LeBron’s supporting cast needs to step up mentally in 2nd Half of season

Sitting at the midway point in the season, with trades rumors swirling, I’m of the opinion that the Cavaliers can compete for an NBA title as currently constructed, with a record that reads 30-11, but one thing needs to improve with this team.  A good portion of the hard work is behind them in a way – incorporating three new starters into the line-up, blending Shaq into the offense, working through the Delonte West issues, figuring out the rotation, playing more than half their games on the road – and they did all that while still keeping pace to win 60 games.  For the stretch run the Cavs will add Leon Powe, who as opposed to picking up a piece via the trade deadline, has be to every practice and game making the late season transition that much smoother assuming health.  So basically I just don’t want to mess with it, and I don’t think the Cavs need to look outside their roster for improvement.  Sure, adding a piece like a Kevin Martin (19 points last night in his first game back from injury), Antawn Jamison, or Anthony Randolph somehow for next to nothing might be a solid play, but I don’t see how the Cavaliers can add a significant player of value without drastically restructuring their line-up.  So I say ride it out.  The Cavs have as good a chance to win it all as any of the other handful of teams with realistic title aspirations, but they have to improve in one key area:  the supporting cast cannot continue – at times – to play afraid of letting LeBron James down.  

Portland:  When LeBron comes out in a road-game you have to have, and sets the tone by going 8 of 8 for the first quarter, scores 31 in the first half, and stretches his team out to a comfortable halftime lead, his supporting cast has to come out like Herm says ‘playing to win the game.’  Not playing to watch the King, which is what they did against Portland.  They came out watching LeBron in that second half – despite his efforts to get everyone involved – and in turn they ended up watching Portland come all the way back from a 17-point second half lead.  Luckily the Cavs hung on to that one. 

Utah:  If only the same could be said about the game on Thursday Friday morning.  I stayed up until the game ended at 1:39 ET and thought I was happy I did…until Anthony Parker and Zydrunas Ilgauskas combined to miss three FT’s – of which any one of those would have sealed the deal.  The Cavs played bad all night, then LeBron went absolutely crazy and put the Cavaliers in position to win a game they tried to lose.  And after he did, all starter Anthony Parker or key reserve Zydrunas Ilgauskas had to to do was make a FT.  LeBron had just scored 20 points in the fourth quarter.  Just help him out with a FT.  Instead they didn’t, and they made sure the Cavs did lose after all.  And I really don’t want to hear criticism of Mike Brown for having the ball in those guys hands either.  It wasn’t but a couple of seasons ago that Z shot technical FT’s for this squad, and while his athleticisms gone, he should still be able to connect from the FT stripe.  And Anthony Parker?  He shoots 77% from the stripe, and is amongst the league leaders from three.  He’s a starting guard, and cannot choke on FT’s down the stretch.  He has to make those…his sister would.

Mo and JJ:  Beyond that, Mo Williams cannot stat to go Russel Branyon here for the rest of the season – turn in a monster stretch of games, followed by a bunch of whiffs.  Let’s go Mo, you’re an All Star – we need you in it.  And while were on the subject of gray matter, JJ Hickson, anyday now bud.  You are the second best pure athlete on the court every single time you take the floor – your talent is huge, and I don’t even think you know how good you can be yet.  But you have to learn the plays boss.  I know they are complicated, and I know you’re only 21, and I know you only did a year at NC State, and I’m sure your HS team didn’t run any plays either…but c’mon now Hickson, you’ve been in the NBA for a year and a half now, learn the plays.

Tonight:  The Cavs tip-off against the Clippers tonight at 10:30…a shame we won’t get to see Blake Griffin play, tough to see him miss the whole season…Wine and Gold Podcast will stream live tonight at 9:30 so stop back and check us out before each and every Cavaliers game.

Brendan Bowers

About Brendan Bowers

I am the founding editor of StepienRules.com. I am also a content strategist and social media manager with Electronic Merchant Systems in Cleveland. My work has been published in SLAM Magazine, KICKS Magazine, The Locker Room Magazine, Cleveland.com, BleacherReport.com, InsideFacebook.com and elsewhere. I've also written a lot of articles that have been published here.