In early mid-April (the 12th to be exact), when asked as part of an ESPN.com 5-on-5 roundtable which NBA star would have his legacy enhanced the most in the 2011 Playoffs, I wrote:
“The health of Andrew Bynum won’t affect Dirk Nowitzki’s hunger, but Nowitzki’s stomach did just growl. One could argue that Dirk’s legacy has the deepest hole from which to climb. Since blowing a 2-0 series lead on Miami in the 2006 Finals, the Mavericks have been bounced in the first round of the playoffs in three of the past four seasons. A championship isn’t wholly necessary to repair Dirk’s playoff legacy, but if Dallas fails to make the Finals, he may have to live with the label of a regular-season MVP who can’t come through in the postseason.”
Now, I’m not here to exactly toot my own horn as a prognosticator of all things basketball — seeing as I predicted last year’s Wizards to achieve 34 wins (only off by 11 wins), and the bastardly 2009-10 Wizards to achieve 55 wins (yes, I was off by a whole 29 wins here… like I said, “bastardly”) — however, in the same ESPN poll, in reponse to a query on the most surprising thing that would happen in the Western Conference playoffs, I wrote: Read more »
The Miami Heat may very well win the 2011 NBA Finals, but regardless of triumph or defeat, LeBron will still be the villain. It’s OK.
Washington Wizards fans almost like to gloat that they were amongst the first to whom LeBron exposed himself to — the epitome of privilege that always asks for more and will resort to less-than-savory tactics to get what it wants. So what.
LeBron is a villain, and I’ve spent a lot of pixels communicating this. And I will continue to do so. LeBron is a fact of life.
Of course he’s making you love him as a basketball player, passing exuberantly, rebounding above all, defending with no restraint, astounding with power that compresses rim paint to the point of cracking. He’s no basketball dummy. The only thing that really dwarfs his instinct for the game is what he can do with that freak of a Karl Malone-sized body that he’s in.
["What he did? Told them he cut his eye ... in sparring." -Wu-Tang Clan, Bells of War]
I kept telling myself, evenTweeting, when Miami was looking like unstoppable beasts for all but about seven minutes of NBA Finals game two, “Is Dallas the type of team you don’t want to let hang around?”
Of course they are. The Mavs are a unit well-versed in veteran composure, lest they would have had a seven game series with the Oklahoma City Thunder. But Miami isn’t Oklahoma, in so many senses.
Late in the game, after countless amazing dunks with little defensive resistance, Miami finally pulled away and took an 88-73 lead on a Dwayne Wade three. After nailing the shot near Dallas’ bench, Wade held his follow through and slowly walked toward his own bench, as Mavs coach Rick Carlisle had called a timeout. LeBron came over to give Wade celebratory chest jabs.
When LeBron James complains about fouls, it’s not about his size, as he would gladly have you believe. Neither is it about there being a presumed double-standard from imposing basketball specimens like himself and Dwight Howard. Sure, there are reasons to take notice, but let’s be honest, it’s about politicking through the gladly willing media.
Said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra after Wednesday night’s game versus the Wizards:
“He absorbs a lot more contact than people realize. He’s big and tough enough that he shrugs it off. But you go in there and see him in the locker room, and he’s got ice on pretty much every part of his body.”
So do 5’11″ guards who live in the lane. So do a lot of NBA players. It’s a tough game. And when someone like LeBron, who has the sixth highest usage rate in the NBA at 31.4-percent, gladly uses his abnormal physique to gain an advantage, it certainly is going to feel like he’s being handled more physically, at least to him. But it’s all relative.
On Tuesday night, the Miami Heat went to Cleveland and were soundly defeated by the Cavaliers, 102-90. LeBron James had a triple-double with 27 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. Dwyane Wade had 24 points and Mike Bibby chipped-in 23 points–his most as a member of the Heat. Unfortunately, Chris Bosh (10 points, four rebounds and a team-worst plus/minus of minus-24) was a non-factor, and the Heat allowed the Cavs to shoot 55-percent from the field and 52-percent behind the arc.
After the game, Heat coach Erik Spolestra was not at all pleased.
We (I/you/us/them) have found cause to critique JaVale McGee to a high degree this season. It’s just when you combine immense talent and potential with a seeming unwillingness to learn and/or an inability to grow in basketball IQ, the way of the world is done an injustice without an honest assessment.
So, when McGee finally does “put it together,” also known as when he stops doing stupid things (like JaVale’s dribbles), you’ll appreciate how much he’s grown even more. All of this could be a bunch of bull to make myself feel better about my criticism. It also could be an “it is what it is” situation*.
