The Cavs start the “second half” of the season tonight against Houston at home. Another game I could be going to but again have to pass up. (One game Rosie, I promise I’ll be able to go with you. I know you crave my insightfulness, my camaraderie and my ever inspiring presence.)
The Cavs open the final 30 games of the year at 29-23 and in fourth place in the East. It easy to say better things were expected this year but after all that’s happened, Cleveland is in pretty good shape. Let’s look at what’s worked against them.
>>>They started the season 12-16.
>>>Sasha held out until the day before Opening Day.
>>>Andy held out for a month.
>>>When Andy finally came back, he played well, only to get hurt and miss more games.
>>>LeBron got hurt and the Cavs went 0-6 (0-7 if you count the game he got hurt) without him.
>>>They started Ira Newble for more than one game as a joke to the fans.
>>>They actually relied on Newble for offense.
>>>Larry Hughes forgot how to play basketball for much of the first half.
>>>The defense has gone from one of the best last year to mediocre this year.
>>>Damon Jones is still on the team and only playing because coach Mike Brown said they only way he’d put him in the game was if he cut his hair to a mohawk and let it grow as long as Gooden’s bread grows. Somehow (although not surprisingly, DJ agreed to this. [I pick DJ’s mohawk to grow longer than G-Good’s beard.])
>>>They haven’t played many games with the full line up that got them to the NBA Finals last year.
>>>They have been more injured than a team full of Carl Pavanos.
With all that going against them, the are still in good playoff shape. Here’s reasons why the “second half” will be better than first half.
>>>They are 29-17 with LeBron plays.
>>>They are 15-7 when Gibson, Andy and LBJ are healthy. Those are the three most important players down the stretch and in the playoffs.
>>> They are 17-7 since Christmas, with only 10 of those games at home.
>>> Larry Hughes, maybe, possibly, could be playing his way back into a legitimate basketball player, or more importantly, into a trade.
>>> Gibson will be only more confident after his great weekend on the national stage.
>>> Once Andy comes back, Sasha returns and joins Marshall (who isn’t playing that bad) the Cavs will finally be the team that went to the finals last year, for the first time this year.
>>> Oh yeah, they have LeBron James.
>>>They are still the Eastern Conference Champions until someone beats them. Everyone assumes the East goes through Boston. This is what LeBron James says about that: “They’ve got to beat us. Why does everybody keep saying we’ve got to beat the Celtics? We’re the defending Eastern Conference champions. At what point do we get a little respect? I’m sick of hearing about everybody else. We hold the title right now and San Antonio holds the title for the league. We’re not that good, that’s what everybody says. We didn’t beat Detroit, Detroit beat themselves. Washington was missing key guys and New Jersey didn’t play up to their capabilities.”
You got to love the fire here behind your superstar leader. If he is this hungry and this ticked off about where the Cavs stand in the NBA, it will only help fuel the rest of the team to get motivated. LBJ has been playing like a man possessed all year. If he still this fired up about everything, and the Cavs will only go as far as he takes them, I like their chances with LeBron’s attitude where is now. Stay mad, stay motivated and stay hungry. When he is, there’s no stopping him. And the NBA is one sport where one player can make a big enough difference to carry you to a title.
For the second half, the Cavs need to finish 21-9 to get to 50 wins. I actually think that is very doable. LeBron will want to get that 50 mark again for the third straight year, if for nothing else, to help his MVP case. Which, I don’t know how people can say he isn’t the MVP. I can understand a case for Chris Paul and Kevin Garnett and even Kobe, but here’s something I don’t understand. The Plain Dealer’s Branson Wright did an informal poll of sportswriters at the All-star game about who the MVP was so far and here’s the responses; Eight for Paul, seven for KG, six for Kobe, zero for LBJ. Really? Zero?!?! That boggles the mind. It makes less sense than a goat riding a camel wearing a cowboy hat practicing his ninja moves while making waffles and singing “Yankee Doodle Dandy” while watching Japanamation cartoons on an iPhone. LBJ is the best player in the league, he’s the leading scorer, putting up numbers that league hasn’t seen since the Big O, single-handedly keeping his team in the playoff picture, and not just in it, near the top and yet no one thinks he is the most valuable player in the NBA. They obviously didn’t watch the six/seven games when LBJ didn’t play. The Cavs looked worse that Team River City (which by the way, we might have a huge pick up for our last game of the season). If LBJ doesn’t win the MVP award it will be a bigger waste of an award then who ever wins Best Foreign Film Sounding Mixing for an Adopted Screenplay at the Academy Awards this weekend.
Back to the second half of the season. Thursday is the trade deadline and bring in a shooter or real point guard would be huge for the Cavs. I know Danny Ferry’s brain is working real hard to try and find a good trade possibility. But when Ferry’s brain is spinning, it’s like a three legged hamster running in a wheel, just not that affective. Hopefully, he can figure something out though.
Even if he doesn’t, the Cavs will be alright. They’ll soon have everyone back and healthy, which hasn’t been the case all year. Last year that was good enough to make the NBA Finals, why can’t it be again this year? LBJ is playing even better and is a man on a mission. Gibson has become a very quality second option. Z is still playing under the radar good basketball and Hughes (I hate to keep saying) may be a real live basketball player again. All that really matters is LeBron James. As long as he is healthy and in a Cavs uniform, I’ll pick them over anyone else.