Tag Archives: Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron James: Once Upon a Time Called Right Now

24 Jun
LeBron James

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, center, celebrates with teammates after Game 7 of basketball’s NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, June 19, 2016. The Cavaliers won 93-89. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Instead of spending so much time in the NBA’s past with Michael Jordan, fans should allow themselves to witness the greatness that is LeBron James right now.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

The seven-game epic that was the 2016 NBA Finals provided a kaleidoscope of highlights and tremendous plays.

But when the dust settled in Oakland on Sunday night, LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers was not only bringing the NBA Championship to a long-suffering, blue collar town used to being victimized by “The Drive” (John Elway, 1987 AFC Championship), “The Shot” (Michael Jordan, 1989 Eastern Conference Championship) and “The Fumble”(1988 AFC Championship), he was solidifying his lofty status as the best basketball player in the world.

Now, don’t get it twisted, James didn’t do it all by himself. That clutch three-point bucket by Kyrie Irving with under a minute left put the Cavaliers in the lead for good. Throughout the series, Irving played well enough to make an argument for himself as the Finals MVP. Forward/center Tristan Thompson did yeoman’s work in the low post.  Even Kevin Love played defense well enough to faze Steph Curry at the three-point line late in the game.

And for those who keep saying that James doesn’t have the “clutch gene”, you might want to pay attention to the last three games of the series. Or the last six seasons for that matter. 

Or have you not noticed that there hasn’t been an NBA Finals in the last six years in which LeBron James wasn’t a participant?

Of course, there are going to be some folks on social media who will continue to belittle James because he will never be as great as Michael Jordan, who won six NBA championships. Thanks to the cult-like deification of Jordan, people tend to forget that he didn’t do without Scottie Pippin, Dennis Rodman, Horace Grant, Steve Kerr et al.

But because I’m an irreverent knucklehead, I do have an answer to those of you who still worship at the feet of his Royal Airness because there are a few things you don’t understand when making such silly comparisons.

Basketball is still a team game. That’s a concept that seems too hard to grasp for young fans that think Jordan actually invented the game and a few older fans who are probably waiting for him to be canonized by the Vatican.

Yes, Jordan was a great clutch scorer in the Finals who knew how to close the deal. But he wouldn’t have gotten into position to make those great plays without fellow Hall-of-Famers Scottie Pippin, a great scorer in his own right, Dennis Rodman, and swingman Horace Grant.

Praising Jordan’s solid supporting cast shouldn’t be used as an attempt to diminish his greatness in the same way that Jordan’s six rings shouldn’t be used to beat James over the head. If he never wins another ring, the fact that James has led two different teams to three of the last six NBA titles is truly remarkable.

In the last two years, James has taken a Cleveland team that was in last place in 2014 to two straight NBA Finals before winning the championship this year.  His mere presence made them a contender along with good players like Irving, Love and J.R. Smith.

Like Jordan, James definitely makes good players around him better. That’s the mark of a great player.

What James did in this year’s Finals was something that even Jordan didn’t accomplish in his storied career.  When the Cavaliers were down 3-1 and teetering on the verge of elimination, James put the team on his back with three straight wins. 

In that stretch of games, he scored 109 points—including two straight 40-point games, 29 assists, and 35 rebounds.

In Game 7, Not only did James have a triple-double with 27 points, 11 assists, and 11 rebounds—He accounted for 52 of the Cavaliers 93 points with a score or an assist. He scored seven of Cleveland’s last 10 points and he had a key shot block against former Philadelphia 76er Andre Iguodala with under two minutes left.

In the Finals, James supplied 52 percent of the Cavs offense with a bucket or an assist.  In last year’s Finals, James was responsible for 62 percent of his team’s points.

When the series ended, James led in every statistical category, points, assists, rebounds, steals and blocked shots.  No one in the history of the NBA Finals, not Jordan, Magic Johnson, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West or Larry Bird has ever done that.

That’s a clutch performance for the ages from one of the greatest all-around athletes to play the game.

Now I’m not going to say that James is greater than Jordan or vice-versa.

But I will say that you should appreciate the greatness that’s in front of you because living in the past gets old after awhile.

How Ya Like Me Now: Former Sixer Andre Iguodala Basks in the Glow of a Championship

18 Jun
NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala takes questions from reporters after the Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games for the NBA crown.  Photo by New York Daily News.com

NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala takes questions from reporters after the Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games for the NBA crown. Photo by New York Daily News.com

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—When Andre Iguodala was traded to the Denver Nuggets in 2012 as a part of the four-way deal that landed the 76ers Andrew Bynum, most Philly fans said good riddance.

After all, the Sixers were getting a legitimate impact center in Bynum and Iguodala never really panned out as a No. 1 scoring option. At the time, the 76ers and their fans were so giddy about Bynum that they threw him a big party at the National Constitution Center. It was like Andre-who?

