Thursday, August 4, 2011

LeBron James misses Cleveland, regrets the Decision, and shrinks in the playoffs (The King with No Bling)

LeBron james is Underrated.

Sadly, at one point in time I believed that ignorant statement to be fairly accurate.

Fast-forwarding a year beyond the catastrophe that was “The Decision”, I am beginning to reminisce of the days of yore when Clevelanders believed LeBron James would lead them to the promised land. A city filled with misery and hopeless dreams hasn’t seen a championship since the Indians in 1948.

The “chosen one” from Akron proudly proclaimed, “My goal is to win a championship for the city Cleveland”. So much for that. The animosity for LeBron has increased dramatically post-Decision and many were vigorously delighted to see the Miami Heat lose in the NBA Finals.

It only seems fitting that he who spurned the city that loved him unconditionally would see such a decline in popularity and marketability. Sure, over time it may fade to some degree, but currently the disdain for James is incomparable to that of any other player in the NBA.

Real fans of the NBA (other than the multitude of Heat band-wagoners) have come to see James for the egotistical, selfish overpaid and overindulging athlete that he has become. He has truly become the villain of a league that has very few to name. (Kevin Garnett cough cough)

Rewind the VHS 7 years ago, when the lovable LeBron came into the league and all of the world proclaimed his greatness. We in Cleveland looked past his inconsistent jumper, disappointing 3 point shot and we disregarded his habit of dribbling the ball at the top of the key until he felt like bricking another shot. We didn’t see anything wrong with his insane mother and her scheming plans. We even overlooked the embarrassment of being swept in the NBA finals. Through it all, Cleveland fans would support the best regular season player in basketball. We irrationally thought that he would return the favor when he finally became a free agent, but that wouldn’t be the case.

In what should be considered the most heinous act of disloyalty seen since Benedict Arnold, LeBron tore out our hearts on National Television, wearing that stupid plaid shirt and awful chin-strap facial hair look on ESPN. “Man, this is hard.”

No LeBron, it wasn’t hard. You and your super friends decided to play together, and Miami was the place to go. “Not 3, not 4, not 5, not 6 or 7” championships would the superteam bring to South Beach.

And thus, we booed him mercilessly when he returned to Cleveland December 2nd.

I would argue that no player has ever seen such venom and pure hate than was shown to LeBron when he made his fateful return. I should know, I was among the 20,000 enraged Cavs fans at that game.

Karma has a way of coming back to haunt the prideful, and exactly that happened for Gloria’s son as they failed in the NBA finals. Predictably, LeBron came up short and disappeared when his team needed him most. He scored close to 0 points in the 4th quarter of the Finals, and failed to show up to wihout question what were the biggest games of his career.

With the emergence of Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant and others, there are certainly equally talented players with better character to cheer for.

The LeBron brand has taken an unprecented hit and the most marketable player in basketball is now the most hated. Should we feel bad? Absolutely not, however we should realize that someday soon, LeBron will miss the unconditional support shown by his only true fans, the ones he ditched for South Beach.  Hey Number 6, it's not the surrounding players that are the problem.  Your inability to perform to your potential is.

Maybe the NBA lockout won’t be the worst thing for the Heat and LeBron. Give the average fan some time to remove themselves from the game, and the hate will be less pronounced when basketball inevitably does return. Not that the Heat will fare any better when basketball resumes. After all, shrinking in big moments and consistently orchestrating an epic playoff collapse is unavoidable for The King with no Bling, as it is the only thing LeBron seems to know how to do.



            

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Batman and LeRobin

Batman: You know we're not going to do anything in the playoffs right?

LeRobin:  Right!  I'll just stand here and look stupid.



Tuesday, February 8, 2011

LeBron is putting MVP voters in a bind

MIAMI -- LeBron James is in the midst of putting Most Valuable Player voters in an awkward position.

On Monday, the league named James its Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the fourth time this season.

James has already won two Player of the Month Awards, racking up another one last week for his play in January.

In and of itself, this is unremarkable. The awards get attention for a day or two on broadcasts and at the bottom of beat writers’ notebooks.

Perhaps some more hard-core fans may make an issue of it. But those honors, which are decided by the league’s public relations staff, often serve as an unofficial tally of the season-long MVP race.

