- HOOPSWORLD | Basketball News & NBA Rumors - http://www.hoopsworld.com -
NBA AM: What’s Next for LeBron James?
Posted By Alex Kennedy On October 11, 2012 @ 9:00 am In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
Several weeks ago, LeBron James was asked to assess the new-look Miami Heat. The NBA’s reigning Most Valuable Player said that this year’s team has the potential to be “scary” good, even better than the group that won the championship last season. The 27-year-old may be right about Miami. After all, the Big Three – James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh – now have plenty of experience playing alongside each other and an improved supporting cast with the offseason additions of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis.
However, James may be the one who’s about to make the jump from very good to scary good. Entering his tenth season in the NBA, the superstar seems poised for a career-year. James has been the most dominant player in the league for several seasons, wreaking havoc on a nightly basis and dominating on both ends of the court. Last year, Wade handed over the reins to James and let him emerge as the alpha male in Miami. This season, we may witness James take his game to a new and unprecedented level.
Now that he has hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy, there’s much less pressure on James. The monkey is off his back. For years, fans and media alike questioned if James would ever win a title. Now, they’ll shift their attention and criticism to other ringless stars such as Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony. For the first time in his career, James will be able to play relatively pressure-free basketball.
Sure, there are still high expectations for James and the Heat, but nothing like they’ve faced in the past. For the past two years this team has been the center of attention, dominating the headlines and having their every move overanalyzed. Now their critics have been silenced and the basketball world has zeroed in on the Los Angeles Lakers, the league’s new super team and favorite to win it all. The Lakers may replace the Heat under the microscope and enter the season with a bigger target on their back.
Not only is the pressure off of James, the superstar’s confidence has to be an all-time high. He became only the second player in league history – the other being Michael Jordan – to win a championship, gold medal, regular season MVP award and Finals MVP award in the same year.
James was impressive last year, averaging 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists. In the postseason, he elevated his game and averaged 30.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists. James finished the season with the highest Player Efficiency Rating in the league, recording a PER of 30.8, which is nearly four points higher than second-place finisher Chris Paul.
However, James was at his best when he moved to the power forward position. He was incredibly efficient and effective at the four. In fact, when James was at power forward his PER was 37.1, which is unheard of and, if maintained over 82 games, would shatter Michael Jordan’s single-season PER record of 31.89 that he set during the 1987-88 season. James has said that he expects to play even more minutes at power forward this year, which could lead to a historically great season if last year’s numbers are any indication. James is already a match-up nightmare in the paint, but he has reportedly added a sky hook to his offensive arsenal, which could help him take his low-post scoring to the next level.
Allen and Lewis, who rank first and eighth all-time in career regular season three-point field goals made, could also make life easier for James. As we saw during the postseason, Miami’s offense is at its best when their shooters are able to knock down open shots. Shane Battier and Mike Miller came up big in the Finals, but they were streaky at times and Allen and Lewis are certainly an upgrade. They’ll spread the floor for James, allowing him to attack the basket and either score or kick the ball out for easy looks.
James has already solidified himself as the best player in the NBA, but now it’s time to strengthen his legacy. How much better will he get? How many rings will he win? In less than three weeks, he’ll begin what could end up being a career-year. After all, James is just now entering his prime and his best basketball is likely ahead of him. That is scary.
Bryant Rips Former Lakers: Kobe Bryant has played on some very talented teams. The five-time champion has also played on some very terrible teams. While the Los Angeles Lakers are arguably the best team in the league entering the 2012-13 season, it wasn’t long ago that they were rebuilding.
During the 2005-06 season, the Lakers were hard to watch. Bryant had a phenomenal season, averaging 35.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.8 steals. However, the superstar received little help from his horrendous supporting cast. Smush Parker, Chris Mihm, Kwame Brown, Brian Cook, Luke Walton and Laron Profit played significant minutes and even started some games. Bryant, who is never afraid to say what’s on his mind, recently reminisced about that team.
“I almost won an MVP with Smush Parker and Kwame Brown on my team,” Bryant told The Orange County Register. “I was shooting 45 times a game. What was I supposed to do? Pass it to Chris Mihm or Kwame Brown?”
Bryant was particularly critical of Parker, describing him as “the worst” and questioning how he made it into the league.
“He shouldn’t have been in the NBA but we were too cheap to pay for a point guard,” Bryant said of Parker. “So we let him walk on.”
