Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

LeBron Agonistes

In sports, it’s almost de rigeur to box the participants into simplistic, Manichean paradigms. It’s one of the main hooks, really. We (or at least I) retreat into passionate fandom/ascribe so much of our (my) emotional well-being to the scores of games because, in real life very, very, VERY few things are black and white. The majority of one’s daily events are semi-pointless minutiae that land somewhere within a miasma of vast shades of gray. No winners and losers. Just a series of tentative half-steps along a never-ending path fraught with anxiety and indifference and boredom and fear and indeterminate answers to unsolvable questions. (Yes, your humble correspondent is in a chipper mood today.)

But that’s the fun, dontcha know. Eff all those moral ambiguities! When you’re rooting for a team (any team), it’s wholly clear that on one side stands the nefarious villain, bestowed with Skeletor-like powers beyond our understanding, bent on the destruction of all that is good and noble and holy and All-American and brimming with earnest, selfless, hope and desire. Naturally, we are The Good and they are The Bad! And unlike the workaday world, in the end, it’s crystal clear whom has triumphed and shall be decorated with wreaths of finely spun gold and heralded throughout the ages with wine and women and song and who lays vanquished, covered in bruises that may not ever heal.

So after watching the Heatles (MoHeatOs, Golden Girls, Miami Thrice, etc.) succumb to Dallas, I expected to be filled with venomous, bile-ridden glee. Like (seemingly) the rest of the hoops-nation, I had draped LeBron in a dark cowl and cast him as Darth James. I mean, after the lugubrious preening of “the Decision,” followed by the now-even-more-mockable post-decision “Dance Party South Beach Pre-Championship Shingdig” (Or whatever it was called) and prediction of multiple titles, pretty much every other team/fans of all the other teams (especially the fine burghers of Cleveland) in the league wanted to see Miami, like the bully in the old Charles Atlas Comix, get socked in the schnozz.  And as a Knicker-backer, after two years of shedding contracts and openly pining for LeBron only to see him, like the archetypal actaeonizingly attractive woman at the bar, shoo us away, I expected his loss/failings would feel like a kind of vindication and I’d bellow, “See. He ain’t no Jordan! We didn’t really need the bastid anyways! He ain’t tough enough fer dis town. Fuggeddaboutit!” (Yes, my stock NY accent is quite similar to Jon Stewart’s)

But here’s the thing.

As much as I got a bang out of Nowitzki’s collection of feints, jab-steps and silky-smooth jumpers, I didn’t enjoy watching the Teutonic Titan kick sand in LeBron’s face. It just kind of felt…well…sad.

It was like he (LeBron) knew that he was doomed to failure. That for all his vaunted physical prowess, there’s an element missing there that can’t be easily labeled or identified. Those lacking a poetic bent might  say that he lacks a goddamn post-up game, but that’s for wiser, less-sentimental basketball minds than me to determine (and given the dearth of actual games that the lockout is going to leave us with, the wags/pundits certainly will spend much of the next few months musing on the holes in LBJ’s game). But as the minutes dwindled down in the 4th and LeBron hoisted a series of futile threes, I almost saw a flash of recognition, of dare I say it, self-awareness,. It was both utterly surprising and damningly ironic, since an utter lack of self-awareness (or at least any awareness of how his actions might be perceived by others) could be said to what led to “The Decision” in the first place. Maybe it was just the pain of losing, but I could swear I saw a moment of regret flash across his face. A regret for all that had passed over the last twelve months: joining forces with Wade’s team instead of staying in his hometown, making such a production out of free agency, and raising the stakes so high that anything less than total domination would be viewed as a personal failure on his part.

In my heart, I know that look. I know regret. And for the first time, I didn’t wish LeBron was a Knick or hate him for not being a Knick or see him as the big bad, I just felt pity for a man – a still-young man at that, lest we forget, coming face to face with his limitations (the Freudian in me would say he came face to face with his own mortality, but that’s another column altogether). And as much as I’d like to, I can’t kick that guy when he’s down.

91 comments on “LeBron Agonistes

  1. daJudge

    I enjoyed reading your post this morning with my coffee. Just great and beautifully written. Within the context of Knickdom, Lebron is the “big bad”. Kind of like Riley. Within the context of this world and what we read about and what we see everyday, Lebron is nothing of the sort. When I have my Knick’s glasses on, I hate him. When I’m dealing with the really evil stuff in this world, his antics become trivialized and more closely resemble the classically bad form we often observe in those who are self-consumed. I do not however even remotely pity Lebron James.

  2. Jim Cavan

    Bravo!

    I have to admit, as painful as it is to do so, and in agreement with Robert, that I felt a little bad for LeBron. But only a little. The sympathy was immediately washed away by the site of Dirk retreating to the locker room for a moment alone, Kidd and Terry rejoicing, and Mark Cuban finding a clever way to not accept the trophy directly from David Stern’s hands.

    Unfortunately, as a Knick fan, I quiver to think of how pissed off the Heat will come out of the gate next year. One thing that was rarely mentioned in talks about the Heat role players, is that, when you play day in and day out with two of the top 5 (and three of the top….. let’s say 80) players in the league, that’s bound to make you better. You can see it with Chalmers. You can see it with Anthony (albeit in his limited capacity). I think by next season you’ll see Chalmers running the point a lot more. He still has room to grow I feel like.

    Then again, I’m hoping Melo and Billups look at what just happened and realize that buying into D’Antoni’s offense is the best bet for this team taking it to the next level: crisp passes, quick decisions, finding the open man — all hallmarks that helped make Dallas so potent this year. One can hope, anyway.

  3. d-mar

    Yeah, Dallas’ offensive execution was superb, and against a very good Miami defense. Every time they tried to double Dirk he was patient and would find a cutter or open man. There was one sequence where I think Terry and Stevenson passed the ball back and forth 4 times outside the 3 point line until they got an open shot.

    As much as we all agree that defense wins championship, Dallas proved last night that offensive execution (and of course making open shots) can beat stifling defense. Hope for Knicks fans indeed.

  4. Count Zero

    Very well written piece — for a moment there I almost felt sorry for LeBron. Almost. Then I remembered the narcissism of “The Decision” and that South Beach Dance Party…

    Next season I will be able to watch them win a title without so much as a groan, but I am glad to see that the god of basketball turned them back at the gate this year as if to say: “Nobody just walks onto the court as Champion — you need to pay your dues as a team.”

  5. Nick C.

    LeBron makes himself very difficult to feel bad for. Wasn’t he tweeting five minutes after the game? Who does that??? Does Shawn Marion and whoever else get any credit for limiting his looks?
    I guess Dallas goes onto the list of teams with less than two “superstars” to win a title.

  6. flossy

    This was a beautifully written piece, but I can’t share the sentiment. I also noticed a certain look in LeBron’s eyes near the end of the game, that “oh shit, it’s happening again and I can’t stop it” look as impending doom became the full-fledged failure of the present.

    And I loved every second of it! Feel sorry for him? Hell, I had a goddamn schadenfreude orgasm watching that jerk be hoisted by his own petard. Beyond spurning the Knicks and the Cavs, more than the gross laser light show and promises of 7 rings, I think it was watching him and Wade sniffle and snicker and fake cough in mockery of Dirk Nowitski that made his comeuppance so incredibly enjoyable to watch.

    You couldn’t ask for a better karmic smackdown than to show that kind of hubris and disrespect for your opponent and then choke away the most important series of your life, against a guy who has been criminally underrated his entire career, who has persevered with one team for years, never complaining or making excuses, trying again and again to win the ultimate prize and finally breaking through.

