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We Are All Witnesses:

Tonight, in Detroit, the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Detroit Pistons, 86-84, to take a 3-2 series lead. All hail Lebron James - a master of the game, and he's only 21.

Doubter:
Haha! Good one.

It's unfortunate that the Pistons' choke job is fueling this ridiculous ad campaign. The Cavs are little better than the Lakers, and it has nothing to do with LeBron.
5.17.2006 11:02pm
Fingerprint File (mail):
Sure Doubter. 24, 9, and 7.5 per game obviously doesn't help the Cavs win games.
5.17.2006 11:23pm
anonymous coward:
I assume that Doubter means that Cleveland's 3-2 lead has less to do with LeBron's skillz than the Pistons sucking--not that he's not the Cavs' best player, which is pretty obvious.
5.17.2006 11:37pm
Nunzio (mail):
I think it's fair to say that Rasheed Wallace's prognostication skills are below Joe Namath's.
5.17.2006 11:44pm
Fingerprint File (mail):
Yes, Rasheed definitely looks like a fool tonight. I still don't think you can pin this all on the Pistons choking. They have the best record in the NBA; they knew tonight that Miami is already resting; they knew that they needed to win tonight. Yet they lost. Give the Cavs some respect.
5.17.2006 11:47pm
Doubter:
anonymous coward is correct in assuming that my point was not spelled out literally, but allow me to clarify.

Despite their recent success against the Pistons, and despite having a superior supporting cast around their star, the Cavs are still a slightly above average team comparable to the Lakers.

In the earlier post, my hyperbole got ahead of my analysis, which is the proper way to conduct argumentation about non-serious topics.
5.17.2006 11:56pm
Glenn W Bowen (mail):
Doubter:

Hugh Hewitt knows where you live... Jonathan told him.
5.18.2006 12:07am
Fingerprint File (mail):
Non-serious topics? Just kidding - I think you're half right. The Pistons may yet win. But it's thrilling seeing what Lebron and the Cavs are doing, even though whoever comes out of the East has no chance against either the Spurs or Mavs.
5.18.2006 12:09am
steve k:
I'll give you even money that the Pistons will still take it.
5.18.2006 1:23am
John Jenkins (mail):
Ask yourselves this: If the young Michael Jordan had been playing with the rules as they are now (i.e. no defense allowed), how much better than LeBron would he have been even then? (Answer: a lot).
5.18.2006 2:22am
Steve:
There was defense in the 80's? Even the "Bad Boys" gave up 100 points a game. Out West they were routinely scoring in the 130s.
5.18.2006 3:32am
Dirty Thirty-First:
Steve's right. They definitely play more D now than in the young Michael Jordan era.
5.18.2006 3:45am
Dirty Thirty-First:
They even used to call technical fouls for something called "illegal defense."
5.18.2006 3:58am
Dirty Thirty-First:
They even used to call technical fouls for something called "illegal defense."
5.18.2006 3:58am
Former Lee Warmer (mail):
Jenkins, I assume you are upset about the so-called "Lebron rules." I would say that Jordan didn't average 40+ in his early playoff series without a little help. It's not as if the NBA's star system started only this year.
5.18.2006 4:09am
Jonathan Adler (mail) (www):
If I recall correctly, at 21 Michael Jordan was still in college (and had a very experienced coach). I am not ready to predict James will be better than Jordan, but the sophistication and maturity of his game is breath taking for someone who never played college ball.
5.18.2006 8:36am
Kristian (mail) (www):

Ask yourselves this: If the young Michael Jordan had been playing with the rules as they are now (i.e. no defense allowed), how much better than LeBron would he have been even then? (Answer: a lot).


That is a tricky question. Same is true for Kevin Johnson, Tim Hardaway, Gary Payton, Alan Iverson, Jerry West, Dr. J, Bernard King, et al.

Anyway, Lebron is really more like Charles Barkley - big, strong, okay shot, okay handle, decent passser and kinda of a bully physically. So the rules really aren't as favorable to him as they are to Tony Parker, Steve Nash and Dwayne Wade.

