LeBron James needs more help than these crumpled Cavs can give him

LeBron James is back in the NBA Finals beginning tonight but I figure he won’t be there for long. Make it Golden State in five.

To me, this series shapes up a lot like LeBron’s first Finals trip with Cleveland way back when he was 22. San Antonio won it in a four-game sweep with LeBron desperately in need of support from a Cavs lineup short on supplemental stars.

Cleveland averaged just 80.1 points in the 2007 Finals and the Spurs even won Game 3 despite scoring only 75.

[Dwyane Wade was better than you thought last year]

[A greater appreciation for the Heat’s four-year cavalry charge]

[Bulls went to Iowa State for coach once before with poor results]

This time around it’s a high-octane Warriors team with MVP Stephen Curry in LeBron’s way. If the Cavs had all their players it might be a long series, but Kyrie Irving is hurting and Kevin Love can’t play at all. That means LeBron will need to do more than score 28 points a night. He’ll also need to rebound and defend at monster levels.

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 26:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrates after defeating the Atlanta Hawks during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2015 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 26, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cavaliers defeated the Hawks 118-88.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH – MAY 26: LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrates after defeating the Atlanta Hawks during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2015 NBA Playoffs. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Oh, plus he does most of the coaching, too. It’s a little too much to ask once you get out of the Eastern Conference and into the NBA’s fast lane.

Looking back on the 2007 Finals, there really wasn’t much more LeBron could have done. He didn’t have Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. He had Sasha Pavlovic and Drew Gooden and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. When LeBron had a 4-for-16 shooting night in Game 1, there was no one else to help.

LeBron pressed the whole way. The best game was the clincher for the Spurs, with LeBron scoring 24 points on 10-of-30 shooting and only two other Cavs in double figures. San Antonio won 83-82.

No matter what, two things will be different for LeBron this year.

First, he’s a much more versatile scorer at 30 and will shoot a higher percentage, with lots of assists to keep the Warriors defense scrambling.

Second, there will be a lot more interest in this series. The 2007 Finals were a bust for ABC, with the lowest television ratings to that point for a championship series.

Viewership numbers dropped 27 percent from the previous year’s Finals, and you’ll probably like this next part.

The 2006 Finals were a Miami showcase, with the Heat taking their first title in six games against Dallas. Dwyane Wade was the Finals MVP with a 34.7-point average. Pat Riley was the Heat’s coach.

Dwyane Wade with 2006 NBA Finals MVP trophy (Damon Higgins/Palm Beach Post photo)
Dwyane Wade with 2006 NBA Finals MVP trophy (Damon Higgins/Palm Beach Post photo)Heat’s coach.

For now, though, it’s time to see if LeBron can do more with this Cleveland team, which won 53 games during the regular season, than he did with the 2007 Cavs, who won 50.

If he manages somehow to win another championship in his first year back in Cleveland, it will be a greater achievement than the two he won in Miami. That’s how much of the load is on his shoulders alone.

Oh, by the way, the FiveThirtyEight website, where numbers are king, figures that LeBron’s current Cavs roster is better than the 2007 crew, but only by a hair.

And if you can make sense of anything in that deep bucket of data, thank your calculus teacher.

If you can’t, feel free to enjoy this crazy NBA Finals preview from Taiwainese animators:

Jupiter’s Billy Gabor Gets NBA Championship Ring He Earned 60 Years Ago

Here’s a wonderfully entertaining entry from the better-late-than-never file and it involves feisty former NBA player Billy Gabor of Jupiter, whose 93rd birthday is Wednesday.

Bill Gabor, age 91, played in the NBA in the 1950s. He was photographed at his home in Jupiter on Wednesday, January 29, 2014, holding an engraved ice bucket. "When we won in 1955, we didn't get anything from the NBA," he said. "The stockholders gave us this engraved ice bucket." The engraving reads "Presented to Billy Gabor World Champions Syracuse Nationals 1954-1955 by the Stockholders." (Bruce R. Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)
Bill Gabor, age 91, played in the NBA in the 1950s. He was photographed at his home in Jupiter on Wednesday, January 29, 2014, holding an engraved ice bucket. “When we won in 1955, we didn’t get anything from the NBA,” he said. “The stockholders gave us this engraved ice bucket.” The engraving reads “Presented to Billy Gabor World Champions Syracuse Nationals 1954-1955 by the Stockholders.” (Bruce R. Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

“Billy the Bullet” was his nickname when Gabor played for the Syracuse Nationals of the longago NBA. He was part of a league championship team in 1955 with Hall of Famer Dolph Schayes as a teammate but they never got a championship ring.

