Posts tagged ‘Lebron James’

March 9, 2011

An Additional Opinion on the MVP Race: Dirk Nowitzki

by Jeeves

I realize that talking about the MVP race is hardly groundbreaking blogging, but it is something that I want to address as the NBA season enters its last quarter. If I had it my way, the league’s MVP would simply be the best player in the league. Such a simple pronouncement takes out a lot of the opaqueness of the award and sets is up, in a historical sense, as a great barometer of whom, at any point, was amongst the best in the league. That isn’t to say that the MVP doesn’t do that now, (it does to a certain degree), but it’s often muddled by other factors. Wes Unseld was a great player; he’s a hall of famer. I don’t, however, think that he was ever amongst the very best players in the league, yet he won an MVP award. He won due to other vaguer factors that people often attribute to the award, such as which player if removed from his current team would see his team fall the farthest. I’m not trying to say one way or another if that’s the right way to look at the MVP, because there is no right way. The rules governing the voting aren’t exactly clear.

So with that at mind, I want to take a look at each MVP candidate through the prism, that it seems, most sports writers look through. That means I’ll take equal parts sheer basketball awesomeness, ability to raise teammates play, and irreplaceability (new word!) on their team. I’ll also take into account general development in comparison to past years, while de-emphasizing W-L record.

As I see things today, if I had a ballot, I would go:

1) Dwight Howard

2) Dirk Nowitzki

3) Derrick Rose

4) Lebron James

Each day this week, I’ll take a look at a different candidate, starting from the top and working my way down. Today let’s take a look at Dirk.

2.) Dirk Nowitzki

This was a tough call for me. The way I see it Rose and Nowitzki are both very close in the MVP race, at least in my eyes. The Bulls fan in me yells Rose, Rose, Rose, but if I am truly objective, I have to have Nowitzki at 2A and Rose and 2B.

The thing that immediately jumps off the page with Dirk is his shooting. He is hitting an astounding percentage of his shots. For the season he’s hitting 53% from the field and 42.5% from 3pt land which are both career highs. Amongst starters (say people who have played at least 40 games and average at least 30 minutes), he has the second highest shooting percentage of non-centers. That’s pretty absurd considering how many outside shots he’s taken. He averages 3.3 shots  from 10-15 feet and shoots 51% on them, 6.2 shots from 16-23 feet and makes an astonishing 54%, as well as 2.5 3-pointers a game. He truly is an offensive force at any spot on the court. He creates match-up problems every game which opens up shots for his teammates, especially in the pick and roll.

One of the main knocks about Dirk throughout his career is that he’s soft and not good at defense. This notion isn’t exactly true. He struggled a bit early in his career, but has always been a slightly above average defender. He’s not great and he won’t necessarily lock down your best post player, but he’s serviceable and certainly is not a detriment to his team. Defensive rating is a stat that tries to account for the number of points a player gives up per 100 possessions. The stat isn’t perfect, but it provides a tool to, at least, try and gauge these types of things. Dirk currently as a DRtg of 105. League average is 107 (and, obviously, the lower the rating, the better), which shows that Dirk is no Dwight Howard, but is still adding value on that end of the court.

Another way to analyze things is to look at Dirk’s time on the court vs his time off of it. According to basketballvalue.com, the Mavs are 18.00 pts per 100 possessions better with Dirk on the court. This represents the second highest total in the league, and accounts for both defense and offense. Also, looking at 82games 5-Man Unit breakdowns, you can see that the Mavs’ best offensive lineup includes Dirk, as does its best defensive lineup. You don’t even need advanced stats to see Dirk’s effect on the team. When he missed 9 games due to injury, the Mavs went 2-7. They lost to such lightweights as Toronto and Milwaukee. There’s the age old question of how much worse would the team be without (insert player). Though it represents a tiny sample size, it seems the Mavericks would be far, far worse.

It kills me to do it,  but Dirk, for now, gets the slight edge over Rose for the 2-spot in my rankings. The biggest deciding factor for me is just the pure efficiency with which Dirk scores. I’ll go into it in more depth tomorrow when I talk about Rose.

