Sunday, May 31, 2009

Team of Champion

There is no objective way to actually determine MVP. Perhaps it would have been better if the NBA had adopted a Brownlow style referee voting system instead of the end of season vote. The NBA has a weekly blog entitled 'Race to the MVP' which utilises a top 10 style list that remains more or less static for the second half of the season. Nicholas Nassim Taleb points out that food and movie critiques tend to be mutually referential, that is they influence eachothers opinion, in other words success compounds and so does failure in the views of critiques. And whilst said blog author doesn't get a vote, their opinion I would say definitely persuades a lot of the voting media personalities to cast the same vote.

My dad pointed out long ago, that the Brownlow voting shifted to only voting for players on winning teams, because they were building a tradition of voting for the star player who racked up a heap of disposals because they were surrounded by dud players. The NBA acts similarly, MVP usually just goes to the star player of the winningest team.

This season though, Lebron probably was the best mix of both. He was the star player on the winningest team, and he plays with a team of relative duds. So it was a fairly earned MVP. Now that MVP is bitter consolation against what was supposed to be the season where Lebron dethroned Kobe.

I'm looking forward to the finals series because I just don't know how the Laker's can win, but I suspect they just might in 7 given the home court advantage. Right now though there's Lebron's bitter bitter end to talk about.

Lebron's Bitter Bitter End:

As the Orlando home crowd chanted 'MVP! MVP!' mockingly whilst Dwight Howard shot the last few sets of free throws, Lebron no doubt could comprehend his own fate that night. And looking at the Cavs' faces as they sat on the bench for their final time out 14 points down with 42 seconds to go, it was not deliciously cruel for a Schatenfeuder like me, it was just plain cruel and devastating and bitter. Except that like last season when the Celtics went 3-1 up on the Lakers, I knew it would be far more bitter to take that away from the Celtics than for the Lakers to accept defeat.

So at the final time as tells it:

LeBron James walked off the court, head down, brushing off a few pieces of confetti. He ignored the few taunts by Magic fans and took one last look at the crowd without muttering a word.

Not to anyone.

A scintillating series by the NBA's MVP was washed away by his not-so-supporting cast, as the Cleveland Cavaliers were eliminated Saturday night with a 103-90 loss to the Orlando Magic in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.

James dressed quickly in the locker room, put on headphones and went to the team bus without talking to reporters.

And while some make a big deal out of Lebron not shaking Dwight's hand or congratulating the Magic after the game (arguably the crowd's fault) what I saw was a man whose illusions had been shattered.

Even though I'm the Lebron 'hater', I actually think it's cruel the way the man is treated.

How I'd Coach Lebron

Watching Orlando beat the cavs, I realised that in the finals it is still the big man's game. Orlando have about 6 viable 3-point shoooters, no stars like Reggie Miller or Ray Allen that you can almost count on sinking contested 3's. But with 5 you can usually always get one of them with an open 3 on any offensive possession. Particularly when you have Dwight Howard in the paint able to overpower any defender(s) and necessitating a double team.
Lebron is admired because physically he is big enough to play center, yet quick enough to play guard. Like the NBA's Kouta, except hopefully for Bron's sake it doesn't mirror Kouta's career (except Lebron would probably like at least one premiership).

The thing is though, that Lebron doesn't play center. And in the series didn't play defence (despite being runner up defensive player of the year) on anyone important. So I'm thinking, as coach, I don't give a shit about selling Lebron's shoes. I don't care if he doesn't do the big spectacular run-and-gun plays, I'm playing him at the 4 or at the 5. That is as a Center/Power Forward. It's all about the low post play, footwork, rebounds, blocks.

Now before someone can point out the blindingly obvious, I'd play him there precisely because his offensive effectiveness would be reduced. But I would do this for the first 20 games of the regular season for the express purpose of killing the hyperbolic expectations on the player.