RELATED: For more on Billy’s NBA career in the George Mikan era, here’s a feature I wrote last year.

Pro basketball was not a big-money sport back then so the Nationals’ ownership group couldn’t spring for rings. Gabor displays in his home the engraved ice bucket that the team awarded its players instead.

After all this time, however, the rings are finally in.

Howard Dolgon, owner of the American Hockey League’s Syracuse Crunch, had diamond-studded 1955 NBA championship rings made for the four Nationals players still living. Gabor wasn’t feeling well  enough to make the trip to Syracuse, where a ceremony recently took place at the old War Memorial Auditorium there. That’s where the hockey team plays now and where the Nationals played then.

On Wednesday night at an Outback restaurant in Jupiter, Gabor and friends will gather to celebrate the arrival of the ring, and to admire its shiny brilliance.

That ice bucket soon will have to share space with a new artifact of Gabor’s youth on the mantel of his seaside Jupiter condo.

 

Draft Demonstrates How Little Muschamp, Golden Achieved With Pro Prospects

Miami Hurricanes head coach Al Golden shakes hands with Florida State Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher after a game at Sun Life Stadium on October 20, 2012 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Miami’s Al Golden have some ground to make up on other big-time coaches like Urban Meyer and Mark Helfrich. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The first College Football Playoff showed us that Urban Meyer is the best coach in college football today, consistently getting the most from his talent. But the recent NFL Draft showed us that he’s going to be even more of a pain in the long term.

For all the attention given to Jimbo Fisher’s 39-3 record at FSU over the last three years, and it is well deserved, Meyer is 38-3 in his three seasons at Ohio State and likely would have gotten even more done if his opening 12-0 team in 2012 wasn’t on NCAA probation and ineligible for the postseason.

Wait, it gets worse with data from the draft.

Jimbo, a spectacular recruiter, led the nation with 11 players selected in the 2015 NFL draft. Included in that was the No. 1 overall pick, quarterback Jameis Winston.

Urban, on the other hand, got shut out altogether in the first round and had only five players drafted from his Buckeyes team. He was down to his third quarterback by the end of the season and won the national championship anyway.

Conclusion: Meyer already has piled up enormous depth and will continue to develop young players at a rate far beyond most coaches. This is cumulative Nick Saban stuff, but not even Alabama could do anything with Ohio State when they met in the national semifinals on New Year’s Day. No reason to think that Jim Harbaugh will be able to catch up to Urban in the Big Ten anytime soon either.

If any of this makes you cringe, better not read on. The NFL draft has some ugly stuff to say about Florida and Miami.


Here is a chart showing the total number of overall draft picks selected from some prominent schools over the last two years.


In the opinion of NFL personnel pros, Florida’s Will Muschamp had more potential professional-quality talent among his upperclassmen than Meyer did, yet still managed to go 11-13 in his last two seasons with the Gators. If anything, Jeremy Foley should have pulled the rug out from under Muschamp sooner.

Also, Miami is in a class with Ohio State and Oregon when it comes to potential pros on its roster. Problem is, those other two teams played in January’s National Championship Game.

Miami’s Al Golden, meanwhile, is losing steam with two minor bowl losses and a 6-7 record last year. Looks like Al is getting the minimum from his guys. Anything less than an ACC title game appearance in 2015 and he should be gone, too.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for an overachiever, it’s Mark Helfrich, who got an in-house promotion when Chip Kelly left Oregon for the NFL. Hasn’t done much wrong since, going 24-4 and doing it without the advantage of an abundant Florida recruiting harvest in his own backyard.

Would Florida have done better hiring Helfrich instead of Jim McElwain? Could be, but it’s a moot point. The Gators program has dipped to a point where a guy like Helfrich, supported by Phil Knight’s Nike money, is out of reach.