The Wizards want JaVale McGee on that line, they need him on that line. They need him to get better because in totality, his improvement this season has been a slight disappointment. But rebuilding time is time afforded to go through these frustrations. So it’s all good … as long as McGee kicks butt this summer.
He’s done a lot better lately. One day he could be consistently amazing to watch. Oh the day dreams. Although, his mere five rebounds in 36 minutes against the Miami Heat on Wednesday night stands out from the 15.3 boards he averaged in the previous four games (on the road against the LA Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors and Utah Jazz). The quality of the opponent should be considered, but McGee still made his presence felt against the Heat, in the form of sweet, sweet blocks.
[Editor's note: Ryan Gracia is majoring in sports communication and journalism at George Mason University and freelances for local sites of Patch.com. Some of his previous work for TAI can be found here. Below, he recaps the Dwyane Wade vs. Nick Young battle on Friday night.]
It was the second time that the Wizards faced the Miami Heat SuperFriends this season following a trade, and the Wiz put up quite a struggle in both contests — so great that one may even have been so inclined to commit themselves to predicting a win from the bottom-feeding Wizards at some point late in the game. But on both occasions the Heat finished the way a top team should, while the Wizards finished the way a bad team does. So Friday night’s loss in Miami wasn’t unexpected. Still, it was the way the Wizards put themselves in the situation to come away with their second road win this month was unexpected. They fought. Specifically, Nick Young fought.
Against the Heat, Flip Saunders must have shown part “deux” of The Battle at Kruger video that he showed the team before they came out blazing to beat the Nets at home by 20 points on January 7. Clearly, Young understood the concept of that video:
“It was like a lion chasing a bull, and how about how all the bulls came back and rallied as a team and helped them out, so it kind of got us going. Everyone came out and played hard.”
I was in the midst of watching the Washington Wizards put on an impressive display of first quarter basketball against the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday when Tweet Deck displayed a new tweet from ESPN’s Ric Bucher. Given that the trading deadline was less than 24 hours away, and given that Bucher is one of the few NBA insiders who is really plugged into what could be happening, I figured I should check it out right away.
I clicked on his tweet and discovered no upcoming trade information, nor were unnamed sources tipping him off. Instead, Bucher offered some insight as to what fans, writers and even other players could expect over the remainder of the NBA regular season:
“NBA comp going up another notch, as it always does, post-All Star weekend. Separation of men from boys, pros from pretenders, begins now.”
I closed out of his tweet, mentally processed what he said and then went back to watching the Sixers/Wizards tilt. By that time, the Wizards’ first-quarter dominance had morphed into second quarter incompetence (and third, and fourth), and they were eventually blown out 117-94, just one night after being blown out by the Indiana Pacers at home 113-96. Afterward, John Wall was upset about the lack of effort his teammates displayed — further evidence that the Wizards are in the boys/pretenders group of NBA teams: Read more »
Saturday night’s loss to the Miami Heat followed a script all too familiar to Wizards fans, and in a sense, begrudgingly emulated the now defunct tenure of Gilbert Arenas in Washington, D.C.
Against all odds, the Wizards competed with the Heat. It wasn’t a situation where Miami was just cold and Washington was making unbelievable shots like it just happened to be their night. No, the Wizards got by on their own merit — thanks to hustle, footwork and inspired play that’s been infrequent beyond acceptable means this season.
Agent Zero was created through an “against all odds” persona. Arenas’ flair and passion that once-upon-a-time injected energy into a re-inspired D.C. professional basketball team now faintly seems like decades ago. The Verizon Center hasn’t rocked like it did on Saturday in a long, long time, especially without Arenas.
But in the end, the Wizards caused their own downfall. They had the game all but in the bag after the returning Josh Howard hit a runner in the paint to put Washington up 91-86 with 32 seconds left … just don’t do anything stupid and make free-throws. Neither of those things happened and those commonplace jaws of defeat rose up out of the waters and snatched a prey that thought it had escaped victoriously.
Arenas’ reign in the District followed a similar course. Robbed by uncontrollable fate in the form of injury, and snatched from reason with guns in the locker room, the Washington Wizards franchise is once again left as the loser. The last glimpse of the happy times of yore snatched away by the uncertainty of rebuilding on the shoulders of a 20-year old with uncertain knees. Arenas may claim that he was docile during his last days in Washington because he was no longer the man, but that wasn’t really going to spark sympathy for the situation he had hand in creating.
“My responsibility is to help craft a team that is a winner and is built to last. We have to make an environment that is great for our fans and for our players and for our partners. […] I have been unabashed in noting that we have to rebuild around our core of young players. We will suffer though a lot of pain but we will be stronger for it. The rebuild will take along [sic] time for us to get to where we want to be – an elite team. Building a truly special team has lots of risk – in any fashion imaginable.”