5.09.2007

NBA Quotation Semiotics #346: Unlock Guinevere



LeBron is still in the playoffs, and somehow we've said nothing of it. Luckily, in today's Daily Dime the Recluse parked upon this god-like gem of a vignette:

With just under six minutes to play Tuesday night as the Nets and Cavs headed to their benches for a television timeout, LeBron James stopped his head coach.

"He turned to me and said he wanted the ball because he was going to win it for us," Cavs coach Mike Brown said. "I said, "What if they play zone?" He said he didn't care."

So Brown went into the huddle and informed the team they would be running one play and one play only from that moment on. It was a mid-post isolation set for James on the left wing. Yes, the Nets did play zone. No, James didn't care.


The only appropriate reaction to this? For myself, the Recluse and Dr. LIC to all toil away the afternoon, poring over this fleeting instant to uncover the hidden nature of 2007 Playoffs LeBron. We may differ on the details, but in our hearts, we agree that this quote spews forth shockwaves of significance:

Shoals: What differentiates this from the usual "give me the damn ball" foolishness is that LeBron gets the situation. He's not saying "I'll be ignorant but destroy;" it's "I understand the zone and still feel it within my power to not give a fuck." You can call this coasting on natural ability, or you see a man whose natural ability has coined or assimilated all sorts of technical points. "Court vision" is one of the stiffest of all basketball cliches, and yet very rarely do we parse what it implies: that to some, smart plays come naturally. LeBron vs. zone isn't a matter of a rakish over-confidence—it's someone who drive to the hoop in a way that exploits every match-up in his path, who in addition to being mighty is also right. Before the playoffs, James scientifically altered his jumper; a man who can take that kind of care with detail is not going to overlook reason. He is going to make a cudgel of it. That is, when he's not so stuck on hoisting three's.



Dr. LIC: The more I read this quote, the more it sounds like a fabrication, like things that were not actually said, and like everyone is still trying too hard to mythologize James. But then calling it a fabrication would be making too big of a deal out of it. As if it were actually more difficult for LeBron to dominate when the Nets play zone, which it clearly isn't. Everyone knows that the way to beat a zone is to get the ball inside either through low-post passing or through dribble penetration, and penetration is exactly what 'Bron does. Plus, he doesn't have to kick it back out because there is nothing stopping him from just pulverizing people down low. The Nets' center is Mikki Moore. I heard Sasha Pavlovic knocked him over yesterday, although I missed that part of the game because my cable was fucked up. Bottom line is, get your weight up. The other bottom line is that this game reminded me that LeBron kind of rules--I just hate his team, his coach, and the playoff teams he has played against. His dominance isn't boring, and I think he is the only player in the league who could win a championship on his own.

Brown Recluse, Esquire: What Lebron's exact words were is not the issue here. The important thing is the amount of clock that was left at the time of this alleged statement: six minutes. SIX MINUTES, Dougie Fresh!

The last six minutes of an NBA playoff game can stretch into an eternity. This wasn't some, "Why wouldn't I take the last shot?" Carmelo shit, this was Lebron announcing that until he tells you otherwise, the ball is his, and he's calling all the shots from here on out. This was his coach and teammates acquiescing. And this was Lebron delivering the victory. Clearly, that's totally badass, but what bothers me about it is that Lebron rarely demonstrates that kind of bravado off the court. Like his buddy D-Wade, he's been following the Jordan model of making yourself as boring as possible to appeal to many people as you can. Remember, Republicans buy shoes, too. But, if Penny needed one Lil' Penny to make himself more interesting, what does it say that Lebron needs FOUR Lebrons? I want to get to know the real Lebron, the brash, arrogant Lebron that demands the ball and talks shit in Gil's ear. Even if this episode doesn't lead to a more authentic public Lebron, at least he's got a new nickname: The Show.

40 Comments:

At 5/09/2007 8:40 PM, Anonymous Osbourne Ruddock said...

In simple manner, Lebron "Cut Me" James is everything that is right with the NBA.

 
At 5/09/2007 8:47 PM, Anonymous MaxwellDemon said...

There was a great moment in the post-game press conference where LeBron malaprops, winningly slows down to correct himself, and ends with "I didn't go to college, son." Anyone who can be self-deprecating and simultaneously son the media has unlimited upside. What I'm saying is, LeBron for President--GWB has never handled a misstatement that well and fuck if he ain't had the practice.

 
At 5/09/2007 9:23 PM, Blogger Jason said...

Is it just me, or is AK47 running the point right now for the Jazz? I am never doubting him again.

 
At 5/09/2007 10:07 PM, Anonymous blindblue said...

TNT needs to take Dick Stockton behind the barn and put him out of his misery. He just said the Jazz had a 61-point first quarter. Albert/Kerr had better be calling the games at Oracle.

 
At 5/09/2007 10:16 PM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

Lebron is taking over these games, too. I know no one else besides me is watching these Nets-Cavs games, but in both games the Nets were right there with the Cavs, and the Cavs did something I didn't think they could do - they closed out the game. On a determined Kidd. They closed it out properly, too.

And "they" = LeBron. Everyone else just does what they do.

Of course, if not for Sasha Pavlovic, the Nets win at least one of these two games.

 
At 5/09/2007 11:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is all fine and good, except that it is vs. the under .500 in the east Nets, who weren't exactly known for their defense this year. it's like a high school freshman calling his shot vs. some 5th graders. come on.

 
At 5/09/2007 11:36 PM, Blogger spanish bombs said...

why haven't you written about lebron? becuz he has only played against crappy teams that barely deserve to be in the playoffs.

 
At 5/10/2007 2:47 AM, Anonymous Berts said...

lebron boggles me. i saved this quote after a really intense cavs-bulls game late in the year, after he started trying, because something about it was weird and unsettling.

