For Skip Bayless of Fox Sports 1, Lebron’s 35-15-9 (points-rebounds-assists) performance when the Cavs defeated the Celtics to capture the 2018 NBA Eastern Conference finals was not great because of his 8 turnovers in the game. That’s typical of the said sports columnist – to always try to find a way to discredit the 4-time MVP. Bayless has seemingly made a living from bashing the Cavs’ superstar.
Plain and simple – Bayless hates Lebron so much that there is nothing the latter could do to appease him. Don’t tell that sports commentator that Lebron is the “greatest basketball player of all time” because he could give perhaps a million of reasons to prove otherwise. I am not even sure if he would concede that Lebron could be ranked at least as one of the greatest.
For me, Lebron is a great basketball player. He is undoubtedly one of the greatest. Only the blind can’t see that. I don’t like to compare him to any of the other “greats.” Identifying the basketball’s GOAT (greatest of all time) is a very subjective issue and it is not the intention of this article to weigh in on the discussion.
All I wish to do is to appreciate Lebron’s greatness. I am not an “honorable expert” in basketball like Skip Bayless, but unlike him I have lots of common sense. I am but an ordinary basketball fan who appreciates the fact that the Eastern conference Game 7 between Cleveland and Boston was the 100th game that Lebron played for the ongoing season. He played in all of the Cavs’ 82 games during the regular season. He played 7 playoff games each against the Pacers and the Celtics and 4 against the Raptors. Would you not marvel at that given the fact that Lebron is already 33 years old and playing in his 15th NBA season?
If that is not great then what could it be? That for me is an achievement in itself which can not be negated by anything – not even by the Cavs not possibly winning the NBA championship this year.
Would you question the greatness of a player who led a team that had to go through a lot of changes and drama during the regular season all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals and win it? You would if you have a mindset like Skip Bayless’.
It’s so funny to hear an expert like Skip Bayless say that the Pacers and the Celtics were destined to fail against the Cavs because both were young teams then argue that the Raptors, a team with veteran players with playoff experiences, lost to Cavs simply because they were afraid of Lebron.
Now, don’t dare tell Skip Bayless that this is Lebron’s 8th straight NBA Finals because I am almost certain he would point out that the Cavs superstar lost 4 times in his last 7 attempts to win the NBA crown. I am afraid he would even add that Lebron is about to experience the 5th time he would fail when the Cavs face the Warriors yet again.
My standards for greatness are not as high as Skip Bayless’… or shall I say I know a little of appreciative inquiry and I have decided to apply the said principle in a personal level. I want to search for what is best in people. Instead of being negative and critical, I chose to be appreciative of what other people accomplish.
Why will I count the number of times my fellowmen fail when it is better to take into account the number of times they succeeded. It’s their success I celebrate.
What makes Lebron endearing as a competitor is no matter how many times he failed he kept trying. That for me is “greatness.” The kind of example Lebron has been showing – the way he competes, the way he takes care of his body, the way he lives his life – is worth emulating. Lebron transcends basketball. He inspires a lot of people… except Skip Bayless.
Whether Skip Bayless likes it or not, the 4 times Lebron James failed to win the NBA trophy can never erase all that he has accomplished as a basketball player and as a person.
For the fourth straight season that Lebron and the Cavs will slug it out with the heavily-favored Warriors for the NBA crown. Oddsmakers and experts are unanimous in saying that Golden State will repeat as champions. Should that happen, I will choose to remember Lebron James as the leader of the Cavs team who overcame a seemingly insurmountable 1-3 deficit to become the 2016 NBA Champions at the expense of the Warriors themselves. That I consider as Lebron James’ greatest achievement… of course Skip Bayless would disagree.
Perhaps Skip Bayless is hating Lebron on purpose – to draw attention to himself. It could be his only way to be significant as a sports analyst.
There’s no doubt that the Cleveland Cavaliers are struggling. What seems to be consistent with the NBA finalists for the past 3 years are their inconsistencies. The Cavs started the season winning only 5 out of 12 games then racked up 13 straight in the win column. They would win 6 more of their next 8 games but lose 6 out of their next 12 outings.
