James and Bryant spent a lot of time together this summer in preparing for and playing in the Beijing Olympics. Something from Bryant seems to have rubbed off on James in the process. It’s like Bryant gave an intensity injection to his fellow superstar. Watch James and you’ll see when he has to lock down and guard he is a much better defender than he was last season. He avoids foul trouble and there’s arrogance about him but in a positive way.
James has always been a tireless worker but watching Bryant work out and observing up close Bryant’s entire attitude when he prepares for and takes on an opponent has made an impression on James and it’s one the rest of the league is paying for as James is having fun and admits the direction the Cavs are headed in is everything that he expected and more.
James becomes a free agent in the summer of 2010 and just a few weeks into this season he made news by saying he wouldn’t hesitate to leave the Cavaliers if another franchise offered him a better chance to win multiple NBA titles. That tune could be changing because I don’t think James thought the Cavaliers would be this good. Maybe that’s why just before Christmas James raised the possibility of signing an extension with Cleveland after this season. He’s eligible to do so in July and he says after the season he will consider it.
James sees the Cavaliers are a lot better than he thought and they are a lot closer with great team chemistry. Brown says his players like each other and they want to play for each other. It’s also key that Brown is a young coach and he relates well to his players.
In order for any title-contending team to win a championship, it needs a little luck along the way. If the cards fall right, the Cavaliers could reach the top of the mountain this season or maybe next, and if that’s the case I’ll bet James won’t be leaving Cleveland anytime soon, especially since the Cavaliers can pay him more than any other team.
James is such a huge part of the Cavaliers’ success, but there are other reasons Cleveland has been virtually unbeatable this season. Brown has always demanded his team have a defensive identity and his message to defend first has sunk in. The Cavaliers are the stingiest defensive team in the league.
Starting at shooting guard, Delonte West is having a solid season and for him it was a godsend to be part of a three-team deal last February that brought him to Cleveland from Seattle. West is one of those players who needs the support of his head coach in order for him to be as good as he can be. And he gets that support from Brown.
At 6-foot-4, West’s size creates a little disadvantage for him, but he’s underrated given that he’s a solid playmaker, scorer and is intense on defense. He’s an ultra-energy guy and having his motor in high gear helped him rank seventh among point guards in rebound rate and second in blocks per minute last season.
Power forward Ben Wallace, acquired in a trade last February, is not the player he was in his prime in Detroit. But so far this season Wallace has not only held onto his starting job, he has shown signs of turning back the clock and serves as a perfect complementary player in the Cavaliers’ formula for success.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Unless injuries strike, the Cavaliers have a chance of doing something grand this postseason. Grand enough to win a title? No question. It’s no longer just James doing all the heavy lifting, but with him on the roster the Cavaliers — especially this season’s version — are a threat to win any playoff series.
PBT: The Kings will stay in Sacramento under new ownership, which likely means a new front office and coach, too.
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