"We were down four and I was just wanted to be aggressive," James said. "I didn't want to settle. I got a switch with Kirk Hinrich on the first one and got an and-one, and we came up with a good defensive stop and I was able to get into the lane and shoot a floater off the backboard to put us up one with 20 seconds to go."

I am trying to imagine what question preceded that, and what kind of mind would be able to parse out a physical act with such an analytical eye. Bron is some kind of basketball wizard, and I think

a) we are only barely beginning to see what a phenomenon this guy will be.
and
b) bron needs to get out of cleveland and play some games that I care about on a team I can watch for Christ's sake

 
At 5/10/2007 5:44 AM, Blogger T. said...

I want to hate the Jazz after they ushered my Rockets out of the playoffs and have put the bandwagon team of the moment in a 0-2 hole, but the real life story of Derek Fisher - along with his well-spokenness (no racial component) and his level-headedness makes it difficult.

Fish isn't FreeDarko, but he's easy to root for.

 
At 5/10/2007 8:01 AM, Anonymous Sean said...

Has anybody read Bomani Jones' new column on Page 2? It could very well be the stupidest thing I've ever read.

"Bron Bron's the only high-watt superstar left. Tim Duncan's got lots of rings and Steve Nash has a couple of MVPs, but both are more impressive than exciting. They're great, but not one-name, can't-miss fare. Other than LeBron, there's no player so singular that people will tune in just to watch him."

What?!? Steve Nash isn't exciting? And who gives a shit if LeBron's the only "superstar" left? If the games are exciting, does it really matter who's playing in them?

"The teams aren't looking so great, either. What compelling story line is left in these playoffs? Even though the Suns looked great in beating the Spurs by 20 Tuesday night, the Spurs-Suns series will feel like a rerun until Phoenix can win a game in San Antonio. And does anyone outside of Utah really care if Jerry Sloan goes back to the Finals?"

This is just stupid. How the fuck does he know if anyone does or does not care about Utah getting back to the Finals? And his comment on the Spurs-Suns series is nonsensical.

"But what's next from the Warriors? I really don't care. After slaying Goliath, there's not much sizzle in facing the league's mandatory challenger."

Honestly, Bomani, nobody really cares what you think about GS. The Jazz-Warriors series is pretty damn exciting, whether you want to watch it or not.

"This year, they're (the NBA playoffs) boring".

Except for the Suns-Spurs, Jazz-Warriors, Mavs-Warriors, Jazz-Rockets, and Nets-Raptors.

"LeBron James is the only shining light left, the only thing that demands attention".

I'm not even going to say anything about this gem.

What pisses me off about people like Bomani is that they piss and moan when there is a general lack of overall teamwork in the NBA, but when there are teams that play like teams (i.e. SA, PHX, GS, Detroit, NJ, Chicago, etc.) who are successful in the playoffs, he whines about how "boring" they are.
This just doesn't make any sense whatsoever.

 
At 5/10/2007 11:16 AM, Anonymous jjc58 said...

Jazz-Golden State has been compelling. Nonetheless, Golden State CHOKED last night (and arguably the night before). Furthermore, the Jazz, who after Derek Fisher's antics last night will be the next in the line of America's darlings, have been taking to the absolute end by a 42-40 Warriors team.

I'm not defending Bomani Jones, but it seems a tad ridiculous that Golden State-Utah can get so much love while both Detroit and Cleveland get dumped.

Cleveland doesn't play very "Free Darko". But there's no doubt in my mind that they'd put up a better showing in OT than Golden State did last night. Hate Mike Brown, but Cleveland's team, as a whole, is coming together.

You can't blame them for who they're playing.

 
At 5/10/2007 11:38 AM, Blogger emynd said...

You can't blame them for who they're playing, but you're not required to find the match up compelling either. Yeah, Lebron's narrative will always be relatively intersting, but I've felt absolutely no desire to watch these Nets and Cavs games.

If the Warriors make ONE more free throw in that game yesterday, the series is theirs. They still have a chance of course. I mean, they've taken these Jazz to the wire twice in Utah, which is key. But it's gotta be deflating coming so close twice, and having legitimate chances to win the game, twice, only to let it slip away... twice.

Then again, these heartless and heart-ful Warriors don't seem to be easily faltered by silly things like losses. I fully expect two relatively easy, energetic wins in Oakland.

-e

 
At 5/10/2007 11:42 AM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

"Cleveland's team as a whole is coming together."

Sorry, how is this the case? You mean, by giving LeBron the ball EVERY single time (as they should)? This is a one man show--a poorly constructed team that LeBron could still carry all the way to the finals.

 
At 5/10/2007 12:38 PM, Blogger ChiliCon said...

The idea that Cleveland is a one-man team is flat out wrong. It's a regurgitation of what the press has said since he came to Cleveland.

Sasha Pavlovic is playing his first meaningful minutes in the playoffs, and arguably outplaying Vince Carter. Gooden is posting career playoff numbers. A 2nd round pick rookie, Gibson, looks like he could be the player we need at the point, and could be starting next year. The only long-term vet on the team, Z, is having a very good playoffs after struggling mightily last year. Hughes is finding new life at the point. AV is about as exciting to watch as it gets.

This team plays like a team, especially on the defensive end, and gets no praise for it. No one knows they were one of the best defensive and rebounding teams this year. Who's doing those things?

Is LeBron way better than everyone else on the team? Yes, undoubtedly. But just because he overshadows his teammats doesn't mean they all suck. They don't.

 
At 5/10/2007 12:57 PM, Blogger John said...

Did LeBron get his 12 assists throwing the ball to himself? Or do you have a different definition of "one man team" than I do?