Every year the MVP conversation starts to get serious around All-Star Weekend. With that event on the horizon, it seems reasonable to ask: Can James really win the MVP again?

The instant answer from many voters and even James himself would be no. When asked about this last month, James admitte voters might not give him as much consideration because of teammates Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.

“When we decided to come together our Most Valuable Player chances kind of went out the window,” James said. “I think [voters] classify it as an individual award. They look at it like the less help you have, the more numbers you have, then the better chance for you to win that award.”

This was a sound opinion but it isn’t playing out so simply.

Most of the time, the man who hoists the Maurice Podoloff Trophy in May picked up a significant number of those weekly and monthly nods along the way. Why is this so? Because the league’s PR staff uses roughly the same criteria to pick its winners as voters do when they chose an MVP. It isn’t just the statistics -- the team has to have a good week or month, as well.

This has long been an unwritten rule for MVP candidates. There hasn’t been an MVP from a team that's won fewer than 50 games since Moses Malone took home the award in 1982. If you’re not on an elite team, it is nearly impossible to win. As an aside, that’s the central reason why Amare Stoudemire would be considered a long shot at this point in the season unless the Knicks have a huge second half.

James won four Player of the Month Awards in each of the past two seasons before winning the MVP in both. The Cavs averaged 63 wins over those seasons, which meant they had a lot of winning weeks and months that added to James’ résumé.

Last season, James won six Player of the Week Awards. He’s just picked up his fourth of 2010-11, which includes his miserable November, when both he and the Heat were in the midst of an unexpected slump.

But what of James’ belief that his supporting cast may be deemed too strong to get him the award again? Before this season, James never had a teammate average more than 17 points a game. Right now he’s got two -- Bosh is at 18.2 points per game and Wade is fifth in the league in scoring at 25.4. So there’s truth to that changing circumstance.

But there’s something else that James didn’t say. The voters are probably going to have a hard time putting James at the top of their ballot when he has still not won a title.

Only three players in history have won three consecutive MVPs: Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. All three had at least one ring by the time they were given their third consecutive MVP.

Other greats and multi-time champions like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and, more recently, Tim Duncan, were limited to back-to-back MVPs. It’s very hard to win that third consecutive award because there’s some inherent voter fatigue and because the standard to win again becomes so high.

James, meanwhile, is coming off an underwhelming performance in the playoffs. Though he was battling an elbow injury and ran into a Celtics team playing inspired basketball, James simply did not play like an MVP as he and the Cavs quietly bowed out earlier than expected last May.

Indeed, the MVP is a regular-season award, but there is simply no way James’ limping and still largely unexplained finish to his career with the Cavs can or will be discounted by the 122 media members who will decide the MVP.

So James, despite his status as one of the greatest players of this generation, entered this season as an underdog to win the MVP again no matter what he accomplished between October and April.

But as all these Player of the Week and Player of the Month awards are showing, James is still routinely beating his competition for these individual honors. His stats are slightly down, but he’s been second or third in scoring for most of the past two months, and his December, January and February results are becoming impossible to ignore.

Kevin Durant is sure to factor in the MVP voting.

Over the past 15 games, he’s averaging 29 points, eight rebounds and seven assists a game. The Heat have the third-best record in the league currently, and they appear to be in for a battle with the Celtics and Bulls for the top spot in the East.

In a vacuum, James would have to be considered a serious MVP candidate if not the front-runner at the moment. But, of course, there’s a political element to who goes on that top line. Since last summer, James has become a polarizing figure. There seems to be a love-him-or-hate-him line that fans have established and the media has fostered.

It is hard to gauge what impact James’ infamous “Decision” could possibly have on the people who ultimately select the MVP. Though it must be said that the majority of those with votes are beat writers and local broadcasters spread across the NBA’s 30 cities and not to pundits on talk shows or national columnists.
Though it can sometimes feel like it, the MVP is not a populist award. But not factoring a player’s popularity would be a mistake as well. The voters are human and deal with the players in question on a regular basis.

There are other fine candidates, of course. Kevin Durant is on his way to a second consecutive scoring title. Dirk Nowitzki has recovered from a knee injury and is back leading the Mavericks to wins and putting up big numbers.

Derrick Rose is having the best year of his career and has carried the Bulls through injuries to Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. Based on James’ idea of who should win, the fact that Rose doesn’t have another All-Star on the Bulls with him might make him the favorite right now.

