I have yet to mention it, but feel it is quite necessary to mention that my last column’s title, “Is it possible Lebron wants to win too much?”, took the fastest 180 I have ever seen. In a few short hours, that title became humorous, and after Game 5—well, almost pathetic. We reversed the entire scenario and now are trying to psychoanalyze King James’ complete and utter disinterest in winning.
Tim Legler, an analyst for ESPN, said that Lebron looks like the kid who got convinced by his friends to go on the biggest rollercoaster and is about to sit down and keeps asking himself: “WAIT! WHAT THE HELL DID I JUST AGREE TO DO?”. One missing factor that ‘Legs’—a painfully forced nickname given by his ESPN colleagues that should be forever reserved for black guys with grey hair—clearly failed to mention was the part where the kid announces that he plans to ride more than 7 rollercoasters the night before.
But I’m not sure I buy that one. Nor am I buying the Rashard Lewis rumors that he, as the Twitter world so gracefully put it, “smashed” Lebron’s girlfriend—which led to infinite ‘Lebron couldn’t get her a ring’ and ‘Lebron never could finish’ Fretweets.
(A Fretweet, or Fake Retweet, is when someone clearly steals a joke from someone on Twitter. Instead of normally retweeting it like a polite social networker, he or she fake retweets it by simply copying and pasting it into their own status and or tweeting it at someone famous hoping for a retweet. Examples were rampant from last night when, after reading the “Don’t ask Lebron change for a dollar—he’ll only give you three quarters” joke, I read it another six times—as if everyone had originally come up with the joke themselves)
Simply put, Lebron—despite putting up a triple double—collapsed faster than Brian Cardinal trying to draw a charge. I clinged on to the three point average in the fourth quarter that Lebron had assembled through the first three games knowing that it wouldn’t last. I was right—it didn’t last. It dropped. Don’t ask Lebron change for a dollar—he’ll only give you three quarters.
(What? You all did that last night! See how stupid it looks?)
Lebron has 11 points in five NBA Finals fourth quarters. Dirk has 52.
And let’s set the record straight on one thing—playing hero-ball won’t help Lebron now. Hero-ball, one of my favourite terms from ESPN and TrueHoop’s Henry Abbott, refers to a player who will take every single big shot and never defer—no matter what. Kobe Bryant is a classic victim of hero-ball. For Kobe, a win means little if he’s not taking the last shot, making improbable plays and being Finals MVP. We can’t ask Lebron to play hero-ball, because despite Kobe’s success, hero-ball is truly cancerous to end of game plays. I’m fine with Lebron passing and finding his teammates. He doesn’t need to take every shot. What I have a problem is Lebron’s disinterest in the game. He looks lost. He looks like he wants no part of a championship. He’s struggling to stay in front of Jason Terry, he’s not being aggressive against Jason Kidd and he’s not even finding easy buckets on the offensive glass. I don’t want Lebron to play hero-ball—I just don’t want him to play zero-ball.
I don’t think there is an answer for what is ailing Lebron. I had a momemnt of sympathy for Lebron in last night’s game. First, for the fact that his long term girlfriend might be in Rashard Lewis’ bed (which probably included a poster of Otis Smith which he kisses every night before bed and second for the fact that I’m not even sure he knows what’s bothering him at this point.
(And then I remembered the Yes. We. Did. video. Sympathy gone.)
Maybe it’s the Maverick defense that deserves all the credit—but then I remembered that Lebron’s funk really began when they started having Jason Kidd defending him. The Mavericks are hiding one of their worst defenders on Lebron! Don’t go anywhere just yet, Peja! There might be hope we can hide you on this James fellow.
They’ve challenged Lebron to post up on Kidd. It reminds me of one of my favourite theories from Bill Simmons that was brought up (by the way—working on a Grantland column for post-Finals—stay tuned) about JJ Barea in their first round matchup against Portland.
Barea, who’s most commonly used adjective to describe his game is ‘cute’, is forced to defend bigger guards every night and in the Portland series, Nate McMillan wanted to exploit this. So, he put his 6’4 point guard, Andre Miller, in a few post up sets to challenge Barea’s defense. Miller looked uncomfortable and Portland’s offense froze. Nobody knew where to stand, where to cut or how much time to give Miller. Add on the fact that one of JJ Barea’s actual defensive techniques is to flop (which garnered numerous “BAREA USED FLOP! IT WAS VERY EFFECTIVE!” yells at my screen throughout the playoffs) and Portland was hurt by trying to expose Barea. They went out of their way to do something that was uncharacteristic of them.
Same thing is happening for Lebron. The Mavs are allowing Lebron to have a ridiculous advantage over Kidd in both size and strength so that they trick him into doing all of the things he hates doing.
So credit to Rick Carlisle for the job he has done on Lebron. But it can’t be this simply. Lebron shouldn’t look this out of place because Jason Kidd is guarding him. I can’t imagine that fatigue has settled in so instantly and, once again, I don’t think Rashard Lewis has anything to do with this. We just won’t know what the hell is going through Lebron’s head unless he has an hour-long ESPN special with Jim Gray explaining himself. It was explainable in Game 5 against Boston last year when he went into a basketball coma because we could assume it was him just already checking out early on Cleveland. This year? It’s simply jaw dropping.
The fact that Dirk’s almost mirror revenge on Miami and D-Wade isn’t even remotely a topic for discussion demonstrates how massive this Lebron collapse is. While I like to refrain from updating legacy on a day to day basis (credit that line to Ryen Russilo—my favourite NBA analyst at ESPN now), I have to think that Lebron’s performance in these next one or two games can shape our impression of him and the Heat for quite some time. Maybe it’s Carlisle, maybe it’s Kidd, maybe it’s the media, maybe it’s D-Wade—but I do know one thing for certain—Lebron is making Scottie Pippen sound even dumber if he plays zero-ball again tonight.