 
At 5/10/2007 1:17 PM, Blogger Aaron said...

AK-47's first quarter was the most FD thing in a while. His first quarter line was 9 points, 4 boards, 4 rebounds, 1 block. Singlehandedly kept Utah in the game.

 
At 5/10/2007 1:33 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

The above comments on how LeBron's playing against teams that don't even deserve to be in the playoffs are really on point. Success against mediocre-to-bad teams is not impressive. Here's a question though: if the Cavs make it to the next round and play the Pistons and get eliminated in 6 or fewer games is that an indication that they've regressed? They'd have made it further in the playoffs, sure (against much weaker competition), but they'd have been beaten in less games by the team they took to 7 last year. I only bring this up because the way the Pistons are playing I can't see Cleveland winning more than a game against Detroit in the next round; and to me that would really call into question whether LeBron's made any significant improvement this year.

 
At 5/10/2007 1:59 PM, Blogger Joseph said...

I agree with Wild Yams on his first point- the real test will be how the CAVS fare against the Pistons next round. Detroit, with the exception of one game in the regular season have basically had the Cavs' number this year.

LBJ and the CAVS, who aren't a one man team, just a fusterating team of inconsistent players with one really good player. Granted they've been beating teams they're supposed to beat, but if you've watched the CAVS at all this year you know that this wasn't happening during the season. Pavs, Z, Gooden, and even Hughes have all been playing well.

The knock has been the CAVS haven't been putting out consistent effort all year, but now they are and LeBron has been playing well, hitting his stride at the right time.

He'll need to take over games with the attitude Shoals is taking about- feeling it within his power to not give a fuck (what a great post!), if the CAVS are going to do anything against DET.

 
At 5/10/2007 2:03 PM, Anonymous Laphonso said...

LeBron definitely deserves criticism for his lax approach to the regular season. However, these playoffs have been a different story, and to completely dismiss the significance of six straight victories seems extreme. This is the NBA PLAYOFFS. Even Jordan's Bulls dropped a game here or there to the Bullets, Hornets, or Hawks in their title runs, did they not? Winning six in a row this time of year is an accomplishment no matter who the competition is.

It's also awfully premature to judge LeBron for a six game exit in a series that can't even happen for anotehr week. Many factors can influence a series. Let's just watch and let the games speak for themselves.

 
At 5/10/2007 2:07 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

hee hee, you have gotta love cleveland fans!! sasha pavlovic has been outplaying vince carter? sasha's done a nice job and definitely bothered vince some, but come on, you really believe he's OUTPLAYED him?

and gibson is your point guard of the future? 5 minutes in game 1, and 10 minutes and 20% shooting in game 2. and from this you've gleaned that he "looks like he could be the player we need at the point"?

 
At 5/10/2007 2:14 PM, Blogger ChiliCon said...

My evaluation of Gibson is based on much more than the last two games.

I think it is arguable that Sasha has outplayed Vince, at least in terms of their matchup. I also find it hard to believe.

I expect the homer schtick, since I'm a fan and defending the team. It's misplaced though.

 
At 5/10/2007 4:50 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

Laphonso said - Winning six in a row this time of year is an accomplishment no matter who the competition is.

Nice try, but no. While you can laud the Cavs for not taking a game off and just mailing in one against a horribly overmatched Washington team in the first round, really that's not a huge accomplishment ("they won in 4 instead of 5!" Big deal). I'll tell you what, if the Cavs can sweep New Jersey then I'll give them credit for proving they're focused, but they're still more than likely gonna get hammered in the next round when they finally face an opponent in the playoffs who finished with a better than .500 record in the regular season.

The reality is that when you're the #2 seed you should be expected to hold home court against teams that only won 41 games (one of which that was missing its two best players). This is like people trumpeting Nash for taking a 2-0 lead against a Laker team that literally slid into the playoffs: it's no real accomplishment (although to give LBJ a little credit, unlike Nash he didn't let a road game get away).

In the same way that it's probably too early to be writing off the Cavs and their impending thrashing in the ECF, it's similarly too early to be singing the praises of a guy who's still been able to coast due to no competition. If LeBron has a repeat performance against Detroit, then we can start singing his praises, but right now it's way too early cause he hasn't really shown us shit this year.

 
At 5/10/2007 5:31 PM, Anonymous Sean said...

Wild Yams: " . . .unlike Nash he didn't let a road game get away".

Why do you think the result of every game rests with one player? The outcome of a contest depends on any number of variables, and you can't just put the blame all on one person. It'd be like saying that it was all Nowitzki's fault that the Mavs lost to GS, and that there were no other reasons, like matchups, coaching, the supporting cast, etc.

 
At 5/10/2007 7:35 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

The results don't solely rest on one player, but the best player on the team should get the blame just like they get the credit. The NBA is a stars-driven league, and with basketball being a 5-man sport the reality is that one player can have a lot to do with how a team performs.

Don't play Devil's Advocate or pretend to be naive. This entire thread is essentially about giving LeBron credit for the Cavs being 6-0 in the playoffs. As goes the star, so goes the team. When Nash turns in a 10 point, 5 turnover game like he did in Game 3 of the first round, the Suns are probably not gonna win. If LeBron does the same thing, the Cavs are probably gonna lose too.

It's the playoffs and if you want to win your star has to step up and perform. It's not all Nowitzki's fault that the Mavs lost in Round 1, just like it's not all Baron Davis' credit that the Warriors won; but the truth is that their individual performances had massive impacts on how their respective teams performed. I say that if the Cavs lose in 4 or 5 games to Detroit and the Suns don't make it past San Antonio then you've got to examine LeBron and Nash and question how much credit you really want to give them.

