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Buddy Ball Notes: On former Knicks, David Blatt's coaching, and exorcisms

Important thoughts from an important person.

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Cavaliers are going to the Finals. The NBA Finals, in fact. After what seems like 100 years, the Cavs will be back in contention for their first championship. That is fun, and there are people to thank. One name rhymes with Jill Phackson.

- The Cavs' acquisition of J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, along with a first-round pick, changed the entire course of the season. Not only did that pick bring in Timofey Mozgov days later, but Smith and Shumpert combined to do things that the Cavs' former two-guard rotation simply could not or would not do.

- Habitually undersized during Chris Grant's tenure, the two Knick guards are a stark departure from that. Smith is 6'6". Shumpert 6'5", and both have wingspans in the 6'10" to 7' range. In the Cavs' scheme of walling off the paint and recovering to the shooter, the length matters -- it matters a lot. Shumpert had a defensive reputation he hadn't quite earned upon his arrival, but he has been every bit the great defender he was billed to be.

- The real surprise is the defense from Smith. When you see that a Cavs guard is allowing his man to shoot less than 40 percent from the field and less than 30 percent from three in the playoffs, Smith is probably not the first name that comes to mind. More than his shooting, which has been incredible, Smith's commitment to defense and rebounding has been impressive.

- With Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving sidelined, the Smith and Shumpert (among others) have combined to share a massive load. Along with great defense, they're averaging a combined 23.6 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.3 blocks, 2.2 steals and 4.8 made threes per game in the playoffs. That's huge. The trade made sense for the Knicks, who weren't going to keep either player, and didn't have the talent around them to maximize their abilities in defined roles. Still though, thanks Phil!

- Go ahead and miss me with all of your "Gosh darn such bad luck for the Hawks" sentiment too. I mean, it stinks, they had a great team, and some guys got dinged up. They also got swept, and in Games 2 and 4 they barely looked like they wanted to be there. I dunno. I'm probably more annoyed than I need to be about it.

- David Blatt in these playoffs has gone through Brad Stevens, Tom Thibodeau, and Mike Budenholzer. The latter two he thoroughly outcoached. He might have done so with Stevens as well, but Boston didn't really have the talent to be competitive anyway.

- Thibs and Bud though, did not fair so well. Game to game, and half to half, the Cavs got better, in almost every single game. Be it hiding Kyrie on Mike Dunleavy, playing Atlanta for the blow by because the Hawks tend to bite on close-outs, or going huge every time Mike Scott was at the four because he can't guard Timo or keep Tristan off the glass (among other decisions), Blatt has had a really impressive postseason.

- "But Ryan, LBJ is really the coach!"

- Shut up.

- The Cavs are now afforded the opportunity to perform an exorcism. Several, actually. In a way probably befitting the city, they have the best player on the planet, but will be a heavy underdog. That makes sense. The Warriors are a great team (Editor's note: the Rockets are still playing too). That said, the Cavs can find vindication. Vindication for the city, to slay the demons of past failures that seep into the mind of seemingly every Cleveland sports fan, regardless of the team they are rooting for. To finally get the stupid futility graphic to go away. Vindication for Tristan Thompson, who has done nothing but work his tail off, and until recently earned mostly scrutiny.

- There is vindication for LeBron, too. Granted, he doesn't really need it. The way he left made me angry, and it was 50 percent selfish, I can admit that. I was pissed that the Cavs had no time to track down another free agent, but let's be honest, who would come to a team with no assets whose best player was 34-year-old Antawn Jamison? I was also mad his best years would be spent elsewhere. That's being a fan, that's natural. Frankly though, LeBron doesn't owe us anything. That's fine. That doesn't make you less of a fan, or him less of a player. Still, there is vindication to be had. Not bringing Cleveland a championship will probably be unfairly held over his head forever. Getting the team a championship, especially over long odds, would create the kind of moment that makes sports amazing.

- Don't forget to stop and savor the moment. We probably didn't in 2007, not enough. Championship-caliber teams are not a right, and hard to come by. Soak in every bit of this and enjoy it, regardless what happens. It just might be the best Cavs team you'll ever see if things go crazy.