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Entries in Cleveland Cavaliers (12)


Cleveland Needs To Show LeBron Some Love Now

LeBron James

Drastic Times Call For
Drastic Fawning Over LBJ

One Great Season

It's been nearly two weeks since the Cavaliers completed their season in a disappointing Eastern Conference semifinal-round loss to Boston, and I've heard surprisingly little coming out of Cleveland since.

If that city wants to keep LeBron and thereby continue to think its first pro sports championship in more than 50 years is still within reach, it needs to do something drastic.

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Making sports headlines for more than 18 months have been reports of what rap mogul Jay-Z, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other Gotham greats have had to say about LeBron moving his NBA game to the media capital of the world.

And since ESPN's Chris Broussard started reporting two weeks ago that James had taken a liking to Chicago, now that city's luminaries -- even President Barack Obama -- are weighing in on the prospects of LBJ taking his broad shoulders to Chitown.

EXTRA: More LeBron James Coverage

The NBA's Nets, Clippers and even Heat also appear to be in the running to sign James after he becomes a free agent on July 1.

But what exactly has Cleveland done to show its love? Inexplicably, not much at all, it turns out.

During his seven years in Cleveland, the city has added giant, several-stories-tall images of LeBron on the sides of downtown buildings. But those are more the doings of his biggest sponsor, Nike, than they are of the people of Cleveland.

Which is why those in the 216 need to do something and do it quickly. They only have five weeks or so to show LeBron that they desperately want him to stay, that just because of two subpar playoff games, they still love him and that they'll shell out their hard-earned meager wages to continue to fill Quicken Loans Arena all 41 nights next winter.

So Cleveland, if you're listening, here are some steps you can take to show the greatest basketball player on the planet that you want him to re-sign with your Cavaliers:

+ Announce a LeBron James Day -- perhaps June 21 to mark the first day of summer -- where Mayor Frank Jackson hands over the keys to the city to LeBron, and residents flock down to Public Square for a big rally. Maybe change the name of the city for that day to LeBronland.

+ I'm not sure what the tourism marketing slogan is for the city of Cleveland, but maybe change it to LeBron On The Lake or Loyalty On The Lake.

+ If you don't like that line, how about, "Cleveland: We Might Light Our River On Fire, But At Least The World's Greatest Basketball Player Lives Here."

+ New York has its Canyon Of Heroes and Chicago's got Grant Park. I'm not sure where Cleveland would ever honor a championship team, but maybe it should plan that now and call it LeBron James Way.

+ Send Spencer Tunick back to Cleveland to shoot a gaggle of hot women lying naked on the ground in front of the Q, spelling out P-L-E-A-S-E S-T-A-Y L-E-B-R-O-N. Cleveland's got to have enough hot naked women to spell that out, right?

+ Urge Earnest Byner, Craig Ehlo, Brian Sipe and Charles Nagy to visit King James and regale him in the tales of their near-postseason successes. Surely they've thought many times since their high-stakes disappointments what things would have been like had their individual failures not led to heartbreak. Perhaps they can convince LeBron how great it would be to finally bring that starved city a championship. Could any town love one man more?

If Cleveland doesn't take some drastic measures soon, those WE ARE ALL WITNESSES t-shirts will take on a drastically different meaning shortly after July 1.


Older White Guys Know What's Best For LeBron

LeBron James

Middle-Aged Writers
Need To Stop Posing

One Great Season

Aahhh, to be 25. Most have been out of school for a few years -- or in my case, a few months -- some have already earned a promotion or two at work, others are still trying to get a foot in the door, and still others are tending bar in New York or Los Angeles waiting for agency calls about the next audition.

Whatever the goal, 25 is a great age to be working toward it. You're old enough to be smart enough, but you're young enough to still have everything in front of you. At the very worst, you can still live cheaply with mom and dad while you get your situation sorted, and then go confidently in the direction of those dreams.*


+ PLEASE STAY: An Open Letter To LeBron James
+ TELEVISION: How ESPN Ruined The Cavs-Celtics Series
+ LEBRON JAMES: How Great Is He?
+ WHO'S BETTER: Kobe Or LeBron?

You've got friends aplenty and perhaps a healthy social life. You hit the bars with the fellas on Fridays and take out that pretty girl on Saturdays. Life is largely care free.