 
At 5/10/2007 8:05 PM, Anonymous Sean said...

Wild Yams: "The results don't solely rest on one player, but the best player on the team should get the blame just like they get the credit. The NBA is a stars-driven league, and with basketball being a 5-man sport the reality is that one player can have a lot to do with how a team performs".

Of course; I absolutely agree. But this is the argument (an unfair one, in my opinion) that's always used against Kobe: if he's the best player in the league, how come he can't get his team past the first round? Well, the correct and obvious answer is that he doesn't have the teammates around him to make it past that stage. Does some blame lie on Kobe? Sure. But certainly not all of it.

"It's not all Nowitzki's fault that the Mavs lost in Round 1, just like it's not all Baron Davis' credit that the Warriors won; but the truth is that their individual performances had massive impacts on how their respective teams performed. I say that if the Cavs lose in 4 or 5 games to Detroit and the Suns don't make it past San Antonio then you've got to examine LeBron and Nash and question how much credit you really want to give them".

Good points all. But for Christ's sake, you make it sound like that if Nash even has a bad quarter, then his MVPs, his high school diploma, and his Canadian citizenship should all be taken away from him. I mean, it's almost like you're bordering on Charley Rosen-territory here.

 
At 5/10/2007 8:22 PM, Anonymous Sean said...

Wild Yams: Oh, and one more thing: what does Nash have to do to validate his MVP awards in your eyes? Win the next seven championships? Average a triple-double for the rest of his career? Find a cure for cancer?

And I know what you're going to say: lead a team to the Finals. Well, let me restate this point again: there is absolutely NO correlation between regular season play (on which the MVP is based) and what happens in the playoffs. The award should be judged on a year-to-year basis, and should not be determined by what happened in the playoffs, or what happened the season before. I don't care what happens with the Suns, now or in the next few years: Nash, IMO, deserved the last two MVPs, and he probably deserves it again this season. I don't care how well the Mavs did, or how many points Kobe scored, or what LeBron's averages were: there is no one else in the league who can make a team (TEAM I say!) function like Steve Nash.

 
At 5/10/2007 9:41 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

It's really not Nash's fault that he's been awarded back-to-back MVPs or that he may be awarded a third straight. He hasn't created the expectations that go with that, but those expectations are (and should be) on him. If someone wins just one MVP and then still never is able to take his team to the Finals, then it's not totally ridiculous. I think Kevin Garnett deserved his MVP a few years back. But if Nash wins his third straight this year is it really so crazy for me or anyone else to expect that he can lead a team with two other All Stars, last year's Most Improved Player, this year's 6th Man Award winner and a guy who was 1st Team All Defense this year (and those are all different players, by the way) past the second round of the playoffs? Would it really be crazy to expect that he could lead them to the Finals? To a championship? I know the MVP is based on the regular season, but don't you think someone who wins two or three in a row should be able at some point to display some degree of success in the postseason? Nash is 33 years old. If he's not now going to live up to this hype that's sprung up around him the last few years when is he going to do it?

Really it's not about the awards, it's about the hype. Just like with Nash, LeBron has a ton of hype out there about him, but he hasn't achieved anything yet. With LeBron though it's more forgivable due to his age and his rather poor teammates. I feel with LeBron there's no real reason to rush to anoint him though, he'll either get there and prove he's worthy or he won't and we can talk about him like T-Mac or KG. But Nash is 10 years older than LeBron and has always had incredible teammates, and I feel like if he can't ever make it work then he's really not deserving of all this hype. As I've said before, how good is Nash making these teams if as loaded as they are they never win anything?

Finally, in regards to Kobe, what do you mean he can't get his team past the first round? He's won three championships! Oh wait, you mean in the last 3 seasons? The three seasons that Kobe wasn't paired with another All-Star? It's kinda silly to throw out what happened just a couple years ago when you want to talk about what Kobe can prove as a player, cause when Kobe had teammates like Nash has Kobe played the facilitator role on three straight championship teams. Nash has yet to play in even one championship game. Yet does Kobe have any MVPs? Is Kobe in his mid-30s? Nope to both. Kobe's hype is probably due to what he actually has achieved, unlike Nash's hype, which is based on what he's expected to achieve (same with LeBron).

I just don't understand when people like yourself can be so impressed solely by what a player can do in the regular season. If they can't do the same thing in the playoffs, then as far as I'm concerned it's pretty meaningless.

 
At 5/10/2007 10:33 PM, Anonymous Sean said...

Wild Yams: "I know the MVP is based on the regular season, but don't you think someone who wins two or three in a row should be able at some point to display some degree of success in the postseason? Nash is 33 years old. If he's not now going to live up to this hype that's sprung up around him the last few years when is he going to do it?"

I don't entirely disagree, but there are many caveats to what you are saying. The last two years the Suns have gotten to the Western Conference Finals without key players and with guys playing at half-strength; that's pretty impressive in and of itself. Now, does some of the blame lie with Nash in regards to not getting to the Finals? Of course. But, believe me, his team wouldn't have gotten as far as it has without him. Like I've said before: he's the engine that makes that machine go.

"Really it's not about the awards, it's about the hype . . . Nash is 10 years older than LeBron and has always had incredible teammates, and I feel like if he can't ever make it work then he's really not deserving of all this hype. As I've said before, how good is Nash making these teams if as loaded as they are they never win anything?"

Hype? What hype? The major sports outlets (ESPN in particular) don't really seem to pay much attention to Nash; in fact, you have jackasses like Bomani Jones saying on Page 2 that Nash is too boring and not flashy enough, which sounds slightly retarded to me. Anyway, even the little media hype he gets, it's not his fault.

