Tag Archives: heat

Inside Tim Duncan’s Halftime Buzzer Beater

A brief peek into the mind of Tim Duncan with .8 seconds remaining in the first half of Game 1:

“…seriously, though, it’s ridiculous how badly druids were nerfed in the last patch. Blizzard is out of their minds. Boris, are you even listening to me? Blizzard is a French owned company. This matters to you, too. … S’that, Pop? …with less than a second remaining? Sure. What’s the play? Must be like a lob or a pindown or something, right?”

Trust the process.

Create space. Give Tony room to get you the ball. Laugh at Joel Anthony. Seriously, Joel Anthony? Is Erik Spoelstra trying to play a joke on me?

Okay, focus. Wade’s here, too. He’s pesky. Probably won’t affect the shot too much, but he stands to have a bigger impact than Joel F—ing Anth — I said focus, Tim!

Why am I even thinking about these guys, anyway? Trust the process. Set your feet. Square your shoulders. Bend your knees. Get at least 6 inches of lift on the “jumper,” or Tony’s going to give you so much s— about being 50 or some other s— after the game. Trust the process. It’s just math. .8 seconds is plenty of time to make the catch and shoot, as long as you trust the process. No hesitation. No fear.

Heh, remember No Fear? Man, I think I still have a dozen of their shirts in the closet at Pop’s super secret lake house. Love fishing there. Pop’s got the biggest cache of C4 from his military days and man, it’s hilarious watching Patty Mills swim around after the detonation, gathering nature’s flash-charred bounty in his mouth. He loves it.

Oh, neat. We scored. Someone must have trusted the process. Wonder if Pop will let me run a 5-man dungeon at halftime.

Maybe I’ll invite Joel Anthony. Dude probably plays a hunter.

Image by ceoln via Flickr

RTOE: Indiana vs. Miami for The Whole Kit and Kaboodle

Miami. Indiana. LeBron. George. Wade. Hibbert. Bosh. Pendergraph. West. Game 7. We didn’t think we’d be here, but we are. I’ve got questions; Amin, Ananth, Jack, Ian, Dylan and Derek have got answers.

1. Erik Spoelstra said in his morning media availability that “Everything is on the table.” What the hell does that mean?

Amin: Based on my background in international affairs, “everything is on the table” typically means that the Heat will first try to negotiate with the Pacers to resolve the conflict. However, if that recourse does not work, they’ll eventually resort to diplomatic sanctions. Then that’ll escalate to economic sanctions. Eventually, we may see an all-out war. Let’s just hope it doesn’t get to that, because no good will come from it.

Ananth: The Heat are going to give it their all just like this kid.

Jack: Spoelstra surely just meant to signify the all-encompassing nature of tonight’s game; that the loser goes home and the winner advances, and only the latter gets the opportunity to play for every team’s ultimate goal. But fans and analysts can take his idiom a step further, as Miami – and its once rock-solid future – is already nearing the edge of an unstable surface. Should they lose tonight, the Heat risk falling off altogether.

Ian: I have no idea. It strikes me as a rather empty threat of creativity given that the Heat have, for the most part, just been plowing ahead for the last three games with a game plan that consists of “ride LeBron’s talent.” The more pressing question is – why hasn’t it been on the table yet?

Dylan: Yes.

Derek: Perhaps someone lost their car keys and he was simply stating where he saw them last. Or maybe it’s coach’s speak for YOLO! Sorry, I’ll never say “YOLO” again in a post. Anyway, I honestly can’t say for certain what that means, but if I had to guess he means adjusting as the game goes and tweaking the pre-game plan as the game goes on. But don’t teams do that anyways? Okay, I have no clue what Spo is talking about.

2. RANK THINGS: Where does Frank Vogel rank in the league’s coaching continuum?

Amin: Continuum? Does that mean the worst coach loops back around to the best coach? As obvious as this may seem, I think Vogel’s definitely in the Top 4 coaches in the league. I think Popovich is better. Maybe Karl. Probably tied with Spo. I think he’s better than Thibs because Thibs has a problem managing minutes (though he gets results). So yeah, I’ll go Top 4.

Ananth: Top 10 for sure. The Pacers have legitimatized themselves as one of the top teams in the East and let’s not forget that Vogel can spin a basketball on a toothbrush.

Jack: Just outside the hallowed ground of the Popovich/Thibodeau twosome, alongside revered champions like Carlisle and Rivers, legends like Karl and upstarts like Spoelstra. Popular (and flawed) narrative suggests Vogel can’t reach coaching’s current Rushmore without a title on his resume, but that his name bears that discussion at all is a testament to the awesome job he’s done since taking over as Indiana’s headman in 2010.

