Tag Archives: Lebron James

LeBron James Is A Great Storyteller

 

Every good story has four elements. The first three are provided by the storyteller be it a novelist, director, or playwright. The last is provided by the audience be it a reader, moviegoer, or a person who watches plays (there is no name for this, I checked). There are of course other elements to consider but, these are the absolute basics. The first three basics are provided by the storyteller and are a beginning, a middle, and an end. The last basic element, courtesy of the audience, is belief. Every story starts somewhere, goes somewhere, and ends somewhere. A good story is then believed by the people who see it. This is true no matter how fantastic or whimsical a story. If the audience believes in the story, it’s real.

LeBron James believes the story, as do we all. It’s why he went back to Cleveland and, it’s why we’re all okay with it. This, by the way, is not to say that LeBron James needs permission to go back to Cleveland but the last time he made A Decision everyone was markedly not okay with it.

James told his story starting from the beginning, in an essay he wrote in collaboration with Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated explaining his decision to return to Cleveland. This is an interesting choice when you think about it. He could have just written about his love for Cleveland and Northeast Ohio, followed by his decision to go back home but, he didn’t. He chose instead to tell a story. His story. In his essay he explains the familial relationship he has with Ohio as well as his roots there.

Now the more cynical among us may think LeBron is selling a bunch of hock, just like he did four years ago. The more cynical among us would simply believe that he’s better at it now. The more cynical among us would be absolutely wrong of course. This is because LeBron wasn’t selling anything four years ago either. He was just believing in another part of the story.

Rewind to four years ago. A 25 year old LeBron James looks into the camera and says he’s taking his talents to South Beach and to the Miami Heat. He would later say he was shocked by the reaction he got. Why? Because LeBron tried to make his departure the spectacle everyone wanted, which backfired, as plans of that nature are ought to do. The narrative that should have played out is every sports analysts wet dream (the way the Cleveland return actually did turn out). The best player in the league takes a massive pay cut to try and win multiple titles with his friends. He selflessly turns aside money in the name of team work and winning. Any rational person knows that this totally works on paper. Theoretically it’s a good story. Hell, it’s a even a great story.

A bizarre thing happened though. Somewhere between LeBron’s good intentions and the broadcast of The Decision, the media and fans hi-jacked the story and changed it. They didn’t believe the story line given to them so they turned into something else. Something worse. They turned into the story of a man arrogant enough to air a half hour special about himself. They turned it into the story of a superstar unable to win a title, unfairly teaming up with other stars to finish a singular superstar’s job. Mostly though, astonished media and hurt fans turned it into the story of a traitor who betrayed his hometown for a more glamorous city.

Faster than it took the nickname “the Heatles” to stick, Lebron had become the villain in his own story. He wanted to be the hero but, instead was wearing the black hat.

The only thing that clears up that kind of stink is winning. The revamped Miami Heat did just that, notching 54 wins in their first season together. They did however have some perplexing losing streaks in the 2010-2011 campaign, which only exacerbated the learning curve that James had to overcome in playing with his teammates. That struggle and eventual Finals defeat at the hands of the underdog Dallas Mavericks gave everyone the storyline most near and dear to every sports fan’s heart. Hatred.

Lebron, very much not wanting to be the villain, was not just considered a villain but a defeated one. A Finals victory would have cleared the air, instead fans and media alike took some twisted joy in Miami’s defeat. The Big 3 as they had become known had everything about them questions from their ability to win together to their actual desire to win basketball games. To overcome the villainous title thrust upon him James had to become something he had never been before. An NBA Champion.

On October 29, 2003 LeBron James was becoming something he had never been before. An NBA player. The Sacramento Kings hosted the Cleveland Cavaliers as the first chapter of LeBron’s NBA career had officially begun. Cleveland lost the game but, with the brilliance of the rookie LeBron was on full display, they gained so much more. The Cavs gained the notion that this guy was special and that his story with them was far from over. LeBron, at just 18 years old, dominated the game. The kid was supposed to be raw. He wasn’t. He wasn’t supposed to be able to shoot. Yet he was making shots. He showed a tremendous feel for the game, as though he had been in the league for years. His jumpers fell. Not just the open ones either. On one play LeBron had the ball as the shot clock was running down, he pivoted to his right, elevated and leaned back, he released a high arcing fade away. Everyone knew it was going in and down it went. LeBron James was a natural.

It’s the summer of 2014 and LeBron James is 29 years old. He’s at the point in a player’s career where they begin to think about their legacy. He’s a superstar with two NBA championships, he’s been a future Hall of Famer for a while now, and he’s still in the middle of his prime. It’s the middle of the story. The 29 year old LeBron James headed back to Cleveland is still a natural but he is now at the height of his powers. James has never been better. He’s never been more popular, in fact, after his decision to return to Cleveland, LeBron James surpassed Michael Jordan as the most popular athlete in America. So, what’s next?

