I am sitting here, fully prepared for fiery responses to the post I am about to write. My asbestos keyboard and monitor are all set. Even my wife thinks that I am a few cans short of a twelve-pack with what I am about to say. She is the same woman who told me, just this morning, that "Jordan had his Pippen and that guy who hung around with Madonna" (I reminded her that he preferred to be called Dennis Rodman), "and what the Cavs need to do is fire the coach and to get someone new who can make the rest of the team support LeBron like Pippen and that other guy did."
If someone who only in the past year or so has taken to basketball already knows such things, I should probably listen to her....but...
Here is my reason for maybe not being so hasty to dump Coach Brown. I already know all of the reasons why we should, I have heard them all, read them all in hundreds of angry and/or sensible posts, not only on FTS but on other sites. You know the sites I mean, the kind of sites that give Coach really charming names like "Potato", "Hash Brown", etc. I must confess, not with any pride, that I even joked recently that if we were going to go with the hash brown angle, and due to the hundreds of different twists and turns the past month have brought, that "Waffle House" might be the most appropriate name of all, since, after all, the Waffle House specializes in a countless assortment of possible hash-brown mixes, and every day we seemed to see a different Cavs' team.
But then a couple of things started to fall into place, a couple of mysteries began to be cleared up, and suddenly, it is not so obvious to me that the coach should be a scapegoat here. So please, bear with me.
Danny Ferry announced yesterday that LeBron James had come to the team before the April 8th Bulls regular season game and announced that his arm was bothering him. That night, he sat out. As he did for all of the remainder of the regular season.
Mystery number one solved. I have mentioned on this site more than once that it made no sense at all that LeBron had played 35 minutes on April 6th against Toronto, which was battling with the Bulls for the eighth playoff spot, and that he had then sat two nights later against the Bulls in a game the Cavs only lost by a point. Remember that it was in the Toronto game that Chris Bosh was hurt. After the Raptors lost their best player in a loss to the Cavaliers and then LeBron sat out a winnable game against Toronto's only rival for a playoff spot, I had a bad taste in my mouth.
The conventional wisdom back then was that Andrew Bogut had just been hurt for Milwaukee, and then Bosh went down, and that LeBron was being held out to avoid injury, kind of an "Oh dear, look what is happening to other teams, we had better not risk LeBron". I said on this site when the elbow issue was made public that I thought LeBron had hurt it in that Toronto game, and I take no pleasure in finding out that I was probably right.
By then, of course, we were down to our last three games, and with everything wrapped up home-court-advantage wise, Cleveland went to sleep, playing "high-level practices" the rest of the way, and losing them all, before facing the Bulls in the first round.
And here came Shaq, who had not played in weeks, trying to blend in with Antawn Jamison. In the playoffs. On the fly. As far as I am concerned, that solves mystery number two...why were the Cavs so out of sync all the way through the post-season? It is obvious now that 'Tawn and Shaq could never quite get on the same page on the court together, and a function of that difficulty was the fact that LeBron, right from the get-go, was a wounded King. He knew it, and I am sure that the players knew it as well. The fluidity of his uninjured game was missing, and that just flat out translated into uncertainty in all aspects of the game.
Two mysteries are enough to point out for now, here is a fact: nobody ever claimed that Mo Williams was an all-star on defense. True to that, he struggled mightily on D, especially against the Celtics, and with the big men having trouble melding, and with Andy Varejao having his own physical problems with his back, the road was paved and the center lines drawn for Rajon Rondo to drive...and drive and drive, not to mention to dish, and to make clutch shots in nauseating abundance.
Now comes the place where I am glad for the asbestos (actually, glad that I can take the criticism). Please tell me what Mike Brown could really have done differently in this post-season. Every match-up he tried seemed to backfire, and a lot of that, for sure, he should have been able to overcome. But knowing that three of his starting five were having problems, one physical, the other two with chemistry...is it really any shock that what happened against a veteran Celtics team happened?
When LeBron sat for the April 8th Bulls game, the Cavaliers were 61-17. The rest of the way, they were (including playoffs) 6-9. Even a semi-decent coach gone suddenly bad could not have posted such contrary numbers. And oh, by the way, it might be prudent to realize that for the past five years, years in which the Cavs never won the title, and only made the Finals once...Cleveland still managed, every single one of those five post-seasons, to finish with a winning record...yes, even last year when the Magic had people screaming for Mike's head, the Cavs went 10-4 in the playoffs, and this year, with injured LeBron and chemistry issues with another player who had been hurt, they went 6-5.
Should Mike Brown be fired? Or should he be given one more chance? And because this is a devil's advocate article, let's not factor LeBron's decision into this. Just on merit alone, and on the solution to a couple of mysteries falling into place...
Does the man not get the benefit of the doubt?