It’s funny how things turned out.

Bynum, a man with bum knees, never played a minute in a Sixers uniform. Iguodala, who got traded to the Golden State Warriors a year later, ended up having the last laugh.

On Tuesday night, there was Iguodala holding two trophies—the NBA Finals trophy and the Bill Russell Finals MVP Trophy. The guy the Sixers sent packing a few years ago is now on top of the world with Golden State while his old team has struggled to put out reputable starting five on a nightly basis.

Oddly enough, Iguodala said it was his time with the Sixers prepared for him for his championship run with the Warriors.

“I think all those years and going through everything I went through, the good and the bad, can prepare you for this moment.  Being in Philly I had some teams‑‑ we were a very close group.  I think we maximized our talent,” Iguodala said. “I’ve been on teams that we’ve been close knit and it helped us just getting to the playoffs because we weren’t the most talented, but we got there because we played so hard together.”

What makes this Finals MVP award special for Iguodala is that he didn’t have to be the top scorer for his team. That’s Stephen Curry’s job to put the offense on his shoulder and he certainly did that, especially in the fourth quarter of the Warriors last three wins over the Cleveland Cavaliers to win the title.

Iguodala had the most important job in this series—slow down Cleveland’s LeBron James. He held James to 38. 1 percent shooting after Game 3. No, Iguodala didn’t complete shutdown James, who was having an MVP series, but he kept him from having one for the ages.

“LeBron doesn’t have any weaknesses, or he doesn’t have a glaring weakness,” Iguodala said. “ So you’ve got to pick up on the smaller things to try to make him uncomfortable.  Like knowing which side he likes to shoot threes off the dribble, which side he likes to drive.  One side he’ll drive left more often, and the other side he’ll drive right more often.”

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said he admired Iguodala’s willingness to contribute as the sixth man was important to Golden State’s run to the NBA title.

“You could make an argument that it could have gone to Steph, it could have gone to LeBron,” Kerr said.  “But for us, it’s really fitting that the award went to Andre because he sacrificed his starting role from the first game of the season.

“He had never come off the bench once in his entire career, and he sacrificed that job to make Harrison better, to make our bench better, and that set the tone for our whole season.  An All‑Star, an Olympian saying, okay, I’ll come off the bench.”

Iquodala also came up with some big three-point buckets in both Game 5 and Game 6 of the series that halted the Cavaliers attempt to comeback in the game. In the series finale, Iguodala scored 25 points, pulled down five rebounds and added five assists. For the series, Iguodala averaged 16 points per game.

Not bad for a guy who was supposedly a 100-1 shot to win the Finals MVP over 2015 league MVP Curry and a four-time MVP in James.

Iguodala is proof that you don’t have to be the leading scorer or the star to be valuable to your team. Playing your role-whether you are a defensive stopper, scorer off the bench, or a rebounder like Hall-of-Famer Dennis Rodman—is just as important to your team’s success as being the superstar.

Curry, whose scoring led the Warriors to the NBA’s best record, said he definitely appreciated Iguodala’s efforts.

“Obviously he deserved that Finals MVP for the way he impacted the game on both ends and was always ready,” Curry said. “Andre stepped up to that challenge every single night and a huge reason why we’re celebrating right now.”

 

23 /23 Hype-sight: Comparing LeBron James to Michael Jordan Has Become a Tired Conversation

4 Jun
NBA fans enjoy comparing LeBron James to Michael Jordan.

NBA fans enjoy comparing LeBron James to Michael Jordan.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

As the 2015 NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors continues this weekend, conversations at a sports bars, man caves and your local sports talk station will undoubtedly turn to the subject of LeBron James, his place among the NBA’s greats, and whether or not a series loss from the Cavaliers changes things.

But there’s one name that I’m tired of hearing as a part of that discussion.

Michael Jordan.

Jordan vs. LeBron is one of those discussions that I try to avoid because it’s one that really makes no sense. It often disintegrates into a bizarre intergenerational fight between two cults of personality that has nothing to do with basketball.

Because James was seen as the “NBA’s Golden Child, “The Chosen One, the ”Messiah” or the “Son of Basketball” and a bunch of other goofy names when he came to the NBA, Jordan partisans show James no love despite his numerous accomplishments. To suggest that James’s name should be spoken in the same breath with their basketball immortal is heresy to them.

For example, Jordan partisans are always quick to point out that because James has only two rings to Jordan’s six, he will never be as great. Of course, Jordan didn’t play all five positions on the court to get those rings, but that logic always seems to get lost in these discussions.

