20 Second Timeout is the place to find the best analysis and commentary about the NBA.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lukewarm Heat on Pace for 47 Wins

"Just do your job, be reliable, let go of your ego. You are going to need each other in the second half."--Miami Coach Erik Spoelstra speaking to his team during halftime of the Heat's 112-107 loss to the Boston Celtics

"We're the best 5-4 team in the league."--Dwyane Wade, after the Miami Heat's 112-107 loss to the Boston Celtics

"For myself, 44 minutes is too much. I think Coach Spo(elstra) knows that. Forty minutes for D-Wade is too much. We have to have as much energy as we can to finish games out."--LeBron James, after Miami's 112-107 loss to the Boston Celtics

"He (Coach Erik Spoelstra) wants to work, we want to chill."--Chris Bosh, after the Miami Heat defeated the Phoenix Suns 123-96

"The young players and new players come to a team and see what players dictate the culture. They say, 'I want to be like that guy.' So you need the right culture...If your highest-paid players don't work out, don't pay attention in the film room--that sends a message to the rest of the team. It means all that matters is talent, not character. But if your best players do the extra work in the summer, stay around after practice--then it carries over to the rest of the team."--Clay Matthews, four-time Pro Bowl linebacker for the Cleveland Browns

A picture may be worth 1000 words but sometimes a few quotations--not taken out of context, but rather placed into appropriate context--literally speak volumes. The above quotations tell us several things:

1) It is not a good sign that the season has barely started and Coach Spoelstra already has to implore the Heat players to keep their egos in check. Wouldn't you love to hook Coach Spoelstra up to a lie detector and find out whose egos he was talking about? During the summer, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh portrayed themselves as Three Musketeers who are willing to sacrifice in order to win not just one title but to capture multiple championships; if big egos are already emerging as a problem now then what will happen when the team faces real adversity in a playoff series?

2) LeBron James and Dwyane Wade do not seem to understand just how much they helped fuel high expectations (and much resentment) by prancing around on stage while pledging to turn the Heat into the league's next dynasty.

3) I cannot recall ever hearing an MVP level player complaining about playing too many minutes; usually the opposite happens: MVP level players generally lobby for more playing time while their coaches have to force them to get some rest; Allen Iverson hated to ever come out of a game and last season Kobe Bryant said that he did not worry when the Lakers' bench sputtered because if things got too out of hand he would just get up and check himself back in the game.

4) Charles Barkley never played on a championship team but he made a very insightful comment when he said that the Heat players do not understand just how hard players have to work to build a championship team. Can you imagine Kobe Bryant saying that he just wants to "chill"?

5) Matthews' statement referred to his early experiences with the Cleveland Browns when some veteran mentors taught him how to be a professional on and off the field but the sentiments that he expressed apply not just to football but also to basketball and other sports: the best players set the tone for how a team practices and plays.

*****

ESPN.com reporter Brian Windhorst--the former Cavs beat writer who, like James, has taken his talents to South Beach--recently said that he felt "mildly ashamed" for voting for James as the 2010 regular season MVP. Windhorst contends that James did not quit but that James "choked" (Windhorst's exact word) versus Boston in the 2010 playoffs and that James' inability to rise to the occasion in the postseason when the Cavs were favored speaks very poorly of James. What exactly is Windhorst trying to say/prove? Even if James "choked" (as opposed to quitting, which is what James actually did) how does that change the reality that James was the league's best player during the 2010 regular season? Furthermore, if Windhorst truly based (or intends to base) his MVP ballot on a player's postseason resume then he should have never voted for James over Bryant in the first place, because James has never had a better postseason resume than Bryant.

Windhorst is trying to convince readers that he is independent from ESPN censorship and that he is willing to criticize James--but don't be shocked if by the end of the season Windhorst changes his tune again and suddenly declares that James should once again be the MVP. Windhorst is actually one of the better beat writers currently covering the NBA but that says more about the status of that profession than the inherent merits of his work (if the standards were set where they should be then he would be considered a solid beat writer instead of being one of the top beat writers).

Unless LeBron James and/or someone with inside knowledge of last year's Cavs tells the truth we will never know exactly why the league's best regular season player and the league's best regular season team completely melted down versus the Celtics, collapsing at home in game five and then not even bothering to play the "foul game" (intentionally fouling to stop the clock, hoping that the opponent misses at least one free throw) at the end of game six; I saw preseason games this year in which teams played the "foul game" down the stretch, so it is incomprehensible that the Cavs just laid down and died when facing elimination by Boston. However, I do not buy Windhorst's take that James "choked"; that implies that James tried--tried too hard, in fact--when the reality is that James looked disinterested: it seemed like James could not wait for the series to be over so he could take off his Cleveland jersey for the last time, which he did while walking off of the court after game six, not even waiting until he got to the locker room--an action that turned out to foreshadow his eventual "Decision."

In the absence of conflicting evidence/testimony, I feel quite comfortable saying that LeBron James dedicated himself last season not to leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to an NBA title but rather to creating as much suspense and drama as he possibly could around his impending "Decision." When his Cavaliers had an opportunity to seize control of their playoff series versus Boston with a home win in game five, James quit and the Cavaliers suffered their worst home playoff loss in franchise history. James played at an MVP level during the past two regular seasons and for much of his postseason career but he performed disgracefully on and off the court during the Boston series and then during the drawn out "Decision" process. I once wrote admiringly about LeBron James' accelerated growth curve; last spring and summer that growth curve trended downward more dramatically than the U.S. economy--but, unlike some people, I have no intention of engaging in revisionist history: James' growth curve during his first several seasons was indeed quite remarkable, I thought that he performed slightly better than Kobe Bryant during the 2009 regular season and I thought that James outperformed Bryant by a wider margin in the 2010 regular season. James was a very worthy winner of the 2009 and 2010 regular season MVPs (Bryant deserved that honor in 2006 and 2007, while Shaquille O'Neal should have gotten the trophy in 2005 but I addressed those injustices in previous articles that can easily be found in this site's archives).

For many years, Cleveland writers fell over themselves declaring that James was a better, more unselfish player than Bryant; I told a much more nuanced and honest story, namely that Bryant has the most complete skill set of any NBA player, while James is bigger and more athletic but has certain skill set weaknesses: an objective comparison of the two players must weigh Bryant's complete skill set versus James' combination of athletic gifts/skill set limitations. As James improved his defense, free throw shooting and perimeter shooting I correspondingly adjusted my relative rankings of the league's top two players and by the end of the 2009 regular season I felt like James had moved ahead of Bryant slightly, at least in terms of being consistently productive over an 82 game season. Bryant reasserted his dominance during the 2009 playoffs and during the first month and a half of the 2010 regular season but over the course of the entire 2010 regular season James was the league's best and most consistent player.

My writing has never been tainted by a bias toward a player or a team, so I can look back with pride at everything that I have said regarding Bryant, James and the league's other great players; my articles will stand the test of time a lot better than articles written by people who change their rankings based on what team they cover, who they write for or other factors that have nothing to do with on court performance.

*****

The "best 5-4 team in the league" is now 8-6, tied with Atlanta for 4th-5th in the Eastern Conference, two games ahead of 8th seeded Cleveland; the Heat are tied for the 10th best record in the NBA, a half game behind the Chicago Bulls and a half game ahead of the Denver Nuggets and Golden State Warriors. The Heat are on pace for 47 victories--two more wins than the 2006 Lakers accomplished with the famous power trio of Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom and Smush Parker; yes, Odom and Parker ranked second and third on the Lakers in minutes played that season, with Kwame Brown finishing fourth--and the media "experts" placed Bryant fourth in MVP voting!

