Thursday, April 14, 2005

Upon further review


After the game in Orlando the other night, J-Mac approached me and said he was sorry for the things he'd been saying to me. On his own, no less. Harumpf! I told him OK, it was too bad that he became enraged about something I wrote. He said the bad PR really hurt him in his contract year and I told him bad PR means nothing if you keep playing the way you are, that's what will get you paid. So we'll try to stay out of each other's way the rest of the season.

Say what you will about this being the pros, it is very much like any CYO team. When the team is winning, things are grand, when they're losing, things are bad. Even with the beat writers.

It is sort of like my favorite writer, George Will (no, I don't agree with all his politics) and his feeling about the designated hitter. He once felt it was the greatest abomination on America's game since WWII forced the cancellation of the game. Now, its tradition compels the Greek conservative Will to believe the DH is a blessing to the pastime, bestowed on the rulemakers by the benevolent finger of God.

As such...

Last week, I deemed the Cavaliers an inferior and disorganized outfit that was deeply flawed and injected with such hubris that they're destiny was nothing less than a draft-pickless lottery and a summer of discontent for LeBron James, who would sit knowing he wasn't a star enough to get his team into the playoffs (again).

On second thought...I think they may be a tough-minded bunch with steely reserve and a willingness to sacrifice their individual success for the team goal of getting to the playoffs for the first time in seven years, an act that could bond some core players for the long haul.

OK, so like Will, I may be overstating on all angels. Allow me to say this, though, certainly the negativity around the team has melted away with the last few wins combined with Philly and Jersey finally losing a game. They are still flawed, aren't very good on the road, don't play consistent defense, can't make a jumper.

But it is more than that for me, I couldn't be more impressed with the way Drew Gooden has played since Zydrunas Ilgauskas went down. His discipline and drive while playing almost as many minutes as LeBron has really sold me on the guy. I cannot ignore his talent and his willingness and ability to step up has me thinking he's maturing, which is what can be taken from this stretch run.

Anderson Varejao's hustle and fearlessness is vital in close games and will be very important in the playoffs. I really don't think he's ready to be a starter in this league but he's the kind of reserve that is extremely valuable.

I don't care if he is a Silas guy, the Cavs should bring Robert Traylor back next season. He has a very reasonable salary at $1.76 million. He's too small to play center and takes to many jump shots, but he always plays with energy and always tries to keep the team upbeat.

As a whole, the team has really impressed me with how much they want to make the postseason. You could just see it in the way they played in Philly and Orlando, they fought very hard and played without fear, something that has really been lacking on the road for the whole second half of the season. I mean, did you notice how many "and 1s" they had against the Magic? Like, probably, six. That means they're going to the basket and they're going hard.

So here's way I'm saying: This team has warts, but don't let me or anyone convince you that this was a failed season. There was an ownership change and a coaching change and that messed some stuff up and they underachieved for awhile. But no Cleveland team has made it to the playoffs in three years and the Cavs haven't been there in seven. That's something to hang your hat on.

Think of the way it will look in the the history books:

2002-03: 17-65
2003-04: 35-47
2004-05: 4X-3X
2005-06: 5X-2x?

By the way, these were the Bulls w/Michael Jordan
1983-84: 27-55
1984-85: 38-44
1985-86: 30-52
1986-87: 40-42
1987-88: 50-32

Take care all,

p.s. Can you tell the first back-to-back days off in a month has allowed me to get some sleep?