March 7, 2011

“The World is Better Now Since the Heat is Losing”

by Jeeves

 

The title of this post is a direct quote from Dwyane Wade after the Heat’s latest “heart-breaking” loss to the Bulls. To me, it perfectly sums up the Heat and their legacy, to date. It’s deliciously self-centered and absurdly over the top.

Before jumping into the psyche of the Miami Heat, let’s take a look at some interesting facts. The Miami Heat’s record currently stands at 43-20 amidst a 4-game losing streak. Not bad, but not great. To put it in perspective, the Heat need to finish the season 19-0 to beat the Cleveland Lebron’s record from last season. It’s really quite incredible. The sum of the parts in Miami (Lebron+Wade+Bosh+the rest) will amount to less than the sum of the parts in Cleveland (Lebron+1/2 a season of Jamison+yeaaah, the rest). That’s all a far cry from their grand aspirations and the lofty predictions (will shatter the Bulls 72-10 record) of the pundits. The Heat are a great team against the dregs and the also-rans of the league. It’s against the upper-tier where they struggle. They are 1-9 against the Spurs, Mavs, Lakers, Celtics and Bulls, the 5 teams who appear to be their chief rivals in the quest for a championship. If you take out those 10 games from their schedule, they are scoring 8.5 pts per game more than their opponents. They’re basically blowing everyone else out. (As a point of comparison, the 1995-1996 Bulls had an average margin per game of about 12 points, against all comers).

Under normal circumstances, people would point to the fact that this team is still figuring out how to play with each other. People would note that beyond the Two and a Half Men, their isn’t much of a supporting cast and that it’s only a matter of time before they figure out some successful late game sets. This isn’t a normal situation, though. Instead of tempering expectations due to a litany of reasons, people (myself included) are enjoying the Heat’s struggles with a fiendish glee. You know what? I think we are fully justified in enjoying their misery. When a <del>team</del> trio takes to the stage in such an appalling manner, to celebrate the pure awesomeness of their union, they are not allowed to be offended when there’s a righteous backlash against them. When a troika of individuals proclaim themselves ready to win EIGHT championships, they are not allowed to bemoan their ‘us vs the world’ predicament. When a threesome of egotists start referring to themselves as the Heatles, they are not allowed to seek sympathy through the media. The Heat have sown the seeds of ill-will and hate and have to deal with the consequences. My advice to them: suck it up, and stop whining to the media that no one loves you. If you want the media and basketball fans around the country to stop feasting on your tears, then man up, stop crying and figure out how to win a close game. Until them we’ll all enjoy their tears of unfathomable sadness.

 

February 28, 2011

The Motives of Free Agents

by Jeeves

After the formation of, for lack of a better name, (I’ll oblige them), the Heatles and now that Carmelo officially has become a Knick, it appears that the free agency landscape has changed drastically in the NBA. Throw in the impending (2012) free agencies of Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and Dwight Howard and it would be perfectly reasonable to assume that the (star) players now have all the leverage in terms of where they end up. The teams that these stars are leaving are desperate to get at least pennies on the dollar so they kowtow to the wishes of their star even as he orchestrates his departure. Inevitably, that star will leave for greener pastures in a larger market. That is, at least, the perception.

It is that perception that I want to take a look at. Do stars really leave their teams to sign larger contracts in a city they deem better? Plus, what qualities do these cities have that make them “better”?

So these are the rules, if you will, of the way I treated the data. I scoured the Internet for reliable lists of the highest paid players in their respective leagues. For the NBA, I used a HoopsHype list of the highest salaries of players for this season. This means that I wasn’t looking at the largest total salaries, just single season salaries from this current season. The site listed the top 30 players. For the MLB, I used the invaluable Cot’s Contracts. He had the top 33 total contracts in history listed, meaning the total value over the life of the contract. That means for the MLB, it’s more of a snap shot of the last 15-20 years rather than a single season snap shot. Finally, for the NHL, I used a listing from USA Today which had the top 25 salaries from LAST (2009-2010) season. (I ignored the NFL because things get hairy after including signing and roster bonuses).

