

Trade No. 1 Marbury, Renaldo Balkman and Fred Jones to Cleveland for Larry Hughes, Anderson Varejao and Damon Jones

The Knicks gain some perimeter defense and add a frontcourt player who can actually play a little defense. The Cavs get a true point guard along with an energy forward, Balkman, to replace Varejao, and they get rid of their $13.65 million obligation to Hughes for the 2009-10 season, allowing them to become major players in free agency the summer before James' contract expires.

I wouldn't count on it Chris. Said Lebron James before last night's game: "I don't know him that well," James said of Marbury. "But I couldn't have a guy like that on my team."

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