    I don’t care if he comes back next year with a chip on his shoulder and averages a triple double. This was a richly deserved and total worth-it public humbling, and it felt great to witness what seemed like the universe saying “Um, actually? Up yours, buddy!”

  7. SeeWhyDee77

    Robert, my good man..awesome piece!! Well done old chap! I posted my thoughts on Miami in tha last thread, but I left out one defining sentence to my thought. If ur gonna have a “big 3″, do it the right way with pieces that actually fit…a la Boston. In my mind Lebron and Wade are the same player..with Wade being more of a shot maker and scorer. But their games are nearly identical. One of those 2 has 2 evolve like Pippen did alongside MJ. Pippen developed a nice outside game and great defense to compliment Jordan. With Lebron being quite possibly the best all around player we have seen and the great passer he already is, I suggest that Wade make this transformation if they wanna succeed. I am a fan of both players and I would hate 2 see them fail in that fashion. But I am a Knick 1st, and I don’t feel bad for them only looking at being 3 all stars comin together instead of how their games would actually mesh. Bosh is actually good where he’s at..It’s just Wade and Lebron that’s the issue down there. I just hope our own dynamic duo learns from this and are able to successfully adapt their games .

  8. flossy

    [whoops - I guess my language was too salty. Sorry auto-moderator]

    This was a beautifully written piece, but I can’t share the sentiment. I also noticed a certain look in LeBron’s eyes near the end of the game, that “oh sh*t, it’s happening again and I can’t stop it” look as impending doom became the full-fledged failure of the present.

    And I loved every second of it! Feel sorry for him? Hell, I had a freakin’ schadenfreude orgasm watching that jerk be hoist by his own petard. Beyond spurning the Knicks and the Cavs, more than the gross laser light show and promises of 7 rings, I think it was watching him and Wade sniffle and snicker and fake cough in mockery of Dirk Nowitski that made his comeuppance so incredibly enjoyable to watch.

    You couldn’t ask for a better karmic smackdown than to show that kind of hubris and disrespect for your opponent and then choke away the most important series of your life, against a guy who has been criminally underrated his entire career, who has persevered with one team for years, never complaining or making excuses, trying again and again to win the ultimate prize and finally breaking through.

    I don’t care if he comes back next year with a chip on his shoulder and averages a triple double. This was a richly deserved and total worth-it public humbling, and it felt great to witness what seemed like the universe saying “Um, actually? Up yours, buddy!”

  9. Garson

    If you hated lebron before, i cant imagine what you would feel after he said the following:

    “All the people that were rooting me on to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life they had before,” James said. “They have the same personal problems they had to today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want with me and my family and be happy with that.”

    What a douchebag! Something has to be wrong with him mentally to make a comment like this. He just keeps digging himself deeper and deeper.

  10. New Guy

    LeBron’s getting hammered for that quote but unjustly, I believe. He’s not taunting common people. He’s telling us that hating him and rooting against him didn’t accomplish anything, so why did we do it? The guy is clearly hurt. He went from being universally loved to being a national pariah.

  11. flossy

    [Okay--third time's the charm, I hope... I don't know why this keeps getting moderated but oh well.]

    This was a beautifully written piece, but I can’t share the sentiment. I also noticed a certain look in LeBron’s eyes near the end of the game, that “oh no, it’s happening again and I can’t stop it” look as impending doom became the full-fledged failure of the present.

    And I loved every second of it! Feel sorry for him? Hell, I had a schadenfreude climax watching that jerk be hoist by his own petard. Beyond spurning the Knicks and the Cavs, more than the gross laser light show and promises of 7 rings, I think it was watching him and Wade sniffle and snicker and fake cough in mockery of Dirk Nowitski that made his comeuppance so incredibly enjoyable to watch.

    You couldn’t ask for a better karmic smackdown than to show that kind of hubris and disrespect for your opponent and then choke away the most important series of your life, against a guy who has been criminally underrated his entire career, who has persevered with one team for years, never complaining or making excuses, trying again and again to win the ultimate prize and finally breaking through.

    I don’t care if he comes back next year with a chip on his shoulder and averages a triple double. This was a richly deserved and total worth-it public humbling, and it felt great to witness what seemed like the universe saying “Um, actually? Up yours, buddy!”

  12. Frank

    I for one don’t feel bad at all for Lebron. As much as some of the hate might be a little over the top, he really brought this on himself with that ridiculous “Decision”, then the equally ridiculous pre-celebration (I can’t believe Pat Riley of all people signed off on that), and the fact that I think he really thought this was going to be easy.

    It’s really what is by now a classic new-American story — believing you can reach the pinnacle of whatever without paying your dues, whether it’s the horrible reality TV stars that exist now (I don’t have to actually know how to do anything well or work my butt off at anything to become famous, I can just act stupid and dramatic all day long and let the producers cull through 500 hours of tape to find 22 minutes of cut-pasted bits that look good together on the show) or the Heatles, who really thought they were buying into a easy-bake championship.

    I don’t pretend to know what’s going on in LBJ’s head, but I can certainly believe that he lives in this weird little world where he’s just surrounded by enablers and yes-men all the time. It’ll be interesting to see how he responds to this. One really does wonder whether he has the ability to overcome all this negativity.

    Meanwhile- regarding next year and the next few years and the idea of “how pissed off” Miami will be coming out of the gate next year – maybe that’ll happen, but I think there might be a lot less awe than there was this year. The bully got bullied and sent home, on national television, with LBJ shrinking in the spotlight, with a bunch of 30 somethings schooling the new school superstars. Sure you there’ll be games where their talent just overwhelms people, but it’ll be interesting to see whether they may have lost that psychological edge after this series.

  13. DS

    @8 – Exactly. He’s not a terrible kid. But he has a thing or two to learn about media relations.

  14. Count de Pennies

    @7

    Yeah, when I heard that sound bite on the radio this morning I could only shake my head, marvel at his unrelenting tone-deafness, and think, “Dude desperately needs to hire himself a new PR guru.”

    However, LeBron also came this close to endearing himself to me for life. As someone who reflexively feels disgust whenever athletes credit God for their success on the playing field (a la Jason Terry), I long ago pledged to give my undying fanhood to the first player who blames God for their failures.

    Well, LeBron came pretty close last night, when he tweeted after the game, “The Greater Man upstairs knows when it’s my time. Right now isn’t the time.” Not quite the out and out condemnation I’ve been waiting for, but a step in the right direction nonetheless. Here’s hoping that that his next playoff failure gives him the courage to finally cross that line.

  15. Dan Panorama

    Great piece. I was ecstatic to see Dallas win, but there was something very sad about Lebron in that 4th quarter and that bit about discovering his mortality doesn’t seem that ridiculous if you actually watched him. He seemed to be somewhere else entirely.

    Not that it takes away from what Dallas accomplished — Drik really is a crunch time wizard and their three point rampage has to be an unparalleled achievement, let alone against the to defense in the league. But I would have liked to see Lebron put up some more fight.

  16. JK47

    “All the people that were rooting me on to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life they had before,” James said. “They have the same personal problems they had to today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want with me and my family and be happy with that.”

    He might as well have said, “All the people that were rooting me on to fail, remember that I’m rich and you’re not. I’M RICH BIATCH!!”

