First off: I rarely do this, but here’s a Cavs-Celtics piece concerning how Rondo did his damage in game four. Basically, the Cavs are going to have to limit transition opportunities if they want to stop Rondo, and game four was a perfect storm of transition opportunities.
Anyways, onto anxiety and potential misery. I want to get all of this out of the way while the series is still tied (for the record, I do still the the Cavs will probably win this series), so I’m a step ahead of the fire and brimstone if they do lose. The Cavaliers are two losses, only one of which has to be at home, from losing this series. The series has been more or less dead-even so far — both teams have won semi-tough games at home and blown their opponent out on the road. Sometimes LeBron has looked unstoppable; other times, Rondo has controlled the game. There is a very, very, very real possibility that the Cavaliers are not going to win this series. Here is what I believe will happen if they do. Keep in mind that I am not saying any of these things are right or wrong. It’s just what I believe will happen.
-There is a high likelihood that LeBron James will leave. Not only has the team had trouble winning any game that LeBron did not dominate, but there doesn’t appear to be much of a core in place at the current moment. Shaq and Antawn Jamison aren’t getting any younger. Mo Williams, Delonte West, Anderson Varejao, and J.J. Hickson are the supposed under-30 “core,” and they certainly haven’t been setting the world on fire. LeBron will take a long, hard look at a team that can potentially provide him with a true running mate or running mates, as well as a fresh start. As always, I have no idea if LeBron’s already made up his mind one way or another. But you have to imagine losing this series will influence his decision.
-LeBron will get the reputation as the next Karl Malone/Dan Marino/Charles Barkley, whatever of sports. The dissenting opinion on LeBron will officially become the conventional wisdom on LeBron. Maybe it will be even worse, because only Marino had a chance to be considered an all-time great the way LeBron does. He will not shake this label until he does win a championship.
The list of MVPs to have never won a championship is very short. The list of two-time MVPs to have never won a championship is even shorter. LeBron does not want to be on that list. He is now in his prime. His team has had the best record in basketball for two consecutive years. Fair or unfair, it will be on him if the Cavs do not pull this off. You will see the op-ed headline “no more excuses for LeBron,” likely more than once.
-Mike Brown’s future will be up in the air. If LeBron leaves, he might as well stay, because teams without superstars win with defense. Also, they’re not going to find a big-name coach willing to take the Cavs job if they don’t have LeBron. If he does stay, they may make a desperate shake-up with the coaching staff — public pressure will be too overwhelming. I think Mike Brown has done a great job during his time in Cleveland. But players win games and coaches lose them, and the Cavs are losing some games they shouldn’t be right now.
-The front office will desperately search for an upgrade at the two-guard position. Anthony Parker and Delonte West have not been getting the job done, and the team clearly could use more backcourt production. Ray Allen’s name will be tossed around. He will ultimately likely sign with a team other than Cleveland.
-The team’s focus will be called into question. LeBron’s leadership will bear the brunt of that criticism. Before the playoffs, the team insisted it was much more focused than it was in previous seasons. So far, that claim appears to have been a crock of s**t. The Cavaliers have the talent to win it all and they are failing to get it done. Nothing pisses of fans and journalists more than this. They will swarm on this team like piranha going after a fallen horse. To some degree, they will be right to do so.
-Mo Williams’ ultimate value to a contending team will be called into question. Since the Cavs owe Williams 8.5 million dollars in the 2012/13 season and a rebuilding team won’t want him, they will not have any way to address those concerns.
-Z won’t get a ring.
That’s what I can come up with off the top of my head. I’m sure there’s more. So yeah, I’ve been a little stressed. If the Cavs go down to Orlando, fine. That’s a great team. If the Cavs put up a good fight, that’s a team I’m proud to be a fan of. Same thing goes for whatever team comes out of the West. But this series? Losing this series would be a killer. It would be a letdown of the highest order. I don’t want that to happen. Let’s all hope the Cavs come out kicking ass and taking names on Tuesday.