A story that has belief also has challenges (if not physical ones then mental ones). Nobody wants to see a hero traipse unencumbered from goal to goal, only stopping to wonder occasionally why life is so incredibly easy. It’s not entertaining and it’s not at all like real life (after all we like stories to remind us of ourselves). LeBron became the most popular athlete post-Cleveland Return. In so doing he must overcome the inherent challenges in it. There are a lot of them.

This is by far LeBron’s most inexperienced team so far, featuring a bunch of youngsters, who not unlike you or I have only seen the NBA playoffs on TV. Just months ago that locker room had a level of dysfunction bordering on complete implosion. The stories coming out of Cleveland were soap opera-esque; Tristan Thompson was accusing Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving of playing buddy ball, passing to just each other, and not getting him involved. After a 3-6 start punctuated by a 29 point loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, there was a players only meeting that allegedly got confrontational. In short, the team was a mess.

Belief is a necessary part of storytelling involving the audience buying into what ever the story is. Who is telling this story? The LeBron story I mean, not the Irving-Waiters-Thompson fiasco. Whose narrative is important here? Is it the media who would have you believe that LeBron going to Miami is an example of his childishness; while his return to Cleveland somehow makes him a paragon of maturation? Is it the fans who spurned James for taking less to win but, rejoiced when he took more to back home and possibly win less? Is it LeBron who insisted that his return to Cleveland and inspire the boys and girls of Northern Ohio? It’s also possible that there is no story at all and that everyone involved you, me, ESPN, and LeBron are all choosing the parts of his life we would most like to romanticize. This inevitably says more about us than the story we’re observing.

The funny thing about sports and in this case, basketball is that while the games are played inside some painted lines, it’s the things that happen outside the lines that seem to impact people the most. There is a blurring of the lines between storyteller and audience that makes it hard to figure out who is commenting on whom. Examples of this are Isiah Thomas’ remarks that if Larry Bird were black he’d be ‘just another good guy’, or Magic Johnson contracting HIV, and the hilarious rivalry of Reggie Miller and Spike Lee. Those moments had a direct impact on how we viewed those players even as they continued their jobs inside the lines.

Each party has a say; the fans, the media, and players alike. Each party believes the story belongs to them. The story really doesn’t belong to anybody but, there is a power of equality in the misconception. If we all believe we own the story, then in a weird way, actually do own it. What makes LeBron special, apart from his freakish athleticism and eidetic memory, is that he figured it out. He’s owned the beginning and middle of his story. He also knows how he wants it to end. He wanted and needed the rest of us to believe it too. And you know what? We did.

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90s Nostalgia: Why We Love the Indiana Pacers.

90s nostalgia. It’s all the rage these days (for us millennials anyway). With each passing year, a bunch of kids born in the 90s become adults. With their new found time, money and independence; they choose to re-live the halcyon days of their childhood.

This is my generation, we like the 90s because it reminds us of a purer, more free time in our lives. It’s not just about innocence per se, it just seemed from our youthful points of view, that things just worked. The games seemed better; Pokemon, Zelda, Mario, Sonic, and Spyro were the staples of a lot of child hoods. The cartoons seemed better too; Dark Wing Duck and Courage the Cowardly Dog will always be some of the best TV I’ve watched in my life.

From left to right: Roy Hibbert, Luis Scola, Lance Stephenson, George Hill, and Paul George

So it stands to reason that basketball of the 90s seemed better. It’s teams seemed more cohesive, especially compared to those of the late 2000s. The defenses were certainly better as they were allowed to get away with more. The rivalries were nastier. There was also some guy named Michael Jordan. MJ, a man who defined 90s basketball, and is compared to no other superstar before and is the standard for every superstar that followed (even Lebron James who doesn’t play like Michael at all). The 90s were also the last years that big men really reigned supreme. Maybe things weren’t better back then. Maybe that’s just how we remember it, but then again, that’s the point of nostalgia. What nostalgia does is cover everything that used to be in a veneer of perfection, and that very same reason is why we love the Indiana Pacers.

The Pacers are 90s nostalgia but better. They exist now. And they’re very go. Indiana is a prototypical 90s team. Heady, aware point guard? George Hill, check. Two large temperamental big men in the paint? David West and Roy Hibbert, check and check. Versatile offensive and defensive impact player? Paul George, check. The wild card? Lance Stephenson, check.

To be fair, and you’ll have to forgive me for taking off my nostalgia colored glasses, most 90s team had all of the “essential”  parts but most of those teams had some of them.

Let’s face it though. Most nostalgia is in fact quite pointless. It’s all about the feelings, there’s no practicality at all. The actual application to one’s life of watching Boy Meets World again is nil. Which is the other reason we like the Pacers. Their Clinton era roster is one that is capable of being a contender in today’s NBA on a championship level.