"Finally, in regards to Kobe, what do you mean he can't get his team past the first round? He's won three championships! Oh wait, you mean in the last 3 seasons? The three seasons that Kobe wasn't paired with another All-Star? It's kinda silly to throw out what happened just a couple years ago when you want to talk about what Kobe can prove as a player, cause when Kobe had teammates like Nash has Kobe played the facilitator role on three straight championship teams. Nash has yet to play in even one championship game. Yet does Kobe have any MVPs? Is Kobe in his mid-30s? Nope to both. Kobe's hype is probably due to what he actually has achieved, unlike Nash's hype, which is based on what he's expected to achieve (same with LeBron).

I just don't understand when people like yourself can be so impressed solely by what a player can do in the regular season. If they can't do the same thing in the playoffs, then as far as I'm concerned it's pretty meaningless."

Um, you just basically agreed with me in regards to Kobe. You can't blame one player for all the faults and shortcomings of his team, regardless of what awards said player has won.

As for Kobe's championship experience: um, Kobe had Shaq in his prime, which basically means he had one of the fifteen (argubaly ten) best players of all time. Do you really think any of Nash's teammates are equal to that? You don't think if Nash had Shaq (in his prime) instead of Stoudemire (who is good, but not as good) they wouldn't just fuckin' demolish their opponents?

As for Nash's playoff record: in 2005 he averaged 23.9 ppg, 11.3 apg, and 4.8 rpg on 52% shooting (regular season: 15.5 ppg, 11.5 apg, 3.3. rpg, 51 FG%); in 2006 he average 20.4 ppg, 10.2, and 3.7 rpg on 50% shooting (regular season: 18.8 ppg, 10.5 apg, 4.2 rpg, 51 FG%); and right now, he's averaging 18.7 ppg, 13.4 apg, 2.6 rpg, and 46 FG% (regular season: 18.6 ppg, 11.6 apg. 3.5 rpg, 53 FG%).

Do you see any big disparities there? I certainly don't. If anything, he raises his game in the playoffs, which can't be said about some other players (cough-Dirk-cough).

 
At 5/11/2007 2:27 AM, Anonymous eauhellzgnaw said...

How is Bomani Jones a "jackass" because he finds Nash boring? Isn't the point of all of this about the subjectivity of style-driven taste?

Are the FD heads "jackasses" cause they find Wade or Duncan boring?

 
At 5/11/2007 7:31 AM, Anonymous Sean said...

eauhellzgnaw: Ah, no, because at least the FD heads watch basketballl.

 
At 5/11/2007 10:24 AM, Blogger Chester said...

Long-time reader, first-time commenter...

Though I am (by geography/birth) obviously a Cavs/LeBron fan, I'm not really making an argument either way, but rather throwing out some food for thought. Consider some comparisons from Terry Pluto in the Akron Beacon Journal (full article):

Let's take a look at the first four years of the Jordan and James regimes. Consider the following:

*Jordan was the No. 3 pick in the 1984 NBA Draft. He joined a Bulls team that was 27-55 and had been to the playoffs only twice in the previous nine years. James was the top pick in the 2003 draft, coming to a Cavs team that was worse than those pre-Jordan Bulls: 17-65. Those Cavs had been to the playoffs only once in the previous seven years.

*In Jordan's rookie season, the Bulls improved from 27 to 38 victories, losing in the first round of the playoffs. As a rookie, James took the Cavs from 17 to 35 victories, missing the playoffs. In his second season, James took the Cavs from 34 to 42 wins, missing the playoffs. Jordan sat out 64 games with a broken foot. The Bulls dropped from 38 to 30 victories, made the playoffs anyway, and were swept in the first round. In his third season, James raised the Cavs from 42 to 50 wins. In his first playoff appearance, the Cavs went to the second round. Jordan's third year saw a 40-42 record and a loss in the first round. In Jordan's fourth season, the Bulls finally won 50 games. They also finally won a playoff series, beating the Cavs in 1988 and losing to the Detroit Pistons in the second round. James has just completed his fourth season. The Cavs had 50 victories and are favored to reach the Eastern Conference finals.

*In Jordan's first three playoff appearances, the Bulls were 1-9. They went through three coaches in three years. Most fans forget the frustration of Jordan and Bulls fans in this early era.

*In Jordan's rookie year, he was surrounded by these supposedly key players: Quintin Dailey, Orlando Woolridge, Steve Johnson, Dave Corzine, David Greenwood, Sidney Green and Ennis Whatley. Only Corzine would be with the team in Jordan's fourth season. In James' rookie year, his supporting cast was Carlos Boozer, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Kevin Ollie, DeSagana Diop, Ira Newble and Dajuan Wagner. At the start of the year, they had Ricky Davis and Darius Miles. Those two were traded for Jeff McInnis, Tony Battie and Eric Williams. Four years later, only Ilgauskas and Newble remain.

*When you consider the rosters around a young Bird and Magic, it's far more significant to measure the progress of James by Jordan. But James joined a team that was worse than Jordan's Bulls -- by 10 games. It wasn't until Jordan's fourth season that the parts of the championship run were coming into place, as Horace Grant and Scottie Pippen were both rookies. Neither averaged more than eight points. The other key players on that 1987-88 Bulls team were Charles Oakley, John Paxson, Sam Vincent, Brad Sellers and Dave Corzine.

*It took the Big Three of Jordan, Pippen and Grant four years, until 1991, to win their first NBA title -- in Jordan's seventh season. He was 28 years old. From Years 4 to 7 for the Bulls, the only player who remained with the Big Three to win a title was John Paxson. A key trade was Charles Oakley for Bill Cartwright, giving the Bulls a low-post defender they lacked.

