Leaving is the easy thing to do

Heading into this year’s playoffs, the conventional wisdom was that if the Cavs won a title, or at least made it to the Finals, LeBron James would likely re-sign to continue his quest for a championship. But if the Cavs suffered another pre-Finals flame out like last year’s Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Magic, he would sign elsewhere.

Well, we all know what happened. An aging but experienced (and cohesive) Celtics team basically dismantled the Cavs in the last three games of the series. Every Celtic knew his role and team flat out executed better, both offensively and defensively.

Where does this leave LeBron? He said after the game that his team had “a plan” and was going to execute that plan. Forget the fact that a few questions before he was asked if he had a plan and answered with a resounding, “No.” Of course he has a plan. He’s being disingenuous when he says that he hasn’t thought about the different scenarios that could play out this postseason and offseason.

He’s clearly not happy with Mike Brown. And he can’t be happy with Antawn Jamison, Shaquille O’Neal or even Mo Williams, who scored well in Game 6, but was very up and down in the series. Shaq won’t be back, and Brown is probably on his way out too. He had a tough task of trying to keep team cohesion with the mid-season introduction of Jamison and the late-season loss of O’Neal. But the bottom line is that over the past two seasons he’s had more talent than his opposition and hasn’t gotten it done. If Dan Gilbert thinks that firing Brown increases the possibility that LeBron will re-up, then he’ll do it in a New York minute.

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Celtics win Game 6, LeBron’s season is over

I’ll write more about the ramifications of Game 6 (94-85) tomorrow — for a preview check out this post — but needless to say, this was a huge win for the Celtics, in more ways than one.

This wasn’t your average, everyday conference semifinal win. The Celtics’ victory in this series not only means they’ll have a chance to play the Magic for an opportunity to play in the Finals, but it may have shifted the landscape of the NBA for the next decade.

How did they win? Defense.

Cleveland shot a miserable 38% from the field and turned the ball over 22 times. LeBron posted a triple-double (27-19-10) but missed 13-of-21 shots and turned the ball over nine times, the most TOs he has had since 2008 (also against the Celtics).

Mo Williams posted 22-7-4, but missed 10 shots and turned the ball over five times. Antawn Jamison went 2-for-10 from the field and didn’t justify the Cavs’ decision to trade for him in February. Shaq looked old and slow, but managed 11-5 and five fouls. In short, the Cavs newcomers were an epic failure.

The chemistry just wasn’t there for Cleveland. Everyone seemed to be pressing and when the game was on the line, LeBron deferred and his teammates missed shots. There were times late in the fourth quarter when the Cavs were trailing by eight or nine points and LeBron was retreating to half court when the shot went up instead of getting on the offensive glass. What good does getting back on defense do you when you need to score on every single possession to have a chance at winning the game?

Who was the hero for Boston? Rajon Rondo posted 21-3-12 with five steals and was coolly effective throughout the game. Kevin Garnett (22-12) was big in the first half and in the clutch, hitting turnaround after turnaround over Jamison. (In trading for Jamison, the Cavs were so concerned about matching up with Rashard Lewis, that they overlooked KG’s length in a potential matchup in the semis.) Lastly, I have to mention Tony Allen (10 points), who played excellent defense on LeBron throughout the night. I don’t think the C’s would have won the series without him.

Boston’s win is especially impressive considering that Ray Allen and Paul Pierce combined to go 6-of-21 from the field for 21 points. The Celtics were smart in the way they attacked the Cavs offensively. Aside from a couple of possessions, they didn’t force the ball to Pierce, who has trouble scoring on LeBron. Instead, they fed the ball to Garnett on the block and utilized Rondo on basket cuts.

As I was watching Game 5 and Game 6, I really could not believe what I was seeing. There was (seemingly) so much riding on the Cavs’ playoff run that it seemed inevitable that they would at least make the Conference Finals, but this early exit throws everything up in the air.

On the “good sportsmanship” front, it appears LeBron learned his lesson. He stopped and spoke with each of the Boston players, but he really didn’t let them say anything. It was a little forced, actually. He’d pull each guy in for a hug, say something into his ear and then he was on his way. It was like he was the Godfather or something. Listen to me as I say some motivational words.


Photo from fOTOGLIF

Clippers fire Dunleavy…for LeBron?

A few weeks ago, Mike Dunleavy gave up his coaching duties and now the Clippers have announced that he’s no longer the general manager, either.

Here is an excerpt from the press release posted on the team’s website…

The organization has determined that the goal of building a winning team is best served by making this decision at this time. The team has simply not made sufficient progress during Dunleavy’s seven-year tenure. The Clippers want to win now. This transition, in conjunction with a full commitment to dedicate unlimited resources, is designed to accomplish that objective.