But what if your name happens to be LeBron James? What was Friday night like for him, just 24 hours after his season and perhaps his career in Cleveland ended? While most of us don't have any idea how he kicked off his weekend, the entire sports world seems to know what will be best for him come July 1.

A quick Google News search of "LeBron James" turned up 11.1 million results, the most recent of which was a Tim Cowlishaw column headlined, "What Exactly Is LeBron James The King Of?"

What I absolutely hate about sportswriters is their ugly habit of building people up only to tear them down without any regard for the fact that they were the ones who slid in the pedestal in the first place. Am I the only one who sees the joke, in this case at least, isn't on LeBron James but on Tim Cowlishaw?

What's even more ridiculous than the Cowlishaw piece -- and I typically like his columns and think he's usually the most logical of the "Around The Horn" gang -- is that there are plenty other middle-aged white men who seem to think they know what's best for a 25-year-old black superstar athlete whose currently facing a decision unlike any these sportswriters have had to make in their professional lives. And of the biggest decisions these guys have had to make, none has done it under the microscope by which King James has found his every move and syllable examined for the better part of a decade.

I'm obviously aware the role of a sports columnist is to write about what people want to read about, and if you can present your opinion in a way that elicits debate (read: sells papers or online subscriptions or at least generates page views) then you've done that job well.

By participating in the LBJ conversation on Twitter for most of the last week, I was reminded how many LeBron haters are out there. Is it because he operates dog-fighting rings or sexually assaults teenage girls or simply possesses an ornery personality like some of his colleagues? None of the above. Shoot, he doesn't even taunt his opponents.

The hate stems from his gift, his basketball greatness that causes the very writers who cover him to do what they do with all larger-than-life icons: they saturated us with a new definition of hyperbole.

And if the media thinks that's what its readers and viewers want, then I can stomach such overkill for the most part. But maybe the language these guys use could sound a little less sanctimonious. Instead of "he should do this," perhaps try "he could do that." Why would anyone other than LeBron claim to know what's best for him?

In the same breath that writers acknowledge LBJ's quest to further his global brand and become a post-career billionaire businessman, they criticize the absence of rage in his post-game press conferences after the Game 5 and Game 6 losses. "I didn't see any fire from him. He should have been mad as hell," I heard from a white TV analyst in his 50s the other day. "He just doesn't get it."

No, sir, you and your colleagues might be the ones who don't get it. You want a pro athlete half of your age, a young celebrity who's led a life nothing like yours, to react to losing a sporting contest the way you think you would.

The reality is that while we can have a good time speculating with friends over beers what we'd do if we won the lottery or if Charlize Theron walked into the bar, but none of us has any idea what it's like to be one of the most recognized superstar athletes on the planet. We surely don't know how we'd have reacted after those last two games against Boston, and we're definitely clueless about what will happen on or shortly after July 1.

Write about his game all you want, talk about what NBA insiders will be telling you all summer, but stop pretending to know what's going on inside the mind of a man you will never ever be.

(* = paraphrasing Thoreau, of course.)


An Open Letter To LeBron James

LeBron James

One Great Season

Dear LeBron James:

Cleveland loves you. Ohio loves you. I love you. If I had a dog, I'd train it to love you. Actually, scratch that; it would already know to love you upon sliding out of its mother's slimy birth canal.

Unfortunately for the aforementioned, those big shots in New York love you. And it sounds like Chicago is starting to fall for you as well. Lots of people love you.


+ TELEVISION: How ESPN Ruined The Cavs-Celtics Series
+ LEBRON JAMES: How Great Is He?
+ TWITTER RECAP: Who Said What About The Game 5 Debacle?
+ TWITTER RECAP: Who Said What About Game 4?
+ WHO'S BETTER: Kobe Or LeBron?

But who has always loved you? Your mother and your friends, for starters. Those you grew up with in Akron, not too far from your office the last seven years. That's nearly 30 percent of your life so far.

You've done so much for northeast Ohio, LeBron. You've done us all a huge favor by giving us something fun and exciting to cheer about. In the seven years that you've been dominating Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland's Indians and Browns have made one postseason appearance each. Your Cavs, however, are playoff staples and even championship contenders.

But we need that trend to continue. There's so little else in our city that gives us a reason to smile. I know there's a big ribs cookoff on the west side every summer, but that's not quite the same thing. I mean, have you been there?

