Tag Archives: 2011 NBA Playoffs

LeBron James Still Doesn’t Get It

Someone should check the water in the Biscayne Bay. First the Miami Heat organization goofed and celebrated a title prematurely. Yesterday The Miami Herald did the same thing, running an ad selling Heat championship apparel the morning after the Dallas Mavericks had captured the crown.*

The Heat’s celebration took place last summer, when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh giggled like school girls on stage in front of a Miami crowd more raucous than it was during Sunday night’s game. The Not Big Enough Three liked the spotlight a lot less this June than they did last July, when “King” James declared he’d taken his talents to South Beach to win not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, and not even seven championships! We can’t say he was wrong. After Year One, the count stands at zero.

The concern some had when this trio came together was whether the other Miami players could provide enough. At that introductory celebration, the emcee concluded by telling the crowd, “Ladies and gentlemen, let’s hear it: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh—your Miami Heat!” It was clear from the start this was not a team. It was James, Wade, Bosh, and The Other Guys. Could three star players beat a well constructed team?

We don’t know yet. Miami’s role players weren’t terrible. The Heat’s downfall was that its stars, particularly James, didn’t play like it. James’ plus-minus in the deciding Game Six was -24. If you were thinking he was nonexistent, you’re giving him too much credit. That number suggests he was actually detrimental to his team.

Even those who live in alternate realities sometimes get mad. (Credit: Keith Allison)

For the last few years every basketball writer and fan on the planet has played psychologist, trying to get inside LeBron’s head. Maybe this task has proven to be fruitless because there just aren’t many sensible thoughts floating around in there. After Game Six, James was asked whether he is bothered by all the haters.

“Absolutely not,” James said. “All the people that were rooting for me to fail, at the end of the day, they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They got the same personal problems they had today. And I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things I want to do.” He added that people can get a few days or a few months of happiness over the Heat’s loss, “but they’ve got to get back to the real world at some point.”

That’s right, LeBron James does not live in the real world. His haters do, but he doesn’t. Statements like this are the reason why the LeBron jokes have been flying across the internet:

Why did LeBron skip college? Because he never shows up for the finals.

Today is LeBron James Day in Cleveland schools. Students can leave 12 minutes early.

And, my personal favorite: If LeBron wanted rings he should have stayed in Ohio and bought them from Terrelle Pryor.

James’ off-court reputation has been lost forever. He is the most hated athlete in sports and I don’t see the public embracing him again. But the book on his basketball legacy is certainly not closed. Perhaps only multiple championships can turn the story positive, but that’s not an unreasonable expectation. Anyone claiming the Heat should blow up the roster is not thinking clearly. Dealing Wade or James makes no sense; dealing Bosh for two or three quality pieces would likely be beneficial for Miami, but I’m not sure what team would offer that for a guy clearly not capable of being “the guy” on a championship team. Let’s not forget, this team lost in the NBA Finals, not the first round.

The Dallas Mavericks reminded us that you can’t win a championship—let alone seven—overnight. As Dan Gilbert tweeted, “There are NO SHORTCUTS.” Winning titles takes a lot of hard work. The real world is tough. LeBron wouldn’t know.

*I always love watching players don championship t-shirts on the field/court immediately following victory because I have this idea that all the apparel commemorating the losing team is shipped to some third world country. This means that the people of, say, Somalia believe LeBron just captured his second title. They think the Buffalo Bills were a dynasty in the 1990’s and Butler won the last two NCAA basketball titles. However, even Somalians know the Pittsburgh Pirates stink.

NBA Finals 2011: Is Anyone Rooting for Heat?

After the Miami Heat eliminated the Chicago Bulls to advance to the NBA Finals, Sports Illustrated writer Richard Deitsch wrote the following on Twitter: “We are all Dallas Mavericks now.”

My informal, unscientific poll confirms this. The Miami Heat has been the villain since LeBron James and Chris Bosh took their talents to South Beach this past offseason. Now, Miami is in the finals, which start tonight. The opponent doesn’t really matter, but it is the Dallas Mavericks.

The question I have is whether we’ve ever had a championship in which such a large majority rooted for one team. My estimate is 90 percent of viewers will be pulling for Dallas. Not only do fans of others teams hate the Heat, but Miami itself doesn’t have a strong fan base. They’ve pretended to care this season, but you should know better than to believe that. The franchise didn’t exist until 1988, a huge part of the reason for the lack of support (likewise, the Marlins came into existence in 1993, while the far more popular Dolphins have been around a lot longer, since 1966).

There is no way to answer this definitively, but it’s easier if we have some parameters. For starters, let’s only consider the three major U.S. professional sports: baseball, basketball, and football. Secondly, we’re only looking at the past 20 years.

(image: LeBron and Wade)
Generally, fans aren’t thrilled with this pairing. (Credit: Keith Allison)

So, do you agree, or can you think of any instances in which there was even more lopsided support? Sound off in the comments section. Make your case for whatever team you’d like, but you’re going to have a hard time convincing me of any title game in which the New York Yankees or Los Angeles Lakers appeared. The Yankees (who have been in the World Series seven times in the last 20 years) are an iconic franchise that has fans—and haters—across the country. Any time they take the field, there is going to be a large number of people rooting for—and against—them. The same goes for the Lakers.

