LeBron James keeps the broken Cavs the class of the wretched East

Jay Croucher Columnist

By Jay Croucher, Jay Croucher is a Roar Expert

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    The greatness of LeBron James has never been ethereal or magical like Stephen Curry’s; instead, James’ power is logical and crushingly predictable.

    Curry’s brilliance is absurd, and so, in different ways, is the brilliance of Russell Westbrook and Giannis Antetokounmpo. The way these stars succeed is mind-blowing in its strangeness, marvellously uncomfortable in its unusualness.

    James has never felt as unknowable. The impossibility of LeBron comes not with the individual plays he makes, but in the fact that a human being exists in his form and construction.

    The passing and vision of James have always been his most ghostly, poetic skills. It’s those talents, ultimately, that elevate James from the pantheon into whatever is above the pantheon.

    But, what is most obvious about James to someone who has no understanding of basketball is also still the primary driver of his magnificence; the power of his body.

    It’s the physical presence of James, the intimidating aura he exudes on the court, a king among boys, the realest human among ants, that makes him so commanding. Outside of that bizarre 2011 Finals, for James’s entire career, whenever he has been on the floor, the nine other players have just been people sharing his court.

    Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James

    (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

    So it went against the Wizards on Friday night, with the likes of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Kevin Love and once-famous actors Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade merely extras in LeBron’s film. It was a breathtaking, if repetitive, picture, one that only Beal occasionally threatened to disrupt.

    Everything that has made post-2012-Game-5-versus-the-Celtics-LeBron special was on display. The mesmerising force, pushing his way into the paint with a mix of speed, brutishness and ballet; the relentlessness underneath the rim, clearing space and owning rebounds; the jumping of passing lanes; the soul-destroying blocks; the selfless passing; the cinematic dagger threes – a wink to the player LeBron has always wanted to be a little more like, and is great enough that he can occasionally become.

    The result was the ultimate LeBron Power Game – 57 points on 34 shots, 11 rebounds (five offensive), nine trips to the line, and only, remarkably, four threes attempted.

    The Wizards were left helpless, like all before them outside of the Bay Area. James’ masterpiece was one both astounding and depressing – a testament to the force an individual can exert over a team game, and a reminder that a team game is so often dependent on who has the best individual.

    The Cavs, especially when he wasn’t there, have only ever been able to go as far as James could take them. But this season that notion is being stretched to absurd lengths. This is, outside of the best player in the world, an awful team. Little makes sense in its theoretical construction or on-court reality.

    Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James is defended by Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry

    (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

    Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade do not belong on the same team, especially when Isaiah Thomas is waiting in the wings. There is one proven traditional big man on the roster – Tristan Thompson – and he’s 6’9 and injured. Jae Crowder makes sense alongside James as a hybrid 3-4, but not when Kevin Love is playing the five, which he is forced to time and time again.

    Jeff Green is bad at basketball and the Iman Shumpert game is over. There is no exciting or even interesting youth. Jose Calderon is getting minutes.

    But none of it seems to matter, not in the East anyway, and not until Game 1 in Oakland. Boston lost its best player, the Raptors have created their own above-average form of mediocrity, Washington’s bench is still a disaster zone, and the Bucks aren’t ready yet.

    In the haze of this woebegone conference, James is still its only shining truth.

    Jay Croucher
    Jay Croucher

    From MSG in New York to the MCG in Melbourne, Jay has spent his adult life travelling the world, indulging in sport and approaching it from the angle of history and pop culture. Follow him on Twitter @CroucherJD

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    The Crowd Says (18)

    • November 6th 2017 @ 7:17am
      Swampy said | November 6th 2017 @ 7:17am | ! Report

      Hilariously an article on another forum was published yesterday regarding how the nba has got skinnier. The day after the monster truck otherwise known as LeBron powered his way to 57 points…

      I do think you underrate the Celtics here though. A minor adjustment after Hayward went down and they are now rolling with 7 straight wins and the league’s best defence. That is a best defence which includes Kyrie Irving!

      And I might add, through my incredible bias as an Aussie, Philly are really good. If the team stays healthy they are really well constructed and balanced.

    • November 6th 2017 @ 8:24am
      Jerry said | November 6th 2017 @ 8:24am | ! Report

      And the Cavs have just shot under 30% collectively to trail the Hawks by 9 at halftime.

      It’s hard to make a call on them until Thomas suits up, but god they’re just an awful looking team right now. Brainless jump shots with no ball movement and terrible D.

    • November 6th 2017 @ 10:29am
      astro said | November 6th 2017 @ 10:29am | ! Report

      Simmons and Haberstroh have an interesting chat about LBJ on the latest Ringer NBA pod…and cover some of what you’re talking about here, Jay.

      As with Tom Brady in the NFL, the league has never seen a player like Lebron in terms of what he’s able to do on the court at his age, and after the number of minutes and games he’s played in his career. In that Wiz game, he looked like the fittest, strongest guy out there.

      It’s just great to see Lebron being so comfortable with his own game now. For many years, particularly those first 7yr in Cleveland, he looked like a guy trying to play in a traditional SF role and unsure about when and how he should take over games. Now, he basically plays point forward, controls and calls offensive sets and looks like he has total control of games.

      The Cavs have problems this year, mainly with their defense and a backcourt full of guys who can’t defend anyone (ie. Rose, Wade, Korver, Smith etc). This will improve when Thompson returns, but I agree with you that a lot of their problems don’t matter much when they have Lebron (and they play in the East).

    • Columnist

      November 6th 2017 @ 2:07pm
      Ryan O'Connell said | November 6th 2017 @ 2:07pm | ! Report

      “Jeff Green is bad at basketball”.

      Harsh! I will die alone on Jeff Green Street!

    • November 6th 2017 @ 3:25pm
      Brian said | November 6th 2017 @ 3:25pm | ! Report

      Wade, Rose & Love continue to disappoint. I wish James could get there without them. Alas he will carry them there on his own broad shoulders.

      I wonder though if it gets too dire if King James will just start focusing on 2019

    • November 6th 2017 @ 4:08pm
      JoC said | November 6th 2017 @ 4:08pm | ! Report

      Jay, I love your basketball articles. There isn’t usually much on the roar.
      Keep em coming.

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