If you can’t appreciate watching LeBron, why bother watching?

Last night the Heat evened their Finals series with the Spurs at 1-1 with a 98-96 win in San Antonio. Dwyane Wade struggled for much of the night, and the Heat bench provided just 12 points. The difference, much like always, was the greatest player in the world. LeBron James was brilliant, with 35 points and 10 rebounds, knocking down jumpshots and getting to the basket at will. James also assisted on Chris Bosh’s go ahead three pointer with 1:18 to play. The play was identical to the one the Heat ran at the end of game 5 vs Indiana, when James was foolishly criticized for passing up the last shot for the obvious smart basketball play.

James has been subject to more criticism than any two time champion and 4 time MVP than anyone in the history of sports. Shows like “First Take” on ESPN fuel the idiocy that is broadcast to the world via social media. These days everyone has an opinion on everything, and more than ever those opinions are influenced by mainstream media, and tweeted by fans too childish or ignorant to make any sense. The question I have is if you can’t appreciate watching LeBron play, who can you appreciate? If it’s not apparent to you that he’s the most brilliant performer of a generation, perhaps in any sport, at the peak of his powers, than maybe basketball just isn’t for you.

So go on, pile on the world’s greatest player on Twitter because he got cramps or because he passed the ball to his all-star teammate, I’ll be busy watching basketball at the highest level it is played on this planet.

 

Featured image: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Does the Cavs winning the lottery mean LeBron will return to Cleveland?

Last night, miraculously, the Cavaliers won the lottery yet again. Today the hot topic among the talking heads is whether this signals LeBron James’ triumphant return to Cleveland. I don’t understand it.

ESPN’s Colin Cowherd sent out this dumb tweet:

Really Colin, he loves that role? How has LeBron possibly demonstrated his desire to mentor young players in his entire career? Was it when he left a Cleveland roster with 21 year old JJ Hickson, 22 year old Danny Green, 23 year old Daniel Gibson, 24 year old Sebastian Telfair, etc. to join up with his veteran friends to win titles? He really seemed like a perfect caretaker then, Colin. (I’m sure Colin’s tweet was intended to stir this kind of reaction, but it was so stupid I had to comment).

It’s not just Cowherd, though, as the topic has been discussed all over sports radio and ESPN today. So let me guess this straight, 4 time MVP and 2 time defending champion LeBron James is expected to trade Miami for Cleveland because he can’t resist the urge to teach a 19 year old how to play in the NBA? This is all foolish, manufactured news, typical of ESPN and mainstream media.

The only plausible theory I’ve heard is that Cleveland could use to pick to acquire Kevin Love, which could draw LeBron back to Cleveland. Why would LeBron possibly leave his current situation, living in a tropical locale, playing with hall of fame caliber close friends, for a top organization, for that? What is it about playing with Kevin Love, who has never appeared in a postseason game, that would be so irresistible? I know Love is younger than Bosh or Wade, which would have some appeal I’d imagine, and he’s a terrific player, but I think Pat Riley has shown the creativity needed to surround LeBron with talent that he could only dream of during his first stint with Cleveland. And oh yeah, he’d have to go back to working for this guy.

This stuff is fun, and it’s good for the league’s popularity, but don’t believe everything you hear or read. I’m not saying for sure that LeBron won’t leave Miami, because that would be impossible for me to say, I’m just saying be wary of the million speculative headlines you’ll read from now to July.

 

 

Image Credit: Corey Sipkin/ New York Daily News

Eastern Conference Finals Preview

Finally the matchup we’ve all been waiting for all season is here. The Heat and Pacers took different paths to get here, and this should make for an interesting series.

Down the stretch of the regular season both teams played relatively subpar basketball, with the Heat finishing at 3-6 in the month of April and the Pacers at 10-13 from March 4th on. Typically you can attribute this kind of play to two teams sitting comfortably atop the conference and resting for the playoffs. Few truly questioned whether Miami would turn it on for the playoffs, and after steamrolling the Bobcats and Nets in 9 games it’s clear that’s what they’ve done. Something has been different about this Pacers team since their scorching hot start to the season, though. There was Roy Hibbert calling out his teammates, rumors of fights between players, and some weirder stuff going on. There was also the trade sending longtime Pacer Danny Granger to Philadelphia for Evan Turner, which many have speculated ruined the team’s chemistry (I think that’s somewhat of a copout, but whatever). While the Pacers have succeeded in advancing this far, it hasn’t been easy. The team played a seven game series against an awful Atlanta Hawks team and looked inconsistent in defeating Washington in six.

So what can we expect from this series? Despite the mind-boggling inconsistency the Pacers have played with for several months, I expect them to look better against Miami. These two teams seem to bring out the best in each other, so I wouldn’t count out the Pacers just because they look like they forgot how to play team basketball for two and a half months. Last year’s series was intensely physical. The Pacers typically try to take the Heat off their game with chippy fouls, but the veteran Heat are usually not too bothered. The important thing for Indiana is Center Roy Hibbert playing like a 7’2″ all star, not playing entire games without recording a point or rebound. Indiana has good size and when Paul George plays like he’s capable of playing they are a tough team to beat. If the Pacers got any positive contribution from the maddening Lance Stephenson it would be an enormous x-factor, but I wouldn’t count on it. His immaturity was on full display in their previous matchup, when Dwyane Wade baited him into a senseless ejection.

It was widely talked about when the Heat took a flier on Greg Oden that he would be their answer to Hibbert, but interestingly the Heat have used Udonis Haslem instead, to relative success. Haslem is a pro’s pro, at times a team enforcer, and his contributions are rarely reflected in box scores, but his defense on Hibbert will be crucial to the Heat returning to the Finals for a fourth straight year. He will be helped by “Birdman” Chris Andersen, who at 35 is as active as ever down low. Otherwise the keys for the Heat are relatively straightforward. LeBron has to be the MVP, scoring, creating for teammates, while locking down Paul George on the defensive end. Wade needs to make the most of his rest days so he can attack the Indiana defense, and it will be important for Chris Bosh to stretch the floor and draw the Pacers’ big men out of the paint.

My prediction for this series isn’t groundbreaking, it’s a victory for Miami, but I do think it will be a better series than most would have you believe. These two teams dislike each other too much for the Heat to roll through the series as they did in the previous two rounds. Look for a lot of hard (dirty-ish) fouls and trash talking, and probably a couple close finishes. I just think the Heat are playing better basketball, maintain their composure better in big games, and have enough three point shooting coming off their bench. At this point it’s hard get a feel for what kind of team these Pacers truly are, and I think the two time defending champs are a considerably safer bet. Oh yeah and they have the best player in the world, which is always a plus. Look for the Heat to win in 6.

Western Conference Finals preview to follow.

Featured image credit: Steve Mitchell Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports)