Blog Entry

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

Posted on: June 8, 2011 1:58 am
Edited on: June 8, 2011 5:58 am

Miami Heat forward LeBron James disappears in Game 4 of the NBA Finals. Posted by Ben Golliver


DALLAS – Shrinking implies attendance. To shrink, one must first show up.

To say that Miami Heat forward LeBron James shrunk in Game 4 of the 2011 NBA Finals would be inaccurate. To say that he was invisible, absent and inconsequential in an 86-83 loss to the Dallas Mavericks would be closer to the truth. To pin the fact that the Finals series now stands at two games apiece on his shoulders is not only fair, it's unavoidable.

After stating Thursday morning that he was “starting to taste” his first NBA title, James -- the NBA’s most dominant force playing in the most important game of his career -- had the worst game of his season and made the smallest offensive impact of his playoff career.

He declared earlier this week that no single Mavericks player -- nor any single player in the league -- could guard him. He promised that he would be in “attack mode.” He scolded a columnist who questioned his late-game performance in Game 3 for focusing too much on the box score. He lauded his own defensive abilities and reminded everyone to check the tape.

And then he came out, played 45 minutes and laid the egg of his life.

James finished with eight points, nine rebounds, seven assists and four turnovers. His eight points marked the first time he has failed to score in double digits in 90 career playoff games. He finished with less than half of his regular season low point total: 17. He shot just 3-for-11 from the field, making just one field goal that wasn’t a dunk.

In the fourth quarter, James scored zero points, and had more turnovers (2) than field goal attempts (1). The last points he scored came with 1:17 left in the third quarter. He didn't take a shot in the game's final two minutes and, on the final possession, the Heat's fate rested in an errant jumpshot by reserve forward Mike Miller

“Definitely didn’t play great offensively,” James said, delivering the understatement of the playoffs. “I got to do a better job of being more assertive offensively, not staying out of rhythm offensively the whole game.”

Content to dribble around the perimeter, hide off the ball and defer to both Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, plus Miami’s role players, it was a performance unlike any we’ve seen from James this season.

“He struggled,” Heat forward Chris Bosh said. “Point blank, period. He struggled out there.”

Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra attempted to fall on the sword, trying to shoulder some of the burden for his massive small forward.

“We’ll have to look at the film,” Spoelstra said. “Obviously we would like to get him involved. He’s a very important piece to what we do. So we’ll work to help make it easier for him next game.”

The performance was so out of character that Spoelstra was asked directly whether there was something wrong with James.

“He’s physically fine,” Spoelstra said.

Rather than serving as reassurance, the words inadvertently hinted at a more serious, problematic explanation. If there’s no physical ailment, then surely the malady must be mental?

To James’ credit, and to the surprise of some whispering reporters, James didn’t duck out of his postgame press conference, showing up to face the music. Once he sat down, looking composed in a green suit, but clearly dejected, reporters openly questioned his confidence level.

“I’m confident with my ability,” James maintained. “It’s about going out there and knocking them down.”

The performance was as confusing as it was shocking, leaving both James and those tasked with stopping him unsure why he performed so far below par. James said it wasn’t because of any new defensive looks that Dallas was throwing at him.

“They haven’t changed their coverages on me,” James said. “Me just being more assertive, that’s what it’s about.”

The Mavericks did switch their starting lineup by inserting J.J. Barea for DeShawn Stevenson, which did impact the players who were guarding James slightly. Stevenson was in the game late, drawing the assignment on James along with his usual matchup: Shawn Marion.

"I don't know,” Stevenson said when asked to explain James’ night. “He's a great player. I don't know why he's struggling.

"That's not him. Cleveland days, he was attacking.”

 Marion, who James said over the weekend couldn’t guard him one-on-one, was happy to claim the credit.

“We did a great job,” Marion said. “I think our defense has been working pretty well. We just have to make him take tough shots. You keep him from getting those transition breaks and breakaways, and having to take tough fadeaways.”

“Phenomenal,” guard Jason Terry said of Marion’s defense. “[James is] having to facilitate a lot of times for his teammates and get them involved. But we’re just trying to get our hands up, distract him a little bit and when he puts his second hand on the ball, we’re trying to be there to distract him.

James would only point specifically to his inability to make better use of his touches in the low post.

