Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Cavalier attitude

They can't shoot.

For a Cavs fan, the enduring image of the 2007 NBA Finals is grim; think Goya's Saturn Devouring His Son. Shot after shot greedily eaten up by Tim Duncan and his International Men of Mystery. Unfortunately, the problem goes much deeper than simply having squared off against the most formidable defensive unit in the league. Throughout the entire playoff run, each Cavs game was a montage of basketballs clanging off the rim as often as a member of the Bush administration violates the law. Okay, not that often. We did shoot 39% against San Antonio. And 42% against Detroit. And 41% versus New Jersey. Death by a thousand cuts. There was an impressive 46% against Washington, but when the opposition's two best players are out with injuries, well. More disturbing than the relentless bricklaying was the consistently stagnant and vanilla offense. It would've been nice to see some chocolate and nuts and sprinkles (mmm...sprinkles) too.

We're already up to nearly $62 million in salary for players under contract next season, and after free agency will more than likely be above the luxury tax threshold. Good thing Gilbert doesn't seem to mind paying. And with no draft picks thanks to some previous moves better left unsaid, any improvement will have to come from within. Unless we can fleece someone (hey, the Knicks have only 63 swingmen. Think Isaiah will take Larry Hughes off our hands for a sandwich, a bag of Fritos and a six-pack of Schlitz? Yeah, yeah, I know there are trade restrictions; it's a REALLY big bag of Fritos) we're stuck. Or unless Mr. Hughes rediscovers his 2004-05 form. Or unless Shannon Brown finally gets some serious floor time, which is what the Akron Beacon Journal's Brian Windhorst expects. It'd be nice to see what a healthy Mr. Brown is capable of.

Trading into the second round is definitely an attractive option because They say it's a deep draft - and we've seen what a Boobie can do - and there's almost always a team overburdened with extra picks (Portland - who's already quite young) or one that has a history of gleefully getting rid of unnecessary spare parts (San Antonio - once, they even traded the rights to Leandro Barbosa). However, Chicago has the assets to make a serious move, thereby putting us in their rearview mirror regardless of what we do. Let's hope they keep getting cold feet. And even Toronto (you know it's a weak conference when you might have to worry about them) is quietly building up a deep, if unspectacular (save Chris Bosh - give that man more ink!) roster. Jose Calderon would look nice running our point, but there's nothing they'd want in return. I don't think Damon Jones being half of an All Hat, No Cattle backcourt is where they want to be in 2008.

Our defense is world-class, and it'll keep you in each game, but unless you can put the ball in the basket more than a few times a quarter, the trophy case is going to remain empty. And I certainly hope the great Terry Pluto is wrong about our infatuation with Steve Blake. A career 40% shooter? If we keep on adding players of that ilk, the Q is going to become a lovely shade of red.

Given the general mediocrity of the East, we should win around 50 again, but unless we can dig up some shooters, force an offensive guru on Mike Brown (hide your pride, Mike - you likely won't get to coach an all-timer like LeBron again) or, even better, invoke the Powers of Darkness to bestow upon our wing players a serious stroke, this'll be, worst case scenario, the last Finals appearance for awhile. Best case? Another ass-kicking at the hands of a Western colossus. One man can't do it alone. Ask Kevin Garnett.

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