They will say otherwise but per the eye test, Cleveland Cavaliers season seemed to be heading for the inevitable end in Game 5 of the NBA Finals series. That call was on the cards right up until Draymond Green swung his arm and touched Lebron James groin area after James stepped over him to get back in position. The subsequent suspension Green had was not in direct correlation to the misled action but rather a compilation of misdeeds by the Golden State Warriors versatile Forward.
Before Cleveland and Golden State renewed their burgeoning rivalry in light of meeting at basketball biggest stage for two straight years, Green ‘s Warriors had to overcome a 1-3 deficit in the Western Conference Finals against a then Kevin Durant led Oklahoma City Thunder to make the Finals.
In the heat of an intense series, Thunder’s Steven Adams got kicked in the groin by Green’s flailing legs which attracted a flagrant foul. A near carbon copy of that situation resulted in Draymond serving a one game suspension which ultimately swung the series in Cleveland’s favor and enabled James fulfill his promise to bring a title to the city.
Things have been relatively quiet since then as a myriad of issues have taken over media space such as the Draft-which produced the first ever Ghanaian born player in the league-free agency movement and upcoming Olympic Games. The distraction has blessed the team a full on rest period to stay away from the intense spotlight a hitherto title starved team that broke its title jinx, would usually get.
Signing Chris Andersen, Mike Dunleavy and bringing back Richard Jefferson from a short lived retirement mark the major business conducted thus far. Negotiations on bringing back James is ongoing with an expectant outcome of seeing James play for another year before becoming a free agent yet again.
However, getting on the same page with J.R. Smith has been difficult as both sides are at odds over monetary issues. Smith is on the lookout for a big payday (per ESPN.com, he is demanding $15 million) but Cavaliers management are hesitating on meeting his request despite Smith improving his output on defense and shooting efficiency. Currently, the Cavaliers have 10 players on its roster with five remaining spots to be filled before the season tips off in late October. The veteran Jones’- Dahntay and James- and LeBron James, are expected to resign new deals with the team in the coming days per the above listed source which slashes the remaining spots to two. Should management give into Smith’s demands, there would be a solitary spot left and nine players well over 30 on the team.
Between Andersen, Dunleavy, Channing Frye, Jefferson, Mo Williams, the Jones’, Smith and James have over 100 years of playing experience in the league and dozens of kilometers on their legs. In the fast and furious style of the modern game would it be wise for a side to defend its title with a very old team? For comparison sake, last season’s finalists, Golden State Warriors, got younger by offloading veterans Andrew Bogut, Leandro Barbosa, Brandon Rush and Marresse Speights replacing them with Durant, rookies Damion Jones and Patrick McCaw, 2010 draftee Elliot Williams and maybe just maybe training camp invitee, JaVale McGee.
The Warriors have ranked in the top two spots for two straight seasons in pace even with the aforementioned quartet and they just got faster-at least on paper-with the addition of the young newcomers. Slowing down these guys won’t be easy especially when a projected starting lineup of Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, James, Smith and Thompson need a breather. To make matters worse, Cleveland decided not to tie down defensive pest Matthew Dellavedova (25) to a longer richer contract leading to a move to Milwaukee Bucks.
On the other side of the conference, the preternatural veteran laden San Antonio Spurs also got younger with the retirement of 40 year old Tim Duncan. His retirement has been well documented by yours truly and several others but on the low side, other key members of the team have moved on, bringing the age bar further lower. Boris Diaw (34) moved to Utah Jazz and David West (35) will be the oldest player at the Warriors. In their places, Pau Gasol, who is four years younger than Duncan, David Lee (33), Dewayne Dedmon (26) and rookies Ryan Arcidiacono and Dejounte Murray make up the replacements. In the context of having too many veterans on a team still under pressure to deliver, courtesy James revelation of chasing Michael Jordan’s “ghost”, Cleveland doesn’t look as favorites for next season’s title.
Blame the modern style of play for this because sometime in the 1980’s and early 90’s, the older your team was (with a minimal representation of younger legs), the brighter the chances of winning a title. In the 21 Century, things are not what they used.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah