If it hasn’t already, the Fire Mike Brown Choir’s season-ending concert should be getting under way soon, first in living rooms across Cleveland, then on talk radio, and then in Bill Simmons' recliner. Because in the aftermath of Cavalier losses in the LeBron James Era, there is no dissecting the superiority of the opponents’ roster; their all-star threesome should be no match for the Cavs' "Chosen One." No, there is only one thing to discuss: Mike Brown. How he can’t run an offense. How his rotation is spastic. How his players don’t respond to him.
But before you trade that Budweiser for a cordless phone, Ron from Akron – before you start positing that the Cavs whack Brown and hire Avery Johnson – try something: Take a trip back to Friday night. ...
Maybe you went to the game. Maybe you were one of the 17,000 who streamed out of the Q, waving towels and high-fiving strangers in a manner more seasoned sports cities would reserve for a title. You probably thought you were doing that because of James, but witness this: Your king shot 39 percent that night. He led both teams in turnovers. And, sure, his 32 points were probably the difference. But just as big was the fury with which Joe Smith went barreling around screens all night; the effort, however, awkward-looking, that Wally Szczerbiak expended chasing Ray Allen; the refusal by any Cavalier to relent a single moderately easy basket. That’s what held the Celtics to 69 points, their lowest point total of the year. (Their next two lowest, 77 and 76, both came against the Cavs too). That’s what sent the people streaming, whether they knew it or not. And while, yes, those players respond to James more than anyone, remember that the Cavaliers are run from the top down. Dan Gilbert wanted a defensive guy, so he got Brown. Brown preaches defense, so James does. Everyone else falls in line.
As for Brown's offense, he remains hamstrung. He can’t run a much more up-tempo style; it’s not what he was hired to do. And from a stand-still, he remains limited in the tools at his disposal. (Translation: the Cavs aren't very good). Throughout this series with the Celtics, you heard fans and media cooing over the Celtics’ ball movement. It sounded a lot like it did against the Spurs last summer: Why can’t we move the ball like that?
We can’t because we have only one guy who requires anything resembling a double team – one guy who, off the dribble or in the post, commands attention from a second defender and sparks the swinging of the ball. The Celts and the Spurs each have at least two.
And despite James’ insistence that no part of his game needs special attention – I asked about that in February, and he said he’s just “fine-tuning” everything – there are still holes in his game. If he has a post game, he doesn’t seem interested in using it. And while he can create an open mid-range jumper for himself, he can’t make one, at least not with Kobe-consistency. Which is why, when I wrote my first Brown apology
around the trade deadline, ESPN’s Rich Bucher told me: "What you can do with him offensively is more limited than you would think." Bucher described James as a pitcher with a live arm but only one, maybe two pitches. And from the sound of it, James isn’t looking to add a second or third anytime soon.
Yet, somehow -- despite Browns’ alleged offensive ineptitude -- of the handful of games the Celtics yielded 100-plus points this year, three were against the Cavs. And with a minute to go this afternoon and his team down just three, Brown had Delonte West standing alone on the three-point line, ball in hand. A little more legs and the Cavs spend Monday night in a Detroit hotel.
So, Ron from Akron: Take a deep breath. Put down the phone. And before you call WKNR to submit your idea for Brown’s replacement – What about LeBron as a player-coach, Rizzo? That way he never has to come out!
– crack another beer and think about what just happened: a coach, your coach
, just took a one-man team to seven games against a three-star team widely considered to be the best in the league.
Yes, we know: to keep James from fleeing for New York, the Cavs have to "get over the hump." But don't forget that aside from James, Brown's the only one helping them stay anywhere near it.– Joe P. Tone