Prepare Thyself to Hail the King

The NBA Finals resume Thursday evening, but they ended last night.   For all intents and purposes it’s all over.   Lebron James and his Miami Heat have no intentions of going back to Oklahoma City until next season.   They want to put an end to the series on their own court before their own fans.

Barring an unforeseeable miracle, that’s exactly what they will do by 11:30 Eastern Standard Time.

The Heat’s 104-98 win over the Thunder was the difference between a two-man game and a team.   Going into the series, it was assumed it was Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden who were the new “Big 3” and James along with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh were three superstars trying to learn how to play as teammates.

Oh, what a difference ripping off three straight wins makes.   The Thunder hasn’t played bad, but the Heat has played lights out.  When OKC ripped off a lead in the first quarter that stretched to 17 points, the Heat played it cool.   Beyond their own Big 3, they got major contributions from point guards Mario Chalmers (25 points) and Norris Cole who came off the bench to knock down two three-pointers that chipped away at the Thunder’s lead.

Durant scored 28 points and Westbrook led all scorers with 43.   Westbrook is a score first-pass second point guard who trusts his own abilities more than he trusts any teammate not named Durant.  With good reason as it turns out.  Harden has been more bust than bad-ass in the Finals.  He was 2 of 10 shooting in Game Four including an embarrassingly botched breakaway(slam? lay up?).   Harden is stinking up the series with his lousy play.

It was supposed to be a showdown, not a beatdown.

The rest of the Thunder scored a total of 19 points.  Derek Fisher is old, slow, and simply can’t play anymore.  Fisher’s stats for the game: 22 minutes, no assists, no points, no rebounds, no turnovers, one steal and the one shot he yoked up was a bricked three-pointed that only served to waste a fast break opportunity.

For all the criticism of Westbrook for not being a distributor as the point guard, Fisher, 37 years old with 15 years experience, has been absolute garbage.   The biggest favor he could do for the team is to retire today and let somebody play tomorrow who looks like they belong on the court instead of an assisted living facility.

But this is less about the Thunder blowing it than it is the Heat winning it.  James is playing fiercely.   There’s none of the dancing, joking and playing around with a mock camera as he did in his last season with the Cavaliers.   He’s dialed in completely and whatever it takes for him to win his first championship James is willing to do.  He’s rebounding, scoring, distributing, playing lockdown “d” and making the rest of his teammates step up their game.   James is on a mission and he will not be denied.

The Thunder certainly has shown they have no idea how to do it.   Lebron is too strong for Durant, too big for Harden, too fast for any of the useless Thunder big men.

Last year when he was being humiliated by the Dallas Mavericks, James was the best player in the NBA with the worst reputation.   People were pulling for him to lose, including me.  He made himself easy to root against after his awful kiss-off to Cleveland with the brain-dead debacle that was “The Decision”  After that farce he went from King James to “LeGone James” and why not?  What was he supposed to be king of anyway?

I’m still a little frosty by the graceless way he left, but I can’t deny Lebron his due.  He is the best player in the NBA and has proven it by his play throughout the playoffs.   Now that he is standing on the verge of finally winning his first championship, only the most hardcore of Lebron haters can refuse to recognize the grandeur of his reign over the basketball world.

Ready or not, it’s time to hail the King.

The Thunder don’t need a miracle. They need a win.

Taking his talents on vacation: LeBron Lechokes

There can only be one. This year its the Mavericks.

This was supposed to be easy.

LeBron James, the NBA’s greatest player had fallen short of true greatness due to his failure to win a championship.   After seven seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers he publicly announced in a widely ridiculed interview/slash/performance piece that he would “take his talents to South Beach” and play with the Miami Heat.

The Heat was a shiny BMW to the beat up Dodge the King’s former team.  Dwayne Wade was already there waiting for the King and soon others followed such as Chris Bosh from the Toronto Raptors dead zone, a power forward prone to power outages.  With Pat Riley acolyte Eric Spolestra as the coach/designated ball boy charged with the task of guiding this merger to the first of many championships, The Heat put together a decent, if not devastating roster of journeymen, role players, has beens, and spare parts.  It was enough for King James and his court to survive the grind of the season and crush the 76ers, Celtics and the Bulls in the NBA Playoffs.

Leaving only the Dallas Mavericks, a group of perennial bridesmaids and one superstar, Dirk Nowitzki, a seven-footer from Germany with a sweet jump shot and a reputation for being the worst thing any pro athlete can be.  Soft.  Far too soft to deny LeBron, who had LeGone from the snows of Cleveland to the sun of Miami.

This was going to be easy.  Miami would brush aside the Mavs and LeBron would finally enjoy the glory his nickname as King James proclaimed was his by Divine Right.

Then a funny thing happened.  LeBron turned into LeGone again and then, LeChoke.  He pulled a disappearing act in the championships would make Harry Houdini and Cris Angel jealous as hell.