    I’m ecstatic about all of this. I’m grew up in South Florida, and let me tell you, the fans down there are the shittiest, front-runningest, most un-knowledgeable fans there are. A lot of my former schoolmates are my friends on Facebook, and they talked all manner of smack about the Heat all season long. Now that the Heat have lost, not a peep. The Heat are the perfect team for that fanbase– smug, entitled and overrated. And when the fans do crawl out of the woodwork, they’ll all be calling for LeBron to be traded and for Spoelstra to be fired because the Heat didn’t just roll over every team in the NBA.

    This is poetic justice and comeuppance of the highest order. I couldn’t be more ecstatic.

  17. Garson

    I think we can all take a little something away from this series on seeing how we can actually beat this team over the next 5 years.

    1. A defensive C – This is absolutely step 1. Its no secret that LBJ and Wades strengths are getting to the rim. How many times did they get there this series and got hounded at the rim , ultimately denied.

    2. A pass first PG – I believe Kidds unselfishness is contagious and rubbed off on the rest of the mavs enough to make them more complementry to each other.. We need a PG that Stat and Melo respect enough to be ok with not getting the rock at times.

    3. 2-3 guys off the bench that can light it up and bring energy – Douglass absolutely fits this role. Pairing him with a Farried type player would make sense.

  18. jon abbey

    JK47:
    The Heat are the perfect team for that fanbase– smug, entitled and overrated.

    just for the record, our team is also smug, entitled and overrated, as well as decidedly worse than the Heat.

  19. JK47

    Miami’s defense went in the crapper in game 6. They were not rotating quickly and didn’t close out well on perimeter shooters. The end result was that Dallas lit it up for a .567 eFG%, despite Nowitzki having a terrible game and missing tons of open jumpers.

    What do they do in the offseason if there’s no MLE? I would assume they’re stuck with Mike Miller’s bad contract, so that doesn’t give them a lot of wiggle room to add quality depth around their big 3. It’s hard to see how they significantly improve the club if they can’t get a reasonably decent C to come over for the MLE.

  20. jon abbey

    JK47:
    @15

    Then go root for somebody else and troll some other team’s blog.

    troll? really? what about what I said was wrong? is Carmelo really not just as smug as LeBron while being maybe half the player? I can both root for the Knicks and recognize reality, sad as it may be.

  21. Frank

    @18 – what makes you think Carmelo is smug? Has he ever thrown himself a celebration before he’s actually done anything? Even the whole MeloDrama was completely a media-created circus. The contract he signed allowed for an opt-out. He was doing Denver a favor by telling them he wasn’t going to sign an extension, and that if they wanted anything back for him, he needed to go to NY. What he could have done is not tell them anything, then leave them in the lurch, and then tell them that on national TV in front of a bunch of kid-props in the name of “charity”. Oh wait, someone already did that.

    And who else on our team do you think is smug? Billups? Amare? JJ? Balkman? Oh wait, I know – Rautins!

  22. ess-dog

    It’s nice to see a team win with experience. Kidd, Dirk, Terry and Marion are all between 32 and 38. You just have to hope that Melo/Amare can learn as much about the game as those guys by the time they are that old.

    You have to give credit to the Dallas FO for sticking with the plan and building a smart, cohesive team. I desperately want to hate a Mark Cuban team, but Dallas really is put together right. Chandler and Dirk complement each other perfectly. The Terry/Barea/Kidd guard rotation can do everything and they have Beaubois waiting in the wings! Marion isn’t asked to do too much and thrives in his role.

    We have to establish a core of guys and just build off them smartly. It does make you wonder if three max contracts is too much to build a team. Between Kidd and Barea, You have a much cheaper version of CP3.

    But I’m also not sad for the Heat. They got to game 6 of the finals in their first year together! They will only get better. You have to remember, often what you give up in athleticism as you get older, you get back in brains/experience.

  23. Frank

    looks like Nikola Mirotic is staying in the draft with the plan to hang around in europe a few more years. we need buy a 2nd rounder and pick him up – maybe he’ll come over and be a phantom 1st rounder like the Spurs always do.

    Interesting stats from Twitter from overnight:

    1) LBJ reg season PPG = 27, finals PPG =18 – largest differential in NBA finals history
    2) Mavs win championship with 4 former D-leaguers as contributors – Barea, Mahinmi, Dominique Jones, Beaubois
    3) Dirk with best +/- for the series –> +55. LBJ with worst plus-minus for the series –> -36

  24. Thomas B.

    jon abbey:

    troll? really? what about what I said was wrong? is Carmelo really not just as smug as LeBron while being maybe half the player? I can both root for the Knicks and recognize reality, sad as it may be.

    Anything short of “Whoo Knicks are duh best.” and you get called a troll by people who don’t even know what a troll is. Look I don’t always agree with you jon, but you always have a point and that point is rooted in fact. Trolls never have a point or anything constructive to say. It is true, Melo and Stat are smug and they don’t even have a trip to the finals to fuel that smug. Flawed as he is, Joel Anthony and Haslem are better defensive bigs than the Knicks have. The Knicks are worst than the Heat, check the standings.

    I’m defending jon abbey. Boy this really is some good sh#t.

  25. jon abbey

    heh, Thomas.

    Frank:
    And who else on our team do you think is smug? Billups? Amare? JJ? Balkman? Oh wait, I know – Rautins!

    did you miss the part where Amare told the whole world after game 1 that no one on Boston had a prayer of guarding him, then proceeded to get hurt doing a showboat dunk in practice that he would never ever use in a game and was a non-factor for the rest of the series?

    people’s memories these days are about seven nanoseconds long, they don’t even seem to remember how LeBron just was the Man while knocking off two very good teams in Boston and Chicago.

  26. JK47

    “Smug” is sort of an elusive word to define. I would think that naming your little threesome “The Heatles,” having a catwalk dance party with explosions and lasers before you’ve ever played a game, predicting that you’ll win seven titles and having an hour television special in your honor before declaring that you’re “taking your talents to South Beach” is a lot more smug than anything Melo and Stat have managed, but hey, that’s just me.

    There’s a reason the Miami Heat are the most hated team in pro sports. They’re epic douchebags.

  27. jon abbey

    and I love Amare (although his allergy to rebounding is often quite irritating), but how has he gotten such a free pass on that? like I said at the time, it was as bad as when Marbury proclaimed he was the best PG in the league.

  28. jon abbey

    JK47:
    “Smug” is sort of an elusive word to define.I would think that naming your little threesome “The Heatles,” having a catwalk dance party with explosions and lasers before you’ve ever played a game, predicting that you’ll win seven titles and having an hour television special in your honor before declaring that you’re “taking your talents to South Beach” is a lot more smug than anything Melo and Stat have managed, but hey, that’s just me.

    There’s a reason the Miami Heat are the most hated team in pro sports.They’re epic douchebags.

    pretty sure the Yankees are still the most hated team in pro sports, LeBron had the number one selling jersey this year.

    and yes, the Heat stars are more smug than the Knicks’ stars. they’re also a lot better.

  29. latke

    I have to agree with jon about ‘Melo and Amare. They are certainly not chill and humble like say Chris Paul or Kevin Durant. They’re more on the level with Deron Williams in that they come off as kind of high maintenance and a bit out of touch with reality at times.

    That said, Jordan was smug as hell. He just earned the right to be smug. He was also smug in a more self-aware way, it seemed. I always felt like his smugness was an intentional kind of trash-talk.

  30. Thomas B.

    Frank:

    @18 – what makes you think Carmelo is smug? Has he ever thrown himself a celebration before he’s actually done anything? P>

    smug
    adj. Exhibiting or feeling great or offensive satisfaction with oneself or with one’s situation; self-righteously complacent

    I think that describes how Melo and STAT behave.

