Tag Archives: Dirk Nowitzki

Seriously Lebron- What’s up?

52 to 11.

That’s Dirk Nowitzki’s fourth quarter tally and that second number is Lebron James.

I am going to preface this by saying I didn’t watch all of Game 5 but the beauty of social networking websites and 24 hour sports news networks and league specific channels running on an all day clock make it so that you NEVER have to kick yourself for not setting your DVR.

A few days ago I wrote an article questioning what was eating Lebron James.  What could possibly be weighing on his mind that could possibly cause a second consecutive crash and burn for the self-appointed King James?  If you believe the internet, then its Rashard Lewis.  But Mike Wise had a great line in his Washington Post article which says it best:

“After boxing, nothing affords a naked-eye view of a supreme talent like basketball. Viewers see James’s mood swings, interpret his body language, see the fidgety nibbling of his nails, the primal roar after a malicious slam, and they instantly feel they know him in a way they could never know a helmeted free safety or a masked goaltender.”

And we all feel that instant connection to Lebron James, the most televised athlete in the history of the game.  Lebron the phenom came up at just the right time, as social networking was exploding, as tv cameras were following child prodigies around, everyone carrying around smartphones so we would never miss a score, and as DVR’s made it possible for people to NEVER miss an important sports game ever again.  So his connection with us is instant.  We see everything even this unbelievable footage of Wade and Lebron clowning Dirk and acting as if he were putting on a performance with the reports of a sinus flu.

Yet, the biggest act has been this Lebron James.  Whoever this Lebron James is.  Is the real Lebron the guy who torched Boston and absolutely destroyed Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls?  Or is it THIS James, on the biggest stage of his career and looking about as lost as a kid who walked into the wrong classroom on the first day of school.*
*= not like that ever happened to me 

For James haters this is best case scenario: the Heat losing, and Lebron being a shadow in the fourth quarter shrinking under the weight and burden that his talent brings.  Who is Lebron James?  He’s the most televised athlete of our generation and yet we have no clue what he is.  But we will find that out in Game 6 and perhaps Game 7.  The law of averages for a talent of his kind suggests that he will get it together, put his skirt away and bring his man pants to American Airlines Arena in Miami on Sunday and help the Heat reclaim some of the lost momentum.

Of course, if they don’t, Lebron may never recover.  The camera tells the whole story.  Nail biting.  Lebron looking around for someone to get this hot potato we call a basketball away from him.  The pathetic display of emotion when he creates a turnover.  You know, the “I gotta show something here so that fans don’t think I don’t care” look of half ass incredulous-ness.*
*= yeah, I just created a word right there- deal with it! 

But if these last few outings have proven anything its this: we now have a clear understanding of who’s the man.  Its almost universal that Lebron James is the better player than Dwayne Wade.  But perhaps even that discussion is changing and shifting.  Because its what have you done for me lately and lately James hasn’t done diddly.  Wade, with bruised hip and all, sitting a quarter managed 23 points.  Lebron happy to play stat-sheet killer threw up a triple double and still the haters were in full force.

His supporters will run to that argument: are you kidding me? He had a triple double.  What else do you want him to do?

The only problem with that argument is he came to Miami because his supporting cast was infinitely better here.  Yes, I’m even giving Chris Bosh some props because I can’t be more impressed by him.  He can’t fall on that safety crutch that his teammates suck like he could in Cleveland.  Dwayne Wade has consistently shown up.  He will get the Finals MVP if the Miami Heat win.  Chris Bosh has been better than I EVER expected on the glass and he’s been consistent with his jumper.  But everyone’s waiting for Lebron to show up.

Don’t count him out either.  With his kind of talent you never want to give a guy like that motivation but the Mavs have consistently given him that motivation throughout.  Deshawn Stevenson said he quit.  Jason Terry dared him to think he could guard him for the next five games like that.  These threats should’ve fueled Lebron to have a monster games 4 and 5 and yet, it seemingly deflated him even more.  The thought process here is this: what’s going on that Lebron can’t seem to focus?  Where is Lebron James when his team needs him?