The NBA: Where Choking Happens

There have been several comebacks during this postseason that have ranked among the all-time greatest in NBA playoff history. All three have involved the teams playing for the title, so perhaps we haven’t seen the last of the memorable collapses.

In the opening round, the Mavericks led the Portland Trail Blazers by 23 points in the third quarter and by 18 entering the fourth. It would be just the third time in the shot clock era that a team lost when leading by at least 18 entering the fourth. Portland’s Brandon Roy scored 18 in the final quarter as the Blazers outscored Dallas 35-15 to win Game Four 84-82.

In Game Four of the Western Conference finals, Dallas was on the other side of the comeback. Trailing the Oklahoma City Thunder by 15 with five minutes remaining, Dallas went on a 17-2 run to tie the game at 101. The Mavs did not claim their first lead until overtime, where they dominated to win 112-105.

In the East, the Chicago Bulls were in prime position to send the series back to Miami for Game Six. But the Heat closed with an 18-3 run in the final 3:03 to win 83-80.

I have no idea why 2011 has produced so many wild comebacks. The three-point shooting seems to be especially good (which makes it easier to mount a comeback), but that is purely anecdotal—the statistics don’t support that. Once again, I’m asking for your opinions: Any thoughts on why this year’s postseason has been full of comebacks?

NBA Playoffs 2011: Boston Celtics Eliminated, Youth Movement Begins

Athletes age much quicker than the rest of us. Look at Derek Jeter: Just two years ago he had one of the best seasons of his career, finishing third in the MVP vote; now, at 36, he has limited range in the field and is overmatched at the plate, struggling just to get the ball in the air.

What has happened in this year’s NBA playoffs is striking even in the sports world. The three teams that claimed the last four titles—the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, and San Antonio Spurs—and the two that dominated the last decade (Lakers and Spurs) have been eliminated.

For the most part, the teams that remain are relatively young: the Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Memphis Grizzlies. The Dallas Mavericks are the exception but we’ll get to them soon.

The changing of the guard doesn’t usually happen overnight, but it sure looks like this postseason will be viewed as a turning point for the league.

Old Guard

The Lakers were swept in the second round, but they are not done. Kobe Bryant is 32; Michael Jordan had another three-peat in the tank after his 33rd birthday. Lamar Odom (31) and Pau Gasol (30) are still in their primes and two of the better players at their respective positions. The role players need to get younger and quicker, but this core can still contend for a championship. That being said, they belong in this category because many of the other Western Conference teams are only going to get better, and this Lakers team has likely peaked.

The Celtics are in worse shape. Yes, Rajon Rondo’s injury was devastating, but if they couldn’t even force a sixth game with Miami this year, what hope do they have down the line? Paul Pierce is 33, Kevin Garnett is 34, and Ray Allen is 35. Boston is a playoff team next year but not likely a serious title contender.

Pierce, Garnett (5), and Allen (far right) may not have another run left in them. (Credit: Eric Kilby)

The Spurs are probably somewhere between these two. Manu Ginobli (33) missed Game One against Memphis but even with him on the court the Grizzlies looked like the better team. Tim Duncan, at 35, is still one of the best power forwards in the game, but he’s no longer dominant. San Antonio has always done well in the draft and will rely on its recent picks to thrive in the next year or two.

The New Kids

On paper, Miami is one of the older teams in the league, but Juwan Howard and Zydrunas Ilgauskas aren’t carrying this team. Dwyane Wade, at 29, is the oldest of the star trio, while Chris Bosh is 27 and LeBron James is 26. The Heat struggled at times during the regular season but has found its groove in the playoffs. If they can reach the finals and perhaps win it all in Year One, why can’t they continue the run for another 5-7 years?

The Bulls finished with the best record in basketball and their star, league MVP Derrick Rose, is just 22. Carlos Boozer is 29 while Luol Deng and Joakim Noah are 26. This team is set up to be great for a long time.

In Oklahoma City, stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are both 22, and most of their supporting cast is young as well. They are one win away from the conference finals and are only going to get better.

One of the best young scorers in NBA history, Kevin Durant. (Credit: Keith Allison)

Memphis scored one of the biggest upsets in NBA playoff history with its victory over No. 1 seed San Antonio in Round One. The Grizz are the only playoff team that comes close to matching Oklahoma City’s youth. Shane Battier is the only player on the roster north of 30. Key contributors Mike Conley, OJ Mayo, Darrell Arthur, and Rudy Gay are under 25. We’ll see if these guys, and 26-year-old Marc Gasol, remain in Memphis for the long-term.

The Last Run

Tyson Chandler (28) and JJ Barea (26) are the only contributors to the Dallas Mavericks under 30. Starting point guard Jason Kidd, 38, is one of the oldest players in the league. The other key players are in the twilight of their primes. However, unlike the other “has beens,” Dallas hasn’t won a title. So in that regard, they should be the hungriest team in the playoffs, for whatever that’s worth. The Mavs beat a younger team in Portland but then faced the aging Lakers, so perhaps they’ll show their true colors in the Western Conference finals against either the Thunder or Grizzlies, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

The NBA is different from other professional sports. This isn’t the NHL, where a hot goalie can carry a team for multiple rounds. This isn’t baseball, where the first round of the playoffs is a best-of-five series, meaning a couple of great starting pitching performances can lead to an upset. In the NBA, the better team usually wins. With the exception of the Lakers, I don’t think it is an overreaction to say 2011 is the official start of the NBA Youth Movement.