    Anyway, I’m getting off point. Robert, fantastic work. Really captured what I was seeing in LBJ. I thought leaving the Cavs was the start of facing mortality for him. He realized he was not good enough to win one alone. Between that and the hair line (I’ve been there), he is seeing that he wont have his gifts forever. Heck, he could play at a very high level for the next 7 years. That is plenty of time for one1 title, but not much at all for 5-7 title. So yes, I felt a twinge of pity for him. I won’t kick him either.

    Very good work.

  31. jon abbey

    latke:

    That said, Jordan was smug as hell. He just earned the right to be smug. He was also smug in a more self-aware way, it seemed. I always felt like his smugness was an intentional kind of trash-talk.

    yep, Larry Bird too. I personally have absolutely no problem with smugness, you just have to be able to back it up. the Heat came pretty close to doing just that, but fell short in the end.

  32. Frank

    Not to belabor this inane argument (which I definitely helped prolong) but I don’t see Amare or Melo as being self-satisfied or complacent. I don’t actually see Wade as being that either, and I thought Bosh’s post-game comments were the most in-touch out of any of those guys.

    There’s a big difference between the level of self-importance/narcissism that encourages one to create “The Decision” and to prance around on stage in the preseason, and the level of self-confidence to say that “No one can guard me”– by the way, I do believe Amare went off on the whole Boston front line shortly after saying that, dunking on 14′ of Jermaine O’Neal and Kevin Garnett no less. Re: the dunk pregame that hurt his back – sure, maybe he shouldn’t have done it, but it’s probably something he’s done 1246256x in the past without any problem. Just bad luck and timing. If he hurt his back celebrating a big shot by chest bumping would you also be killing him for it?

    Anyway, my only point is that as egotistical as Jordan, Bird, or any of the true alpha-dogs have been, I don’t think any of them were actually self-absorbed enough to create something like “The Decision”. There’s being arrogant and then there’s HOF-level narcisissm. Maybe Jordan/Bird would stop time for a press conference, but that “Decision” was just totally out of hand, and only made worse by the preseason self-congratulatory party.

  33. latke

    Also, for those of you talking about the big-three’s window, James may be 26, but Wade will turn 29 in the middle of next season. How much longer can a guy who relies on his physicality and speed to score (not to mention the hits he takes in the process) continue to play at a superstar level? If you think about guys with similar body types and games — Baron Davis, Stephon Marbury, Steve Francis — the decline tends to come in the 28-30 range. Wade is a better player than any of these guys, so maybe he adapts, but I think it’s fair to say that Wade’s window as a superstar probably closes in the next three years or so.

  34. jon abbey

    “by the way, I do believe Amare went off on the whole Boston front line shortly after saying that, dunking on 14? of Jermaine O’Neal and Kevin Garnett no less.”

    nope, he said it after that game. he was a total non-factor after he said it.

    and it’s not getting hurt that I’m slamming him for, it’s the way that he got hurt in conjunction with talking unnecessary trash after game 1 of a series against a better team, not to mention a game that they LOST. Zach Randolph made the same mistake after game 1 of the OKC series, but at least they had won that game.

    Amare gets paid like he does to rise to another level in the postseason, so when he disappears like he did, it’s a big black mark on his NY record IMO.

  35. David Crockett

    Fantastic as always Robert.

    I don’t find all the media moralizing about “The Decision” and “The Press Conference laser light show” the least bit interesting. It’s just not that uncommon for accomplished people to be smug. Often they have to be humbled in order to grow. Life humbles them sometimes. Sometimes it doesn’t.

    Now I’m not especially poetic. So I prefer to marvel at how a guy who is basically the same size as Karl Malone, but with 4.4 speed, can look so awkward in the post. Nor has he developed a mid-range game. I wonder if this experience will motivate him to develop those features of his game.

    LeBron isn’t the only interesting story though. Dallas is also an interesting story. Some are framing Dallas’ win as part of a “team” > “individuals” narrative. But that isn’t the right one. To me, the better framing is “no-scrubs” > “stars & scrubs”. Dallas really doesn’t give minutes to scrubs, other than Stevenson. Everyone else who plays 20 minutes is basically a league average player or better (by PER).

  36. JK47

    @32

    Also keep in mind that Miami was pretty much 100% healthy by the time the postseason rolled around– the Big 3 were playing at more or less full capacity and they even got Haslem back in time for the playoffs. Dallas was missing two rotation players– Caron Butler and Spencer Haywood– and still had enough to get the trophy. Miami might not be so lucky with injuries in future postseasons.

  37. Robert Silverman Post author

    JK47:
    “All the people that were rooting me on to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life they had before,” James said. “They have the same personal problems they had to today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want with me and my family and be happy with that.”

    I may have to delete my entire post. My response to that quote is to to quote The Big Lebowski:

    “You’re not wrong, Walter (LeBron), you’re just an a**hole!”

  38. nicos

    Nice piece Robert! I do think LBJ got a big reality check in this series and now we’re going to see how he responds- does he spend the summer shooting 1000 threes a day and working on developing a legit post move or two or does he spend it hanging out with Drake tweeting about all the haters?

    And I do think LBJ looked really worn out for much of the series- Both Chicago with Deng/Brewer and Dallas with Stevenson really pressured him every time he brought the ball up and I think Spoelstra’s decision to have him running around the perimeter defending 1’s (Rose) and 2’s (Terry) really took his legs away. He lacked that burst in transition and didn’t explode to the hoop on his drives the way he usually does. I do think he was tentative but I think he was also just plain tired.

  39. Mike Kurylo

    Robert Silverman: I may have to delete my entire post. My response to that quote is to to quote The Big Lebowski:

    “You’re not wrong, Walter (LeBron), you’re just an a**hole!”

    You shun LeBron when all of NY is showering him with adoration, and you show him mercy when everyone thinks he’s the world’s biggest ass. You sir, are just a contrarian! ;-)

  40. Robert Silverman Post author

    Mike Kurylo: You shun LeBron when all of NY is showering him with adoration, and you show him mercy when everyone thinks he’s the world’s biggest ass. You sir, are just a contrarian! ;-)

    Hey, that’s what you pay me the big bucks for, Mike!

  41. Frank

    I think my main problem/issue with Lebron is that I’m just so….disappointed with how this has all turned out. Not that he cares, or that I have a right to be “disappointed” in someone I don’t even know, but he was sold as the “King”, and clearly has more physical gifts than any wing player maybe in NBA history. But since his basically magical first 5-6 years in the league, he’s been exposed as painfully out of touch with the world outside his entourage, very narcissistic, and without the killer instinct that defines the great ones. I know he played well in the 4th in all the other playoff series, but really – he was just horrible, tentative, and invisible in this series – something that no other player belonging in the GOAT conversation would ever allow. I think we as fans always hope to “witness” true greatness, and LBJ was our best hope of this generation. But brick by brick that house is being torn down.

    Part of me is all schadenfreude on this and is really happy that he failed, but part of me does hope that he does some real introspection over the offseason and decides what he really wants his legacy to be. Is it Easy Street South Beach LBJ or will he learn from this and come back transcendentally better?

    Anyway, here’s to hoping that we can find someone, anyone that can approximate what Tyson Chandler did in this series. Really amazing to me how differently the 2 Baby Bulls have done – Chandler is just a warrior, and Curry has turned out to be the exact opposite.

