5.04.2006

Strength begat mind



Don't get this confused with my lifelong jihad against Wade (update: The Pass, and his subsequent ech-face, were a step in the right direction), but myself and Silverbird have some concerns about LeBron. That game was sick beyond sick, exactly why I think I'm right about the NBA and everyone else wrong, but as 5000 observed, the King's game-winner was a little flat. As in, he made it look so fucking easy and obvious, you couldn't help but be swayed by the halting rhythym of an anti-climax. That shot was beyond impossible, and not just because Bron can on any given possession split the defense like Arenas and muscle inside the baseline like Duncan. The number of times that either his body changed directions, his angle to the basket got remade, or he had to rethink his release (one of his most underrated strengths) was nothing short of monumental. But after a point, degree of difficulty and human strain are eclipsed by sheer Bronness, and it's kind of the clutch equivalent of big men in the dunk contest. Not only is LeBron most likely going to make any shot he takes— he'll find a way of taking exactly the shot he wants. And he's so next at this point that it might end up being some shit that, for anyone else, would be a wildly contingent move of a lifetime. LeBron, though, has mastered basketball fate itself, like if Posieden cared for whitewater rafting. Or the inverse of an improvisation that seems like it must've been written.



While the initial impact of such inimitable moments might leave you somewhat wanting, it's in the post-game reflection that your mind gets blown. Seeing LeBron pull it off is nothing, but try getting your head around exaclty what he did on a technical level—and then revisiting how simple he made it seem. Kobe's as coyly reptilian as they come, but his heroics don't need to be explicated. It's meat and potatoes basketball, albeit dusted with orgiastic fury and dulcet brilliance. When the game's on the line in the half-court, though, he's taking a jumper, same as anyone else. It might be the most shrewdly contorted one you ever saw, but he's still playing a mortal's game. LeBron, not so. Granted, this was the Wizards. But really, who else do you see getting game-winners around the basket, much less going baseline and with four defenders in his path? Unfortunately, LeBron makes it all seem so right, makes him as a player seem so natural, and creates an airlock of suspended disbelief around everything he does.

This is not hating, this is not yet more sky-high praise. Just wanted to pass on the news that LeBron must be watched differently than all that have come before, and that if Kobe seems better, it's because we still think of his play in terms of monumental tasks completed. He answers tough questions while LeBron's busy fucking up the whole syntax.

-I NEED A GOOD PICTURE OF CARON'S DEATH TATTOO

-R.I.P. THREE HEADBANDS AT ONCE TIM THOMAS. DUDE IS FAST CREEPING UP ON

37 Comments:

At 5/04/2006 1:57 AM, Blogger mutoni said...

Never have I read a better explanation of what Lebron is doing and never has it actually made this much sense in my mind. I really needed this after watching that play.

Thank you, Shoals.

*It's important that we not forget that he's doing THIS against the Wiz. If he's anywhere near this level against Motown, then I give up. There's really no hope left for any of us. It'll be a wrap.

 
At 5/04/2006 2:06 AM, Blogger notreallyimportant said...

Very astute analysis, but I believe you are you are short changing Kobe a little.
While you are right, LeBron is on another level, I think he is still sharing it with #8. If you will look back to Suns-Lakers game 4 you will notice that it was a layup, in heavy traffic (although semi-fastbreak) that tied the game. And remember that before he hit the OT buzzer beater he walked right through all the suns defenders on the way to the rim to get the Lakers within 1.

 
At 5/04/2006 2:11 AM, Anonymous Aaron said...

Let it not be forgotten that LeBron took a routine jumper at the end of regulation and watched it rattle off the rim to bring us to OT. The look on his face was pure developmental LeBron, not sure if he's ready to assume his destiny.

The layup... That was fully polished LeBron in the process of changing the syntax, as you put it. But LeBron hasn't reached the point of doing that every time yet.

Mostly unrelated- I keep looking at Drew Gooden and wishing he were still Carlos Boozer.

 
At 5/04/2006 2:20 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

nri--i thought of all that, but that last shot by lebron came as the clock wound down in the half-court. there's a reason why even jordan and kobe take jumpers in those situations.

i have never been so afraid of lebron in my entire life. i'm beginning to think he's under-hyped.

