The Clevaland Cavaliers have started the new season with a record of 4-3 which is clearly not the start they were looking for.
To put matters in to context, Cleveland finished the regular seson last year with a record 66 wins. At the Q Arena they were virtually unbeatable losing just two games and tied with the 1985-86 Celtics for the best-ever home record.
In the post-season the Cavaliers lost a thrilling Eastern Conference final series 4-2 to the Orlando Magic. Clevaland superstar LeBron James had another outstanding season but once again he ended the year without his first NBA championship.
During the summer, Shaquille O’Neal was traded from the Phoenix Suns to Cleveland and is earning an incredible $21m for his services this year. I must admit I did not anticipate this move from the Cavs.
The Phoenix Suns missed the playoffs last season and it was mainly due to the presence of O’Neal. The Suns had to switch their high energy play to a half-court style with O’Neal taking up his customary low post position. The end result was a complete and utter disaster which led to the firing of head coach Terry Porter.
There are a number of reasons why Cleveland have started the year so poorly and O’Neal is one of them. In the last few years I have not been impressed with his work ethic. He spent most of the summer promoting himself and made several appearances on reality shows. He even played beach volleyball on national television against Olympic gold medallists Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treaner in August.
Most professional basketball players spend the summer trying to improve their game, but not Shaq.
Even the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant worked exceptionally hard this summer to improve his skills.
O’Neal’s main weakness is his shocking 53% lifetime free-throw percentage. I am amazed that he has chosen to live with those numbers throughout his career. There is no question that this veteran has his place in basketball history but I do not believe Cleveland can with the NBA title with O’Neal as a starter.
LeBron James has a huge decision to make at the end of the season as he will be a free agent. There has been a lot of speculatiabout whether he will stay in Cleveland next year and this has not helped the atmosphere in the locker room.
James is desperate to win a title but unless certain things happen quickly then he will have to wait another year.
The absence of Delonte West is another contributing factor to the poor start made by Cleveland. The talented guard has battled depression and mood disorders for years and was recently arrested for gun possession. West is now back with the team and General manager Danny Ferry has been very understanding in his hour of need.
The Cavaliers have a relatively easy schedule this month with the exception of visiting Orlando on Wednesday. Cleveland are not playing anywhere near the level they were last year and it may pay to oppose them in the short term.
With the great LeBron James in the team I am sure they will bounce back but they have to make adjustments to the rotation. I am afraid that means Shaquille O’Neal will have to sit on the bench.
Reproduced with permission from betting.betfair.com. Ã‚Â© The Sporting Exchange Limited
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