Matthew Dellavedova has gotten a ton of props this week. He’s diving into the stands, making hustle plays, manning up the MVP, falling down, getting back up, getting battered and hitting ridiculous shots. He’s been a freak of nature.
If Cleveland wins this series, Scott Ferrall wouldn’t mind LeBron James getting the Finals MVP and then handing it to Dellavedova – because the Cavs wouldn’t be winning without the second-year Aussie.
“They also wouldn’t be winning without Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson controlling the paint the way they have from the start of the playoffs until now,” NBA.com writer Sekou Smith pointed out on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “Iman Shumpert has done a fantastic job. All their role players are playing beyond above and beyond their pay grade based on Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving being out.”
And yet, something needed to be said – so Smith said it.
“I would only give you reason to pause about this,” he began. “This team was sitting around waiting for the draft this time a year ago when LeBron wasn’t around, and some of these guys were still wearing Cavaliers uniforms. So for us to take for granted in any way shape or form what LeBron not only does but allows other guys to do is really a disservice to him.”
Indeed, James is averaging an absurd 41.0 points, 12.0 rebounds, 8.3 assists and 1.7 steals in the Finals.
“Look, there aren’t two or three athletes in any sports that can lift their team’s level of play and their fortunes just by showing up,” Smith said. “LeBron does that just by showing up, which is a stunning achievement and an ability that so few guys have had over the course of the history of this league or any other league. Because he’s been so good and so long, we’re kind of desensitized to what he does and how he does it. And I’m as guilty of that as anyone. That’s why I’m trying to curb that now.”
It’s also why Smith, Ferrall and others are tired of the Michael Jordan comparisons. And the Magic Johnson comparisons. And the comparisons to any other player you want to throw out there.
“Great players have to be appreciated in the context of the time that they play,” Smith said. “LeBron’s a generational player. There are a handful of those guys every generation whose skills, abilities and accomplishments can translate to whatever era you might want to put them in. I’m struck like everybody else of the idea of a guy losing two elite teammates in the course of the playoffs. This has all happened since the first-round series against Boston. At that moment, you couldn’t have told me they were going to get through Chicago and Atlanta on their way to the Finals, then get to the Finals and handle Golden State the way they have.”
You probably couldn’t have told it to many Cavs fans, either.
“Honest to goodness, this city was on fire after (Game 3),” Smith said. “I walked back to the hotel from the arena and it was pandemonium. They should be theoretically sitting on a chance to finish the Warriors off (Thursday) night had they been able to muster the energy to finish the deal in that overtime game in Game 1. This could (have been) the night . . . Cleveland exorcises its demons and finally wins that championship they’ve been starving for.
“So what LeBron has done is not only stunning, but if he finishes it, everybody that’s criticized him and torn him to pieces over the years will have to really walk that back and start appreciating this guy for the truly great all-time player that he is.”