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Dallas Evens Series 2-2: LeBron Takes Night Off

Despite being on the court for most of game 4 of the Mavericks/Heat Finals series, LeBron seemed content to watch Dwyane Wade and others produce all of the offense, even while they were clearly struggling. Lebron went 3 for 11 and finished with 8 points, seemingly passing up every opportunity to score. Even when being guarded by the 72 year old, 4′ 11″ Jason Kidd, LeBron refused to drive the ball to the rim.  It was almost surreal.

Love him or hate him, I personally have never seen anyone able to take over a game on offense AND defense like LeBron. No pass is safe and no shot is safe when he decides he wants the ball.  When he wants to, he can dominate a game like no other. Last night, I guess he didn’t want to.

I was one of the critics who was almoooost silenced while watching the Heat get it together and become the most dangerous team in the NBA.  But when the arguably the most talented man who has ever stepped onto a court delivers 8 points in a losing Finals effort and is playing like a high school kid who has just been told his girlfriend is pregnant, it has to call into question whether or not he buckles when the pressure is the most intense.

In my opinion, he left Cleveland because of the pressure. Every year it was the same thing: “Why haven’t you won one LeBron? You can’t be the greatest until you win one.”  So rather than building a team to lead, he went to be a role player on another team, and now he’s seemingly content to let Wade and Bosh do it all by themselves.

As we remember the greatest players in history, their ability was only part of the equation. Magic, Bird, Jordan… these guys weren’t just great basketball players, their hearts were enormous and they were fierce competitors. They were born leaders and inspired others to be great. Their presence made everyone better and it was their wills that lifted their teams to victory. Not just their play, but everything about them. They were in the game 1000%, especially in the Finals. Last night, LeBron was playing as if he had just finished watching the first episode of Lost.

First, let me apologize to Jason Kidd and ask him not to beat me up. Compared to LeBron, you are 4’11 and 72. Comparatively, I would be 4′ 7″ and 75 or something, and it’s not cool to beat up old people who are smaller than you. I’m not sure how it works if they’re bigger than you. I think then it’s okay.

The buzz around LeBron is warranted. He is just that awesome and why he’s constantly being compared to the greatest players in history. His talent as so immense that we expect him to be great and when he’s on, he’s unstoppable. But one has to question whether or not he has the heart of a champion. So far, he’s shown everything but.

It Wasn’t LeBron, It Was Cleveland

Brian Windhorst is one of the best beat writers in the NBA, but today I discovered he’s also a modern day Upton Sinclair.

It’s tough to be a reporter, truth-to-power, taking a stand in the face of adversity and all that.  And sometimes you need to dispel egregious misconceptions.  Sometimes, you need to point out that the emperor has no clothes.  You have to stand in the face of a thousand dissenting voices and yell, “NO!  This shall not stand!”  Let not the ocean of opposition drown you out.  You must defy all those who would silence you.  Thank God we have men such as these.  Thank God for Brian Windhorst.

I am shocked – shocked to find out things aren’t what we’ve been told they are here.  Contrary to the the scuttlebutt on Cleveland, turns out IT SUCKS!  Oh, wait, what?  How can that be? Didn’t I just hear Joakim Noah saying it was his favorite road city?

No?  I feel so deceived.  Every day we’re all bombarded with how great it is here and how shit doesn’t catch on fire and Drew Carey, blah, blah.

But — holy fuck — was I misled.  Now I find out it’s actually a gigantic putrid asshole?  Damn what would I have done without the intrepid Brian Windhorst?  What with all the jokes about how ridiculously great Cleveland is, one is almost forced to believe it the best place on earth.  I distinctly remember that not once did I hear anyone suggest LeBron’s “the decision” was based on the fact that no one would ever want to live in Cleveland by choice.

Now, almost a year later, he springs it on us.  I’m glad he was finally able to muster the courage.  I have to think his job is now on the line. But he’s taken the risk for us.  He’s revealed the truth despite the obvious peril it exposes him to. While I appreciate that, it’s almost too much to take.  Next thing you know he’ll be telling us it’s a BAD idea to put pictures of your cock on twitter.  (No jinx!)

Finally, the whole thing makes a lot more sense.  It was only a year ago Windhorst was saying LeBron “had blood on his hands” for his performance in the playoffs and that 2010 would be a “permanent mark” on his career.  Now we find out LeBron was just so distracted by the declining population in northeast Ohio that he forgot to make baskets!  His concern for our economic well-being was so great he had to shoot foul shots left-handed in order to demonstrate the backwardness and corruption rampant in Cuyahoga County!  It may have APPEARED he was standing idly by as his team fell apart, but in actuality he was busy drawing up ways to reconfigure the tax structure to attract new businesses.  I take back all the bad things I said about you, LeBron.  It’s shameful I was unable to solve this mystery myself when everything was right there in front of my face.

So carry on, Brian Windhorst.  Shine your beacon of truth wherever the dark shadows of deceit would obscure our vision.

Image: Clevescene.com

Dallas Moves On To NBA Finals

Dirk Nowitzki is pretty good at basketball.  He’s also very tall and that helps sooo much in this game.  In fact, you’ll find that most basketball players are taller than everyone else, a tradition going back to when Bill Russell entered the league and never let anyone else touch the ball again. This moment of clarity for basketball coaches everywhere would open up a lot of opportunities for tallies, and the game would all of the sudden become watched by people.

