Newark -- Little observations from the last week of Cavs basketball:
--LeBron James is the best player in the NBA right now and anyone who says different hasn't been paying attention. I got several e-mails complaining about some of the national media's recent coverage of the team has focused on LeBron not being a legit candidate. They don't know what they're talking about. I'm not sure he'll win because my fellow voters are stubborn and he hasn't done it for the whole season. Yet on balance, it is no doubt the greatest individual season in team history.
--Damon Jones and Donyell Marshall have both gotten more consistent and it has really made a difference during this run of good play. Their shooting percentages are up, of course, but Jones is making better contributions from the perimeter and Marshall has been a presence around the hoop every game.
--I'm sure many of you are celebrating as Eric Snow's role has been reduced with the return of Larry Hughes. But you should never forget that Snow helped hold the team together at midseason when Jones wasn't playing well, Flip Murray wasn't here yet and Hughes was out. He was the best and only option at the point. Plus he's got the most playoff experience on the roster. He's played every game and done so through injury and adversity. All I get are e-mails complaining about Snow especially when I was writing how important his role is.
--There is only one flight today from the NYC area to Oklahoma City and it is at 3 p.m. That means I will miss the final round of the Masters. I am cranky about it.
--Moments after the game Saturday the players roared with glee when Mike Brown told them he was rewarding them with a fifth night in the New York area on this trip, canceling the plans to go to Oklahoma after the game. I've led the charge complaining about how soft Brown has been on his players this season, especially with travel plans by rewarding them with extra days in desirable cities despite bad play. But he's a player's coach and his players have been only rising to the occasion for him, so I relent. UPDATE: Brown only allowed the team to stay because of charter jet problems, which were corrected after the game and the team ended up flying to Oklahoma City afterall, which I learned after being told the opposite.
--Winning close road games at Chicago, Toronto and Houston set up how well the Cavs played Saturday in the swamp. With LeBron as the leader, they team has an almost stunning confidence late in games now. Even in New York against that bad team, they were down 19 and rallied like they knew they were going to win. Totally night and day from those games at Detroit, Dallas and Miami earlier when they went into a shell like scared children. Maybe they still couldn't win those types of games, but with this team all you can do at this point is chart growth and it has been substantial.
--You have to be very careful with free agents like Flip Murray, but it would be hard to believe the Cavs would pass on making him their top priority, even above Drew Gooden. Not only is Anderson Varejao proving he can player starter's minutes perhaps limiting how far the Cavs are willing to do on Drew, but Murray's contribution to this streak is second only to LeBron.
--Conversation from pizza shop on Upper East Side on Friday...
Employee #1: It ain't bad, I didn't get no Fs or nothing.
Employee #2: Yeah me either, I done told Ms. Simmons if I gotta F I'd have to go to jail and she was like, OK. So she gave me a D.