Celtics/Cavs Fallout

Brian Windhorst, Cleveland.com: The Cavs were closer to beating the Orlando Magic last season than they were the Celtics this season. This is regression. Playing the way they did against the Bulls and the Celtics, they would not have beaten the Magic this season. Or the Lakers. Or probably the Suns. Right now the Cavs maybe, maybe are the fifth-best team in the league, and James and Shaquille O’Neal are headed for free agency. This was not the team that won 61 games, obviously. The Cavs haven’t been that team since they beat the Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks in the first week of April to pretty much wrap up the No. 1 seed. They took the foot off the pedal after that and they never recovered. It was compounded by the fact that O’Neal didn’t return until the start of the playoffs, which had him in the starting lineup with Antawn Jamison for the first time ever and pushed a player who started 73 games in J.J. Hickson out of the rotation. Stuff like that doesn’t just happen and everything is OK, there’s damage from those types of changes. With a couple exceptions, when frankly they just got red hot shooting the ball, the Cavs were a shell of themselves in the playoffs. Some of it was rhythm. Some of it was effort, actually a lot of it was effort. Some of it was chemistry problems. Some of it was coaching. Some of it was the opponents they were playing. The Celtics were masterful. Guess what? The Magic would have been even tougher.

Terry Pluto, Cleveland Plain Dealer: Cavs owner Dan Gilbert has to be distraught by watching his team lose their last two home games by a combined 50 points to Boston. He watched his team being out-hustled, out-rebounded and out-defended by the Celtics, who averaged 100 points per game in this series. It was the Cavs who were supposed to be a physical, gritty team. It was Brown who was supposed to prepare the Cavs to win in the postseason. It was James who was supposed to finally win a championship in his seventh year in Cleveland. All of it is gone in less than a week. Brown has done an admirable job in his five seasons. But since reaching the 2007 finals, the Cavs have been eliminated in the Eastern Conference finals in 2009, and been knocked out twice by Boston in the second round (2008, 2010). Gilbert bought this team to win a title. He knows that James is The Franchise, and James has said he’ll make his decision on where to sign as a free agent this summer based on where he has the best chance to win. While not criticizing his coach, James also has not offered much public support for Brown. That could mean a coaching change with the Cavs.

Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports: Together, [LeBron’s camp has] big ideas, bigger plans and the biggest agenda this sport’s ever seen. The playoffs move on without LBJ, but deep down it reassures him that the Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic will never be as big of a story as the suspense he and his hangers-on will spin together.“Me and my team, we have a game plan that we’re gong to execute,” James said. Yes, his team. That’s where James’ loyalties lie, where together they’ll chase the one title he’s forever chased: the biggest free agent of his generation. Together, they’re going to hold the NBA hostage. They’re going to flush out a thousand scenarios, manipulate front-office decisions in Cleveland, New York, Chicago and beyond. Kentucky’s John Calipari is along for the ride, working with agent Leon Rose and middleman William Wesley, and all hell promises to break out now.

Bob Raissman, New York Daily News: “It hasn’t been the media that’s built his role in the summer of 2010 to a crescendo, but James himself. He constantly manipulated it with suggestions and wink-winks to New York,” wrote Yahoo! Sports’ NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski. “James proclaimed July 1, 2010, as the biggest day in the history of basketball, ramping up suspense of his ultimate decision: Do I stay or do I go? What it has done is throw more palpable pressure in the air, more desperation, and it’s come back to haunt him now.” It also has raised hopes in cities such as New York and Chicago. Raised them to the point where segments of the media are fawning over James, reaching out to the King and urging him to come to the Knicks or Bulls. With James leaving his future place of employment open for speculation, assumptions have been made as if they were fact. Stuff like: Now that the Cavaliers have lost this Boston series, and therefore won’t make it to the Finals, LeBron is gone. “The danger here is one, if not more, of these cities considering itself a player in the LeBron sweepstakes are going to be terribly disappointed if he re-signs with Cleveland or moves to a market other than theirs,” said a sports marketing executive who works with NBA clubs. “What do you think the volume of LeBron James jersey sales will be in the jilted markets?” Never mind the jerseys. James’ image will take a major pounding from these jilted lovers. Bouquets will be replaced by brickbats. The possibility exists that the free agency blueprint that LeBron and his associates crafted could end up damaging the King James brand.

Sean Deveney, The Sporting News: Where to, LeBron? The drum roll to July 1 begins, and the Cavs’ stunning loss certainly shifts the thinking in terms of how James approaches free agency. The smart money is still on a return to Cleveland, his hometown team and the franchise that bent over backwards (and paid a luxury tax) to add talent. But the players around James have shown a tendency, over the last two seasons, to cave at crucial moments. It’s long been assumed that, if James were to leave Cleveland, he would be drawn to New York’s bright lights. But recently a new theory has made the rounds—a long-shot conspiracy tale with very little hard evidence to back it—that has James eyeing Chicago, possibly with Kentucky coach John Calipari in the mix. James will have some long weeks ahead before he begins making his decision, but this series did not help the case for staying in Cleveland.

Art Spander, Real Clear Sports: Avery Johnson, the coach turned announcer, is “rooting for Cleveland.” I’m rooting for a moratorium. Wishing there were not one mention of LeBron James until July. As if that’s possible. This will be the summer of our dyspepsia. We’re going to be sick of the speculation. We already are. That the Boston Celtics knocked the underachieving Cleveland Cavaliers from the NBA playoffs Thursday night became less important than the fact Mr. James will become a free agent July 1. He’ll be one for a while, as you are going to be reminded almost hourly, especially in Cleveland, New York, Miami, Newark, Chicago and Los Angeles, cities with teams believing they will be signing LeBron. A year ago the supposition dealt with Brett Favre. Finally he joined the Vikings. Now we’re saddled with LeBron, although that story might serve to push the one on Tiger Woods slightly to the side. We do overkill very well in our media, if not in our minds.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Related Posts