 
At 5/04/2006 2:40 AM, Blogger Brickowski said...

well said, and i think it's probably true regardless of what happened tonight, but i can't emphasize enough that we're talking about the Wiz D. lebron can't answer difficult questions if the Wiz refuse to ask them.

that last shot dissapointed because it was an ending unfit for its buildup. 4 quarters and OT just to see jamison give up the baseline?

 
At 5/04/2006 2:49 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

so the 14,000 freckle information becomes: did jamison giving it up make bron do what he did or did bron make jamison give it up?

 
At 5/04/2006 3:05 AM, Blogger Brickowski said...

i mean, eric snow was racking up and1's tonight.

and the post game comments make it sound like haywood fucked up in even letting a pass get through to that spot, with things breaking down before bron even caught the ball.

 
At 5/04/2006 3:19 AM, Blogger SilverBird5000 said...

If you will look back to Suns-Lakers game 4 you will notice that it was a layup, in heavy traffic (although semi-fastbreak) that tied the game. And remember that before he hit the OT buzzer beater he walked right through all the suns defenders on the way to the rim to get the Lakers within 1.

i was as impressed as anyone by those two shots, but you just can't compare them to what Lebron did tonight. When Kobe hit that layup off the steal at the end of the 4th, the Suns defense wasn't set up yet. When he hit the layup to get within 1 at the end of OT, the defense was set up to stop the 3. Bron's shot was the last shot; it was set up to be the last shot, and everybody knew it was set up to be the last shot. And so we come to Shoals question;

Did the defense/Jamison give it up, or did Lebron make them give it up?

But before you answer that one, ask yourself this;

How many times have you had to ask yourself that question about a (similarly designed) game winning shot by Kobe - or for that matter, Jordan?
I can't think of a single one. And that's because those players don't go to the rim in those situations. Lebron, it appears, does. Or more frighteningly: CAN.

 
At 5/04/2006 3:24 AM, Anonymous jack said...

I almost feel like the reason the shot was anti-climactic wasn't because it was Lebron but because the game was won more by the clock than by Lebron's heroics. With a few more seconds after that shot, and an equivalent Arenas bucket, that shot would be practically forgotten as the one lucky shot that deserved another, except that since Lebron does it night in and night out, it wouldn't seem lucky.

Basically, with Kobe's shots on Sunday, I felt as if they were the only possible things that could be done, and, having been done, they did everything that could be done. Lebron's shot was just another nifty lay-up in a night full of nifty lay-ups. Immortal routine.

 
At 5/04/2006 4:14 AM, Anonymous jack said...

Here's another interesting question, does it count as The Shot if he doesn't make it? I mean, lets say he parts the defense like water and flies high to the rim, but doesn't convert? What does that mean? Or is this a non-question because Lebron can't help but convert that shot?

 
At 5/04/2006 5:11 AM, Anonymous Kaifa said...

I'm not sure this play was designed as a drive from the get-go although it would be the smart play to make in such a situation (down one point, under 10 seconds). In fact, it's a bit puzzling to me why so many teams will go for the 20-footer as their final play. Shouldn't there be enough space with the typical clear-out that a LeBron, Kobe or Wade can get to the rim? The obvious downside is that often times the defense will collapse quickly and suddenly you have Kwame Brown or Drew Gooden taking an open jumper for the win - definitely worse options than the star players taking a contested shot.

Anyway, if you look at LeBron's play again, the thing he should get the most credit for is his great recognition of the Wiz' botched defensive rotation. First of all you have the guy guarding the inbounds pass who has no clue whatsoever about what's going on behind him - the first big mistake in getting LeBron such a great catch. Then you have two guys assigned to double LeBron from the start of the play, yet when he catches the ball, both defenders are still scrambling to get to him. A good series of picks can free you from one defender, but to lose two defenders, they have to do something wrong as well. Next step: poor job of closing out, with Jamison being the prime culprit. He got to the baseline late and was afraid to get called for a hip check. Also, the weak-side help defenders were still positioned way to far from the basket. It looked like they were still holding their positions assigned before the play but didn't react and reposition at all when LeBron caught the ball heading towards the corner.

Of course this sequence is impossible without extraordinary athletic ability, excellent offensive recognition and remaining calm in crunch time, LeBron being one of the best in the league in all those departments. But I don't see the play as the kind of revelation you liken it to be. It was a great player making a heads-up decision when recognizing the advantage the defense had given him.

 
At 5/04/2006 8:32 AM, Anonymous White People Don't Know said...