So after choosing my lists, I parsed the names to find out which players either A) Signed with a different team as a free agent or B) Forced a trade/was traded and immediately signed an extension. Those in group B weren’t technically free agents, but things worked, to the same effect. It does, however, exclude players such as Matt Holliday who was traded to the Cardinals, played through the remainder of the season, hit free agency, and then resigned with the Cardinals.

Let’s take a look at the lists starting with the NBA since this is what set me on this line of inquiry:

NBA – 10/30 – 33%

Rashard Lewis (Magic)

Carmelo Anthony (Knicks)

Gilbert Arenas (first salary) (Wizards)

Amare Stoudemire (Knicks)

Kenyon Martin (Nuggets)

Elton Brand (76ers)

Peja Stojakovic (Hornets)

Lebron James (Heat)

Chris Bosh (Heat)

Carlos Boozer (Bulls)

Of the 30 highest paid players in the NBA, only 10 of them met my criteria. Bosh, Lebron, and Carmelo are all prominently on that list. They also, make up a sizable portion. The teams that the players signed with don’t seem to have any sort of correlation. For every Carmelo who wanted the big market you have a Peja who signed with the small market Hornets. For every Lebron James who headed for warm weather, there’s a Carlos Boozer who went to a cold weather city. I think what it comes down to is that the players went to the teams that could pay them the most. They also seem not to be (LBJ excluded) the premier talents of the league. Yes, Amare Stoudemire is a very good player but he wouldn’t be in your top 7 of players with whom to start a team with. Taking this all into account, it seems (recently) that star players usually sign extensions with teams that drafted them (2/3 of the listed 30). It means that the Heatles and Melo are breaking the mold, so to speak, with the way that they orchestrated their moves to their current teams. It’s impossible to say whether this is a trend or a blip, but if history says anything it is that you can expect some superstars to move about, but the vast majority will stay put.

After the jump we’ll take a look at the NHL and MLB.

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February 25, 2011

Chris Bosh had a Rough Night

by Jeeves

The .5 in the Miami Heat’s Big 2.5 had himself a rough, rough night. Not only did his Miami Heat lose to the Bulls in Chicago falling to 1-6 against the top-5 teams in the league, but he was one of the main factors contributing to the loss. Bosh went a whopping 1-18 from the field. You read that correctly one for freakin’ eighteen. It was the worst shooting performance by a player since Tim Hardaway went 0-17 back in 1991. Bosh also had the most misses in a game since Mike Newlin went 1-22 in 1973. Bosh’s performance was, without exaggeration, historically bad. To add insult to injury, he was also outrebounded by Lebron James, Luol Deng, and Omer Asik (who played half the amount that Bosh did). To really put the cherry on top, there’s the horrendous flop you can see in the .gif above or the video below:

I really, really wish the league could retroactively fine him for that flop job. I’m a big soccer fan and that’s way worse than what you normally see...this video, notwithstanding.

I would love to be a fly in the wall in the Heat locker room tonight. It would be really interesting to see how Lebron treats Bosh after this performance, especially after Bosh dissed his teammate by saying he’d vote for Rose as MVP. It’s one thing to be honest and forthright to the media, it’s another thing to be honest at the expense of one of your teammates. Lebron did say he’s taking names of those that disrespect him; I guess we’ll have to wait and see if he puts Chris Bosh on his list.

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February 24, 2011

Overrated: Rajon Rondo Claim to Best PG in the NBA

by Jeeves

Flowchart courtesy of Shamsports

After a 1 week hiatus, overrated/underrated is back. This week we’re looking at Rajon Rondo

As always, let’s get my biases out front and center. I’m a big Bulls fan, thus I love Derrick Rose.

There’s a definite rift between Rose and Rondo both on the court and amongst their proponents in the media. Even with my adoration of Rose, I’ve never fully understood the fawning over Rondo. It’s quite possible that I’m missing something, but to me he is merely a very good point guard. He doesn’t strike me as “in the conversation” for best point guard in the league.