Lebron is, however, like Moses Malone:, a MAN in the NBA at 21 (ah, so Moses was in the ABA then, still you get my point).
5.18.2006 9:31am
SK (mail):
LeBron doesn't spend any time on the block like Barkley though. If anything, he's Magic Johnson with speed and hops. If he decides he wants to get to the basket, he's going to get there.
5.18.2006 9:36am
Bpbatista (mail):
Saying James is a "decent passer" is like saying Wilt was a "decent" rebounder. He's the best passer in the game today. He is an above average shooter (and improving), a great penetrator, great rebounder (especially for his position), average defender (but improving) and great clutch performer. In short, he is the best all around player in the NBA today at 21. The mind boggles at what he will be at age 26.
5.18.2006 11:04am
John Jenkins (mail):
Hand-checking was allowed then, as well as other perimeter defense that isn't allowed now. It makes it easier to penetrate because people are afraid to even touch a driving player (remember the Wizards on the inbound, unwilling to cut off the baseline?). I don't LIKE those rule changes, but there's nothing you can do about them. Points per game has A LOT more to do with the no. of possessions than the defensive acumen of either team, BTW (the Suns aren't actually as terrible on D as they seem by pts allowed, b/c their pace results in more possessions than most other teams; the converse is true for Detroit).

LeBron as the best passer: he's 12th in the league in assists. Unless you have a better measure, that means that there are some guys better (notably Nash, Kidd, and Billups). That measure is somewhat tainted because of the problem with surrounding talent (if the great pass goes off the big goofy guy's hands and out of bounds, is it your fault?)

He's 46th in Assist to T/O ratio, and that's not great (for someone who is supposed to be a great passer).

He's 39th in both FG% and ADJ FG% (adjusting for the value of the 3-pt shot, may it be forever banned). He's not in the top 50 in raw 3-pt shooting percentage.

He's the 13th best rebounder at his position (3) adjusted for playing time (he is #1 in RPG for his position).

He is a good player, but he is not the best all-around player in the game today, and the stats bear that out. Does he have the potential to be great? Sure. Is he a "master of the game at 21"? I don't think so.

SK, he definitely could add post play to his game. He'd be a tough guard for any 3 down low, but it might not play to his strengths (quickness and leaping ability) in the way that playing facing the basket does.
5.18.2006 1:25pm
Bpbatista (mail):
James isn't a point guard, so no surprise that his assists aren't as high as, say, Nash's. But combine all of his stats together and he is the best all around player in the league. I'll ask you this question: If the league was drafting all new teams beginning today, who would be the No. 1 pick? Clearly, it would be James with Tim Duncan or Kobe Bryant a distant second.
5.18.2006 2:36pm
Frank Drackman (mail):
I haven't watched the NBA regularly since the early 80's but when did they all start looking like gang members?
5.18.2006 2:49pm
RPS (mail):

Hand-checking was allowed then, as well as other perimeter defense that isn't allowed now. It makes it easier to penetrate because people are afraid to even touch a driving player (remember the Wizards on the inbound, unwilling to cut off the baseline?). I don't LIKE those rule changes, but there's nothing you can do about them. Points per game has A LOT more to do with the no. of possessions than the defensive acumen of either team, BTW (the Suns aren't actually as terrible on D as they seem by pts allowed, b/c their pace results in more possessions than most other teams; the converse is true for Detroit).



Yes, but the number of possessions/game is related to the defensive acumen of both teams in two ways. First, if a team is simply unable to get stops, then they need to rely on outscoring their opponents and you do that by increasing your possessions. Second, good defensive teams will limit transition opportunities, force turnovers, and generally make the other team take longer to score, all of which drive down the # of possessions/game. And while, yes, the Suns are not terrible, they are still not anywhere close to good (14th out of the 16 playoff teams). In the 80s, part of the reason teams pushed the ball so much was that they knew they didn't have the horses to get defensive stops when it counted so they relied on outscoring each other.

