Monday, May 10, 2010
If you told me before the Cavaliers-Celtics series, that the series would be tied 2-2 after 4 games, someone would have a 29-18-13 and his name is not LeBron James, and Cavs losses had LeBron deferring to his teammates during crunch time, I would have told you that you were either high, or you're living in a fantasy world, you know, something like the island in LOST.
Yesterday afternoon, we "witnessed" another ho-hum game from the Cavaliers and another inspired effort from the Celtics, which got me thinking, is this really on LeBron and co, or does it go deeper than that? While I understand that the players play the game and they are the ones who ultimately determine the outcome, but at some point coaches do step in to lead the team back on course once they stray off. There's a reason why these coaches are making millions of dollars. They do actually help the team, unless you're the Cavaliers. Last year, I wrote that Mike Brown was in the bottom 10 coaches in the NBA, and he is the absolute WORST adjustment maker in the NBA, and this is standing true to today. We saw him last year not adjust in the Orlando series, ultimately losing in 5 games. And now we see him not adjusting in this series, with the chance that they are going to lose in 6 or 7 games.
Flash over to the Lakers for a minute....Is it any secret why Phil Jackson has 10 rings? He's had great players, but he is the master of managing that talent, much like Joe Torre in baseball. He knows how to push the right buttons, how to motivate in different ways, and adjust to certain situations, and he lives by that old adage, "Survive, and advance." This is what the playoffs are all about. In the 1st series for the Lakers, we saw Russel Westbrook reek HAVOC on Derek Fischer through 4 games. Heading into the 5th game Phil (and Kobe) decided that they had enough leverage and help to put Kobe on Westbrook, while Artest stayed on Durant, and ultimately that decision won them the series, and it is decisions like this that have made Phil Jackson the best basketball coach in the NBA. These decisions date back to his Chicago days, when Stockton would be going off on Ron Harper, he would assign Jordan to lock him down and do his job on defense to suffocate the Jazz on offense.
Flash back to the present....
Mike Brown, yet again, is coaching this team out of the series. The excuse isn't LeBron and his teammates anymore. In fact, there is no more excuses, it's time to just shut up and play. But the Cavs will not win this series playing the way Mike Brown wants them to play. Let's break this down for a minute...
The Cavs have the deepest most talented team in the league. They can play small, big, quick, slow, half court, full court, run and gun, any style they want. You're playing a team that's core consists of guys in their late 30s. So why is Mike Brown playing right into the Celtics hands by playing Shaq, and slow Varejao big minutes? Is it because his name is Shaquielle O'Neal and you feel intimated if you don't play him? Bill Simmons pointed out the other day via twitter, that the best lineup the Cavs can play is Mo Williams, Delonte West, LBJ, Antawn Jamison, and JJ Hickson. JJ Hickson is averaging about 5 minutes per game. 5 minutes!! Every time he comes in the game he makes plays happen. Why not play this 4th quarter line-up, sprinkle in some Anthony Parker and some Varejao for defensive purposes, and just run the Celtics into the ground. This, once again, proves that Mike Brown does not understand the importance of making adjustments. He hasn't grasped "it" yet, about coaching.
On to the most important change that Mike Brown is REFUSING to make. Paul Peirce is "considered" their "top player" by the casual fan, and sometimes I feel like Mike Brown thinks like the casual fan. Paul Peirce's legs are DONE. You can easily guard him with Anthony Parker, or a feisty Delonte West, or maybe even Jamario Moon. There is no need to have the best perimeter defender n the Eastern Conference play against someone who can be shut down by another defender, much like the Lakers with Artest and Durant. However, stubbornly, Mike Brown believes that Peirce could kill them if LeBron is not guarding him.
I have news for you Mr. Brown....
Paul Peirce isn't the guy killing you! If you haven't noticed, there is a man by the name of Rajon Rondo who's nearly averaging a triple double against everyone who has guarded him. So why not stick LeBron James on him for the rest of the series, just to get done and advance? Is it so crazy to put a 6'8" freak of nature defender on the ONE player who is killing you? It's no longer the Big Three in Boston. As Magic Johnson so eloquently put last night, "It's the Big ONE, and the little Three, now!" And to an extent, he is right.
It makes sense to put LeBron on Rondo for the remainder of the season. He is the creator, he is the play-maker, he is the one who gets the "little three" going and the Celtics go as Rondo goes, plain and simple.
Hopefully Mike Brown will snap out of his funk for the remainder of the series. Maybe he should go to Phil Jackson's school of coaching because there he would learn how to adjust. He needs to learn how to get the most out of his athletes. The Cavs have enough fire power to score if LeBron has to expend energy on defense. It's why they went and got an Antawn Jamison and a Shaquielle O'Neal, so they can use LeBron wherever they need him. But now it's time to realize that they need him to be that 1st team all defender that he is. For his sake and the Cavs sake, I hope Mike Brown wakes up from that dream world he's living in.