Indiana’s practically proof that the 90s were better. Paul George continues to grow as a player. The way he plays defense and then runs the floor makes him look like Scottie Pippen redux. Roy Hibbert is just so fundamentally sound on the low block with his ability to make hook shots, especially his running hook, that he may as well be an alien compared to guys like DeAndre Jordan and Al Horford, no disrespect to either but they don’t play big. Roy also comes off as a rather mean guy which a lot of modern big men, and players in general, just are not.

While they seemingly represent an era that is past, the Pacers play in the here and now. They play in the era of fast break and offensive juggernauts. They play in an era with Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and most importantly Lebron James. The way the Pacers play is not only a throwback but a statement. What’s the statement?

The road to the finals goes through Indianapolis.

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Young Teams Rise In The East

The thing about the NBA is that, very much like pop music, it’s all about star power. That, and depth I suppose, but mostly star power. Almost always in the NBA, the team with the best stars win. You could build a band with Ringo Starr and Ronnie Wood if you wanted to but, I’d imagine that Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger sell the tickets. Likewise, it’s not impossible to build a good team with Chris Bosh and Joakim Noah but, the star power lies with Lebron James and Derrick Rose.

The NBA’s eastern conference has had a bit of a shake up in the last couple of years. A few stars have changed teams, and hopefully a few future stars have been drafted into the league. This has given some teams in the east the ability to, for the first time in years, make it to the playoffs.

Wizards point guard John Wall (left) and Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving (right).

The Cleveland Cavaliers are going to be in post season contention if they can stay healthy. They have a number of pieces at their disposal and some potential stars. They’ve made some moves that give them an opportunity to be in the post season for the first time since Lebron James left.

Two years in, and Kyrie Irving is an emerging star. He’s an extremely reliable scorer, has handles for days, is great in crunch time and has court vision to boot. Apart from making Jason Kidd, Brandon Knight and Damian Lillard look silly; Kyrie specializes in shooting. He shoots the ball very well from basically everywhere on the floor. While he does lack a strong defensive presence, he always a threat on offense getting easy shots for both himself and his teammates.

Andrew Bynum is an all star caliber center who averages a double-double when healthy. His biggest problem being, of course, that he is not always healthy (or ever; in the case of the Philadelphia 76ers who never once saw Bynum play a regular season game in their uniform). Andrew Bynum is the perfect example of a player that is worth the risks taken on him. He’s a legitimate 7 footer with a variety of useful and often times crafty post moves. While Andrew Bynum may have red flags concerning his maturity but, he is worth the risk if he plays up to his potential.

Anthony Bennett is the number 1 overall pick in this year’s draft. This came as a surprise to many but, not too surprising since Cleveland general manager Chris Grant tends to be, shall we say, unconventional in his moves at times. The Cavaliers hope that Bennett can bring the athleticism that he showed when he played at UNLV. Bennett is explosive and is capable of finishing above the rim. He’s got a quick first step and speed when running the open floor. Anthony Bennett is not a consistent jump shooter and doesn’t play active defense, those are coachable issues however. Look for Bennett to contribute right away.

Not to be forgotten: Dion Waiters 14.7 ppg 2.4 rpg

The Detroit Pistons are ready to put their previously disappointing seasons behind them. General manager Joe Dumars through some form of magic (most likely) has found a way to keep his job despite putting together a myriad of bad teams. These bad teams directly preceded the  team that won an NBA Finals in the 2003-2004 season and had four other conference finals appearances, that Dumars also built. In a return to form, Joe Dumars has made a number of shrewd moves in the offseason in an attempt to bring the Pistons back to prominence.

Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond have a lot in common. They are both versatile big men. Both are 6’10” and are both highlights waiting to happen. They move well on the fast break. They are both smart and willing passers. Greg Monroe has 3 NBA season under his belt while Andre Drummond just wrapped up his rookie season. Monroe played 33 minutes a game to Drummond’s 20 minutes most likely because they occupy roughly the same place on the floor, and Andre is a rookie. Both show a lot of promise and skill.

Josh Smith is more than capable of being an all star. He isn’t but he could be. Josh Smith has strength not unlike a bull. When he attacks the basket he’s difficult to slow down. On the low block, he’s a nightmare to defend. He’s athletic and has tremendous leaping ability. The Pistons were able to acquire the former Hawks forward for a relatively affordable 4 year $56 million. If Josh Smith had a downside, it would be his tendency to settle for jumpers. He’s big, strong and fast yet is completely satisfied with taking some bad 10-15 foot jump shots.