The flow chart above sums up one of my main complaints about Rondo. I realize a point guard needs to initiate the offense, but it’s detrimental if that’s all the point guard can do. I like my point guard to control the offense while also maintaining the ability to create something on his own. Simply racking up assists isn’t enough for me and racking up assists seems to be Rondo’s greatest claim to fame.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s a good passer and has great vision, but he has three teammates that are perfect for amassing large assist totals. Pierce, Allen and KG are all great jump shooters and their games conflate to inflate Rondo’s stats. Large parts of the Celtics’ offense is predicated on Allen running off of screens catching the ball and shooting immediately or KG catching the ball at the elbow and firing an 18 footer. They do all the work to get open, and all Rondo has to do is hit the open man for the assist. Much as the D’Antoni offense is known for inflating offensive statistics, I think the (Real) Big Three in Boston have that affect on assist totals.

If inflated assist totals were my only issue with Rondo’s game, I’d put him up there with the best PG’s and I wouldn’t be writing this post, but that’s just my opening salvo. His lack of a reliable jump shot is another huge flaw in his game. Rondo is a great finisher at the rim. He makes 2/3 of his 4.2 shots a game at the rim; that’s really good. If you move him away from there, though, he becomes a sieve on offense. He shoots 34% from less than ten feet (excluding at the rim shots) and 28% from 10-15 feet. His 16-23 foot shooting is a bit better (41%), I assume, because defenses sag off of him. Rondo just has no mid range game at all. The large knock on Rose’s game, coming into the league, was that he didn’t have a jump shot; to this day announcers are still surprised at his ability to knock down a 12 footer. Despite this widely acknowledged flaw, he has never shot worse from <10 to 15 feet as Rondo is currently shooting in his 5th year in the league. Why isn’t Rondo’s lack of a jumper a bigger talking point?

Rondo’s lack of shooting ability means defenses can sag off of him. It means that he doesn’t get rushed with double teams to get the ball out of his hands. Even with this amount of space his usage is a low, 17.96, yet his turnover rate is a sky high 26.63 (Rose for comparison is at 31.75 and 13.3). Rondo has the 6th highest turnover rate in the league. He doesn’t face much defensive pressure, yet he still racks up 4 TO’s a game.

We haven’t even touched upon his free throw shooting yet. It’s kind of incredible; for as reluctant as he is to shoot, he is even more reluctant to step to the free throw line. His FTA per game have cratered 2.0 this season, and of those two, he usually splits the pair (55% from the line). He is in the bottom 20 (of players who get 15+ mpg) in terms of FT% behind such luminaries as Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard. Point guards need to be able to draw fouls. They need to be able to draw big men over while driving in order to free up passing lanes. Rondo, as his game is constructed, is completely missing this facet to his game. I’ll compare him, yet again, to Rose. Derrick saw some heat in the press for avoiding contact and selling out for the layup rather than accepting contact. Seeing all the articles chiding him for this, one would think he struggled to get to the line as well, yet he averages 6.2 free throws a game. He isn’t quite Lebron James in that department, but his 6.2 a game is good for 15th in the league and 2nd overall at the point guard position (behind Deron Williams).

Please don’t read this and think that I don’t see any value in Rondo. I think Rajon Rondo is a very good player. I think he’s a very good point guard and a pretty damn good match for the Boston Celtics. I also just happen to think that he is rather overrated for the amount of production he brings to the table. I think the one facet of his offensive game that is elite is his assists totals, and even those are inflated. And, hell, just for the sake of comparison,

Rondo’s 3rd season: 8.2 assists per game.

Rose’s 3rd season (to date): 8.2 assists per game.

I realize some of you would still choose Rondo as the PG to start your team, but for me, give me a point guard that can shoot. Give me a point guard that shoots free throws, hell, until Chris Paul proves his knee his healthy, just give me Derrick Rose.

February 17, 2011

The NBA All-Star Player Draft

by Jeeves

The NBA All-Star break is fast approaching (the Lakers, it seems, have been on break for a little while), which got me thinking, what would happen if the NBA had a player draft for the ASG, like the NHL did?

Before we get to how I think things would play out, here are some things to keep in mind.

