Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Simmons and LeBron: My Thoughts

I was going to address this tomorrow, but since I have some free time on my hands, at the risk of parroting the Cavalier, I'll dive into this tonight.

Let's break it down, shall we?(side note: should anyone really be parsing Simmons's writing this much? Probably not. Hooray for the intertubes!):
Thumbs Down. To LeBron James, who coasted through the Skills Challenge on All-Star Saturday and played the All-Star Game with the uplifting, charismatic intensity of a female porn star trying to break one of those "most male partners in one afternoon" records.
Did Simmons watch the skills challenge? Nobody tried hard. Only Dwyane Wade gave a shit, and that was just in the finals. Sure LeBron jogged through the obstacles, but so did Chris Paul, Kobe and Wade. No one looked good during that thing.

The same thing goes for the All-Star game. Hello? That game sucked ass. It was a 20 point game at halftime and a 30 point game after the 3rd. Again, I'm not sure why LeBron gets singled out here. Let's compare LeBron's line with the game MVP, Kobe Bryant:
LeBron: 32 minutes, 11-20 FG, 4-8 3PT, 2-2 FT, 6 reb, 6 ast, 1 stl and 28 pts.
Kobe: 28 minutes, 13-24 FG, 3-9 3Pt, 2-2 FT, 5 reb, 6 ast, 6 stls and 31 pts.
Remarkably similar, no? (By the way, I'm pissed as hell that Washington Wizards head coach Eddie Jordan played LeBron 32 minutes while no one else on the East got more than 24)

Could LeBron have played better? Sure (he blew an off-the-backboard dunk and airballed a three) but to knock the guy for a game where he got 28 points, shot 50% or better from the field and three, made both free throws and dished out 6 dimes is pretty stupid. Simmons singled out LeBron because it fit with his theory.
Could we end up putting him in the "Too Much, Too Soon" Pantheon some day? Will he become the basketball version of Eddie Murphy, Britney Spears, Michael Jackson and every other celeb who became famous too quickly and eventually burned out?
I'm more concerned with LeBron pulling a Tracy McGrady or Vince Carter and having one good run then become an after thought. LeBron hasn't reached the basketball version of Murphy, Spears or Jackson yet (they were all at the top of their games at one point. I'm not sure if I'm helping or hurting this argument... let's move on)

