Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The town got what it thought it wanted

What a difference one quarter of basketball can make?

If some guy named Nachbar doesn't drain three 25-footers, life is a lot different. The Bulls choked in what one writer called their biggest game since Jordan retired the second time. So instead of playing the defending champion Heat and being placed on the same side of the bracket as the Pistons, the Cavs get the supposed easier side playing a depleted Wizards team in the first round.

If they hadn't. All of the national media would be picking the Heat to defeat the Cavs in the first round. I suspect most of the local media as well. Fans would be moaning about all of those close losses to bad teams. Mike Brown would be set to be burned in effigy and LeBron James would hear story after story questioning his late game prowess and how Wade is the true heir to Jordan.

Instead sports radio callers were giddily putting the Cavs already in the Eastern Conference finals to play the Detroit/Chicago/Heat survivor. I heard phrases like "the gods of basketball finally smiled on Cleveland." And that makes me nervous.

Call me nuts but I would have preferred the hard road. LeBron lives for challenges and while the Heat are the defending champions- they are not healthy. And it would be the perfect stage for LeBron to show his ascension to being the best player in the league. And if the Cavs could pull off that win, it would give them the confidence to get past the Pistons much like the Michael's Bulls had to do one day.

That said, the Cavs should sweep Washington and that scares me. An opening game loss and all of this town's ghosts will be on display. When the Cavs beat the Wizards, it won't feel like a victory-- just an accepted result. Instead of every first round game having the intensity of life and death. These games will be purely business-like.

I can't figure out why everyone is dissing the Raptors. I tell you that Toronto scares the crap out of me. Yes they have not won a playoff series but overcoming their lost savior Vince Carter will supply all the confidence they now lack. I would rather play the Nets but for them to beat the Raptors, Richard Jefferson is going to have to get healthy and if he does that -- it makes Jersey dangerous.

I am the only person in town, I suppose who feels this way. The goal is not to make the Eastern Conference finals. The goal is to make the NBA finals and to take our chances against whoever survives the West. I still have confidence that the Cavs can do that. I just believed the harder challenge would have given us our best chance to do that.

Let's hope I was wrong. This is what everyone asked for. Let's get it done then.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Call me nuts

It is the eve of the Cavs final regular season game. And call me a sadist, but I have been secretly pulling for the Cavs to match up with the Heat. I want no part of Washington without Arenas. What fun would that be? I know the safest route is what most would prefer, but the Cavs would either sweep the bulletless Wizards or under achieve and scare the crap out of us. Neither sounds like fun to me.

If we have learned anything about LeBron and his team, it is they need a challenge. Showing up on the court is just not enough. Blame whoever you want-- the coach or players-- but the evidence has been on display all season.

Thirty-two losses heading into tonight's finale. Fourteen of those losses can be labeled as competitive losses to playoff teams. On six other occasions we were blown out by a playoff team. For the most part against good teams, the Cavs were always at least close which has made the season extremely frustrating with what could have beens. It does not take a great leap to say that despite all of the teams flaws, this could have been easily a 60 win season. The other 12 losses can only be labelled as "bad" losses-- 11 of those to lottery teams plus the debacle to Orlando at home after the West trip. (I counted the first loss to Orlando as a competitive loss since Orlando was actually a good team then). Only one other of those losses was a blowout and that came at the hands of Golden State.

The Cavs are close. And for me, I think the best tonic for LeBron and this team in their growth is to throw them into the deep end. Bring on the Heat and the Pistons and let the chips fall where they may. Let the national media declare the Heat the favorites and lets find out if LeBron is actually who we dream him to be.

I want every game to mean something right from the start. Let Chicago take the waltz, I want to slam dance my way through the playoffs. Because it would not surprise me to see Toronto in the Eastern Conference finals against whoever survives this side of the bracket.

It's the playoffs, let's bring it right from the start. It is finals or bust anyway. Let's find out how real the King and his court are right away.

To be the best you need to beat the best. Let's try.