*Or not. Fuck that guy. And poor Craig Ehlo. I'm still convinced Jordan kicked him in the face when they show MJ's celebration from the angle they always show it from.
Finally, the Cavs beat the Bulls in the playoffs. That's one monkey off their backs; up next, the Boston Celtics, who the Cavs have actually beaten in the playoffs (essentially ending Larry Bird's career with a 122-104 blowout of the C's in Game 7 of the 1992 Eastern Conference semis). Before we get to that scintillating showdown, however, I just wanted to reflect on some miscellaneous thoughts about the series that just was:
- This is the 5th year in a row the Cavs have advanced to the second round. Prior to the beginning of this current streak, the franchise had only won 2 out of their 12 first round series in 35 seasons, compiling a 16-31 record in those 12 series. The LeBron Cavaliers have a 16-4 record in their 5 first round series (which is a little skewed due to the expansion of the first round to a best-of-seven series, but still, pretty impressive).
- There seems to be some concern over LeBron's right elbow, especially since he shot a fairly important free throw with less than 8 seconds left in the game left-handed. He claims it's fine, and he just had that funny bone numbness in it while he was at the line, and I'm inclined to believe him.
- What if, however, LeBron shot left-handed (knowing the Cavs were likely going to win regardless of if he made or missed the free throw) to create the illusion he is much more hurt than he actually is. The Celtics notice this, and in Game 1 vs. the Cavs on Saturday they play way off LBJ, daring him to pull up and shoot with his "gimpy" arm. Which LeBron gladly does, showing no ill effects in the elbow and continuing his torrid outside shooting from the first round. (I know this is a bit far-fetched, but after this, I believe the man is capable of anything.)
- Antawn Jamison was obviously a great addition, but what has really impressed me is how much fun it is to watch his unorthodox offensive game (as opposed to how awkward it is to watch Zydrunas Ilgauskas's unorthodox offensive game [and I would have included a link here to Fred McCloud's immortal "left-handed ugly sling" call vs. Detroit in 2007, but it criminally does not exist anywhere on the Internet]). Jamison's game rides the edge between being beautiful and crossing into the basketball equivalent of the uncanny valley, where the shot looks 95% correct, but there's just that little 5% blip that makes you almost throw-up.
- As for the Cavs' vanquished opponents--the Chicago Bulls--they have some real positives to take away from this series. Derrick Rose again raised his game in the postseason, legitimizing himself as a playoff performer. The same goes for Joakim Noah, who was arguably even better than Rose. Add in Luol Deng as a pretty potent 3rd option, and the Bulls are a pretty enticing destination for a marquee free agent this summer. The big question is whether head coach Vinny Del Negro will be around to lead this nucleus.
- Regarding Del Negro, ESPN's John Hollinger tweeted "Haven't been the biggest Vinny fan, but will say this -- Bulls don't exactly look like a team that needs a coaching age, do they?" While the Bulls certainly did not give up, I don't think that had anything to do with Vinny Del Negro. In the two games I actually got to watch of this series, I don't ever remember being wowed by the design of the Bulls' offense or their sets coming out of timeouts. Most of their scoring, in fact, seemed to come off of Rose creating on his own or Noah hustling for a put-back (or creating a scoring opportunity for a teammate with an offensive board).
- The most damning indication that the Bulls may have been hanging around in this series despite Del Negro is the fact that in interviews I've heard or read with Chicago players never once did I hear them stick up for their coach, even when the interviewer brought up Del Negro's shaky job security or his run-in with Bulls VP John Paxson. It has always looked to me as if the Bulls are just a collection of extremely prideful guys accustomed to winning (almost every Chicago draftee played for a successful college program) who decided long ago to give maximum effort on the floor while also doing the bear minimum to maintain the front that Del Negro has any control over that effort. They were always trying to balance between trying to win the game and trying to make their coach look somewhat significant, which were often contradicting paths. I think firing Del Negro and replacing him with an actual coach would be a huge relief for the Bulls players, allowing them to concentrate solely on playing basketball. (UPDATE: Apparently, some of the Bulls--the most important, Bull, actually--do like Del Negro.)