"You want the championship? You can't HANDLE the championship!"

The underdog Mavs beat the Heat in six games after closing them out with a 105-95 win on the opposing team’s home court.  Nowitzki won the series Most Valuable Player (though he scored no points for good sportsmanship by immediately leaving the floor after Dallas secured the win and declining to shake the hands of James, Wade or any Heat player).

Dallas is a better coached and much more complete team than Miami, but are they a better team? No.  Miami has great players, but Dallas has a great team and like when the Pistons destroyed the 2004 O’Neal/Bryant/Malone/Payton Lakers, great teams beat great players (despite what David Stern might wish).

Dirk didn’t cut and run on the Mavs the way LeGone did with the Cavs. Dirk didn’t hold some arrogant reality show to announce he was taking his talents to South Beach. Dirk didn’t boast how he was going to win “not one…not two…not three…championships.

If I were building a team I’d rather have Dirk Nowitzki than LeGone James.   Not because he would be a better player.  Because he would be a better teammate.

Nowitzki explained bolting from the court when he later told ESPN’s Hannah Storm, “I had to get a moment. I was crying a bit. I was a little emotional. … I actually didn’t want to come out for the trophy, but the guys talked me into it.”

I can’t imagine a guy who just won his and his team’s first championship not wanting to share in the glory and hoist the trophy and I’ll cut him a little slack for not wanting to cry in front of the cameras.  But Dirk, if your teammates can hang on the floor and shake the opposing team’s hand and you are the leader/best player of your team, you can do it too.

That goes for you and LeGone.  Flip the script and if this had been James walking off the court without shaking Dirk’s hand after winning the championship, he would be ROASTED by the press and the fans.

But being a bad sport wasn’t exclusively Dirk’s problem. LeBrick (thanks Facebook friend Merlisa Lawrence Corbett for that one) retreated to Twitter account to say, “The Greater Man upstairs know when it’s my time. Right now isn’t the time.”

It’s never been your time LeChoke. The Greater Man decided it was Dirk Nowitzki’s time, not yours.  One day LeBron James will be a champion, but first he’s going to have to learn a bit about humility. So far, he’s proven to be a slow learner.

Since LeBron lost to Dirk, a German export, here’s a German word for him: schadenfreude.  It means finding satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else’s misfortune.  There’s a lot of satisfaction and pleasure in Cleveland today.

There can only be one.  Once again, it’s not you, LeChoke.

LeBron is now a two-time loser in the NBA Finals.

A Man On A Mission

Like it or not, nothing can stop LeBron now.

The NBA Playoffs don’t take forever.  It just feels like they do.  Truth be told, there have been some halfway decent basketball played.   Problem is, it’s almost all been in the Western Conference where teams get out and run the ball instead of grinding it out in the half court and lockdown defense. 

Between the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat, I can’t guess which team David Stern would like less handing over the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy to.   It’s a choice between his nemesis among team owners, Mark Cuban, or the most despised team in the NBA, the Miami Heat, led by two superstars in LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and an occasional one in Chris Bosh.

These may not be the two best teams in the NBA, but they’re the only two who made it all the way. Sorry for all you Celtics, Lakers, Magic and Spurs fans.  Now it’s just a matter of who gets to hoist the championship banner when it’s over.

If I were a betting man I’d put it on the Heat.   The Mavericks have the talent to get the job done, but LeBron is on a mission.  He’s not going to let Dirk Nowitzki stand between him and the chance to finally shake off the rap that’s dogged him for eight seasons now:  LeBron is the greatest player since Michael Jordan, but Jordan won six.  Lebron hasn’t won anything.

That’s all going to change within a week or so.. Sure, D-Wade and Bosh want to win a championship too and Nowitzki would like to shake that “soft” label he’s been saddled with once and for all, but nobody wants this like Lebron.  He needs this is a way they don’t.  

Despite Jordan’s former caddy, Scottie Pippen having a senior moment and saying LeBron is greater than M.J. nobody will ever take that assessment seriously until James starts putting together a string of championships like Jordan did.   It’s possible he could, but it’s just as possible some other team like the Knicks or the Lakers will bring in a Dwight Howard or a Chris Paul and upset the balance of power all over again.  The Heat have demonstrated you can put together an instant contender with three stars in their prime and a bunch of role players along for the ride.  

The Mavericks are the last obstacle standing between LeBron’s long-awaited glory and they aren’t going to have enough to stop him from getting it.   The Heat take in it six games.  But I wouldn’t be surprised if Lebron put the rest of the team on his back and tried to sweep the Mavs even if he personally has to play one-on-five to do it.

LeBron and the Heat know they’re the bad guys here and more people want them to lose than to win.  They know everybody hates them and it hasn’t killed them.  It just made them stronger. They feed off of  it.  That hate will give them the motivation that’s going to lead them to the title.   

You can’t stop an idea whose time has come and it’s Lebron James time. 

They know you hate them. They just don't care.