The Heat are 6-3 at home but just 2-3 on the road and only one of their wins is against a team that currently has a better than .500 record (the Orlando Magic, who played the Heat very competitively until Vince Carter suffered an injury that caused him to miss the entire second half of the game). Yes, it is early in the season, Dwyane Wade only played three minutes in the preseason and the Heat have suffered injuries to Wade, Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller but several patterns have emerged so far: the Heat lack mental and physical toughness, they are regularly abused by opposing point guards and centers, they have no post up game to speak of and they have difficulty defending opposing post players. None of those traits scream "championship." It was ridiculous for anyone to suggest that the Miami Heat, as currently constructed, could win 70 games in a season, let alone break the all-time record of 72-10 set by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls; I have tremendous respect for Jeff Van Gundy but if he really believed what he said about the Heat prior to the season (as opposed to simply ramping up pressure on the Heat to help out his brother Stan down in Orlando) then he was suffering from temporary insanity. The 1996 Bulls won 72 games because Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen thought that every game was worth winning; that type of competitiveness and professional pride is the antithesis of everything that we have seen and heard from James, Wade and Bosh. It is not too late for Jeff Van Gundy to apologize to Jordan, Pippen and the Bulls for comparing them to the Heat.

James seemed to be a self motivated player who was methodically eliminating his skill set weaknesses but the picture that is emerging now is that he is a high maintenance player who is more about style than substance. Adrian Wojnarowski's report--which to the best of my knowledge has never been contradicted or refuted--that James conducted himself so boorishly and immaturely that Team USA officials seriously considered not putting him on the 2008 Olympic Team is a devastating indictment levied at the league's most physically gifted player. James' public assertion--which he later clumsily tried to downplay--that Coach Spoelstra should not have played James for 44 minutes versus Boston is just another indicator that James does not understand what it takes to be a champion and that he is also quick to blame others for his failures (somewhere former Cleveland Coach Mike Brown must have been smiling knowingly when James threw Spoelstra under the bus).

*****

During the offseason we heard a whole bunch of nonsense, including predictions that James would average a triple double this season and assertions that Wade is the team's best player and would lead the Heat in scoring while James reduced his scoring and played like Magic Johnson.

Averaging a triple double for an entire season is almost impossible considering the pace of the current NBA game; there just are not enough possessions for one player to consistently post double figure scoring, rebounding and assist totals. Moreover, averaging a triple double is not a good goal for a player to set; some people say that this is an unselfish goal but I disagree: if a player is focused on that then in each game he is going to concentrate on piling up certain statistics even if his team needs him to fill a different role--you don't want your best player giving up easy shot opportunities so that he can pass the ball just for the sake of trying to accumulate assists.

Regardless of how fans feel about James or the idiotic methods that some media members use to determine who a team's leader supposedly is, James is in fact the Heat's best player. As I explained last year, "Wade is a mini-James: they have similar skill set strengths (explosiveness, court vision, finishing in the paint) and share the same major weakness (outside shooting). However, I'd take Bryant or James over Wade unless or until Wade's skill set is markedly better than theirs, because Wade's height is a disadvantage."

James is certainly not Magic Johnson! Jason Kidd is the closest thing to a modern Magic Johnson, but just like Wade cannot be as good as James because Wade is five inches shorter (at least), Kidd can never be as dominant as Johnson was simply because Kidd is so much smaller. Johnson was a pass first player who put his teammates in the best possible positions to succeed; Johnson was also a cutthroat competitor with a genius level basketball IQ. During his NBA career James has always been a shoot first player who is reluctant to make passes that do not pad his assist totals. James and Wade accumulate large assist totals because they completely monopolize the ball; they are both used to dominating the ball and are comically unable to be effective when they are relegated to playing off of the ball. I am not saying that James and Wade are bad passers; clearly, they both possess good passing skills--but they are not pass first players, they are not heirs to Magic Johnson and they are not point guards.

The Miami offense largely consists of James "getting his," followed by Wade "getting his." The other players pick up the table scraps. It is hilarious to recall how much criticism Mike Brown received for Cleveland's offense the past few seasons. Last year, the Cavs ranked second in scoring differential, ninth in points scored and third in field goal percentage. Brown figured out how to make the Cavs a very efficient offensive team even though James cannot play without the ball and generally refuses to post up despite having a pronounced physical advantage over everyone who guards him.

Here is Charley Rosen's take on James' performance down the stretch in Miami's second loss to Boston:

From the left baseline, LeBron’s shot hit the side of the backboard. Not an easy accomplishment, but surely an embarrassing one that emphasized James’ extremely erratic stroke.

Despite his spectacular failures in the clutch, LBJ scanned the postgame stat sheet and remarked that his 44 minutes of daylight were "too much."

So, this 26-year-old strongman, who needed to dig a little deeper into his considerable bag of skills in order for his team to win a critical game, essentially was putting the onus on Erik Spoelstra and shunning any personal responsibility.

Call me a LeBron hater if that makes you feel better.


*****

It is interesting to observe how blatantly certain writers and commentators reveal their agendas. One recent example of this is a certain yahoo's prediction that the Cavs would only win 12 games this year, an assertion based not on logic but rather on the ludicrous premise that LeBron James is worth more than 40 wins (the same yahoo joined the chorus that predicted that the Heat would win 70 games).

Many "stat gurus" have insisted that LeBron James is not just the league's best player but that he is far superior to Kobe Bryant and those same "stat gurus" generally suggest that Dwyane Wade is also superior to Bryant. It is only natural for those "stat gurus" to assume that pairing up James and Wade would produce a dominant NBA team--but what we have seen so far is that the Heat are frontrunners: they win at home and against teams that they can overwhelm physically/intimidate psychologically but they crumble on the road and against teams that are mentally/physically tough.

Some readers scoffed when I said last summer that James may never play for a better team than last year's Cavs. The Cavs were a deep, well balanced team; they beat the defending (and future) champion Lakers in both meetings last year, pounding the Lakers so badly in L.A. that the Staples Center fans were booing and throwing objects on to the court. This year's Heat team has a more talented trio than last year's Cavs but the Heat lack size, depth and balance (the Cavs not only went 10-plus deep but they had depth at every position).

I have made this point many times but it simply cannot be overstated (particularly since the mainstream media largely refuses to acknowledge it): Pau Gasol was not considered an elite player prior to joining the Lakers but teaming up with Kobe Bryant has transformed him into a likely future Hall of Famer. Gasol's skill set has not changed much (he added some strength after the 2008 NBA Finals so that he could better hold his ground in the post) and his statistics are essentially the same except for increases in field goal percentage and offensive rebounding (thanks primarily to Bryant drawing double teams and creating easy opportunities for Gasol) but Gasol is perceived differently now because he is more comfortable playing one on one as the second option as opposed to carrying the burden of attacking double teams as Memphis' top option. If you believed the narrative that the "stat gurus" have constructed about James and Wade then you had to think that James and Wade would have an even more dramatically positive effect on Bosh, whose pre-Miami career was more effective and much more decorated (five All-Star selections, one All-NBA selection, seventh in 2007 MVP voting) than Gasol's pre-L.A. career (one All-Star selection, no All-NBA selections, not a single MVP vote)--but this has not been the case at all. Gasol arrived in L.A. in a midseason trade and instantly bonded with Bryant but James, Wade and Bosh play like strangers despite having a complete offseason to figure out their roles; even with Wade missing the preseason it still should not be that difficult for the supposedly two best players in the NBA to figure out how to effectively utilize a player as talented and versatile as Bosh. Gasol is a better passer than Bosh but otherwise their skill set strengths and weaknesses are quite similar: they are both lithe, lanky, agile big men who like to face the basket on offense, who gather rebounds based on their length/mobility more so than their strength/size and who can be pushed around by physical defenders.

