Tag Archives: Miami Heat

The LeBron James Rollercoaster

LeBron has a lot riding on his 100th game as a member of the Miami Heat tonight.

It’s not so much just about mental toughness.

Any man who has gone through what LeBron James has had to deal with – or any other professional athlete who has ascended to “superstar” status – has to have some semblance of cerebral fortitude.

It’s not a question of whether LeBron has it or not.  The way arguments seem to be going these days, everyone has to polarize themselves and stand pat on one side or the other.  There is a vast majority of pundits, analysts, and talking heads that handcuff themselves by dealing in absolutes.  Luckily we have Skip Bayless to save us from this “I-can-shout-louder-than-you-about-my-opinion-which-makes-it-better” journalism.

The true measure of greatness – the miniscule difference between championships and excuses – is repetition and consistency.  LeBron James is mentally tough.  We’ve seen it before: Game 5 against the Pistons in 2007 when he scored the final 25 points for the Cavs on his way to a ridiculous 48-9-7.  More recently, we’ve seen it this year against the Celtics and Bulls in the fourth quarter of close-out games.

However, within these dynamic examples of mental toughness are scattered the baffling performances of a superstar who shies away when the spotlight gleams its brightest: the infamous Game 5 against Boston last year in the Eastern Conference Finals and two nights ago in Dallas.

So the question isn’t whether or not LeBron James is mentally tough.  It’s not necessarily one or the other. For LeBron James, as we have found in many different instances, he is both – he’s inconsistent.

LeBron’s decision making has always been questionable. Choosing to allow his childhood friends to be his main representation, choosing to never develop any semblance of a post-up game, choosing to go to Miami, holding an hour-long special to announce that he was going to Miami, for some reason saying “taking my talents to South Beach” when he finally announced it, wearing that heinous white sweater for the State Farm commercials, or sitting down with his legs crossed against the base of the basket when the game was delayed for a spilled drink in Game 3.  Things that make you wonder, “what the hell could he possibly be thinking?”

Jordan was a coldblooded, no-excuses assassin.  Kobe is an asshole.  LeBron is a constant game of mental roulette. You think Jordan would ever take a seat on the court with his legs crossed in the middle of an NBA Finals Game?  Jordan would quit basketball and play another sport before he subjected himself to such childish behavior.

Henry Abbot wrote an article for ESPN.com’s basketball blog “True Hoop” (which he also founded) on May 9th titled “The Meaningless of Playoff Toughness.”

It was written one month ago today – when LeBron was shaking all the criticisms of lacking that killer instinct.  The first of the two distinct LeBron 180s was in full swing.  The second obviously has happened in the last two days. We’re now back where we started.

Abbot’s point was that maybe it’s not so much mental toughness as it is just pure basketball.   LeBron so kindly defecated all over that theory in Game 4.  (Sorry Henry).

Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com, who knows LeBron so well I’m almost positive he’s been sleeping under LeBron’s bed for the past eight years described the recent performance like this: “He lapsed into detachment…It wasn’t that James didn’t deliver in a clutch moment. That is excusable. It was that he looked like he didn’t even want to be in the moment.”

Detachment : That was the word I was looking for; thank you Brian.  Not that he has mental toughness or not.  Not that he is or isn’t clutch.  It’s that he removes himself from the situation altogether.

Tonight is LeBron’s 100th game as a member of the Miami Heat.  Not to jump on the hyperbole-laden S.S. Bayless that I have previously admonished, but this is the most important game of his career.

If you saw the totally not-staged-for-TV pregame speech that the ESPN cameras “caught” before Game 4; the one that on the scale of 1 to Drew Brees’ “This is New Orleans” 300 speech came up as about a 2.5, you heard Mr. James say that he felt like “his back was against the wall.”

If that was the case, I’m not even sure what metaphor to use now at the point he’s currently at.  What’s 100 times more than “back against the wall?”

LeBron James is an unpredictable entity.  He is a fascinating array of chemical reactions.  Does he allow Jason Terry and DeShawn Stevenson’s comments to get to him? Did Wade’s scolding hurt his confidence?  Is he happy to pick up the second fiddle and strum quietly in the corner?