Brandon Jennings (since we’re on the subject of bad jump shots) joins the Pistons roster via a sign and trade with the Milwaukee Bucks. In exchange the Bucks got point guard Brandon Knight. In Brandon Jennings the Pistons get a bit of a boost in scoring ability. Jennings is more of a volume shooter but he has his nights where he scores extremely well. He’s left handed and unsurprisingly goes to his left a lot; he avoids finishing with his right hand almost to the point of phobia. Brandon Jennings is a much better passer than he gets credit for, even averaging 6.5 assists per game on a team with Monta Ellis on it. Jennings is an improvement at the point guard position and is a better fit than Brandon Knight for this team.

Not to be forgotten: Chauncey Billups 8.4 ppg, 2.2 apg

The Washington Wizards believe this is the year they can make it to the post season. They’ve dealt with everything from bad injuries to just having bad players. This year their roster is stronger than it’s been in a long while giving them hope that they can end a very long drought. They haven’t been to the playoffs since 2007 and haven’t won a playoff series in about 25 years.

John Wall signed a 5 year $80 million deal with the Wizards earlier this summer. This is the maximum amount of money that he could have been paid. While Wall’s career numbers thus far do not justify this pay day, the Wizards believe that he can be an all star caliber point guard in the NBA. 2013 saw a marked improvement in Wall’s jump shot, which is still a work in progress. Wall at 6’4″ is a big point guard yet, he has incredible speed and is capable of going baseline to baseline in under 6 seconds. His jumper is his biggest barrier. At this point nobody takes it seriously. What is taken seriously is his court vision, passing ability and speed that leaves defenders standing still. Wall is also a very good defender.

Bradley Beal just finished his rookie season and it was very impressive. He’s an accurate shooter who, if given any daylight at all, can score at will. Beal can attack the basket both on the fast break, and in the half court. He runs through screens effeciently. Bradley Beal’s biggest draw back is ball handling. He’s not bad but when John Wall was injured earlier in the season he did not seem comfortable in the position of primary ball handler. However, his off ball skills are not to be over looked.

Otto Porter the rookie from Georgetown is a player in development. He looked like the most anemic of the rookies drafted this year when he participated in NBA Summer League play. He is adapting to a new offense and a new role. The Wizards re-signed veteran Martell Webster who plays the same position as Porter, so Otto shouldn’t have too much pressure on him early. He will likely not start. Otto Porter is extremely long and his huge wingspan gives him a defensive advantage. Otto was a good defender in college and an extremely scrappy player diving on the floor for loose balls, actually boxing out and sticking with broken plays.

Not to be forgotten: Nene 12.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg

All of these teams are either trying to develop stars or acquire them. That’s what it takes to win in the NBA. They are on the right track to get to the playoffs and to maybe one day compete for a title.

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In LeBron’s Shadow.

For years, LeBron James has lived in the shadow of Michael Jordan. All great players, especially those with an aptitude for scoring, usually wind up there. This is a testament to how larger than life Jordan is. However, this season is different, LeBron James has found his style and hit his stride. One NBA season after his first ever championship, LeBron has found a way to slide from behind the shadow of Jordan. By playing his own game. LeBron with his size and new found agression, is playing in a style that Michael Jordan never could. He’s scored 30 points in his last 6 games while shooting 60% from the field. This has never happened in NBA history. His efficiency is staggering. The tear that LeBron is on has him garnering consideration for a second consecutive MVP award. Deservedly so, but with this attention going towards James it is leaving an unlikely player in his shadow.

Kevin Durant.

Yes, Durant. LeBron has been playing at such a high level that it’s easy to overlook what Kevin is doing with the Thunder. It’s also easy to miss the fact that statistically, James and Durant are nearly identical. I don’t mean identical in some statistical categories, I mean almost all of them.

Typically in a Kevin Durant versus LeBron James debate, LeBron always gets the edge because he, like no one else in the league, is capable of filling out a stat sheet. Except, that isn’t quite true. Durant is more than able of filling out a stat sheet himself.

Comparison

Points Per Game – James: 27.1 Durant: 30

Rebounds Per Game – James: 8.1 Durant: 7.4

Assists Per Game – James: 6.9 Durant: 4.4

Steals Per Game – James: 1.6 Durant: 1.6

Blocks Per Game – James: 0.9 Durant: 1.2

Field Goal Percentage – James: 56.% Durant: 51.9%

3-Point Percentage – James:42% Durant: 43.2%

Kevin Durant is more of a shooter than LeBron is, attempting more shots and scoring slightly more points but, LeBron maintains a higher shooting percentage. This is likely because he takes higher percentage shots, especially since he has put more of an emphasis on attacking the basket and playing in the low post. They are both proficient on defense averaging the same amount of steals per game and a high number of blocks.

This is not to say that Kevin Durant has been getting no consideration or that he’s “underrated” or anything along the lines of those cliches. Far from it.