The Cavs are trailing Boston and Toronto in the Eastern Conference and the teams beneath them in the win column are not far behind. Many a basketball pundits have been writing them off doubting their chances of getting deep into the playoffs. They don’t think that the LeBron-led team would make it to the NBA Finals four straight.
So, what’s wrong with the Cleveland Cavaliers?
Injuries to key and rotation players have been one of the issues. Thomas started the season recovering from hip injury he suffered when he was still a Celtic. The on-going season saw Thompson, Rose and Shumpert get injured and miss time. So, Lue had to experiment on his line-ups every game to see what would click. And when finally those players returned to play, Love suffered an injury to his hand.
Another issue plaguing the team is chemistry. NBA writers reported how toxic has the Cavs’ locker room been. Meaning it’s not only the string of injuries that could explain the inconsistencies in the on-court performance of the team but also players seemingly disliking and not trusting each other.
The Cavs imploding could be seen from the way they suffered their previous two losses. They were blown up by Houston to whom they lost by 32 points at home and they ran out of gas in Orlando where during the first quarter they scored 42 points but produced a mind-boggling 9 points only in the final canto and eventually lost the game by 21 points.
NBA fans and experts are one in saying that the The Land sink into a hole they may not be capable of climbing out of.
The basketball world is bewildered how deep is LeBron James allowing his team to sink. The King is far from losing his hoops prowess. He seems to have just lost the inspiration.
Then came the Cavs’ game against Minnesota who, just less than a month ago, inflicted them a 28-point shellacking.
Suddenly, the real LeBron came out to play and lit the stat lines with a triple double – 37 points, 10 rebounds, and 15 assists. Him delivering the winning basket for the 140-138 overtime win reminded everyone not to count him and the Cavs out.
Of course that one win is not enough to say that the defending Eastern conference champions are back on track. But the moves their front office did before the trade deadline might.
Realizing that team chemistry is the biggest stumbling block standing on the Cavs’ way to the a 4th straight NBA finals appearance, the team’s front office consummated significant deals that effectively restructured the roster of the team.
In three separate deals, the Cavs got Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. from the Lakers for Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, and the Cavs’ own 2018 first round pick. Dwayne Wade was shipped to the Miami Heat for a 2020 second round pick. The Land also got Utah’s Rodney Hood in exchange for Jae Crowder and Derrick Rose and had to give up Iman Shumpert to get Sacramento Kings’ George Hill.
It is yet to be seen if the remix would work wonders in both offense and defense for the beleaguered Cavs. At least such changes would give the team’s locker room a much-needed breath of fresh air.
Surprisingly, Isaiah Thomas was dealt after playing only 15 games and the Cavs winning only 7 of those. Observers say that the reason could not be his average of 14.7 points per game but him becoming too vocal about his team mates and coach Tyron Lue. It could be a combination of both.
The trade deals were intended to not only improve their line-up but to nip the animosity among players in the bud.
LeBron may have known about the deals their front office made before they played the game they won against the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves. He seemed to have liked the changes made. Was it the reason he played inspired basketball that night? If yes, that could be bad news for the opposition.
Basketball experts were proven right with their prediction. The Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers are locking horns for the 3rd time in 3 years for the right to hoist the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship trophy.
The Warriors almost effortlessly destroyed the pretenders to their throne in the West during the regular season while the Cavs performed erratically relegating themselves to 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
With their (the Cavs’) lethargic performance during the 82-game grind, the “uninitiated” were quick to dismiss the defending champs doubting their chance of reaching the championship round. Conversely, those with keener basketball sense knew that the Cavs were either disinterested in winning games that do not count or were simply reserving their strength for the playoffs.
The inconsistencies on the part of the Cavs could also be attributed to injuries to key players, the need to rest the stars of the team, and the mid-season changes in their line-up.
But when the playoffs gates were opened, the Cavs were like hungry lions unleashed. The players who came back from injury got their rhythm back, the new players got fully integrated into the system, and their key players were seemingly playing with fresher legs and sharper focus. Result? They decimated their playoff opponents, losing only once to the top-seeded Boston Celtics for an impressive 12-1 win-loss record in the playoffs.