Wade, who has successfully battled a string of nagging injuries to put up impressive numbers next to James -- including a career high in rebounding -- will be considered. Then there’s always Kobe Bryant. Even with his stats taking a bit of a dip so far this season, he is a permanent option.

Any of these stars could end up being an easier vote than James for numerous reasons. But will it be right? That is an answer that may or may not become clear over the final two months of the season.

Last week when James put up 51 points in a statement game in Orlando, he certainly had the appearance of an MVP. He’s had that look for weeks now as the Heat have started to live up to their promise, at least in the regular season.

If he and the Heat keep it up, it could lead to one of the most controversial and complex MVP races in memory.
 
-  Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com


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Monday, January 24, 2011

Did Jay Cutler pull a LeBron James?

What is happening to the Chicago Bears' quarterback Jay Cutler reminds many of the criticism LeBron James heard following the Cleveland Cavaliers' loss to the Boston Celtics in last year's Eastern Conference semifinals.

It was either the elbow that changed the way James played, or he quit, as many believe.

In the NFC Championship game between the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers, not only did Cutler not play well, but he left the game due to a knee injury. He made an attempt in the second half but said he couldn't really plant and throw.

That was not enough for Chicago fans (who burned his jersey following the game) or for several current and former NFL players.

On the NFL Network, Deion Sanders said there's a difference between perception and reality and the perception is that Cutler just quit.

Here's a few responses on Twitter:

“Im telling u in the playoffs u must drag me off the field. All the medicine in pro lockerooms this dude comes out! I apologize bear fans! . . . Folks i never question a players injury but i do question a players heart." Deion Sanders, former NFL great.

“If I’m on chicago team jay cutler has to wait till me and the team shower get dressed and leave before he comes in the locker room!” Cardinals defensive lineman Darnell Dockett

“Hey I think the urban meyer rule is in effect right now. When the going gets tough……..QUIT.” Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew.

Jones tweeted later: “All I’m saying is that he can finish the game on a hurt knee … I played the whole season on one.”

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

LeBron James finds happiness in the Cavs' misfortune

If you're a devotee of checking NBA scores, one Tuesday night probably jumped out at you. I speak of the Los Angeles Lakers' 112-57 demolition of the Cleveland Cavaliers, a team now in the midst of an 11-game losing streak and owners of the worst record in the NBA. After losing LeBron James to the Heat last summer, they're not exactly in the best of circumstances.

LeBron apparently doesn't feel much sympathy for his old team in these troublesome times. In the closing minutes of the Cavs game, with the only issue left to determine being whether or not the Lakers would double-up the Cavs, Cleveland's former savior Tweeted about karma, hate, and divine retribution. Here is what he said:

Crazy. Karma is a b****.. Gets you every time. Its not good to wish bad on anybody. God sees everything!

Well, that's not very nice, is it? He basically said that God wants the Cavs to fail as punishment for their poor treatment of LeBron in the wake of his departure. Plus, while LeBron says that it's bad to wish ill on someone, he also seems to be reveling in their failures. Does that mean it's all right to be happy when someone fails as long as you don't wish for it beforehand? Whoever said God works in mysterious ways wasn't kidding.

On the other hand, it's possible to understand LeBron's emotional state here, if not his exact reaction. He gave seven seasons to the Cavs and carried the team close to a championship with, as we're learning this season, a relatively substandard supporting cast. When he left town, Cavs fans and franchise owner Dan Gilbert reacted like he'd murdered a hobo with a velvet voice in cold blood. Obviously he left town under terrible circumstances with the "Decision" debacle, but that doesn't mean he deserved to be treated like a criminal.

Then again, two wrongs don't make a right, as they say. LeBron handled his business Tuesday night like a fool, treating the Cavs like hellbound sinners deserving of whichever terrible fate befalls them. The team, the owner and the staff are still people dealing with some pretty rough professional circumstances right now. It's fine not to feel a ton of sympathy for them, but don't rub their failure in their faces.

James recently said that he's embracing his villain role, but there's a difference between being a compelling bad guy and a jerk. Right now, he's leaning towards the latter.

Or maybe he was talking about something else. Who knows?