Despite all the hoopla about hand-checking, it always surprises how rarely you hear the differences in athleticism between 1986 and 2006 discussed. The gap between the best players in the league and the 7th and 8th guys off the bench has closed dramatically in that time. As much as we like to talk about how Jordan would average 50/game in today's NBA, let's remember that he wouldn't have Craig Ehlo to kick around anymore. I watched Jordan's 64 point game against ORL recently and he was guarded most of the game by Nick Anderson. Nick Anderson! And at no point did ORL think, hey maybe we should double this guy or at least contest his 15 foot jumpshots.
5.18.2006 3:51pm
gramm:
Frank Drackman said:

I haven't watched the NBA regularly since the early 80's but when did they all start looking like gang members?
------------------------------------------------

What an inane and ugly comment.

however, more importantly, lebron will be THE iconic player of his generation. I can't wait to see him go against shaq and d. wade in the east finals. good riddance to those boring pistons. long live the king!
5.18.2006 3:52pm
Doubter:
gramm: I agree that the Cavs/Heat game would be quite an intriguing match up, especially since Dwayne Wade is arguably the most popular player in the NBA.
5.18.2006 4:08pm
John Jenkins (mail):
BP, it all depends on what timeframe you're looking at. Long term (GM-Like) I might take LeBron (I think I'd actually take Wade over LeBron, but we can differ on that). If it were a right now (head coach) kind of thing, and barring considerations for injury, TD would be #1 on my board.

RPS, a lot of the time with MJ (and Kobe, and Shaq, and LeBron) the strategy is to let him get whatever he wants and keep the other players from contributing, so the ORL game might be where they were trying that. On another front, ALL NBA players are pretty good. People complain about the lack of defense all the time, but the fact is these guys can plain put the ball in the basket.

Defensive acumen DOES have an affect on the number of possesions, but it's much less than offensive tempo. Good defense in the NBA typically results in a bad shot toward the end of the shot clock (or a block). The only defensive play that really turns around is a steal, and given that most of those are in the front court, that doesn't do a lot to speed the game up. Running and gunning does a lot (if you get every shot up in 16 seconds, versus 24, you're going to have more possessions than you otherwise might). Defense does have some effect on tempo, but not much, at least not much in the way of *increasing* the number of possessions per game (you can do a lot to decrease it).

I think athleticism doesn't play that big a difference defensively, given that defense is (1) mostly a team effort (especially w/r/t rotation) and (2) is more about discipline than athleticism (spectacular blocks notwithstanding). I'm positive the overall level of discipline in the NBA hasn't gone up since the 80's (especially given the incessant whining to the officials).

I think these playoffs are shaping up for a Heat victory in the Finals over the Mavericks (assuming O'Neal stays spry and healthy for 2 more series), though at the beginning I would probably have bet on SA v. Detroit again.

BPBatista, If the claim is "great passer" and "best all around player" an assist to turnover ratio of higher than 4 tells me that's just not right.
5.18.2006 4:14pm
Bpbatista (mail):
People who pass/handle the ball alot make a lot of turnovers. You can't just look at raw numbers -- that doesn't even work in baseball. The guy who might hit .295 in 250 ABs is probably not as good as the guy who hits .285 in 600 ABs (sorry to mix sports). These guys do play defense today, just look at the scores compared to 10-20 years ago. What is absolutely disgracefull about the NBA -- then and now -- is the officiating. To compare NBA officiating to the WWF is to insult professional wrestling.
5.18.2006 4:32pm
John Jenkins (mail):
Batting average doesn't tell you much anyway. Look to OPS to determine value (and even better are some compound stats that look at how much value a player adds each year in wins that the guys at BP do, not that I like stats or anything).

I'm not JUST looking at turnovers, but the ratio between turnovers and assists. That's a pretty good indicator of ball-handling. It might be an argument to take the ball out of his hands more, even, unless that number goes down. My point is that you can't say a guy is a really great passer when the best objective measure of passing we have makes him out to be not that good. (Again, it's somewhat skewed, depending on whom they give the TO to on some kinds of passes, but it's a fairly reliable indicator).

I agree that guys play defense, but total scoring is related more to how many times guys go up and down the floor. Given isos and other slowdown plays, no. of possessions is down from back then. And yes, the officials are terrible. I got to go to some games here in OKC this year and the refs are just bad. They must have a heck of a union.
5.18.2006 5:01pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Maybe this is the long-time (I mean pre-"Bad Boys") Pistons fan in me talking, but I still say Detroit beats Cleveland in this series, gets their heads together, and beats Miami.

Dallas, right now, would beat Detroit, Miami, or Cleveland. The only eastern conference team that has a chance against Dallas is the Detroit playing the way they did before the last three Cavs games.