We don't just want you to stay in Cleveland. We need you to stay. Surely there's the promise of a better life in New York, but can you imagine if what you pulled in Tuesday's Game 5 actually went down at Madison Square Garden? If you thought the Cleveland fans got ugly, just wait until you get a taste of Midtown after a night like that. And don't bother reading the papers the next morning.

LeBron, I know it's only basketball, but it's hard to trivialize it like that when you're standing to earn the biggest contract in NBA history this summer. I know you want to be a billionaire businessman down the road, and what better place is there to reach for such a goal than in New York?

But you want to win championships, too, don't you? Isn't the now more important than the later? You said an hour after the Game 6 elimination Thursday that "it's all about winning for me," and it should be. Your gift is basketball, not board rooms. Keep using the basketball to fulfill the near-term goals with the team you grew up watching.

And if you want to keep shooting commercials, shaking hands on seven-figure deals and building your brand, well, that's what summers and private airplanes are for. Sightseeing and fine dining are great and all, but once the basketball season begins, it doesn't matter where you live. Your focus should be on your team, whether it's the Cavs, Bulls, Knicks or the Lithuanian touring squad. 

If it really is all about winning for you, you'll definitely be taking at least one step back if you go to Chicago or New York because those teams aren't in position to contend for a championship next year. While your current team has fallen short of expectations the last two years, the Cavaliers are much closer to a ring than most teams. Oh, and by the way, whether it's right or wrong, sports fans are a fickle bunch, and those in Cleveland will hate you forever if you leave.

So if all these things are equal, why not stay in the city and continue to play for the team where you've already built such a strong foundation? After what that city's sports fans went through long before that Game 5 debacle and the 48 crippling hours that followed, imagine what kind of hero you'll be in your own hometown. Everyone I know would kill to have just a sip of that kind of juice. As the King, you'll own the shiniest chalice, and thirsty Clevelanders shall all be witnesses.


How ESPN Has Ruined The Cavs-Celtics Series

One Great Season

When I left my apartment to pick up some food about a half hour before game time, Stuart Scott was teasing his typically annoyed ESPN audience with, "Stay tuned for what will be the most important game in the history of the Cleveland Cavaliers."

When I returned 20 minutes later, he was throwing to colleague Michael Wilbon, who was far, far away from the Boston-Cleveland game, getting ready to explain "what tonight's Game 6 will mean for LeBron's legacy."


+ GAME 6 PREVIEW: What The Cavs Need To Do To Win
+ LEBRON JAMES: How Great Is He?
+ TWITTER RECAP: Who Said What About The Game 5 Debacle?
+ TWITTER RECAP: Who Said What About Game 4?
+ WHO'S BETTER: Kobe Or LeBron?

The legacy of a 25-year-old basketball player who's about halfway into his prime and barely a third of the way through his career overall?

Working at home all day every day means I get to have ESPN on all day long, which in many ways is a good thing. I obviously get to stay up to date on the day's sports news and so forth, but the overkill is truly disgusting. You take the good with the bad, I guess.

When I used to work at FOX, I heard from several reliable co-workers, including one who claimed she was on the distribution list, that there was some electronic directive emailed out from the top reaches of the company every morning, emphasizing what the day's talking points were to be. Translation: Let's pound Obama for this, or let's praise Palin for that.

I've got to think the high-level folks in Bristol do the same thing, because the LeBron's-last-game-in-Cleveland talk earned a mere mention on "SportsCenter" Tuesday morning, but such speculation -- and until July 1 that's all it will be -- has since ramped up to a level unprecedented even by ESPN's norms. In fact, Jimmy Clausen's pre-draft and draft-night coverage are starting to get a little jealous.

So while I'll be rooting for my Cavs for the next couple of hours, a small -- very small -- piece of me will be relieved if they lose because the postseason hype will be overwith. All that remains to be seen is where LeBron signs over the summer, and I can't imagine ESPN will cover that story too much.


The 4 Things The Cavs Must Do To Win Game 6

Rajon Rondo, LeBron James

Win In Boston Would
Force Game 7 In Cleveland

One Great Season

It's amazing how one weak performance by the world's greatest basketball player has set off a deluge of anti-Cleveland sentiment around the sports world.

But that's the nature of sports media, thanks in large part to ESPN, Frank Isola and of course, Twitter and the blogosphere.

