Thursday, January 18, 2007

West Coast Slip

This column is the first in our series "Serious and Legitimate Sports Articles. " Any jokes will be minimal and at best, accidental. Anyone looking for hilarity can either scroll down, or check out

When NBA teams embark on their mid-season coastal swings, it’s generally a time where players learn a little bit about themselves and their teammates. Gone are the distractions of family and friends, replaced instead with team building excursions, or in Stephen Jackson's case, trips to and from various crime scenes. Five games into the most challenging road trip thus far for the Cavaliers, fans are also starting to find out just what this team is all about.

Last night’s loss to the 16-24 Trail Blazers might not define the season. The Cavaliers, after all, still have the top spot in the East. But they won’t for long, if they continue to put forth the lack of effort that’s been plaguing them of late. Losing to a Seattle team without Rashard Lewis is one thing, but getting routed by the unremarkable Blazers is another.

A cursory look at LeBron’s shot chart indicates it was one of those games, the type that features an affinity for outside shots on offense, and a lack of resolve on the defense end. Last night was not the time for such a night; the Cavs needed their captain to get through a game-long malaise. What they didn’t need was an 8 for 21 night from the field. He hinted that fatigue was probably a factor.

My legs weren't under my jump shot," James said. "For some reason, I just couldn't get under it. I started to attack late in the game but it was too late.”

Tired legs do not explain his continued plight at the free throw line. James made only 6 of 13 attempts to bring his average down to 71 percent. Perhaps he should take a cue from Greg Oden and switch hands. The freshman center is shooting 75 percent with his opposite hand in his last 6 games, while LeBron continues to struggle with his dominant hand.

Rookie Daniel Gibson was the lone bright spot. He went 4-of-7 from the field, adding 10 points and three assists. On the defensive end, he still looks like a rookie, getting lost in the half court as often as Fred McLeod says "rubber rim." Although his attack-first mindset will earn him more minutes and will hopefully rub off on the rest of his teammates.

The Cavaliers still have the chance to right the ship. They have winnable games against Denver and Golden State to round out their west coast tour. Unless the Cavaliers either make a personnel change before the trade deadline, or start to find their identity; the team that has emerged during this trip might actually be exactly who they are.

photo courtesy of CBSsportsline


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