Friday, October 9, 2009

Cavs Have Shaq - That's All LeBron Needs

At a sturdy 37 years of age, Shaquille O'Neal will be the starting center of yet another NBA team - the fifth in his entire career. He teamed up with Kobe Bryant to bring Los Angeles three consecutive titles. From there he partnered with Dwyane Wade in Miami to lift the Heat to it's first NBA Championship. Now LeBron James will seek the same results from his new-found sidekick in 2009.

Shaq has been criticized ever since leaving the Lakers, arguing that he was past his prime and could no longer post significant numbers to lead a team to glory. He proved them wrong in Miami with his fourth NBA ring, and went to Phoenix's run-and-gun offense to further the case that he can still play.

The skeptics and doubters are still out in full force to scrutinize Shaq's every move. But as The Big Aristotle said himself, "I'm like fine wine, the older I get the better I am." To prove that, Shaq will need to use his "well-aged" wisdom to finish the season in a shower of champagne.

In the center of all this is LeBron James, last year's regular season MVP. With expectations high going into the 2008 post-season, the Cavaliers flopped in the Eastern Conference Finals, making LeBron James look like a one-man show with no support. That's where Shaq comes in.

The Cavaliers went all out this season, knowing that the 2010 off season may be full of surprises. The question is: will it be enough? To Cavaliers fans the answer is: it better be enough.

Kobe did it. Wade did it. And although Shaq is up in age, LeBron James must now do it.

And not much is needed from The Shaqalier. During Miami's 2005-06 Championship run, Shaq only averaged 20 points/game and 9.2 rebounds/game during the regular season and 18.4 points/game and 9.8 rebounds/game in the post season. Dwyane Wade's stellar playoff performance is what ultimately led Miami to victory, not O'Neal's dominance.

With Shaq posting similar statistics to his '05-'06 numbers, it might just be enough to supplement LeBron James, who has the same ability to take over a game and a dominate a series as Wade does.

A little motivation and a desire to continue his legacy could be wgat drives the future Hall of Fame center to raise his level of performance and help LeBron chase his first NBA title.

Theoretically, it will be a case for every team in the league to guard both LeBron and Shaq throughout an entire game. Dwight Howard may be a worthy adversary for Shaq, but it will still be difficult for Howard to defend 325 lbs of force in a one-on-one post up. Double teams may be a risk that most teams will be willing to take, but a potentially deadly one with Cleveland's perimeter shooters at bay.

It will be interesting to see how head coach Mike Brown utilizes the two ball dominant stars on the court. Assuming he does a good job of personnel match-ups, LeBron will have all the necessary pieces in place to lead the Cavaliers towards the promised land.

All the chips are on the table and there's no folding this hand for the LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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