30 THOUSAND HELPERS: Look Who's Donated!

Before we plan our LeBron James goodbye party, however, there's still the matter of tonight's Game 6 in Boston. Some think there's no way the Celtics let the Cavs off the hook, while others are expecting an eruption of Mt. LBJ, forcing a Game 7 back in Cleveland on Sunday that the Cavs couldn't possibly lose, right?

Whatever your opinion about this series or LeBron's NBA future, below are the facts, the four things Cleveland must do to win tonight and push the series to a final game.

+ Play team basketball -- The Cavs have won many games with James dominating while his teammates stand around and watch (see: the last seven years). That can't happen tonight. James needs to attack early like he did in Game 3 at Boston, but his supporting cast needs to be just as aggressive. Ball movement, sharing the basketball, finding the open man and playing good, active, team defense are imperative.

+ Play desperate basketball -- This time of year you hear "desperate hockey," but you don't hear the "desperate" tag as often in basketball because hoopsters don't think it's macho. Whatever. People like Antawn Jamison and Mo Williams need to be aggressive, enthusiastic and even physical. No sense saving their energy for another game because without a win tonight, there won't be any.

+ Play physical basketball -- Shaquille O'Neal has probably given more on the offensive end than was expected in this series, but he's still not even grabbing six rebounds per game. He and Anderson Varejao, and hopefully Zydrunas Ilgauskas and J.J. Hickson, need to keep Boston off the offensive glass. And I'm not only talking about rebounding. I'm talking about an elbow here or a hip check there. I know it's hard to change your personality for one game in May, but it's worth trying.

+ Play with mental toughness -- The last time the Cavs faced elimination in Boston was just two years ago in the same conference semifinal round. The Cavs came up short in Game 7, but it was close, and I'd like to think the Cavs have improved more than the Celtics since then. Cleveland can't think about the fear of elimination. Instead, for inspiration, the Cavs should consider the reward for a win tonight -- a Game 7 in their own barn on Sunday, with all the momentum behind them.


LeBron James: How Great Is He?

LeBron James

Huge Opportunity For
Redemption Awaits In
Thursday's Game 6

One Great Season

Through the first four games of the Eastern Conference semifinals between the Cavs and Celtics, it wasn't even clear that the greatest player on the planet was the best player in the series. Rajon Rondo had carried Boston to both of its wins in much the same way LeBron James has carried Cleveland for seven years.

The King is largely regarded as the best player in the NBA, but after Tuesday night's perplexing Game 5 in which James scored only 15 points and looked almost entirely disinterested in an embarrassing loss to the Celtics, there are questions upon questions.

WHO'S BETTER: Kobe Or LeBron?

One question I've asked people over the years is whether winning is a skill like ballhandling and shooting are. It's a very subjective topic, and if the answer is yes, than maybe Kobe Bryant -- not LeBron -- is the best player on the planet.

And speaking of Kobe and the guy both he and James were compared to upon their respective entries into the NBA -- Michael Jordan -- there are certain things about Bryant and Jordan that I see far less often in James. The ability to find and step on an opponent's jugular is chief among those differences.

Where LeBron is capable of doing something great every time he touches the ball, Jordan just was great every night he stepped on the floor. People forgot about their lofty expectations of Jordan's greatness because when he was at his peak, never once did he not embody it.

Kobe, though not quite Jordan-esque in that regard -- nobody is -- remains far ahead of LeBron when it comes to being great.

Michael Jordan

What makes it difficult to watch LeBron sometimes isn't the mediocre Game 4 or the abysmal Game 5, but the shortcomings contained within those performances that actually show their ugly heads frequently.

Sometimes James' shot selection isn't great. And on other occasions, shot selection is OK, but the actual result is grotesque. Three times Tuesday night James got good looks from 20-22 feet, yet his efforts were almost air balls, barely scraping rim before bouncing into a Boston player's hands. And sometimes the out-of-control ballhandling will yield a sloppy turnover here or there. Great players don't perform like that.

As Thursday's Game 6 in Boston approaches, there are countless scenarios being talked about in the blogosphere, but I'm only considering these two:

+ LeBron has a huge opportunity to silence the many, many critics with a performance for the ages that sends the series back to Cleveland for Game 7.

+ The Cavs are put out of their misery by a better Boston team and the countdown begins toward the day LeBron decides to stay in Cleveland or take his quest for a championship to Chicago or New York.

What do you think will happen?


Celtics Clobber Cavs; Was It LeBron's Last Game In Cleveland?

