Pistons-Cavs (LeBrons) Conference Finals Preview
Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the miseducation of LeBron James, this is chapter two in possibly a four or five-part series. But wait a minute, is it that or is this the revenge of the Detroit Pistons, who’ve let the Larry O’Brien trophy go to two unworthy contenders, in their minds.
This is the closest James has been to the NBA Finals in his four-year career, but it must be pointed out that this is his second postseason and unless your name is Buck (Magic) Johnson, lessons must be learned in deliberate, painful and in a stair-step manner.
Once again, the Pistons stand in the way of a young to-be champion on his rise to greatness. Michael took his knocks and emerged to become a real winner, battle scars and all.
“It’s not about going out there and scoring 35 points,” James said. “It’s all about winning. I’m a winner. I’ve got winners behind me.”
Sorry King, but it takes more than beating the fragile and fragmented Washington Wizards twice and the heartless likes of Vince Carter’sNew Jersey (Brooklyn) Nets to become a winner. And no, a few state championships don’t count here. LeBron is not a winner, yet. He may soon become one, but he is not a winner.
Bill Russell is a winner, Magic Johnson joined the club early in 1980. Larry Legend followed in ‘81. Isiah, since ’89. Michael, since ’91. LeBron is not a loser, but there are winners, then there’s everyone else. Bron-Bron is still a member of the outside but looking into the club of exclusivity. It’s probably the only club he can’t get into.
Confidence from 2006 or confusion?
Here’s some food for thought: The Pistons stunted the Cavaliers growth in 2007 during last year’s playoffs. If Detroit had wiped the floor with Cleveland in five games like they should have, the Cavs brass and ownership would’ve seen they were nowhere near a team of Detroit’s caliber, regardless of what they thought they had in personnel.
Instead, Cleveland made minimal changes in the offseason, believing they were a couple offensive rebounds away from becoming real contenders in a weak Eastern Conference.
In spite of reaching the conference finals for the first time since 1992, they are not title contenders. Not very far, but not as close as Cavs’ fans—or network talking heads would like you to believe.
Had the Cavs been disposed in easy fashion, names like Eric Snow, Drew Gooden Donyell Marshall and others would not be on the 2007 incarnation of the Cavs. And Damon Jones would have been replaced by a more serviceable shooter who could also double as LeBron’s caddy.
If Cleveland would happen to reach the NBA Finals, surely it would be by some stroke of divine intervention, does anyone think San Antonio would be afraid by any means? Not by the longest shot.
But to the task at hand. Cleveland’s only true advantage is at small forward but with Detroit’s Tayshaun Prince playing at a level so high, that matchup may be closer to even than you would normally think. Like a few people in the Addidas’ commercials say, “It takes five.”
Expect Chris Webber, a player who yearns to be a part of that club, to be rejuvenated playing against the likes of Zydrunas Ilgauskas, a modern-day stiff with the toughness of a guy named Brad who once played for Cleveland.
Remember when Webber was guarded by Michael Sweetney of the Bulls? It was one and out. Webber hit an and-one and that’s how Big Z’s lateral movement will be against Chris. He will get off big time.
Detroit’s toughest test came last round against a team that plays harder, is more relentless and possesses the only redeeming quality Cleveland has besides LeBron…offensive rebounding. Gooden and Big Z can get on the boards with the best of them, but with the Pistons having gone through the gauntlet of frontcourts, battling D. Howard and Darko, then Big Ben and P.J., they’ll be ready for Cleveland’s onslaught.
What this series is about
It’s not about LeBron or his supporting cast. It’s not about coaching, even though Mike Brown looks more like Bron-Bron’s friend than an authority figure. This series is about how long does Detroit want to prolong an execution?
Since Utah and not Dallas is playing San Antonio in the conference finals, the Pistons know they can’t play around with Cleveland since the Spurs took full advantage of the Pistons going seven against Miami in 2005, and were down 0-2 in the Finals before they could blink.
Cleveland doesn’t have the pieces to surround LeBron with to challenge a team of Detroit’s level. Sasha P., are you serious? Sheed knows he can’t fool around this series and even though LeBron won a game single-handedly, he doesn’t like to play the Michael Jordan circa-1988-90 role of scoring 40-45 to beat a team. That’s what he’ll have to do and he’ll only do it once.
Larry Hughes is not yet equipped to defend Chauncey Billups, nor chase around Richard Hamilton. LeBron, for all his greatness, hasn’t played as well as some people would like you to believe, shooting only 42 percent while getting more than his share of fouls and doesn’t know how to play defense, especially on T. Prince.
Daniel Gibson, Snow? Get real, too young, too old. Sideshow Bob’s time has come and gone. He will be neutralized and have someone’s chest in his grill for the entire series. How long will it go? Five, maybe six games. Pistons, although not for the first or last time.
In the words of the immortal Eddie Kane in “The Five Heartbeats”, “you ain’t gone get it cuz you ain’t got it!”