You remember the ones where he had the best team in the league and then quit on them against the Boston Celtics? Yeah, LeBron had a triple double. Yep, Wade and Bosh were both pretty pedestrian again. However, make no mistake, LeBron James lost this game for the Heat.
His 7/16 from the field wasn’t atrocious, his 18 rebounds and 10 assists were great. However, in the moment he kept shying away from shots, content to stand passively on the perimeter. No play more described this game then midway through the fourth quarter when he got a switch onto Tiago Splitter, spent 15 seconds dribbling to draw him into perfect isolation position…
Then, took two steps and passed the ball off to Mario Chalmers.
That was James all night long.
The Spurs were collapsing on him when he drove, but he was still getting open shots or finding wide open teammates for threes. Good things repeatedly happened when James drove into the lane, until he simply, inexplicably, stopped doing it. He passed out of controlling the ball, gave it up to teammates repeatedly.
Maybe he was trying to be unselfish. Maybe he wanted to play the right way. Throw out all the maybes, and what you have is the fact that he’s simply no Michael Jordan. When the Heat needed someone to take over and win the game for them, James was passive on the perimeter. When they needed a superstar to step up, the big three were all silent, but James is the one who has to take it on his shoulders.
Chris Bosh was never that player, and Erik Spoelstra’s doing him no favors by creating plays for him to hang out on the perimeter to shoot threes rather than using him in any sensible way whatsoever. When this guy gets another coaching job, he’ll be exposed as Vinny Del Negro part two.
Dwyane Wade was the guy who could take over for James, but his knee is too balky. He suddenly looks too old, too ineffective. He has to pick his spots, and I don’t know if this is a temporary thing with Wade or whether he’s simply slowing down, but if it’s the latter then Miami’s potential championship run ends in 2014. If it’s the former, tough luck for Wade to get banged up in the playoffs.
So it falls to James, and he didn’t seem to realize it last night. We all thought he learned his lesson last year. He finally got it. I’ve appreciated LeBron’s greatness while still disliking him rather profusely. I’ve called him the second best player in NBA history and the best player in the NBA by far.
I thought after tasting victory it would sink in. I thought he’d never shrink from the moment again, but here we are. Watching LeBron scared to take Kawhi Leonard off the dribble even when single teamed, still hoping that in the biggest of moments someone else could take the pressure off him.
Maybe he’s simply another Wilt Chamberlain. An absolute physical beast with unparalleled athleticism, but a guy destined to be too nice to crush the NBA beneath his thumb and take a fist full of titles.
If he fails to win this year? The questions will all come back.
He’s got six more games to answer them. I’m betting that he does it. I think his talent is still too great. He’s too good to go down like this. He won’t spend another game on the perimeter thinking God knows what with the ball before harmlessly passing it off.
He’d better, because the bad news for Miami? The Spurs played like crap for the most part but still got the win.