Isn't it interesting that the "experts" are already criticizing Bosh more than they are criticizing James and Wade? What is Bosh supposed to do when James and Wade pound the ball so much that it looks like they are trying to drill holes in the hardwood? How is Bosh supposed to get into any kind of rhythm? Bryant and Gasol formed an immediate screen/roll chemistry because they are both high IQ players who understand how to play without the ball and how to read defenses. Gasol also picked up the Triangle Offense very quickly.

Other than the glaringly obvious deficiencies at point guard and center, the biggest question about the Heat is whether or not James and Wade are willing/able to learn how to play in an offensive system that maximizes the strengths and minimizes the weaknesses of all of the Heat's players. Phil Jackson has used the Triangle Offense to good effect in Chicago and L.A.; the point of the Triangle is not to create shots for Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant or Pau Gasol but rather to establish a framework in which players who cannot create their own shots can still be effective. Jordan and Bryant both chafed at the Triangle initially but they eventually accepted the idea of playing off of the ball at times so that all of their teammates could be involved offensively.

Before anyone pipes up about the Heat's superficially impressive point differential and offensive efficiency, keep in mind that they have padded those numbers at home against weak opposition. How efficient did Miami look against Boston, Utah or New Orleans? Pat Riley did not bring James and Bosh to Miami merely to rack up blowouts versus weak teams during the regular season. If the Heat do not figure out how to beat good teams and how to win on the road then their playoff run will be much shorter than a lot of people expected.

*****

Just as I correctly objected to the absurd notion that Kobe Bryant's career should be defined by one game, I disagree that LeBron James' legacy will be automatically defined by the "Decision" or even by the results of this NBA season; however, although it is too early to say that James permanently damaged his legacy it is not too early to say that he has taken some steps in that direction with the combination of his quitting versus Boston followed by the tone deaf way that he handled the free agency process. If James leads the Heat to one NBA title he will regain a lot of the status that he lost and if he leads the Heat to multiple championships then his bad spring/summer of 2010 will likely become just a footnote to his career. Keep in mind what I wrote in the above article about Bryant:

Shortly before Jordan led the Bulls to six championships in eight seasons, there were plenty of people who thought that Jordan should never be compared to Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. In The Jordan Rules, Sam Smith tells of a game in which Jordan did not pass to Bill Cartwright nine times when the former All-Star center was wide open. "At least he was under double figures," then Bulls Coach Phil Jackson joked. Cartwright had a less humorous take on Jordan at that time: "He’s the greatest athlete I’ve ever seen. Maybe the greatest athlete ever to play any sport. He can do whatever he wants. It all comes so easy to him. He’s just not a basketball player."

I don't think that the Miami Heat will win the 2011 NBA championship but since they have three of the league's top 15 players they clearly have to be considered a contender. It is possible that they will either improve at point guard and center or else make some personnel moves to shore up those positions. History provides several examples of teams that overcame similar challenges. Despite Cartwright's lament that Jordan was "not a basketball player" (which is akin to my above analysis of how James and Wade struggle to play without the ball), Jordan and the Bulls came together during the 1990-91 season, winning the first of three straight titles. Then Jordan retired for nearly two years before coming back and winning three more titles with an almost entirely different supporting cast (except for fellow Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen, the only other player to play for all six Bulls' championship teams).

During Phil Jackson's first season with the L.A. Lakers, the team faced a lot of adversity, culminating in game seven of the Western Conference Finals when the Portland Trail Blazers led by 15 points before the Lakers rallied for an 89-84 victory. Kobe Bryant led the Lakers in points (25), rebounds (11), assists (seven) and blocked shots (four) in that game. It is interesting to speculate about what might have happened to the Lakers if they had lost to Portland; tensions eventually emerged between O'Neal and Bryant even after they won three titles together, so a loss in the 2000 playoffs may have torn apart the Lakers' delicate chemistry before they had a chance to become a dynasty.

Much like the current Heat, the 2008 Boston Celtics brought in two All-Stars (Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett) to play with an All-Star who had spent his entire career with their team (Paul Pierce). Unlike the Heat, the Celtics were solid at center and point guard (even if we did not realize this until Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins proved their worth) and the Celtics immediately committed to being a defensive-minded team. Still, the Celtics were pushed to the brink--winning seventh games in the first and second rounds of the playoffs--en route to capturing the NBA title; they could have easily lost either of those series and, much like such a loss could have been disastrous for the 2000 Lakers, failing to win the 2008 championship may have negatively affected Boston's team chemistry.

*****

LeBron James' failure during the 2010 playoffs and his poor handling of his free agency process did not make me retroactively change my accurate evaluation of his career; it simply raised two questions:

1) How much help does James need to win an NBA championship?

2) Is winning an NBA championship really James' primary goal?

Labels: , , , , , ,

posted by David Friedman @ 3:21 AM

38 comments

links to this post

38 Comments:

At Tuesday, November 23, 2010 1:27:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

marcel

my 73 wins prediction in trouble how bout my 3 championships david lol. nah i believe lebron always wants to win championship thats always been his goal. hard to sell that he doesnt care about winning. i dont really care what happen in cleveland last year that team was not going to win title, even if they got past boston which i dont think. they would of the of lost to lakers.


cleveland playing well even though i dont remember people saying they would win 12 games? maybe one idiot i thought 30-35 its still early well see how it plays out. they had nice team around him not enough to win it all though.

the heat have not got toughness out of bosh. lebron and wade play similar style they skill sets over lap each other. they are way too small to do anything right now. i thought they would be a boston but boston has good center and great point i underestimated that. arroyo and anthony not a good fit or the answer.

lebron too passive right now he is not playing great. wade is injured mike miller haslem injured and bosh starting to get it together but playing passive.

they got issues its still early i think they will get it together may win 50-55 games when all said and done. but it only matters playoffs thats when they will be judged lets see how they do, there in troubloe right now.

 
At Tuesday, November 23, 2010 1:47:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

Why do you still believe that winning a championship is LeBron's primary goal? Nothing that he has said or done in the past year or so supports that contention.

The Cavs matched up very well with the Lakers, pounding them in both games last season; the Cavs had enough size to deal with the Lakers' bigs and they could throw multiple defenders at Kobe to try to wear him down (LeBron, Parker, Moon, West). Unfortunately for the Cavs, LeBron quit--apparently so he could devote more time to garnering maximum publicity buzz for his upcoming "Decision."

At least one person definitely picked the Cavs to win exactly 12 games and many others declared that the Cavs would be terrible.

The injuries certainly have hampered the Heat but even when they had everyone but Miller in the fold they were hardly dominant. James and Bosh look like they don't have a clue about how to maximize Bosh's skills.

With three of the NBA's top 15 players the Heat should certainly be able to win 50-55 games but--as I predicted before the season--there is no reason to believe that this Heat team as currently constructed will beat Boston in a seven game series. It is very evident that the league's better teams are not the slightest bit intimidated by playing against the Heat.

