Friday, October 29, 2010

It's a tad early

I'm not going to lie, I'm fascinated by this Miami team.  Am I still pissed at LeBron? Yes. of course. But am I still interested in how his game evolves and how his team does? Yes. I can't help it, I followed this guy's every game for seven years, it's hard to not be at least a little interested.

(Also, I bought some LeBron basketball shoes the other day. But don't judge, their price was slashed considerably).

Bill Simmons column about LeBron touches on many of the things I've been pondering:

This wasn't basketball, more of an arrangement. Something didn't feel right. Wade caught a breather and LeBron immediately snapped into 2008 Cleveland mode: pounding the ball upcourt with a hop in his step, attacking the rim with impunity, reminding everyone that he's the most talented player in the league (and maybe ever). He took three shots in a row. More importantly, he looked like LeBron again. A few minutes later, LeBron took a breather and Wade took over. Same thing. Everyone cleared out, Wade went on the attack, took the next two shots and looked like Wade again. Neither guy looked comfortable until the other one was taking a break.

Then again, was that really surprising? LeBron and Wade are creators in a decidedly modern way: scorers first, then passers if they can't score. I got this. That's how players think in the post-Jordan, AAU-dominated, microwavable fame era. That's how you earn the most money, generate the most attention, land shoe commercials and end up producing one-hour shows in which you pick your next team. You can't expect two superstars in their primes to suddenly shut off the "I got this" switch. It's not realistic. As Bill Parcells famously loved to say, you are who you are. And on this particular team, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are redundant unless one of them changes.

[snip]

Granted, I love overthinking this stuff. That's what I do. But I attended Miami's first two games and my biggest takeaway was the team's collective joylessness. Even during the Heat's first victory in Philly -- an infinitely easier game because the Sixers stink and their crowd was mostly catatonic -- nobody seemed happy except for James Jones, who was making open 3s like it was a pop-a-shot game. There was a distance between everyone. I noticed it. My father noticed it. My friends on Wednesday night noticed it. The vibe was undeniably weird. I thought the Heat would be as close-knit as Oklahoma City; instead, they acted like like they had been introduced 45 minutes before the game. And LeBron and Wade weren't "Kanye West and Mike Myers raising money for Katrina" level uncomfortable, but you would have never guessed they were buddies or even acquaintances.

So ... why?

The easy explanation: They're adjusting to that "everyone hates us, now it's us against the world" mentality and it's going to take some time.
The overthinking-it-but-maybe-I'm-right explanation: Maybe everyone slowly realized during the preseason, "Good God, LeBron is MUCH better than Dwyane. What do we do? How do we handle this? Do we wait for Dwyane to admit it? Do we ... wait, what do we do???"

Maybe Wade can feel it. Maybe his competitive juices are kicking in. No, no, we're equals. He's not better than me. We're equally good. Look, I'll show you. Maybe it's just been the elephant in the room for six weeks. Maybe deep down, everyone knows the Heat can't take off until Wade has his "You can be chairman and CEO, I'll be president and COO" moment. It goes beyond who gets to take the last shot. It's about the dynamics of basketball. It's about someone emerging as the emotional leader, the spine of the team, the guy who says over and over again, "I got this." And you can't keep saying that if you're looking over your shoulder worrying that someone else is saying the same thing. It's like a fly ball in the outfield. Eventually, someone has to call it.
I agree 10000%. Either LeBron or Wade is going to have to change his game. Their games are too similar and they can't both have the ball in their hands. It was definitely noticable in the Boston game that LeBron was much more comfortable when he was surrounded by a bunch of scrubs (as well as Z).

However, this is still very very very very early in the season.  Also, Dwyane Wade missed a bunch of the preseason with his ongoing divorce proceedings and various bumps and bruises.  It's going to take a while for the Heat to figure out how to play together.

Simmons is right, either LeBron or Wade is going to have to alter his game. Maybe it will be LeBron.  After all, Slam just came out with our annual "LeBron is working on his post game". Hooray! Good for him. He needs it. Badly. But forgive me if I hold off on the low post praise until he does it in crunch time against a good team.

(You want to know what would've made me hate LeBron til the end of time? If he showed up to the Heat with a turnaround and a jump hook in his arsenal. If he had a polished post game on Day 1 in Miami, I may have gone on a murderous rampage).

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