We’ve tried our best to stay out of all the hoo-haa surrounding the Miami Heat during the NBA playoffs.
Frankly, with the Indians racing out to the best record in baseball then squandering it away, the Champions League, the U.S. soccer team in the Gold Cup, Kent State’s baseball team just missing a trip to the Super Regionals and the Cavaliers winning the draft lottery, we’ve been occupied with other topics.
But we admit to feeling a sense of relief and schadenfreude after the Dallas Mavericks closed out the Heat with three consecutive wins to take home the NBA title.
The Mavericks proved, at least for another year, that a team can beat a group of individuals, no matter how talented. The Heat, primarily LeBron James and Chris Bosh, learned the hard way there are no shortcuts to success.
And that’s a rare lesson in this age of instant gratification.
Once LeBron decided to leave Cleveland via free agency, we tried to move on – what was done was done. And for the most part we did OK during the season.
But it was hard to quit James when he wouldn’t go away – most notably when he tweeted following a 55-point Cavs loss to the Lakers that, “Crazy. Karma is a bitch. Gets you every time. It’s not good to wish bad on anybody. God sees everything!”
James put out so much negative energy that it was only a matter of time before karma got back at him, and she waited until the finals to exact her revenge on James.
From Brian Windhorst at ESPN:
Just like last season in Cleveland where James’ performance in the clutch was the polar opposite of what his talent and history called for. Just like when the top-seeded Cavs got behind the Celtics, as soon as the Mavs turned the tables on the Heat midway through this series James’ swagger and game left him. When the Heat were beating the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls, series they took control of early, James was a brilliant frontrunner. At his best, really, finishing those teams off.
But as he went through another puzzling game Sunday — dishing repeatedly to Juwan Howard at the rim instead of taking the ball to the basket himself, passing up wide-open shots when the ball came his way, standing and watching on defense like it was a summer camp drill at times — it got more and more clear.
James couldn’t do it.
That’s why the sequence with four minutes left will stay with me for a long time. Miami needed a basket of course — being down eight with four minutes left is not life-threatening in the NBA, as we have seen time and again, but it is not ideal, either. Anyway, as much as the points, Miami needed a game-changing moment. LeBron James is breathtakingly good at making such moments.
Here’s what LeBron James did instead: He stood outside the arc, about 25 feet away from the basket. He did not move. And the two times the ball was passed to him, he passed it away instantly … as if playing hot-potato.
There was absolutely no other explanation that made any sense: LeBron James did not want the basketball.
I honestly could not believe what I was seeing. Maybe I should have expected it. Maybe I should have seen it coming. After all, I had seen LeBron James quit during the final minutes of his Cleveland career when the Cavaliers lost to Boston in the playoffs. I had heard him tell Cleveland fans that they expected too much of him. I had seen him take what looked like the easiest road to a championship when he signed on with Wade and Chris Bosh down in Miami. I had seen the disappearing acts he’d been pulling in the fourth quarters of this NBA Finals. Heck, throughout this game he seemed only moderately engaged. Still … I did not see this coming.
Digging deeper: LeBron averaged 3.5 threes and 8.4 FT attempts during the regular season. In Rounds 2 and 3, he averaged 4.1 threes and 8.6 FT attempts. In the Finals, that flipped: 4.7 threes, 3.3 FT attempts. He stopped getting to the rim. You could say Dallas figured out how to defend him (to a degree, true), that the zone screwed him up (I guess), that Shawn Marion got into his head (possible), but really, he was afraid to attack the rim for whatever reason. Which, by the way, is his single greatest skill.
Everyone is looking for a reason why LeBron and the Heat came up short, and the answer is right there: karma.
After the game, James, as is his norm, was left looking for someone to blame. Last year, it was his Cavs teammates. He didn’t have that option this year because he chose his teammates, so he went after Cleveland (see what we mean about him not going away?)
“All the people that were rooting me on to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life they had before,” James said. “They have the same personal problems they had today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want with me and my family and be happy with that.”
Even though the Heat lost, this is not a victory for Cleveland, no matter how hard the national media tries to sell that story. It wasn’t a win for Cleveland when the Lakers beat Boston last season, or when they beat Orlando in 2009.
We’re not going to the team shop this weekend to pick up a Cavs 2011 NBA Champions T-shirt; our Sports Illustrated commemorative championship package won’t be arriving in the mail in 6-to-8 weeks.
There is one way Cleveland did win last night, however.
We’ve now made it through an entire season post-LeBron, we’ve gone through the heartbreak of the Decision, lived through the circus of the Heat’s first trip to Cleveland, and cheered (and jeered) our way through an injury-filled season of disappointment that became sweeter when the Cavs grabbed two of the first four picks in the draft.
It is now time for those last few holdouts to turn the page. Let’s cheer for who the Cavs are, rather than for who they are not.
Because you never know when karma is going to grow tired of hanging out in South Beach.