Justice Is Served

March 17, 2010 10:26 PM

Cavs have the right coach in Mike Brown


All the pieces aren't in place, but it doesn't look as if that matters to coach Mike Brown. His Cavaliers are playing about as well as any team without a legitimate NBA center can play these days, and for God's sake, what might Brown's team play like once a real center does show up?

That's a question that only the postseason might be able to answer. In a lot of ways, his Cavaliers are a different team altogether than the one Brown led into the NBA Eastern Finals last season against the Orlando Magic.

For one thing, these Cavs are deeper. Brown can dip into his bench and find a useful piece from one to 12. In Antawn Jamison, Brown has found a premium power forward. Complementary players in Jamario Moon and Anthony Parker were not there for Brown a season ago either.

He also has a more seasoned J.J. Hickson, and Jawad Williams has been more than stagehands for Brown.

Pay no attention to the fact that Brown hasn't had the Delonte West of a year ago or that the flashy Daniel Gibson has been pushed to the end of coach's rotation. The team hasn't missed them.  

Ask Brown about this team, and he almost ignores the fact that center Shaquille O'Neal, a summer acquisition, is injured and sidelined until the playoffs or that Zydrunas Ilgauskas, a key part of the Jamison trade, is sitting and awaiting the official go-ahead to re-sign.

But even when Z returns, will Brown need him?

Maybe not these fine-tuned Cavs.

"We stress playing the right way," Brown said Wednesday before his Cavs beat Pacers, 99-94.

As the Cavs showed against Indiana, the right way is to play without excuses - to show up and perform without Z or Shaq or an unpredictable West and, on two occasions, without LeBron James. The Cavaliers have, building the best record in the NBA.

They have done so, in part, because of Brown, whose clever use of X's and O's might be the biggest improvement in these Cavs. Oh, you can always point to LeBron and credit him for how seamlessly all the new pieces have been incorporated into Brown's rotation. No one can make the serious case that LeBron's role has been minor.

These days, the discussion about who is the best player in the NBA has been silenced. One or two misguided souls might cling to the notion that Kobe or D-Wade or 'Melo or Dwight Howard is.

Such talk is partisanship of the sort that lodges itself inside the chambers of Congress. All such nonsense comes from men and women who cheer for their hometown heroes but disregard the harsh realities and the mountain-sized statistical evidence that say otherwise.

Give Brown credit for understanding what LeBron has brought to this team. It is, of course, LeBron who will carry the Cavs to any glory they might have in this postseason. He's the linchpin that holds this roster of talent together; he's the player Brown and everybody else looks to in times of crisis.

But Brown has had to keep all those other pieces content. He can't let their skills atrophy on the bench. He needs them fresh and eager and enthusiastic about what lies ahead for all of them. This isn't all about LeBron and what he wants to accomplish; it's about what the Cavaliers and Brown and, yes, LeBron want to accomplish.

They are all on this journey together. They are all going in the same direction, heading for the Promised Land, winning in the face of all the struggles that might have wrecked the dreams of a lesser team.

Mike Brown has not let that happen. He has not let anybody lose sight of the goal - a goal that LeBron James articulated at the start of the season. He wants a championship, and anything less, as he put it, will be a disappointment: for him, for his teammates and for Mike Brown.

And it won't be LeBron who takes the biggest hit if no championship comes. It will be Brown, but he has proved he's smart enough and mentally fit enough to take whatever critics throw his way.

He might not be the perfect NBA coach -- a Phil Jackson, a Larry Brown or a Gregg Popovich -- but one thing you see in watching Brown pull the strings on this team is that he's the right coach, at the right time, for this Cavaliers team - missing pieces or not. 


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