Monday, May 08, 2006

Is Mike Brown a bad coach?

Let's face it. Lebron James is a man among boys. You can make arguments that Kobe, Nash or Duncan are better, but you'd be wrong. Lebron is one of the greatest players in the history of the NBA. Period. By the time he's done, he'll leave a permanent mark on the game. Not like Magic, or Michael. Like Wilt. He's that good. He will be the player by which all others will be judged.

So one would expect the Cavaliers to advance to the playoffs just because Lebron is there. With his ability to score 30 points, grab 7 boards and drop 7 dimes on a bad night, getting a post season bid is a given. I could coach the Cavaliers to the playoffs. And I still can't tell you what a pick and roll is. So is Mike Brown doing a good job or is he along for the ride?

I'm starting to think that he's in the passenger seat. The proof is in the performance of the rest of the Cavs. Lebron has been stellar. He stepped up his game in the playoffs and willed the Cavs to clutch victories. He hit game winners, blocked key shots and came up with timely steals. It's hard to find any faults in his performance. But the problem is with the rest of the team. Where's Ilgauskas? With Shaq playing at 70% most experts will contend that Zydrunas is the best true center in the east. Some will give him league wide props, but his box score looked pretty weak in the opening series and in game one against Detroit, the 7'3" center was shooting off-balance fade aways from well outside 10 feet. See that paint? That's where the center is supposed to dominate. Get in there, Z.

And then you have Larry Hughes. Some will argue that he's still getting his legs under him, but that's nonsense. He was out with a broken finger. Nobody told him to sit on a couch for six weeks. He could have been running and lifting and keeping his legs in shape. And his strong suit is supposed to be defense. Lock somebody up, Larry. Finding an open look with Lebron facing triple teams would be nice, but getting a hand in somebody's face once in a while might help. How many threes did Detroit drain in game one? Didn't Gilbert Arenas match Lebron point for point?

The bench has lacked consistency, but that wouldn't matter if the 2 and the 5 were showing up every night. Lebron's been amazing while the highly touted acquisition and the long time anchor have slept through entire games.

That's coaching. Mike Brown supposedly came from that hard-nosed Larry Brown school of hoopsology. Smart offense, tough defense and clutch plays were supposed to be the norm in this new Cavaliers game plan. Nobody expected miracles, but when a team that has a reputation for grinding out ugly wins scores more than 60 points at half time in the first game of a seven game series, you have to fault the defense. That's on the coach.

Lebron James is a coach's dream: a flat-out super star who respects authority without question... A franchise player who takes direction...A ready-made icon who embraces unselfish play...He's not a coaches dream, he's the league's dream. Give Lebron some help, play a little defense and Cleveland might actually get tired of winning titles. So what gives? Where's the D? Where's the Z? What happened to Larry Hughes?

Maybe it's too early to send Mike Brown packing. Maybe he's struggling with the sometimes lethargic Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Perhaps he'd feel better with a real playmaker at the point. Maybe Larry Hughes got lazy after he inked a cushy contract. There could be a number of things working against the guy and with this being the first time the Cavs have seen post season play in what must be 66 years, it's only fair to let him take this team back to the shop after the Pistons finish humiliating them over the next week.

It's not like anybody had the right to expect a visit to the finals this year. Danny Ferry just started filling roster spots, Lebron is only in his third year and it could take the rest of the team a full off season to grasp just how to go about helping him. But next year the bar will be set high. The Cavaliers will have to be the real thing. No more dramatic first round battles, dominate the weaker opponents and save the nailbiters for the conference finals. Next year the Cavs have to play like a championship team, not just a playoff contender. If they don't, Mike Brown will have to go. Or Lebron will.

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