“I got the ball in the post a few times, and I [saw] double teams,” James lamented. “I can’t let that stop my aggression when they bring two to the ball. I still got to make plays for my team, but also make plays for myself to keep me in the rhythm of the game.”

If the night left him without explanations, it also left him upset.

James said that he was most angry because it happened in a loss. “That’s all that matters to me," he said. "If I had had eight points and we won the game, I could be satisfied."

As he departed, James offered a promise: “I’ll come back in Game 5 and do the things that need to be done to help our team win.”  

All week, and especially in the aftermath of the Game 3 criticism, those traveling with the Heat have marveled at James’ ability to resist folding under the immense pressure. On Tuesday night, he didn't fold, he burst.

The rest of this Finals series will hinge on whether he can put the pieces back together.


Since: Sep 14, 2007
Posted on: June 8, 2011 9:04 am

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

I think in a way its Spoelstras fault ,he playing Le Bron too many minutes every game ,Le Bron is on pace to break the record for most minutes played in playoffs ever .
Spoelstra has to try and play Le Bron about 40 instead of 45 minutes to keep him fresh like he does with Wade

the games decided in the fourth quarter anyway so why play Lebron the whole first nad third quarters anyway .

James Jones should be getting few minutes

Spoelstra is just like his mentor Pat Riley ,Riley used to do the same things with his teams ,grind them to the dust in the playoffs and Spoelstra instead of being his own man is trying to copy Riley .I was always happy when Patrick Ewing would go to the bench early with two fouls because i knew that the Knicks would then win the game as he would be fresh when he needed them the most .Riley kept good players like Rolando Blackman on the bench and just overplayed John Starks

I admire Phil Jackson because he knew how to make the most of his bench .he made stars out of players like Steve Kerr,Stacey King ,Scott Williams ,Sasha  Vujovic ,Shannon Brown to name a few and he also didnt grind his stars to the dust like Riley and now Spoelstra .in fact Rick Carlisle is doing a much better job with his substitutions limiting Nowitzki to 40 minutes a game and getting his bench involved .


Since: Sep 11, 2006
Posted on: June 8, 2011 9:02 am

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

Someone, please explain to me why some fans and reporters find LeBron's disappearing act shocking and surprising. He did the same thing last year against Boston....He intentionally sought out other star players to join up with so he didn't have to be the man all the time. What the hell is so surprising about how he played last night?

It's time for people to stop making excuses for LeBron. He's a great individual player who puts up the stats, and someday he may even become a player who consistently comes up big at the biggest moments, but he isn't there yet.

No more excuses. He is what he is....And right now, that's a player who wants to be thought of as if he's Michael Jordan and who talks like he thinks he is Michael Jordan but sure as heck ain't no Michael Jordan.

Know what he's also not? He's not even the best player on his team either, not by a long shot, and it's time people stop calling hm that. That label goes to Wade, and if the Heat do win this thing, it will be because of Wade...Because without Wade, who has the skills and the will of a champion, this series would be over already.

Seriously, I'm sick of LeBron, and it's not because he left Cleveland. It's not because of "the decision". It's not because of how the media hypes him up as some baskeetball God that he clearly is not....It's because LeBron himself has the ego the size of Florida (no one man can gaurd me!) but has done absolutely nothing to deserve the legend he is in his own mind.

Since: Sep 21, 2006
Posted on: June 8, 2011 8:57 am

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

hmmm, where have i seen this before. pressure cooks a ham.

not to rehash, but b4 i'm accused of being a hater from Clev...I don't care that he left. i wishhe had stayed, esp after he said he would and promised to bring a championship to Clev.  and i think the decision was a big F U to CLEV but maybe he would do it different if he had to do over. but, he flat out QUIT vs Bos. no other way to see it. if he was hurt, why not say it. but gilbert does deserve blame for him leaving too. (oh and delonte west didn't help matters)

but back to now... the Heat will probably be in the finals a lot over the next few years. and we will see if he gets past his nervousness  (is that a word?) in big games. i mean, i watched him chew up his finger nails in big games here! ask a body language expert what that means. nervous tick.

he is still one of the top few players in the league, and of course Cavs would have been better with him. i mean it's better to lose in the finals or the ECF than to win 17 games.

but it sures seems he isn't helping his legacy. had he brought as few as 3 rings to Clev, he would have been compared to MJ favorably. since his supporting cast had not included HOFs or even all stars.  so now if the heat win this year, with his vanashing act, will he be viewed as true champ?

if you think he will turn it around in games 4,5,6, you have no track record to go by except his regular season and early playoff rounds. maybe now that he doesn't have to be the guy, he defers. but not being THE guy means you can't be compared to MJ, kobe etc.

i am rooting for the Mavs,but will be fine either way.