Physically its tough to miss him, mentally he’s miles away.  In his mind, the Heat have won the title and he’s playing pick up games with Jason Kidd and Jason Terry.  He probably hasn’t seen the huge banner that reads FINAL on it.  This is it Lebron.  Make or break.  Its about that time.

Oh wait, he said that too.

Now all this is making sense.  Lebron wasn’t teaming up with Wade, he was running to Wade.  Lebron said it perfectly: he was taking his talents to South Beach to be Wade’s lackey.  It makes sense that Scottie Pippen, always jealous of Michael Jordan and never able to do what he did, would dis Michael to give props to Lebron.  Because he sees everything in him that he saw in Lebron.  He wants everyone to make THAT comparison.  Lebron is Scottie 2.0.  And ya know what Scottie?  You’re right.  He is.  He’s Karl Malone 2.0.  He’s freaking Shawn Kemp 15.0 (i mean he has a lot of baby mama drama doesn’t he?).  Yep, he’s the evolution of the talented Superstar with one glaring thing missing: that ring.

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What’s eating Lebron James?

Honestly, when the question was asked about Lebron shying away from the big moment in crucial situations, even I was a bit taken aback by it.  I felt bad for Lebron who I reminded myself quickly should NOT be a person anyone feels bad for.  Not after the offseason and not after the preseason parade.  But I was a bit puzzled by his question.  Sure, Lebron is allowed to have one bad shot or one bad quarter which is all fine and well.  But if you want to be the best you have to earn it and for Lebron there is no other end game.  If he becomes anything less than better than Michael Jordan when all is said and done consider his career a failure.

Seriously.

Its not that I think being better than MJ is going to be easy by any stretch.  The weight of that title can crush any normal man but Lebron hasn’t been trained to be normal all his life.  His teenage years, his adolescent years have all been spent under the watchful eye of the television camera and so there is no hiding for Lebron.  He’s made his life one big Truman show so we can all enjoy and bask in the life and times of a great basketball player and before I say anything about his Game 4 performance let me repeat: Lebron James is already a great basketball player.

But game 4 was atrocious.  From beginning to end.  He looked like a rookie navigating his way around his first playoff game.  He looked like a kid in a toy store for the very first time.  He was there for the ride and happy to be there.  Unfortunately that’s not Lebron’s job.  Lebron is supposed to be everything and nothing that Michael Jordan was.  He has to take over fourth quarters.  He has to score the game winning basket.  He has to get the big steal.  He has to make the big defensive play to turn the tide.  That’s what HE has to do.

There is however, the problem of having someone on your team that can rival your own talent and skill set.  After all, isn’t that why Lebron and Wade joined forces?  Lebron never had the kind of band mates he has in Miami in Cleveland.  It was about winning and forming the best team possible under NBA free agency rules.  So if that IS the case. why should anyone care if Wade does the heavy lifting?  If Wade carries the team once in a while.  I mean, it was Lebron who carried the Heat against the Bulls.  Shutting down Derrick Rose on one end and then hitting clutch shot after clutch shot on the offensive end.  It was the fulfilling of the prophecy moment for most Lebron fans.

But Wade’s disappearance throughout the Bulls series was not due to failure of trying.  We never questioned Wade’s effort like Lebron’s clearly was after Game 4.  Lebron looked confused.  He looked uncertain.  He looked scared.  He looked lost.  He looked nothing like what we expect and what we expect is MJ.  What we expect are memories we have of Michael Jordan.  Sure we acknowledge the push off on Byron Russell in 98 but we remember the hand staying in the air as he posed for what SHOULD HAVE BEEN his final game.  An artist so sure of what to do in critical moments.  A different being in critical situations.  What was so crazy about LBJ’s performance was this: we saw it in his eyes.  He wasn’t in the game.  He wasn’t so much involved in the goings on of this crucial game 4.  Another game in which they held a 9 point advantage with 7 minutes to go and faltered again.

