Archive for April, 2010

Recap: Cavs 121, Bulls 98 (Or, 13: I am LeBron James. You should fear me.)

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

Overview: Led by LeBron James’ line of 37/12/11, the Cavaliers cruised to a 121-98 victory over the Chicago Bulls to take a 3-1 series lead. Antawn Jamison added 24 points for the Cavs, and Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah led the Bulls with 21 points each.

Game Summary:

The Cavs did all the big things right in the first half. The ball moved. They had good baseline action and found their cutters. The Cavs made the extra pass and hit their open threes. They went small and LeBron was able to burn Taj Gibson a few times. LeBron was finally able to start the game setting up his teammates, getting four assists before making his first shot.

The Bulls weren’t getting what they wanted in the half-court, but kept themselves in the game by doing the little things. They killed the Cavs on the offensive boards, beating them 17-5 on the offensive glass. They looked to push the ball and were able to get out in transition. They baited the Cavs into fouling and spent a ton of time in the bonus in the second. Unlike the Cavs, they made the free throws they got in the first half. Despite soundly outplaying the Bulls, the Cavs went into halftime only leading by 10 points.

In the third quarter, the Bulls were unable to find ways to put points on the board and the Cavs were a house of fire. Everything they did worked. They hit threes and shots off the dribble. Shaq had a resounding dunk. Jamison scored 10 of his 24 in the period, doing it with jumpers, cuts, and push shots. When LeBron hit a contested half-court jumper at the end of the third to put the Cavs up by 23, things looked good.

After a few bad possessions to start the fourth, LeBron decided to check back in and put on a show. He got a rebound to complete a triple-double, set Mo up with an easy three, and then drained three consecutive threes in a row. He even banked in one of them. It was that kind of a night for LeBron. By the time LeBron checked out for good, the Cavs were up 25 with five minutes to play and it was all but over. Now the Cavs get to try and close out the series on their home floor.

Cavs-Related Bullets:

-For the love of all that is holy, LeBron. Antawn Jamison all but said LeBron showed up to the arena looking like he wanted to pick up an armored car with his bare hands and use it to tear down the arena after dominating the game and before salting the ground where the arena once stood so that nothing could ever grow there again. I may be exaggerating somewhat, but that’s how LeBron played on Sunday.

This is about as close as it gets to a perfect game. His passing was on target all game and he never forced anything. He took the ball hard to the cup, took contact, and drained nine of his 10 free throws. He was the only player in the Cavs with 10 or more rebounds. (Maybe that was a problem.) He only turned it over twice, and one of those was his sleeve’s fault. He played good defense on Deng and completely locked him down a few times.

Then there was the matter of his jumper. Boy, did it look good. He had 22 points on 14 jumpers, and hit six of his nine three-point attempts. He calmly set up and drained two threes when the Bulls went under the screen. He hit a rare catch-and-shoot triple. There was also the contested half-court shot that LeBron shot like a jumper. He capped the game off with three triples in the fourth because he did not find the game of basketball sufficiently challenging at that point.

He completely dominated every aspect of the game. That’s it and that’s all. We are and have been witnessing something pretty special here. Enjoy every game.

-Jamison had a great game as well. Hit a three, got to the rim, had his midrange game working, and was feeling it with those push shots. His up-and-under finger-roll on Deng was a highlight. A game or two like this in a matchup with Boston or Orlando could easily be the difference in that series. When LeBron’s on and someone else can score an efficient 20, the Cavs are a very tall order.

-Mo Williams contributed as well, taking the ball tough to the hole a few times and draining some quick-trigger threes. He didn’t run the offense much, but with LeBron running things so effectively he really didn’t need to.

-Shaq continued to look iffy. Flat hooks, too many cheap fouls, trying to take deep post shots instead of using his feet to get closer. He did look better on defense, though. Hopefully he can get into the swing of things sooner rather than later.