 
At Tuesday, November 23, 2010 2:58:00 PM, Anonymous JackF said...

@David
I wonder if the stat gurus are scrambling numbers to find a definitive reason why the Heat are struggling. Thats why i don't pay serious attention to what stat geeks say. Every old head(old school nba pundit/player/Front ofice personel) said that the Heat would have problems because they have serious weaknesses at the 1,4,5 spot.
Both Wade and Lebron are similar players and they both dominate the ball. Its not shocking that they aren't gelling on the floor. Chris bosh is just Chris Bosh, he was a dude who put monster numbers on a bad team and was posing as a superstar(he by the way ranked high on Hollinger's PER ranking).

On Andrian Woj. article: You should read that article he put out on yahoo sports about Kobe. its a great article. People get on Adrian for writing negative(perceived?) articles about Lebron but they fail to realize that he used to be critical of Kobe too. Something must have changed his mind.

@Marcel
The Cavs(Bobcats not included) were toughest matchup the Lakers all season. they embarrassed the Cavs both times they played. When Lebron played hard, they also embarrassed the Celtics(and almost every other team) too in that playoff series.

 
At Tuesday, November 23, 2010 5:04:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

JackF:

I am very confident that the "stat gurus" will come up with an explanation that does not include admitting that their preseason predictions about the Heat were extremely unrealistic and that they have always been wrong to say that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are vastly superior to Kobe Bryant.

Bosh is actually a very good player but what we are seeing is that James and Wade do not understand how to properly utilize his talents. Gasol and Bosh are comparably skilled and they are each among the top 15 players in the NBA. The major difference is that Gasol is benefiting from playing with Kobe Bryant while Bosh is not similarly benefiting from playing with James and Wade.

 
At Tuesday, November 23, 2010 6:55:00 PM, Anonymous Joel said...

Excellent article David. 2 points I have to make:

1. I actually expected the Heat to experience a few initial growing pains. As I told a friend the day of the Decision, LeBron and Wade are going to have to completely change the way they've been playing their whole lives in order to succeed as a tandem. Combine that adjustment with the need to integrate Bosh (another isolation player), the lack of depth, and the major holes at PG and center, and it really boggles my mind that some people believed this team could win 70 games. Classic case of overvaluing names rather than the things that actually win basketball games.

With that being said, the quotes you cited would really worry me as a Heat fan. Those types of statements speak to a team that is wholly unprepared for the adversity it will have to overcome in order to win a championship. Can you imagine Kobe, or Duncan, or Nash, or Nowitzki, or any so-called superstar complaining about playing too many minutes against the Eastern Conference champs? The team that knocked him out of the playoffs 2 of the last 3 years, and beat him on opening night as well? How badly does LeBron really want this? As for Bosh, I didn't really trust him as a championship-level big man before and he isn't doing anything to change my opinion of him.

2. Miami's issues underscore to me just how deep Cleveland's roster was the last couple of years (something you repeatedly pointed out). The Heat lose Miller and Haslem and their bench becomes a complete disaster zone. Compare that to the way Cleveland would constantly readjust when they lost key rotation players to injuries. Yet we still have some nitwits who claim LeBron had a terrible supporting cast.

With a different configuration of players with a similar talent level (say Kobe, Duncan, and Pierce), I would be lot more confident that the Heat would work their issues out and develop into a bonafide championship team at some point. But these guys? I could just as easily see them imploding, and if they do, maybe these 'experts' will be finally be forced to account for some of the nonsense they've been shoving down our throats.

 
At Tuesday, November 23, 2010 11:42:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Joel:

I expect the Heat to be better at the end of the season than they are now but they have glaring weaknesses that are not going to be rectified any time soon and that is why I ranked them as the third best team in the East while so many "experts" elevated them to all-time great status before they played even one game.

I think that people are not merely "overvaluing names" but also "overvaluing" numbers--namely the "advanced basketball statistics" that insist that James and Wade are far and away the two best players in the NBA. James and Wade are great players but they also have skill set weaknesses and their games are not necessarily complementary. There is also a major question concerning James' drive/dedication.

If you go back and see which "experts" said that the Cavs had no depth you will find that they are the same fools who declare that James is much better than Kobe Bryant. The Cavs obviously were very deep but these people felt like if they said that then they would be somehow lessening James' status compared to Bryant. This is the same kind of thinking that resulted in a certain yahoo declaring that the Cavs would win 12 games and the Heat would cruise to 70 wins.

I thought it was funny in the offseason when some people said that Bosh left Toronto because he would face less pressure in Miami. If the Heat implode then Bosh is going to get a lot of the blame from the mainstream media because 2006 NBA champion Wade is bulletproof and because many media sycophants are going to want to suck up to James in the vain hope of currying favor with him; you can already see all of those processes happening now: James is not playing well (for an MVP level player), Wade has been erratic, neither of them is doing much to help Bosh--and Bosh is getting blasted by the media! Bosh is very similar to Gasol--a good first option who would be a great second option playing alongside Kobe Bryant. We will see if James and Wade figure out how to utilize Bosh's skills.

It would be great if the "experts" were forced to acknowledge all of the things that they have been wrong about over the years but I doubt that they (or the close-minded editors/publishers who employ them) possess the capacity for that kind of honest self reflection.

 
At Wednesday, November 24, 2010 12:32:00 PM, Anonymous JLK1 said...

I expected the Heat to go one of 2 ways this year: (1) everything clicks and they steamroll people en route to 60-65 wins, or (2) they have growing pains and a painful lack of depth, and will need a year or two to build a roster around the big 3 that is championship caliber, but still win 50ish games.

Looks like it's #2 right now, and the injuries aren't helping matters.

Even through all of that, I still think the Celtics are the only team that can for sure beat them in a 7 game series. Bulls and Magic will be tough, but doable for the Heat unless their stars keep complaining about big minutes.

Spoelstra's defensive coaching has shown up in the Heat's stats (which are good), but their offense has been pretty ugly and they have had scoring droughts that simply shouldn't happen with the offensive talent on that roster. Maybe they'll get it together as the season goes along, but the offensive system deserves some of the blame, and Wade/James deserve some blame for taking bad "heat check" jump shots and 3 pointers.

All of this criticism seems premature, it's so early for this team. Their dominant wins over weak teams may start to translate into wins over stronger opponents (they already beat the Magic soundly). However, my gut feeling is that Spoelstra is just not the right coach.

 
At Wednesday, November 24, 2010 12:59:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

marcel


yeah the cavs had nice team last year, but wouldnt of beat lakers in 7 game series. boston was lakers biggest threat, and damn near beat them and i remember beat cleveland in 6. reg season means nuthing really its what happen in playoffs. boston beat them when it counted and they wouldntr beat boston this year if he stayed in cleveland. they won by 32 him playing harder makes up a 32 point diffrence? if he would of played harder they would of still lost, on paper they look nice but in reality wasnt good enough to win it all and wasnt well coached.

miami needs to get everything togerther than well see what happens.

 
At Wednesday, November 24, 2010 1:43:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

JLK1:

Orlando played Miami close until Vince Carter got hurt. We'll see what happens in tonight's game. I consider Orlando and Miami to be pretty even (slight edge to Orlando) if both teams are at full strength (which won't be the case tonight but the game will still be interesting to watch).

The criticism of the Heat is not premature--at least not the way that I have offered it. During the offseason, James, Wade and Bosh pledged to win multiple championships but right now the Heat look very mediocre; I explained in detail what is wrong with the team and I indicated that I still expect the Heat to be a contender (but not win the title) by the end of the season.