The game, this year, is in Los Angeles, therefore, I’m choosing Kobe and Blake Griffin as the two captains. If the game was in say, Vegas again, I’d probably go with Durant and Lebron as the captains as they play the same positions and there’s the whole super humble vs super ego angle. Since it is LA, I thought it would be nice to have the two “home teams” provide the captains. Second, I’m working under the assumption that there’s something actually on the line here that would make all the players desperately want to win, other than just pride. Basically before the draft, everyone is programmed with Kobe’s pathological desire to win. I’m also giving Kobe top pick since LA is more his town than Blake’s…for now. Also, on the playground we always played the first captain gets the choice of first pick or second two.

Kobe – Pick 1 – Dwight Howard

Kobe knows that defense wins championships games. Dwight offers great defense and pretty damn good offense down low. Some probably think the pick here would be Lebron, but Kobe knows that he duplicates some of Lebron’s skill set.

Blake – Pick 1 – Lebron James

No brainer here. Lebron is the best player in the NBA in my books. This team also has the die cast for a sick display of dunking and alley-oops, which leads to…

Blake – Pick 2 – Chris Paul

There’s no point forward on this team. Paul will be the one throwing oops to Bron Bron and Griffin. The former undisputed top PG gets bragging rights in this draft, though I personally wouldn’t rank him first.

Kobe – Pick 2 – Kevin Durant

Kobe picks another wing scorer, one that’s young enough and humble enough to clash with him personality-wise on the court.

Blake – Pick 3 – Dwyane Wade

With Lebron in his ear, Blake chooses Wade to round out his starting back court. A Wade, Lebron, Griffin trio is a Big Three worth much more hype than the Big 2.5 of Wade, Bosh, Lebron.

Kobe – Pick 3 – Derrick Rose

Kobe goes with Rose to run the point. I think of this writing, Rose is the best PG in the league (a two legged Paul would be better, but since he only has one, it’s Rose). Rose provides the whole package at the 1. Drive and kick ability, a great mid range game, 3-pt range, pretty good defense, etc.

Blake –  Pick 4 – Pau Gasol

The Griffin’s need a center and Gasol fits that role beautifully. It’ll set up an interesting Kobe vs. Pau dynamic.

Kobe – Pick 4 – Dirk Nowitzki

Kobe goes with the stretch four option here. It’ll bring a nice dynamic to the team. Nowitzki can play in the post with Dwight or out near the 3pt line to open up driving lanes for Rose. Plus there’s no stopping he’s awkward fallaway. Dirk is secretly one of my top-5 favorite players in the league.

Blake – Pick 5 – Carmelo Anthony

Blake grabs a volume scorer to be the first man off the bench. He can come in at SF and allow LBJ to slide to PF or SG to create some matchup nightmares.

Kobe – Pick 5 – Al Horford

Blake gave Dirk and the Mavs some issues in their second meeting of the season, so they go with Horford who offers more defense than Amare and more athleticism than Duncan. This pick is a bit of a reach in terms of pure talent, but it’s a value pick.

Blake – Pick 6 – Deron Williams

Unfortunately there’s no Paul vs Williams battle. Williams provides size to perhaps bother Rose if he blows by Paul with consistency.

Kobe – Pick 6 – Rajon Rondo

He’s kind of made for All-Star games in the sense of his pass first mentality. When Team Kobe gets a bunch of scorers on the court, they’ll be paired with Rondo who’ll run the offense beautifully.

Blake – Pick 7 – Chris Bosh

The Miami trio are reunited in this scenario. He provides some good jump shooting and is already used to not being the top dog.

Kobe – Pick 7 – Paul Pierce

As much as Kobe would like to play the whole game, he’ll need to be spelled at some point. Pierce can slide over to SG as well as provide some good defense on Lebron. Team Kobe officially changes its name to Team Awkward Fallaways.

Blake – Pick 8 – Ray Allen

The Griffins jump on Ray’s ability to shoot the trey and prevent Allen and Pierce from pairing up again.