Who knew? Thank you, tall people, and thank you Dirk for doing some awesome stuff this postseason. 48 points the other night and… highest point scoring total in the fourth quarter in the last 10 NBA postseasons. That makes him King of the Tallies, people.

Of course, others on his team like Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion and Jason Terry do some stuff, too, and Jason Kidd has been around so long his name has become the definition of irony, I think. I’m not sure what the definition is, but if nothing else, it makes me giggle.

The argument I heard the other day is something along the lines of how Dirk stuck with his team and now it’s paying off vs. the “Lebron easy way out super team move” and how Dirk did the right thing.  Except… the Dallas Mavericks haven’t won a title yet.

LeBron took a bad team to the Finals, he just lost. Love him or hate him, he was the Cavs and singlehandedly took them to the end. And now, he seemingly takes over games whenever he wants to and can’t be stopped. As my son said yesterday, his defense is almost as awesome as his offense.  He’s also right now bringing it in the clutch against the best defensive team in the NBA  and shutting down the Bulls’ most effective player in the fourth quarter. In other words, ladies and gentleman, I think LeBron James is starting to blossom now and it ain’t pretty for the rest of the league.

To me, it seems he’s starting to get the feel for when it’s LeBron time and when it’s not. He seems to be learning how to run this team and while, as a team, they are not as well-oiled as Dallas, his enormous talent and play-making on both ends of the court is not something for which you can prepare.

Of course, Miami hasn’t moved past the Bulls, but I like to state my predictions as facts and then when it doesn’t happen the way I said it, I’ll never mention it again.

Now that we understand one another, I’m going to say that it will be the Heat and the Mavs in the 2011 NBA Finals. And then we’re going to hear about the whole “LeBron vs. Dirk vs. staying vs. leaving” discussion for at least 4 games. I’ll want to punch everyone for not shutting up about it, but most of them will be far too large and I’ll just have to sit on my hands. Unless Marv Albert says something. I think I could take Marv even though he’s a biter.

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Sorry LeBron

LeBron James, in a seemingly rare moment of self-reflection, apologized for “the way it happened.”

I couldn’t do it by myself against that team. I apologize for the way it happened, but I knew this opportunity was once in a lifetime.

LeBron was light on the specifics. I venture what LeBron meant to say was he was sorry it wasn’t easy. He’s sorry that he had to work for it. That he needed to get better at mid-range jumpers. That his defense had to improve. That he had to pass to guys who could potentially miss. He’s sorry that he never tried to bring anyone to the team. That he refused to commit to the franchise for more than a
few years at time thereby putting them in perpetual “win now” mode and crippling any chance at long-term stability. He’s sorry the
team gave him everything he ever asked for and, in retrospect, coddled him far too much. He’s sorry he’s immature. He’s only
25 after all.

Most of all, he’s sorry the world wants him to earn it. His birthright may have been an incredible ability to play basketball, but a ring is promised to no man. I think LeBron half-expected David Stern to hand him the Larry O’Brien trophy on draft night. “Oh, need to play some games first?” He’s sorry that even such massive talent, such blinding speed and awesome raw power couldn’t show up, throw down a few dunks and walk away with a championship every year.

Ken Levine / Getty Images

There’s an iconic photo of Michael Jordan hugging his first championship trophy, openly weeping, indubitably reflecting on all the hard work he’d done over his then 7-year career and the preceding decades. He probably thought about the back-breaking work of building a team from nothing to the ultimate winner. The countless hours spent toiling through the playoffs with less than ideal teammates. In the end, there was no doubt he alone was the consummate champion – a singular winner.

So, LeBron is sorry. Well, I’m sorry too. I’m sorry that should LeBron shed his own tears in the coming weeks they won’t mean quite the same thing.

Is an NBA lockout Inevitable?

For all the talk of the seemingly unstoppable NFL lockout next year, even I, the last remaining NBA fan on the planet, often forget that the NBA is very likely heading towards one as well. It’s not nearly as urgent — hell, they have a lot more time than the NFL does, and there are a lot more moving parts — but it’s there nonetheless, lurking in the shadows.

But is it inevitable? Oh man. Everyone seems to think so, and it all ties back to the astonishing inequities between the teams, owners and everyone in between. This, for the record, is why my husband thinks there should be a fan union of sorts, because while all this drama happens, who gets screwed? The fans, natch. The very people who pay everyone’s salaries and make this whole effing thing possible.

The hot mess that is the Hornets (and their recent trade) is illustrative of why this is a disaster. Teams are receiving payouts, the NBA-owned (and bailed-out) Hornets are increasing their payroll and it goes without saying that Mark Cuban is pissed, because that’s what he does. Plus, there’s speculation that the NBA only invested in the Hornets so they’d have leverage in the upcoming labor negotiations.

It’s so ugly. The whole thing gives me a headache.

Add the other recent weirdness with Carmelo Anthony getting traded to the Knicks — Carmelo, incidentally got totally screwed by The Decision, but what did he expect? That’s what you get when you’re a second-fiddle player, you screw up your old contract AND you’re negotiating in a LeBron James year, Carmelo. And I’m a Syracuse alum and a de facto fan of yours, but still. What do you want me to say?

The NBA is allegedly finally gaining back some fans, but the collective greed of the entire organization — from the owners, to the players, to the NBA itself — is making it as ugly as it can possibly get, and it’s only going to get worse. I know that’s a shocking statement. Greed! In professional sports!

And yet, as a fan … it sucks.

I blame you, buddy.

Jonna is more excited than ever that the Lakers look like crap.