Before we get started, LeBron went off today about Ben Wallace and I wrote about it for ESPN.com. Apparently, I have solidarity for both Drew Gooden (bald) and Big Ben (headbanded).
"In basketball, there ain't no relationship that is going to be a bed of roses." -- Paul Silas
There were a few members of the Cavs organization that were a little upset with my weekly column, which ran Monday. They felt I was off base when I implied that LeBron James was helping set policy on playing time, especially in reference to rookies Boobie Gibson and Shannon Brown. I was told that James' comments about the need for the rookies to play and a lineup switch and the increased playing time for Gibson and the insertion of Brown into the starting lineup were coincidental, the natural progression of things. Frankly, I don't believe either of us is wrong.
Covering a team for seven months or so, in close contact, is often a delicate balance. Whenever you are going to write something like I did, it doesn't come from the hip. You know you are going to ruffle some feathers, so you better have some solid footing.
When Gibson and James are on the floor together the veteran All-Star genuinely looks to pass him the ball. I've seen LeBron take plenty of bad contested shots when he could've passed the ball off to others, perhaps those that aren't great jump shooters like Eric Snow. Right now, he wants to see what Gibson can do. That is what my story was about, LeBron wanting to see the rookies play and the rookies starting to play. Perhaps that will change, 82 games are a constant ebb and flow. Mike Brown is getting closer to that point, as well.
We in the media are often guilty of wanting to see rookies play, as are fans, when it probably isn't the best course of action. I try to guard against this as much as I can. But I know that Snow is Snow, he is going to play hard-nosed defense and not turn the ball over on offense. But sometimes he's a liability because he isn't a good shooter and his presence makes it easier to double team and neutralize LeBron, especially without Larry Hughes. Mike Brown has given David Wesley two months (he couldn't produce in the preseason either) and he hasn't been the answer. Now comes the rookies chance, whether LeBron wills it or not. I get it. But LeBron wills it too and that probably made it happen a little faster. And that -- not the implication that LeBron has a bunch of power, which is the issue that irked the Cavs but is true anyway -- is my whole point.
By the way, this is the second straight week I've been chirped at after my Monday column. Last week I wrote the Cavs don't match up well with the Wizards and should wish to avoid them if possible. The moment I walked into practice that afternoon LeBron was on me about it, correctly reminding me that all the Cavs did was beat them in a playoff series.
That is indeed true. However, including the preseason, I have personally watched the Cavs play the Wizards 14 times in the last two years and the Wizards are 8-6, 7-5 if you don't count the preseason. Four of those Cavs wins were by three points or less while most of the Wizards wins were comfortable. In my opinion, they are not a good matchup for the Cavs. They get the Cavs out of their comfort zone, and I've seen enough of it to know it. And so I wrote it.