Mike Brown, Lebron's coach had a simalesque strategy in benching Lebron often for the entire 4th quarter, the idea being that Lebron build trust in his team mates. It's reminiscent of Phil Jackson's 3rd Quarter tactic which was to go 4 deep into the bench and just leave one of the starting line-up on the court, like Scottie Pippen in the Bulls' days or Lamar Odom currently. The crucial difference being that Mike Brown really only succeeded in limiting his stars playing time, rather than building up the bench. What is impressive about Phil Jackson's teams is that they roll 10 deep. That means their starting line-up can get into foul trouble and it not be a crippling blow for them. They also can take different shapes. They can go Bynum for a traditional zone, Odom for the uber-triangle, Vujakic for death by 3-pointers.

Phil can also just change teams completely for when the team can get it's shit together. He did this with the Bulls and can do this with the Lakers. Phil Jackson does build teams of champions.

So yeah, I would have Bron at the 4 & 5 playing defence, defence, defence. Picking up garbage points and doing the little things. Thus allowing the rest of the team to develop as a viable offensive team.

Then when you want to play to Lebron's strengths, after dropping a few games in the first 20 you switch him back to the playing the 2/3 positions where he is now. Build your campaign from a handicap, after shedding the cruel expectations that you are going to deliver the NBA into a second Jordan era. Let Lebron be Lebron. The only other thing I'd do, is I'd play Lebron off the bench in the regular season. Unheard of yes, but if you want to build trust in your team, have them build the initial lead, not bench Lebron in the 4th quarter (effectively eradicating him as a clutch player) while he learns to trust his teammates not to wipe out the lead he built, but instead trust them to positively build the lead in the first place.

If I was the NBA

I would back off and let Lebron be Lebron. Jordan fucking made the NBA worldwide, he did it in a way that needed very little promotion, his play just grabbed attention, that fed off itself and grew until he was the worldwide phenomena. I'm pretty sure that with Lebron it has worked in reverse, the NBA is behind Lebrond, pushing him up and out into attention, they prop up the attention hoping it will take off. This season has probably been the most successful, but that's because Lebron started doing it on his own, not because of upped investment and media puffery.
Risk = Profit, the NBA, Nike and Cavs management don't want to risk Lebron being a flop, so they puff him up, Nike particularly injects money left right and center. I'm pretty sure that if I got into the Nike Ledger's I'd find that Kobe's shoes were far far more profitable than Lebron's, if for no other reason than that they don't seem to expend as much money on them.
I would also not be surprised if Air Jordan's were still far far more profitable than both of them put together.
The point being that trying to make Lebron into something he isn't yet, and to try and pave the way in gold for him, just creates an impossible standard for Lebron to live up to, a golden path simply lacks traction. There's no opportunity for Lebron to surpass expectation, even though he does incredible things.

If I were Lebron

I would got to the New York Knicks. I would slow the fuck down, New York has arguably been a suffering market as well, they have heaps of money sure being the most valuable franchise in the NBA, but that tells me as Lebron 2 things. The crowds are turning out even though they haven't had a championship since '73 and thus probably won't need the Cavs humiliating PA system to compensate for the really shitty Cleveland supporters. 2ndly they have the kind of money to do the trades to build the team you need around you.

What you as Lebron need, is your Scottie Pippen, your Pau Gasol. Sure if you do it 'on-your-own' then you probably would be the greatest of all time, except hopefully Lebron has realised that the odds of that happening are severely stacked against him. Why was the bow-out to the Magics regarded as surprising at all? the Magic had handed them 6 defeats in the regular season, furthermore the Lakers had swept the Cavs in the regular season. Surely nobody really considered the Cavs the front runner for the title?

You would stay in the relatively week Eastern Conference by going to the Knicks, at the moment really there is you, the Celtics and Magic that are the Easts contenders. Chicago and Heat are coming up behind, Memphis Grizzlies will also be perenial contenders in two seasons.

In the west you have Mavericks, Pheonix, Houston, San Antonio, Denver, Utah, New Orleans and the Lakers to give you grief. I think this year was an anomoly for the west, due in large to Clippers, GSW being total basketcases and Pheonix suffering from post D'Antoni dominance. In the east Detroit are a basket-case, Washington are a basket case, and Atlanta just aren't there yet.

Yes Cleveland will implode in your wake, but that's not why you wanted to play basketball, to make Cleveland a viable franchise. You played to win rings, and that isn't going to happen while you are taking the lions share of a small market like Cleveland's salary leavings.

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