There are really two sad things about last night’s game:  If Lebron had looked anything like his normal self, the Heat win this running away.  They are up three games to one and on their way to either a five game win or six for added celebratory effect in downtown Miami.  They lost by 2 because for some reason Lebron just wasn’t himself for the entire game.  Dirk Nowitzki outscored Lebron James in the fourth quarter alone.  In 90 career playoff games no one had ever held him to single digits in points and yet on the Finals stage, in a game where I was blown away more by Dwayne Wade’s ability as the BEST two way guard in the game* than Lebron’s no show until I started looking for Lebron on the court like a parent who just remembered they had a kid with them.  Panic set in and I was wondering if Lebron was even in the game and then I saw him turn it over.  I went online looking at his stats and was confused.  6 points?  Are they only showing me the points for the quarter?
*= seriously if there is any argument I’d like to hear it because Dwayne Wade’s block of Tyson Chandler and his 32 points and his Finals MVP showcase performance are all you need to know to end any argument anyone has.  He’s the best 2 way guard in the game.  Better than Kobe.  Better than everyone.  Forget it.   

It was beyond me.  But that’s only because my expectation of Lebron is so much higher than perhaps he has of himself.  Maybe he’s unsure.  Maybe he got a text message from Delonte West and noticed he had checked into Akron, Ohio near his mom’s house.  Maybe the lingering Jordan debate is just too much for him.  Who knows what was bugging him, but what we do know is that for the Heat to win this series, Lebron has to be himself.  Lebron has to rise above his below mediocre self and become that guy from the Bulls series.  How can anyone think that Jason Terry can guard him?  Credit the Mavs D from taking the ball out of Lebron’s hand and making him throw passes to players wearing blue jerseys.  But also you have to consider that Lebron is fading from this series for altogether other reasons just like he did when he quit on the Cavs last year against Boston.

You have to wonder, what’s eating Lebron James?

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Dealing with Game 1 ramifications

Don’t quote me on this but: its over ya’ll.

It has been for a while but we never wanted to admit it.  We talked ourselves into adjmustment periods.  We talked ourselves into the whole “these guys can’t close”, “they aren’t clutch” arguments.  We even went as far as to say “they aren’t THAT good.”

Gulp.

They are.  If these playoffs have been anything its been the Heatles last song in a season long concert of hits.  Some were dicey and murky but in the end, these guys figured it out and have made it work.

Remember when we wondered who would be taking the last shot?  That debate is now moot because it doesn’t really matter.  Lebron and Wade seem to tag each other in in close moments and will their team to victory.

Last night was Lebron’s first Finals victory of many presumably.  If they can lift this squad of ho hums and nobodies then imagine what will happen when they fill out this squad with more talent.  How many Juwan Howards and Mike Bibby’s will forego extra dollars just to ride the James-Wade express to a championship?

This is only beginning folks.  When Dirk Nowitzki lifted up his finger to show the torn tendon that he suffered in the third quarter going for a strip of Chris Bosh- it might as well have been the white flag he was waving.

Jeff Van Gundy said it best: “the difference between the Mavs and the Heat are that Miami has Lebron James and the Mavs don’t.”. Simply put he’s the great game changer.  He pulls 60 regular season victories out of his hat.  He shows great feel and poise for the game.  He has incredible range as evidenced by his third quarter fall away three at the buzzer.  He now has added fourth quarter closer to his reportoire.

There is no place left for any Lebron hater to go.  His game is that good- we’ve always recognized that.  We have nitpicked and enjoyed his misery when he misses but those are Jordan like qualities he possesses.  He’s so good, he makes us hate him but marvel at the same time.

When I was growing up Michael Jordan consistently put an asswhooping on my beloved Knicks when it mattered.  In the playoffs he could not be beat.  It wasn’t close.  In the regular season he was human though he tried not to show it.  The Knicks would beat the Bulls and Knick fans like myself had this false sense of superiority that eventually came crashing down when Mike would eventually turn it to a level that John Starks, Patrick Ewing and Co. could only dream of.