Kobe – Pick 8 – Kevin Garnett

The run of Celtics is complete. KG gets picked for defensive ferocity. The pick by need here would be Manu, but Kobe knows that he can sit on him as Blake doesn’t have a need for Manu.

Blake – Pick 9 – Amare Stoudemire

Amare gives team Blake a bit more size down low.

Kobe – Pick 9 – Tim Duncan

Value pick here. Duncan won’t necessarily need to play heavy minutes. Plus, he can take it to the bank.

Blake – Pick 10 – Russell Westbrook

I think the team of athletic freaks needs one more athletic freak.

Kobe – Pick 10 – Manu Ginobili

Kobe cashes in on the Ginobili pick. Can’t afford to wait any longer on him. Plus, he can take it to the bank, too.

Blake – Pick 11 – Kevin Love

Glue guy. Rebounding. Love and Westbrook perhaps get to relive some UCLA magic.

Kobe – Pick 11- Joe Johnson

Size and shooting on the outside…and the only guy left on the board.

So the teams look like this:

Team Kobe Starters:

Dwight Howard, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose

Team Blake Starters:

Pau Gasol, Blake Griffin, Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul

Team Kobe Bench:

Horford, Rondo, Pierce, Garnett, Duncan, Ginobili, Johnson

Team Blake Bench:

Anthony, Williams, Bosh, Allen, Stoudemire, Westbrook, Love

February 7, 2011

Cavs Go for Record 25th Loss In a Row Tonight, Cold Blooded Lebron Tweet Watch Continues

by npiller88

Don't cry, Mo. You still have 9 mil coming this year

If a 15-point loss qualifies as a blowout, the Cleveland Cavaliers are nearly averaging one blowout per game, which means they are basically getting blown out every game. They have a plus-minus of -11.4 points per game, meaning the average game for them is an 11-12 point loss. This sounds bad, but it doesn’t sound so bad until you realize the degree of separation between the Cavs and the rest of the league. The second most futile team in the league, the Washington Wizards, sport a -6.5 number, about a 5 point difference. This might not sound too significant, until you realize that only five out of fifteen western conference teams even have a number in the minus, the lowest being the Sacramento Kings, at -4.9. Oh yeah, and the Cavs are in the dregs of the Eastern Conference, making their absolute embarrassment of a season all the more embarrassing.

And as they face off against the Mavericks tonight, Sportscenter will surely keep tabs on the game, but mostly for the purpose of counting the consecutive losses, as ESPN loves to do. I say this because its hard to imagine the Cavs breaking the streak against a seasoned, talented bunch like the Mavericks.

So if we are going to be talking about loss number 25 tonight, the spirit of the moment begs the question: Why are the Cavs so bad? (Besides the obvious, that a certain regal figure has departed)

For starters, they have the second worst team shooting percentage in the league. This wouldn’t be such a big deal, if they actually played defense. Look at the Milwaukee Bucks: They shoot an even worse percentage, but hold their opponents to the eighth-lowest shooting percentage among NBA defenses. Cleveland is tied for the worst, allowing 48% shooting. So they play really bad defense, and really bad offense. Seems simple enough. But there are plenty of teams in NBA history with this problem, and none of them had 24 consecutive losses. How did this happen? Perhaps Lebron was right about karma. But it seems like a particularly cruel trick for Vishnu or Krisha (pick any Hindu deity) to play on a team that lost their leader and superstar and went from 61 wins to a record string of losses the next season, and on a city that loved their star like a son and lost him faster than you can say “South Beach.” Sure, their owner ran off his mouth, but so do recently dumped girlfriends and boyfriends, and casual observers don’t seem to hold it against them too much.

No, I think there’s something decidedly UN-cosmic about this ugly streak. Look at the roster. It’s a wonder that this team won 61 games WITH Lebron last season. Their number 1 offensive option is Antawn Jamison, whose best days as a number 1 scorer were in Golden State, which was ten years ago, or when Jamison was an appropriate 24 years old (never mind the fact that he leads the team with just over 17 points a game, while he averaged nearly 25 per game during the 2000-2001 season with the Warriors). Their next best player is Mo Williams, who makes the second most money on the team, but is probably the worst three-point specialist in the league, checking in at a 26% mark on the season (Oh yeah, and he isn’t even a starter). The nail in the coffin? The (potential, pending the draft lottery) number 1 pick in the upcoming draft, the weakest in years. Think Jared Sullinger is going to turn this team into a contender? Think again. No transformative superstar saviors are coming, a la Lebron, anytime soon.