Ian: In the present tense, somewhere between Doc Rivers and Rick Adelman.

Dylan: Top 7, or thereabouts. It’s difficult to judge his rotation skills because his bench is a steaming pile of terrible, and allowing Vogel to lap up the credit for Paul George/Roy Hibbert’s emergence seems crooked – or, at the very least, unjust to a nameless assistant(s). But Indiana is winning in spite of its turnovers and bench and general disdain for offense, and that counts for something in Vogel’s favor, probably.

Derek: Probably top-5. In addition to Pop, Spo and Karl, I’d throw Rick Adelman in the top (He got Derrick Williams to play something that resembled defense this year, ya know.) and then I’d probably throw Vogel in there, too. Ever since Vogel took over he was able to endear himself to his players and then implemented a defensive scheme that vaulted the Pacers among the league’s best teams.

3. Predict LeBron’s final stat line.

Amin: LeBron’s definitely getting a triple double tonight. No question. I’ll say 38 points, 13 rebounds, 12 assists, 12/14 from FT, 2-6 from 3pt, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 4 TOs, 2 PFs. 46 minutes. Did I miss anything?

Ananth: Triple double – 25+ pts, 10+ rebounds, 10 assists.

Jack: 33 points (12-21 FGs), 11 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 blocks, 3 steals, 3 turnovers.

Ian: 26 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 1 technical, 36 angry stare-downs of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, 4 blocks, 1 lonely walk back to the locker room to ponder his future.

Dylan: 32 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 TOs, 12/20 FGs, 1 smile.

Derek: 32/12/10 with the 10 assists meaning that I’m predicting that one of Dwyane Wade/Chris Bosh have a bounce back game and they get a bench player to chip in.

4. Compare this game and/or series to a 90s band.

Amin: This series is like Better than Ezra because both of these teams are better than Ezra.

Ananth: Soul Asylum mainly because of their song ‘Runaway Train’ which will be LeBron tonight. A runaway freight train that will just be taking it to the Pacers.

Jack: Toad the Wet Sprocket. This series needed one more hit to reach the level some of its games and sequences deserve, but die-hards will appreciate its brilliance nonetheless.

Ian: A Tribe Called Quest. Rich with complexity. Niche aesthetics. Personality to spare. Tremendous highs and regrettable lows. An undefinable hint of larger themes and narratives. Somehow lacking the mass appeal commensurate with the collected array of talent.

Dylan: How about a song? Slow Cheetah, Red Hot Chili Peppers. Miami’s the Cheetah, Indiana’s the Slow, but the game will be Red and Hot and Chili and Peppers will be involved.

Derek: The Pacers are Alice in Chains post-”Facelift” and pre-”Dirt”. “Facelift” was the album that really put the band on everyone’s radar, but “Dirt” was the one that established them as a band worthy of the same renown as some of the eras other greatest bands. So, if last year was the year the Pacers truly put themselves on everyone’s radar with Danny Granger serving as their “Man in the Box”, then Roy Hibbert, Paul George, David West and George Hill are their “Rooster”/”Would?”/”Angry Chair”/”Down in a Hole”. So this means that if they win tonight the Pacers get their “Dirt” moment, but if they don’t I suppose this is at least a “Sap” or “Jar of Flies” worthy season.

5 So… who ya got?

Amin: Miami… in a squeaker. LeBron and Wade are going to live at the FT line tonight. It’s going to be agonizing to watch them do it, but the foul calls will be correct (except for ~2).

Ananth: Heat in a close one. Honestly think that Birdman coming back is one of the differences. The other being LeBron.

Jack: Miami, in a game closer than the final score indicates.

Ian: An emphatic Tyler Hansbrough leaping fist pump. D.J. Augustin jubilantly leaping into the arms of Sam Young. Frank Vogel and Brian Shaw swinging each other around at center court, arm-in-arm. Roy Hibbert giving Paul George a piggy-back ride up the tunnel. Probabilities be damned, I’ll take fun. I’ll take the Pacers.

Dylan: Miami Heat. You only pick against Miami for the chance to yell “I told you so” a few times thereafter.

Derek: I want to say Heat, but I’m not terribly confident in that pick. The Pacers have already taken one in Miami and played them tough all year, but it’s hard to see the Heat not coming out strong at home, regardless.

