I don’t want to beat the “What Should I Do?” rhetorical question to death here. It’s been done, and overdone, and redone, and remocked and overmocked and the whole works. I loved the commercial (almost entirely for the “So… this went well.” joke. I never get tired of that gag. Why? Because it’s A. what you want him to say and B. what you think you would say. As I said on Twitter, I like the Nike LeBron so much more than the actual LeBron. I need a Nike me.), but we’re past it. But still, when I was trying to bring some sort of cohesive concept brought together about the Heat, it took a question to get me started. The opening point. The root.
“What’s it going to take?”
What’s it going to take, LeBron?
For you to get to that place, again? I’m not talking somewhere you’ve never been. I’m not like all the idiots out there talking about your playoff legacy as if Game 5 was the sum and total eclipse of it. It wasn’t. It was a bad game, brought on by something which was clearly not an organic output of your game. I don’t care what it was. It’s over. And in the great history of this game, every single player has a dark moment like that. They say you quit, fine. I’ve seen enough of you during this brilliant career of yours to know that simply doesn’t fit the mold. I’ve seen you bring playoff teams back from the brink, take over games like no one else and hit shots you have no business in hitting. So I’m not asking what it’s going to take for you to get to where you need to be, I’m asking what it’s going to take to get you back there. You said it was teammates. You’ve got ‘em. Kind of. You’ve at least got one, the true running mate, and Haslem wants it at least as badly as Varejao did.
You get to the lane, and you jump pass. You get to the rim, and you lean away. Is it the charge? Did the Drunken Seal spook you that badly? Again, don’t listen to the idiots saying you’re soft. Even if your mental constitution is lacking or damaged or whatever, you’re still simply physically superior to every player on the court. So I don’t buy it. So what is it? Why are you letting layup bounce off the rim instead of finishing with certainty? What’s it going to take to get your focus where it needs to be? What’s it going to take to get your anger riled? You’re not an angry person. Everything we know about you suggests this. I don’t mind it. Hell, I envy it. Not being bothered by what people say about you is a sign of courage, or at least inadvertent courage through obliviousness. But Jesus, man. The Celtics have twice spanked you. And I’m not just saying that because they beat you, and kept it comfortable for most of the game. I’m saying that because they treated you like a child who misbehaved, and sent you to your room.
To your credit? You got to the rim. While Celtics fans are complaining about your foul count, they’re also ignoring how consistent you were with attacking instead of settling for that pull-up jumper we’ve blasted you for. You worked to get to that rim, even if you deferred or shrank at the moment closest to completion. And you drew fouls. All over the place. Lots and lots and lots of jumpers. But you miss your free throws. Eight of twelve? Not going to get it done. Hit those four and it’s a one point game. Asking you to be flawless is too much? Too bad. That’s the table and you’re going to have to eat at it.
So what’s it going to take? What’s it going to take for you to get where you were, where you need to be, to finally give a damn about this team and the way it not only overcomes you, but does so like you don’t even matter? What’s it going to take?
What’s it going to take, Spoelstra?
It takes a special set of circumstances to give a coach an easier job than Phil Jackson has had. And yet you have both been blessed with such circumstances and failed in nine games to capitalize on it. This isn’t about Rome not being built in a day. This is about the Roman architects looking at stone and saying “Let’s make a boat!” Those turnovers in the first game? Forgivable. Completely. Teaching guys new places to be, new rotations, it takes time. But whatever this concept is that you’re trying to execute? It’s not working. Four of those five wins don’t matter, not to anyone that’s actually evaluating you, and the fifth is overshadowed by the New Orleans and Utah losses. So then you have a wash, and it comes down to Boston. Losing to Boston? Nothing wrong with that. But it’s the fact that you managed to construct a 5-point blowout and did so because continually your team is incapable of getting its star player a shot… despite having three of them! You cannot possibly think that jump-pass to James Jones after jump-pass to Eddie House after jump-pass to James Jones is what this offense should be about, do you?
