SPORTS WATCH
Blame Spoelstra, Not LeBron
by Gus Jarvis
Jun 16, 2011 | 2164 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
After the Dallas Mavericks claimed the NBA Championship last weekend by beating the Heat in game 6, the world has tirelessly been talking about LeBron James and why he had such a lackluster finals.

This, of course, comes after LeBron’s WWF-style “Decision” show at the beginning of the season where he announced he was moving from Cleveland to Miami. His almost-non-existent play against the Mavericks has most of the country pointing and laughing at the 26-year-old star. Since he moved to the Heat, the world has wanted to see the superstar lose (well, maybe not Heat fans) because of his arrogance and now, they got what they wanted. LeBron lost and he lost on basketball’s biggest stage.

I guess I am not on that bandwagon yet. With all the bashing he’s taken since the Heat lost 105-95 on Sunday night, I am starting to feel for the guy. Yes, he talked the talk and didn’t exactly walk the walk in the NBA Finals, but I think it’s a huge stretch to call this year’s Heat team a complete failure. They made it to the NBA Finals. Had they lost in the first round of the playoffs, then yes, a failed season. But to lose in the NBA Finals? The season was certainly not a bust.

Growing up in Colorado, my heart is not with the Miami Heat in any sort of way but I did find myself going for the Heat in the finals. I wanted all the LeBron haters across the country to eat crow when he held up the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophy at the end of the series if the Heat won. Why would I like a player with such arrogance, you might ask?

The only thing LeBron James has ever brought into my life is entertainment. I thought the “Decision” was hilarious. Cleveland fans burning LeBron’s jersey was even funnier. I remember a pointless game I watched while he was still in Cleveland when he dribbled the ball to the top of the key while Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” played on the arena’s PA system. In rhythm with the music, James dribbled the ball in and out of his legs and before the defender even knew what was going on, he had already driven the ball to the hoop for a monster dunk.

Who doesn’t like watching this guy play? When he is playing at his top level, he is the best, most entertaining player to watch on the court. If you don’t have anything invested in a basketball game on TV, who better to watch then LeBron James? (If you answer is Dirk Nowitzki, you are high on crack.)

Unfortunately, for a guy like myself, LeBron’s performance in the finals was definitely disappointing. His entertainment value dropped to a season-low, that’s for sure. I can’t tell you how many times I screamed at the top of my lungs, “Take it to the hoop!” during the finals. Yet, he never really did. It was really frustrating knowing LeBron had the moves to do it but he never did.

Now it seems most of the conversation after the series has surrounded LeBron’s poor play. He certainly wasn’t up to his normal play but I believe there hasn’t been enough emphasis on Dallas’s great defense in shutting LeBron down. There were times that even if LeBron wanted to be superman and drive the lane, he had nowhere to go. They defended him as tough as I have ever seen a team defend him. They honestly shut him down in the beginning of the series and by game 6, the Maverick’s defense was in LeBron’s head and he really didn’t even want the ball.

This is where I point the finger at Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra. All he could tell his team during game 6 was “stay the course.” That course, in which his players would pass the ball, pass up a shot, and pass the ball again, didn’t exactly work. He had LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the floor and while they had their moments, they were basically ineffective in scoring points. Spoelstra needed to change something and that change, if it ever came, was too late to change the dynamics of the game.

I don’t want to bash Spoelstra too much here but do you honestly think a coach like Doc Rivers or Phil Jackson would have let the poor offensive play continue the way Spoelstra did in game 6? To stay on that doomed course? Adjustments should have been made. A good coach can help a struggling star like LeBron come out of his slump and I didn’t see that kind of coaching leadership in that game.

Believe me, all the criticism LeBron and company are receiving right now after the loss is not going into thin air. This loss hurt the Heat. The pain from the loss going to make LeBron James focus on winning basketball games instead of comparing himself to Michael Jordan and when he does that, look out.

You can etch it in stone right now. LeBron James and the Miami Heat will be NBA Champions next year. This finals loss is exactly what that team of stars needs to become real champions. I expect the Heat to unleash the hounds this time next year.
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