Those Problematic Pacers

It’s always fun to watch a player develop through the years, and Roy Hibbert is no exception. Players with Hibbert’s physical tools and size will always be tantalizing to teams on the off-chance they actually wind up becoming the player they envision. It’s why teams will draft a “raw” player or overpay for a free agent big man in hopes that he lives up to his pay grade by the end of the contract. Roy Hibbert went from being a bit of a prospect, to starting center, to overpaid. But now he is giving the defending champions just about all they can handle in the Eastern Conference Finals. Now, it seems that there is finally a team that can give the Heat a true fight since the Heat will have to work to overcome their disadvantages, which is something we haven’t said about the LeBron-era Heat.  And if you’re a basketball fan, possibly having the rise of a true foil for the league’s best team for the next few years is a dream come true.

Going into the Pacers series against the Heat, the big question was how Miami would deal with Hibbert in the paint on both ends and be able to rebound against Indiana’s frontcourt in general. In an attempt to minimize Hibbert’s impact on the Heat, they’ve drawn Bosh further from the rim to limit Hibbert’s shot blocking ability and keep him off of the boards. However, the results have so far been mixed as the Heat have managed a 2-2 split through four games, but the Pacers have been playing the Heat tougher than just about any team we can remember and could very well be up 3-1.

Miami is comfortable playing Bosh further from the rim where he can still pose a threat with his midrange game, and we saw the Pacers respect this on LeBron’s Game 1 winning layup in which Sam Young chose not to step up on a driving LeBron James at the risk of giving Bosh an open jumper. However, other than that particular moment, Bosh’s placement away from the basket has done little to enable Miami to offset their mismatches in this series.

Bosh alone is being forced to take more shots from distance in this series than he was in the Heat’s first nine games. Against Milwaukee and Chicago, Bosh attempted 15 threes total, but versus the Pacers he’s been forced to take 12. While he’s still shooting 41.7% on them in the first four games of this series, that number is down from 46.7% in the first nine, and has been forced to take nearly twice as many per game. With Bosh taking 6.75 shots per game from outside of the paint compared to 3.5 inside, this has put more pressure on the other Heat to step up and rebound since Bosh, their best rebounder (besides LeBron), is out of position. Additionally, Hibbert has able to use his long stride, athleticism and length to chase down the rebound by soaring over the Heat frontline.

Hibbert’s presence, coupled with Frank Vogel’s defensive strategy, has forced the Heat into taking 23.25 midrange shots per game on 31.2% shooting this series after they took just 19.5 per game on 42% shooting in their first nine playoff games. The Heat are also shooting a cool 55.5% from in the paint since Hibbert’s shot-blocking presence alters even the simplest of layups into a circus shot. If you’re keeping track at home, the Heat are taking and missing more midrange shots and are still below average finishing on what should be high percentage shots in the paint.

As a whole, the Pacers appear to be rebounding less — 47.3 rpg against the Hawks and Knicks, 44.0 against the Heat — but the Pacers are also leaving fewer rebounds shooting 45.9% from the floor and 37% from three, which are all improvements over their first three games. Not only do the total rebounds enable them to control the tempo of the game and force Miami into playing their game, but it also allows them to get set defensivelly and affect Miami’s ball movement. This is problematic for the Heat since strong ball movement is one of their defining traits and one that allows them to keep the defense from getting set and enables them to swing the ball to the player with the best shot. The Heat were so good at getting assisted field goals in their first nine games (64.8%) that the fact that they’re only getting 50.3% of them assisted is a little startling.

On his own, Hibbert has been a one-man wrecking crew in the paint offensively, shooting 69% and 45.8% from the restricted area this series, up from 60.7% and 40.5% in the previous two. The Heat are going to have to toy with strategies like double-teams and possibly switching LeBron and Bosh to see if they can find a better match. For Miami, it would be wise to first deny Hibbert position, then box him out of open lanes so he can’t crash the glass so easily.

The problem with the Heat’s strategy is that it’s not as effective when deployed as a part of an imbalanced strategy. Miami has been automatically adapting to Hibbert and the Pacers without really making the Pacers adapt to them, and that’s why they haven’t been able to pull away from them like they have just about every other team in the NBA this season. You have to respect Hibbert’s ability, but you also have to be able to assert yourself physically and make him work for everything he gets–just as the Pacers have done with the Heat. Truth be told, having Bosh continuously take so many shots from distance and having his rebounding ability so far from the basket is a dream come true for the Pacers. The Heat need to be able to balance their strategy and find a way to get their rebounders involved again or they will be watching Indiana play the Spurs in the Finals instead of them.

Statistical support for this piece provided by NBA Stats and Basketball-Reference. Photo courtesy of Flickr/Photo Jar

Patience, Frustration, and the Whole Crazy Thing

Kevin Durant is frustrated.