*It was Phil Jackson who coached the Bulls to that first title, and he would win five more in Chicago. He was Jordan's fourth coach in seven years. Cavs fans should be connecting the dots on this. James is on his third coach. They keep shuffling the roster. It's a long, painful process if you don't have established stars -- or draft some -- to surround your franchise player.


I think (at least, I read) the point is that even guys like Jordan took their time. Does LeBron have more hype surrounding him? Probably, mainly due in large part to the comparisons to Jordan he had piled at his feet in high school. But, the argument Pluto makes is that James has out-performed Jordan to this point in their careers (and LBJ is 3 years younger at this point than was Jordan), and that it still took Jordan 7 years to get to the promised land.

So, do we expect more from James? Is that fair? By most accounts, Danny Ferry is a better GM than was Jim Paxson (I hope to God there will be no more conversations that go: "Sure, a first rounder for Jiri Fucking Welsch sounds about right!"), but he needs time to add more players to this team. It is my hope that his experience with San Antonio (they always seem to find good players, even drafting in the 20's every year) will pay dividends for the Cavs as they try to build a team worthy enough to entice LeBron to stay after his extension runs out.

Also, since I suspect LeBron is one of those guys that uses slights (perceived or otherwise) as motivation to prove what he can do (see: January, entire national media rips LeBron for regressing, February-April, LeBron raises his game and carries team to #2 seed)... I wonder what his being left off of the first team All-NBA might do for his competitive juices this weekend and beyond.

 
At 5/11/2007 2:34 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

Sean, you can't blame Kobe for his team's shortcomings because his team is made up of a bunch of stiffs. It's not his fault that the players on his team aren't good players, that's Laker management's fault. When Kobe had teammates who weren't stiffs he won titles.

Nash, on the other hand, doesn't have the excuse that his teammates are stiffs. Nash is teammates with a guy who's 1st Team All NBA (Stoudemire), a guy who is 1st Team All NBA Defense (Bell), a guy who is a multiple All Star and was again this year (Marion), a guy who as Nash's backup was the 6th Man Award winner this year (Barbosa) and a guy who was last year's Most Improved Player Award winner (Diaw). A collection of guys like that is gonna be a great team, no matter what; but you add to that the reigning 2-time MVP and 1st Team All NBA this year Steve Nash, and one would think that's a slam dunk champion. What I'm saying is that if they don't win (or even worse if they don't get out of the second round) isn't it time to stop with the whole "Nash makes his teammates better" nonsense? If the Suns don't win it this year, what other incredibly talented teammates would Nash need to finally elevate his team to the championship level?

The last two years the Suns have gotten to the Western Conference Finals without key players and with guys playing at half-strength

You like to bring this up a lot, despite the fact that I feel I've done a good job of refuting it. First, two years ago the player that Phoenix was missing, Joe Johnson, was the 4th best player on that team and he did play in the first two games of the 2nd round. Somehow Nash had to "make do" with "only" Stoudemire and Marion to get through the last 4 games of the 2nd round. Ok, then last year the Suns were missing Stoudemire all year (not just for the playoffs) but still won their division and as such got the benefit of the seeding SNAFU that the league corrected last summer. As a result Phoenix only had to play the #7 and #6 seeds to get to the WCF, while Dallas (the #1 seed) had to play the Spurs (the team with the West's 2nd best record) in the second round. So quit using this "the Suns have made it to the WCF the last two years" nonsense as a leg to stand on because this is now twice that I've kicked it out from under you.

There are a lot of stories swirling around that if the Suns do fail to make it past this round against San Antonio that the Phoenix ownership is thinking of a major shakeup which most likely involves Marion or possibly Stoudemire. People may think I'm crazy, but I think that if the Suns don't advance, and especially if Nash wins a third straight MVP then Phoenix should explore trading Steve Nash. With the remaining roster that the Suns have, with Atlanta's draft pick and with what Nash would probably bring in a trade Phoenix could have an incredible lineup next year. Also, with Nash being 33 his trade value will never be higher than it will be this summer, and one would have to think as he gets older he's going to become less and less effective so the time to trade him may be now. Look at how the Heat are stuck with Shaq at 35 with his decline in production/minutes and his monster salary. Nobody stays in their prime forever.

 
At 5/11/2007 3:23 PM, Anonymous Sean said...

Wild Yams: "Sean, you can't blame Kobe for his team's shortcomings because his team is made up of a bunch of stiffs. It's not his fault that the players on his team aren't good players, that's Laker management's fault. When Kobe had teammates who weren't stiffs he won titles."

Um, do you read what I actually wrote? I've been agreeing with you on Kobe for the last day or so; I think he is unfairly criticized for having shitty teammates.

"What I'm saying is that if they don't win (or even worse if they don't get out of the second round) isn't it time to stop with the whole "Nash makes his teammates better" nonsense? If the Suns don't win it this year, what other incredibly talented teammates would Nash need to finally elevate his team to the championship level?"

(I think there's only one way to answer this: to quote Bill Russell.

"I think, on the world stage, he’s one of our great athletes in all sports. I’m a big fan. The two M.V.P.’s he got, he deserved. Part of the reason that he’s so good and so effective is that the guys like playing with him. He creates an atmosphere where they win games.”

“I think that the M.V.P. is for the regular season. I will say this — first of all, his career is not over. A lot of guys that won championships, they won it after their prime.”

“Do you consider Charles Barkley great? You have to consider the body of their work. I’ve been watching the N.B.A. since 1950. And so I’ve known what I was watching, and Steve Nash is one of the guys that stands out over that period.”)

"So quit using this "the Suns have made it to the WCF the last two years" nonsense as a leg to stand on because this is now twice that I've kicked it out from under you."

Whatever. A win is a win is a win . . .

Can't refute nothin' about that.