And while James might well be the first pick if we were drafting a league from scratch today, that doesn't mean he's the best passer. I can't see anybody except Nash for that one.
5.18.2006 6:01pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
Inane and Ugly? well the Truth is often that way. You know that Lebron got his name cause his baby-daddy drove a Chrysler Lebaron, but with the "A" missing,and his baby-mommy liked the sound. And they DO look like gang members.
5.18.2006 9:27pm
John Jenkins (mail):
Frank, that's spoken like a man who has never seen actual gang bangers. Seriously, Tim Duncan looks like a gang banger? Is the fact that someone is black somehow dispositive on this issue? Sure, a guy like Jason Williams looks like he WANTS to be a gangbanger, but probably isn't (though with all those tattoos, I'd be getting a Hepatitis test). Who cares how LeBron got his name? I just don't get where you're coming from, man.
5.18.2006 9:39pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
As a resident of beautiful Atlanta, I think I know what gang bangers look like. You're right, Tim Duncan looks more like Brian Nichols, the Atlant courthouse killer.
5.18.2006 10:08pm
Scott Teresi (www):
Does anyone know where someone could find some video or video clips from the recent games? I don't watch much TV and don't have cable.
5.18.2006 10:09pm
Broncos:
Frank: They look less like gang-bangers than you sound like the KKK.

Scott: You can try Google Video, though you have to pay.

As far as LeBron: I'm not sure that even Michael could have become MJ without Phil Jackson, the triangle offense, Pippen, Cartwright, Grant, the experience agains the Pistons, etc. It takes a lot to win 6 championships and become The Greatest. Some of this is just out of LeBron's hands.

I will say this: Mike Brown is not a good coach. The Cavs are weak defensively, gamble too frequently, have trouble getting low post players involved in the offense (can we pass it into Z once in a while, please?), and are generally undisciplined. LeBron's play masks these deficiencies. (I love Flip Murray, though.) I personally thought that Paul Silas was a good coach who was fired for disciplining his players. The Cavs #1 priority is re-signing LeBron, he probably wasn't used to a coach criticising his play, and wasn't happy. So the Cavs got a coach who would go with the flow, and gave up a few wins along the way. (I know that the record is better now than under Silas, but had he been given more time and control, this current team would be better.) LeBron is slowly getting more serious about winning (take a look at close games), and after this series is over, he's going to be much more willing to play for a disciplinarian. I say that next season is Brown's last for the Cavs.

Also, does anyone think that Larry Brown would have allowed the Pistons to lose 3 straight to the Cavs in the second round of the playoffs? The Piston's effort is really on-and-off.
5.18.2006 10:50pm
Steve:
Also, does anyone think that Larry Brown would have allowed the Pistons to lose 3 straight to the Cavs in the second round of the playoffs?

While I have the utmost respect for Larry Brown, I would point out that he was the coach two years ago when the Pistons lost 3 straight to the Nets in the second round. That was a good Nets team, but still, the scenario isn't beyond the realm of possibility.
5.19.2006 1:29am
Frank Drackmann (mail):
KKK? sure attack the messenger, not the message. I give mad props to the NBA for their Dress Code, requiring laces
in the Sneakers and no more than 3 gold caps visible when
facing a players "grill". Don't dis the WWF(its WWE by the way, the World Wildlife Fund sued to make them change to World Wrestling Entertainment)whens the last time a Wrestler beat up a fan? I have to admit that brawl was more entertaining than 20 yrs of Slam dunk contest reruns.
5.19.2006 7:55am
John Jenkins (mail):
Speaking of bad refs, it looks like the Spurs are getting jobbed right now in the first half of game six. I expect Stern will be on the phone at half time and the Spurs could mug the Mavericks on every play in the second half and not get a foul called on them. (How was that not a foul at the end of the first half?)
5.20.2006 12:09am
JosephSlater (mail):
Let me be the first long-time Pistons fan law prof. that posts on this blog to say: Witness *that*, pal. One for nine in the second half. Detroit moves on.

Seriously, hats off to LeBron and Cleveland for giving Detroit a very serious run for their money. But I'm glad to see good team basketball win out over an individual superstar.
5.21.2006 8:10pm
John Jenkins (mail):
There will be no more sports talk until Todd busts out the Steelers in August :-)
5.22.2006 1:18am