41 of your 74 field goals were jumpers. 41 of 74. You have all these weapons, all these options, and you’re creating 41 of 72 jump shots inside the arc with another 20 three–pointers. That doesn’t really much left over for the kinds of shot you want to be getting, which are at rim. You ran 7 pick and rolls with James as the ball handler. You posted him 3 times. With Paul Pierce guarding him. What’s it going to take for you not to settle, Spo?
What’s it going to take, Riley?
What’s it going to take to realize that for all the classy veteran fun Carlos Arroyo brings you that you need a point guard? And we’re not talking Chris Paul here. You just need someone who isn’t going to get destroyed. Someone who can compete. D-League guys are bad, but they’ll at least bust through a screen if you tell them to. What’s it going to take to realize that all the ancient guys you brought on may not be viable options? What’s it going to take to realize that either someone says something to Chris Bosh, or he’s of little to no value to you?
What’s it going to take, world?
What’s it going to take to get past it? “The Decision was obnoxious. That’s certainly true. Coming up from the ground at the arena? Sure it looks bad. That wasn’t televised to a world audience. It was for the fans in Miami, and while the whole of them seem to suck so far, I’m sure there are actual Heat fans in that city who were pretty excited to have this happen to their team. Other than that? What? What did they do? Cleveland’s got every right to be livid with him and that team till the day they die. Fine. Can’t blame them. But since when did it become fashionable to make not just sports villains out of these guys but hold them up as if they are despicable human beings who deserve every ounce of scorn we can muster for them because they dared to get together to play basketball? What prompted this assertion that they are some terrible collection of human beings? They’re athletes. That’s it. Dwyane Wade does as much for charity as any player in the NBA and has always conducted himself with respect and dignity. Want to see him be a winner? Check 2006. You’ve got every right to cheer for your team, the good guys, and boo the bad guys. But the, honestly, frightening lack of respect for common humanity being lobbed at these guys is enough to make someone nauseous. They’re not sinners to us, that’s up to whatever things are out there in the ether. They’re just professional athletes who carry with them ego. You don’t think Baron Davis thinks he’s one of the best players in the league? Or Paul Pierce? Or Mo Williams? Or any other members of the highest professional basketball league in the world? Of course these guys have egos. Millions of people cheer for them on a daily basis. They’re not connected to reality. Very few athletes are.
But what gives us the right to criticize them beyond “Man, they sucked last night?” Because that’s not what’s going on. It’s “Those guys suck because they are classless pieces of trash who have no respect for themselves or the game.” Which is absurd. They’re just people. People who aren’t playing basketball very well together right now and had they played well last night and ended up six points better, you would simply be saying how “It doesn’t matter because they didn’t do it in the playoffs” or you’d be dead quiet. You want to talk about how Carlos Arroyo can’t play point guard? I’d love to hear your thoughts. You want to talk about how James and Wade need to stop taking drifting angles on drives? Let’s chat. But if you want to talk about how these guys don’t deserve our respect and we should lay down all their failures and roll around in them like Demi Moore in “Indecent Proposal?” What’s it going to take for us to move past this objectification of these people as some sort of symbol for what’s wrong with the world? They’re athletes. They play basketball, they go home.
Your vitriol is unsatisfying, it is disgusting, and it is unwarranted. What’s it going to take for you to grow up? Be fans. Don’t fit the narrative. And that goes double for writers.
You’re better than that.
What’s it going to take, rim?
What’s it going to take for you to not hate Dwyane Wade against the Celtics? I watched those shots. They weren’t bad shots. They were the same shots he always hits. But you had it rattle in and out of you fourteen times before rejecting it. Is it personal? You should get over it.
What’s it going to take, Boston?
What’s it going to take to beat you? What’s it going to take, because at this point, I don’t know that there’s a solution. Your rotations are perfect, your ball movement, sublime, and when it isn’t? You get the offensive rebound and you reset the offense and then, sure enough, because the defense was busy preparing for the break, Ray’s slipped to the corner and there he is, wide open. I don’t have any idea of when you’ll get old, when you’ll get tired, when you’ll get beatable. Because right now, as it has been since last mid-April, you look like the only thing that can take you down is the Lakers.
And I won’t even bother asking them.