Ouch.

FanHouse suggests that the move may be aimed at giving LeBron the ability to name his next head coach and general manager.

The Clippers, according to another source within the organization, are hoping to persuade James to come if he also can pick his coach, and possibly his general manager.

Aside from the franchise’s reputation for one blunder after another, the Clippers will have some attractive assets to offer a free agent like James. Kaman is one of the league’s best centers. Power forward Blake Griffin, who missed this season with a knee injury, is considered a sure-bet star on the rise. Davis is a former All-Star, and young guard Eric Gordon has great potential.

While a lineup consisting of Davis, Gordon, LeBron, Griffin and Kaman would certainly be imposing, let’s remember that this is the Clippers. Would LeBron really be willing to risk his career on a franchise that, aside from a good season here and there, has been a complete mess for its entire history?

If the Cavs fail to win a title this season, and the Knicks, Bulls and Heat don’t bowl him over, the prospect of playing for Phil Jackson and being able to name a trustworthy general manager might be enough to convince him to play for the Clippers.

But I doubt it.


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Knicks trading for Tyrus Thomas?

According to Adrian Wojnarowski

Several sources believe the Bulls are agreeable to a package of Thomas and Jerome James(notes) for Knicks forward Al Harrington(notes). Thus far, Walsh has resisted parting with Harrington, but discussions are still active and the teams have explored different combinations in recent days that would ultimately deliver Thomas to the Knicks.

Intuitively, this deal makes some sense. The Bulls are going to have to shed some salary in order to have enough cap space to offer a max contract to someone like Dwyane Wade, LeBron James or Chris Bosh, and Thomas’s name is the one that most often comes up since he’s nearing the end of his rookie contract. The Bulls would need to give up their rights to Thomas (or hope that John Salmons exercises an early termination on the final year of his contract) to have enough cap space to offer a max contract. Jerome James is only included to make the numbers work since both teams are over the cap.

For the Knicks, Thomas would be another piece to the puzzle, though he would eat into the team’s projected cap space. Right now, assuming a cap of $50 million, the Knicks would have roughly $23 million to spend, which is enough for one max contract, but not two. A trade for Thomas would reduce that cap space to $16-$17 million, so they would add a talented up-and-comer (who looks to be a perfect fit at power forward in Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo system) and still be able to sign LeBron or Wade (or some other big-name free agent). All at the expense of Al Harrington, whom the Knicks aren’t going to re-sign anyway.

Another angle on this deal is that the Knicks are essentially assisting the Bulls in becoming a competitor for LeBron and Wade next summer. However, the Bulls could simply hold onto Thomas and let him become a free agent next summer, so the upside for the Knicks is that they get the rights to Thomas knowing that the Bulls are going to be a competitor anyway. By trading for Harrington, the Bulls’ prospects for this season would improve. So since they’re probably going to lose Thomas anyway, they might as well improve in the short-term.

One the Knicks have to consider is the chances that they can move either Eddy Curry or Jared Jeffries. If they’re able to unload one of those players for expiring salary, they would have enough cap space to offer two max contracts next summer, so LeBron/Bosh or LeBron/Amare suddenly becomes a possibility. The likelihood of the Knicks moving either player seems slim, unless they are willing to give up David Lee or Danilo Gallinari in the deal.


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NBA News & Rumors: Delonte, LeBron, JJ and Julian

Delonte West misses practice (unexcused) again. All right, one unexcused absence I can understand, but after he was MIA yesterday, wouldn’t the Cavs track him down to find out why he was absent? Of course they would, which is why he is either completely unreachable or the Cavs don’t approve of his reasons for missing practice. This is worrisome, but expect the team to give him a lot of leeway to get his life straightened out.

The New York Daily News thinks there has been another sign that LeBron is headed to the Knicks.
His name is William Wesley and apparently he has LeBron’s ear. He was at Knicks camp this week and some conspiracy theorists believe his presence is a sign that LeBron will be playing in New York next season.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Joe Johnson will not sign an extension this season.
Instead, Johnson is going to become a free agent next summer when a number of teams are going to have the cap space to offer a max deal. After LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and (maybe) Amare Stoudemire, Johnson is the next biggest prize in the free agent class of 2010. He’s one of those players that isn’t quite worth a max deal but he’s going to get one anyway. (Think Michael Redd circa 2005.)

Byron Scott told the Times-Picayune that the Hornets’ starting small forward job is Julian Wright’s to lose.
This is about a year too late. Wright was quite productive (PER: 15.48) in his rookie season, but the Hornets went with James Posey instead, thinking that he’d be the missing piece to the championship puzzle. Wright is one of those young, talented players that is going to see a big increase in minutes, so fantasy basketball owners should take note.

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