EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- LeBron James made one of those plays again. You know. One of those. The kind that causes your jaw to drop, your eyes to bug and your bladder to temporarily lose its grip.
|The Cavs have LeBron; the Nets lost Jason Kidd. Nuff said ... (Getty Images)|
Later in the quarter, James caught the Nets' Bostjan Nachbar from behind and slapped his shot clean, drawing a deep exclamation and growl from the crowd.
James was so solid the "You Suck, LeBron" screams from the crowd didn't have their normally guttural oomph.
One of Jay-Z's first albums was Reasonable Doubt. There is nothing reasonable or explainable about the talent of James. There should also be no doubt about who the best player in the sport is. (Hint: his initials are L.J.).
Superman may wear LeBron James pajamas, but even James and his 42 points couldn't stop New Jersey from winning 104-99, thus giving the Nets a small piece of comfort in what has been -- as Charles Barkley would say -- a mostly tuuurible season.
The Nets and Cavaliers are familiar foes. They met in the conference semifinals last year with Cleveland winning the series and eventually going to the NBA Finals. It was not unrealistic to believe, at that moment in time, the Cavaliers and Nets would both have an immediate future filled with playoff battles.
Since that game, however, the paths of the two franchises could not have been more divergent, pushed apart by foreseeable and formidable forces. New Jersey may be up 3-0 on the Cavaliers in the season series this year, but the Nets are a miserable 11 games under .500 thanks to losing six of their last seven, while Cleveland is 37-28 and a lock for the postseason.
"For some odd reason we can't beat them here," said James after the game, "until the postseason."
Ah, the postseason. The Cavaliers will be there, but will the Nets?
There is a chance New Jersey could make the playoffs because the Eastern Conference is that bad. The Cavaliers currently hold the fourth seed. They're entrenched and the Nets are scampering, barely holding onto the eighth spot -- for now.
Both clubs look different since they last saw each other. One possesses a talent bulge as large as Client Number Nine's black book. The other traded its star player, Jason Kidd, and quickly got on the express turnpike to Turdsville.
One team has a bright and dominating star and made a huge trade to stabilize its future. The other has Vince Carter, the master-dunking, brick-shooting and occasionally lazy pseudo-star.