    Last random thought – I love Jeff Van Gundy. Just listening to him talk on the broadcast about the minutiae of good defense makes me hearken for the good ol’ 90s NYK. I would be so happy if he took this team over one day.

  42. Thomas B.

    JK47:

    @32

    Dallas was missing two rotation players– Caron Butler and Spencer Haywood– and still had enough to get the trophy.

    The entire NBA has been missing Spencer Haywood since 1982. Brendan Haywood on the other hand….

  43. Robert Silverman Post author

    I agree, Frank. Another part of this is that we watch sports, not only because of the whole good/bad, us/them thing. We watch because in every game there’s a chance we’ll see something GREAT. Something where years from now we can describe in vivid detail where we were when it happened (Game Six of the ’86 series, for instance) And no player in the NBA since Jordan left has offered as much of a possibility of GREATNESS on a nightly basis as LeBron. To see him spit the bit feels like he’s letting US down as much as himself.

  44. Mike Kurylo

    Robert Silverman: Hey, that’s what you pay me the big bucks for, Mike!

    Very big bucks!

    Robert Silverman:
    I agree, Frank. Another part of this is that we watch sports, not only because of the whole good/bad, us/them thing. We watch because in every game there’s a chance we’ll see something GREAT. Something where years from now we can describe in vivid detail where we were when it happened (Game Six of the ’86 series, for instance) And no player in the NBA since Jordan left has offered as much of a possibility of GREATNESS on a nightly basis as LeBron. To see him spit the bit feels like he’s letting US down as much as himself.

    Bill Buckner missing a ground ball was great (or the meltdown of Schiraldi & Stanley)? Well I guess it did deny the Red Sox a world series victory. By those standards, the Miami Heat gave a Boston ’86-esque type of performance.

    When I hear greatness I think of Reggie’s 3 homers, or Joe Carter vs. Mitch Williams.

  45. art vandelay

    As a die hard Mets fan, I think game 6 was not great becaues of the botched ground ball by buckner or the wild pitch, but the 2-run down comeback with the consecutive singles….being down to the last strike with boston one pitch from immortality…I think the circumstances surrounding the comeback made it an all-time great for mets fans and baseball (non-Red Sox) fans alike….not so much the particular mookie wilson groundball!

    and yes, those other plays you mentioned I think go down as all-time great moments, not to mention the Kirk Gibson home run off of Eckersley…

  46. The Honorable Cock Jowles

    I read a basketball blog whose post titles allude to one of Milton’s lesser-known “major” poems. Weird.

  47. Frank

    Robert Silverman:
    I agree, Frank. Another part of this is that we watch sports, not only because of the whole good/bad, us/them thing. We watch because in every game there’s a chance we’ll see something GREAT. And no player in the NBA since Jordan left has offered as much of a possibility of GREATNESS on a nightly basis as LeBron. To see him spit the bit feels like he’s letting US down as much as himself.

    And that’s the other side of those tasteless comments he made yesterday about fans going back to their own lives and personal problems. The whole point of sports is to be a great diversion, for fans to be able to forget about their marital problems or kid problems or financial problems or whatever problems for a few hours — and the reason he gets paid $$$$$$$ is because he’s supposed to be the BEST diversion, to show us the bounds of human potential, against all odds, etc. etc.. I’m not the biggest Kobe fan in the world, but what you can definitely respect about him is that he HATES to lose and that he takes losing more personally than anyone else – and watching his struggle to be perfect makes him all the more diverting from the monotony of everyday life. So for LBJ to say “Sorry we lost, go on back to your pathetic life and I’ll continue to fly around in my G5″ is to completely miss the reason why he IS famous and rich. His current life exists only because fans NEED this and are willing to pay for it – To say it another way, if fans did not have the “personal problems” and struggles, there’d be no need for him at all – we’d all just be basking in our happiness. His basketball greatness is not a favor to us, and to belittle the fans’ lives is thoughtless and out of touch at best, and cruel at worst.

  48. d-mar

    jon abbey:

    Amare gets paid like he does to rise to another level in the postseason, so when he disappears like he did, it’s a big black mark on his NY record IMO.

    Jeez, Jon, the guy has a phenomenal game 1, gets hurt before game 2 (and we can argue all day about how he hurt himself and whether it was some kind of irresponsible act) and he has “a big black mark on his NY record”? After one season? That’s a bit harsh, don’t you think?

  49. adrenaline98

    On LeBron’s comments of “those people have to go on living the way they do…” so on and so forth: I really have no problem with what he says. It’s true.

    I know I, like many of you, have day to day problems whether it’s job, relationship, or family issues, to take care of. And those that have some real problems find sports as their outlet, whether it’s rooting for your team, suffering with your team, hating another team or hating another player. It’s true, those that harbor real hatred toward LeBron really need to get a life. To me, sports hate and real hate are different things. I hate the Red Sox (huge Yankee fan here) but I don’t root for their players to get injured. I hate losing to the Red Sox, and I wanted CC, Burnett, and the pitching staff to plink Ortiz for that bat flip, but I don’t want them to nail him in the head either.

    These are who LeBron is addressing, the uneducated fan who simply hates for hating, that wish bad upon him.

  50. art vandelay

    I don’t think the injury he sustained and the subsequent poor performance the rest of the series (leaving aside the manner in which he injured himself) erases what he did for the team and the city by taking on the challenge of playing in NY when no other high-profile talent was willing to take Dolan’s money and the Knicks were a decade-long butt of late-night TV monologues….I think he still deserves a lot of credit for backing up that play with superb performance for the first 50 games of the seasons, including the 9 30+ point scoring games….under bright lights…he broke down physically and we need to bolster our front court so that he doesn’t matchup against Dwight Howard and other opposing centers on a nightly basis…

    he is by no means perfect…his pick and roll defense is unsightly, but to say that his record in NY is tarnished because of his post-season performance this past season while injured to me seems a bit much. If the Knicks get cp3 after already having attracted Melo and it ultimately leads to a championship, he is the single most important Knick (including Ewing) and acquisition since the 73 season in my book…how’s that for hyperbole!!!

  51. adrenaline98

    @47,

    Frank, I disagree. Some (I) don’t watch sports because I struggle financially or with personal issues, or mental handicaps, or whatever reason. You are partially correct in that I watch it to see someone strive for perfection, or near perfection. But growing up, as a ball player, I watch because I love the many facets of the game and because I cannot replicate what they do. I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t wait to get on the court after a Knicks game and try to pull off some Jordan moves, then relent and check when the next playoff game was on.

    I get where you are coming from, but I don’t think LeBron’s comments were as bad as people made it out to be. I think he is frustrated with how the media/fans constantly attack him when he doesn’t play well and what he’s really trying to say is that we take it way too personally to hate on someone else. I get that. I’m with him on that. Personally, I HATED that the Knicks get swept, but I don’t hate Boston for it. That’s kind of the sad part about this series. It drew so much rating because of people’s hatred for LeBron, NOT because they were Dallas fans. People were watching to watch him fail, not the Mavs succeed.

    Like I said in the above post, if you are rooting for people to get hurt, to have bad things happen to them or their family, then you have major issues that need addressing before you watch a sport. Some of these fans are sitting near courtside constantly heckling, talking about people’s children/mother/wife/family, and it’s something he has to deal with half the year. I don’t care how much money you make, shit gets old quick.

    P.S., here is an awesome picture for all:
    http://img151.imageshack.us/img151/9563/yyjhn6y.png

  52. nomi

    OK, I for one never wished him a Knick. And rooted vigorously against him. It was his dial it in attitude as if everyone would cower before the triumvirate. And his comments about everyone who rooted against him (IS he surprised????) just shows how much of a child he still is. And I guess there, I have to agree with you. I do feel sorry for him. Get a life LBJ.

