Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Death of the 2009 Cavaliers and Hope for the Future

I'm supposed to be beside myself right now. How does a veteran 66 win team with an indestructible player just go catatonic in the Eastern Conference Finals and lay down to a gimmicky team from a crappy sports town like Orlando. This wasn't supposed to happen. We were supposed to at least have the opportunity to give the Lakers our best shot. This team had been different all year. They played together, they outhustled people, they never panicked, they cheered for each other from the bench . . . where did all of that go?
Given the ride that we've all been on with this team for the last 8 or so months, it's hard to rationalize what just happened. Based on the comments I've seen and heard so far, the most common reaction that people seem to be having having is a desire to label this collapse as another classic Cleveland choke. They're pointing fingers at Lebron, Mike Brown, Mo Williams . . . pretty much anyone who could possibly be made to take the fall for this heartbreak. In a way, people seem to want to pull the covers of their heads, curl up in a ball, and wallow in the familiar and strangely comforting misery that is Cleveland fandom.

Listen, I'm as hurt as anyone right now. The greatest season since the 95 Indians just ended with a thud. We basically have nothing to look forward to as fans for another 12 months or so when the Cavs will possibly have a chance to avenge this loss. All we can do now is mope around and stare out into Cleveland sports abyss. For a lot of people, myself included, who depend on our teams to be a source of entertainment and happiness, the situation that we are presently facing is daunting to say the least.

With that in mind, if you just can't stomach any Cavs analysis right now, I encourage you to stop reading. What I am about to say might piss some people off but after a great deal of thought, I'm comfortable that it's an accurate statement: THE CAVS DID NOT CHOKE. The Cavs were a fatally flawed group that came up short against a team that was playing exceptionally good basketball and beat them straight up in six games. That's what happened. Yes, the Cavs blew some close games. Yes, the officiating was atrocious, but equally so on both sides. Yes, certain players (I'm looking at you Mo) played poorly throughout the series. Yes, Orlando had some guys play way above their heads. Still, if you consider the Cavs' full body of work this year, I don't think you can call what they just did a choke job.

Against both Orlando and the Lakers this year, teams that can play both inside and out, the Cavs were pretty helpless. Their ancient frontcourt combined with an undersized backcourt made it impossible to match up. It's not like the Cavs weren't aware of this throughout the season either. It's exactly why they were considering taking on Shaq's ungodly contract at the deadline. In the end, they decided to roll the dice and play with what they had. I don't want to come off like I'm second guessing that decision. At the time it was made, given the players available and the financial ramifications involved, it was perfectly defensible. At the same time, there is a chance that it just cost the Cavs the title.

I know that the Cavs won 66 games. I know that they swept the first two rounds of the playoffs. I know about the MVP, coach of the year, second all-star on the roster . . . I know. It doesn't change the fact that the Cavs had an elephant in the room all year that we all just collectively decided that there was nothing we could do about so we just left it alone in the hope that it wouldn't be our undoing. Well, it was. And even if we'd survived Orlando, it probably would've been our undoing against L.A. You can't go 6'1 and 6'2 in the backcourt if you only have one viable frontcourt defender. Lebron can make a lot of deficiencies disappear but against a team like Orlando, even he can't overcome the problem. It was just physically impossible to match up. If you double Howard, they'll shoot right over top of your small guards. If you don't double Howard, he'll just eat you alive. Solve that one for me.  What exactly were the Cavs supposed to do? Orlando made the shots that the Cavs had to give them. It's as simple as that.

I don't want to dwell on this. It's going to take some time but eventually, we're going to have to just let it be and look ahead. It's hard to think about it now but the Cavs are in really good position to address their deficiencies this offseason. Between re-signing Varejao and getting rid of Szczerbiak, they won't free up all that much money (they're over the cap anyway but I'm sure they'd prefer to lower the payroll a bit) but they will still have Ben Wallace as a major trading chip (If he's going to retire, they could trade him and let another team buy him out) in an environment where plenty of teams will be looking to shed payroll. I think if the Cavs can add one of the following three things this summer, they will be the prohibitive favorite to win it next year:

1. Lengthy wing defender: Hopefully a two-way player but if not, maybe someone like Dahntay Jones. Basically I'm looking for a non-retarted Sasha Pavolvic.

2. Big body down low: See Perkins, Kendrick. We need one of those.  They're hard to find.  This could be a problem.  

3. Second fiddle: Sorry Mo but you came up small when it mattered most. You're a nice complementary player but everyone out there that told us all year that you weren't the real Robin was right. If he's out there, the Cavs need to use Ben Wallace's contract to acquire another reliable scorer.  Oddly enough, given the current economic climate of the NBA, it will probably be easier to add this piece that to find a reliable low-post defender.

That's all I've got for now. Keep your heads up everyone. I hear the Browns are going to be really good this year.


Dan W said...

Yeah, this pretty much sucks.

We've been blinded by this team all season long I feel like. I don't mean to undermine their accomplishments, because winning a franchise record 66 games and having the MVP and COY is certainly worth noting, but who gives a shit. This team needs a second legitimate scoring option, and it's not Mo Williams. And as much as I like Z's intensity, he's getting old and proved last night his time might be up in Cleveland.

Art Brosef said...

I think to call the Cavs a "fatally flawed" team is inaccurate. Are they flawed? Sure. But everyteam is, and to call it a fatal flaw means they were doomed from the beginning, which they were not. They could have won the series. They didnt. They didnt choke either, they just didnt win. They played a good team who had more confidence and less to lose.

The most depressing aspect of this is the pending 12 months of cleveland sports irrelevance. Although Im not sure why we should be upset about 12 more months, considering weve all endured years of it to this point.

Biff said...

I guess the fatal flaw is that they were built in such a way that they couldn't match up with the two best teams in the league. It was a longshot for them to get through Orlando AND the Lakers from the get go. We just didn't realize it until now.

Persistence said...

Lebron needs a superstar sidekick.

Every Batman needs a Robin. The only championship team in the past 30 years without 2 real superstar types was the the Pistons. At that Dumars was a borderline star and that team played the best and most physical defense that I've ever seen outside the Riley/Van Gundy era Knicks.