Find this article at Yahoo.com

Monday, January 3, 2011

LeBron James Backpedals from Truth: We Need Contraction

Just like that, The Witness has become The Wimpness, because he is double-dribbling with his tongue.
One moment, LeBron James is saying the NBA needs to "shrink" by contracting teams, and the next, he is saying those evil media folks are twisting his words on the subject.

Whatever, dude.

When it comes to LeBron's original comments, which essentially were that he thought the league actually did need to get rid of some teams to improve the overall competition, he was wrong. He was WAY off base. He wasn't within a couple of fast breaks of reality.

That's because he didn't go far enough.

He should have said all four of the major professional sports leagues in North America need to contract. Then he should have peered into the eyes of everybody in the room with the unspoken look of "Yeah, I said it. So what do you want to do about it?"

The NBA should go from 30 teams to 27, 26 or less. With barely a nudge, for instance, Clipper fans would morph into Laker fans soon after that lesser of the two franchises in Los Angeles didn't exist. And, in contrast to the Colts sneaking out of Baltimore in the middle of the night during a blizzard, the Grizzlies could slow-dance out of Memphis in broad daylight at rush hour without hearing a whimper.

The same goes for the Nets in the Meadowlands, where their turnstiles threaten to rust every season, and where they'll remain the "other" team in the New York City area, even if they relocate to Brooklyn.

Plus, regardless of their place in the standings, the Hawks have resided near the bottom in NBA attendance for decades, which means much of Atlanta would shrug and become more obsessed with Georgia Bulldog football if the Hawks flew out of town.

Elsewhere, in baseball, no matter how prolific the Marlins and the Rays have been at times, most folks around Florida couldn't care less. So get rid of them, or combine them with the Oakland Athletics -- if that struggling franchise also isn't contracted.

Phoenix. Atlanta. Charlotte. Nashville.

Nobody in those warm-weather cities would mourn the loss of their NHL teams after a few months (or days, maybe hours). That should be just the start of contraction for a league that also lacks fans in places beyond those more suited for sunshine than snow.

Oh, and you shouldn't have an NFL team when you're in your sixth consecutive season of covering up 10,000 seats for each of your home games in an attempt to create sellouts.

Hello, Jacksonville Jaguars.

It should be goodbye, Jacksonville Jaguars.

I can dream, can't I?

Unfortunately, the player unions of each of these leagues have become so powerful that contraction won't happen -- at least, not easily. We needn't go further than the ongoing NBA labor negotiations that feature commissioner David Stern suggesting that contraction would help the league's overall financial situation, and it would.

The NBA players union couldn't care less, though, since contraction would trigger the loss of jobs for its members.

So this wasn't surprising: within milliseconds of James saying what he claims he sort of said but really didn't mean to say or was misinterpreted in saying it, he got blasted by his peers.

Thus this ongoing sight of James backpedaling faster than he ever has either on or off a basketball court.
He says now that he doesn't even know what "contraction" means. He says reporters didn't hear exactly what they heard him say last week before a game for his Miami Heat in Phoenix.

This is what they heard LeBron say: "Imagine if you take Kevin Love off Minnesota and add him to another team and you shrink the (league). Looking at some of the teams that aren't great, you take Brook Lopez or you take Devin Harris off these teams that aren't good right now, and you add him to a team that could be really good.

"Not saying let's take New Jersey and let's take Minnesota out of the league. But, hey, you guys are not stupid. I'm not stupid. It would be great for the league."

Yes, it would. And, as LeBron added that day in Phoenix before his backpedaling nearly took him from the Arizona desert to South Beach to somewhere over the Atlantic, "Hopefully, the league can figure out one day where it can go back to the situation of how it was, like in the '80s, where you had three or four All-Stars, you had three or four superstars, three or four Hall of Famers on the same team. The league was great. It
wasn't as watered down as it is (now)."

No, it wasn't, and the Milwaukee Bucks of the 1980s were a microcosm of those times by ranking high among the NBA's all-time greatest teams that nobody ever remembers. They had stars such as Sidney Moncrief, Bob Lanier and Terry Cummings, and they were led by Don Nelson, who won NBA Coach of the Year honors twice during that decade.

In one stretch, those Bucks won their division seven straight years while winning 50 or more games each of those years.

