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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Cleveland Cavs: National Media Needs to Keep Cavalier Run In Perspective

I'm sick of the national pundits sticking it to the Cavs. I've had it with reading articles like this one "LeBron has a long way to go" written by ESPN Morning Pizza loud-mouth Skip Bayless. Cleveland fans should be proud of the run made by the Cavaliers this postseason against the Detroit Pistons. I don't have to tell you that down 0-2, looking like they were about to get swept, LeBron was the one who led the Cavs storming back, winning three games in a row to take a shocking series lead. Sure the next two games didn't have the endings that we would have preferred, but the Cavs didn't exactly lay down for the Pistons either.

At the beginning of these playoffs who had the Cavs making the Pistons sweat it out into a Game 7? I would guess just about the same number of people who had Cleveland actually winning the series. What's that, probably about 0.1% of unbiased NBA fans? Now because Cleveland was within one game of advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals I'm supposed to believe that we failed? I'm supposed to look back on the season with hostility and discontent? I don't buy that.

Another thing that I don't buy are the constant comparisons of LeBron to Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. Whether pundits are using the comparisons as compliments, or hacks like Bayless are using them as put-downs, these comparisons are way off. At this stage in his development LeBron is a better passer and is more skilled at getting his teammates involved than Michael Jordan ever was. At the same time, he's a much more dangerous scorer than Magic Johnson could be. Yet, as the critics will correctly point out, LeBron is still not as polished as either Hall of Famer, which is probably to be expected since he's only 21 years old and just completed his 3rd NBA season.

Let's repeat that again. LeBron is only 21. He just completed his 3rd NBA season for crying out loud! He led this Cavalier team all year and throughout the playoffs. LeBron took his game to another level against the Wizards, and he did it again when his whole team had their backs against the wall in an 0-2 hole against the #1 seed. This wasn't a moral victory for a young Cavalier team. This was a team performing better than anyone could have possibly predicted, gaining valuable postseason experience.

Cleveland fans, I wouldn't trade this postseason for the world. It may not have ended with a championship--or even an Eastern Conference Finals appearance. What we saw in these playoffs was a superstar coming of age. I have no doubt that if LeBron keeps improving and Dan Gilbert and Danny Ferry can continue to improve the rest of the team around him, it's only a matter of time until Cleveland can bring home an NBA Championship.

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