It looked like an easy shot because it was an easy shot. And it was an easy shot because the defense was terrible. lebron had a lot of incredible buckets, but this wasn't one of them.

Also, game winners at the basket aren't that rare. stackhouse had a buzzer beating dunk last year or sometime.

 
At 5/04/2006 8:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can we stop the fellation party for Lebron, just for a second?

Jamison fucked up his rotation -- he had an opportunity to step in front and trap Lebron in the corner, and instead just let him whiz right by and lay it in.

This isn't on Lebron, this is on the fact that with Jeffries and Butler both fouled out, EJ was stuck with Michael Ruffin as the primary defender on Lebron, and El Matador Jamison as the help defender.

Let's not overstate this shot. He DID brick the potential gamewinner at the end of regulation, mind.

 
At 5/04/2006 8:54 AM, Anonymous D. Doyle said...

i totally agree with above, the chuck barkley analysis that jamison should've closed off the baseline. they forced a jay out of him at the end of regulation; deny him the baseline and make him live or die by the jumper. some round 1 buzzer beaters against of group of defensive patsies (sorry prez) doesn't warrant your pushing of lebron up olympus so eagerly. i'm a bit surpised by this latest post.

 
At 5/04/2006 9:07 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

even if you think that last night's shot was simple made simpler, what i'm saying about watching lebron certainly applies in some larger way to him as player, us as his fans. bearing witness is moer work than we'd been led to believe.

and on the wizards--terrible defensive team in the half-court, yes. but isn't this THE PLAYOFFS!?!??!? isn't this the same bunch who administered The Foul to one over-eager Young King and put him in his place for a game or two? not that i buy either of those hook, liner, and sinker, but they've certainly been two of the post-season's most popular storylines.

 
At 5/04/2006 9:27 AM, Blogger T. said...

How soon we forget young KB8's game winning heroics with the championship lakers. . . the tip-in off the Brian Shaw missed shot? . . . the rebound over Duncan and Robinson and subsequent lay-in? Am I the only one with a memory longer than 2 years?

Das Bron's good and all, but Mamba is still the standard for post-23.

 
At 5/04/2006 9:42 AM, Blogger Mirabeau Lamar said...

Didn't the Bullets have two timeouts left and 0.9 sec. remaining when the King made his layup? Why did they force a full-court shot, when they could have had it at half with time to draw up a play for Agent Zero? 0.9 is definitely enough time for a clean look at the basket. Until LeBron's layup, Gilbert had 44 and LeBron 43. You'd think Arenas would want to one-up the man he feels is overshadowing his own excellence.

 
At 5/04/2006 10:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Bearing witness" my ass. Lebron is the most unlikeable superstar to be disgorged by the league in years -- 21 years old, and already he's a whining mess in front of the refs -- he makes Devean George look practically recalcitrant and reserved.

He's gone from the likeable "return of Magic" player out of High School, to a me-first, never-done-wrong player who entirely subsumes everyone else on the team. Did you ever, EVER hear reference to the other players on the Cavs other than as, "The James Gang" last night?

It's disgusting.

 
At 5/04/2006 10:08 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

could this be a certain member of the FD inner circle posting anonymously?

t, i think my credentials as a kobe-booster are as solid as anyone's in the world. but you said it yourself: kobe is the standard-bearer for post-23. lebron, though, has us all staring into the eyes of utter basketball madness.

ml, if you're right, it would hardly be the stupidest coaching move that eddie jordan has ever made. i think he hides his occasional indeptness behind arenas's flag of inner piracy.

 
At 5/04/2006 10:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous (8:53) Wrote:
"This isn't on Lebron, this is on the fact that with Jeffries and Butler both fouled out, EJ was stuck with Michael Ruffin as the primary defender on Lebron, and El Matador Jamison as the help defender."

Why was Butler on the bench? Because moments before LeBron took the ball right at him to draw his 6th foul (Why this didn't happen earlier we'll never know) and clear the floor of the only two Wiz who actually play defense. That play had as much to do with the finish as the lay-up. So, it is on LeBron.

 
At 5/04/2006 10:31 AM, Blogger GentleWhoadie9000 said...

In every down-to-the-wire organized basketball game in which I have played, there comes a point where one team is up by one or two points, and leading coach is screaming "No Fouls! No Fouls! No Fucking Fouls!" from the bench. I suppose that sorry trio of Wizards that LeBron took it to had that call ringing in their ears. Nobody wants to be the guy that did something stupid and cost his team the game.