Since: Dec 20, 2007
Posted on: June 8, 2011 8:48 am

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

 LeBron has to learn to shut up. 
Yep. He needs to let his actions do the talking. Only, his actions can't talk now. Remember, you can't forget about LeBron. If for one moment we aren't talking about LeBron. You need to talk about LeBron.

Does this feel like High School? It should, because that his where James head is at. Grown man body, teenage head. This only reinforces my point.

Since: Dec 20, 2007
Posted on: June 8, 2011 8:44 am

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

I think going to college for Lebron would of been a humbling experience. Something Lebron desperately needs. Lebron has forgotten completely where he comes from. College may of ended James on the road to greatness, because he has half of it, being the physical part, he just doesn't have the mental, chess match game, completely down yet. Those are exposed in the playoffs, especially the finals. and that is what we see here.

Since: Dec 20, 2007
Posted on: June 8, 2011 8:40 am

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

Bum is more accurate than Quit, IMO. To Quit means you had to try.

As I said, before, Lebron is still 17-18 years old. Well not physically, but mentally he never had to go past that. The NBA, as with any other professional sport is a grown man's game. James has grown man moves, but can't execute them against grown men.

Its not that Lebron is a quitter. He isn't. Its much more profound than that. That means he isn't motivated. James is plenty motivated.

Lebron James' mind isn't on the level of an NBA finals mind. He simply doesn't have the attitude, mindset, any of that to compete. LeBron has proven time and time again that he isn't a leader. He is a follower. He does what people tell him to do. He doesn't make his own mind up. He seemingly can't make his own decisions quickly enough. He is a step too slow.

I think Lebron James seriously needs to see a sports psychologist. Refine his game and take it to the next level.

Or in other words. James, boy, you need to check yourself.

Since: Oct 11, 2007
Posted on: June 8, 2011 8:30 am

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

He's been in the league 8 years and played in 90 playoff games. I think we can stop blaming his failures on not going to college. I don't think the influence of Coach K (or any other college coach) for one season 8 years ago would have made any difference last night. The only difference it would have made is he probably never would have ended up in Cleveland and he definitely would not be on the Heat right now.

Anyway, Games 3 and 4 are the exact reason he colluded with Wade and Bosh in the first place. So he can have the opportunity to win a title(s) even when he doesn't show up for half the games.

Since: Jan 12, 2007
Posted on: June 8, 2011 8:28 am

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

I hope I never again have to hear a comparison between James and Jordan on ESPN or anywhere else. The guy is simple not in that league, never has been, never will be!

Since: Sep 17, 2007
Posted on: June 8, 2011 8:24 am

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

LOL LeBron has to learn to shut up.  I still think the Heat will win teh series but this imbecile continues to open his mouth and insert foot.  I will be in attack mode.  No one can guard me...8 pts and pretty much non existent.  LeBron just shut up and play.  You are great.  You are going to be one of the best and you will have a championship..probly this year...SHUT UP! You don't have to let us know how great you are.  YOu remind us every time you have a presser.  Some writer gets under your skin and you respond with 8 points?  He is an inflamatory writer.  His articles are made to get people to flip out with disgust.  He writes to get people mad.  He was at that presser to get on tv and get his name out there and it worked.  What also worked is you fueling his story and now it will not go away.  Lebron's answer to Doyel was perfect and then he can't stop.  Attack mode, unguardable...just play and shut your yap...Mr. Heatle

Since: Aug 23, 2007
Posted on: June 8, 2011 8:01 am

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

When it is all said and done, all you Heat and Lebron haters will see what is what.  Wade is the man but Lebron is just down right now, not out.  He will bounce back but I am glad this is happening to him because regardless of what he says, he is learning that if he wants to be the best he most have the physical and mental strength to go the distance.  Once he learns that being mentally prepared is just as important as being physically prepared, he will dominant.  In this instance where Lebron is concerned, this is where I feel him not attending college and playing college ball is hurting.  Just imagine if he would have had the tutelege of a Coach K, Jim Calhoun, John Thompson, or Roy Wiliiams to mentor him!

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