Look at the teams Lebron has vanquished.  It was like his teams never beat the Celtics.  The season series was 3-1 in favor of Boston.  0-3 versus the Chicago Bulls.  Both series went in 5.  Finally the Heat were 0-2 against Dallas this season but after game 1, its 1-0 in favor of the MoHeat-os.

As a Lebron hater its difficult to view him as anything but a coat tail rider and prima donna and every other nasty synonym of loser I can conjure up.  But as a basketball fan I’m in awe.  A great one is forging his legacy before our eyes.  He’s asked for this attention, and gotten it, his whole life.  Now on his sport’s biggest stage he’s teaming up with his friend D-Wade to claim the last bit of relevant gold he has yet to put his stamp on: the NBA championship.

Of course the comparisons to Michael will only intensify.  In the aftermath of these Finals, it will go from Lebron winning his first championship to talk to me when he wins six.  After that, what will Lebron haters like myself do?  Will we ask him to lead his team to a better than 72-10 mark?  82-0?  Hey Lebron, betcha can’t score more than 100 in a game.  Yo Bron, nice triple double but can you do that over an entire season like the Big O?  What will we have?

Why? Because we’ve waited for MJ’s successor for so long.  Because we wanted Lebron to be that dude.  No matter what we say, Lebron is the closest thing we have to MJ.  Maybe not better Scottie, but close enough.  He’s the next version of the MJ type.  The successor, the evolution of the Jordan gene.  We don’t want to admit this but this is what we want.

We want someone to take the reins and ride the horse.  We want to witness greatness and marvel and hate on it.  We want Lebron to be what we know he can be: the best.  Period.

Last night’s late game pull away has been like a script the Heat have acted to perfection this postseason.  Line for line, scene to scene, it was a virtuoso performance by 2 of the best players, and Chris Bosh, who has done a more than serviceable job cleaning up the boards and tip ins that he’s managed to be very good but that’s as far as I’ll go in praising him.

The Heat have never looked like they weren’t in command and their defense has been the catalyst.  The Heat’s speed and ability to cover ground force Dallas’ shooters to not have the kind of open looks and opportunities they’ve been used to seeing these playoffs.  Terry, Peja, Deshaun Stevenson all had hands in their faces as soon as the ball reached them.  One by one they lost their confidence and they folded under the Heat of Miami’s defense.  The Mavs were supposed to be the deeper team, but it was the Heat who gained steam as the game went on.

It all adds up to a Heat game one win and a preview of things to come for several years.  The Heat are only going to get better folks.  Admit the inevitable and just enjoy the ride.

Gulp.

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the Inevitability of the NBA Finals

I dont know if Dirk Nowitzki knows this or not, but he’s the last line of defense.  He’s the last thing that stands in the way of Lebron James and inevitability.  The last stand against the great army that marches from the beaches in the South.  This aint Normandy but its imperative that Dirk and Co. storm that bleep.

History may say different, but for me personally and everyone my age, there has NEVER been anything like this.  In fact, let’s go one step further: there has NEVER been anything like this.  Imagine the best player in the sport holding it hostage over a year period prior to his free agency and then well into the summer until finally announcing his decision on a nationally televised “fundraiser”?  You can’t.  It has never happened.

Even Lebron can admit somewhere that the “Decision” was a misguided endeavor put together by friends and people who advised him to do this.  People who have constantly given him this sense of entitlement that rules don’t apply to him.  What else could be the cause of a human being putting on such a show?  It doesn’t make any sense.

The fact is, the Lebron James Summer culminates in these Finals.  I don’t expect anything less than a raucuous atmosphere in both American Airlines arenas.  I watched the game at Tonic last Thursday and the waves the fans were riding with each Lebron shot in the Fourth Quarter, in which he destroyed the league MVP in much the same way Michael Jordan did to Karl Malone when Malone won in 1997, was incredible.

We constantly compare Michael to Lebron but criticize Lebron for taking a much different path.  Michael didn’t let down an entire city because before he had to make a “Decision” the Bulls had drafted Scottie Pippen and had assembled the necessary pieces to make a run.  Michael had his shoe deal and hype coming out of college.  Lebron had his starting at age 13.  Michael went to North Carolina to learn his craft, Lebron played in front of a very demanding home town crowd who expected nothing but great things out of the kid from Akron.  Michael scored, and scored and scored but Lebron has had to score for his team, set up the offense and grab rebounds.