LeBron James

LBJ, Cavs Feel Harsh
Wrath Of Twitterverse

One Great Season


Not much else can be said about Tuesday's Game 5 between the Cavs and Celtics, won easily and embarrassingly by the visitors in green.

That is, if you're a Cleveland native and die-hard sports fan from Ohio, where a major professional world championship trophy hasn't been paraded around the state's northeast corner in, well, a long time.

And according to trustworthy news sources on Twitter, one won't be seen in Cleveland for, well, a long time.

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LeBron James' performance was dismal when it needed to be dominant, prompting the easy question about the King's future in Cleveland. Was that his last game in Cleveland?

Personally, regardless of the outcome of this series or any other series the Cavs might play in this postseason, I think James will extend his contract in Cleveland. I wrote a month or two ago that playing in New York is no better than playing in his home state. Sightseeing and fine dining are great, but LeBron is trying to win basketball championships.

And if Boston bounces the Cavs in the Eastern Conference semifinals, especially after Tuesday's ugly Game 5 in front of the home friendlies, do you think an ultra-competitive guy like James would be able to live with himself for not even coming close to finishing what he started in his own backyard?

During and after the game, especially when the Celtics started to run away with it in the second half, the Twitterverse got a little harsh on LeBron and the Cavs. Here's a sampling below:

@JerodMSF: "It is amazing come nut-cutting time watching the difference between a champion and a pretender. Boston showing why they won two years ago."

@MikeAmmo: "I'm not talking about the blowout, even when down a bit the crowd got totally uptight, depressed and deflated. That's on LeBron."

@Rachel_Nichols: "Fans courtside asking me if this is LeBron's last home game as a Cav. A couple of them teary."

@microtony: "At least LeBron can find comfort in all those times MJ let his team lose by 30. In the playoffs. At home."

@ClevelandFrowns: "The more embarrassing his playoff flop, the HARDER it will be for LeBron to leave. I don't understand the opposite argument."

@Chris_Broussard: "No question that if healthy and not old, Boston has more talent than Cavs. LJ supposed to make up for that deficit, but that's a lot to ask."

@ChrisMannixSI: "Question: would the Cavs be a different team with Stoudemire instead of Jamison and Hickson? It's going to be asked."

@sportsguy33: "The 'Kobe is better than LeBron' demo is reacting right now like Don Shula's house after the Tyree Catch."

@sharapovasthigh: "Wow, can't believe this score. This is what I think it takes for LeBron to leave Cleveland."

@EdgeofSports: "Never been speechless in my life. I'm Speechless about LeBron's absence of game tonight. Maybe Gund should pay to have Jay-Z court side."


Cavs-Celtics: Who's Saying What?

Rajon Rondo

Rajon Rondo Carries
Boston To Game 4 Win

One Great Season

Less than 48 hours after the Cavs torched the Celtics in Boston, the Cleveland team that so many people thought was a strong contender to win an NBA championship assembled a performance Sunday that was at times as flat as its embarrassing Game 2 loss.

And just when you thought Rajon Rondo couldn't hurt the Cavs any more than he had in the first three games, the Celtics' point guard played out of his mind in a 97-87 win that tied the Eastern Conference semifinals at 2-2. Game 5 is Tuesday in Cleveland.

Rondo had 29 points, 18 assists and 13 rebounds in 47 minutes Sunday. Here are some other notes:

+ Antawn Jamison is not getting it done. His numbers aren't bad, but he rarely plays with passion. J.J. Hickson is more aggressive and was enjoying a fine second season in Cleveland until the Cavs picked up Jamison at the trading deadline, forcing Hickson to the bench.

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+ The Celtics are playing with more heart. Sure the series is tied, 2-2, and it looks like each team will win its next home game to set up a Game 7 in Cleveland next weekend, but Boston is just two years removed from an NBA championship and still has most of that nucleus in tact. The Big 3 certainly are collectively older and slower, but a Game 7 -- even on the road -- scares me because that Boston team is a proud one.

+ I give Danny Ferry credit for trying to put the proper pieces around LeBron James the last couple of years, but this hardly looks like Michael Jordan's first championship team with the Bulls. Jamison is no Scottie Pippen, Mo Williams is inconsistent and Shaq will need to give more than 21 minutes and six rebounds if Cleveland wants to advance.

+ Cavs coach Mike Brown should have given some other guys -- Ilgauskas, Moon, Powe, Gibson -- more minutes in Friday's Game 3 blowout.