So all eyes will be on the twitter account of Lebron in the coming days. Will he throw salt on the wounds of the Cavs historic futility? Time will tell, but if the Heat-haters have any hope of the karma train turning around come playoff time (maybe a Heat-Celtics Eastern Conference Finals matchup?), they better hope Lebron tweets something mean again.

February 2, 2011

Heat Excuses Flow Like Milk and Honey in the Holy Land

by npiller88

As the season wears on, the Miami Heat have given fans of mediocre NBA squads a reason to look forward to the playoffs, if only to root against the new evil empire (think David Stern is happy about that? Yep). But leave it to the Heat to temper the expectations of their, ahem, fans? (wouldn’t want to seem overconfident. After all its not like the organization ever put up a banner that said “Yes We Did” after acquiring the two most outstanding free agents in the 2010 class and parading the “Big Three” around a stage with smoke machines and a light show)

Lebron had this to say in comparing the playoff chops of the Heat to those of more seasoned teams like the Boston Celtics:

“We’re way behind those guys,” Lebron James said following the Heat’s practice on Wednesday. “Just look at the number of games played, the number of playoff series those guys have had. We’re only a few months in together — 40-something-plus games. I’ve seen the statistics. Boston has like 250-plus games played together. We’re way behind those teams.”

It’s as if Lebron wants spectators to hear, “yes we know we are awesome, but we can’t guarantee a championship.” In fact, the heat seem to be displaying pretty solid chemistry so far this year, at least as its reflected in scoring differential (+7.8 points per game, highest in the NBA). And now that it appears Lebron’s bad tweet karma has worn off (the team is 4-1 in the last four games), there doesn’t seem to be a real cause for concern in Miami. Of course, knowing Lebron’s Hindu Guru reputation (thanks, Jeeves), we’ll have to keep our eye on his next few tweets to see if there’s any indication of a sudden dip in performance.

But this strategy of “managing expectations” really gets at the heart of the struggle the Heat will always face. Right at the moment that the franchise decided to go all out with a carnival of arrogance (“Yes We Did,” “Karma’s a Bitch,” etc.), or even earlier, at the moment the team signed James and Bosh, expectations were sky high, and for good reason. I remember saying at the time that anything less than a championship would be seen as a failure by most fans (many of whom will be rooting for MUCH less than a championship for this team). It’s too late to prepare the fans and haters for potential failure, because the Heat invited those high expectations from the beginning. I’m not one of these guys who claims Lebron jeopardized his legacy by joining the super team, but it is true that such high expectations (something he faced to a far lesser extent in Cleveland), are likely to lead to an emotional letdown of some sort.

There is simply no way the heat can justify the hype (and silence the haters) without a championship. But Lebron seems to be trying to find a way to do just that. His quote reads sort of like: “Just so you know, if we lose to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, it won’t be because we’re not as good as they are, just because they’ve played together more.” Maybe he should have saved this for the Eastern Conference Finals. Let the letdown (or uplift, for most fans) commence.

January 28, 2011

Lebron James, Hindu Guru

by Jeeves

Perhaps we were a bit too harsh on Lebron.  Maybe, just maybe, we jumped the gun on condemning him. For those of you with short memories, the entirety of the Interwebs got all up in arms over this infamous tweet:

Crazy. Karma is a b****.. Gets you every time. Its not good to wish bad on anybody. God sees everything!

At the time it was assumed that the tweet was a direct response to the thrashing the Cavaliers had received earlier in the night, which I think was, indeed, a fair assumption. Seeing how things have played out in the days since, I think that Lebron may have had an ulterior motive. I think, deep down, he wanted to show us all just how strongly he believed in the tenet of karma. As they say, let’s take a look at the tape.

