Bob on 05 26, 2009
Is Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Mike Brown worthy of his accolade of Head Coach of the Year? Brown and his Cavs finished the season with an NBA best record of 66-16 and were the most dominant team on their home court (39-2 at the Q); however, now that his squad is facing a team other than a Pistons group in shambles and an inferior Hawks club this postseason, Brown’s coaching blemishes have been exposed by the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The favorites to prevail from the Eastern Conference have found themselves in a bit of trouble. Had it not been for LeBron James’ extraordinary and potentially season-saving 3 point buzzer beater, the Cavs would be down 3 games to none (assuming a Game 2 loss wouldn’t spark a Cavs game 3 win) and on the brink of elimination.
The Orlando Magic create several matchup problems (Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis) for the Cleveland LeBrons, and Mike Brown has done a poor job adapting to this dilemma. The Cavs squared off against the Magic 3 times in the regular season and were defeated in two of those games, one of which included their worst and most embarrassing beatings of the season (29 pt. loss). Clearly Mike Brown and his Cavaliers have a problem dealing with Ron Jeremy’s (Stan Van Gundy) Orlando Magic.
Now, excluding The King, no other Cavalier has really given Coach Mike Brown any assistance (the refs have tried their best) versus the Magic in the playoffs, nevertheless, the struggles of the Cleveland Cavaliers is traced back to their head coach.
Brown is regarded as a defensive specialist, and his Cleveland team is one of the better defensive squads in the league. Nonetheless, facing a team that poses so many matchup problems with a roster that includes Howard, Turkoglu and Lewis requires roster adjustments coupled with a different style of ball, something Mike Brown has failed to recognize.
There are several changes that need to be made both offensively and defensively. Here’s what Cleveland needs to do to avoid being ousted, and it doesn’t seem like rocket science to me.
Go with a smaller lineup:
This means Zydrunas Ilgauskas has got to have limited minutes! The 7’3 Lithuanian center that looks like he just climbed down the beanstalk is slower than molasses getting up and down the court and it has hurt Cleveland this series. With a freak physical specimen who can run the floor like Dwight Howard at center, Big Z gets left in the dust. He’s got great size and length, but he’s just not agile or athletic enough to keep up with Howard. Additionally, Z has struggled shooting the ball well this series. The Magic live and die by the 3 ball. A quicker lineup will help the perimeter defense.
Defensive matchup adjustments that should be made:
-Anderson Varejao on Howard – Guarding Orlando’s dominant center is never an easy task, but Sideshow Bob (Varejao, incase you’re a little slow) is a pesky defender and is great at drawing fouls.
-LeBron James on Rashard Lewis – Lewis is a lethal scorer. He can stroke the 3 and has the ability to put it on the deck. To no surprise, ‘Shard has been shooting well from deep this series (9 of 15). Allowing The King to guard him should put a muzzle on Rashard’s offensive production. LeBron’s size and athleticism should prevent Lewis from driving to the tin and his lockdown D should rattle his 3 point shooting.
-Joe Smith on Hedo Turkoglu – Joe Smith is an experienced veteran and is a great defender. Delonte West did a good job on Hedo last game (1 of 11), but we can’t expect Turkoglu to shoot like that every game. Although West plays great defense, he gives up too much size to the 6’11 Turk.
-Mo Williams on Rafer Alston – Yeah…so about having LBJ guard Skip 2 My Lou. REALLY COACH?! I get the idea, putting ‘Bron on the weakest player allows him to roam, but how has that been working out? Mo Williams should be able to handle the task of guarding Alston.
-Delonte West on Courtney Lee – Lee has dazzled in his rookie season. He’s got a great offensive repertoire for a rookie, but Delonte West’s great defensive play should slow him down.
More offensive movement:
The Cavs offense has been stagnant at times. Yes, LeBron is a phenomenal player, but he can’t literally do everything! Cleveland has got to have better ball movement – this ties in with a quicker and smaller lineup. Z is great when he is knocking down shots. His ability to step out and shoot forces Dwight Howard to step away from the paint, but he just hasn’t been shooting the ball well this series and hasn’t looked himself (including 3s, 13 of 40, or .325%). I’m not saying he should be flat out benched, but Big Z’s minutes should be limited, especially if he isn’t hitting open shots. Mike Brown did make one good move, keeping Wally Sczerbiak on the bench in favor of Sasha Pavlovic. Wally really doesn’t even belong in the league. I think I could D him up! Pavlovic is more mobile with the ability to create his own shot and gives his team an offensive boost, a much needed boost given the way the Cavs minus LBJ have been playing offensively.
Clearly there are things the Cavs players could do to help Coach Brown and his team survive an Orlando upset (knocking down open shots wouldn’t hurt), but that’s not my point here. This series has opened Mike Brown’s coaching to the elements. For instance, why in the hell is Sasha Pavlovic guarding Turkoglu with seconds left in a tied game?!? You know what I’m referring to; when Turk hit the shot that put Orlando up a bucket with one second left prior to LBJ’s game winner.
It’s easy to win games when you play subpar teams and boast the most dominant player in LeBron James on your team….but the true test of a good coach (someone worthy of Coach of the Year honors) is how you adjust and perform when your team faces adversity. Mike Brown certainly doesn’t look like the coach of the year at this moment in time.