 
At Wednesday, November 24, 2010 1:49:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

Apparently you did not see game three of the Cleveland-Boston series when the Cavs beat Boston 124-95 in Boston to reclaim homecourt advantage in the series.

The regular season means something, particularly when regular season games highlight matchup problems--namely that the Lakers' bigs did not match up well with the Cavs' bigs and that the Cavs had several athletic wing defenders to throw at Kobe.

It's funny how you try to promote LeBron as an all-time great who will win several titles (you have been harping on this for years) but then you say that it would not have made a difference if LeBron had actually tried versus Boston. So which is it? Is LeBron the greatest player ever (in your opinion) or is he just one very good player who cannot swing the result of a playoff series?

The Heat have many problems to solve and some of them (weaknesses at pg and c) are not easy to fix. It would help if James, Wade and Bosh stopped saying and doing stupid things and actually displayed the type of leadership described by Clay Matthews.

 
At Wednesday, November 24, 2010 3:50:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great article, David.

I have wanted to post my thoughts somewhere regarding the Heat, but wasn't sure where to post. ESPN doesn't work for me because I think their "experts" will consider my thoughts blasphemy. Now I read your opinion, it would be great to see what you think about it.

Mainly, your observation that James and Wade are not pass first players are so true. So my question is can they fix this?

I think it's crucial one of the two or even both has to improve their game significantly as to how to play off the ball. However, it's easier said than done.

1) Right now the Heat doesn't have any solid or reliable offense scheme, or as Phil Jackson referred to as "no base". Without a consistent offense philosophy, it would be hard for them to get better.

2) Who should organize the offense for the Heat, i.e. play the point guard role? Point guard isn't someone who can get assists. He has to be able to read the defense and direct offense in an efficient way. Kobe, under the tutelage of PJ and triangle offense, directs offense much better. Therefore it leads to my next point.

3) Can James or Wade directs offense efficiently for the Heat? Right now I have my doubts. Even though both has been initiating the offense for the Cavs and the Heat previously, I don't think they did a very good job and the situation of both teams necessitates so. You can refute me on this because you have watched more Cavs basketball than I have.

4) My final point is that given their egos, will either James or Wade work as hard as Kobe to change their game? Being Jame is a better player than Wade, I think maybe Wade needs to change his game more simply because James can organize offense better. Correct me if I am wrong, I haven't seen any significant improvement in Wade's offensive skill set for quite a while. Why hasn't he done so?

Anyway, it will be glad to read your response. Happy thanksgiving!

Haifeng

 
At Thursday, November 25, 2010 1:26:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Haifeng:

As I indicated in this article, Phil Jackson uses the Triangle Offense not so much to create shots for his stars but rather to establish an offensive framework that enables the players who cannot create their own shots to be effective. James and Wade have never played in an NBA system that does not involve them monopolizing the ball--and that is part of the reason that the "stat gurus" overestimate their value: James and Wade pile up stats because they always have the ball (the same is also true of Chris Paul). During Miami's loss to Orlando, the Heat had a key fourth quarter possession that consisted of James and then Wade dribbling around aimlessly (i.e. side to side instead of attacking the hoop) followed by a pass to Zydrunas Ilagauskas and then a pass back to James, who attempted a low percentage, off balance three pointer. When James is dribbling around it looks like Wade has no idea of how to get open off of the ball (unless the defense falls asleep and allows a lob pass) and the same is true of James when Wade is dribbling around; meanwhile, the other three Heat players--including five-time All-Star Chris Bosh--are transformed into useless statues. In contrast, it is no coincidence that players ranging from Pau Gasol to Trevor Ariza to Shannon Brown to Smush Parker look much better playing alongside Kobe Bryant than at any other time during their careers; Kobe knows how to play with and without the ball and he insists that his teammates play the right way; during a recent game, Ron Artest posted up but shot a fadeaway and Kobe immediately came up to Artest and told him to use his size, initiate contact and go straight to the hoop--which is exactly what Artest did the next time he got the ball. There is no "advanced basketball stat" for this kind of thing but it is part of the reason that Kobe is the best player in the league, even though LeBron has been the most productive regular season player the past two seasons because injuries have hampered Kobe.

James and Wade are both great players but they also have skill set limitations that Kobe Bryant does not have. Also, since Wade is essentially "mini-LeBron" his game is not complementary with James', which is why the Heat look so stagnant offensively when they are in the game at the same time.

The Heat do not necessarily need a traditional point guard to be efficient offensively (though it would help to have a defensive-minded pg)--none of Jackson's championship teams had a traditional point guard. What the Heat need is for the coach to develop a coherent half court offensive system AND for James and Wade to buy into that system; at this point it is not yet clear if the problem is primarily that Spoelstra has not developed such a system or that James and/or Wade are resisting playing in such a system.

Although James has markedly improved his defense and somewhat improved his shooting since coming into the league, neither he nor Wade appear to be as obsessed with perfecting their games the way that Kobe has always been.

Thank you for a thought provoking comment and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

 
At Thursday, November 25, 2010 2:09:00 AM, Blogger West Coast Slant said...

David,
Excellent article as always. Because Wade is a mini-Lebron and therefore less versatile, and also considering the fact that he is 2 1/2 years older, wouldn't it behoove the Heat if Lebron molded himself in the 2000-2002 Kobe Bryant mold, a fireman of sorts. Do whatever the team needs. He's big enough and athletic enough to guard someone like Dwight Howard, and he's also quick enough to guard a lot of point guards. I find it shameful that he is averaging .40 offensive rebounds and Wade is average 1.2. I also find it offensive that Lebron is averaging half a block less than Wade! If Lebron focused on getting 5x5s instead of triple doubles, the team would be much better for it. He's the ideal candidate to accomplish that rare stat, and it would give him a stat to continue to promote his greatness. lol. But, in all seriousness, if Wade is the main scorer, offensive facilitator, and Bosh is the ideal complimentary scorer, then Lebron, with his unique skill set, should be the ultimate Trevor Ariza type. Defense, offensive rebounding, blocks and steals, and making the right pass. From what I've read about him here in this blog and from Woj and others, I have a feeling this will never happen...but if it did, the Heat would be scary. Keep writing! 20 Second Timeout is the only NBA source I have to read every last word including the comments section!

 
At Thursday, November 25, 2010 9:45:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

West Coast Slant:

Thank you for your kind words.

I would not say that Wade is "less versatile" than James; Wade has similar versatility but he is not quite as effective simply because he is much smaller. They both attack the hoop with great explosiveness--but elite defenses counter by sagging off of them and forcing them to prove that they can consistently make perimeter shots. Consequently, when one of them has the ball the other one has not been effective thus far because defenses are not worried about one of them driving and kicking to the other one and because neither player is much of a threat in the post; I am surprised that Chris Mullin said that one of them should play in the post, because neither of them is comfortable in the post or has a very developed post up game. The Heat may actually be better off turning Wade into a sixth man (the role that Wade played for Team USA) who is a potent scorer and who creates shots for the bench players. I am not sure if Wade would embrace such a role, though.

James' rebounding numbers are down because the Heat are using him as a de facto point guard, which is a mistake; James is not a point guard, he is certainly not an heir to Magic Johnson and he should be playing forward.

I can't really see James playing a Kirilenko-like 5X5 role and he certainly is more valuable than an Ariza-like defensive specialist.

