- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Cavaliers are down to the hope that comes with a change in venue and the prayers of their faithful.

Their full-blown ineptitude against the Spurs shifts to Cleveland in Game 3 of the NBA Finals tonight.

A basketball nation already has taken notes and decided that the Spurs-Cavaliers finale is not appealing. Foregone conclusions rarely are.

Game 1 drew 6.3 percent of U.S. households with televisions, down 19 percent from the opener last year. It was the lowest rating ever for a Game 1 held in prime time.

That speaks to the lack of transcendent power of LeBron James, who leads the NBA in scowls, rubbery-faced contortions and other displays of extraneous emotions that prompt potential crossover viewers to ask, “Does this poor fellow have Tourette’s syndrome?”

Nike and the NBA have invested an awful lot in the 22-year-old James, which has resulted in meager returns after two games of the NBA Finals.

He has shown he is not ready for prime time, either as a player or personality.

Many of his numbers, unimpressive though they are, have come after each affair was settled.

James suggested he would make adjustments after a 14-point Game 1. It turned out his principal adjustment was getting into early foul trouble in Game 2.

James and the Cavaliers have failed to show they can be competitive against the Spurs.

If the Eastern Conference was believed to be the junior varsity to the Western Conference’s varsity going into the NBA Finals, the Cavaliers only have confirmed it after two games.

The Cavaliers hope the passion of the home crowd and the comfort of familiar surroundings lift them out of their inertia.

“It’s definitely going to be a great experience,” James says. “It’s going to be something that hasn’t been experienced in a long, long time for our city, for our fans. It’s going to be electrifying.”

To be historically accurate, the Cavaliers will be playing in their first NBA Finals game in Cleveland.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich expects to see a rejuvenated opponent. Of course, as a coach, he is programmed to imagine the worst.

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