Thursday, June 13, 2013

LeBron is two losses away from being forgotten forever

I always thought one of the biggest shortcomings of Fire Joe Morgan, besides the sadly unfunny Fremulon Insurance running schitck, was their propensity for picking on crappy and incompetent writers from nationally insignificant newspapers. It's like, yeah, of course the guy writing about baseball for the Harrisburg Gazette-Post is a moron. That's why he hasn't been hired by someone else. I agree that it's ABSOLUTELY HILAROUS that he thinks Darin Erstad deserves MVP votes, but come on.

You'll notice we've never done much of this here. Probably 80% of what we've ever written about comes from ESPN, 5% comes from Mariotti (5% and falling as time goes by! Poor Jay can't seem to catch a break and get a job anywhere! Gotta feel for the guy), and 15% from assorted national outlets that aren't as bad as ESPN but are still pretty fucking bad.

You can probably guess that I put together that intro because I'm about to pick on some writing from a small newspaper. You're sort of right, except that the Denver Post is sort of kind of on the fringe of being a nationally significant newspaper, and also, what Benjamin Hochman wrote in it is so fucking dumb that I couldn't pass it up.

LeBron James can't not win the NBA title this season.

Off to a bad start.

Pardon the double negative,

I don't think that stylistic choice had the effect you wanted it to. It's not an intentional error that adds impact to the point you're trying to make. Instead, it just makes the reader think "Why the hell didn't he just say 'LeBron absolutely has to win the title this season'?"

but that's simply the sentiment — and the simple sentiment, at that.

The intentionally complicated sentiment that could have been said better and with more simplicity.

He must win this thing.

There it is!

Yes, he's the best talent to ever play the game (maybe any game).

And we've entered the world of "Say provocative and obviously incorrect things to get people to talk about this article and link to it."

But LeBron's legacy will come down to the King's rings.

This is true, and in order to be thought of in the same way that people think of Jordan, he's going to need to win a few more.

And the Chicago Bulls' Derrick Rose was out with injury this season, and the Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook was injured this postseason, so the Miami Heat has had its path cleared to win back-to-back titles.

Also true, but unfortunately this is merely a setup for the stupidity to come. There's nothing wrong with noting that LeBron will need more than one title to solidify his legacy. But does he need THIS title? If the Heat had lost to the Pacers (sorry, obviously this is old, I'm a lazy piece of shit who has been sitting on this article for weeks), or if the Spurs manage to top them, will this be some kind of black mark on his resume that can't be erased, even if he won eight more titles in the next ten years? Only a fool would think that. And Benjamin Hochman is a fool.

Which brings us to Thursday's Game 5 of the Indiana-Miami series.

Game 5s are always pivotal,

They are never not pivotal.

but this one is pivotal in the sense that not only could it determine the series, it could determine (or derail) the legacy.

What?  Derail the legacy?  Benjamin Hochman has hotdogs for brains.  I don't even think Simmons with all of his obsession over legacies would ever say anything that loony. (Update: the Heat lost three games in the ECF and have already lost two in the Finals, so according to Simmons, they can no longer claim "one of the best teams of all time" status, even if they come back and beat the Spurs in 6.  Sorry guys. The VP of Common Sense has spoken, and five losses in the ECF + the Finals = not great.)

James and the Heat are tied 2-2 with the Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals. Thursday's game is at Miami, where the visitors lost Game 1 by one in overtime — and then swiped Game 2.

The end of Game 2 was maddening (if you've forgotten, that was the one where LeBron got an uncontested layup to beat the buzzer and win the game with Roy Hibbert on the fucking bench for some reason). I'm glad I'm not a Pacers fan. I would have kicked my TV through a window after that.

Yes, of course, Miami grabbed a road game in Game 3, but the Heat faltered in Tuesday's Game 4. James fouled out (a star fouled out?), Dwyane Wade traveled late (they actually called traveling?) and Roy Hibbert and the Pacers bullied the Heat on the boards (Ray Allen led the Heat in rebounding? Ray Allen, really?).

The Pacers are pretty good. I'm going to go out on a limb and say they're so good that if they had topped the Heat, LeBron's legacy would have been, at the very least, salvageable with a few more titles in the next decade.

James is playing exactly three more minutes per game in the playoffs than he did in the regular season, but he's down, slightly, in every major statistical category. After making 12 and 14 field goals in Games 1 and 2, he made just eight each in Games 3 and 4. Clearly, nucleuses win games, not just one player. Look at the Thunder's struggles without Westbrook, even though Oklahoma City has the second-best player on the planet.

Stat showing that LeBron had only been scoring a ton of points through four games of that series, rather than a whole fucking huge shitload of points, followed by anecdote that contradict's the writer's thesis

But James must ascend. This is his chance, his time.

Like, he might not get another chance next year? What?