He’s frustrated with putting in MVP effort and finishing runner-up. He’s undoubtedly frustrated with the absence of Russell Westbrook—although there is nothing anyone can do about bringing him back. He even seems frustrated with his own public perception, evidenced by Nike’s “KD is Not Nice” campaign conflicting with the long-held public view of an ideal humble superstar.

Through Durant’s six years in the league, we have seen him rise through the NBA. In year one, he was Rookie of the Year. In year two, he continued to grow his game and his confidence. In years three through five, he evolved into an All-Star and lead the league in scoring. This season, despite putting up a 50-40-90, he still finished second to LeBron James in the MVP voting.

In each year his Thunder reached the playoffs, they have won an additional playoff round, and each team to whom they’ve lost has gone on to be the eventual NBA champion—until this season. The Thunder were dismissed in the Conference Semifinals after Westbrook’s injury left them shorthanded. Thus, Durant had to settle for an honorable mention yet again.

It may seem odd for a 24-year old player in his sixth year to feel so frustrated with such a long career ahead of him, but he has had everything come to him so quickly—except for the ultimate goal of a championship. Having to hear about those close to him accomplishing this feat while he is left longing has to be difficult. You can almost see it on his face that basketball doesn’t seem as much fun as it used to for him. But this type of adversity is a required trial of all great players.

As it turns out, becoming an NBA champion is really, really difficult. Basketball abilities and accolades have likely always come easy and often for Durant, but that’s not enough to get your team over a championship hump. It’s not easy, nor should it be, and that’s why takes many great players several years to reach that peak. He should ask LeBron, his summer workout partner, about the patience required to get there.

By now, we know the LeBron James story, but there is a lot Durant could take away from James’s journey. Granted, LeBron came into the league with more hype, but each player was also well-liked and even hit similar career milestones like Rookie of the Year and earning their first All-Star berths in the third years. Furthermore, LeBron was well-liked publicly—much like Durant has been up to this point. But as James would later learn, much of that hinged on expectation on him being able to deliver a championship on a timetable the fans saw fit. He lost in the Finals to the Spurs in ’07, but he was excused by the world at large. After all, it was his first time in the Finals, and he didn’t have enough help. Then, we saw the MVPs add pressure on LeBron to deliver, the mentally-checking-out against the Celtics series in ’10, and then the loss to the Mavs in ’11. Finally, in ’12 he was able to say he was a champion and did so on his own time.

LeBron didn’t win his first championship in the same year of his career Michael Jordan and neither did Jordan win his first in the same year Magic Johnson won his first. No, the story Kevin Durant is writing is his own, and unfortunately much of what it takes to win a championship is out of his control.

Yes, there are more things required than Durant’s elite skillset or physical tools to win a championship at this level. I hate to say it, but you need luck, especially in the form of health. Losing Westbrook killed the Thunder in the playoffs. Without him, the Grizzlies were able to send multiple defenders at Durant to shut him down. He no longer had a teammate to keep the defense honest or who was more than ready to shoulder some of the offensive load. For once, Durant’s elite mid-range game and athleticism were not enough to overcome the defensive scheming of the Grizzlies, and I’m sure that was as surprising to us as it was to him.

For the first time, Durant was learning what it was like to have to do it all on your own and not have your God-given ability alone be enough. To a player that’s always had his skills be the only requirement for success this isn’t easy to deal with. LeBron learned that he couldn’t do it alone, just like Jordan couldn’t do it without Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson, and Magic would have struggled to do it without the Kareems or Michael Coopers. The good news for Durant? He doesn’t have to wait for his team to find that help. He knows he will have Westbrook back next year to try again.

Durant is young, talented, and successful. Like anyone in any other profession under similar circumstances who feels like they are at the brink of achieving something great, it’s hard to wait for that to happen, and that’s where frustration can set in. For Durant, he’s dreamed about winning MVPs and championships, but has only had to settle for stories from his Team USA teammates. But he’ll get there. He may not have gotten there this year, but when he does it will be in a way all his own, on a timeline all his own, and accomplished unlike anyone else before him. The fact that Durant hasn’t been able to bring these purported dreams to fruition may be frustrating, but his patience will be rewarded eventually.

Podcast Paroxysm: Saying Goodbye To Heat-Celtics And Looking Forward To Heat-Thunder

In this edition of Podcast Paroxysm, I’m joined by Matt Moore, Jared Dubin, Sean Highkin, and Conrad Kaczmarek to discuss the conclusion of a thrilling Eastern Conference Finals and what to expect when a monumental NBA Finals’ series begins on Tuesday between the Thunder and the Heat. Click on the podcast player below to listen.