Simmons then drops a giant paragraph:
Here's what I know. I had four conversations with connected NBA people over the weekend that centered around the same themes: LeBron isn't playing nearly as hard as he did last season; it looks like his only goal right now is to get his coach fired; he's regressing as a basketball player (especially his passing skills and his shot selection); he made a huge mistake firing his agent and turning his career over to his buddies back home (all of whom are in over their heads); he was a much bigger problem during the Olympics than anyone realized; he doesn't seem to be enjoying himself anymore; he has an overrated sense of his own worth and his own impact in the sports world (as witnessed by the ESPN interview last week when he answered the "What are your goals?" question with two words: "Global icon"); he's been protected by magazine fluff pieces and buddy-buddy TV interviews for far too long; he doesn't have the same relentless drive to keep dominating everyone like Wade and Kobe have; and basically, we're much closer to LeBron re-enacting the career arc of Martina Hingis, Eric Lindros and Junior Griffey than anyone realizes. This will evolve into THE dominant NBA story of the next two months. You watch.
I'll address it line by line:
LeBron isn't playing nearly as hard as he did last season
Good call. Cavs fans have been bitching about this for awhile. This is why we've been reading the "Is LeBron tired?" stories for the past few months. I will say this: I don't want to be making excuses for the guy, but Mike Brown NEEDS TO CUT HIS MINUTES. The guy has been logging major minutes (40+) his entire career.
it looks like his only goal right now is to get his coach fired
I think he's confusing LeBron with Larry "our identity is not as a defensive team" Hughes.
he's regressing as a basketball player (especially his passing skills and his shot selection)
I can't say I'd disagree. To be fair, LeBron has never had the best shot selection out there, so let's say it's gone from a C to a D+ (this needed to be worked on awhile ago). He's always been allowed to jack whatever shot he wants because he's The Chosen One. Also, it's hard to get assists in an offense with poor shooters and no movement (thanks Mike Brown!).
he made a huge mistake firing his agent and turning his career over to his buddies back home (all of whom are in over their heads)
He's probably right, but I'm not sure how big a deal this is. I mean, LeBron just signed a deal with Microsoft and he's always going to get the max deal NBA-wise. What more does he need these guys to do?
he was a much bigger problem during the Olympics than anyone realized
This has been discussed before but I can't imagine Coach K feeding a guy minutes that he didn't earn. Maybe he wasn't perfect, but I can't imagine he was that bad.
he doesn't seem to be enjoying himself anymore
He's right, LeBron needs to smile more, this is extremely important. I'm not sure I'd be having a lot of fun if my starting back court couldn't shoot, my starting power forward showed to up once a week and my starting center plays lousy in big games.
he has an overrated sense of his own worth and his own impact in the sports world (as witnessed by the ESPN interview last week when he answered the "What are your goals?" question with two words: "Global icon")
This just in: professional athletes have huge egos.
he's been protected by magazine fluff pieces and buddy-buddy TV interviews for far too long
The liberal media elites in this country are coddling our 22 year old sport stars! Is he kidding? This is what sports journalism is. Hell, this is what journalism is. Also, he's wrong, check out anything written by Charley Rosen ever.
he doesn't have the same relentless drive to keep dominating everyone like Wade and Kobe have
He's probably right on this one, but lets not forget that we're just 9 months removed from last season's playoffs. Two game-winning shots over the Wizards and a game 7 loss to the heavily favored Pistons (btw- has any fan based milked a second round loss more than Cavs fans? I say no). Could you have imagined anyone making that argument 9 months ago?
basically, we're much closer to LeBron re-enacting the career arc of Martina Hingis, Eric Lindros and Junior Griffey than anyone realizes.
How can anyone call not call the Sports Guy a reactionary? LeBron has had a bad half season and now the sky is falling and he's wondering if LeBron will flame out.

Look, I'll be the first to admit I'm getting sick of his commercials and his other commitments (like comedy roasts). He needs to focus more on his game and less on the other things.

But it's a little unfair to compare him Lindros and Griffey just yet. I'll be concerned if we're having this discussion around this time next season. After the first adversity of his young career? Please.

Let's not forget that he's a 22 year old kid who's best teammates have been (in order on non-suckiness) Carlos Boozer, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Anderson Varejao, Larry Hughes, Ricky Davis and Drew Gooden (and who's been coached by Paul Silas and Mike Brown). Wade and Kobe have been coached by two Hall of Famers (Pat Riley and Phil Jackson respectively) and have been teamed up with great (Shaq), good (Lamar Odom) and former great (Gary Payton) players. LeBron hasn't had anything compared to those two.

But he shouldn't be coasting. And part of me doesn't think he is; I think he's tired and he's too stubborn to say so. Eric Snow likes coming off the bench now because he doesn't have to ration his energy; he's playing less, so he can play harder while he's out there. Same thing is needed with LeBron; the guy has been playing an insane amount of minutes and, coupled with his too hectic off the court schedule, he's tired. Should he be playing harder? Absolutely, but he should also be playing less than 42 minutes a game (FYI, first game back from the break: 37 minutes. Hooray!).

Let's be clear, I'm not saying Simmons is wrong per sey, just that he's way too early on this. I'll be interested to see how LeBron responds the criticism this season (like from D.Wade) and how he carries himself the rest of the year and into the summer. So far I like the early signs (strong Laker game, strong All-Star game, strong Raptor game) plus he's dropped the "wrist kissing" on his free throws (he's 25-29 in his last 3 games, including Vegas).

But what I'm really want is for him to skip next summer's Olympic qualifiers (use the big toe injury) and have him take a break and then work on his game. Cut out the extra crap and rededicate himself to basketball (he's done it before, he improved his jumper tremendously after everyone said that he couldn't shoot).

However, if he decides to pull a Willie Mays Hayes and shoot a movie (say about the LeBrons), Simmons could very well be right.

1 comment:

Erik said...

Here is a good retort column from Tony Mejia of CBS.

He hits the nail on the head. Why are people so hard on LeBron? Jealousy.

http://www.sportsline.com/nba/story/10012593