Miami blew it against Dallas in the Finals in 2011,

That Dallas team was pretty good, and they shot lights out from behind the arc (41%!  Jason Kidd, career 35% 3 point shooter, and DeShawn Stevenson, career 34% 3 point shooter, combined to shoot 25 for 51!). Not really a "the better team blew it" series.  More of a "the better team got outplayed by another pretty good team" series.

so after last season's title, James' first, he has a chance for a second ring. And one could argue that Miami, one of the best teams ever assembled,

NOT ANYMORE! Sorry, I knew I already made that joke, but Simmons is such a fucko that I figured I'd make it again.

should make another run in 2014.

If you say that the Heat will make a deep playoff run a year from now, that's not really an "argument." Barring horrible injuries or the collapse of the NBA, it's going to happen.

But after that, there are question marks as big as Birdman.

Questions like, "Where (if anywhere besides Miami) will LeBron go to continue making deep playoff runs after the 2013-2014 season?"

After 2014, Miami will face impending issues with injury-prone older stars who eat up major cap space.
It's not nice to talk about Dwyane Wade without referring to him by name. Still, if LeBron wants to stay in Miami, I'm sure they will be a very serious title contender in 2015. And 2016. And 2017. Pointing out that star players get older and that the future can't be predicted with 100% certainty are really the only two things you can do to try to build an argument that LeBron's last real shot at a title will be next year. And even then, you will have failed miserably, because anyone with a brain knows that LeBron could drag a team much worse than the 2011-2012 Heat to title contention. He already did it in 2006-2007, and even though he's getting older, he's also getting better in many ways. Please, Benjamin. Stop.

And there's no "next generation" of Heat stars waiting in the wings. Instead, there's Norris Cole.

And if this were baseball or hockey, that would be an issue. Instead, it's basketball, and all LeBron needs to do to continue to win titles after 2014 is join up with Danny Granger, Dirk, and a couple other high profile members of that year's free agent class.

Perhaps free agent James will make another highly scrutinized decision in the summer of 2014 and bolt back to Cleveland, where he could join all-star Kyrie Irving, the No. 1 pick of the 2013 draft and two other promising young players, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson. But will he have three rings by then? Even two? Keep in mind that during the 2014-15 season, James will turn 30.

First of all, he and Irving would be an amazing 1-2 combo in Cleveland, but LeBron could do way better than that. And also, yeah, what awesome players have ever won titles after the age of 30?

Naturally, James wants his uniform number in rings (No. 6), just like Kobe Bryant (five rings) wants to get seven, one more than Michael Jordan, which is why some speculate he chose the uniform No. 24, which of course is "one over Jordan."

All that is true. Where are you going with it?

So it all comes back to James' current quest for ring No. 2.

Oh, there? No, it doesn't come back to that, other than in the sense that it's what he is doing now. In the sense that "this quest for ring No. 2 determines his whole legacy" it most definitely does not come back to that.

Here's one optimistic thing in his favor: James' brain.

Now he's just wandering around, rushing to make a word count target before deadline.

LeBron has grown as a mentally tough player. Last season, same playoff round, James and the Heat lost to Boston in Miami in Game 5. Down 3-2, James headed back to Boston, home of his eternal tormenters. In Game 6, he was glorious. He rose. Forty-five points, 15 rebounds and five assists. Miami won Game 6. Miami won Game 7. Miami won the NBA title.

Go on.

And, yes, I've gotten this far without mentioning

anything of substance. What happened to the part where he carried the Heat to the 2012 title?

that the Spurs are playing well, waiting and rested for whomever comes out of the East. But in the NBA Finals I'll take the team that has home-court advantage, the team that has defeated the Spurs four consecutive times, the team that isn't resting nine days and the team that features a ravenous LeBron James.

Wait, what? How the hell did we get here? So James is teetering on the edge of "all time great" relevancy, but also, if the Heat make the Finals, they should have no trouble with the Spurs, but also, the Pacers are terrifying?

All he's got to do is get there first.

I'm lost. This is both shitty analysis and shitty writing. I have no idea how Fire Joe Morgan covered this kind of stuff so often.


tony harding said...

Speaking of Mariotti, I know he was writing for a Chicago sports blog for a couple of months. And he did this Kobe nut-massage for ESPN:

I think nowadays he just trolls on Twitter, mainly USAToday. Since no one will hire him, I guess he thinks the best way to get another job is to criticize everyone else...

ZidaneValor said...

I loved when he said "Keep in mind that during the 2014-15 season, James will turn 30."

Never mind that the Heat are playing the SPURS for the title led by Parker (31), Ginobili (36 in July), and Duncan (37).

Anonymous said...

For when you do a take down of Bill Simmons' legacy check article, i thought this was very interesting:

"I can't wait to find out how I'm going to remember this 15 years from now."

That's the entire Sports Guy philosophy right there. It's basically what happens at the end of those bad movies where they cut from the climactic scene to right before the credits and it goes to each character explaining where they ended up in life e.g. "John ended up marrying Sara and they have 5 kids. Steve went on to be the greatest golfer that ever lived." He wants sports to be movies so bad!