This isn’t the first time that Bryant has openly criticized his teammates from the 2005-06 season. Last year, while speaking at UC Santa Barbara, he had plenty to say about Brown and his struggles in L.A.
“I got to say, it was tough doing it that year,” Bryant said of the 2005-06 season. “I was playing with guys – God bless them – but Kwame Brown, Smush Parker? By the way, what I say here, I say directly to them. I don’t talk behind people’s backs. The things that I say to you, I’m comfortable saying this to them and I’ve said this to them. But, like, the game before we traded for Pau (Gasol), we’re playing Detroit and I had like 40 points towards the end of the game. This is back when Detroit had Rasheed (Wallace), Chauncey (Billups) and those guys so we had no business being in the game. Down the stretch of the game, they put in a box-and-one so I’m surrounded by these players, Detroit players, and Kwame is under the basket all by himself. Literally, like all by himself. So I pass him the ball, he bobbled it and it goes out of bounds.”
Bryant rolled his eyes, slammed his hat on the table and then continued the story.
“We go back to the timeout and I’m pissed, right?” Bryant said. “He goes, ‘Hey, I was wide open.’ ‘Yeah, I know.’ This is how I’m talking to him during the game. I said, ‘You’re going to be open again, Kwame, because Rasheed is just totally ignoring you.’ He said, ‘Well, if I’m open don’t throw it to me.’ I was like, ‘Huh?’ He said, ‘Don’t throw it to me.’ I said, ‘Why not?’ He said, ‘Well, I’m nervous. If I catch it and he fouls me, I won’t make the free throws.’ I said, ‘Hell no!’ I go to Phil [Jackson], I say, ‘Hey Phil, take him out of the game.’ He’s like, ‘Nah, let him figure it out.’ So, we lose the game, I go the locker room, I’m steaming. Steaming. I’m furious. Then, finally I get a call, they said, ‘You know what, we got something that’s happening with Pau.’ I was like, ‘Alright. Cool.’ The first game with Pau, we ran the pick-and-roll and I slipped him the ball. He catches it! I was like, ‘Yes!’ Then, he makes the shot! So, as I’m running back to the timeout, I’m screaming. I’m jumping on Pau’s back. It was like, ‘Oh, I have someone that can play.’ That’s what I had to deal with the whole year. And Smush, I’m not even going to get into that.”
Bryant can look back on that season and laugh, knowing that he’ll never have to put up with that king of ineptitude again. Now, he’s playing alongside Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, who are a bit of an upgrade over Smush Parker and Kwame Brown.
Remaining Free Agents: The 2012-13 NBA season starts in less than weeks, but there are still some notable free agents available. Check out this position-by-position list of players who remain unsigned.
POINT GUARDS: Derek Fisher, Gilbert Arenas, Earl Boykins, Mike Bibby, Mike James, Manny Harris, Baron Davis
SHOOTING GUARDS: Leandro Barbosa, Mickael Pietrus, Michael Redd, Maurice Evans, Jason Kapono
SMALL FORWARDS: Josh Howard, Shawne Williams, Bobby Simmons, Bill Walker, Jamario Moon, Renaldo Balkman
POWER FORWARDS: Kenyon Martin, Ryan Gomes, Troy Murphy, Derrick Caracter, Jordan Williams, Juwan Howard, Francisco Elson
CENTERS: Ben Wallace, Erick Dampier, Greg Oden, Sean Williams, Tony Battie, Mehmet Okur, Hassan Whiteside
HOOPSWORLD Season Previews: The 2012-13 NBA season is rapidly approaching and there are plenty of storylines emerging.
Can the Miami HEAT repeat their championship quest from last season? Is this the final championship run for the aging Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs? Will Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks finally put all of their talent together and join the league’s elite? Can the new-look Los Angeles Lakers, now boasting Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, unseat the Oklahoma City Thunder as Western Conference champions? Is this the year the Minnesota Timberwolves reach the playoffs behind All-Star Kevin Love? Likewise, the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors are poised to make playoff runs of their own, but can they seal the deal? Are the Dallas Mavericks toast or will their new group of hungry veterans surprise us all?
The HOOPSWORLD team has these questions and more all covered and you can find season previews for all 30 NBA teams by following this link.
Article printed from HOOPSWORLD | Basketball News & NBA Rumors: http://www.hoopsworld.com
URL to article: http://www.hoopsworld.com/nba-am-whats-next-for-lebron-james
Copyright © 2012 HOOPSWORLD | Basketball News & NBA Rumors
Part of the USA TODAY Sports Media Group.