Consider the stat that STILL blows me away about Lebron James: he’s led his team in points, assists and rebounds, all three categories in the same game 19 times.  19!!!!  Nobody in NBA HISTORY has done it more than 3.  Let that sink in before you start cursing out Lebron.

Don’t get me wrong.  I still hate the prick for choosing to take his talents to South Beach over coming to the big city and taking on a real challenge but think about the even bigger challenge he created.

He brought this incredible weight and pressure on himself.  He chose to do go through with the Decision.  He chose to dis Cleveland as their owner said in his dis letter of record to Lebron.  He decided to join his friend Dwayne Wade in Miami and throw a big championship parade prior to the season and declare his intent of winning “not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six…..”  He’s the one that made everyone pissed off at him to the point that we laughed at every failure.

I remember a sense of unbelievable pride when the Knicks came back and beat the Heat.  Suddenly I fooled myself into thinking that this regular season game was bigger than what it was.  I remember believing the Knicks were better than the Heat.  That’s what Lebron did for the game of basketball.  He made EVERY single game matter.  Every loss was vindication for Heat haters.  Every win was greeted with cynicism; “only won by 15 eh?  WEAK!”

The Jordan comparison got to be ridiculous.  Jordan would’ve NEVER done this, never done that.  Jordan would’ve made that game winning shot.  Jordan would’ve passed there.  All this because we hated Lebron and those of us who had seen Jordan at his apex remember what a dominant figure he was capable of winning games by himself.  “Lebron can’t win by himself.  Look, he ran to Wade to get help.  He’ll never be number one.”

But after the last two rounds of these playoffs you tell me who’s team the Miami Heat is?  Who’s carried the Heat down the stretch hitting clutch shot after clutch shot?  The Heat trailed the Bulls in the last two games of that series and yet there was Lebron bringing them back.  I clenched my fist and held my tongue.  Finally, we were witnessing.  Finally, with a decent supporting cast, Lebron James was providing us with the magic that we were all promised from the moment he arrived in the public consciousness.

I won’t forget watching the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals Game 5 where Lebron scored 25 points down the stretch of the fourth quarter to will his team over a still formidable Pistons team.  Lebron James went on a rampage and could not be contained and THAT moment convinced me that he was special.  He was better than any player.  Nobody could stop him.

Throughout this entire playoffs I’ve been a third hating him, a third marveling at him, and the final third just being mad that he wasn’t taking over.  He’s had this ability all his life and he didn’t seem to understand how to harness it.  It came and went and when it wasn’t there he looked like a guy who didn’t care and as an NBA fan when you see a guy that big, that strong, that fast not able to post up Muggsy Bogues you’d be mad too.

I’ve always seen Lebron as a guy who could be, can be, and should be.  He isn’t.  Yet.  The scary part is, if he figures it out, he could go on a Jordan like run.  A run which the NBA hasn’t seen the likes of since Jordan himself.  There’s that name again.  A few days ago Scottie Pippen drew the ire of every basketball fan when he dared to suggest that Lebron James could be better than Michael Jordan.

Physically, its possible.  Mentally is what separated Jordan from the pack and even there I think Lebron has a feel for the game that very few have.  By NO MEANS am I a Lebron fan.  I want the Mavs to win because I think Mark Cuban being handed the Larry O’Brien trophy by a pissed off David Stern is must see t.v..  Because I think Jason Kidd deserves to win a championship and because I think Dirk Nowitzki will NEVER be appreciated if he doesn’t win one here.  Because the 2006 Finals were such a complete and utter disgrace officiating wise that karma MUST reward the Mavs with a title over this star laden team.

But if Lebron does win, I’ll be happy as an NBA Fan.  Amazed that one man put himself in such a hole and in such a bad way and can somehow still come away with a victory with a majority of the NBA fan base so violently rooting against him.  Against the inevitable.

 

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