This summer is going to be crazy. If you thought it was bad hearing about Brett Favre every second of the day, it's going to be a lot worse with LeBron James. It's already unbearable hearing about him as it is, but it's going to be taken to an entirely different level during the summer. The summer of 2010 has been mentioned ad nauseum for the past several years and now it's finally here. Not only that, the way LeBron and the Cavaliers ended their season in a 4-2 series loss to the Boston Celtics in the second round will only add to the hysteria. Because there's no doubt about it, the Cavaliers quit at the end of the game last night. They were down nine points with a minute left and chose not to foul. They just stood there and watched Boston dribble the clock out. When they did get the ball they didn't try to score quickly, opting instead to fritter away the last few seconds doing nothing.
So who's to blame? Is it head coach Mike Brown? The supporting cast? Or could it even be LeBron himself who's to blame? One thing I know is that no one is blaming the Celtics for the Cavs' loss. There have probably been hundreds of polls taken across the nation today asking who's to blame for this debacle on radio shows and websites and I guarantee you that none of the choices are the Boston Celtics. Boston showed up to play in this series, while Cleveland acted as if all they had to do was get off the bus to win. In fact, that's the general feeling I got from the media before the series began; no one expected this. Boston was being dismissed as an old, washed-up team that was beyond their usefulness. They may have gotten blown out in Game 3, but they played hard in the other five games. Watching them play defense during this series kind of reminded me of how they looked in 2008 on their way to the championship. There were times during the regular the season when they looked like they didn't have it in them to make this kind of postseason run, but they've really upped their intensity during the last month. They were also able to rely on 20 points, 12 rebounds, and 6 assists from Rajon Rondo, and another 18 points and 8 rebounds from Kevin Garnett. Ray Allen may have been inconsistent at times and Paul Pierce never really asserted himself, but Rondo and Garnett made for a steady presence in every game. And let's not forget about Rondo's monster triple-double of 28 points, 18 rebounds, and 13 assists in Game 4, which stands as one of the best playoff performances in Celtics history.
The lack of a second consistent player is something that helped contribute to the the Cavs' early exit. In fact, I believe you'll find that there are some similarities between last year's Eastern Conference Finals against the Orlando Magic and this year's conference semis against Boston. Against Orlando, LeBron was the only Cleveland player to play well the entire series. Maurice Williams, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and the rest of the supporting cast were mostly no-shows. This time around it was the same deal. LeBron played well for the series, putting averages of 26 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists per game. Williams had 20 points in Game 1 and 22 in Game 6 (20 of which came in the first half), but was nowhere to be found in the games in between. Antawn Jamison, who was picked up mid-season to give LeBron even more help, scored 20 points only once and didn't break 10 in the final two games.
Also, just like last season against Orlando, the Cleveland bench got outplayed. To be fair, though, they did play well in the first three games, especially J.J. Hickson who averaged 10 points over that span. But in the last three games of the series, Boston's bench played its role much better. In Game 4 Tony Allen scored 15 points, beating the 11 points by Cleveland's bench; in Game 5, Glen Davis had 15; in Game 6, Rasheed Wallace had 13 and Allen had another 10. After looking at the stats for the series, I have to wonder: what happened with Hickson? He played for more than 10 minutes in each of the first three games of the series, but didn't even play 10 minutes in the last three games combined. What happened?
Unlike last season, however, the Cavs gave up. They lost Game 4 97-87 in Boston, but that wasn't really surprising. Boston is a tough team and they were playing at home. But to follow that up with a 120-88 home loss in Game 5 is terrible, and terrible is exactly how they played in that game. They couldn't do anything right. They were listless, and not even LeBron could be bothered to make any effort. And at the end of Game 6, as mentioned before, they tanked and didn't even want to start fouling to try to stay in the game. They had the mentality that they were beat and they wanted no part of the game being extended any longer.
So really, who is to blame? I say it's everyone. It's LeBron for not being a better leader, it's the rest of the team for not showing up, and it's Mike Brown for getting outcoached and not getting the team prepared to play in the postseason. It's everyone. I also think it's the media's fault for this being such a big deal. I'm not surprised that the Cavaliers didn't reach the Finals again. I think he was the wrong pick for the MVP and I don't think he's as great as everyone says he is. I think he's good, but he hasn't done enough to earn all of this talk. He's been to the Finals once and he got swept by the San Antonio Spurs, a fact that for some reason we NEVER hear about. It is ridiculous how people talk about him. It is so insane that we've even got New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and President Obama lobbying for him to sign with their respective teams, the New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls. If you want to know what I'm talking about, read this from ESPN Chicago; and no offense to the author, but that article reads like something off The Onion (when I say that, I mean that it's not poorly written but comes off as farcical, like this or this). If it were anyone else failing to win a championship despite having so much talent then they would be the laughingstock of the NBA; they'd be talked about like Peyton Manning, who has lots of talent but "only" one Super Bowl. Again, I think he's a really good player and I don't hate the guy, but talk to me about how great he is after his career is over instead of now when he can't win.
Can The Celtics Get Any Love? (Deadspin)
LeBron overload here (ESPN)
By the way, the Atlanta Hawks "dismissed" head coach Mike Woodson.