Sunday, May 16, 2010
He'll Be The Knicks' Problem Now
If you watched Games 5 and 6 of the Celtics-Cavs series, and had just emerged from a long, 8-year coma and knew nothing about the so-called "Chosen One", you might look at #23 for Cleveland and say: "You know, that guy James is pretty good. I could see him someday winning a championship."
Everybody in the living room would laugh at you. But that statement would be more right than what has been written about the cat so far in his career.
We live in an age of instant assumptions, projected hyperbole, and a sense that great ability is automatically entitled.
LeBron has been "great" for so long, we all seem a little puzzled that he hasn't won by now.
We shouldn't be. The guy doesn't know how to win a championship, and outside of state HS titles, hasn't won anything yet.
And may never.
We all better start realizing that the concept of the "Great NBA Player Who Was Denied a Title" did not end just because Ewing, Malone, and Barkley all retired.
Holding Lebron back in this quest for a ring, are a host of problems. But let me at least give the guy this much: I have no doubt he desperately WANTS to win a title. I think he's trying very hard.
So give him that.
Here's what Lebron needs.
1. New Coach
Puppets don't win NBA titles. You don't need to be a brilliant X&O guy per se, but you can't be a puppet. Mike Brown is such a puppet of LeBron, you can almost see the fuzzy felt ears and plastic google eyes. They say LeBron will have a direct say in who his coach is in whatever city he decides to land in this summer. Bad idea. LeBron needs a coach who will challenge him, teach, and not be so awestruck. Good luck on finding that guy. My short list would be Sloan and Popovich, and they aren't available.
2. Better Fundamentals
How can it be that guy who is a two-time MVP, and stuffs box scores like a tuna can, have terrible basketball fundamentals? Easy. Pure talent does all that stuff during the fast moving, city-to-city regular season. The playoffs are a different beast altogether. It is there, that bad fundamentals show up because teams are ready to stop you, and focused on doing just that. LeBron demonstrated this shortcoming repeatedly in Game 6. From lazily turning into a clear double team in the post to get stripped, to that high hopping bouncy dribble-charge move, to flinging passes from his waist on the run over the heads of teammates, he was all over the map against the Celtics. You want to see good fundamentals welded onto superior physical talent? Watch Kobe.
3. Maturity and Focus
LeBron has a seemingly deep need to be liked by his teammates. Hell, everybody has a need to be liked by others, but LeBron's is misguided. Jordan didn't care if his teammates liked him. He wanted them to respect him. Magic put on a more friendly face when the lights went up, but he wasn't organizing fake pictures during introductions with the fellas. All that retarded regular season nonsense needs to go. Yes, including the talcum volcano at the scorers table.
Lastly, I need to point out one thing LeBron does NOT need to win a championship.
And that is a "better supporting cast."
How come nobody was saying of the 60-win Cavs and #1 seed BEFORE the playoffs: "You know, I think there's no way this team wins the title. Besides LeBron, it's garbage!"
No, about 70% of the NBA pundits - men paid handsomely to make sense of the NBA and offer reasonable predictions - had Cleveland winning it all.
Again, there was no complaining that Antawn Jamison can't play defense, or Shaq is old, or Ilgauskas looks like a 7-foot penis, BEFORE the Cavs started their post-season quest.
Hell, nobody was even saying that after Game 1 of the series!
LeBron needs to help make his supporting cast better, not the other way around. And it's not just about drawing double-teams and passing to them. He needs to lead the LeBronettes in focus, intensity, and accountability.
For this reason alone, I don't think going to the Knicks will be such a huge setback for LeBron. Just adding him, makes the Knicks a 50-win team even if they don't add another player.
That's plenty of wins to be solidly in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
From there, the real challenge begins. Can LeBron absorb the loss they took, be honest about how and where he needs to improve, and work like hell to make it happen?
We shall see.
And for the record, I think he's a New York Knick by July.