-Give it up for AP. He didn’t do anything wrong, he took it to the basket a few times, and he was able to slow down Rose on the perimeter. Add that to a 2-3 performance from beyond the arc, and this was a very solid game for Parker.

-Delonte and Varejao are killing me. Delonte had some nice plays in isolation, but couldn’t find his shot and didn’t disrupt the Bulls on the perimeter. One of the two threes he missed barely qualified as an airball. Varejao continues to be completely invisible — he looked like himself when got free throws out of the pick-and-roll, but he only shot 1-4 from the line.

-Playoff Hicksomania! J.J. looked great. He attacked Brad Miller and made him look old. He found seams and went right at the basket when he got the pass. He hit is free throws when he got put on the line. He made some mistakes, but it looks like he’ll be useful in this series.

Bullets Of Randomness:

-I continue to be okay with Derrick Rose needing 20 shots to get 21 points. It is a problem when your superstar does not make threes or draw fouls. The mid-range game looks nice and he is getting points, but the Cavs can absolutely deal with Rose playing at this level.

-Oh, Kirk Hinrich. Where did it all go wrong? It looked like he’d found his game in game three, but he couldn’t even keep it going for one more game.

-Can we pretend that someone else trolled Cleveland so we can acknowledge that Joakim Noah is having a breakout series? 21/20 playoff games don’t happen every day. He’s looked like Chicago’s best player all series. Give props where they’re due.

-Whatever the benefits of LeBron’s arm sleeve have been over the years, it officially cost the team a possession on Sunday. It is a really good thing this wasn’t a close loss.

-Hey, Devin Brown!

Alright, that’s all for now. Let’s see if the Cavs can close it out in Cleveland.

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Post-game open thread: April 25th, 2010

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

Well, it appears my preview was making the site go crazy. Here’s a post-game open thread in which to deposit your thoughts. Recap up soon.

Links To The Present: April 23, 2010

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

“The only thing the Cavaliers need a broom for at the moment is to clean up the little mess they’ve made over the last couple of playoff games.” [Brian Windhorst]

“The Cavs’ treated Game 3 like it was a regular season game. The Bulls treated it like a playoff game. Stripping away all the details and the coaching decisions and the calls, that was the reason why the Cavs lost.” [Brian Windhorst]

Cavs fans leading the “digital revolution”?

“LeBron James
He’s a lock for this season’s MVP award, and he has been as good as ever in the playoffs. Thorpe tossed out 68 as a good number of shots for Durant to have taken, and as it happens, that’s how many James has launched. He has hit 39 of those, and has made nearly half of his 13 3-pointers. He also has 24 rebounds, 21 assists and — my favorite — nine blocks.” [Truehoop’s Nice List]

“J.J. Hickson
The young forward was found money for the Cavaliers this regular season. Apparently the Cavaliers are the kind of people who stash their cash under the mattress. ‘Cause Hickson hasn’t been seen — other than literally a few seconds here and there — since the postseason began. It’s not his fault, but it sure is a disappointment.” [Truehoops Naughty List]

“In Game 3, it took a heroically resolute effort down the stretch to preserve the last vestiges of a lead that once stood at 21 — 68-47 — midway through the third quarter.” [Chicago Sun-Times]

“It surprised me a little, but it was fun,” Rose said. “I was feeling good for the best player on their team, the best player in the NBA, to be sticking me. Why not take a shot at it? It surprised me a little but it was fun.” [Chicago Tribune]

“All in all, you had to expect the Bulls wouldn’t go down without a fight. This isn’t, and never was, going to be like last year against the Pistons. The Bulls, like we saw last season, will fight to the very end. Hopefully, Sunday will have a different finish.” [Colin Zvosec]

“But are the Cavs underachieving, the Bulls overachieving, or some of both? I’m inclined, after seeing James swoop down and then recede after one crap call, that Cleveland’s still not together the way, say, the Lakers are (I know, they lost last night, too.) There’s just still too much under construction.” [Bethlehem Shoals]

