When doing some research for this story, I broke down every single Cavs possession from Game 1 against the Wizards. I prepared a complex chart, watching how the Cavs got LeBron James the ball and what the Wizards did in response. By the way, he got the ball on 68 of 76 possessions, 39 with a pass in the halfcourt and 29 when he brought it up the court himself (If there was a foul or violation or ball out of bounds that reset the offense, I just counted the whole thing as one possession).
My initial premise was that the Wizards actually didn't do a bad job defending LeBron and they limited him offensively and made his teammates beat him. I actually thought offensively LeBron just had an average game but it was made great by the stakes. So with my DVR at full strength I went over it closely. I was dead wrong.
LeBron was out of his mind good, especially when you really watch how he was reading what the Wizards threw at him. I'm not even talking about the no-look passes or the scoring, just the way he quarterbacked it. Totally blew me away when looking very close. Also, I couldn't believe how everything went the Cavs way, like the Wizards missing key open shots and not taking advantage of so many things that couldn't shifted the tide.
What I'm saying is, I really expect things to be very different tonight.
I understand many of you don't have ESPN Inisder, so here's a transcript of my chat from yesterday:
Ryan--Detroit: Hey Brian! With all of the voting complete, has there been any leaks on LeBron's MVP chances? Also, how do you think the Cavs will fare in a matchup next round with the Pistons? Being a fan of both teams, that'd be an ideal matchup for me.
Brian Windhorst: Several of my fellow voters have been conducting some unofficial polls. I think LeBron has a good chance of finishing second. But I believe Steve Nash will win it again because he's going to be in the top 3 of everyone's ballot. With so many candidates, getting all those points will matter.
Jake (Santa Barbara, CA): After Saturdays performance, could Lebron in your own opinion everaverage a triple double in a season? cause thats about the only thing he hasn't done that Oscar Robertson did.
Brian Windhorst: If LeBron played 48 minutes every night, which he's close to anyway, he might make it interesting. Acutally his assists dipped a little this season and his scoring went up by four points a game so if he continues like he's playing now I'd say probably not.
Travis (MI): Do you think all of the MJ comparisons are fair to Lebron? Can he ever be his own player without all the comparisons?
Brian Windhorst: Well, he's got a massive Nike contract and he wears No. 23, so I think he's brought a lot of that on himself. In the end, I think he'll want to not be compared to anyone, he'll want to be LeBron. That sounds weird and cliche, but if not if you think about it. He wants to be his own man.
Nick (Granville, OH): Brian, is there any chance that LeBron will not resign with the Cavs? National media keep throwing that out there and it scares the heck out of me.
Brian Windhorst: It makes business and personal sense for LeBron to sign a $75 million extension this summer and I believe he will. If/when he does sign it I think when times are bad you'll then hear a lot about him wanting a trade and whatnot like you have with Kevin Garnett now. The media always swarms over potential star transactions especially with players in smaller markets. It is part of the game.
Dustin(ashland, ky): Where is Kobe on the ballot? 10 years from now, who is everyone going to remember? Kobe put up monster numbers and carried an average team into the playoffs. Nash is surrounded by good talent in an excellent system.
Brian Windhorst: Dustin, you are right. Actually that is a compelling argument. When I read Bill Simmons Page 2 story about how Kobe should win the MVP it made me think about my vote and I moved Kobe up. Here's how I voted: 1. LeBron, 2. Nash, 3. Kobe, 4. Dirk, 5. Chauncey Billups.
BJ Carmel NY: Going along with Nicks question, Wouldnt Lebron see his contracts skyrocket in a big market like NY or LA. Not that he needs the money of course.
Brian Windhorst: BJ, LeBron is already the highest-earning endorser in the NBA while in Cleveland. The NBA has max salary limits, which is why Tim Duncan is still in San Antonio. LeBron does have some kickers in his contracts that would pay him more to be in NY, LA or Chicago, but they are small and his Nike contract is fully guaranteed.
James (Provo,UT): Who do you think will have the better career, Lebron James or Dwayne Wade.
Brian Windhorst: Whenever comparing LeBron and Wade you must first realize that Dwyane is three years older even though they are from the same draft class. I think Wade is great and fearless but I think LeBron has more years in him and more time to grow.
Travis (Indiana State): What does LeBron do in the off-season as far as workouts go?
Brian Windhorst: He actually bikes around Akron a lot. There are some hills in the area where he lives and he and his friends ride around early in the morning. He also holds these super-secret pickup games at various gyms in the middle of the night. Several NBA players fly in and take part like Nene and J.R. Smith. I've heard the call goes out to players and just gives 12 hours notice.