+ The problem still in LeBron's game is his sometimes erratic play. Jordan seemed to cherish the basketball more. Even Kobe doesn't throw the ball away as much or take as many bad shots. But James does follow up sub-standard games with excellent ones, so expect some electricity in Cleveland on Tuesday. LBJ followed his three previous lowest-scoring outputs this postseason (24, 19, 24) with 40, 35 and 38, respectively. He scored only 22 today.

And here's what some people were saying on Twitter after the Boston victory:

@sportsguy33: "Triple-double for Rondo in 3 quarters. After this 2010 playoffs performance his nickname should be 'The Big One.'"

@SI_PeterKing: "Just home from seeing Rondo the Magnificent beat the Cavs. Careful now. I might have to reconsider my diffidence for the NBA."

@PDcavsinsider: "Terry Pluto and I keep asking Mike Brown how the Cavs could play with such lack of fire and he basically keeps saying 'I don't know.'"

@GESmithJr: "I hope Mo Williams' mother has a bad mother's day."

@MikeAmmo: "It's not an overreaction by Cavs fans when you visibly SEE the lack of effort/focus."

@JamilSmith: "You know how much I love the Cavaliers. But they played today like they had rollover points from Friday's deluge. Frustrating."

@MrTrpleDouble10: "Once paul pierce returns from carbonite hibernation things could get interesting."

@celtsfan33: "All I can say is HOLY COW. What a GREAT GAME by the CELTICS. All Rajon Rondo - all Passion!!"

@Adel_C: "Um...If Rondo had the confidence to launch threes, I don't even want to know how much of a nightmare it'd be for the opposition."

@jalenrose: "(Esp in the playoffs)Celts Rondo has become the most all around productive PG in the NBA! (pts/rebs/assts/defense/wins/title etc)"


Cavs-Bulls: Who Said What On Twitter?

LeBron James

LeBron James Leads Cavs' Fourth-Quarter Rally

One Great Season

I've watched the first two games of the Cavs-Bulls series and I have to say I'm not so enthusiastic about my hometown squad.

The Cavaliers certainly are deserving of the hype heaped unto them by many experts who claim they are the favorite to win the NBA Championship. Where I'm not enthusiastic is in the area of general interest. My college football project was exciting, watching last month's NCAA Tournament was exciting, but now knowing that we've got possibly two months of these playoffs, it's hard for me to get jazzed.


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+ FREE AGENTS: Dear New York, LeBron Doesn't Want You
+ SEX & SPORTS: Is Traci Lynn Johnson A Homewrecking Pro-Ho?
+ WHO'S BETTER? Kobe Or LeBron?

So I'll let you read some of what other people were saying on Twitter Monday night as the Cavs pushed their best-of-seven series lead to 2-0:

+ @Jpdabrams: "That's probably as well as Bulls can play as a team. They played their tails off. In the end, it wasn't fair."

+ @jemelehill: "Watching the CHI-CLE game w/ my mother. Now I know how dudes feel when they watch a game w/ a woman who doesn't follow sports."

+ @chadzumock: "Noah looks like he should be running the register during lunch rush at Arbys."

+ @straightbangin: "if lebron hits three straight my-back-was-to-the-basket-when-i-started-to-fade-away jumpers, the game should just be called."

+ @WFNYScott: "Win or lose, big props to Jamario Moon for taking advantage of any opportunities he's given."

+ @thefarmerjones: "A lot of people think they have valid reasons to hate LeBron, but please stop pretending his game is one of them."

+ @WhitlockJason: "Watching Noah stitch a Shaq-Cavalier clown suit makes me wonder y anyone believes Cavs r better prepared for DHoward this year."

+ @Sha_Ron: "Bron: You want to wink at ppl after a good play but you don't want to shake hands after you're beaten? I see you, son."

+ @mzemek: "Well, Chicago just might win one game in this series. One more than I expected."

+ @theupsetblog: "Lebron's celebrations are annoying. That is all."

+ @RealSkipBayless: "Big picture, going forward, I didn't love what I saw tonight from LeBron. Especially wouldn't if I were Cavs fan. Tell you why tomorrow."  


Dear New York: LeBron Doesn't Want You

LeBron James

King's Crown To Be Worn In Cleveland

One Great Season

Condescending New Yorkers can laugh all they want about how bad a city Cleveland is. I'm a proud Clevelander who's been living in the Big Apple for four years now, and it's been pretty entertaining watching the arrogance.