Rahat Huq Presents The Senate: Ruminations

Photo by Fabrizio Sciami

What if the Spurs had accepted Seattle’s offer of Shawn Kemp for the #1 pick in the 1997 draft (and the right to draft Tim Duncan)?  Would the Sonics still be in Seattle?  Would Duncan still have risen to the top as the game’s greatest-4-ever without the tailor-made-for-a-title-veteran-infrastructure he found already in place with the Spurs?  Or would a ‘still in his prime’ GP have been enough for similar results?  Would we revere him as highly without the front office that provided Parker and Manu when Sean Elliott and David Robinson moved on?

What if the Lakers and Raptors had decided to pull the trigger on the much rumored deal centered around Eddie Jones and Tracy McGrady?  Would Kobe’s growth have been stunted or is the cream’s rise inevitable?  What if the Lakers had actually gotten talent in return for Elden Campbell and Eddie Jones instead of what soon became the corpse of Glen Rice?  Would that first three-peat club have been even more dominant or was the stripping of young talent a necessary condition to Shaq and Kobe’s growing into their eventual roles?

What if Toni Braxton had never heard of Dallas?  Would the “Three-J Offense” have enjoyed success?  Would Jimmy Jackson and Jamal Mashburn be remembered as more than just footnotes on the 90s’ page in history?  Maybe Kidd would be esteemed like Nash will ten years from now, as the linchpin of the deadliest offense of his era.  Is Jason Kidd the most underrated point guard in league history – consistently elite [through his prime], but never the very best (Payton, Nash, CP3)?

What if Jordan had just simply never come back?  Would he still be revered as history’s greatest with just 3?  Or would the premature end add to his mystique as it does for so many young entertainers?  Where would Pippen have been dealt and how would that have affected the league’s power structure?  Maybe the Rockets and Bulls would have revisited discussions from ‘93 allowing Houston to add to their Drexler/Olajuwon core and Dream would have been, with more hardware, seen today as the legend he truly was rather than just some Gandolph “elder” figure for today’s stars.

What if the Wolves had just kept Ray Allen instead of dealing him for Georgia Tech’s Stephon Marbury?  With greater success early on, would Kevin Garnett not suffer from his current complex or would he still find prey in point guards and Euro big-men?  Or would these two beta-achievers still have needed the help Paul Pierce brings them in a collective effort?

What if there had been no Allen Iverson?  Was the playground’s manifestation in the association a historical inevitability or was Iverson the triggering point?  Has there been a more culturally iconic go-to move/accessory than Iverson’s “crossover” dribble? – emulated and sanctified by devotees, yet banned from professional play and scorned by purists.

What if Dirk hadn’t missed the free throw that allowed the Heat to win Game 3 and get back into the series?  It can be argued that without that chokejob, there would be no “Big 3” in Miami.  Consider: had the Mavs held on to win, taking a commanding 0-3 lead, they likely go on to take the title.  Without the experience of that championship, it’s probable that Wade isn’t as patient with Heat management as he was these past few years, sticking things out with a weak supporting cast through faith in the greater plan.  Even if he doesn’t demand a trade, does he stay as loyal to the Heat this offseason remaining firm as the sole superstar with unwavering desire to remain with his current team?  Is Riley as appealing to Lebron–despite the titles with the Lakers–without the ring won through building the Heat?

On: LeBron

A discussion of the reigning MVP and most polarizing figure in the NBA today, reflected in various styles.

THIS POST IS ON: LEBRON

Part I, Longform: The Main Event

Dan Feldman is the author of Piston Powered on the TrueHoop Network. He graciously agreed to write this selection on LeBron and the real core of his ethos. You can reach Dan at @pistonpowered. The topic? FUN! -Ed.

In May, a reader e-mailed Bill Simmons about a way to analyze players: one-word goals. Force yourself to describe a player’s singular purpose in one word, and you’ll learn a lot about him.* The concept is marvelous, but Simmons and the e-mailer both missed the mark on LeBron. They both chose “amaze.”

There’s a more apropos word:

Fun.

*I thought choosing “greatness” rather than “winning” for Kobe was genius. “Yes he’s going to win some, but only because he wants to be considered great and that will be a by-product at times.”

You can view all of LeBron’s decisions to date through the lens of: how can he maximize his fun? LeBron might not realize this is how he approaches everything, but he’s been successful.

LeBron can appear selfish, immature and secluded. And he might really be all those things. But he has only developed those traits in the name of having fun.