  53. nomi

    P.S. I actually was rooting for Dallas, as much as I hate LBJ also because I do like Dirk.

  54. jon abbey

    d-mar: Jeez, Jon, the guy has a phenomenal game 1, gets hurt before game 2 (and we can argue all day about how he hurt himself and whether it was some kind of irresponsible act) and he has “a big black mark on his NY record”? After one season? That’s a bit harsh, don’t you think?

    so funny how different players get such wildly different expectation bars. LeBron is a failure because all he did was knock out a tough veteran Boston team, shut down Derrick Rose to knock out the best record in the league Bulls, and take his team to the Finals before running out of gas or nerve or whatever the hell just happened.

    Amare, on the other hand (who gets paid more than LeBron, FWIW), delivered at the level we’d hope for in the playoffs for one game out of four, so yeah, it’s a black mark in my book. he can erase it in the future, just like LeBron can erase this Finals performance with a few Finals MVP-level performances, but it cost them this year and he’s not getting any younger.

  55. art vandelay

    I think the expectations coming into this season with the roster as constructed following summer 2010 was that knicks would hopefully qualify for 2011 playoffs, more than likely with 7th or 8th seed (6th seed being a reach)…although they disappointed in playoffs, largely in part to injuries sustained by Billups and Amare, I think the season was largely a success with regard to initial expections….Amare played a huge role in getting the knicks in position to be a 6th seed and qualify for playoffs….for first time in 7 seasons, so I really don’t think Amar’e’s performance, as it relates to the team’s overall realistic goals for the season could be deemed a failure or a “black mark”.

  56. jon abbey

    my expectations coming into the season were that NY win one playoff game (not a series, one game), and with the Melo acquisition, I raised that to two playoff games. so in that context, you can maybe understand my Amare comments better.

  57. Frank

    jon abbey:
    Amare, on the other hand (who gets paid more than LeBron, FWIW), delivered at the level we’d hope for in the playoffs for one game out of four, so yeah, it’s a black mark in my book.

    dude Amare got injured – he didn’t disappear like LBJ. that’s like saying that Caron Butler really disappointed in this series.

    Look, LBJ played great against Boston and Chicago, but he absolutely disappeared in crunch time in the Finals. Whether it’s fair or not, players get judged on how they play in the biggest moments, not on how they played in the conference semifinals. And it’s not like Ewing, who for all his faults, went down swinging and playing to the best of his relatively limited athletic ability (as compared to Hakeem or Robinson etc.). LBJ’s the most physically talented player maybe in history, certainly at the wing position.

    Amare is a great player, but I don’t think anyone would or should have the same expectations of him as they do of Lebron regardless of what they’re paid (what’s $4-5million dollars to someone whose made probably $200M+ in his career?). Lebron is/was in the running to be considered GOAT, and he was joining a team that was supposedly ready-made for a championship and that talked about winning 6 or 7 championships like it was a foregone conclusion. Amare joined a totally moribund laughingstock franchise that hadn’t had a .500 record in 10 years, and said it was his goal to make the playoffs. That’s why they have different bars.

    Going forward, we expect the TEAM to contend for a championship, but no realistic fan ever expected much more than we got this year from the NYK.

    I appreciate that you think of yourself as a “realistic” Knicks fan, but you should put the self-flagellation down – it’s much less painful that way =).

  58. Ted Nelson

    Jon,

    I understand what you mean about narratives… but you’re not making much sense. Amare was known to be injured… how he got injured looks bad and subjects him to criticism, but comparing him to a player with no known injury is totally unfair. Perhaps LeBron was injured, too, but I heard no word of that outside of one game where he was said to have a cold. Whatever you do or don’t want to say about LeBron, judging the Knicks’ playoff series in which two of their top 3 players got hurt out of context is utterly ridiculous.

    Who knows what they would have or wouldn’t have done healthy, but judging the Knicks based on playoff wins without the context of Billups and Amare being out/hurt is roughly like judging the Heat’s playoffs if Wade got hurt for the season mid-game 1 and then Bosh got hurt and didn’t play up to his level after that… then saying “haha, LeBron is a loser cause the Heat didn’t win x, y, or z series.”

    We were all disappointed the Knicks got swept. But your view is anything but realistic. Reality is 2 of their 3 best players got hurt. Your view is totally pessimistic, which is the norm for your views. To get to reality you should probably just get in the habit of doubling the optimism of your initial reaction.

  59. art vandelay

    I agreed with Ted….and by the same notion, if you are going to upgrade your pre-season expectations on the basis of the Melo trade by a playoff win or two, then you must accordingly downgrade said expectations once the STAT and Billups injuries occurred.

  60. jon abbey

    I am not equating Amare and LeBron. I am blaming Amare for talking trash to the press and then injuring himself before playing another minute. if that is too pessimistic, so be it.

  61. KnickfaninNJ

    Frank,

    You say that LeBron disappeared in crunch time in the finals, but I think Nicos is right. LeBron was tired. That’s the fault of Spoelstra, who started playing him almost entire halves in the finals rather than giving him ordinary rest, not the fault of LeBron. It’s the same mistake that Thibideau made against the Heat, who decided to play his starters almost all the time and then started losing games instead of winning them.

    It reminds me of a story I once heard about football. In the 40’s, when World War II was underway, Army was by far the strongest team in college football because of the draft and all of their recruits. Michigan had to play them in a game and was expected to get blown away because of the talent disparity. The Michigan coach (I think it was Fielding Yost) didn’t know how to beat them, so he decided to play different players for offense and defense. This was really radical at the time because every team played basically their best eleven players on both offense and defense. Michigan did stunningly well against Army, only losing by a little (something like 13 to 7) and after that two platoon football took over and now everyone does it. The moral, no matter how talented your players, they need rest and lack of rest is a great equalizer.

  62. BigBlueAL

    jon abbey:
    I am not equating Amare and LeBron. I am blaming Amare for talking trash to the press and then injuring himself before playing another minute. if that is too pessimistic, so be it.

    Considering Big Baby Davis started it before the series I cant blame Amar’e for talking trash after Game 1 with the way he dominated KG and Big Baby that game.

  63. Shad0wF0x

    I don’t know if this was brought up before but we have to consider how fast a player of LeBron’s size changes directions. There has to be a considerable amount more power used in order to move his 270+ lbs frame as compared to someone like a 190+ Rip Hamilton.

  64. Jake S.

    Robert Silverman
    June 13, 2011 at 2:43 pm
    JK47:
    “All the people that were rooting me on to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life they had before,” James said. “They have the same personal problems they had to today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want with me and my family and be happy with that.”

    I may have to delete my entire post. My response to that quote is to to quote The Big Lebowski:

    “You’re not wrong, Walter (LeBron), you’re just an a**hole!”

    Bravo. And while we’re tossing around pop culture references, I nominate this scene as decent metaphor for the series as a whole: the old having a go at youth.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42NWhheTaQU

  65. Ben R

    Amare’s record in NY has been okay. He is an all-star, he was brought in to be an all-star and he is paid like an all-star, he has been okay but not deserving of unconditional praise. His TS% was a full 5% lower then any of the last 6 years (discounting the year in which he played 50 minutes), his defense especially on the pnr was appalling and if he boxed out once I missed it. The fact that he talked smack after a game the Knicks lost was stupid and while the injury isn’t necessarily his fault it is what it is and he doesn’t get a pass for it. He had a terrible playoffs which wasn’t super surprising since he had a bad march and april, the injury just clinched it.

