Thursday, April 21, 2005

Get Ready to Hail to King James

LeBron James did his best last night to carry his team into the playoffs. King James has done his best all season to make a mediocre team a winning team. Last night his Cleveland squad needed a win coupled with a loss by the New Jersey Nets to grab the 8th and final spot into the Eastern Conference playoffs. LeBron scored 27 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and dished 14 assists in the victory – but it wasn’t enough. You can’t point the finger at this kid though, he’s done more than just lead his basketball team, he’s revitalized a losing franchise and he’s invigorated the entire league.

LeBron James was drafted first overall straight out of high school in Akron, Ohio by a team that won just 17 games the year before his arrival. He immediately put fans in the seats wherever he played and many thought he would bring some credibility to his hometown team. It was a huge gamble and major roll of the dice to rely on an 18-year old to lead a team – but he has done that and more…he’s led a league.

I’ll admit that I was very skeptical at first. Other great high schoolers like Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant needed at least a year to develop into the NBA-game and it took a few years after their rookie seasons for them become All-Star caliber. Not LeBron, he’s been incredible from the start. Sure coming out of high school the questions were more about his shooting ability than his athleticism and if he could handle playing with men much older than himself. It’s apparent that LeBron didn’t want those questions to be a topic of conversation too long – he’s worked on his shooting and he’s handled himself more like a man who’s played in the NBA for a dozen years. He always says the right thing, in victory and defeat, and his shooting percentages have gotten so much better while his scoring average rose by more than 6 points per game, his assists by more than one a game and his rebounding by almost two a game.

His sophomore season stat line reads a modest one:
G GS MIN FG% 3Pt% STL Rb As Pts
80 80 42.4 .472 .351 2.2 7.4 7.2 27.2I

t’s a shame that we won’t have the opportunity to see LeBron in the playoffs this year – but we have many years for that…hopefully around twenty more years. The kid is now 20 years old and although the Cavs fell a part at the end of the season he’s doing a fine job. Remember, Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls didn’t have a winning season in his first three NBA seasons and didn’t win a playoff series until his fourth season. James does need some help. Zydrunas Ilgauskas is a good center, and Drew Gooden does a nice job at forward but this team needs more. The Cavaliers need another guy who can not only put up points but can also play good defense. Michael Redd, an Ohio native who played college ball at Ohio State would be a nice fit and could compliment LeBron much like Scottie Pippen did with Jordan. Redd can knock down shots and isn’t shabby on defense either. The possibilities in the off season are what will make this team for the future. If owner Dan Gilbert spends some of the money he’s making on this team and brings in another really good player it will just make LeBron happy and he’ll want to continue playing in Cleveland.

The last piece of the puzzle is a good coach who can make this team believe that they’re a solid team in the Eastern Conference. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Maurice Cheeks. Hire him, he’s a winner and will teach LeBron things about the game that will help LeBron become one of the greatest players in league history. The potential is there. He might not score like Mike every night, but he rebounds and assists better than Jordan ever did. His all-around game will be marveled and people will talk about him in the same breath as Jordan, Magic, Bird, Russel and Robertson.

Dan Gilbert – if you’re listening…Get Michael Redd and hire Mo Cheeks and you’re team won’t be worrying on the last day of the regular season about making the playoffs, they’ll be trying to figure out which #7 or #8 seed is coming to Cleveland to get pummeled by King James and the Cavaliers.


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