Sure, the Mistake On The Lake even sets rivers afire, but equally embarrassing are New York and its assumptions rooted in an ugly habit of self-absorption.

If this was the 1980s, certainly LeBron James would want out of Cleveland in favor of New York, probably even New Mexico.

But it hasn't been the 1980s for a long time. Tired of being the butt of late-night jokes, Cleveland turned itself around and enjoyed a prosperous 1990s. That mini-renaissance, however, began so long ago that the city has returned to being miserable again. That much I can admit.


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+ LOOKING BACK: Complete NCAA Tournament Coverage

That Cleveland seems the antithesis of the destination city New York has long been is hardly the matter when we're talking about James' NBA future. Folks love to talk about how great of a city it is here -- and it is -- but why do we put so much weight on that fact? LeBron isn't a tourist; he's a pro athlete who for probably no more than 10 more years will devote eight, nine, maybe 10 months each calendar to his employer. And when he doesn't have Team USA commitments in the summer, he'll make his commercials and appearances wherever Nike and others need him. If it's in New York, a 90-minute flight on his own plane is more than manageable. Whether he's reppin' the 212 or the 216, LeBron Inc. will continue its march toward total global domination.

He already has a few dollars in the bank, and with what the Cavaliers will offer James this summer after he leads them to their first NBA championship, he'll have many millions more.

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And if you think leading a New York team to yet another championship would be a crowning achievement for King James, imagine what it would be like for him in Cleveland, perhaps more starved for a championship than any American city in the last several decades. He's Cleveland's only active hero and not even one NBA banner has been raised. The love affair will only grow stronger between James and his hometown if he carries his team to the title in June, giving an entire city's population reason to believe several more are on the way.

The funny thing is that in all the will-he-or-won't-he columns I've been reading, what gets written about the least is the actual basketball portion of the equation. Is it because New Yorkers know their city has been a basketball wasteland for more than a decade? Relocating to The City That Never Makes The NBA Playoffs might possibly raise LeBron's international profile, but how much room is there realistically left for that at this point? James' top priority for the balance of his career will be winning championships, not sightseeing. Regardless of what happens in Cleveland's postseason run that begins next week, a move to the Big Apple will no doubt set back his quest for a first or second ring.

Now, I know the Knicks have been clearing cap room for two full years under Donnie Walsh, not only to increase their ability to lure LeBron to New York but as well as a second elite player in what is expected to be the sexiest free-agent class ever. But just because a move will be possible, what makes playing -- not living, but playing -- in New York so great? On the basketball court, at least, why do locals up here assume that being a Knick is so much better than being a Cavalier?

In those same two years, Cavs' management has shown its dedication to championship basketball by acquiring Mo Williams, Shaquille O'Neal and Antawn Jamison. General Manager Danny Ferry has slowly assembled a supporting cast similar to how the Chicago Bulls began to build themselves in the late 1980s. They eventually won six titles with Michael Jordan, but not until his seventh year in 1991 did they win their first. This is James' seventh year in Cleveland.

King James is pretty close to maxing out when it comes to image, celebrity and access, three things that do not help him win basketball games. He needs more than he wants, and the only significant void left in his life, even at the young age of 25, is championships. Winning rings in New York certainly has a nice, well, ring to it, but I can't imagine it gets much better than winning in your hometown with a team that's showed its commitment to both the present and its future.

When the 2010-11 season tips off around Halloween next fall, expect LeBron James to be dressed up as a Cleveland Cavalier, ready to treat his employers to a second straight NBA championship.


Shaq's Injury Could Spell Trouble For Cavaliers

Shaquille O'Neal

One Great Season

It's been a long time since I thought Shaquille O'Neal was a key factor on a basketball team. I've never really been a big fan of his.

In my opinion, folks get their terms mixed up when describing Shaq as a great basketball player. He's certainly big and strong and physical, but far from great. Even in his prime, he was not great. Great to me means there's a certain amount of skill or talent involved, and though they are indeed assets, I hardly consider height, weight and strength among key skills for a basketball player.

Shaq is also a fairly insecure dude on a personal level. Think of the off-court drama he's created with others over the years. His rap song about Kobe Bryant in 2008? Are you serious? And now at age 37, he's crying that he deserves the "Superman" nickname more than Orlando's Dwight Howard? Ridiculous.

