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The Cleveland Cavaliers Have Prospered in the Face of Adversity

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IMarch 4, 2010

SACRAMENTO, CA - DECEMBER 23:  LeBron James #23 and Shaquille O'Neal #33 of the Cleveland Cavaliers look on against the Sacramento Kings during an NBA game at ARCO Arena on December 23, 2009 in Sacramento, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

During the first half of the NBA season, the Cleveland Cavaliers were lucky enough to avoid the types of injuries which plagued the league's other top contenders and caused impact players to miss significant time.

Teams like the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers, and Denver Nuggets were forced to endure trying stretches without the help of players like Dirk Nowitzki, Carmelo Anthony, and Kobe Bryant.

But adversity chooses no favorites, and right before the All-Star break the Cavaliers were stricken with a slate of injuries which downed Mo Williams, Delonte West, and most recently Shaquille O'Neal.

But maybe the basketball gods are finally smiling on Cleveland, because LeBron James has remained healthy, Antawn Jamison arrived at just the right time, and this stretch of the schedule makes an injury easier to swallow.

Of course, the key has been James, and his recent play has more than likely sealed the MVP award, if it wasn't already, and simultaneously maintained the Cavaliers' edge in the Eastern Conference and the league.

James is the league's most complete player, and the Cavaliers desperately need the scoring, assists, rebounds, and defense that he provides in order to win, especially when dealing with injured players.

That's not a knock on James' supporting cast, because they all have stepped up in Cleveland's recent stretch, and players like Jamison, J.J. Hickson and Williams deserve credit.

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But to deny the impact James has on the team would be similar to denying the Earth rotates on an axis, and the sun rises and sets each day.

There is simply to much evidence to claim otherwise.

Other players have made big contributions, but James is the one player that the Cavaliers could ill-afford to lose because he is the most dominant player in every category on the roster.

The Nuggets, Lakers, and Mavericks were able to weather the storm of injuries to their top players, because ample talent is spread throughout the roster, which isn't the case in Cleveland.

Cavalier fans like to exclaim that Cleveland is far from a one man team, but the fallacy in that logic is found when James is deleted from the equation, and the numbers of his teammates stand alone.

But the well-conditioned James has remained healthy, and he has willed his team to multiple wins without the presence of his twin seven footers, O'Neal and Zydrunas Ilglauskas.

That feat alone merits praise, even though the perception that Cleveland is benefiting from the absence of their centers, because they are learning to play small ball is another example of a flawed concept.

The Cavaliers are well versed in the nuances of small ball because they were forced to rely on it in the playoffs, when it was determined there was no way Ilglauskas could remain on the floor without hurting the team.

They were unsuccessful with it then, and to be honest, it will serve them no better if they have to engage in postseason activities without the services of one or both of their seven footers.

The main reason O'Neal was signed was to compete with the towering front lines of the Orlando Magic and the Lakers.

In order for Cleveland to win the championship that element needs to be present.

Ilglauskas is likely to re-sign as soon as possible and the time missed from O'Neal's injury should end right before the playoffs start, so Cleveland should be fine as long as James continues his brilliant play.

The way the Cavaliers have responded in the face of calamity says a lot about the resolve of the team, but we are all witness to how much easier a dominant James makes that response.

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