Tweets To The Present: (follow me @tompestak)

Complete LBJ quote, not huge deal: “I’m not concerned. We know we need him to pick up his play and he knows that also.” [Brian Windhorst]

LeBron said he’d like to see what JJ Hickson more in Game 4. But Mike Brown said that his main plan with bigs is to get Shaq going. [Brian Windhorst]

Recap: Bulls 108, Cavs 106 (Or, 14: The time the Cavs lost a first-round game)

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

epic fail photos Safety Fail

Overview: After leading by as many as 21 in the third quarter, the Bulls were able to survive a 38-29 fourth quarter by the Cavs to hold on for a 108-106 victory. LeBron James led all scorers with a line of 39/10/8, and Kirk Hinrich led the Bulls with 27 points on 12 shots.

Game Summary:

Not a good loss for the Cavs. They came out completely flat, failing to run their offense and giving up way too many good looks to Rose and Hinrich. Trying to turn it on after getting down 21 points is not how to win playoff games.

Shaq was ineffective, going 2-8 from the field, committing fouls, and having some serious trouble in the pick-and-roll game. The Cavs had much more success when they went small later in the game, but by then it was too late.

LeBron had a great game, but the Cavs needed a perfect one. He went for 39 points on 26 shots, but didn’t get his teammates involved early. He had 14 points on 13 jumpers, but took some ill-advised heat-checks in the second half and missed five free throws. The main issue is that he didn’t get enough support, but he made some mistakes of his own.

Not enough ball movement, not enough drives to the hole, too much reliance on the three-ball. Mo and LeBron hitting some tough threes off the dribble allowed the Cavs to shoot 40% from beyond the arc, but the Cavs got outscored in the paint for the second straight game. They have to take it to the hole.

The Cavs did everything right down the stretch. They went hyper-small, and that allowed them to turn it into a close game. Delonte made some huge offensive rebounds, LeBron did a great job of defending the paint, Antawn finally started taking it inside, and the Cavs started to hit some threes. It proved to be too little, too late, but it gave everyone a look of just how dangerous this team can be.

Give the Bulls a lot of credit for how they played down the stretch, especially Rose. Rose and Deng made five huge floaters in a three-minute stretch in the fourth to keep the Cavs at bay, and Cleveland probably wouldn’t have broken through if they didn’t hit those shots. You don’t see the floater much anymore, and going hard to the rim is generally the better option, but that shot saved Chicago’s bacon on Thursday.

The Cavs hit some crazy threes to give themselves a chance at Sundiata Gaines-ing the game late, but two crucial errors ended up doing them in. With the Cavs trailing by three with eight seconds to play, Mike Brown told the Cavs to run the scissor-cut set out of a timeout. It would have set Mo Williams up with a good look from the corner, but first the ball went to 66% free throw shooter Anderson Varejao at the elbow. Luol Deng is no fool, and quickly put him on the line. Varejao missed the second one, allowing the Bulls to go to the line and make it a two-possession game.

Mo Williams hit a crazy three to cut the lead to one, but with no timeouts left they weren’t able to set up a play with four seconds to go. They got a look at a game-winner, but that look was a half-court Anthony Parker three off the dribble. That’s not what you want there.

Two big calls hurt the Cavs late. LeBron took the ball right at Deng in transition with the Cavs trailing by three and made it with contact, but got whistled for a charge. In my opinion, it was a 50-50 call. Deng wasn’t stiff as a board, but he wasn’t shuffling when LeBron jumped straight into him. I though it was going to go LeBron’s way when I saw it; if I was a Bulls fan, I probably would’ve thought Deng drew the charge. One of those calls that makes me glad I’m not an NBA ref.