It will be very interesting to see how Coach Spoelstra deals with the Heat's challenges and how the players respond to whatever strategic choices he makes. It is an understatement to point out that James is not always very coachable.

 
At Thursday, November 25, 2010 2:03:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But if you replace Kobe on the Lakers with Lebron or Wade, the Lakers will be just as good, or better! Give Lebron or Wade a Pau Gasol, and then you'll see!"

 
At Thursday, November 25, 2010 2:46:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

LeBron not only has Wade but he has his own Gasol, too: Chris Bosh.

Prior to joining the Heat, Bosh averaged 20.2 ppg and 9.4 rpg in seven seasons, made the All-Star team five times, earned one All-NBA selection and earned MVP votes in two different seasons, including a seventh place finish in 2007. Bosh led the Raptors to the playoffs twice, posting a 3-8 record in the postseason while averaging 20.5 ppg and 9.0 rpg.

Prior to joining the Lakers, Gasol averaged 18.8 ppg and 8.6 rpg in six and a half seasons, never made the All-NBA Team and never earned a single MVP vote; the top 15 players make the All-NBA Team and the top 12-15 players generally earn at least one MVP vote, so that means that prior to playing with Kobe Bryant none of the voters ever considered Pau Gasol to be among the top 15 players in the league! Gasol led the Grizzlies to the playoffs three times, posting an 0-12 record in the postseason while averaging 20 ppg and 6.4 rpg.

I would be the first person to say that you cannot evaluate players solely based on numbers but if you truly watched Bosh and Gasol with understanding then you know that Bosh's pre-Heat career is at the very least certainly no worse than Gasol's pre-Lakers career. Playing alongside Bryant has elevated Gasol from a one-time All-Star who had not won a single playoff game to being a likely future Hall of Famer. Gasol deserves credit for improving his mental and physical toughness--Bryant's influence is evident here--but Gasol's basketball skill set is not that different than it was before he joined the Lakers; the difference is that in Memphis Gasol faced double teams and carried the burden of being his team's best player but in L.A. Bryant faces the double teams and carries the burden of being the number one option.

It will be fun to hear the "stat gurus" trying to explain why the supposedly two best players in the NBA have not had a positive effect on Bosh's game the way that Bryant has obviously elevated not only Gasol but the entire Lakers team.

 
At Thursday, November 25, 2010 4:29:00 PM, Anonymous JackF said...

@David
It is ironic that Kobe tried to recruit Mike Miller during the offseason and the Lakers quickly offered Mike Miller full midlevel for 5 years. Mike declined the offer and decided to go play down in Miami with Lebron(it is understandble since he's good friends with Bron). Kobe then recruited both Matt Barnes and Steve Blake who were offered contracts by the Lakers. Kobe said that he wanted Blake on his team because Blake always played him tough and doesnt seem to be rattled by pressure.
Matt Barnes has covered up the struggles that Artest seem to be going through at the beginning of the season and is playing lights out. Both of these players(including Artest) took less money so they can play with Kobe.
If mike miller didn't go to Miami, Lakers wouldn't have been able to sign Blake and Barnes.
Shannon Brown has credited a lot of his success this year to Kobe.

on Miami: While what Phil Jackson said is true, I think he made those comments for his team. I think he is trying to tell them not to take their current championship run for granted.
During their Team USA visit, people heard both Lebron and Wade professing they were going to win 70 games. No wonder they looked shell shocked last night against the Magics.
I wonder if somewhere down the line, Pat Riley will contemplate moving one of the "Big Three" because its probably the only way this Heat team can be improved.

on the Van Gundys: both seem to be mad about Phil Jackson's comments. Mark Jackson perfectly responed to Jeff Van Gundy by saying Phil Jackson is a smart and he has his reasons why he said it.

 
At Thursday, November 25, 2010 7:54:00 PM, Anonymous Joel said...

David, you're right on the money as usual. I wonder how long it will take before the 'experts' come to the same conclusions you have been posting for years on this site.

On the day of the Decision, I had a conversation with a friend who was a lot more confident than I was about the prospects of LeBron and Wade complementing each other. Neither one of them has the slightest clue of how to function when they aren't monopolising the ball, and this the way they've played all their careers! How could people assume they would suddenly just 'adjust' and immediately become a juggernaut? It's ironic really - the LeBron/Wade combo was supposed to be what made this team special, but to my mind it was (and still is) the biggest question mark.

Of course, every team has weaknesses (even if the 'experts' are blissfully unaware of them). What would worry me how wholly unprepared the Heat appear to deal with the adversity that comes with being a championship team. Would anyone be surprised if they imploded at this point? Not to be overly dramatic but I don't see where the leadership they need to get through this is coming from.

 
At Thursday, November 25, 2010 8:17:00 PM, Anonymous Dmills said...

Here are a couple of other quotes that I know you'd appreciate David.

“How to truly make players better, what that really means,” he said. “It’s not just passing to your guys and getting them shots. It’s not getting this or that many players into double figures. That’s bull[expletive]. That’s not how you win championships. You’ve got to change the culture of your team – that’s how you truly make guys better. In a way, you have to help them to get the same DNA that you have, the same focus you have, maybe even close to the same drive. That’s how you make guys better".


“I’ve never understood this stuff, where a star player sits out and a team goes into the tank. Well, they need him because he makes them better. Well, if he’s making them better, they should be able to survive without him. That’s how you lead your guys. You’ve got to be able to make guys suffice on their own, without you. If you’re there all the time and they take you away, they shouldn’t need a respirator.

“Once I understood all that, I looked at things completely different. I took my hands off. I didn’t try to control them. I let them make decisions, make their own [expletive]-ups and I was there to try and help them through it.”

-Kobe Bryant

 
At Thursday, November 25, 2010 9:32:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

marcel

what did game 3 got to do with 5? they lost by 32 won game 3 by 29. i guess youre saying if lebron put up 36 in game 5 they would of won or if he played as hard from jump. but the celts played better in 5 than 3 was a big reason as well. the whole cavs team didnt bring it in game 5.

when i say lebron was greatest player ever? thats mj you might think its kobe though. he will i believe capture a few titles in his career when miami could get everything settled in there.

the reg season matchup vs lakers was two diffrent times in season. in a seven game series the lakers could of made those adjustmwents. pau played strong aginst the best defense team in league boston at least in home games aginst a lesser def team he would have less prob. the cavs mo willams jamison and others in post season didnt bring it like they should of. and the coaching was two diffrent levels comparing jackson to brown.

 
At Friday, November 26, 2010 1:04:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Jack F:

I think that Coach Jackson enjoys tweaking certain people (Van Gundy, Riley) while also providing motivation for his team. Before the Lakers played Memphis, Jackson tweaked Pau by saying (tongue in cheek) that the Lakers traded for the wrong Gasol because Marc is more physical. Jackson is always trying to both motivate his team and to put his rivals off stride in some way.

Buss generally watches his budget (he does not have as much money as some of the owners do) but after the Heat brought in LeBron and Bosh he responded by bolstering the Lakers' depth with Blake, Barnes and Ratliff. I am not sure that the Lakers would have signed those guys otherwise.

I doubt that Riley will trade any of the Big Three. The players were foolish to put so much pressure on themselves to win a championship immediately when their roster is obviously incomplete but I think that Riley is taking a longer term view and intends to build around his young trio of stars over the next few years. You never heard Riley talking about winning 70 games or capturing multiple titles--and if his players were smarter they would not have talked about that kind of stuff, either.