If there’s one thing I can be certain of, it’s this: we can’t be certain of anything when it comes to LeBron Raymone James.  So let’s be comfortable with the indecisiveness of our conclusion, get in the LeBron rollercoaster, put your hands up and enjoy the ride.

Training Day, Aladdin, and LeBron in Miami

You want to go home or you want to go to jail?

“This shit is chess it ain’t checkers.”

That’s how Detective Alonzo Harris would explain this LeBron situation.

And since The King now has only one move, it’s almost checkmate Miami.

Team Riley-Wade-Bosh has come together, and now LeBron must go to Miami.  Yes, I said must.

When no team could entice King James on their own, the Knicks came up with their first semi-intelligent front office move in years.  They signed Amar’e early.  Giving LeBron a little something extra when he looked at the Knicks.

The Bulls followed suit by adding Carlos Boozer shortly after.  Same idea.  They now can offer Rose, Noah, Deng, and Boozer as the LeBronettes.

Unfortunately for the Bulls and Knicks, Miami trumped both moves and signed two of the maybe twelve guys in the league you can’t constitute as bonified LeBronettes (for reference: Paul, Nash, Wade, Bosh, Howard, Kobe, Gasol, the Durantula, Melo, Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Dirk.  With Rondo a jump shot away.)

The Wade-Bosh-Miami connection was not a surprise if you didn’t overthink it.  They are two top ten players who have complimentary games and are good friends that played on Team USA together.

Oh yeah, and they were shooting a documentary together about going through the free agency process in 2010.  Weird they chose to play together.  Should be a nice ending to the doc.

So why did Wade and Bosh announce this now?  To force LeBron’s hand.

These three guys planned to become free agents together this summer.  This is known and has been for two years now.

So while LeBron has been sitting in his throne a la Princess Jasmine waiting for suitors to roll through Agrabah on their elephants

It will be a whole new world, sorry Cleveland.

with bags of gold, Wade and Bosh got fed up that the Princess was enjoying this a little too much and not sticking with the original plan.

So they made a move.

Now Jasmine has every right to allow her suitors to parade around the palace and attempt to woo her, for she was never able to be illegally recruited to play college basketball – she went straight to the pros.  She missed out on all the fun and is making up for it now.

Unfortunately, Bosh and Wade got tired of waiting for Princess LeBron and have now left him with these options:

Option 1: Stay in Cleveland.  LeBron could save an entire city by simply staying put and taking more money than he can get anywhere else (30 million over six years about).  Unfortunately, he has had seven years as a Cavalier and no hardware to show for it.  The losing in Cleveland is bigger than even LeBron.

They switched out Mike Brown for Byron Scott, even though I’m sure most people in Cleveland won’t even notice (especially after everyone there jumps in the Cuyahoga tomorrow night).

They also have no money for free agents; mainly because of the now-crippling Jamison deadline deal last year.  Might have cost them a LeBron-Stoudemire combo.  Sign Shaq, lose LeBron, fire the 08-09 Coach of the Year within 14 months.  Firing Danny Ferry was a good step, but the damage was already done.

As for Chris Bosh joining the King, he actually told LeBron he would go anywhere with him except Cleveland.

Then LeBron pushed his decision back until after his Akron Nike Camp was over.  Then he said he would donate all commercial advertising proceeds from his hijacking of ESPN for an hour Thursday night to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Cleveland.  He will make this decision in Connecticut by the way, not Cleveland.  Do you see a pattern here?

Sorry Cleveland fans, you have seen LeBron in your gold and crimson for the last time.  Your current most recognizable sports figure just went from LeBron James to Mike Holmgren.  The King to the Walrus.  I really do feel for you.

Option 2: Take Over the Big Apple.

