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NBA Sunday: James Taking Too Much Heat?
Posted By Derek Page On June 9, 2013 @ 10:50 am In NBA | No Comments
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LeBron James Taking Too Much Heat?
Four NBA Most Valuable Player awards and one NBA Finals MVP tend to garner a player plenty of respect among his peers and those who have come before him. For LeBron James, the question has never been the extent of his talent but rather how far his mental psyche would allow his physical gifts would take his career.
“LeBron is such a gifted athlete, and he’s way beyond the man-child aspect, the first impression,” NBA-legend Julius Erving told CBSSports.com’s Ken Berger. “It’s Herschel Walker, Bo Jackson and LeBron, OK? I mean these are guys when they were freshmen in high school, they probably could’ve been pros. I can only think of those three, and then George McGinnis was probably like that. Some get to the mountaintop and others don’t. There’s no guarantee.”
That hurdle was seemingly cleared this past season by James, as he silenced critics en route to his first NBA championship. However, James’ detractors have reared their heads once again just a year later as LeBron competes in his third-straight NBA Finals.
Despite scoring 18 points, bringing down 18 rebounds and dishing out 10 assists in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, James has received his share of heat over the past few days for not doing more. In crunch time, James scored six of Miami’s final nine points but it wasn’t enough to take down the San Antonio Spurs in the opening game of the 2013 NBA Finals.
“He’s a grown man,” Spurs’ head coach Gregg Popovich told USA Today Sports. “He doesn’t need any of you to tell him anything. He knows more than all of you put together. He understands the game. If he makes a pass and you all think he should have shot it, or he shoots it and you think he should have made a pass, your opinions mean nothing to him, as they should not mean anything to him.
“He’s a great player, and his decisions are what they are to gain. All decisions don’t always work out. They didn’t always work out for Michael (Jordan) or Tim Duncan or Shaq (O’Neal) or Kobe Bryant or whoever. You make a decision and that’s what you go with.”
As for Dr. J’s take, Erving believes James is already on the path to surpass some of the greatest players basketball has ever seen.
“Even though you’re gifted with that type of body and you’re a man-child, you still have to work at it — work harder than anyone else, still have to develop your skills, still have to increase your IQ in terms of your sport,” Erving said. “He’s doing all that. … He’s on such a path right now that he could surpass Michael [Jordan] and he could surpass Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar]. Those are the guys I think are the NBA’s best of all time. He’s in that conversation, and he’ll stay in that conversation.”
The truth is, superstars like James – although especially in James’ case – face unrealistic, almost super hero-like expectations that are nearly impossible to live up to. When the team doesn’t win, albeit it being just the first game of a best-of-seven series, the brunt of the blame falls on the team’s best player – regardless of individual performance.
Keep in mind that Miami lost Game 1 of the 2012 NBA Finals, only to rebound by winning four straight to secure a championship over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“I wish we could go 16-0 in the playoffs,” James said. “That would be awesome. There’s challenges that come from the game. You learn from game to game in ways that you can get better. I want to win just as bad as anyone. I’m going to put myself and my team in a position to win. I have to try to make the plays. I can’t worry about if people are saying, `You should have done more, you should have been more aggressive’ because you got a loss.”
Whether James drops 35 or just 15 points in a given contest, the reality is that Miami works best when playing as a cohesive unit. The beauty of the Big-Three model is that it allows the HEAT to bombard their opponents from seemingly every direction with a unified attack.
James putting the team on his back to score a ton of points isn’t the answer for Miami to take this series. In fact, reverting to the Cleveland Cavaliers-era James that couldn’t close the deal would be disastrous for Miami’s hopes of winning back-to-back NBA titles.
It’s clear that James is well-aware of this fact and the smart money says he finds a happy medium between getting his teammates involved and taking over Game 2 tonight in South Beach. NBA fans should expect another close contest as the two best teams in the league go at it once again this evening.
Game 2 is tonight at 8 p.m. EST and can be seen nationally on ABC.
Andre Iguodala On the Move?
As part of a blockbuster three-team trade this past August, the Denver Nuggets shipped veteran Al Harrington and young talent Arron Afflalo to the Orlando Magic in exchange for Andre Iguodala from the Philadelphia 76ers. Denver finished the 2012 NBA season as one of the worst defensive teams in basketball and bringing in Iguodala was a move dead-set on improving the NBA’s 28th ranked scoring defense.
While subtle, Iguodala’s elite-level perimeter D helped Denver’s scoring defense to move up from being second-to-last in the NBA. The Nuggets also finished in the top-five in point differential (+5) on the year with Iguodala in the fold.
For the season, Iguodala finished with averages of 13 points, 5.4 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game in his opening campaign with the Nuggets and this franchise appears intent on keeping the 29-year swingman around this summer.
“I didn’t bring Andre Iguodala to Denver to be here for one year and that’s what I’ve told him,” Nuggets president Josh Kroenke told The Denver Post’s Mark Kiszla.
The leader of the young, deep and talented Nuggets, Iguodala is viewed by Kroenke as crucial to Denver’s hopes of contending moving forward.
“I think he’s a vital piece on a championship contending team,” Kroenke said. “There are only a few true number ones around the NBA. And those guys don’t grow on trees, so Andre is a vital piece to a championship contending team.”
With former head coach George Karl out of the fold and former General Manager Masai Ujiri taking that same position with the Toronto Raptors, Denver faces plenty of questions this offseason.
“I think he has faith in me,” Kroenke said. “Andre is going to make the decision that’s best for himself this summer. But he knows whatever decision he makes, I’m trying to bring him back to Denver.”
While there may be potential landing spots for Iguodala that could offer a better option for the nine-year vet, there’s over $16 million reasons for the 29-year-old to return to Denver.
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