    He got paid a max contract to play here, it’s not like he did it for free why does he get praise for simply accepting our max contract and playing here. I expect results not just a great attitude and rising to the challenge of playing in NY. The results this year were mixed, they started poor, got fantastic and then faded ending in a terrible playoff series. The jury is still out on Amare. I’m glad he’s a Knick but I don’t think he is beyond reproach and I don’t think Jon is wrong in pointing that out.

  66. jon abbey

    thank you.

    again, I have always been a fan of Amare, warts and all, and I was really glad they signed him over Bosh or Boozer. but I think he’s getting a bit of a free pass for his part in how the season ended, maybe partly because he’s likeable and media-friendly, partly because no one expected us to beat Boston anyway, and partly because of the injury.

  67. Shad0wF0x

    The #1 thing Amar’e should learn this off-season is how to box out. There’s no way he shouldn’t be averaging 12 rebounds a game for this team.

  68. nicos

    Shad0wF0x:
    What do you guys think of what Kerr said?

    http://basketball.realgm.com/wiretap/214106/Kerr_Sees_Similarities_Between_James_Pippen

    I’m still aghast by his lack of a post-up game. Is it because he is so physically imposing that he never bothered to develop it?

    LBJ may be MJ when it comes to scoring but he sure ain’t Pippen either- in his best years Pippen was an 18-20 point guy, LeBron is 25+ and a good deal more efficient as well. He’s also a better distributer than Pippen ever was. I don’t think he’s quite as good as Pippen defensively (though he’s still getting better) but he’s a much, much more productive player on the offensive end- really no comparison. I do think he should make a more concerted effort to develop a post game- it’d give him something productive to do when the ball’s in Wade’s hands- something that was clearly a problem in the finals. I think in Cleveland it was his responsibility to initiate the offense more often than not so it’s not surprising he’s never learned to play out of the post. My fear as a Knicks fan is that he will get more comfortable in the post and he’ll learn to control the game from the mid-post like Magic was able to do in half-court sets- if he does that (and Wade stays healthy and productive) you could be looking at a dynasty.

  69. Z-man

    I don’t care much about how LeBron “feels” and have absolutely no sympathy for him. In that regard, I also don’t “hate” him any more than I “hate” Paul Pierce or KG. This is sports, after all.

    That said, I found myself rooting big time for the Mavs, and was extra happy to see the preening big 3 humiliated and devastated. The Decision, the coming out party, IMO, were completely classless and indefensible. (To be fair, I wasn’t a fan of all that “I’m comin’ home” stuff when we got Melo.) But at the end of the day, this is sports, and getting overly into the personal life and frailties of the entertainers is not my thing. LeBron sucked as a basketball player relative to his talent in the finals, and the Mavs were clearly the better “team.” Actually, I thought the role players for the Heat, like Miller, Bibby, etc. are getting a bit of a pass. Miller in particular was a dog all year, and he was supposed to be a big part of the Heat success. Bibby is younger than Kidd and was totally out of the rotation.

    On to next year!

  70. Z-man

    BTW, I thought Chalmers looked pretty good for a young PG until he lost his cool in game 6.

  71. Frank

    Great/interesting article about “clutch” statistics and how Jason Kidd and the rest of the Mavs succeed during winning time. As I’ve tried to say here a bunch of times, just because you can’t make out a signal amongst all the noise (ie. all the supposed “studies” showing there is no effect in clutch time) doesn’t mean there’s no signal — it might just mean you don’t know how to find it.

    http://thepaintedarea.blogspot.com/2011/06/on-jason-kidd-and-win-time-and-greatest.html

    This is the paragraph that struck me the most:
    “I’ve always trusted the (fairly controversial) studies which have suggested that there’s no consistent difference between clutch and non-clutch performance in baseball, but I can understand how basketball could be different, mainly because players could choose to avoid the big play, whereas baseball have no choice but to come to the plate when they’re up, or field the ball when it’s hit to them.”

    We see this again and again – guys afraid to take the shot, hot potato-ing the ball around, waiting for someone else to win it.

    Cuban has his own plusses and minuses, but I’ll say one thing for the guy – he generally is ahead of the curve on many things – starting an internet media company in the early 90s then selling crappy broadcast.com to Yahoo (for $5.9 BILLION) prior to the dot-com bust, then diversifying his money so as not to get swept under by the bust, then investing heavily into HDTV technology before it became widespread, etc. etc. SO when it comes to things he is passionate about (like the Mavs), I would guess that he knows what he is talking about.

  72. JK47

    LeBron : A-Rod :: Wade : Jeter

    This comparison has been made before, and it’s apt on so many levels.

    You can only have one SS on a team– that role on the Yankees went to Jeter, who was a lesser SS than A-Rod. A-Rod was forced to move to 3B, where he was still a great player, but the Yankees just weren’t getting maximum value out of A-Rod as a 3B.

    Similar thing with Wade and LeBron. It’s very difficult to get maximum value out of LeBron, because he’s better with the ball in his hands, yet lots of time the ball ends up in the hands of the still very good but distinctly inferior Wade. Having LeBron James become a post-up player is a lot like moving A-Rod to 3B.

  73. Shad0wF0x

    @75

    The solution for the current Heat then would be for Wade to develop a better 3 and watch tape of Rip Hamilton/Ray Allen coming off screens.

  74. Ted Nelson

    jon abbey: I am not equating Amare and LeBron. I am blaming Amare for talking trash to the press and then injuring himself before playing another minute. if that is too pessimistic, so be it.

    The point is not pessimistic, the way you bring it up is. People are talking about how much of a doucher LeBron is… and you jump in to say “Amare is a fool who blew it.” Who cares? Off-topic. Just pessimistic and unnecessary to bring it up.

    In terms of the actual point… No one could guard him the game he was healthy, he got injured, and then he was very guardable. Makes him look like a douche, but it doesn’t even necessarily make him wrong. You just take the pessimistic view there too.

    Then you take it a step further to say you are disappointed because you expected one or two playoff wins and they didn’t deliver… here is where you stop making sense. It sucks they didn’t win a game. Ignoring the injury context is ignoring reality, though. No need to whine about it.

    Ben R: the injury isn’t necessarily his fault it is what it is and he doesn’t get a pass for it.

    I don’t think anyone is giving him a 100% pass. Just pointing out the injury and reacting to Jon Abbey’s extreme pessimism. If I had come in and said “Amare is the best player in the NBA,” I’m sure a lot of the same people would have come across a lot more negative about Amare and pointed out what you did… just responding to my tone.

    Ben R: I don’t think Jon is wrong in pointing that out.

    To me it’s the way in which he went about pointing it out: pessimistic as possible and unwilling to discuss it.

  75. Ted Nelson

    JK47: You can only have one SS on a team

    This is where the analogy is lost… you not only can have multiple wing players in the NBA, but every team does have them. I really don’t believe that there are diminishing returns from having two guys who both defend very well at different positions and have all around offensive games.

    This is supported by the Heat making the Finals. The didn’t beat the Mavericks, and people assume that because they had more star power this means they did something wrong. Sure they did plenty wrong, but I think Dallas was just a better team. The Heat have huge holes in their rotation. No real C. Tyson Chandler looked like Wilt Chamberlain at times because they just had no one to match up with him… even Ian Mahinmi and Brian Cardinal held their own. Chalmers stepped it up a bit, but he’s still not anything special. Solid all-around, but not much that stands out. Was hitting 3s.