The point is that LeBron is playing more dominantly than he has ever played. He has elevated his game to such a high level that he  has actually managed to out shine a fellow all star and a player with stats comprable to his. Durant and James play the same position and are both dominating at it in very different ways. The race for MVP and an NBA title may be one in the same, and it’s a race that is much closer than it looks.

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Daily Rain 5-18-12: Pacers Crush Heat, Chris Paul Stopped Again In San Antonio & Kings Keep Rolling

Dwayne Wade and the Heat Lay Get Stomped In Indianna

To say that the Miami Heat miss Chris Bosh would be like saying a construction worker misses his hammer or a singer misses her voice. It seems that important. Bosh apart from being the glue guy that makes many of Miami’s play work, is the closest thing that they have to a big man. This easy to notice in the difference in rebounds. Miami got their clock cleaned on the boards. They were outrebounded 52-36. An unencumbered Roy Hibbert contributed 18 rebounds alone.

George Hill played a great game with 20 points and 5 assists. He really stepped and easily played his best game of the series. While that was happening though, Dwayne  Wade scored just 5 points. Just 5. He was outscored by fellow teammate, non-superstar, and non-franchise player Mario Chalmers who scored 25 points. Wade and Spoelstra also had an argument in the huddle as the team unraveled. The Heat lost and for once the blame should be place no where near Lebron.

Wade was 2 of 13 from the field and seemed to be an offensive liability but, the Heat have no other options. Especially when fellow starters Dexter Pittman and Shane Battier combined for 0 points in total. They were 0 of 9 between the two of them.

Miami needs a more efficient way of scoring than 3 point shots of which they were 4 of 20 as a team. The Pacers out rebounded them and these bad shots are a part of the reason why.

San Antonio Wrote The Book On Basketball, Apparently.

If there is a kid that you know that wants to play basketball, make them watch the Spurs, specifically the Spurs in these playoffs. The Spurs play the game of basketball the right way. They move the ball to all the right places. They San Antonio plays, its just cool to watch because everything makes so much sense. Every shot they take is the result of an offense that has moved the Clippers out of place defensively that most of their shots are nearly uncontested.

With Tim Duncan looking like the 2007 version of himself the Spurs really do look unstoppable. Duncan had 18 points making 9 of 14 of his shots. Once Tim gets going it opens up things for Tony Parker who scored 22 points and the rest of the Spurs. Duncan was also a presence to be reckoned with defensively. He deterred many would be Clipper shots. He didn’t block any but just being there makes Los Angeles really think twice about going inside.

There’s been a lot of Blake Griffin hate lately. Not from me but it has been around. I like Blake as a player. I think he’s a better and more well rounded player than people give him credit for. He doesn’t have that many post moves or a consistent shot but, he is better on the low block than he’s given credit for and his mid range jumper, though not great, is a whole lot better than people give him credit for. Blake scored 20 points on 7 of 16 shooting and it wasn’t all just dunks. Offensively he played well. All of that being said though, Blake Griffin needs to rebound. His team needs him to. Griffin grabbed a single rebound. Just the one. This is nearly as shocking as Dwayne Wade’s 5 points. A big man must rebound. It should be a law. A guy with Blake’s size and jumping ability grabbing a single rebound in a playoff game is nothing short of a heinous sin. Especially when Chris Paul the team’s highest scorer is fighting multiple injuries. Having a few extra possessions could come in handy.

“All the King’s horses and all the King’s men kicked the Coyotes butts all over again.” — Barry Melrose

That about sums it up. In a game Phoenix had to win they didn’t. They weren’t able to stop the Kings in almost any capacity. The Kings out shot them 28-19. This is despite the fact that Los Angeles had more giveaways than Phoenix did.

If anyone still has doubts about how good Anze Kopitar is they should probably let go of them now. The guy is legit. At the beginning of the playoffs I didn’t know the guy from Adam but, in the postseason he’s really come on and is proving to be a threat that must be watched.

The eight seeded Kings are one game away from shattering expectations. I didn’t have them making it this far. The level of parity in the NHL is unreal. Even in the Playoffs its hard to know who can turn it on and compete and who can’t.

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Daily Rain 5-10-12

New York Rangers vs Washington Capitals Proves That NHL Is  More Exciting Than The NBA (in the postseason anyway).

As a fan of the Capitals I’m glad that they were able to force a game seven of this second round series. More importantly, I’d like to take this time to say that the NHL playoffs are better than the NBA playoffs.

The NHL is less predictable. In the NBA there are about four contenders for the title and we’ve known who they were about halfway through the season. Barring injuries, we know who will win in the NBA playoffs. In the NHL the eighth seeded Los Angeles Kings were able to beat the first seeded Vancouver Canucks and the second seed in the St. Louis Blues. The NBA may give us some great games but we know who is in and who is out most of the time. The first round of the NBA playoffs have been awful.

