Behind Enemy Lines: Cleveland Cavaliers

Wooo! The first home game of the year is upon us. The Hornets return to the friendly confines of the Hive, where we went 30-11 last year. One of Cleveland's visits last year was arguably the turning point as far as attendance was concerned. Hopefully this game ends just as well as that one. Fear the Sword helps us preview the game, after the jump:

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At the Hive: I think it's a travesty that LeBron's MVP candidacy was shelved by the Cavaliers "poor" record, relative to other MVP contenders' teams. Do you think an MVP can come from a team that isn't Top 2 or 3 in its conference? How about from a losing team?

Fear the Sword: If voters followed the "letter of the law" when voting, then yes, record should not matter.  I tend to look at where a team would be without that player instead of how "good" the player is.  Where would the Cavaliers be without LeBron?  Last year he missed all or parts of 8 games.  The Cavs lost all 8.  If he plays, and the Cavaliers won, say, 5 of them, it would have been a 3rd straight 50-win season.  The voters seem to prefer voting for the best player instead of the most valuable.  Of course, with Kobe, there was also the "it’s his turn to win the award" sentiment going around which waters-down the award even more. 

@tH: Let's go back a year in time. Do you still pull the trigger on the Gooden/Hughes/Wallace deal?

FTS: Yes! Yes! Yes!  Larry Hughes never could play on the court at the same time with LeBron.  His signing with the Cavaliers never made much sense to me because he was never really happy in Washington being 2nd or 3rd fiddle.  In Cleveland he was never going to be "the man" and that always seemed to bother him.  Hughes was supposed to be the slasher, getting to the basket and creating his own shot.  Having his huge contract turned Hughes into a jump shooter, something he was never really good at.  A change had to be made.  Gooden was a nice player who tried hard.  He could never grasp the defensive concepts Mike Brown needed him to play.  Wallace brought some toughness to the Cavaliers.  If one thing was exposed during the Finals against the Spurs, it was the Cavaliers were too finesse to play with the big boys.  Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, Wallace hurt his back and wasn’t a factor in the series against the Celtics.  He is healthy this year, and his 10 rebound / 5 block performance the other night tells me he is ready to be what the Cavaliers traded for.

@tH: In your mind, what are the chances that LeBron actually does leave for New Jersey (or some other locale)? Are the media reports of him possible leaving way overblown?

FTS: I think so, yes.  LeBron wants to win.  Any team that clears the cap space to sign him is going to be a really bad team.  Even with LeBron, they wouldn’t be a championship caliber team.  LeBron knows that, and he also knows his legacy as one of the all-time greats will be determined by rings.  The media would love for LeBron to leave Cleveland, but the fact remains that even in Cleveland LeBron is just as marketable as he can be anywhere.  I’m not too concerned about it, as long as the Cavaliers continue to put a strong cast around him. 

@tH: What are your early impressions of J.J. Hickson, and what are the expectations for him in his rookie campaign?

FTS: I love the kid, no doubt.  He brings an energy to the floor and can jump out of the gym.  Mike Brown is not big on rookies in his rotation, mainly because rookies tend to struggle on the defensive end.  Hickson will have his moments, but I think Brown is going to put him on the floor because of the effort he brings.  He reminds me of Anderson Varejao when he was a rookie, except Hickson has a much better offensive game.  He’s still raw, but Hickson is going to be a player.

@tH: Tell me why a Boston-Cleveland playoff series would end differently than it did last year.

FTS: The Cavaliers are hungrier and hopefully healthy.  The opener proved the Cavaliers still have work to do to be elite, but there are closer now than ever before.  They also have the Wally Szczerbiak bullet to fire near the trade deadline.  That $13.5 mil is going to get the Cavs 1 or 2 solid pieces to add to the  mix.  The Cavaliers, because of their style of play, will always be a better playoff team than they are in the regular season, and as LeBron gets better and better it is going to be harder and harder to count him out in a 7-game series.

Thanks to Fear the Sword for the Q&A. You can check out our responses to their Q's over at FTS.

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