Cavs feeble 'O,' Marion's future & Seattle's smart hire
Posted: Wednesday June 13, 2007 4:03PM; Updated: Wednesday June 13, 2007 6:46PM
Midway through the fourth quarter of the Spurs' 75-72 victory in Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday, ABC analyst Mark Jackson said the Cavaliers should be happy that their defense was "keeping them in the game."
Indeed. And Cleveland's offense also did a fabulous job of keeping San Antonio in the game.
We've had issues with the Cavs' offense since Danny Ferry and Mike Brown took over the team in the summer of 2005. With a few notable exceptions (including startling playoff wins in two Game 5s against the Pistons in 2006 and '07), the offense has looked stagnant, easy to read, and the result often has been a low-scoring, inefficient attack, even with one of the game's most explosive offensive talents controlling the ball.
The Spurs deserve huge heaps of credit for locking things down in the Finals (Cleveland is averaging 80 points per game), and Ferry hasn't exactly provided Brown with a murderer's row from long range (Ferry thought so in 2005, but somebody kidnapped Donyell Marshall's jump shot). But there is little reason Cleveland should be struggling this badly and making things so unpleasant to watch. Again, even with one of the league's most charismatic and jaw-dropping talents in LeBron James, the Cavs are about as aesthetically unappealing as teams not featuring Jeff Van Gundy get.
The main issue? The team waits, holds the ball and acts as if it has an offensive home-run hitter to bail it out in the final seconds of the shot clock. The team does actually boast that slugger, but LeBron is 22, and still figuring out the footwork necessary to work in the post or beat a perimeter and help (and sometimes third) defender off the dribble while escaping the inevitable presence of a flopper waiting at the front of the rim. It's unfair to James, talented and well-compensated as he is, to be asked to create something off a simple screen-and-roll or isolation play nearly every time down court.
LeBron's biggest problem is that, still in his formative years, he doesn't really know any better. He's never known an up-tempo offense. He's never been force-fed looks in the post. He's never been asked to attack quickly by any of his coaches.
ABC analysts couldn't get over how devastating the James post-ups were in the first half of Game 3, but you have to wonder what game they were watching. James made one strong move and threw one pinpoint pass, but he also pushed off twice trying to secure room for an entry pass (one was called a foul), as his footwork isn't allowing him to seal off defenders. That same footwork won't allow him to go up for anything more than a fadeaway jumper that is mainly created by his amazing jumping ability. Going to James in the post was as inefficient as his holding the ball and waiting for that Anderson Varejao screen with 10 seconds left on the shot clock.
So what does he need to do? Attack early in the shot clock, even if it means getting caught in the air in the lane. At least he'd be in the lane. Make what look like bad decisions. Be aggressive. James is so caught up in trying to be this cruelly efficient decision-maker, like Michael Jordan in his later years, that he's bogging things down and keeping his teammates and himself from easy scores. Call it the curse of Playing The Right Way. James needs to attack from strange angles, call off Brown's "plays" and don't allow the Spurs to set their feet on defense. Brown looks so unwilling to get in his meal ticket's face when it comes to initiating the offense that you have to wonder when things are ever going to change for this club.
In Brown's estimation, his team's biggest issue entering Game 3 was finding a way to shut down Tony Parker. No, coach, offense was your real issue. It's time to stop scoring just enough to give you (LeBron, really) a chance to pull out a win. Accounting for offensive rebounds, the Spurs are missing about 36 shots/free throws a game. So get the defensive rebound and start running. One loss away from oblivion, I'd say it's time to try something new.
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