It's a tough situation- your options are 1) play off LeBron and don't risk a foul. This is a death sentence. 2)Play Bron tight and risk a foul, knowing full well that sneezing on Bron's aura is at least a flagrant in the L (the MJ corollary). Up by one point, this isn't a particularly appetizing option. So your last option is your best option 3) foul the living shit out of LeBron and hope he is too injured to shoot FTs.

Who ever said chivalry was dead?

I think the thing that distinguishes the style of a last second Bron-Bron from a last second Kobe has to be sheer size more than anything. Although Kobe is a big dude, he has a Jordan-esque silhouette with which we are familiar and comfortable. Bron is so big that when he makes moves like a shooting guard, it seems so unnatural given his quickness. Fewer, longer steps. A heavy kind of flight, not unlike a 737 to Kobe's Learjet. In short, he's a new animal.

 
At 5/04/2006 10:42 AM, Blogger c-los said...

There wasnt much EJ could have done. With his 2 best defenders on the bench he had to put his 3rd best on James (Ruffin). If he would have put Arenas on him, Bron would have just shot over him, same with Daniels. If you read the post game quotes, Jamison basically admits it,

"We set it up that we didn't want the ball go to the baseline, period," Jamison said. "We wanted it to go to the top of the key. It went to the baseline and kind of caught me off guard, and he took advantage of that. But the plan was for the ball to not even get into the corner, and unfortunately we had one of the biggest breakdowns at a crucial point in the game."

How can anyone complain about the shot he took at the end of regulation. He was hitting silly jumpers all night, the one on the baseline where he pump-faked and faded away at a crazy angle and buried it, or the reverse pivot spin on the right wing over Jeffries. Teams go for hte jump shot because it is usually the easiest shot they can get that late. When you drive to the hole you draw attention, usually big guys waiting around the rim, which makes it harder to convert. Besides, its guards or swingmen who usually take the last shot and its a higher percentage shot than a drive to the cup. And with the wishy washy officiating this playoffs, who knows what would have been called. Ive never seen such bad calls both ways. (Lebrons 4th foul(obvious charge on Gil), or the charge they botched on him with 1 ref calling a charge and the other calling a block/trip.)

 
At 5/04/2006 10:43 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

like i could not even mention my hero's tremendous performance last night. this link is my tribute to everything that the Big Naught accomplished.

 
At 5/04/2006 10:54 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

raja: "I have no respect for him. I think he's a pompous, arrogant individual." there go my dreams of perfect harmony

 
At 5/04/2006 10:57 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

c-los, i was talking about if he didn't call a timeout and advance the ball.

and jumpers are only higher percentage in those situations because no one's going to let you get within a hundred miles of the basket. no even close enough fast enough to draw a foul. since lebron can (or if i'm right that he can), obviously the drive is preferable.

WV: bjaxer

 
At 5/04/2006 11:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry, but i think it's two enormous mental breakdowns by the wiz -- giving lebron the baseline/not really contesting the shot and failing to call time out -- rather than LBJ's genius. (i think we'd feel differently even if, after time, arenas took the last shot and missed a jumper off the rim.)

 
At 5/04/2006 11:53 AM, Blogger mutoni said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 5/04/2006 12:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lebron travled AGAIN!!! dribble, 2 steps, then dribble again, you cant do that, On both his GWs, he traveled, and no call. BS!!

 
At 5/04/2006 12:10 PM, Blogger mutoni said...

God, I wish Raja wasn't suspended for tonight's sure-to-be-classic game 6 and after that little verbal sparring session :

"Does he know me? Do I know this guy? I don't know this guy," Bryant said. "I might have said one word to this guy. I don't know this KID. I think he overreacts to stuff.

"We go out there, we play, and when we play during the season, we play each other. That's it. I don't know this KID. I don't need to know this KID. I don't want to...Maybe he wasn't hugged enough as a kid. I look at him a little bit, he gets a little insecure or something. I don't know."

(bear in mind that Raja is older than mamba. the TNT were laughing at Raja's expense when they played the clip of kobe saying these things. Not good times at the Bell home)

How awesome would it have been to watch Raja self-destruct in front of a crazed Staples crowd and a perpetually mocking Bryant?

 
At 5/04/2006 12:26 PM, Anonymous J.E. Skeets said...

