- The Washington Times - Monday, June 1, 2009

So the speculation of LeBron James donning his Yankees baseball cap and moving to Manhattan next summer has been inflamed by the unexpected ousting of the Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers discovered an awful truth in the Eastern Conference finals.

They remain a mostly one-man team.

The much-ballyhooed acquisition of Mo Williams - he made the All-Star Game as a replacement to Jameer Nelson - did not change the essence of the Cavaliers as being James and a cast of role players.

With James being relatively ordinary by his standards in Game 6, the Cavaliers were extinguished by halftime. Their bench play was nonexistent. And Zydrunas Ilgauskas was a 7-foot-3 nonfactor with two points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes.

Williams and Delonte West did combine for 39 points and eight assists. But that served as no antidote to the dominance of Dwight Howard and the depth and balance of the Magic.

The defense of the Cavaliers - their strong suit in the regular season and in the first two rounds of the playoffs - was found wanting as well. A defense that allowed 91.4 points a game in the regular season was stretched to 103.7 points by the Magic.

The series was not as close as the Cavaliers would like to believe.

The Cavaliers could point to their two-point loss in overtime in Game 4 as being the deciding element of the series. But the Magic could counter by noting their one-point loss in Game 2, brought about by James’ improbable shot as time expired.

The Magic were the stronger, deeper team, and that was with Nelson in street clothes and Hedo Turkoglu entrusted with the role of point forward.

The Cavaliers were unable to keep Turkoglu out of the three-second lane, which led to far too many open 3-point looks.

The Magic’s 3-point shooting was as instrumental in the outcome of the series as Howard owning the area underneath the basket. That inside-out combination broke the defense of the Cavaliers.

With an exposed defense, the Cavaliers had no hope of consistently outscoring the Magic in games either pushing or exceeding 100 points. They just did not have enough resources on offense.

It is to the everlasting credit of James and the Cavaliers that they were able to mask their deficiencies in the regular season. The Cavaliers had only one incriminating footnote in fashioning a league-high 66 wins: They had a mere 3-6 record against the Lakers, Magic and Celtics.

They were too reliant on James, who has surpassed Kobe Bryant as the NBA’s No. 1 player. James has a complete array of skills, but he cannot make Ilgauskas, Ben Wallace, Joe Smith and Wally Szczerbiak young again. He cannot bequeath a genuine post move to Anderson Varejao. And he cannot lend several inches of height to Williams.

The Cavaliers are probably no stronger than a lottery team without James incurring significant minutes. That is not an idle observation. Jerry West recently made the same point.

Danny Ferry undoubtedly will attempt to sign James to a contract extension this summer and quell the prospect of losing the hope of the city and franchise to free agency next summer.

The rub possibly will not be limited to money. It possibly will involve the matter of upgrading the personnel.

A championship is the only real accomplishment left on James’ to-do list after being selected the MVP this season.

Whether that championship can be claimed in Cleveland is the burning question before him.

The prospect of a championship seemed legitimate enough before the conference finals, the Cavaliers seemingly poised to end the city’s 45-year title drought in the three major sports. NBA observers already were anticipating a LeBron-Kobe showdown in the NBA Finals, especially after the Magic needed seven games to slip past the crippled Celtics.

But that wisdom neglected the obvious - the Cavaliers remain James and a whole lot of players with limitations.

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