There are too many teams in the mix that have no chance of winning a title. Lebron can praise the strengths of the Pacers until he’s blue in the face. He knows the Heat are winning that series, I know it, and the Pacers are going to know it too soon enough.

In Hockey it really feels like anything can happen.

What’s Next For The Knicks?

The New York Knicks were run over by the Miami Heat. With the exception of game 4 in this series where Carmelo scored 41 points, the Knicks looked like anything but a playoff team. They were outclassed, pounded, and they seem to have very few options offensively outside of Carmelo. Coach Mike Woodson did a good job with what he had but, what he had wasn’t much.

The Knicks should consider moving Amar’e to add pieces around Melo. Stoudemire has a lot of mileage on him and he doesn’t seem to ever be healthy enough to be a viable number two option for that offense. Tyson Chandler doesn’t score consistently and J.R. Smith plays well but he is not dominant.

I know I’m piling on and it’s been said before but, Carmelo Anthony needs to show up next season in shape. He needs to add strength and stamina. Mostly stamina since, the thing that suffers the most when he’s tired is his defense and he wasn’t really great at that already.

The Clippers Are In Trouble. Big Trouble.

Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph started game 5 of the series like men on a mission. The two men had been successfully tamed for the greater part of this series however, they started last night’s game rebounding and attacking the bucket early. This lead to a big first quarter lead that proved to be the difference maker in the game. When Gasol and Randolph play their best basketball they’re a hard to team to beat and the Clippers are too soft inside to actually stop them.

Adding to the Clippers woes, Blake Griffin hyperextended his knee and Chris Paul re-agitated a groin injury. While Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro assured everyone that his two stars would be okay it seems that injuries, especially those two injuries would have some kind of effect. If Griffin can still jump the Clippers can still use him but Chris Paul cannot afford to be hampered. Especially since the speed of Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley has proven troublesome for the Clippers defense.

I think this series goes seven games.

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The Dallas Mavericks are the Champs!

Dirk Nowitzki didn’t shoot the ball very well and it didn’t matter. The Mavericks as a team stepped up and did their jobs. I don’t just mean Jason Terry, Jason Kidd, J.J. Barea, or Shawn Marion. I mean everyone. Brian “The Custodian” Cardinal knocked down a big shot and defended the paint, Ian Mahinmi played solid defense off the bench, and DeShawn Stevenson was lights out from down town. Dirk didn’t need to be Superman to be an NBA champion because he played on a team that recognized the importance of their duties and they executed them. Seriously? Who would have thought that Dallas could rely on Brian Cardinal on the biggest stage in the stead of Tyson Chandler, who couldn’t stop picking up stupid fouls to save his life? The Mavs teamwork and perseverance won them this title. Save the big German himself, there are no stars on Dallas’ team. No standouts or exceptional athletes, but there were a bunch of cause committed to a cause who all knew their roles and played within them. Their team was in a quite literal contrast to the Miami Heat.

Lebron wasn’t aggressive, but neither was Dwayne. They didn’t play off of each other or even with each other, but more or less seemed to be playing over each other. Neither ever made the decision over the course of the game to dominate. How could they? If one guy takes shots he’s taking away from the other. Let’s not even mention Bosh who was the best Heat player in my opinion. He played with more heart the James and Wade put together, but he didn’t get any touches. He was so efficient that he outscored Dwayne Wade and took 7 less shots to do it. He scored 19 points on 7 of 9 shooting. The Miami Heat may have had the superior athletes, but unlike Dallas they were not a team. When your teammates are scoring off of put backs only, you’ve got a team problem. The turnovers and miscommunication that happened all game for the Heat would have led a sane person who hadn’t ever seen them before to believe that they had never played together. These are the things that a team that has spent time together would know how to do. When things got tough we saw the Heat fall apart, and I for one that they were better than that.

The Dallas Mavericks were humble even in victory, which speaks to the kind of guys that are on that team. I didn’t like Jason Terry before this series, but I have respect for him now. I see a guy who is willing to do whatever it takes to win. He played his best when it mattered most. When Dirk was struggling Dallas stayed afloat due mostly to how well Terry was playing. He made good decisions with the ball and made the most of his opportunities. Dirk did what Dirk does. He could not be found for most of the game, but when Dallas needed a closer in the fourth quarter he was there when they needed him. Only Dirk could score 3 points in the first half of a close out game and then show up with a big 18 points in the second half to finish his opponent off.

I can’t say enough about how well Dallas played. They really had a spectacular performance all series long. This is one of the most enjoyable NBA Finals in quite sometime. The story lines were good and the games were epic. What more could a fan ask for? I just hope that everyone remembers how this feels because we might have to go on that feeling going into the near future. An NBA lockout is looming and the owners and players can’t seem to agree on any issues.