Matt (Gainesville, FL): What went through your mind the first time you saw Lebron play?
Brian Windhorst: I couldn't believe how fluid he was for a growing 14 year old. But he really blew me away during the state tournament run as a freshman. One game early in the tournament his team was behind to an inferior team and has coach challenged him at halftime. He scored the first 15 points of the second half. He got all upset at me when I couldn't explain to him why he was left off the All-State team just before the Final Four and I told him freshman usually have to wait their turn. He scored 29 and 25 points in the state games and was named MVP
J.R. (Akron, OH): What do you think the Cavs will do with Drew Gooden this offseason? Should they focus more on trying to find an enforcer to play alongside Z, or give Varejao a chance to start, (with the hope that his offense and free throw shooting improve)?
Brian Windhorst: The general school of thought when dealing with a restricted free agent is to profess to the world that you are in love with him and then tell him to go get an offer. I think the Cavs will see what Drew gets and then either keep him or try to work out a sign-and-trade. They have depth there but they want to keep him. Just not at $8 million per year.
Craig (SLC): With the constant comparison of LJ to MJ, what role will his endorsers have on him staying in Clevland?? You KNOW that Nike and his other endorsers are going want him in a bigger market (ie NYC, LA, Chicago).
Brian Windhorst: LeBron is the boss, he'll do what he wants. I always say, would it have mattered if Michael Jordan was 90 miles north and won six titles in Milwaukee. Would he be any less of a star? I've followed LeBron to 29 different NBA cities, well 30 if you count Oklahoma City, and I see LeBron jerseys in every one. It isn't like he isn't getting exposure.
Shane (Akron): Is it hard to objectively cover someone like LeBron when you've known him since he was 14?
Brian Windhorst: At times, yes. Even though I believe I do a good job covering the Cavs I wouldn't be here chatting if not for LeBron. However, I've tried to be fair in covering him. He and I have a professional relationship and he knows my family members and I know his. But he gets mad at me from time to time and currently I think members of his inner circle are mad at me for writing a story back in Feb. on this website about how the Cavs are catering to them. So it isn't all peaches and cream.
Roberto Rodriguez (Akron, OH): You have the chance to build your own NBA team and you have a choice between LeBron and Nash, who do you take?
Brian Windhorst: Today? No-brainer, you take the guy who is 21.
brian (nj): brian i was at that game in nj that snapped the 14 game win streak and i have to say... boy are you cleveland fans in for a treat!! But my question is after watching him wrstle through three nets defenders for an and one is..why does everyone say lebron is not clutch???
Brian Windhorst: He wasn't that clutch early this season and three times in a week the Cavs lost games when he didn't deliver. Two of them were on national TV, which made it an easy target. He did have some growing pains and will have more but he's gotten so much better. Forget about the last-second shots, the Cavs were 13-2 in their last 15 games decided by four poinrs or less and LeBron decided almost all of them.
adam, NH: Why don't you think we see or read more behind the scene's type stuff on LeBron?
Brian Windhorst: First off, he guards his privacy very well. He doesn't let many media members close to him. Also, he has a New York-based PR firm that also works with Jay-Z that handles all personal media requests, which is probably smart. He rarely gives 1-on-1 interviews and in those he's guarded. He isn't ready to open everything up.
Tony (Blacksburg, VA): Hey Brian, what do you know about beards? Did LeBron one day just decide to grow one, and then the team followed? The Cavs have been playing great since the start of 'The LeBron Beards'. I even grew one!!!
Brian Windhorst: I'm not 100 percent sure LeBron was the first. I think it might've been Zydrunas Ilgauskas...who looks more like Vlade Divac everyday. LeBron grew one about the time the Cavs clinched a playoff berth and the team was looking for something to rally around as they approached and it sort of, ahem, grew from there.
Scott (Columbus): Any idea of what D. Wagner is up to these days?
Brian Windhorst: He had surgery to remove his colon last year. He's hoping to try a comeback attempt.
vince, Cleveland: Does LeBron get upset with the media easily? I ask because of your comments above and his recent ban on the media because of the Plain Dealer beat writter picking Washington in the series?
Brian Windhorst: I don't think LeBron wanted to speak to the media that day and he just used that as an excuse. One thing about LeBron is that he's very moody. Ask him for anything, an interview, an autograph, the time of day, and if you catch him at the wrong moment he will be unpleasant.
Jon (Indianapolis, IN): Do you think Lebron's friendship with Jay-Z might lead to him playing for the Nets?