This is the timeline of James and the Heat since shooting off that tweet on January 11th:

January 12th – Lebron James sprains his ankle in a 105-111 loss to the Clippers

January 13th – Lebron James sits out with his bum ankle as the Heat fall again as they get pummeled by the Nuggets 102-130.

January 15th – Lebron James is on the bench again as the Heat lose a close one to the Bulls 96-99. Chris Bosh is also felled by a sprained ankle.

January 18th – Lebron James returns to action, just in time to lose in overtime to the Hawks 89-93.

January 22nd – Lebron James and the Heat thrash the Raptors 120-103, though Dwyane Wade is felled by a migraine

January 27th – Lebron James and the Heat lose 88-93 in New York

Do you see what has happened here? Since raising the issue of karma, Lebron and the Heat have suffered through 5 losses in 6 games and 2 sprained ankles and 1 massive migraine. I don’t know about you, dear readers, but it is clear to this writer that James whipped up that tweet, not  to spite the Cavaliers, but rather to seize the opportunity to prove the existence of karma. And to that, Lebron. I say, (for perhaps the first and last time) well done!

January 21, 2011

Kobe Recalls Being Booed at Home Once, Feels Melo’s Pain

by npiller88

Melo thinking Pirates??

As I sifted through the fallout from the recent failed trade of Carmelo Anthony to New Jersey, one tidbit caught my eye. When Kobe comments on something, it tends to be pretty be vanilla. But Kobe knows what its like to demand a trade (see the Kobe to Chicago and Kobe to wherever rumors circa 2007-2008). After Melo got booed by the home fans at Denver’s Pepsi Center following a paltry 35 point performance in a five point win over Oklahoma City, Kobe took umbrage at the fans’ reaction. To Kobe, who claims to have only been booed ONCE at home in his entire career (from where I sit in LA, the endless parade of #24 jerseys all over town makes this claim seem quite accurate), the Denver fans better be careful, lest they drive their superstar out of town. Let’s take a closer look at what Kobe had to say, shall we?

It has nothing to do with a bigger market.

Hmm… something is wrong with this statement. Melo’s links to the New York market are well documented, the big one being his wife Lala, a former MTV veejay. She wants New York, and Melo says “ok.” None of the teams mentioned in trade talks have been small market teams, and the two most heavily discussed have been from New York. Another team that has been discussed as a possible destination for Melo is the tiny hamlet of Chicago. A point for Kobe’s line of reasoning? I don’t think so.

It’s about winning.

Kobe might be on to something here. If Melo did indeed nix the Nets trade, then perhaps winning was a consideration for him. I just have my doubts that its his ONLY consideration. If it was, we would be hearing about Melo to the… Nuggets? After all, they are two years removed from a trip to the Western Conference Finals, a series in which they looked pretty close to being elite. With Melo, I peg the Nuggets as about one or two strong complimentary players away from being a championship contender. And this is the guy who, according to Kobe, would surely stay if the situation was right.

If Denver will make the right decisions, bring in the right personnel, then he’ll stick around.

Right about here, I’m guessing Melo wishes Kobe had kept his mouth shut. Let’s recall that 2007-2008 season when Kobe was hinting not too subtly that he wanted a trade. Kobe is trying to compare his situation of a few years ago with the one Melo’s in right now. But Kobe is LA. Try to imagine him elsewhere. It doesn’t work too well. Is Melo Denver? Not really. The point is, it’s much easier to say you’ll stick around if you live in a huge market like LA. Plus, Melo hasn’t really given any indication that he wants to stay in Denver, personnel be damned. Whatever Lala wants, Lala gets.

It’s not rocket science.

Can’t argue with that.

Again, like Lebron before him, the superstar is the victim. Poor Melo, getting booed by the home crowd. Kobe warns the Denver fans that their jeers could make up Melo’s mind for him, so they better keep quiet. That’s kind of like advising a spurned boyfriend to get on his knees and plead with his ex to stay, even after she told him to go fuck himself.

Kobe, please. He wants out. Prove me wrong Melo.