Despite his tarnished image, few NBA players appear to enjoy playing basketball as much as he does. He spends a lot of time smiling on the court — and for good reason. He’s the best player in the league. That’s gotta be fun.

Pregame faux photoshoots are fun. Dunks are fun. Celebrating every above average play is fun.

Winning is fun, and in the regular season or early rounds of the playoffs, winning easy to a player of LeBron’s caliber. Winning deep in the playoffs is also fun, but it’s much more difficult. Difficulty isn’t fun, and that’s why LeBron disappeared during the conference finals against the Celtics.

LeBron’s desire to have fun doesn’t end at the sideline. Fun explains his summer, too.

Holding the basketball world’s attention for months is fun. You can go about it the hard way, like the Lakers and Celtics, battling until the end of the season. Or you can make several teams believe they’ll sign the best player in the world. Either way, everyone focuses on you all season.

Having teams beg you to join them is fun. LeBron is one of the few players never recruited by colleges. He was an NBA lock years before graduating from St. Vincent-St. Mary. It’s one of the few fun experiences denied to the young multi-millionaire. A series of hotel meetings changed that.

Fun also explains why LeBron ultimately signed with the Heat.

Living in Miami is fun.

Playing with your friends is fun.

Winning championships is fun.

This plan may backfire for LeBron, of course. Winnings titles is hard. The most successful players of this generation, Kobe and Duncan, don’t have much fun on the court. But they win. Winning and fun don’t exactly go hand in hand.

Maybe LeBron has found the easy way out. He’s aligned himself with an incredibly talented group of teammates, teammates who can do the non-fun work. With Bosh, LeBron won’t have to play in the post. With Wade, he won’t have to lead.

LeBron might have put himself in a position Kobe and Duncan never could: maximizing his fun and championships. I don’t care what anyone says about LeBron now, if he wins titles, and he has a great chance to do that, he’ll be the face of the NBA.

And that face will have a huge smile.

TIME TRIALS

Thursday night I contacted the HP family and told them they had thirty minutes or less to jam out a set number of words on LeBron. They attacked the challenge head on. These are the results of their efforts. -Ed

Rob Mahoney

Even after months of constant vilification, LeBron James still looks odd in black.

The NBA is filled to the brim with arrogance, showmanship, and greed. It’s a hype machine not reliant on fossil fuels, but powered by the purely renewable resource of human imagination. It’s easy to point to The Media as the source of all hype, the benefactor of the stars, the generator from which everything detestable to the average fan originates. After all, it has to come from somewhere, and it couldn’t possibly be from us…could it?

LeBron, The Decision, and the Miami Heat all inspire hatred, which most trace back to media oversaturation. I don’t see it. The most infuriating part of the summer’s free agent preparations and presentations was not the sheer volume of coverage, but our indisputable hunger for it. We claimed to want less, but sent a different message with our TV ratings and our click-throughs. We claimed to have be tired of LeBron, but turned him into a daily trending topic. We claimed to want other things — other free agent coverage, more Team USA analysis, more trade talk – and yet when the moment came, we shushed those around our television sets, scanned Twitter furiously, and mashed the refresh button in anticipation.

As much as we “hated” the summer of 2010, the free agent hoopla, and all of LeBron’s shtick, the most bothersome fact of all is that we refused to look away. We had that power all along, but we followed the saga through every update. As people, we knew that what LeBron was doing was childish and self-absorbed, but we were powerless to do anything but indulge him.

LeBron James is deeply flawed. But the reason why he’s struck such a chord with sports fans is that he reminds us that we are, too.

We are enablers. We are the justification. We know better, and should have refused the obsessive step-by-step coverage of LeBron’s decision. We didn’t, and in order to interpret our decision in a way that makes sense to us, we flip the script. Rather than be accountable for the fact that we chose to read and watch and consume information on every aspect of LeBron’s summer, it had to be LeBron. It had to be the media. It had to be anything other than an immature, preening star being an immature, preening star, on television, while we all elected to watch. The only agency involved was LRMR, and we had no will of our own. That has to be the case.

But what if it’s not? What should we do? Should we admit that we’ve made mistakes?

Zach Harper

First impressions after LeBron James’ first two games with the Miami Heat?

Work in progress.

While that seems like a very basic analysis of a 1-1 record by the Heat in which they’ve completely overhauled their roster from something out of a NBA superstar’s nightmare to a coach’s fantasy, it permeates throughout every aspect of the way this team has played so far.