More impressive though is the Warriors’ clean slate (12-0). They did not lose a single game in the Western Conference playoffs. However, some experts are not giving the Warriors full credit for such a feat due to Kawhi Leonard’s injury in Game 1 of the Warriors-Spurs series. Many even believe that the Warriors would have lost that game had Leonard not gotten injured.
As it is, it’s Warriors versus Cavs once more.
The oddsmakers installed the Warriors (-270) as the heavy favorites and the Cavs (+230), the underdogs.1
Even majority of ESPN sportswriters predict that the NBA trophy will be reclaimed by the San Francisco Bay team. 23 out of 28 who were asked see the Warriors winning the championship with 8 of them saying that the Cavs might win just a single game.2
That much respect the Warriors are given. That’s nothing new for the Cavs. They’re in a familiar territory.
The Cavs were also the underdogs in 2015 NBA Finals. The Warriors defeated them 4 games to 2 but it should be noted that that series was played without Kevin Love when he suffered an injury in the Cavs’ playoffs series with the Boston Celtics. Kyrie Irving got injured as well in Game 1 and did not play the rest of the championship series. But notwithstanding the injuries to those key players, the Cavs extended the series to a game 6 even managing to race to a 2-1 lead.
In the 2016 NBA Finals, the Cavs were give the same tag (underdogs) with the Warriors being predicted to breeze through them having then achieved a seemingly improbable NBA milestone… they set a regular season 73-9 win-lose record eclipsing the Chicago Bulls’ record of 72-10 that stood for 21 years. And when the Warriors raced to a 3-1 lead, their fans started to release the confetti in celebration.
But the whole sporting world knows what happened. the basketball gods had other plans. They allowed the team from Cleveland to set a seemingly improbable record of their own. Given up for dead, the Cavs, with all their key players finally playing together in championship games, rose from the grave to become the first team ever to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win an NBA championship.
That was of course, the most painful way to lose a championship. The Dub nation knows that. They are aching for a payback. They were aware that during the 2015 NBA Championship, the Cavs, with Lebron James as the only legit superstar in the lineup to carry the team, they were stretched to a Game 6. The following year (in the 2016 championship series), they witnessed how potent was the combination of Lebron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love that even when they had what was believed to be an insurmountable 3-1 lead, they lost.
The Golden State Warriors’ front office have probably concluded that the team’s main core of Draymond Green, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have had and will have a hard time dealing with the Cav’s troika of Lebron, Kyrie and Kevin. So, they recruited another superstar… Kevin Durant.
Now, the Warriors have 4 superstars as against 3 of the Cavs. Thus, it doesn’t take a genius to understand why the former are the overwhelming favorites to win the 2017 NBA Championship trophy.
Why is it logical and completely understandable that the Golden State Warriors are heavily favored?
With the inclusion of Durant, the Warriors now have 2 MVPs in their lineup bringing to 4 the total of All-star players in the team. They also registered the best win-loss record in the regular season (67-15) winning 27 of their last 28 games including 12 straight in the playoffs. NBA records show that they ranked first in offense and their defensive efficiency is way above the league average.
On the other hand, the Cavs came 4th in offense and way below the league average in defensive efficiency.
Nevertheless, it is difficult to write-off the Cavs. Why? They have Lebron James in the line-up who knows what it takes to win. He’s been playing superbly in the playoffs. And don’t forget the brilliance of Kyrie and the resurgence of Kevin, not to mention the quiet effectiveness of Tristan Thompson who might as well be the 4th superstar in Cav’s uniform. If Tristan Thompson does not deliver the way he used to (and the way he ought to) and the Cavs end up losing the NBA crown, then the front office of the Cleveland Cavaliers must recruit an additional player, another superstar, in response to the Warriors adding a Kevin Durant in their line-up for clearly, if there’s one reason the NBA championship trophy returns to the San Fracisco Bay area, it’s Durant.
But as the late coach Rudy Tomjanovich said after the Houston Rockets repeated as NBA champions in 1995, “Don’t ever underestimate the heart of the champion!” However, as to which NBA champions (2015 or 2016?) would say so when the current NBA season concludes, remains to be seen.
1Source: Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook (Thru: NBA-ESPN)
2 Source: http://www.espn.com/nba/