    So… I don’t think it’s diminishing returns with Wade and LeBron so much as those two needing to learn to play a team game together and needing to round out the rest of the roster… especially with a bigman.

  76. Ted Nelson

    Frank: As I’ve tried to say here a bunch of times, just because you can’t make out a signal amongst all the noise (ie. all the supposed “studies” showing there is no effect in clutch time) doesn’t mean there’s no signal — it might just mean you don’t know how to find it.

    There’s a big difference between observing what’s happened statistically and projecting what’s going to happen. You seem to be missing that. Certainly in any given game or series or even season… some guys will be clutch and others will not.

    If the Miami Heat won the series… no offense, but you’d probably be posting a similar article in the opposite direction. Possible about Wade or maybe Mike Bibby and how he was clutch in Sacto and now Miami.

    I don’t doubt that there are certain players who are a bit more and a bit less “clutch.” The issue, other than it often being too marginal a difference to worry about the distribution probably being lumped around the average, is that with the sample sizes we have to work with… making these decisions in a predictive sense is often very, very difficult. Jason Kidd is an outlier in terms of age. There may be the sample size there to work with. When you’re talking about an 18 year old kid or even a 28 year old veteran in most cases… the sample you’ll have to work with are probably going to make your findings on 38 year old Kidd pretty useless.

    The article points to the Mavs being “clutch” well before Kidd got to town. It then goes on to use +/- to “prove” Kidd’s clutch… problem being that it’s a selffulfilling prophecy. He played on a team with a + in the clutch… of course his +/- was positive.

    For someone who gives me so much crap about understanding stats… these are pretty simple statistical concepts.

  77. Ted Nelson

    Continuing from above… the other really difficult thing to do is show causation with stats. This article fails in trying to use +/- to do so. It shows the entire Mavs team outperformed expectations in the clutch, then tries to use +/- for it’s players to prove they are clutch. The causation with +/- is not at all clear. If your team was a + in the clutch… of course the 5 guys who mostly play in the clutch will be a +… it proves nothing.

    So… again… prediction and causation are the tough part of statistics. Observation is the easy part. The article gets at some interesting points… but it doesn’t come close to showing causation or explaining how to predict clutch performance.

  78. Frank

    @Ted –
    Fair enough – my point wasn’t actually that this particular study was so awesome – just that league-wide studies that show no obvious “clutch” or “hot hand” importance don’t necessarily mean that such things don’t exist. The famous Carl Sagan quote is “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”.

    Meanwhile – if Mark Cuban is paying real statisticians real salaries to come up with the stuff that was written about in that article, and presuming these are all smart people who have many many many more resources than any of us – – my guess is that simple statistics don’t bear out any “clutchness” but that if you do more sophisticated analysis (ie. with Synergy film/breakdowns, Sportvu tech, etc.) that something does come through.

    And again – the article asserts that Mavs are a clutch team, year after year, and much more so than would be expected. That suggests that there may be something to the argument. maybe it’s not Jason Kidd, but the combination of Terry and Nowitzki. Or Terry + Nowitzki + Chandler. Or not. But again, absence of an easily explainable reason doesn’t mean that that reason doesn’t exist.

  79. Ted Nelson

    Frank: my point wasn’t actually that this particular study was so awesome – just that league-wide studies that show no obvious “clutch” or “hot hand” importance don’t necessarily mean that such things don’t exist.

    Yeah, also fair enough. I had sort of thought about that. I just couldn’t let the opportunity pass. I’ve been thinking a lot about the difficulty of predicting and ascribing cause recently as it relates to sports, and this would an opportunity to use it and get back a little for saying I was improperly using stats previously.

    Frank: And again – the article asserts that Mavs are a clutch team, year after year, and much more so than would be expected. That suggests that there may be something to the argument.

    This is a causation problem, too, though. If players come and go and they are still “clutch”… do they consistently find clutch guys, or is their some organization culture that breeds clutchness?

    Frank: But again, absence of an easily explainable reason doesn’t mean that that reason doesn’t exist.

    Absolutely, but the opposite is sort of confirmation bias. Just because something happened, doesn’t mean the explanation is what you think it is. The Mavs made it out of the 1st once in 4 seasons prior, losing 4-1 in the 2nd. They win… and suddenly they were clutch all along? Maybe, maybe not.

  80. JK47

    Asking LeBron to become a Karl Malone-style post-up player is a bit like asking Jimi Hendrix to play bass.

  81. Z-man

    Yeah, LeBron’s problem isn’t an inability to post up. I agree with Ted in @78 in that the Mavs were just the better team. They didn’t exactly luck into the finals. You could actually argue that the Lakers and the Thunder could have possibly beaten the Heat. The Heat, on the other hand, beat a depleted and aging Celtic team and an inexperienced and flawed Bulls team. I had predicted the Mavs in 7 before the series here because of the way each of the teams got to the finals. The Mavs are a very good, very balanced, very well-coached team, with a lot of weapons and a lot of ways to beat you…slow down, up-tempo, etc. They have an all-time great in the latter part of his prime, an all-time great in his twilight years, a 4-time all star on the way down, a top 10 (maybe top 5) center, a 6th man of the year candidate, an X-factor-type PG, and some decent role players, stability and a talented, experienced coach.

  82. Jim Cavan

    @83 & 84

    Not sure I totally agree. If that’s the case, then what do we call MJ developing a potent post game? Obviously he was a few years older at the time and it was done more out of necessity / dwindling athleticism than anything else. But there were times in that series where LeBron had Kidd, Barea and / or Terry on him, and he either a) played hot-potato, b) tried to drive with varying degrees of success, or c) settled for the outside jumper. Saying he should “develop a post game” is not the same thing as saying he should somehow “become” Karl Malone. Nor does it mean he needs to have McHale or Olajuwan-esque skillz. It simply means he should recognize that a) he’s liable to be an inch or two taller than any perimeter player guarding him, b) significantly stronger than said player, and c) able to jump higher than said player. A baby hook and a turnaround J — that’s it. He develops those two things, it’s a total game-changer. Unfortunately, I’m not sure he really cares at this point.

  83. Z-man

    Michael Jordan would have been happy to take jumpers if they were given to him, especially later in his career when he became a deadly mid-range shooter. He also made many dagger 3-pointers in the finals when people laid off him. He actually became much more of a jump shooter later in his career and was never really a post player.

    A post game would help, but LeBron passed up many perimeter shots that good post players like KG and Pierce would take in a heartbeat. He had the same game when he averaged 30ppg four years ago and almost single-handedly brought his team to the finals a couple of years back. The problem with LeBron in these finals was between the ears, much more than with any holes in his game.

  84. Doug

    JK47:
    Asking LeBron to become a Karl Malone-style post-up player is a bit like asking Jimi Hendrix to play bass.

    Hendrix often recorded the bass parts for his albums, actually.

  85. Nick C.

    I think we saw LeBron’s post game … it consited of elbowing/barreling into the defender. Here it got whistled as the offensive foul that it is and, if it was an honest look of disbelief or not understanding, rather than just a standard look many guys make when they get whistled, perhaps he just was able to get away with such a game.

  86. budfox07

    LeBron is just the modern day Dominique Wilkins. That is to say he is great athlete with superior size and speed who has no winner gene inside in. He’ll dunk and look great during the regular season but when it counts, when it really counts, he’ll just disappear. His game isn’t made for New York where they value winning above all else.
    http://dummybros.blogspot.com/

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