Here was their problem: the Philadelphia 76ers of Dr. J, Moses Malone and Maurice Cheeks, and the Boston Celtics of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. As a result, those Bucks never reached the NBA Finals, and they rarely reached the Eastern Conference finals, but they showed how gifted many of those other NBA teams were during the 1980s.

That's all LeBron was saying. Well, before he swore he really didn't say what -- well, you know.
What I'm saying is that, although the NBA's national television ratings are up by 30 percent so far this year, those ratings would soar to levels beyond a combination of vintage Air Jordan leaps if the league sliced either some or all of its franchises that produce yawning.

I'm still dreaming, of course.

This article contributed by Terence Moore of Fanhouse.

Friday, December 31, 2010

LeBron James' green light has Miami Heat red-hot

Brian Windhorst, Special to The Plain Dealer

Miami, Florida — These days, LeBron James and members of the Miami Heat shake fingers at those who dared suggest that their new mega team wasn’t going to work. The pleasure of hindsight never ends, especially when some important details are dismissed.

One of the reasons the Heat, and James himself, are playing toward their potential after a shaky start is because James is going back to the way he played as a Cavalier.

Wednesday night, the Heat won in Houston to finish off a 15-1 December and became the first team ever to go 10-0 on the road in a calendar month. Their run of success started in Cleveland on what has now become a key date in the NBA season, James’ Dec. 2 return to The Q.

So they’re hot, there’s no doubt. Some of it has been time together, which is the issue Heat players and coach Erik Spoelstra point toward when they shame those who questioned their future after they started the season an underwhelming 9-8. But a huge adjustment, which wasn’t announced, was to get James, who celebrated his 26th birthday on Thursday, back to his roots.

“At the start, we weren’t playing our games,” James said of himself, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. “We were being too unselfish. We had to forget that and go back to being ourselves.”
During the Heat’s ragged November, James’ scoring and shooting numbers plunged while his turnovers shot up to totals not seen since his rookie season. He was throwing wild passes, taking 3-pointers out of the offense, and Spoelstra was playing him at point guard the most since Paul Silas tried it as an experiment in the fall of 2003.

Then something happened in Cleveland. The Heat committed themselves to featuring James for that game, an obvious strategy with James carrying so much personal meaning into the game. Then James went out and played his best game of the season, scoring 38 points.

Part of it was because of some abnormal great shooting, which James has done on the road off and on during most of his career. But the other part was it created a comfort zone for James to play in a familiar role.
Seeing the impact, Spoelstra changed his rotation to allow James six to 10 minutes a game as the featured player. Usually, it happens at the end of the first and third quarters, when James is given the green light. The result: Lots of shots, lots of freedom, lots of scoring.

“It has been a process for both the players and coaches to find a comfort level,” Spoelstra said. “We knew it would take some time but that these players were too talented not to be successful.”

James has used these moments to feed his desire to build his statistics, something he may not admit publicly but it always has been a driver for him, and the Heat seems to benefit from it. In December, by getting his bursts of freedom, James’ scoring average jumped two points a game and his shooting jumped nearly seven percentage points.

He had several games where he squeezed off 10 points or more in his allotted freedom minutes and the Heat usually experienced a surge. On Wednesday night in Houston, for example, the Heat outscored the Rockets, 16-2, when James was on the floor without Bosh and Wade.

In turn, Spoelstra has reduced James’ minutes at point guard by inserting Mario Chalmers into the rotation, allowing James to play more point forward, the position he played in Cleveland. As a result, the turnovers have dropped and the Heat’s offense has gotten stronger.

Wade, who now gets his exclusive scoring time on the floor without James, has seen his scoring average jump six points a game in December over November and his shooting percentage soar nearly 10 percent.
Though he usually plays with Bosh on the floor, the changes allow Wade to play more like he was accustomed to before James arrived.

Whether this dual-star role will work under the pressure of the playoffs remains to be seen. The Heat have had mixed success at the end of games, sometimes barely hanging on to leads with Wade and James on the court together. But they have also been able to carry the Heat to some victories by their individual play.

What seems certain is that finding a balance and putting together wins has come partially by going back to some old ways.

“We’ve all had to sacrifice things from our games to make this work,” James said. “This is why we came together, to be able to play together and win together.”

Former Plain Dealer writer Brian Windhorst is a reporter for ESPN.com, focusing on the Miami Heat.