After the Celtics blew out the Cavs tonight, taking a 3-2 series lead, Shaquille O'Neal said "“We’ve got to win two in a row. We’ve got to man up. I’ve been in this situation before.”
Why wouldn't it be? Stern wants James to be the next Michael Jordan, building his legend status with one single team. He doesn't want him to have a journeyman mercenary career. However, if the Cavs lose, it's very likely James might leave. Stern and the media have taken extraordinary steps to legitimize James by any means necessary. Last year's much improved squad won 66 games. Now, 3 of the starters from last year's team are coming off the bench (Ilgauskas, Varejao, Delonte West). They gave up virtually nobody to land Shaquille O'Neal, Antawn Jamison, Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon, Leon Powe, and Sebastian Telfair. Their roster runs 12 deep. Daniel Gibson, who was so important to them the last several years, is a healthy scratch most nights. Their payroll is in the top 4 in the league for at least the last 4 seasons despite being in a small market. Luxury tax be damned. Stern even brokered a sell of the team after James' rookie year forcing cheap owner Gordon Gund to sell the Cavs to the deep-pocketed Dan Gilbert. Yet, the media still has the audacity to claim that his so-called "supporting cast" sucks. When you have such a high payroll and so many many acquisitions year after year, eventually you have to look at the man himself. Is he at fault? Is he a poor franchise player? Is he a stat stuffer? Is his ball dominant way having an adverse effect on his teammates' performance? If James has a poor supporting cast, how do you call T-Mac's supporting cast in Orlando? A.I.'s in Philly? Vince Carter's in New Jersey and Toronto? Dwayne Wade's in Miami? Hell, the Cavs have a lot more depth than the Lakers.
There was a lot of rumbling recently about Kobe Bryant supposedly being "washed up". What a joke that was. The fact of the matter is that the post-Jordan era superstars with large fanbase are all being unfairly targeted and stigmatized by Stern's cronies in the media in order to make James' top dog status undisputed. They spin the Bryant vs. James debate into Bryant vs. Durant for the #2 spot with James being the undisputed number 1. They see new guys like Durant, who doesn't have a large enough following and is not as marketable, the perfect complement to a NBA that revolves around James. The same reason scrubs like Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, Brandon Roy, Joe Johnson (who just revealed himself as a fraud), Deron Williams, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook are getting a lot of undeserved credit. Essentially most of these unassuming players you can't pick out of a crowd are no threat to James' marketability the way Bryant and Iverson are. Meanwhile, Allen Iverson got his career sabotaged and pushed out of the league. Paul Pierce has been repeatedly called out for being "washed up". Vince Carter got snubbed for the all-star game the last 2 years when guys like Devin Harris, who led the Nets to a whooping 12 wins after Vinsanity left, and Al Horford are on it. It's funny how role players like Rashard Lewis and Mo Williams become "all-star" for playing teamball on contenders yet when a genuine superstar like Vinsanity sacrifices his stats, he is washed up. Tracy McGrady is not being given a fair shake either. He worked hard with Tim Grover to come back early from microfracture surgery. He was inconsistent with the Knicks, but so were Amare Stoudemire, Jason Kidd, Chris Webber, and Kenyon Martin. Why not let him work himself back instead of bashing him 24/7? He's only 30. Even guys like Dwyane Wade, Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, and Chris Paul are getting marginalized after they got too popular for James' sake.
After the Magic ruined Stern's dream of a Lakers-Cavs final last year despite the refs best effort to manipulate the games, Stern ensured this will never happen again with the trade of Shaq and Jamison. Rashard Lewis was suspended for 7 games to begin the season as a warning to teams that violate his grand plan.]
The fact of the matter is that the Celtics should had won this series already if the refs didn't hand game 1 to the Cavs.
Thursday, May 13th, 2010. Expect to see KG, Kendrick Perkins, Rasheed Wallace, and Glen Davis get into early foul trouble. Expect to James to attempt over 20 free throws. Expect Shaq to "get physical" without getting called for fouls. Do not expect anything other than explicitly one-sided officiating for the next 2 games (yes there will be 2 games). You could see that since game 1. They won't let the C's blow the Cavs out like today or like when the Magic did in Game 6 in ECF last season. The company men will figure out a way to hand Cavs the series.
The ghost from May, 2002 called. It wants his glory back.
Yes, Shaq, you have been in this situation before.