LeBron + NBA Finals questions resurface…

What the hell is up with LeBron James? In the NBA Finals Game 3 ESPN post-game discussion Magic Johnson summed it up best – “I don’t want to hear any excuses anymore.” Yes, the Spurs are playing great defence. Yes, Wade and Bosh aren’t playing at their usual level. LeBron is meant to be the best player in the game though, yet there are times where he looks passive. A word you rarely (if ever) hear in regards to all-world NBA players. With LeBron it’s now been used to describe three of the biggest playoff series of his career.

(Racking my brain, franchise-type guys in my NBA viewing lifetime who had the passive label stick to them – David Robinson, Vince Carter, Chris Webber. Hakeem – actually he was Akeem at the time – and Kobe had passive moments, but they were more road bumps than career-defining.)

The thing with LeBron is it seems like he needs bulletin board material to fire himself up. Jordan and Kobe used it to help fuel the fire, with LeBron it seems like it is the fire. When you look at the teams LeBron has destroyed, there’s been an actual reason behind it. The Chicago Bulls beat him up on the court, and Joakim Noah mocks him in the media. They routinely get crushed. The Celtics extinguished his playoff runs several times in Cleveland, flap their gums, then last year’s Game 6 happened. Paul George and the Pacers have a couple of chippy exchanges against the Heat for the last two years, then this year’s Game 7 happened. Even with last year’s NBA Finals, before the series started there was some talk of “is Kevin Durant better than LeBron?” LBJ turns “MVP mode” on, five games later he’s won his first championship.

Now, look at the two teams who LeBron has so far really, really struggled against in the Finals. The Mavs and Spurs. They’re not loud teams. The Spurs are physical, but more in a John Stockton way than a Bad Boys Pistons way. They give the opposition NOTHING to work with in terms of “they disrespected us!”. San Antonio actually go out of their way to compliment LeBron in the media. Michael Jordan, the master at manufacturing reasons to destroy players and teams, would have trouble coming up with something to use against the Spurs. The difference is, he didn’t NEED it.

I mentioned before that Wade and Bosh aren’t playing like the stars they’ve shown they are (and are paid to be). LeBron needs to see this and go into (for want of a better term) Kobe mode. Great players adapt, and along with his sometimes passive play, that’s been the main knock on LeBron in his career as a member of the Heat – he can have triple-double games, he can have 40-point scoring outbursts, but he doesn’t seem to know when his team needs what. It’s almost like a he loads the “dominant scorer” or “get everyone involved” mindset before he steps on the court, and that’s what you’re getting for the next 48 minutes. If he doesn’t switch it up soon he might not get the chance to play in Miami again this season.

Tony Parker’s hamstring

Mention those three words to a Spurs fan to induce hyperventilation. For the sake of a great series (without any potential silly “asterisk champions” talk), here’s hoping it’s nothing major.

Hollins officially out in Memphis

Touched on this in a previous Playoff Diary, but now it’s official and Memphis have decided not to re-sign coach Lionel Hollins. It’s somewhat of a head-scratcher because the Grizzlies made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals and it’s rare to see a coach get canned after a season where the team didn’t under-perform, but at the same time it might be a very smart – and ballsy – move.

As a franchise you never want to lock yourself into being a solid-to-good-to-great team, and that’s Memphis’s ceiling right now. Are they as good as the Spurs or Thunder in the immediate future? And will they be better than the Rockets or Warriors in a few years? I’ve complained about the coaching situation in Golden State before, and while firing Mark Jackson would be a shocking move, it might be the right one to help the Warriors make the next step from good to great (if they don’t push for a spot in the WCF next season, the knives will come out, and you’ve just wasted a year of Curry/Bogut). If the Grizzlies sign a high-profile guy to replace Hollins, someone who can help give them that extra push to make the Finals, their front office will look like geniuses.

Now watch them sign Vinny Del Negro and make me look like a fool.


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