"Not only is LeBron most likely going to make any shot he takes— he'll find a way of taking exactly the shot he wants."

Shoals, I would like to buy you a beer...

 
At 5/04/2006 12:33 PM, Blogger Brickowski said...

Just to clarify, I think we should probably fear Bron even if last night’s shot had more to do with the terrible Wiz D than his own superhuman abilities. And while I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, I imagine that Lebron will be suffocated in the next round in a way that will be unsatisfying to everyone outside of Michigan. This also seems like a good time to point out that the Pacers fucked over themselves as well as the rest of the East by shipping Ron to Sacto (not that they really had a choice). Artest is the one guy with the quickness to stay in front of Bron and the strength not to get bounced off of him. He’s been the King’s kryptonite thus far, and I can’t think of a more valuable asset to have in the East in the year 2007.

Also, I wonder if we’ll ever start to see Bron officiated differently ala Shaq or Wilt or anyone else who possessed freak physical abilities too great for the game itself. If this series is any indicator I think we will. That charge/no charge last night was the clearest sign of officials having no idea what to do with this beast.

 
At 5/04/2006 12:55 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

explosive guards=call a foul on them whenever they leap forth and create contact

hulks of armor=never admit that they're constantly being fouled

what to do with a man who is both--and near the tops in the league in both categories? it seems like you either have to call everything or nothing on him, which explains the wild vacillations of ref preference in this series

 
At 5/04/2006 1:02 PM, Anonymous Edwin O'Malley said...

Praise the offense/blame the defense is an age-old conundrum, and it applies just as much with LBJ's game winner as it did with the entire (what about Kurt Thomas?) Lakers-Suns series. But the only way you can make sense of it is to break it down to capitalizing on opportunities: there's a chance to send it down low/go to the basket/make a FT. Can you do it?

That's all that matters.

It's true that every single time the Wiz were defending an inbounds pass where their mandate was "deny the King possession and/or shot" he got his shot.

Mark the final possession down to incompetence if you like, but there's no guarantee that he couldn't have made a tougher shot -- he simply took what they gave him. You can't devalue him just because they gave it up any more than you can do so based on the awful clock management of the Wiz (which was probably a somber admission that their defense would not win the game for them.)

 
At 5/04/2006 1:02 PM, Blogger Snicker-snack said...

I hate to seem like a Bron-trasher here, but is anyone else a little bit concerned about LeBron's constant emotivation? This is not some American football garbage about respecting the game and acting like you've been there before. Rather, Kobe, T-Mac et al seem to know that they are just too good for anybody on the court, while LeBron insists on making a face (usually an ugly one, btw) every time he does something good (so there aren't a lot of faces after he plays defense...). Maybe he's just still immature, but all I'm saying is that while I recognize the power, I'm unconvinced that it is a force for good.

 
At 5/04/2006 1:05 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

if bron had melo's personality and image, he would be the most popular athelte EVER. jordan would never have existed.

 
At 5/04/2006 2:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

...and instead he comes across like a petulant, spoilt douchebag.

 
At 5/04/2006 4:36 PM, Anonymous futuristxen said...

So bitter. I don't think the King comes across as anything. I think fans are just pushing their own hate filled agenda on to him, just like they did to Kobe when he came in. Though there would seem to be even less justification here, since Lebron has had to struggle in his early years with the team, and wasn't coming from the well-off suburban family that Kobe did.

Maybe the problem is that he doesn't do a lot of fluff pieces with the national media?

But I'm always reading about some charity that he is doing on a face to face level. And all indications have been thus far that he is a very likeable guy. Ask Maria Sharapova.

As for his on the court histrionics--I think it's cute, because it seems to come out of just being in the flow of the game. I don't think he's actually thinking about how it comes across on the TV(similiar to the nail biting). It's similiar to yelling at your TV while you are playing a video game or watching a game. And it's not like the refs wouldn't T him up if he were doing anything malicious. Iverson kind of does the same thigs on the court. I think both players probably say more funny things than not on the court and keep the officials from ever getting tired of their act. I don't know the numbers, but I don't think Lebron has got more than maybe 2 technicals this year. And it's not like they won't give you techs in this league(See Kobe).

I don't think enough people really appreciate what we are being given the opportunity to do, which is watch greatness develop and unfold under the biggest microscope there's ever been on a singular athlete so young into his career. We had ESPN covering his high school games for chrissakes.

 

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