Both teams played hard and the Mavericks are the champs. Congratulations guys on a season well played.

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NBA Finals Game 5: Dallas in the driver’s seat.

This game marked a number of firsts for the Dallas Mavericks. They lead for the first time in this series. The Mavs shooters got going for the first time in this series. More importantly, Dallas wasn’t playing from behind the entire game for the first time all series long. This game was all about offense. The pace suited the Mavs from the jump. Dallas shot 57% from the field and 68% from beyond the arc! These numbers look like Xbox numbers. It’s unreal how well Dallas shot the ball. Nobody on that team who attempted a three point shot was below 50% in three point attempts. Dirk Nowitzki had a silent 29 point game. It wasn’t loud I hadn’t noticed that he scored 29 until the game was over. The Mavs didn’t shoot well on accident, even though they did make some well defended shots, instead they took advantage of the Heat overplaying Dirk and ran a number of screens with him to get their shooters open.

Jason Terry played like his nickname implied. The Jet has never flown higher. He was scorer and facilitator. He became more than a spot up shooter. He ran routes, made great passes, and put the ball on the floor in ways that we have never seen him do before. He was there when his team needed him. He exposed the defense of Lebron James. Either Jason Terry is a better driver than we all gave him credit for or the defense of Lebron James has been overstated a bit. Terry got by Lebron just about anytime he felt like it, especially in the fourth quarter when the Heat needed stops. The most notable example of this is when Terry beat Lebron and got into the lane causing the defense to collapse onto him. He then kicked the ball back out to Jason Kidd who hit the three that put the Mavs up 105-100 with a minute and 27 seconds left in the game.

Dallas played a well rounded game. This is why I picked the Mavs to win this series. I thought that the depth of the Mavs could overcome Miami’s talent. Last night Dallas had 5 players in double figures. That kind of scoring is absolutely invaluable to a team. Everybody on that team was making plays. The struggling J.J. Barea finally had a game that he could be proud of in this series scoring 17 points on 6 of 11 shooting. He used his dribble penetration to create havoc in the paint.

Miami on the other hand was not so lucky. As Lebron said in the post game press conference, offense wasn’t an issue, but defense was. The Heat were caught in a game that didn’t suit their pace. They pride themselves on what they do on the defensive end of the floor. If you look at the percentages of what Dallas was scoring (as mentioned above) there wasn’t a whole lot of defense being played in this game. Lebron played a good game. He had a triple-double with 17 points, 10 assists, and 10 rebounds. It wasn’t enough to win this game. Miami didn’t need a good game from Lebron, they needed a dominant one. They needed him to take over at points especially with Wade out with his hip contusion. In that way I think he failed them. They needed a guy who was going to take over the game. That’s how they’re built. The Heat are a very superstar-centric team. They need their superstars to dominate because that’s where their scoring comes from. Bosh is inconsistent and Wade can’t do it alone and I though Lebron had a real opportunity to step up and prove himself. Instead he played good enough to compete, but not good enough to win.

It was a must win game for the Mavs and they won it. This is the closest Dirk Nowitzki or Jason Kidd have ever been to being NBA champs. The Heat are going to have to put the home court advantage to good use. Nothing is worse than having a team celebrate a championship on your floor.

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NBA Finals Game 4: Dirk is Sick! No really . . . He’s got a fever.

Dirk began this game about as hot as he was. He made the first three shots in the game to give Dallas a lead. For a guy with a fever if was hard to tell that Dirk was sick. He didn’t play like it. Chris Bosh and Erik Spoelstra both noted that they hadn’t really noticed that Dirk was sick at all. They had no reason to. Dirk scored 21 points, while having yet another huge 4th quarter, on 6 of 19 shooting and 11 rebounds. 11 defensive rebounds that is. Dirk made big plays when his team needed him to including game winner which was the same shot as in game two, he just went to the right side.

The game was a good game, but as with the rest of this series so much of it was sloppy and mistake-ridden. The Mavs played good defense in the first quarter, holding Miami to 29% from the field, but they had so many turnovers that they were trailing at the end of the quarter. The Heat were up by 9, but couldn’t  secure the basketball in the 4th quarter. You may not ever be able to count Dallas out of a ball game, but you can’t guarantee anything with the Heat either.

