Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Cavs slide disappointing but not the end of the world

Expectations can be altered rather quickly. Just a few weeks ago, I received a phone call from a friend who shouted, “$2.09! They want $2.09 for gas! I won’t pay it! I won’t!”
Days later as gas prices continued to climb, she called to say she found gas at a station for only $2.19. The recent slide to $1.99 was hailed as a reason to fill up when not too long ago anything more than a $1.50 was exorbitant.
Michael Jordan began his pro career 20 years ago. You kids may find this hard to believe, but back then the ESPN network was made up of just ESPN. There was no deuce, there was no classic and certainly no 24 hours sports news channel.
In fact, ESPN didn’t show NBA games or MLB games. It was mostly tractor pulls and college games. Today, not only do we have ESPN’s family of channels, on my cable system I have a half dozen FOX sports channels. Even the leagues have their own exclusive cable networks.
Now not only are there multitudes of talking heads analyzing the games, there are even shows where different talking heads analyze what the talking heads said. We are on information overload.
I wonder if 10 years ago when Jordan took his baseball sabbatical, and there were this many sports channels, if the added scrutiny and investigations that would have followed would have kept Jordan away forever.
We have all heard the comparisons between LeBron James and Michael Jordan. As the Cavs playoffs hopes fade away, it has been open season on LeBron and whether this is somehow his fault or if he is meant long for Cleveland.
Some have even suggested that Carmelo Anthony and Dwanye Wade are better players because they have led their teams to the playoffs the last two years just like Jordan did.
Chances are good that by the time you read this, for the second straight year a late swoon will keep the Cavs out of the playoffs. Is it disappointing? Yes. Is it a failure of LeBron’s. No.
The year before Jordan arrived in Chicago, the Bulls won 27 games and missed the play-offs. His first year he played in all 82 games and averaged 28.2 points, 5.9 assists and 6.5 rebounds. In his first season, the Bulls did make the playoffs but they were 38-44 and won only one playoff game against the Bucks. Jordan only played in 18 games his second season because of a broken foot. The Bulls finished 30-52 but somehow made the playoffs. It is here Jordan’s star really started to shine as he averaged over 43 points a game in three straight losses against the Celtics. If you look at the roster those first two years, Orlando Woodridge is the only name you might recognize.
In Jordan’s third year, he was on his third coach who happened to be Doug Collins. The Bulls again were below .500 and swept in the first round, but the roster started to take form with the arrival of Charles Oakley and John Paxson. The next year when Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant joined the team, the Bulls finally won a playoff series and Craig Ehlo still can’t get a good nights sleep.
Phil Jackson was Jordan’s fourth NBA coach and he didn’t come until Jordan’s sixth year in the league. Jordan had to earn his way in the conference finals as he lost twice to the Pistons before he broke through for his first title in his seventh season as a pro.
Jordan wasn’t king in a day. It was a process.
The year before LeBron arrived, the Cavs were 17-65. He bumped them up 18 games his rookie year putting up 20.9, 5.5 rebs and 5.9 assists. Only Jordan and the great Oscar Robinson had accomplished that as a rookie. This season, play-offs or not, this 20 year old kid is putting up 27 points, 7 assists and 7 rebounds a night. Hallowed ground for a kid his age or a player of any age.
Going into next season LeBron will be on his third coach just like Jordan; and even if Jordan made the playoffs each of his first three seasons, his team only won one game.
Look at the Cavs’ roster LeBron has put the team on his back. We do not have a guard on our roster that would start on any other team in the league.
I have mixed emotions about Jim Paxson. He has been through a lot with his wife’s illness and he was a good solider for the organization. He has cleared cap space for this summer. It is ironic, that Carmelo in Denver is reaping the benefits of former Cavs guards Andre Miller, Earl Boykins and Wes Person. If Paxson hadn’t cut loose Miller and Boykins, we never would have been in lottery position to draft LeBron. Paxson did what he had to do and our roster is now what is it is because of it. Paxson has had some lousy drafts, but his trade for Gooden and Varejao made the playoffs possible this year and certainly set up the next general manager and coach with a foundation for the future.
The Cavs will make the playoffs for the foreseeable future and the new supporting cast will be real basketball players that will support LeBron‘s talent. He will become the best player in the game. He has surpassed all expectations so far, but with that comes this unreasonable crush of media lust.
It has been two seasons. If it takes LeBron seven years to get his first title, he will be deemed a failure by the media or maybe worse driven out of this small market so he can save the Knicks. Right, isn’t that what we all fear?
No one can predict the future, but instead of waiting for our hearts to be broken, we should enjoy watching an incredible talent in the early stages of what promises to be a legendary career. The old miracle didn’t even take the team to the finals but one day the Cavs will be there and it won’t take a miracle. Just time. Ignore the pundits. Sure gas mosts more but it still takes the exact same amount to get where you want to go.