Being the best basketball player on the planet must give LeBron James the ability to get away with comments that make him sound like a moron. When Shaq was traded to Phoenix for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks, both James and Cavaliers coach Mike Brown were pleased to see The Diesel join the Western Conference, but they were remiss that talented players were not coming to the East, especially to Cleveland. The Cavs have had their once promising season turn somewhat grim after injuries to Sasha Pavlovic and Anderson Varejao. The Cavs have been left depleted and lacking in firepower outside of James, especially with the streaky play of Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Larry Hughes. What LeBron needs to realize is that Cleveland isn’t going to get another star player soon, and the East is better and deeper than last year.
For years the Western Conference has been better and deeper than the Easter Conference, almost on par with the difference between the American and National Leagues in baseball. The balance of power is shifting with Toronto and Orlando becoming legitimate threats instead of cellar dwellers. If memory serves me correctly one of the biggest free agent signings this off-season was the Magic signing Rashard Lewis, who played in the Western Conference. Also the team with the best record in basketball, the Boston Celtics, traded for two Western Conference All-Stars (Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett) and only had to give up one player that is even close to being a star (Al Jefferson). Even the trade of Shaq means more to the Suns than the Heat only because they can win a title with him. The Heat have the worst record in basketball and that is with Shaq out hurt and Dwyane Wade battling injuries. Shawn Marion is a 20 point 10 rebound player for 82 games a year while Shaq’s numbers (15 points 8 rebounds) have been on the decline the last three years and is lucky to play in 2/3 of his teams’ games. At this point Shaq’s name is better than his game, and Marion is an All-Star caliber player. This deal is a steal for the East.
It would be tough to argue that the Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t in rough shape, despite being the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. They are in strapped with the salary cap unless another team is willing to take on Larry Hughes’s ridiculous contract (get Isiah Thomas on the phone). The team doesn’t have a true point guard, Hughes plays the point as an out of position shooting guard. LeBron handles and distributes the ball the way Michael Jordan did in his prime, with the offense revolving around him. Zydrunas Ilgauskas is an All-Star center but his play has been sporadic and he is on the down slope of his career due to injuries. Drew Gooden is an average at best power forward and the backup guards are offensive minded without enough offense, defense, or playmaking ability. The Cavs have LeBron and whoever else decides to contribute on a given night. There isn’t another playoff caliber team in the NBA that is so devoid of talent surrounding their top option.
How the Cavaliers are as good as they are remains a mystery. While you can’t fault James for wanting a second fiddle, the Cavs continue to shoot themselves in the foot and end up unable to make a move that would be of any real long-term benefit. The Cavs are one solid player away from a title, but one injury away from being a middle of the road team without playoff hopes. A serious injury to LeBron and the Cavs are lottery bound. King James can complain all he wants, but unless the Cavs can find someone willing to play in Cleveland for pennies on the dollar than they will be a one man show not talented enough to win a title for the next several years.
Here are the quotes from LeBron according to ESPN
"Unbelievable," James said after practice Wednesday. "That's all I got. It's unbelievable."
When James was asked if being paired with Kidd, his teammate last summer on the U.S. national team, could win the Cavs their first championship, "Yeah," James said. "It's that easy."
"It helps," he said with a laugh. "It does help when you have guys on the team that are perennial All-Stars or can go out there and produce every night and you know what you're going to get."
"It can mess up the chemistry a little bit and it could take a little longer for them to fit in, maybe not," he said. "The reward is you get a good player. Like the Lakers, they got a guy [Gasol] who has averaged 20 [points] and 12 [rebounds] for his whole career. Last night, Kobe Bryant gets six points and the Lakers win by 15, that's the reward.