There are no excuses or explanations this time. No more pawning the losses off on teammates. Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and Udonis Haslem are more than enough – especially when you are LeBron James. He is undoubtedly one of the most physically gifted athletes in the sport, perhaps all sports. He has played and honed his game at the highest level for seven years. He even showed that he was fully capable of taking over games against Boston and Chicago – both favored to beat the Heat. But in the NBA Finals, he was a shell of the player he was in the rest of the NBA Playoffs . . . even the regular season. The end result was a crushing loss that sent LeBron James and the Miami Heat walking off their home court losers in the NBA Finals.
There is some credit due to the Dallas defense, that kept both Wade and James out of the paint and off the free throw line. There is some blame to be passed on to the refs, who allowed excessive physical contact at the rim (advantage jump shooting team), almost as if they were “making up” for the 2006 NBA Finals. There is some chagrin to be directed at Eric Spoelstra, who was unable to come up with a plan against Dallas’s defense. Ultimately, the blame comes down on James. He is the most talented. He is the biggest, strongest, fastest one. And if he had played as he did in the previous two series, the Heat could very likely be champions this morning. Unlike the prior two series, LeBron did not drive with reckless abandon. He did not hit jumpers in the fourth quarter. He continued to pass the ball in situations that demanded he create a high percentage shot for himself or a teammate. His play during the series has been so baffling, that whenever he caught the ball in the 3rd and 4th quarters of last night’s game, you could hear the crowd screaming in unison “GO.” They were pleading James to attack. When he did, he scored, or good things happened. But he spent too much time hanging around the perimeter, too much time snapping passes to someone else on the perimeter, and not enough time driving to the rim – driving like he did in the previous two series.
Everything James has done over the past year, leaving Cleveland, the Decision, putting aside the title of being “the man” on his own team has been done under the banner of winning – and without winning it all, LeBron will never be free of criticism. He hasn’t done anything this year that he did not do with Cleveland at some point in his career there (unless you count two Finals wins). The sense of deja-vu is palpable, right down to the promises to do better next year.
I’ve been in this league eight years. There’s no distractions that can stop me from trying to chase an NBA championship. Not you guys, not anything that goes on that’s not focused on my team and my teammates and what we’re out there — what we’re out set to do. Like I said before, I work hard to try to put myself in position to play at a high level. When you go out on the court, does the ball always go in? Absolutely not. But the one thing I know, I never hold my head low in saying, I didn’t do it the right way or I wish I would have did this. It’s not about that.
I put a lot of hard work into this season individually. We all did. So we have nothing to hang our heads low. Just use this as an extra motivation to help myself become a better player for next year.
And so the cycle begins again, and we prescribe the same cures to LeBron James once more. Learn how to play in the post. Get a consistent jump shot – not a streaky one. Stop playing solely from the perimeter. And play with the same abandon against every defense and every team through every series. Until LeBron James learns how to do these things, we will be revisiting this topic year after year – regardless of the uniform on his chest, or the players at his side. He is after all, too good at basketball. He’s so good that anything short of a championship is labeled as failure by fans, haters, and the impartial alike.