This team has started out very slowly in its two games against Atlantic Division foes so far and the reason for that is the lack of continuity this roster has with one another. For the most part, it should be expected because they haven’t been together in a meaningful setting at all. But the blame and vitriol will immediately go to LeBro James for the way he’s performed in these two games.

It’s been quite the mixed bag for LeBron with his 31-point effort that included a flurry of long jumpers to bring the Heat within tying distance against the Celtics in a game that looked to be a laugher for Decision critics early on. He led his team to just 30 points in the first half and managed to be down by 20 points very quickly. His defense has been suspect as well. While his isolation defense is still very good, his ability to close out on shooters and actually challenge shots on defensive rotations leaves a lot to be desired.

He’s also been forcing the ball like crazy. 17 turnovers in two games is an alarming number at any level of basketball. Some of that is bad timing with his teammates. But for the most part it’s just him forcing things that aren’t there. He’s trying to bully his defenders and instead ends up playing out of control basketball. This might have to do with the fact that it’s been about a half decade since he played the point guard position. Carlos Arroyo is out on the court to make the lineups look pretty and organized but LeBron has been the facilitator of this team thus far.

The solution is undoubtedly to set him up for easier decisions and give the Heat some much-needed offensive organization. LeBron has essentially been thrust into an All-Star game system in which isolations and trying to make your own magic happen rules the possession. He is not thriving in this when he has to face a defense that actually gives a damn. It’s on Erik Spoelstra to make LeBron’s job easy and give him less responsibility while having more of a role.

Maybe that means he goes into the post a lot more than even what we’ve seen early on. Running the ball through a posted LeBron like an oversized Mark Jackson could be the simplest way to cut down his turnovers and maximize the usage he is exhibiting on the court. LeBron is clearly feeling some pressure from the expectations. It’s the only reason to explain the fact that he had 10 games of eight or more turnovers in seven years with the Cavaliers and has already had two in his first two contests with the Miami Heat.

It’s safe to say he’s handling having to do less in the offense pretty poorly. With fewer responsibilities, he’s trying to make more happen and that’s a recipe for bad execution.

I don’t expect LeBron to do this all season of course. He’d end up shattering the season turnover record of 366 by more than 300 turnovers.

It’s just going to be a mixed bag of highlights and forceful play until he settles down and realizes that less is more or more is less or 1-on-5 basketball is no longer necessary.

Graydon Gordian

Initially, LeBron James seemed to be more than another NBA celebrity, or even era-defining superstar. He appeared to be a palpable step forward. Not a step forward on the court, although of course his unique physical talents suggested that he may have been that when he first came to the public’s attention.

He was a step forward in terms of how he understood his own celebrity. He was conscious, and conscientious. He was everything to everyone: Somehow both humble and theatrical; yeoman-like and flamboyant; a hometown hero with big city swagger.

It’s not that professional athletes, and more specifically NBA players, haven’t had complex, somewhat paradoxical public personas in the past. But they never manufactured that complexity – that subtlety – so consciously and so thoroughly.

When looking for the historical precedents of a phenomena, it’s possible to always look farther and farther back. To see the revolution as not only inspired by the uprising immediately preceding it, but as an outgrowth of the public unrest that preceded that.

Personally, I see Magic Johnson and Larry Bird as the origin of modern NBA celebrity. Obviously there were famous athletes before them, but it was Bird and Magic who most boldly explored – consciously or unconsciously – the interrelationship between advertising, media and the game of basketball.

It was Magic who first said, if I smile incessantly, I can be all things to all people. It was Bird who first said, if I shrug my shoulders and say “aww shucks” in an Indiana accent, I can disguise the pit bull that I am on the floor.

Jordan was the next evolution in this chain, combining Magic’s charisma with Bird’s need to obfuscate the vicious style of his play. That’s not to say Bird or Jordan were cheap or dirty players. They were just arrogant and mean-spirited, and absolutely brilliant.

However, by smiling over and over again alongside a Big Mac or a pair of shoes or a pack of underwear, Jordan not only convinced us he wasn’t an asshole. He convinced us he was Magic. He played basketball with cartoon characters and flailed around in a grass skirt with overweight sketch comedians. The distance between Jordan the man and Jordan the brand was so great that it appeared there was no distance at all.

In the wake of this unprecedented transformation, Kobe Bryant entered the scene. For years, he seemed to be on the same steady path that his forebears had laid out for him. But his inability to shake the “selfish” label, combined with an act of indiscretion in Eagle, Colorado, derailed his stardom, at least until he finally won his fourth title. But then again, maybe the post-Jordan malaise was never meant to have a star.

