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Entries in NBA Playoffs (7)


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."


OGS Notebook: Derby, Big Ben & Gretzky's House

One Great Season

A few topics made headlines in the sports world today. Here are some nuggets for you:

+ The Kentucky Derby should never be run at night. I understand the sport could use some new money, and an evening telecast certainly would address that issue, but the Derby is one of those events that should just stay where it is. Modernists love to rip the traditionalists who appreciate the pageantry of sport, but the tradionalists never get their way with anything. Just look at the NFL Draft, which was moved from Saturday at noon to Thursday and Friday evenings. I read today that it rated well and I'm sure the NFL pockets are deeper, but does it always have to be about the money? Is maximum profitability the only way to do it, or can just being profitable ever be enough?

+ Ben Roethlisberger said Monday he won't appeal the six-game suspension the NFL handed down last week. Smart move. The only way to climb out of the hole he's dug for himself is to do it slowly, and I think he will. He clearly had advisers write that statement for him today. No reason to think they'll abandon him going forward.

+ A buddy of mine called today to say he was in a restaurant recently and overheard a National League pitcher say, "Yeah, I met her at Gretzky's house. She was playing tennis and she was hot as hell." No link. Just funny.

+ I love how people are asking whether Kobe Bryant and the Lakers are losing their edge. Remember when the Cavs began the regular season 0-2 and ESPN was freaking out in November? Remember how the Cavs lost to the Bulls on Thursday and suddenly LeBron and company were being pushed to the limit? Remember how LBJ carried his Cavs to a Game 4 win in Chicago Sunday, putting his team one game away from advancing? Prior to both the Cavs-Bulls and Lakers-Thunder series, most folks said they wouldn't be surprised of the top seeds lost a game in the early round. I wish people would calm down, stick to their guns and quit changing their philosophies or abandoning rational thought just because of the outcome of one game. I realize the Lakers are tied 2-2, but the defending champions are still a very dangerous team in the Western Conference.

+ I'm embarrassed that I haven't watched much of the NHL Playoffs, especially considering I wrote this about the Stanley Cup back in December.


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.


+ RIPPED AT 40: Here's What's On My iPod; What's On Yours?
+ HORSE RACING: Kentucky Derby Coverage
+ FOOTBALL: Big Ben Case Gives NFL Chance To Side With Fans Again
+ 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."