In case anyone cares, here is the Rasor's Edge from Tuesday. It's on the Cavaliers, who begin their season tonight against the New Orleans/Oklahoma City/Charlotte/Soon-to-be-Las Vegas Hornets. I will stick to Zips-related material, but if you want to read my columns, I will post them here weekly as well, regardless of content.
The Browns proved their season is over when they lost 19-16 to the winless Houston Texans Sunday.
But not to worry, I have good news: (Insert Geico reference here) The Cavaliers' regular season begins Wednesday.
If these five things go right, the Cavaliers will be contenders for the NBA title.
1) A back-up center must emerge. General Manager Danny Ferry was relying on Anderson Varejao to be his back-up center before the Brazilian seriously injured his shoulder in international play. Because Varejao will be out a few more months, the Cavaliers must find someone to give All-Star center Zydrunas Ilgauskas a break. Alan Henderson and Zendon Hamilton, both journeymen new to the Cavaliers, will need to be reliable until Varejao's shoulder heals.
2) A back-up shooting guard must emerge. In the offseason, Ferry signed Larry Hughes, a lightning-fast slasher and defender from Washington. One caveat: Hughes has limited range on his jump shot. So Hughes' backup must be able to hit some 3-pointers. If Luke Jackson or Aleksandar Pavlovic blossoms, Cleveland will have one of the best benches in the league.
3) The bench must be used effectively. Ferry also signed point guard Damon Jones from Miami and power forward Donyell Marshall from Toronto. Both could be starters on most NBA teams. In fact, Jones started for the Heat during the team's run to the Eastern Conference Finals last year.
Coach Mike Brown must focus his strategy on rotating Jones for starter Eric Snow and Marshall for starter Drew Gooden.
4) Get the ball to Z. Some fans hate Z. To them, he is a lumbering oaf who can't catch a pass, run the floor or play defense. To the rest of the league, Z is the No. 1 focus when hatching a defense to stymie the Cavaliers. He is unstoppable when he has deep position in the post.
When the ball found Z's hands last year, almost every coach double-teamed him because Cleveland was without a good shooter to make them pay. Now that Z has 3-point shooters such as Jones, Marshall and Jackson, he will see fewer double-teams and be more potent than ever.
5) No. 23 must stay healthy. I have made it this far without mentioning Akron's own LeBron James. That is no accident. The Cavaliers have several weapons this year besides James. However, if he gets hurt for more than a month, the Cavaliers might have another season that ends in April.
As for my prediction, I am a bit pessimistic. Have the Cavaliers improved? Yes.
Will they win more than 50 games? Yes.
Will that be good enough to get home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs? No.
Will they beat Indiana, Detroit, New Jersey or Miami in the first round? No.
Even so, this is a necessary step for a team that will win the NBA Championship in 2008.