By Jeremy Marks-Peltz
MIAMI- LeBron James may have lost the Heat the NBA Finals.
But all nine guys who donned the Heat jersey, and Coach Erik Spoelstra lost Game 6. It was a total team effort to bury the Heat’s 2010-2011 failure of a campaign.
In their 105-95 Game 6 loss to the Mavericks, the Heat selected the worst time to register their biggest dud of the series. They turned the ball over 17 times. They missed 13 free throws. They hit just 7 of 23 three-pointers. They played atrocious defense in both the halfcourt and open court.
Dwyane Wade, after five Finals MVP caliber performances, was arguably the worst member of the Big 3 tonight. Udonis Haslem came up empty against Dirk Nowitzki in winning time and incited a needless altercation by taunting DeShawn Stevenson. Mario Chalmers, elevated to the starting lineup, gave back probably more than his 18 points. Joel Anthony logged just 11 minutes. Mike Miller only eight.
Spoelstra schematically seemed to have zero answers against Dallas’s zone, and stuck with the erratic Eddie House rather than James Jones, who was mysteriously absent the last nine postseason games. And also only got Chris Bosh, the lone bright spot from Sunday, nine shots. Bosh connected on seven of them.
Yep, don’t just pin the Game 6 loss on LeBron James, because the rest of the team deserves to shoulder it. And the Mavericks, who were the better team in this series, deserve all the credit in the world.
But who deserves the most blame for the NBA Finals failure? Well, that goes to the best player in the world still without a ring.
LeBron James averaged 26.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, and seven assists in the regular season. He averaged 17.8 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 6.9 assists in the NBA Finals. LBJ was a money fourth quarter player over the first three rounds. He scored a whopping 16 points in six fourth quarters in the NBA Finals and treated the basketball like it was a hot potato. LeBron distinguished himself as a world-class defender who could shut down the opposing team’s best option. Until he got to the championship round, where James was ill-fit to guard the Mavericks second best player (Jason Terry).
Is there anything that underlines LeBron’s lack of value in this series then the Heat outscoring their opponents 21-7 when LBJ was on the bench Sunday? And Spoelstra giving James his first second half rest, when the Heat’s backs were against the wall?
And the worst part is that watching LeBron James in postgame press conference following his eighth and possibly most painful resolution to a season, makes me question anymore whether he really gets it.
“At the end of the day, all the people that were rooting for me to fail ... at the end of the day, tomorrow they have to wake up and have the same life that [they had] before they woke up today,” James said. “They got the same personal problems they had today. And I'm going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things I want to do.”
LeBron seemed relieved that in his mind, the season and the hating were over. When in reality, the summer of 2011 will be even longer than the summer of 2010. And the hating will be even more passionate. Until he wins a championship.
There will be countless calls for external change with the Heat. I don’t think external change is necessary. I don’t think the Heat need Pat Riley to coach to win a title. I don’t think they need to trade Chris Bosh. And while upgrades at point guard and center would be welcome, I don’t think Joel Anthony and Mike Bibby kept them from the holy grail. And I certainly don’t think Dwyane Wade and LeBron James have issues co-existing.
What the Heat need is internal change. And from one person.
LeBron James needs to develop a post game. A step on your throat competitive streak. An ability to brush off what people think. And maybe most important, LeBron James needs to inject some selfishness in his play. He doesn’t have to always be one of the guys, He can be the guy who teammates can’t stand to play with at times but know can make them millions with his spectacular play. You know, like Michael Jordan, and Kobe Bryant. And even at times, Dwyane Wade.
Until LeBron James becomes more like those guys, he will have not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven---but zero championship rings.
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