 
At Friday, November 26, 2010 1:12:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Joel:

I don't think that the "experts" will ever figure out and/or admit that they have been wrong. It would be nice if their editors/publishers figured this out, though, and started hiring writers who actually understand NBA basketball (and write coherently).

I don't expect the Heat to "implode" in terms of missing the playoffs or going out in the first round. I think that they will pile up a lot of wins at home and against weaker teams on the road but that they will be eliminated in the playoffs by Boston or Orlando.

 
At Friday, November 26, 2010 1:22:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Dmills:

Those quotes are all from Adrian Wojnarowski's excellent article about Kobe. They refute the nonsense that the "stat gurus" always spouted about how the Lakers would have won 70-plus games with LeBron but that the Cavs would have somehow been worse off with Kobe. As Kobe says, there is much more to leadership than just piling up statistics and if a leader has done his job correctly then his teammates will not be completely helpless without him.

When I used to do in depth game recaps I consistently pointed out how Kobe would draw double teams and then make the pass that led to the assist pass; LeBron likes to hold onto the ball and try to make the assist pass himself, even if this stagnates ball movement and is not the right play but Kobe is trying to win, not set records for assists. Kobe is a great passer but to realize this people have to look beyond assist totals and "advanced basketball statistics" and actually watch games with understanding--something that is anathema to a guy like David Berri who confidently asserts that there is no reason to watch games because the eye is biased but the numbers reveal all one needs to know. Basketball commentary has been dumbed down by "stat gurus" like Berri and fan boys like a certain yahoo who have been granted mainstream platforms to pontificate their biased, ignorant views. It will be wonderful when their 15 minutes of fame ends and people who actually have something valuable to say will be provided the opportunity to reach large audiences.

 
At Friday, November 26, 2010 1:31:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

You indicated that because the Cavs lost one blowout game that the Celtics must have been the better team and therefore it did not matter that LeBron quit; my response to that is that the Cavs also blew out the Celtics when LeBron was actually trying. The Cavs entered game five at home with the series tied at 2-2 and LeBron played the most lifeless game I have ever seen from a player of his caliber in a contest of that importance. LeBron quit and you could see that his teammates did not know what to do: should they try to take over or should they wait for LeBron to snap out of his self induced funk? This culminated in game six when the Cavs did not even play the "foul game" in the last several minutes with the game still theoretically in reach.

I could have sworn that you said that LeBron is on track to be the greatest player ever because you expect him to win multiple titles. As I indicated in my Pantheon series, I think that it is difficult if not impossible to select one player as the greatest ever--but I'd take both MJ and Kobe over LeBron in terms of career accomplishments and skill set completeness.

Obviously the Lakers would have tried to make adjustments if they had faced the Cavs in the Finals but the Cavs would have owned homecourt advantage--the Cavs rarely lost at home the past two seasons--and the regular season games revealed that the Lakers would have had serious matchup problems with the Cavs.

 
At Friday, November 26, 2010 3:49:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

marcel

i thought boston was better team cause they won 4 out of 6 i never said because they won a blowout game 5. my point in that game it wasnt a close or like 5 point game boston totally outplayed them. for whatever reason i dont know, lebron didnt bring it like he should of but the game was bigger than that. if lebron had such a great supporting cast why couldnt they pick up the slack more. kobe shot 6-24 in game 7 at home and the lakers were able to win that game.

there professional basketball players cavs supporting cast and dont know what to do? come on you killed lebron deservedly so but you let them skate and at same time tell everybody how great they were.

to most myself included mj is goat kobe in top 6 to me. i agree obvisouly both had better career than lebron. lebron career not over all he missing is rings he has a chance to get those rings. we will see than at the end of his career where he stacks up.

 
At Friday, November 26, 2010 8:15:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Admittedly, this is a Heat article, but Kobe got involved a lot too, and I think it's actually related to the subject, so I am going to ask. How good a coach do you think Kobe would be when he retires, if he decides to try? Few great players have gone on to become great coaches, but he seems to have both the extremely deep understanding of and passion for the game and the leadership ability to make guys around him give their best, and on top of that he has been around Phil Jackson for most of his career so he has had the opportunity to learn from his man management approaches, as unique as they are. Of course, this doesn't guarantee him success, and it doesn't mean he will even try, but the ingredients seem to be there. And how would that change the way he is seen, if this hasn't been already done by his final years as a player...

 
At Saturday, November 27, 2010 9:35:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

You wrote, "they won by 32 him playing harder makes up a 32 point diffrence?" Now you write, "i thought boston was better team cause they won 4 out of 6 i never said because they won a blowout game 5." Please choose one argument and stick with it instead of switching around each time I refute your previous argument. Regarding your original point, each team had a blowout win during the series so it makes no sense for you to say that because the margin of defeat was so great in game five that it would not have made a difference if LeBron had actually tried--if LeBron had tried it is pretty clear that the margin would not have been that great! Your second point is tautological; it is obvious that the team that plays better wins--the question is why did Boston play better and a major part of the answer is that LeBron quit. He had an excellent supporting cast around him but you cannot hold his teammates primarily responsible for his failure to compete. The Cavs had played a certain way all season long and then suddenly in the biggest game he stopped trying. That is inexcusable.

Derek Fisher (4-6) is the only Laker who shot better than .390 from the field in game seven of the NBA Finals and the Celtics shot .408 from the field in that contest, so it is very strange that some people act like Kobe was the only player who did not shoot well in that game. Game seven was a defensive and rebounding struggle, with the Lakers dominating the boards 53-40 in no small part because Kobe had 15 rebounds, five more than any Celtic (Gasol had a game-high 18 rebounds). Kobe scored 10 fourth quarter points as the Lakers outscored the Celtics 30-22 in the decisive fourth quarter. It is completely ludicrous to even insinuate that any meaningful comparison can be made between LeBron quitting in game five versus Boston and the way that Kobe played in game seven; if anything, Kobe was trying TOO hard in the early going but he settled down and came through in the clutch.

 
At Saturday, November 27, 2010 9:51:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

Kobe has the requisite knowledge to be a very good coach and he clearly would command the respect of his players but it is too soon to say if he has sufficient patience to be a coach and if he is interested in working those long hours after working so hard for so many years as a player. Also, the only Pantheon level player who has won a championship as a coach is Bill Russell, who won two titles with Bill Russell as his starting center but no titles after he stopped playing.

 
At Saturday, November 27, 2010 1:30:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

marcel

the 2 statements dont coincide. you said lebron quit in game, essientially saying if he tried or played harder they would of won game. i said him playing harder makes up a 32 point diffrence. nowhere i said the celtics were better team cause they won by 32 in game 5 you made that up. that was about lebron effort and if he alone makes up that diffrence.

the second point you harped on supporting cast. but it seems lebron had to be super great for them to win games like many have said.his supporting cast in big games in playoffs alot the last couple years didnt play well. you contradict yourself by saying he had a great supporting cast but him not playing harder cost his team the game as if he alone can make up that big a defecit. youre not critcal of a supporting cast that let him down as well and a coach that let him down.

ron artest was mvp of that game with the 14 points in first half i always said. if he didnt have that the defecit would of been bigger. my point was he had players who picked him up when he didnt shoot well. odom also had nice game pau with 19 18 game. kobe played better in 4th an d was big with 15 boards. i wasnt critcizing kobe really even tho his finals performance havent been all time great. i was just saying his teammates was big in that game when he struggled.

