Latest posts by Colton Jones (see all)
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The narratives that surround LeBron James are familiar to the point they are not predictable, they’re boring… and lazy.
Cavaliers win — Behold LeBron’s greatness. We are all witnesses. He’s better than Michael.
Cavaliers lose — LeBron is Superman, but he can’t do it alone. His teammates suck. He’s carried this collection of dead wood on his broad shoulders to these NBA Finals against the mighty Golden State Warriors.
There are actual truths in both.
LeBron is truly spectacular. Doing what he’s doing, in his 15th NBA season and at age 33, is uncharted waters. We aren’t likely to see anything like him again, whenever he decides to hang up his Nikes.
While the Warriors take turns divvying out whom is going to dominate a game — Steph, you do it in Game 2. K.D., your turn in Game 3. Whose turn will it be in Game 4 on Friday night? — LeBron has to be great every night for the Cavaliers to even have a chance.
The rest of the Cavaliers aren’t the stiffs they are portrayed, though. Especially with their season on life support after an emotional, deflating loss to the Warriors in Game 3 of the Finals on Wednesday night, the national talking heads will have a field day using them as cannon fodder..
But aside from Kevin Love, they are a collection of odds and ends. Pieces and parts. Some nights, they all fit, or at least enough to cobble together some impressive performances. Last night’s game is an example of that, with two guys scoring 20 or more points (James 33, Love 20) and two others scoring at least 13 (J.R. Smith and Rodney Hood 13 apiece).
However, when you’re going up against greatness — and, because of how the version of the Warriors we’ve seen the past two seasons came together — it’s almost painful to say, but Golden State is simply one of the best teams in NBA history. On the verge of three championships in a four-year span, the Warriors have earned what they are about to own.
Of course, if Durant is not the least courageous superstar in the history of the game, I’m not sure who is. When he was with Oklahoma City, the Thunder held a 3-1 lead on Golden State in the 2016 Western Conference Finals. However, Durant spit the bit, especially in Games 6 and 7, as Golden State prevailed in seven.
The pain of choking away a chance to play for a championship would have lit a blaze inside every great player to get back in the gym, get back in the weight room, to strengthen the bond with teammates to cement the resolve to get back to that point and right that wrong.
Not for Durant, though. He took the easy way out. He ran to a record-setting 73-win team, one that had, believe it or not, began to wonder if it could beat Cleveland at that point in time, having been stunned in the 2016 Finals by the Cavaliers.
Durant’s signing with the Warriors changed the entire landscape of the NBA. It put the entire league on tilt. If you can’t beat them, run to them.
One of the other narratives after these Finals are completed will be “the Cavs miss Kyrie Irving.”
Sure, they miss Irving. He is a tremendous talent, one of the best individual players in the league.
However, even with Irving getting buckets by the bushelful in the Finals a year ago, the Cavs lost in five games to these Warriors. Irving is a great player, but he’s only great at one thing — scoring, aided by perhaps the best handles in the game.
He’s not a willing passer, is a swinging gate on defense and with reports of him threatening to have knee surgery and sit out the season if they Cavs didn’t grant his wish to be traded last summer it raises a mammoth question about his character.
All of this having been said, there’s no criticizing these Cavaliers here.
With LeBron going off for 51, 8 and 8, and Love putting up a double-double, truth is, they had Game 1, only to have it taken away from them by the gawdawful officiating, a crucial missed short-armed free throw by George Hill and a brain fart by J.R. (I know, those last four words are probably redundant, but I digress).
They hung with the Warriors for most of Game 2, only to be done in by Curry’s greatness down the stretch.
Last night, the Cavaliers played another tremendous game, only to fall victim to the incredible talents of Durant, whose skills outweigh his… guts.
There isn’t much more Cleveland can do, not as it’s presently constructed.
If James opts to reup, the Cavaliers are much closer than the 3-0 deficit indicates. They are one outstanding two-way player away from really making this interesting.
And, no, the two-way player wasn’t Irving, as last season’s Finals proved. He’s a one-way player.
If LeBron remains in Northeast Ohio, it will be up to general manager Koby Altman to find a way to bring in another star player, one who can create his own shot and play defense, which would allow Love to fall back into the third spot on the totem poll.
Some type of combination of the guy whom they select with the eighth overall pick in the draft attached with a big-salaried guy such as Tristan Thompson or Hill might be enough to get something done.
If not, Love is certainly not off the table, though his performance in these Finals have quieted the attack-dog pack of media that seems to delight in tearing into him at every turn. His rebounding would be missed much more than most realize. Think Bryan Shaw in the Tribe bullpen. Love is the Bryan Shaw of this team. He’s the scapegoat when he doesn’t play well or is injured and is rarely mentioned when he plays well, as he has in these Finals.
It says here, it’s time for a coaching change. Tyronn Lue is a good guy who guided the Cavs to the 2016 NBA title. But watching the way the team was run during his 10-game absence with Larry Drew pulling the strings (Cleveland went 9-1 in that stretch) is the biggest indicator a change would be for the best.
Watching Hood last night left everyone who has watched this team all season screaming, “Why the %&(*^%&$^ has he not been playing before this?!?!” That is not to mean since he refused to enter Game 4 of the Toronto series, either.
Remember the way Hood, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. played immediately upon joining the Cavaliers, when they didn’t know the offense or the defensive schemes? What happened to those guys? What changed?
Being coached more by Lue has to be one of the answers, first and foremost, and judging by results, that is not a good thing.
Hood was terribly inconsistent during the regular season after the quick start. His fall from a 16-point-a-game scorer to a guy who has received more DNP-CDs in this postseason alone than at anytime in his career is puzzling.
Clarkson went from the league’s second-best scorer off the bench in the NBA to a guy who looks like a JV player trying to impress the varsity coaches by shooting the basketball every time his hands touch it during the postseason. He did not play last night.
Nance went from starting, to being hurt, to falling out of the rotation, to working his way back. He still lacks confidence and is tentative on many occasions.
But this is not to bury the Cavaliers, especially those three 25-year-olds, even though their season is now all but dead.
The want has been there in these Finals. The effort has been there. The competitiveness has been there.
It’s just not enough.
Back to our narratives:
LeBron is spectacular. But if he’s not willing to commit for more than one year, it’s going to be almost impossible to add a guy with the talents necessary to make another run at these guys. In that respect, James is culpable, too, for the disparity in talent on display in this series.
The supporting cast isn’t awful, despite what you’ll read and hear for the next month or so.
It hasn’t been developed.
These Warriors — with Durant, Curry, Klay Thompson and, yes, Draymond Green — are simply the better team.
Great, in fact, no matter the Chicken Little way this terrific collective came together.
For the Cavaliers, there’s no shame in coming up short against such greatness.
For that to change, LeBron needs to stay and to commit for more than one season. Dan Gilbert needs to keep the checkbook open. Altman needs to find another two-way star. They all need to agree on and hire a new head coach.
All of which will tip off, very soon, perhaps as soon as Saturday morning.