Dwayne Wade had his signature all over this game. He made plays every time Miami went up the floor. He had big rebounds, knocked down difficult shots, and blocked shots (including a huge rejection on Tyson Chandler.) The person who didn’t really seem to be involved much was Lebron James who scored just 8 points on 3 of 11 shooting. Lebron was productive of course, he had 9 rebounds and 7 assists. It just seemed like he facilitated himself out of the game. One line of reasoning is that he’s tired. With games just one day a part from each other and Lebron logging in 44 minutes to 46 minutes of play per night, he might just be tired. He looked slower than earlier in the series. When you consider that Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant, and even Dwayne take 3rd quarter rests in games it’s pretty crazy how many minutes Lebron is playing. Is the lack of depth finally catching up to the Heat? Lebron played 45 minutes again last night. In the press conference ESPN’s Rachel Nichols asked him if he would go to shoot in the gym to get his rhythm back and Lebron said, “With the games so close together it’s more important to get rest, but if I need to fix anything, I’ll shoot, and work on it.”

Tyson Chandler and Jason Terry had good games. There was a play in the game where Jason Terry left Lebron just standing there and looking. This has to do with wether or not Lebron is tired or not. Those words before the game from Terry are not seeming so stupid after all. Brendan Haywood came into the game for three minutes and up seeing how Haywood looked, Chandler checked himself back into the game. Between Terry’s 17 points and Chandlers 13 points and 16 rebounds they made an impact on the game. Dallas is going to see more of this from them if they plan on winning this series.

Dwayne Wade had 32 points on 13 of 20 shooting in the losing effort. He was playing out of his mind and it still wasn’t enough. Which just goes to show that they need all of the big three to play well if they want to win games. Okay I lied, they need the Wade and Lebron part to work. Bosh has filled out the stat sheet in losses before. This, if I’m not mistaken is his 3rd game like this in the playoffs. Bosh scored 24 points on 9 of 19 shooting.

Apart from Wade’s 32 point losing effort, another thing that made this game bizarre is that Miami rebounded better and shot the ball better and still lost this game. Looking at the game closely Dallas was much more aggressive getting to the basket. This allowed them to draw more fouls and beat Miami at the free throw line. The free throw line is what lost Miami the game. They shot less free throws, 24 shots to Dallas’ 30, and made a lower percentage of them. Dallas shot 80% from the free throw line as opposed to the Heat’s 70% not taking into account the free throw Dwayne Wade missed that would have tied the game.

This series is continuing to stay tight but, Dallas needs to finally get a lead in this series while they still have a home game, in order to win the whole sha-bang.

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NBA Finals Game 3: Evenly Matched.

Did the refs bad call at the end of the first quarter cost Dallas the game? The no-call in which Mario Chalmers was actually backcourt, but the refs didn’t see it that way. In a word, no. No single moment in a game loses teams games. When a team plays they have multiple opportunities. That no-call should never have happened, but Dallas shouldn’t have been out-scored in the paint 44-20. Dallas needed to defend the rim early on because Lebron and Dwayne came out of gates practically dunking on every play. Shawn Marion and Tyson Chandler didn’t really stay in front of the ball or defend the rim very well until the second half. Maybe they were afraid that they wouldn’t have a backup because Brendan Haywood was injured. However if Dallas played the kind defense they did when they go on runs to catch up in games, they wouldn’t need to play from behind every time.

Dallas dominated in many aspects of the game. So much so that it’s mind-boggling how they were down in the first place. They out-rebounded the Heat 42-36, and their bench out-scored Miami’s by a margin of  25-19. What made this game the way it was, was that the Dallas Mavericks did not start aggressively enough. Dirk scored 34 points but only 2 points in the first quarter. Shawn Marion needed to shoot the ball a bit better and choose better moments to shoot. He scored 10 points on only 4 of 12 shooting. Jason Kidd scored 9 points on 3 of 8 shooting, which isn’t terrible, but it could have been better. Dallas lost the game so it needed to be better. Dallas can expect to play every game from behind and win this series, because I’ll tell you one thing, it’s not going to happen. The starters need to help more. Period.

The Heat didn’t play a flawless game either, but it was enough. Chris Bosh forgot how to shoot for 2 quarters of the game, the Heat allow the Maverick defense to dictate their offense at times, and they have a massive rebounding problem. I thought the rebounding problem was fixed but this is the second game in a row that Dallas has out-rebounded Miami. Miami needs to fix this if it intends win this series. They did a good job surviving one game in Dallas, but they won’t survive long if the level of play does not increase. Dwayne Wade and Lebron James are playing crazy good, and Chris Bosh plays well in streaks, but this team needs it’s bench to not get run over by the Mavericks. Mike Miller and Juwan Howard played 18 minutes between the two of them and scored a collective 1 point and 3 rebounds. That’s just not enough production for two people. Mario Chalmers plays well when he comes in but he’s the only one. I see Haslem, and I don’t see what the big deal about him is. He scores and rebounds, which I understand, but nobody is changing their game plan for Udonis Haslem. The reason why the Heat are playing well is because of James, Wade and Bosh.

Do we have a game seven on our hands? I hope this is the series that can go the distance because both of these teams are electric.

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