Saturday, April 30, 2005

Many miles, many thoughts

So, I limp back into cyberspace. I've been on mental health leave and traveling the countryside. I'm currently on a three-week journey westward and I'm writing from a festive Minneapolis, where the 40 degree temps have not deterred Friday night festivities. Last night, just outside Milwaukee, I dined at a friend's house and watched Scott Williams explain on NBA TV the positive influence Dan Gilbert's had on the Cavs. Tonight I visited a friend who lives in an apartment building with "John Dillinger" painted across the front door. What a long, strange trip it's been and I haven't even hit Vegas yet.

In many hours on the road I've done a lot of thinking about the Cavaliers. I cannot believe the honeymoon ended so quickly. What I mean by that is that I figured the pressure of winning and the depression of not meeting expectations would strike next year, not this just finished season. Especially when the gents were cruising along in first place.

Here are my thoughts looking back in no order. Oh, and I have some Phil Jackson feelings as well at the end.

--Jeff McInnis' personality hurt the team. At his core, Jeff is a streetballer. He will always be concerned with himself first, which is deadly for a point guard. But it manifests itself when he's threatened because he tends to take a bunker mentality and believe everyone, even sports writers, are the enemy. In the end he quit on his teammates even as they messed with the balance of the team by standing up for him when he was benched.

--LeBron is great when he doesn't score. This may shock you, but I thought LeBron was at his worst going down the stretch. Not that his worst is bad and not that he did it on purpose. Without help as he poured his heart out in never leaving the floor, but he wasn't playing good basketball. As he would pound the ball and force shots or jump for steals and get out of defensive rotation. Sure it made for great stats, but not too many wins. He's at his best when he's leading by sharing and contributing, like in the season finale in Toronto when he nearly had a triple-double at the half.

--You can't win regularly without identity. Just think, what were the Cavs about this season? It goes to stability, of which there was none considering the ownership and head coach changed midseason. But even on a small scale, the team didn't display a constant attitude in anything. This is especially glaring at the defensive end where they were constantly trying to fix what was wrong with broad changes without realizing that was part of what was wrong.

--This season was one game from success. Had the Cavs started 12-20 and then finished 30-20, everyone would've hailed them. Instead it was the other way around and they were deemed failures. In truth, a lot was accomplished this season especially with LeBron, which is most important. The team growth was stunted at the end, the playoffs were missed by a game and the physche was harmed. In the end, the team did win seven more games than last year and is likely poised to increase it by the same number next season. So fans, don't be happy, but don't abandon optimism either.

Now, for the news of the day, Phil Jackson. Here's my latest story on the matter.

I'm not sure why Phil wants to pick from this sickly lot, which basically includes the Lakers, Knicks, Cavs and Blazers. The Lakers hate each other and Jackson and Kobe Bryant have deep issues. The Knicks and Blazers have proven that you can throw hundreds of millions at a team and it can still stink. If I were him, I may wait for a better choice.

The Cavs actually have the most upside with LeBron and valuable cap room. But can you really see Phil in Cleveland? I mean, I suppose Dan Gilbert's money is enticing, but does Phil really need money? Most people in the league I talk to think he'll eventually wind up with the Lakers again but not before the Cavs get a little red-faced in wooing him.

I suppose there is no harm in it, especially since the team can't really target many GM candidates with the playoffs going on right now. And if they somehow get him, it would be the sort of splash that might sell out the season before it starts.

Trust me, even though I'm away I'm making dozens of calls on the matter daily. I'll being updating more frequently during the searches as they heat up. Until then, next stop is Denver and a Rocky Mountain high.

Take care,

Take care,