(By the way, I'm glad you pointed out to me that Nash is responsible for the seeding "SNAFU". Damn those Canadians and their insidious plot to screw up the NBA playoff format!)

(Note: Part of me suspects that if the Mavs would have had Nash running the point instead of Jason Terry they wouldn't be sitting at home right now.)

 
At 5/11/2007 3:24 PM, Anonymous Sean said...

Sorry: it's supposed to say "did you read".

 
At 5/11/2007 4:38 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

I'm not denying that Nash is great. He's just not 2 or 3 time MVP great. Further, I'm not denying that the Suns did in fact make it to the WCF; I'm just disputing the way you're parading it out there like it was some monumental achievement despite missing key players. As I said, in the first instance he was only missing the fourth best player on the team for a couple games; and in the second instance the player was gone all year and all the Suns ended up doing was beating two teams in their own division that they had better records than despite missing Stoudemire all year. Did Nash create the seeding SNAFU? Of course not, don't be stupid. But you can't deny that he did benefit from it. You know what I'm saying, and I can tell you agree with it since rather than refute what I'm saying you're pretending (I hope) to be stupid.

The beauty is that we can continue to debate in circles, but we're going to find out in the next week or so whether Nash is really deserving of all the praise he's received in the last couple years. If the Suns advance they should have a decent shot of winning it all, or at least one would think they'd be favored to make it to The Finals this year. However, if the Suns don't at least make The Finals then I think that will be sufficient proof that Nash is indeed overhyped and the Suns management will probably blow up the team and try something else this summer.

Tying this all back into LeBron though, I think the same thing could be said based on how the Cavs do against Detroit in the next round. If they push that series to 6 or 7 or win, then LBJ will be deserving of the praise he's received and will have shown he took a step forward this year. On the other hand, if the Pistons win in 4 or 5 then we'll all really have to question whether LeBron has regressed. Although maybe in that case someone like you, Sean, would still think he'd improved this year simply by making it to the Conference Finals, despite only playing two teams that finished the year at .500 to do so.

 
At 5/11/2007 5:29 PM, Anonymous Sean said...

Wild Yams: "I'm not denying that the Suns did in fact make it to the WCF; I'm just disputing the way you're parading it out there like it was some monumental achievement despite missing key players."

Well, since only four teams get to the CFs every year, I'd say that, yeah, it is an achievement. Do I equate it to winning a championship? Of course not. But it's better than losing in the first or second round, that's for sure.

" As I said, in the first instance he was only missing the fourth best player on the team for a couple games; and in the second instance the player was gone all year and all the Suns ended up doing was beating two teams in their own division that they had better records than despite missing Stoudemire all year"

Well, when you only really have a seven- or eight-man rotation, even one player missing is still a big loss.

"Did Nash create the seeding SNAFU? Of course not, don't be stupid. But you can't deny that he did benefit from it. You know what I'm saying, and I can tell you agree with it since rather than refute what I'm saying you're pretending (I hope) to be stupid".

Um, I think you're taking this debate a little too seriously. It's called sarcasm; look it up.

"The beauty is that we can continue to debate in circles, but we're going to find out in the next week or so whether Nash is really deserving of all the praise he's received in the last couple years . . . However, if the Suns don't at least make The Finals then I think that will be sufficient proof that Nash is indeed overhyped and the Suns management will probably blow up the team and try something else this summer."

So Nash's whole career should be judged on this one series? What if they lose to the Spurs this year, but come back and win the whole she-bang next season?

If we're judging a player by one moment in his career, maybe we should do the same for others. Like Kobe: he should forever be known for quiting on his team in the fourth quarter of Game 7 last year against the Suns. Or Dirk, for deciding to not show up at all in the biggest game of the season last week.

"Although maybe in that case someone like you, Sean, would still think he'd improved this year simply by making it to the Conference Finals, despite only playing two teams that finished the year at .500 to do so."

Well, no, because I think LeBron had been coasting all year up to the playoffs, so I kinda agree with you.

* What the fuck is with the cheap shots all of a sudden? Don't like people (slightly) disagreeing with you or something? Well, too fucking bad.

 
At 5/11/2007 7:27 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

Someone should have pointed out to you by now that sarcasm doesn't play too well when it's done in print. Without tone of voice, you can't really tell if someone's joking or not. I did say I presumed you were pretending to be stupid, for what it's worth.

You and I apparently just have different yardsticks by which we measure achievement. I don't think that merely advancing to a specific round of the playoffs is an achievement unless you look at who the competition was. A few years back Phoenix was able to advance to the 2nd round over San Antonio because Tim Duncan sat out the series with an injury, and at the time I didn't think it was some great achievement by Phoenix to have beaten a much weaker team. My suspicions about whatever the Suns had achieved that year were later proven correct as that team was broken up shortly thereafter.

Last year the Suns played the whole season (save 3 games) without Amare Stoudemire and still managed to win the Pacific Division. This meant that the team they took into the playoffs was essentially the same one they played with all year (Kurt Thomas got hurt late in the year, but the Suns added Tim Thomas who I daresay played better than KT would have). Even given this the Suns came one rebound away from losing to the 7th-seeded Lakers, a team that actually was missing a key piece: starting center Chris Mihm. Due to the seeding SNAFU the Nuggets were given the #3 seed and lost in 5 games in the opening round to the Clippers, so Phoenix's second round opponent was the 6th-seeded Clips who also took Phoenix to seven games before losing. This is the triumphant march to the conference finals that you want to trot out as evidence of Nash's brilliance? Forgive me if I'm less than impressed.

