Introducing The Cleveland Cavaliers: Your 2009 NBA Champions
By JOSEPH DLEO GIOSUÈ ROBBINSPublished: MAY 8, 2009 15:31Advertisement
The street is virtually empty. Only the maintenance crews remain, working feverishly to clear the confetti, plastic flags and assorted trash from the cool asphalt. It's mid-June and the Cleveland Cavaliers have just celebrated their first NBA Championship with a parade fit for champions.
Lebron James, the finals MVP, hoists the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy amid a cacophonic backdrop of cheering fans and blaring hip-hop music.
Surrounded by his teammates, Coach Mike Brown beams as he thanks the fans for their continued support. "Finally," he says, clutching the coveted golden ball in his hands, "this trophy is where it belongsâ€¦"
While it may be presumptuous to plan out the coach's victory speech, Mike Brown will be the victorious coach giving the speech. Brown was the rightful coach of the year this season, after turning General Manager Danny Ferry's brainchild into a perennial contender.
Guards Mo Williams and Delonte West each had seasons that rivaled their best ever, while forward Anderson Varejao had a career season.
Additionally, Brown expertly smoothed egos and assuaged fears about playing time by keeping reserves Wally Szczerbiak and Daniel Gibson relevant despite the additions of Williams and West.
The Cavaliers overcame injuries and adversaries en route to a campaign which included the top record in the NBA (66-16), and the second-best home record in NBA history (39-2). Above all, they showed from the start of the season that "One Goal" was much more than a slogan.
At the heart of it all, is the Cavaliers' shining star, the King himself, Lebron James. The league's Most Valuable Player, James is the main reason why an otherwise decent team is destined for greatness.
As great as he was during the regular season - he averaged over 28 points, seven rebounds and seven assists per game on the way to winning the coveted award - Lebron has stepped his game up in the playoffs, knowing that this time of year, the regular season is now obsolete.
James averaged 32 points, 11 rebounds and seven-and-a-half assists as the Cavaliers dismantled the Pistons with a clean sweep in the first round of the playoffs. The Pistons had no answer for King James, and his staggering numbers prove it.
James attempted just under 15 free throws a game, and had an outstanding five-to-one assist/turnover ratio throughout the four-game series. He also stole the ball and blocked and deflected shots, showing why he was also runner-up for the Defensive Player of the Year award this season.
More than anything, James has shown this season that he is one of the best leaders the game has ever seen. He is not afraid to take the game into his own hands and do whatever it takes to win ballgames.
With James playing the way he is, Cleveland is an unstoppable force. While the Lakers were the favorites coming into the playoffs, their first-round series against the Jazz was much harder than the box scores and victory in five games portrays. Based on their loss to the Rockets in the opening game of their second round series Monday night, it doesn't appear that things are going to get any easier.
Key piece of the puzzle Andrew Bynum has been a shadow of his former self since his "return" from injury, averaging a measly five points and three rebounds a game in the Utah series. Although he was more productive Monday night, he was still not effective, as the Rockets let Kobe Bryant run free and limited everybody else on the Lakers.
While it was only one game, and the Lakers should come back and defeat the Rockets, game one was an example of the tough road that lies ahead for the Lakers in their pursuit of a championship.
Should they beat the Rockets, the Lakers will most likely face a Denver squad that is arguably playing the second best basketball of any team right now. While Denver has an easier road than the Lakers or the Rockets, and should advance to the Western Conference Finals, with Lebron leading the way on both ends of the court, the Cavaliers' stingy perimeter defense will be more than enough to slow Denver's high-powered offense.
In terms of the Cavaliers' own road to the finals, they face an Atlanta team with one of the best frontcourts in the NBA in Josh Smith and Al Horford, a star in Joe Johnson and a veteran All-Star point guard in Mike Bibby. However, the Cavaliers are too well coached to be upset by the upstart Hawks this year, leaving Orlando as the team to beat.
While Dwight Howard is a beast and the Cavaliers have no answer for him, the Cavaliers can let him go. As long as they put a body on Howard and shut down the Magic's perimeter game, Mike Brown's squad will be fine - even if Howard averages 20-plus points and rebounds a game.
Although they had the best record in the NBA, the Cavaliers were not the favorites heading into the playoffs. While the other teams were struggling through tough first-round series that saw players injured and fatigued, Cleveland was waiting patiently, watching - "One Goal" on their minds.
The Cavaliers did not enter the playoffs as the team to beat, but when all is said and done, they will be the one team left standing - the only team to beat.
When all is said and done, Lebron James will have bested his rival Kobe Bryant by winning a championship in the same year he was crowned MVP.
When all is said and done, the city of Cleveland will finally be able to hold its head high in the arena of sports.
And when all is said and done, the Cavaliers' one goal will have been achieved, and the King will have his trophy.
Joseph D. Robbins is an unrestricted free agent in the NBA after going undrafted in the 2008 NBA Draft. He is currently learning in Yeshivah for the year, before heading to Columbia University to pursue a Masters in Education.
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