(Now I could point out that if greatness is measured by NBA Championship rings, Jordan needs to bow down at the feet of Hall-of-Famer Bill Russell. Russell led the Boston Celtics to 11 NBA titles, something that neither James nor Jordan could ever accomplish. But did I mention that most of the folks having this particular argument have any knowledge of basketball history, and thus have never heard of Bill Russell?)

I was just on Facebook and someone posted a stat that compared Jordan and James scoring averages after the first 141 playoff games in their careers. Jordan had the better scoring average which reassured his followers.

Then someone posted Jordan’s and James record in the NBA Finals—which was …you guessed it advantage Jordan. Of course, everything I’m saying I’ve seen LBJ parishioners do the same thing with their man coming out on top.

To be honest, I don’t care either way. But the comparisons between the two are totally and utterly ridiculous, especially considering that they play different positions and have their own unique qualities that make them great players.

Jordan was a great clutch scorer who made his teammates better and played defense. James is a versatile player who can score, rebound and share the ball. He’s taken three different teams to the NBA Finals and has made other guys around him even better by his leadership and will to win.

Both James and Jordan were the best of their time.

So do me a favor okay?

Let’s keep this in perspective. We got to enjoy the ups and downs of Michael Jordan’s career and the championship years, not-so-championship years and everything in between.

How about letting the LeBron James Era unfold the same way?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LeBron James and his Young Cavs Hope to Bring Home a Championship to Cleveland

30 May
LeBron James celebrates with his teammates after the Cavaliers punched their ticket to the NBA Finals.

LeBron James celebrates with his teammates after the Cavaliers punched their ticket to the NBA Finals.

Can the Prodigal Son Bring Home an Title to a City That Hasn’t Experienced a Pro Title in 51 Years

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

For the first time in a long time, I’m actually looking forward to the NBA Finals.

In fact, I believe that the series has the potential to be an instant classic.

The series between the Cleveland Cavaliers, champions of the Eastern Conference and the Golden State Warriors, the Western Conference Champions, will feature two Most Valuable Players—Cavaliers superstar LeBron James and Stephan Curry, winner of this year’s MVP award—that have the ability to put their teams on their backs.

But while there will certainly be a lot of overarching storylines emerging from this potential series, the one that will surely stand out is actually based on something that happened last summer: LeBron James’s Return to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Or put another way, Will the return of the prodigal son lead to Cleveland’s first championship parade in 51 years?

Last summer, with much of the fanfare that went with his departure, James decided to return to his hometown Cavaliers. Because of this, a town that was so angry when he left that they burned his jersey and an owner in Dan Gilbert who is probably still trying to digest the prodigious amounts of crow he had to eat in order to get him back, found themselves having to cheer for James again.

To his credit, James didn’t take the nonsense coming out of his hometown personally upon his return.

“It’s a hardworking city and if you work hard, they work hard for you,” James said. “They give everything back. … We’re just trying to work hard for the city and they give it all back to us.”

James, who is playing in his fifth straight NBA Finals, has another opportunity to add to an already outstanding legacy.

“For us to be sitting at this point today being able to represent the Eastern Conference in the Finals, this is special. Very special,” James said after the Cavalier series-clinching win over the Atlanta Hawks.

It’s not a position that a lot of us, myself included, expected the Cavaliers to be in. I personally thought it would take a lot longer to go from a 33-win season that kept it out of the playoffs to the top of the mountain. But if it happens, and the Cavaliers win the NBA championship, James, accompanied by all-stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, would have led one of the greatest turnarounds in the history of the league.

The team struggled at various times throughout the season and added a few players along the way to make them better. They started the season 19-20, but finished 33-9 the rest of the way. Cavaliers head coach David Blatt credited James and the team rallying around each other for the turnaround to their season.

“We’ve got a group of players that have a lot of grit and a lot of character,” Blatt said. “And we have a champion (James) who leads them in the right way, a guy who is not only a fabulous basketball player, but he’s an experienced winner who’s about the right things and who leads his guys in a way that empowers them and does not belittle them, in a way that lifts them.”

The key acquisitions the Cavaliers made during the season have come up huge in the playoffs. Imam Shumpert and J.R. Smith were a couple of players who were not happy playing for a God-awful New York Knicks team. Shumpert scored 16 points in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals and held Atlanta’s Kyle Korver to 4-of-11 shooting. Smith dropped 28 points in the Cavaliers win in Game 1.

There have also been outstanding performances from journeyman Matthew Dellavedova, who subbed for an injured Irving in the second half of the Cavaliers series-clinching win over the Chicago Bulls. He scored a team-high 19 points.

Forward Tristan Thompson has been all over the boards for the Cavaliers, averaging 9.9 rebounds per game. He has also been a top-notch defender.

But, the one constant, of course, has been James, who is averaging close to a triple double in the playoffs, scoring 27.6 points per game while pulling down 10.4 and 8.3 assists per game. Thompson said James has been a motivating force for the team ever since he decided to come back to Cleveland.