The previous year the Suns advanced to the 2nd round against Dallas and lost Joe Johnson in the 2nd game for the remainder of the playoffs. The Suns lost that 2nd game in which Johnson got injured, but won 3 of the next 4 to clinch that series in 6. Those suns had the pre-surgery beast that Amare Stoudemire was as well as All Star Shawn Marion to go with Nash, along with their typically capable role players (Barbosa, Q. Rich, etc). That Dallas team was the same Mavericks that with Nash the year before had been eliminated in 5 games in the first round, with Avery still a year away from his first game as coach. While I'll allow that this is more impressive than the Suns '06 playoffs, it's not exactly so mind-blowing as to make me feel like Nash is deserving of multiple MVP awards.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: if the Suns don't advance in this series, that calls into serious question Nash's abilities. Does that mean I'm solely judging Nash based on this one series? Of course not. I'm looking at this series right alongside all the other ones and alongside his entire career. Like I said, the guy is 33 years old and has been around for a long time; and in that time I have yet to see a truly impressive playoff run from him or the team he's on. All great players from great teams eventually break through, and if Nash never does as a key contributor on any of the great teams he's been on, then it taints his legacy. One may criticize Barkley, Ewing, Stockton or Malone if they want, but at least those players made it to the Finals; and really the only thing that prevented all of those guys from winning was the presence of Michael Jordan. What's Nash's excuse?

 
At 5/11/2007 7:53 PM, Anonymous Sean said...

Wild Yams: "Last year the Suns played the whole season (save 3 games) without Amare Stoudemire and still managed to win the Pacific Division. This meant that the team they took into the playoffs was essentially the same one they played with all year (Kurt Thomas got hurt late in the year, but the Suns added Tim Thomas who I daresay played better than KT would have). Even given this the Suns came one rebound away from losing to the 7th-seeded Lakers, a team that actually was missing a key piece: starting center Chris Mihm. Due to the seeding SNAFU the Nuggets were given the #3 seed and lost in 5 games in the opening round to the Clippers, so Phoenix's second round opponent was the 6th-seeded Clips who also took Phoenix to seven games before losing. This is the triumphant march to the conference finals that you want to trot out as evidence of Nash's brilliance? Forgive me if I'm less than impressed."

A.) Chris Mihm? A critical piece? Dude, I watched him when he was in Boston, and a game-changer he is not.

B.) Ah yes, Tim Thomas. A player that Phoenix barely tried to resign and who is now sucking big time in L.A.

C.)It wasn't just Kurt Thomas who was hurting; Raja Bell was as well.

D.) In response to your "triumphant march" comment, I'm just going to repaste Nash's playoff numbers over the last three seasons again:

In 2005 he averaged 23.9 ppg, 11.3 apg, and 4.8 rpg on 52% shooting (regular season: 15.5 ppg, 11.5 apg, 3.3. rpg, 51 FG%); in 2006 he average 20.4 ppg, 10.2, and 3.7 rpg on 50% shooting (regular season: 18.8 ppg, 10.5 apg, 4.2 rpg, 51 FG%); and right now, he's averaging 18.7 ppg, 13.4 apg, 2.6 rpg, and 46 FG% (regular season: 18.6 ppg, 11.6 apg. 3.5 rpg, 53 FG%).

Wow, he sucks! (Just to let you know: that's sarcasm).

"That Dallas team was the same Mavericks that with Nash the year before had been eliminated in 5 games in the first round, with Avery still a year away from his first game as coach. While I'll allow that this is more impressive than the Suns '06 playoffs, it's not exactly so mind-blowing as to make me feel like Nash is deserving of multiple MVP awards."

Believe it or not, Nash wasn't "the man" in Dallas; Dirk was (and still is). So if you're going to blame any one single person for the Mavericks shortcomings, blame Dirk (who, the last time I checked, hasn't won a title either and yet still will be hoisting an MVP trophy Tuesday).

"Like I said, the guy is 33 years old and has been around for a long time; and in that time I have yet to see a truly impressive playoff run from him or the team he's on. All great players from great teams eventually break through, and if Nash never does as a key contributor on any of the great teams he's been on, then it taints his legacy. One may criticize Barkley, Ewing, Stockton or Malone if they want, but at least those players made it to the Finals; and really the only thing that prevented all of those guys from winning was the presence of Michael Jordan. What's Nash's excuse?"

Look at the statistics again, please. And as for excuses? How about Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki, two MVPs and future Hall of Famers?

Just for the hell of it, I'm going to repaste Russells comments again. I think an eleven-time champion and five-time MVP (not to mention an NCAA champion and Gold Medalist) knows what he's talking about:

"I think, on the world stage, he’s one of our great athletes in all sports. I’m a big fan. The two M.V.P.’s he got, he deserved. Part of the reason that he’s so good and so effective is that the guys like playing with him. He creates an atmosphere where they win games.”

“I think that the M.V.P. is for the regular season. I will say this — first of all, his career is not over. A lot of guys that won championships, they won it after their prime.”

“Do you consider Charles Barkley great? You have to consider the body of their work. I’ve been watching the N.B.A. since 1950. And so I’ve known what I was watching, and Steve Nash is one of the guys that stands out over that period.”

 
At 5/11/2007 7:58 PM, Anonymous Sean said...

Here's another quote as well:

"Steve makes everyone around him better, and that's the sign of a great player. And he's been on a hell of a run here the last few years." -Larry Bird

 
At 5/11/2007 10:23 PM, Anonymous Sean said...

"This is the difference between Dirk and Steve Nash. And this is why Steve Nash has won the MVP the last two years. At eight minutes to go, it was a one-point game. This man took the game over, had seven points, six assists in the last eight minutes to take it to a seven-point lead for the Phoenix Suns ... that's what a leader does, that's what an MVP is supposed to do. Dirk, learn from your best friend because he's taken this game over, something you didn't do in the last series."-Magic Johnson

 

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