Then there was the non-call on Joakim Noah’s headlock of LeBron when he was going to rebound the ball with the Cavs down one with eight seconds to go. It was off the ball, so it wasn’t an easy call to see, but it was a missed call. You can get mad about it all you want, but the bottom line is that when you play close games, you run the risk of putting the game in the hands of the officials. The Cavs could easily have played well enough to decide the game themselves, but they didn’t.

11 missed free throws in a 2-point game. That’s one thing. When only one of those free throws was missed by a power forward or center, that’s positively maddening. 7-13 for LeBron.  2-5 for Mo Williams, who missed three free throws in the entire month of April heading into this game. Absolutely unacceptable.

I am spitting mad right now. Remember how I used to say that you wanted these kind of games to happen in February? Well, now it’s the playoffs. I don’t buy the “wake-up call” thing either. This team got upset in the playoffs last season. Their best player is a free-agent this off-season. Boston had 2008. LA had last year. Orlando has the future. No team has more pressure on them than the Cavs do, and they’re acting like they don’t need to take every playoff game seriously.

Like I said, if they run through the Bulls in the next two games, I’ll buy the “wake-up call” thing. Right now, all I see is a team that hasn’t won a playoff game on the road this season giving up a playoff game against a 41-41 team to put them three losses away from an unthinkable collapse. With LeBron scoring 38 points. If the Cavs don’t pull it off this season, this is the kind of game that will make LeBron look at his options. If that doesn’t make you terrified, I don’t know what will.

Cavs-Related Bullets:

-I’ve covered most of my LeBron notes. He was absolutely incredible; I’m not sure any other player in the NBA is so much as capable of delivering a performance like that.

There were some mistakes, and those are the plays that will go under the microscope in a close loss. Missed free throws. Heat-check jumpers when the Cavs needed to squeeze every possession. Getting stripped by Noah late. Getting burned by Deng a few times. I hate when LeBron plays this well in losses, because I can’t in good conscience gush about his performance.

-My biggest concern so far is how invisible Varejao has been. Three points and six fouls in 20 minutes tonight for Andy. Not only has Andy been invisible on offense, but he hasn’t been making plays on defense either. He needs to get going.

-Acceptable game from Mo. He didn’t run the offense very well (in fact, the Cavs really didn’t run an offense this game), but he made some big shots and got his points.

-Jamison looked awful when he shot threes early, and great when he went to the basket late. His final line? 19 points on 17 shots, and 11 rebounds. Typical Jamison game + more possessions.

-Delonte didn’t put up points and he had serious trouble staying in front of Rose. He at least looked like himself on the offensive end, hitting an open three, rarely settling for mid-range jumpers, and making some great hustle plays to get the Cavs extra possessions.

-Damed if you do, damned if you don’t with Shaq at this point. The Cavs were clearly better with him off the floor in this game, but need him for the later rounds. I think MB did the right thing by giving him significant burn in the first half and not forcing him back in after the Cavs had success going small.

-Cavs gave up seven points in the four minutes LeBron sat.

Bullets Of Randomness:

-The 31 points on 26 shots isn’t all that impressive from Rose. He did look more aggressive at times, but mostly he made some mid-range jumpers and push shots that he missed in the first two games. Rose not turning the ball over once is much more noteworthy.

-Wow, this team looks completely different when Kirk Hinrich puts up 27/5/5 instead of playing like a zombie. Seriously, where did THAT come from? He has officially moved to the top of my enigma list.

-Anyone else catch the moment where Miller got called for pushing Varejao, then they were both smiling and chatting amicably about it when they came back down the floor? I kind of like the idea of guys like Varejao, Miller and Ginobili being friends when they step off the court and stop getting paid to piss people off.

-Well, if there was ever a good day to lose a close playoff game, it was probably NBA Draft day. Tomorrow’s top basketball headline will probably be about Joe Haden’s days as a high school point guard. Until later, guys.

Preview: Cavaliers at Bulls, April 22nd

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Game three. Get the win on the road here, and the Cavs get some serious breathing room. First road playoff game for this year’s Cavs squad. If they want to win comfortably, they need to defend like they did in game one and execute on offense like they did in game two. Only doing one might not cut it in a hostile building. Let’s see how long Shaq can stay on the floor and what adjustments the Cavs make on Noah.

Your recommended reading is still Bulls By The Horns. See you after the game.

Links To The Present: April 22, 2010

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

“I absolutely did not say that,” he said. “That’s not a true statement. I was going to take the shot, though. I don’t think it was disrespectful for them to tell me to take the shot. But I feel like I worked enough on my game where I feel like I’m confident to keep on continuing to take those shots. [LeBron James from Mary Schmitt Boyer’s Article]

Pat McManamon with a great article on LeBron’s introspective qualities.

“But mostly, what we cannot allow them to do is beat us up in the paint like they did in Game 2. That should not happen. In the first game, we controlled the paint. In the next game they did – mostly because of early foul trouble.  We have to stay out of early foul trouble. And a lot depends on the refs in that regard. Some refs don’t let Shaq play.” [Austin Carr’s Blog]

“He’s one of the fastest guys in the league,” Hinrich said. “He’s 275, 280. It’s an unbelievable matchup. Especially when he gets in the open court. If you get in front of him, you foul him, he’s probably going to [get] an and 1. It’s a cover like no other in the league for sure.” [Kirk Hinrich on LeBron – ESPNChicago]

“It was bold and audacious, no matter how good he may have been at hoops. It was a leap of faith.
Who could have engendered the young player’s trust to orchestrate such a thing?
That, my friends — according to the word of those who were there at the time — was the work of William Wesley. It’s not news James and Wesley have known each other that long, but the reality of those summers is telling about the depth of the connection between Wesley and James.” [Henry Abbott on LeBron and Wesley]

For a while it felt like 90% of online NBA arguments were about Kobe v. LeBron.  They’ve died down quite a bit but Ric Bucher and Chris Broussard have taken their essence and made people pay to read them: “Overall, I’d say the Lakers are a more talented team, too. But it’s about perception: the Lakers and Kobe Bryant are banged up and worn down trying to make a third trip to the Finals. The Cavs are healthy with a full head of steam. The fact is, Nash won back-to-back MVP awards while failing to get a ring and he’s still wearing that scarlet letter. I’m not saying it’s right or fair, it’s just the way it is. Create an expectation and then fail to fill it and there is hell to pay — as LeBron will find out if he isn’t hugging the Larry O’Brien trophy in June.” [Broussard and Bucher Debate Who has the Most to Lose]

This article discusses the travesty that was Dwight Howard not getting a few DPOY votes.  Guess who wrote it?

The Cavaliers Will Win The Championship Because…

Tweets To The Present: (follow me @tompestak)

This picture of Jamario Moon from @Chris_Broussard‘s article is epic: [TheAkronHammer]

Signs were West was working on plea deal before Monday. If that happened, he could have faced suspension. Now timetable pushed to summer. [Brian Windhorst]

Not saying it’s a fe de compli in Chicago..but Bulls are on page 4 of the Tribune, kicked off front page by the Cubs and NfL draft.. [Fred McLeod]

I’m a Clevelander, he doesn’t care about me RT @espnchijon: Is Joakim taking you on a tour of Chicago today? [Brian Windhorst]

Notes and Errata: April 22nd, 2010

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

-Question of the day: Why is it that the Cavs play the opening to Madonna’s “Lucky Star” after Anthony Parker hits a three? Is it because Parker considers himself a “lucky star” after parlaying a superstar career in Israel into a solid NBA career and now a starting spot on a legit title contender? Is it that he’s the lone pro basketball player whose sister is better known than he is and supports her through Madonna’s message of female empowerment?