“Once he decided to come back, the first thing I did was call the coach and get in the gym and get ready because I know how serious (James) is about being successful and doing something special here in Cleveland,” Thompson said. “It just motivated myself, and I think it motivated all the guys on the team to just get better.”

While it isn’t going to be an easy road to the championship, a Cavaliers win could cement James’s legacy within the NBA.

At the very least, it’ll give a city that hasn’t seen a championship in 51 years something to shout about.

You Can Go Home Again: LeBron James Wants to Bring an NBA Title to Cleveland

12 Jul

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

LeBron James and Kyrie Irving were teammates at the 2014 All-Star Game. Now they are teammates with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Irving was the MVP of the All-Star Game.

LeBron James and Kyrie Irving were teammates at the 2014 All-Star Game. Now they are teammates with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Irving was the MVP of the All-Star Game.

PHILADELPHIA—LeBron James decision to re-join the Cleveland Cavaliers is reminiscent of that old biblical parable, “The Prodigal Son.”

Four years ago, James left Cleveland as the city’s most hated man since Art Modell moved the old Browns franchise to Baltimore. Today, the city and team owner Dan Gilbert have killed the fatted calf and is welcoming James home with open arms.

While this will go down as a good “feel good” story, the bottom line is that James made a good business decision from a basketball stand point and for his family. In his letter to Sports Illustrated, James made a point to say that he wanted to bring home a title back to Northeast Ohio.

Behold! The next great journey in the Book of James—bringing home a title to a city that hasn’t won a major sports title since 1964 when the Cleveland Browns shut out the Baltimore Colts 27-0 to win the NFL Championship of the pre-Super Bowl era.

What makes this challenge even more unique is that with the Cavaliers there is no guarantee or certainty that this team is going to be in the NBA Finals next year. James will be playing alongside talented young players like point guard Kyrie Irving and No. 1 draft pick Andrew Wiggins. He will also have to get used to a new head coach in David Blatt.

There’s also a possibility of the Cavaliers landing former Minnesota Timberwolves big man Kevin Love. James is also looking for the Cavaliers to bring in shooting forward Mike Miller and possibly Ray Allen, who can still fill it up from three-point range despite being darn near 40.

Unlike 2010 when he jilted Cleveland for a Miami squad that included superstars like DeWayne Wade and Chris Bosh, James will be playing with a rising, young squad in the middle of rebuilding. Compared to his Heat squad that was built to win immediately, James will have to lead a team that will no doubt go through the growing pains of being a playoff tested team.

While a few sports pundits and a few Las Vegas bookies believe that the Cavaliers will be in the NBA Finals next year, I think the process may take a little longer that. I might go with 2016, 2017 or even 2018. And that’s the beauty of the challenge awaiting James and the Cavaliers over the next couple of years.

None of the current group of Cavaliers players has any playoff experience. Can those players elevate their game to be on the same page as James? It is going to be that age-old debate that we have on social media about superstars—who are supposed to make players better around them.

The Cavs will have to make other additions to shore up any weaknesses. The one thing that James will have in Cleveland that he didn’t have in four straight appearances to the NBA Finals (two championships) with the Heat is a true point guard in Kyrie Irving.

The 6-foot-3 Irving averaged a career-high 20 points and 6.1 assists per game. Irving is a speedy ball-handler who can penetrate the defense, attack the basket and hit it from the outside. In three years in the league, Irving is shooting 37 percent from three-point range.

The Irving-James combination, along with a few players to compliment their talents, is eventually going to be hard to beat. If the Miami Heat had a point guard who can penetrate and score like Irving, they would have won four straight crowns instead of two.

But the caveat with Irving is his ability to stay healthy for a full 82 games. He missed 38 games in his first two seasons with a montage of injuries including a broken nose, a fractured jaw and he had a torn bicep last season. He played in 71 of 82 games in 2013-2014.

Irving signed a five-year, $90 million extension through 2020.

With James at his side, maybe Irving doesn’t kill himself every game with the burden of carrying the offense by himself. James can do the hard work of taking the ball to the basket. When you have a point guard like Irving who can penetrate and shoot, you open up the floor for players like James and you know what he can do.

To be sure, the Cavaliers will not win the title overnight. They have to establish team chemistry, hope young guys like Wiggins can develop into solid NBA players, add some pieces and more importantly, stay healthy.

If James can lead a young, rising Cleveland squad to an NBA title, it will certainly add to an already outstanding legacy. This will not be an easy mountain to climb considering that teams like Indiana, Chicago, Washington and other squads in the Eastern Conference are getting better.

The fact that it won’t be easy makes this an even more compelling story. Stay tuned.

 

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