 
At Sunday, November 28, 2010 1:58:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

Now you are trying to clarify what you meant but the implication of your original comment was clearly that you felt that the Celtics were vastly superior to the Cavs because the Celtics blew the Cavs out in game five.

I have already written quite extensively about the Cavs' roster so I am not going to rehash all of that; the Cavs were arguably the deepest team in the NBA in 2010. This year's Cavs roster is very different from last year's not just because of LeBron's departure but also because of the absence of Shaq, Z and Delonte West plus the coaching change; therefore, a direct comparison cannot be made but what we have already seen so far is that even the remnants of last year's team (Williams, Jamison, Varejao, Hickson, Gibson) are good enough to contend for a playoff spot in the East, so if you put Shaq, Z and a healthy West back on the team plus keep the coaching staff so that there is continuity than it is reasonable to suggest that the Cavs could even be a top four team in the East right now. Once Williams and Jamison get healthier and the Cavs better understand Coach Scott's system the Cavs will do even better down the stretch of the season than they are doing now.

You do not seem to understand the dynamics of a team. When the best player suddenly quits this is disastrous--it is much worse than if LeBron had simply gotten hurt and left the lineup. LeBron was on the court, so the other players clearly did not know how to react or what to do. LeBron dominated the ball all season long and then all of a sudden he started giving up the ball in order to stand around passively and watch his teammates suffer. The Cavs were really playing four on five.

In contrast, Kobe was fully engaged during game seven of the NBA Finals. He was playing hard and he drew double teams that created open shots for his teammates; their success did not happen in a vacuum but was a result of how Kobe played.

Some people talk about LeBron making other players better but what we are seeing this season is that good players like Mo Williams, Varejao, Hickson, Gibson and Jamison are perfectly capable of being effective without LeBron and that LeBron's Miami teammates (including All-Stars Wade and Bosh) are not playing better now than they did before they teamed up with LeBron. Contrast that with how Gasol, Artest, Ariza, Shannon Brown, Smush Parker, Kwame Brown and others have clearly played better as Kobe's teammates than they did before and/or after joining the Lakers.

 
At Sunday, November 28, 2010 10:00:00 AM, Anonymous JackF said...

@David
What do you make of Lebron bumping Coach Spoelstra on his way to the bench last night when they were getting beat by the Mavs? he did the same thing to Mike Brown when they were losing to the Magics too i think. And we all know how that ended up.
Lebron is finding out how hard it is to win in this league and how pissed off the league is over their antics during the summer. I still think that if you put Kobe on that Heat team, they'd definitely win more games because 1 he wouldn't be afraid to initiate the offense(like Phil J. likes to say). Lebron should have takes notice on how past Team USA teams struggled mightily agaisnt weaker(or perceived) competitions. In that game against Spain when they were down, Kobe demanded the ball and they all deferred to him on the floor even though lebron was going around telling everybody who would listen that "He's" the leader of that team.


Marcel is making is asumptions based on the final result of that series but not objectively looking at the rosters. That Cavs team played hard for Lebron and the Cavs dominated the Celtics whenever Lebron played hard. Anybody who thinks the Celtics were a vastly superior team to the Cavs is fooling themselves. That Cavs team won back 2 back 60 games

 
At Monday, November 29, 2010 12:47:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

JackF:

I don't make much of the bump; what is far more significant is that everything that I said about the Heat's flaws is proving to be true and, on top of that, LeBron is not playing with the energy and intensity that he displayed during most of his career before he quit versus Boston in last season's playoffs.

It should have been obvious long ago that a team built around Kobe would win more than a team built around LeBron. Do you think that it is an accident that Kobe has five rings and LeBron has none? It is funny that so many people talk about how LeBron, Wade and Bosh won an Olympic gold medal together while leaving out the "inconvenient truth" that Kobe saved the day in the gold medal game.

The Heat will fatten their won/loss record by beating weak teams but the problems that they are facing against the league's better teams will not be so easy to solve.

 
At Monday, November 29, 2010 6:26:00 PM, Blogger Bhel Atlantic said...

David:

I am not a Lebron lover, but just to play devil's advocate, what do you think about the accusations levelled against Kobe Bryant for allegedly "quitting" in Game 7 against Phoenix in 2006? He certainly didn't seem to be trying hard to win the game. Granted, his team was not very good, but they were in position to possibly get to the second round of the playoffs.

 
At Monday, November 29, 2010 6:39:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Bhel Atlantic:

This is not about "loving" one player or "hating" another but simply about providing objective analysis. LeBron's game is based on aggressively attacking the hoop but against Boston he gave up the ball without being pressured and then passively stood in the corner; it is obvious and indisputable that he quit--the only thing to speculate about is why he quit.

It is absurd to suggest that Kobe quit in game seven versus Phoenix. I refuted that notion both right after that game and in my article about LeBron's disgraceful game five effort. Here is some of what I said about this subject in the latter of those two articles:

"James did not attack the hoop, spending most of the game loitering aimlessly behind the three point line. Kobe Bryant was once senselessly criticized for supposedly quitting in a playoff game during which he scored 23 first half points before scoring just one point in the second half but there is a valid explanation for that dichotomy: the Lakers were getting blown out despite Bryant's early productivity, so Coach Phil Jackson decided during halftime that the Lakers should use their 'inside man' strategy to attempt to slow the game down. Bryant followed Jackson's instructions and attempted to feed his big men but the game soon got out of hand."

Simply click on the above links for more detailed analysis of game five of the 2010 Boston-Cleveland series and game seven of the 2006 Phoenix-L.A. series.

 
At Tuesday, January 11, 2011 8:38:00 PM, Anonymous khandor said...

David,

re: "I don't think that the Miami Heat will win the 2011 NBA championship but since they have three of the league's top 15 players they clearly have to be considered a contender. It is possible that they will either improve at point guard and center or else make some personnel moves to shore up those positions." - David Friedman

It is now Tuesday, January 11, 2011 and Miami has been victorious in 21 of their last 22 games to amass a current W-L Record of 30-9/.769.

The next 6 months should prove to be a most interesting time in the annals of NBA History, as the Lakers [reigning back-to-back champs), Celtics [2008-2009 Champs], Magic [2008-2009 Finalist], Heat [2005-2006 Champs]and Spurs [2004-2005 & 2006-2007 Champs] each attempt to lay claim to the 2010-2011 NBA Title.

 
At Tuesday, January 11, 2011 10:28:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Khandor:

In my Eastern Conference preview I predicted that the Heat would win about 60 games and I did not waver from that even when they got off to a slow start, so I am not surprised by how well the Heat are playing--but I also said that this team will ultimately be judged/remembered not by how many regular season wins they amass but how many championships they win.

 
At Wednesday, January 12, 2011 9:35:00 AM, Anonymous khandor said...

David,

At this point, which of the following teams do you believe has the 'best chance' of representing the Eastern Conference in:

Q1. This season's NBA Finals?

Q2. The NBA Finals for the next 4 seasons after this one?

A. Miami [30-9],
B. Boston [28-9],
C. Orlando [25-12], or
D. Chicago [25-12].

FYI, my own answers are:

A1. Miami; and,

A2. Miami.

 
At Wednesday, January 12, 2011 2:57:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Khandor:

Q1:

Boston Celtics, as I predicted before the season started.

Q2:

Tell me who will be on the rosters of those four teams (and the other teams in the East) and I will be glad to answer that question. Otherwise, the question makes about as much sense as asking who will represent the East in the NBA Finals in 2050.

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home