Is it that his time in Israel makes him appreciative of Madonna’s conversion to Kabbalah? Is it that he considers himself an outsider, like Madonna did? Parker was the lone Cavs starter who didn’t “Z”-ify his name on Z night, and he never seems to do the gooseneck or any of the other goofy things the Cavs do. Or maybe it was that the Cavs sound crew thought the sound effect from “Lucky Star” was cool and they wanted to use it after made threes by AP. In any case, I’m curious.

-Boston are legit contenders. When Rondo’s on his game, they can play with anybody. They won’t be a cake-walk in the second round if the Cavs and Celtics end up playing each other.

-I can’t recall a team as helpless offensively as the Bobcats have been against the Magic. That team wins with defense. Do not forget this.

-I just realized the following: LOST isn’t my favorite TV show of all time. (That honor would go to Firefly/The Wire.) But it is my favorite show that I’ve ever followed in real-time. If the Cavs make a long playoff run, their most crucial games will coincide with the series finale of LOST. At this point, I’ve lost enough of my mind so that this doesn’t feel like a coincidence.

-This Laker team finds ways to win. It’s what they do. When Kobe splits a pair of key free throws, Artest comes up with the stop that saves the game. If Artest had gotten lost on the screen, I’m sure Kobe would’ve hit the game-winner. I don’t know what it is about that team, but they’re never out of a game.

-Sadly, that’s all I have for tonight. This first round is running me ragged. Game three tomorrow. Get excited.

Links To The Present: April 22, 2010

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

“If they want small-market teams to compete, you have to find another way. You have to hit the jackpot and get LeBron James. Then you have to surround him with players, and you have a $100 million payroll and you don’t make money.” [Brian Windhorst on The Cavs Revenue]

“Consider that for a moment. James has scored at least 40 points in five of his past 12 playoff games.” [Terry Pluto on LeBron’s Playoff Performances]

“I’m serious. I love Chicago. I love Cleveland. I love Akron, too.” [LeBron James – Champion of Cold Weather, Midwestern, Sports Towns]

Rare Photos of LeBron James

“This playoff series gives LeBron James, who is the premier free agent of this summer’s class, to take a good look at Rose, Noah and the Bulls. The Bulls will have enough to offer a free agent a maximum contract, but the question remains as to if LeBron will leave Cleveland. While it’s still too early to tell, for LeBron, I think he has got to be leaning towards staying home. That’s the best place for him. You look at Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, and they left their legacies where they started. LeBron hasn’t left that mark in Cleveland yet, so I don’t know he is ready to move on. He’s received some individual accolades, but from a team standpoint, he has to do a little bit more. He knows that as well as anybody at this stage in his career.” [Scottie Pippen’s Take on All Things Cavs/Bulls]

Sam Smith thought LeBron should play with Kobe – now he thinks LeBron should suit up with Rose and Noah.  He claims the Cavs’ window of opportunity is fast closing.  We’ve heard that before in Cleveland.

LeBron to Chicago a “fantasy”

Excellent Breakdown of the Cavs/Bulls Series by Play-Type

“The Cavs as a team were more in line with their usual proficiency behind the arc (actually a little better than that, 50% on the night), and it’s not surprising given how unbelievably wide open they are. There were some rotation miscues on the Bulls part, but overall I thought these were similar to the shots that the Cavs simply missed in game one.” [Blog-a-bull]

Tweets To The Present: (Follow Me @tompestak)

“Scott Brooks is the Coach of the Year…well deserved….Z and Chris Jent (former teammates) are among his many admirers…” [Fred McLeod]

“After watching this: I wish someone had followed that team for MJ’s last 3 years and written a book SSOL style.” [Colin Zvosec]

“NBA Jam was dope. Played with Bron. Got him on fire early but couldn’t sustain — wasn’t used to Wii.” [LangWhitaker]

Headed to Chicago, LeBron James looks to escape the shadow of Michael Jordan with a championship title run.