Amar’e and Mike D’Antoni are a good combination; it’s a proven fact.  Back in their work together in Pheonix, they were a consistent top three team in the West.  So New York should be a good spot, right?  Well D’Antonamar’e never won a ring.  In fact, they never even got to a championship.  They also gave up 430 points a game and had a pretty good Canadian guy helping out on offense.

Hmmm.  Add a shaky front office, a culture of losing, and the pressure of the biggest city in the world, and you do not have a recipe for success.  LeBron was booed once in his entire career in Cleveland.  ONCE!  And that was his last game as a Cavalier, where he walked off the court pouting.  I’m sure he’s looking forward to Spike Lee in his ear and his face all over the backpages.

Option 3: Go play for the Clippers.

Kobe veto.  Moving on.

Option 4: Head over to Jersey to play for Teddy KGB and Jay-Z.

Newark for two years and watching Devin Harris brick runners for 48 minutes a night…Sorry Hova, wait until your actually playing in Brooklyn and then start calling people.

Option 4: Go play for Chicago.

Well now, hold on.  This kind of makes sense.  You have one of the best young players in the game; who happens to be a point guard and is making a rookie salary.  Forget the fact that he’s never even been in the same room as an SAT Test; Derrick Rose is an enticing teammate.

Add Boozer to go with Deng and Noah, and you have a formidable starting five avec le Roi.  With defensive guru Tom Thibodeau as the new head coach and enough room to give James the max deal – 16.6 million a year – the windy city could be the place to go.

There are some hang ups, though.

First of all, LeBron does not like Carlos Boozer.  If you remember Carlos pulled a Benedict Arnold move in 2004 when he pulled the rug from under Cleveland for more money in Utah.

LeBron also doesn’t trust Chicago as an organization.  Like Dwyane Wade said a few weeks ago, “”I see Michael Jordan is not there, Scottie Pippen is not there. … You know, these guys are not a part,” he told The Chicago Tribune.

“I know one thing about Miami: It is a very loyal organization. I see what they do with their players when their players get done with the game of basketball … how loyal they are,” Wade said.

Alonzo Mourning, Exhibit A of Miami’s loyalty, was conveniently one of the delegates from Miami that spoke to LeBron last week.  Check Riley.

Don’t look past how important the organization is to LeBron, someone who is uber-conscious of his legacy and his image

Also, the Jordan comparison will only gain steam if he has a Bulls jersey on 82+ times a year.  LeBron James the Bull has to win six titles or he is always #2 in his own city.  He has to do this with no Pippen, no Rodman, and no Phil Jackson.

Finally, with LeBron on the Bulls, that still leaves them only even with the Magic and Celtics without their experience and chemistry.  The Heat will then have about 17 million free to sign pieces to fit around Bosh-Wade, and the Hawks still have their core intact with Joe Johnson coming back.

That’s a crowded kingdom for a princess.

Look back at the Non-LeBronettes.  None of them are on the Cavs, Knicks, Nets, Clips, or Bulls.  Miami has two.

Get used to seeing them with the same letters across the chest.

Which means if he goes to Miami, he is immediately on the league’s best team.  And remember, a team can go over the cap with players who sign minimum deals.  If the Heat trade Beasley, and LeBoshWade all take 15 mill a year, the Heat will have about 4-5 million dollars to play with plus anyone they sign to a minimum deal (rookies and aging vets willing to take a pay cut for a ring).  That’s plenty to suffice a championship.  Or championships.

All three will be inked for up for six years.  That’s scary.

He would have a good young coach, Erik Spoelstra, a better old coach who will most likely take over at some point when Spoelstra “takes time off to spend with his family “ in the middle of the year when the team is 37-4, and an owner in Mickey Arison who writes checks and stands back while Riley runs the show.

Not to mention he is in South Beach, with pressure distributed among three players in a city where they are considerably content due to a championship in the last decade.

Riley and Wade have moved all their pieces in the right place.  And it’s time for the King to fall.

LeBron knows where he should go.  And tomorrow night, at probably around 9:59 pm EST, he will be putting on a Miami Heat flat brim.

And then hopefully we can get a week of analysis and then put it to rest.  I want SportsCenter back.