Shaq has never won an NBA title by himself. In Los Angeles, where the Lakers won three in a row, he had Kobe and they were coached by one of the greats, Phil Jackson. In Miami, he played alongside Dwyane Wade and together they were led by another great coach, Pat Riley.

Yet when Phoenix signed the aging bruiser in 2008, he said at his introductory press conference something to the effect of, "when people count me out, I have a habit of winning championships." Easy, big fella.

But with all that said, Shaq has been a nice addition to the Cleveland Cavaliers' lineup this season. I like that he's accepted his role as a lightly used starter. He seems comfortable with playing only 23 minutes per game, during which he's averaging 12 points and nearly seven rebounds, and is the Cavs' field-goal percentage leader (.566). I think coach Mike Brown is using him perfectly, not only with regard to Cleveland's individual game plans, but also in that he's keeping his legs fresh for a long season that Cavaliers' fans hope will take them into June.

That's why the thumb injury Shaq suffered at Boston Thursday night could be troublesome if he misses significant time. A couple weeks won't be a big deal, especially considering the way Cleveland rallied without him to not only beat Boston, but to blow the Celtics out. But if it's an extended period, that could affect Shaq's already suspect conditioning, and re-inserting him, say, a month from now, could disrupt any chemistry built with the acquisition of Antawn Jamison, who's still struggling with his new team.

Also, while General Manager Danny Ferry's move to get Jamison was considered a minor coup at the time, the Cavs could be in trouble as far as their bigs are concerned. Cleveland is expected to re-sign Zydrunas Ilgauskas on March 21, but I could very well see a team sign him before then, not out of need, but in a defensive attempt to keep the Cavs without a true big man who could bang with Howard in the playoffs, or even Andrew Bynum should the Cavs and Lakers reach the Finals.


Amar'e Stoudemire Would Hurt Cavs' Chemistry

Amar'e Stoudemire

One Great Season

I once started dating a very attractive girl with whom I worked in Cincinnati, going into the deal knowing full well that she was the poster child for red-flag dysfunction.

This was about a decade ago; I was a typically shallow guy blinded by how hot she was, and in the long run -- more than two years later -- I paid for it dearly on the emotional front.

I share these personal details with you because that's how I see the Cleveland Cavaliers' potential acquisition of Amar'e Stoudemire.

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On the surface, he is definitely hot and trading for him would seem to be a great addition to an already strong lineup. Certain temptations are hard to resist.

But I think the temptation to do nothing, to stand pat, should get more consideration in Cleveland, and the logic is simple.

Nothing against Stoudemire, but the teams that win championships are teams rich in chemistry. And just because chemistry is an intangible that doesn't show up on the highlight reels or in the boxscore doesn't mean it lacks value.

Whenever I have the chemistry conversation, I tell people to consider the New England Patriots. They won three Super Bowls in four years, pretty much without any superstars. Tom Brady was more efficient than he was a superstar, and guys just did their jobs, filled their roles and at the end of each game, they had more points than the other team. Even if Brady was a star then -- and he sure is now -- he was the only one on those title teams, and in 11-on-11 football, if you win with zero stars or just one, you probably know a little something about chemistry.

Or, if you want a local example from the shores of Lake Erie, how about those Indians of the 1990s? They didn't win a World Series, but they got to that final round twice, bringing hope and excitement to a city perhaps more starved -- and still starved -- for a championship than any in the country. Guys like Carlos Baerga, Kenny Lofton, Jim Thome and Sandy Alomar were such facilitators of chemistry that Albert Belle's occasional meltdown came and went with little drama.

Trading for Stoudemire would strengthen the likelihood that Lebron James stays in Cleveland beyond this season, but it will also disrupt the chemistry enough to harm this season's championship chances. On the other hand, if the Cavs held on to J.J. Hickson -- who this year is starting to look like a rising NBA star -- and veteran center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, I think the chances remain strong for a title this season. And isn't a championship the ultimate case for the please-stay-Lebron argument?

Sure Stoudemire would bring a dominator's game, but Cleveland already has one of those in King James. The Cavaliers have shown twice this year they can beat Orlando, and twice more that they can beat the Lakers, and the longer the season plods along, the less dangerous the Celtics look. The Cavs are fine just the way they are.

Nothing is broken, Danny Ferry, so please realize there is nothing to fix.