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

A simple Google search for “LeBron James Michael Jordan” returns about 2,390,000 results. In fact, Google is so impatient that once you get to “LeBron James Mich,” autocomplete suggests a variety of searches including “LeBron James Michael Jordan dunk,” “imitation,” and, of course, “comparison.” Online you’re bombarded by websites comparing their first 300 games and career stats, while the television offers similar conjecture, with breakdowns of their first seven seasons becoming a weekly display on SportsCenter. But when do these comparisons stop, if ever?

Ask Kobe Bryant, a 14 year veteran, who still hears these associations, especially come playoff time. And that’s a player that starts at the same position Jordan did and has won four NBA championships, yet has failed to measure up to MJ in the eyes of many.

Last year Chris Broussard wrote “everything they [Kobe and LeBron] do on the basketball court is compared to Jordan… that’s a compliment to their great skills, but it’s also a near-impossible standard that often clouds the judgment of their critics.” Broussard then furthered this notion by asking LeBron about the comparisons, who responded by saying “there’ll never be another Michael Jordan… you’ll drive yourself crazy trying to be the next Michael Jordan.”

Yet the parallels continue. Even as I write this, I can’t escape the similarities, analyzing Michael Jordan’s stats from his first championship run. With 31.1 points per game, tied for the third lowest average in his 13 postseasons, Jordan deferred to his supporting cast, averaging 8.4 assists in the 1991 playoffs, the second highest postseason average of his career. This season LeBron James averaged 29.7 points and a career high 8.6 assists per game, setting an NBA record for most assists by a forward in a season.

The Bulls don't properly measure Cleveland's title potential, but it's only fitting that Chicago is the first stop on LeBron's quest for his first ring.

So how can LeBron avoid this disease, this plague knowing that no matter what he does it will always be stacked up against the accolades of arguably the greatest basketball player of all time? Well, I feel there are two things, both of which may very well be in motion. The first is the number change from #23 to #6, a simple, yet significant reminder that LeBron is his own persona. Secondly, James, who is in his seventh NBA season, needs to secure his first NBA championship, much like Jordan did in his seventh season. While conventional wisdom would suggest that this may only fuel the comparisons, a championship gives James a claim of his own.

And even though these Bulls aren’t even be a distant cousin of Jordan’s Bulls, defeating his favorite childhood team which his hero won sixth titles with is the picture perfect way for LeBron James to kick start a championship drive in order to distance himself from the Michael Jordan measuring stick. This step would set the stage for James to win his next three series and hoist two separate trophies, one that proclaims his name should begin a reign of originality devoid of comparisons and another that, well… also proclaims his name, but literally. This isn’t even factoring in what a potential Bulls victory en route to a championship would mean for the Cavaliers organization, which was demoralized by the Bulls all five times they met in the playoffs. Unfortunately, I can’t help but get the feeling that regardless of any success this postseason, those initiating the comparisons, and especially those insulted by such analogies, won’t stop. Jordan historians and Lakers fans alike will mumble “well, that’s one” in unison.

But that’s not the point. No one, including LeBron James himself, is looking at the prospect of an NBA championship as a means of establishing a career that will immediately rival Jordan’s. There’s no guarantee that even six championships would put him in a distinct category. LeBron James may never eclipse the legacy of Michael Jordan and even if he is to, it most definitely won’t be after this season. But a championship offers him a chance to take one step outside of the shadow that is Air Jordan.

When it’s all said and done, the mere mention of the name LeBron James could never be complete without the whispers of “Jordan” in the background. However, he has a chance to start his own legacy with a title this postseason, a journey that will continue on Thursday at the United Center, where a bronzed statue awaits him outside of the arena.

Make sure to join the discussion at Numbers Don’t and Real Cavs Fans!

Links To The Present: April 20, 2010

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Video of this vicious facial here:

“Let’s stop and go over that again. The Bulls took 22 more shots, scored 56 points in the paint and turned the ball over four times, a franchise record. As in none of the six championship teams ever did better. And they lost by 10 points. This goes back to the point I’ve been making for some time now: It is hard to beat the Cavs, even just once.” [Brian Windhorst’s Beat Blog]

“I think I celebrate everything that’s good,” said Moon, whose 12 points and four 3-pointers were post-season highs. “I just try to give my teammates motivation. If we make a bad play, I try to come over and say something positive, and if we make a good play I put a little extra on it to keep the motivation going.  “It’s just about keeping everybody going. I just try to make sure we’re loose and positive and ready to play.” [Mary Schmitt Boyer on Jamario Moon]

Did a little research.  The Rising Moon shone for just under 20 minutes last night.  This season, when the Moon is out for at least 19 minutes, he shoots 40% from 3 (25/63) and 53% from the field (84/158).

“How does 20-of-22 from the foul line sound from the NBA’s worst free-throw shooting team?” [Terry Pluto’s Scribbles]

Terry Pluto thinks the Cavs need to shy away from launching deep balls against the Bulls junk defenses.  If not for this series, but for the next.  And he thinks Mike Brown has no shortage of confidence leaving Shaq and Jamison on the bench in the fourth.

“Have we learned nothing from Spike Lee and Chris Bosh’s girlfriend? You don’t poke a bear with a stick. Particularly not when that bear is in the zone. Says the aforementioned, metaphorical bear — one LeBron James — about his picnic-basket-stealing, forest-fire-preventing, here-and-there-and-everywhere-bouncing, too-cold-too-hot-just-right-porridge-eating, 1986-Super-Bowl-dominating, Man-vs-Wild-surviving (I can keep going if you want) zone” [Jared Wade – Hardwood Paroxysm]

“You like it? You think Cleveland is cool?” he said, when asked if he wished to retract any of his remarks. “I’ve never heard anybody say I’m going to Cleveland on vacation. What’s good about Cleveland?” Other than cultural stuff like a world-class art museum and symphony orchestra, medical care that is the envy of the world, Little Italy, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the West Side Market, green parkland, a spectacular Great Lakes shoreline and that LeBron guy, you mean? [Bill Livingston on Noah’s Antics]

Each one seemed personal too. Because after each made jumper in front of the Bulls bench — and there were seven — James turned and glared at the Bulls reserves as he backpedaled down the court. A few words were shared, but mainly a glare.  “Every time I caught the ball over there, they were daring me to shoot the ball. Telling me I couldn’t shoot, or ‘You can’t make jump shots so take the shot.’ So that’s what I did.” – LeBron James on Chicago’s bench “They were talking the whole game,” James said. “Every time I caught the ball over there, they were daring me to shoot the ball. Telling me I couldn’t shoot, or ‘You can’t make jump shots so take the shot.’ So that’s what I did.” [Patrick McManamon on Taunting LeBron]

Tim Povtak says Dwight Howard is a legitimate MVP candidate.  Small sample sizes are never good arguments, but this box score is a microcosm of why D12 is a defensive juggernaut and not an MVP.

I really don’t know how to introduce this piece by Henry Abbott on PLAYOFF LeBRON.  Let’s just say, it’s riSICKulous, and Kobe fans everywhere are going to need oxygen masks if they find out how much better LeBron is than their beloved Mamba in the postseason.

Tweets To The Present: (follow me @tompestak)

“Dwight Howard wins Def. Player of Year Award. LeBron 4th, Andy Varejao also got votes.” [Brian Windhorst]

“x2 RT @russbengtson: YES RT @HowardBeckNYT: I’ve sometimes wondered if ballots need to be made public, just to hold voters accountable.” [Jared Wade]

“Have to stick up for Cleveland. Good town, good folks. It ain’t NY, but that’s the point. Having said that, keep the quotes coming, Joakim.” [Ken Berger]

“Jamario Moon says that contributing tonight is the best moment of his “journey.” But it’s not the “icing on the cake.”” [Scott@WFNY]