At first, it seemed that LeBron had learned from Kobe’s mistakes. There were no press conferences with sunglasses, or rumors of infighting with his team’s other superstar, although that person’s non-existence helped some. There was just a perfectly manicured image.

It actually started to fall apart long before The Decision. I remember the exact moment LeBron exposed his chink in the armor. It was at the end of Game 6 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals. The Cleveland Cavaliers had just lost the series 4-2 to the Orlando Magic, and instead of congratulating the victors, LeBron stormed off the court.

All things considered, it wasn’t a severe offense. I’ve seen several players do the same thing, including the much-revered Tim Duncan at the end of the first round of the 2009 playoffs. But given how much we had come to expect from LeBron, how flawless the whole production had been up until that point, the whole world noticed.

Noam Schiller

One of Lebron James’ biggest supposed adjustments this season is supposed to be playing Magic instead of playing Jordan. After years of being not only the best guy on his team (he’ll be that on all teams) but the only decent guy on his team, he suddenly has to share the spot light with two all world guys. While the general theme of thinking is that Lebron prefers to be the distributor over the scorer, this is very much speculation, as none of us possess the ability to read Lebron’s mind (and if you do and you’re not sharing what happened in Game 5 against Boston, shame on you).

All of this has been pretty much played out in every outlet possible, so I won’t overwhelm you with unnecessary details. Just know that Wade+Bosh>all Cavaliers from 2003 onward and let’s move on.

What really interests me, though, isn’t how Lebron will learn to play with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade (though that’s obviously interesting in and of it’s own) – it’s for him to truly learn how to play with himself (that came out all kinds of wrong). Because for all of his pedigree – best basketball player alive and all that – he still has an abundance of untapped talent.

The still raw post game. The mediocre-at-times outside shooting. The still questionable decision making, such as opting for jab step jumpers over thunderous penetrations, or overplaying his passing game (seriously, Lebron, just because you’re the only human being alive that can successfully convert a full court pass while you’re in the air doesn’t mean you can’t just make a simple bounce pass).

To me, Mike Brown’s biggest sin wasn’t leaving Shaq on the floor instead of J.J. Hickson, or Larry Hughes instead of Daniel Gibson, or insisting that Ben Wallace guards Rashard Lewis. It was the inexplicable resistence to make Lebron James a better basketball player. Brown instilled a commitment to defense in James for the 2008-2009 season… and that’s kind of it. All other Lebronian progress seemed detached from his coach – again, to these eyes.

And that, to me, is Miami’s greatest challenge (title reference!). Sure, they could win 7 straight titles. They could give us unlimited highlights and the type of defense that we haven’t seen since the last time the league’s best 2 and the league’s best 3 played together. And all of that could be absolutely awesome to watch, even if you’re not a Heat fan.

But as someone who constantly ponders players maximizing their potential, and who laments those who don’t (pours one out for Andray Blatche), turning Lebron into LEBRON could be the greatest achievement ever. Talent wise, this is a kid – still a kid – who can be the best ever. He can. Jordan was Jordan, and we all appreciate him for that, but he was not a faster Karl Malone with the court vision of John Stockton. Nobody was ever born with this raw talent, save for maybe Wilt. By villanizing James, Miami owes us this much. Make him all that he can be, because we’ve never seen anything like it before, and we deserve it.

A Lesser Man Would Have Won the Game

(click for video)

One of the simplest rules of the NBA is that if you can dunk the ball, you dunk it.  It’s super high percentage.  It removes a lot of the room for error.  It looks pretty awesome.  But sometimes, rarely, it loses you a basketball game.

Dwade (pronounced ‘dweighed’) last night, with his steal>fast running>dunk move nearly won the Miami Heats a game singlehandedly.  Well, two-handedly, based on the dunk, but that’s not how the metaphor works.  But by dunking, he left 0.06 seconds on the clock, which as we now know, is roughly equivalent to one (1) Rajon Rondo alley-oop.

Allow me to hypothesize.  Had Dwade laid the ball in, glass or not, wouldn’t 0.06 seconds have run off the clock?  Wouldn’t the minuscule difference between throwing the ball downwards and slightly flipping it upwards have ran down the clock just enough?  Probably.

Please be aware that I’m aware that this is the dumbest second guess of all-time.  How about of all-time?  Dwade had to get the shot off quickly, to actually beat the buzzer.  He had to make sure he made it.  He probably thought he’d ended the game.  Going the lay-in route invites a chance of missing the shot, or maybe not getting it off in time.  There’s about ten things wrong with laying it in there, which is why you always dunk it.

Or I guess, almost always because if that dunk happens to be a layup, there’s no overtime.  C’est la vie.