When we wake up on Thursday morning - following the regular season finale on Wednesday against the Hawks - we'll find ourselves in the same place we were this time last season: the Cavs will have the best record in the NBA, they'll have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, and the MVP of the league will be playing once again for the good guys. And if you're anything like me, you'll have no idea what to think about all that.
I thought I knew how to approach all this last post-season, just like I thought I knew how to attack Bald Bull the first time I went against him in Mike Tyson's Punchout. But when the Magic started spinning their fists to open the ECF, I didn't know how to get out of the way, and I never saw those hay-makers coming until it was too late. And by too late, I mean it wasn't supposed to end like that...I had already scheduled time off for the parade. But I think a lot of the sports fan pain we went through last post-season was self-inflicted. At least in my case it was. I had never been more convinced about anything in my life as I was last April that the Cavaliers would win the NBA championship. LeBron's just too good I said...he can't be beat. Turns out even he needed some help.Which brings me back to my approach this season...
I'm not going to tell you that LeBron has that help now for sure, and that now I am really convinced that the Cavaliers will win this time. In the coming days and weeks I'm not going to point out that there are three players that come off the bench this season that started on last year's team. I'm not going to point out the fact that some guys who played significant minutes last post-season (Wally and Ben) wouldn't even play in this season's playoffs over guys on the Cavaliers current roster who won't get in themselves (Boobie and Jawad) this time around. I'm not going to point out the fact that if Mo goes cold like he did last season, the Cavaliers could still have guys like Antawn Jamison pour in big numbers in relief of LeBron - regularly. I won't point out that after all the troubles Delonte West's had to navigate through this season, he's currently playing his best basketball of the year right now, or that Mo just might not go cold. Nor will I won't point out the fact that LeBron is significantly better this season, than he was a year ago...when he won the MVP.
However, I'm also not going to say that the Cavaliers won't win this time either. I'm not going to say that the re-development of the chemistry necessary to excel with Shaq back in the line-up will be too hard to find under the spotlight of the playoffs. I'm also not going to say that Mike Brown will struggle, and inevitably fail, at sorting through the many rotation options at his disposal in an attempt to find the best one before its too late. I'm not going to infer that while its true the Cavaliers are the deepest team from 1 to 12, its also possible they may not be the deepest team from 1 to 7. I'm not going act like the fact that this is LeBron's contract year automatically adds a disproportional amount of pressure on the whole team - from Mike Brown down - and will cause guys to coach and play like they don't want to be the reason he leaves. And I also won't suggest a deciding game may come down to the Cavaliers ability to make free throws.
Fact is - this post-season - I'm just watching, and I'm just hoping. I don't know that this season will end the curse that started back when my Dad was 9, and I don't know that it won't. I don't know that if the Cavaliers win, then for sure LeBron will stay until he's 35, and I don't know if they lose whether he'll leave next season or not. All I know is that for the second year in a row, we're going to have as good a look at it as anybody, and it may be the best look we ever have in our life as Clevelanders. I'm just hoping the Cavs sweep this thing from start to finish...because while I don't know what to think, I do know that a game seven will be real difficult to take.
Best of luck all around,
PS - see you at the parade