Brian Windhorst: You never say never. Currently the Nets have three so-called franchise players on max contracts including two wing players (Jefferson and Carter). So right now I'd say it is unrealistic.
Roger (Norfolk,VA): Is it true that Lebron won't sign autographs because of his contract with Upper Deck?
Brian Windhorst: He signs lots of autographs for Upper Deck and I've heard him refer to that on more than one occassion. But I've also seen him sign lots of things. There isn't a game that doesn't by when he doesn't get asked for something special. Opposing players come into the locker room all the time looking for his autograph for their friends or families. Believe it or not, I know that referees have sent stuff to him to be signed. It can get overwhelming.
Woody (detroit): What chance do you think that Cleveland has in beating the Pistons in the next round? And what would it take from LBJ to keep the series winnable for the Cavs?
Brian Windhorst: Not likely, I'm not 100 percent sure they're even going to get there. The Pistons are head and shoulders above the Cavs right now. I think it would be a great learning experience just for LeBron to go through the series.
Mike (Akron, OH): If the NBA would have had the rule of no high school kids in the draft 3 years ago, where do you think LeBron would have went to college?
Brian Windhorst: He's given about 10 different answers to this question. The real answer is probably nowhere. His family took $100K from an agent when he was a junior and probably many more loans we don't know about. The NCAA would've looked very closely. I'm sure they have an OJ Mayo task force already lined up.
Nate (Mpls, MN): Jordan had Pippen...who would be LeBron's ideal #2?
Brian Windhorst: If he had his choice of anyone in the league right now it would probably be Tim Duncan because you need a great big man to win titles. If you are taking about a wing player I'd say Michael Redd because he's such a great spot-up shooter.
mikey (denver): what is the king's relationship with "rival" carmelo anthony??
Brian Windhorst: Well, I think they talk every now and then. I would not say they are friends despite all the stories we've written. I think Carmelo looks at him the same way DWade does...a nice guy but a serious rival on the court and for endorsement dollars.
Efrain, El Salvador: Does he hate Kobe?
Brian Windhorst: No, LeBron tries to be everyone's friend. Which is a problem, I don't think he has Kobe's "killer instinct." However, he was on Shaq's side no doubt.
Ron (Washington DC): Just a reminder, the Bulls where up 2-0 to the wizards, last year. It just so happened that the big 3 all had a bad game.
Brian Windhorst: You are right. Actually, I think the Wizards did a good job on LeBron in the first game. He was just 12-of-27 shooting. I think the series is very much up for grabs.
Chris Cleveland, OH: Did you ever see Lebron play football in high school? Ive heard that if he wasnt dunking on everybody in the NBA he could be a pro bowl caliber football player.
Brian Windhorst: Yes, he was great but he was also lining up against kids who were 5-10, 165 pounds. I don't blame him for one second, but I never saw him go across the middle or dive for a ball. But he's a great athlete with speed, size, great hands and jumping ability, he'd be a top 10 pick in the NFL draft if he wanted to.
Joe (Tampa): Would Dwight Howard be an ideal sidekick for Lebron?
Brian Windhorst: Joe, that's a good one. He would be. I think Dwight will be the NBA's best rebounder for the next decade.
sanjay (mountain view) : how do you think the players from that draft class are going to rank against each other? i think 1) lebron 2) wade 3) carmello 4) darko 5) bosh...any others?
Brian Windhorst: Right now I'd say it's LeBron, Wade, Carmelo and Bosh. All those guys are getting max deals this summer. But obviously Darko has upside and I think T.J. Ford and Kirk Hinrich are two of the best young point guards in the game.
Noah (Tallahassee): What was Lebron's reaction to the game when the fans were booing his missing 2 free throws? Or, in your mind, were they booing the entire team?
Brian Windhorst: He heard them and I think it miffed him a little. But I also think it was overblown.
nate (cleveland): Whats the deal with Flip. Are we going to try and sign him this off-season and keep him? I really think we need him!
Brian Windhorst: All the Cavs have to offer is their mid-level exception of $5 million, which I think will be the market for him. I know they want him back but I also know Flip wants to be a starter and the Cavs have Hughes and LeBron. It will be interesting, both Flip and the Cavs aren't saying much.
Omari (washinton, dc): in your opinion how many years will it take for Lebron to win a title?
Brian Windhorst: Well it is all a process. The Cavs aren't yet a championship contender, they need need perhaps one more piece. With the Pistons it was Rasheed Wallace. How Danny Ferry manages his assets will determine that.
Brian Windhorst: Thanks for sending me all these questions. I've got to go now. I'm breaking down game film of the Cavs-Wizards game. I hope to do this again sometime.
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