LeBron Must Keep Cruisin’ Past Bruisin’

 

HANG TIME, Texas — Whether it’s Friday night in Charlotte, Saturday at home against the Sixers or even Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs, LeBron James will be coming back to a different game than he left.

More rough, more tough, more down in the dirt, use-everything-but-the-kitchen sink.

Because it worked in Chicago. Because it’s the only thing that put James on the wrong end of a scoreboard since Feb. 1.

Because the rest of the NBA is desperate.

If it wasn’t already with his third MVP, the 2012 NBA title and an Olympic gold medal, the 27-game winning streak stamped this as LeBron’s time, an era of contentment, fulfillment and waltzing up and down basketball courts to music that only he can hear.

When it got to the level where Danny Ainge was taking shots at his toughness and Pat Riley was responding quite earthily, then the point had already been made. Opposing defenses might as well be shooting spitballs at a battleship.

The only other answer, of course, is to bring him down by any means, which was the path taken by Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson.

James’ response was predictable, a variation of “How Dare They?” that was really no different from the indignant reactions of Michael Jordan when he was soaring above the game.

The irony and hypocrisy is that it was none other than Riley as the Designer Don of the Knicks in the 1990s who built on the Detroit Bad Boys approach and did as much as anybody to have enforcers Charles Oakley, Larry Johnson, Patrick Ewing and friends try to take a piece out of Jordan when they couldn’t stop him.

Everybody now will poke and prod and push and shove and flat out body slam James to throw off his shot or throw him out his comfort zone.

“We know what’s coming now,” said Miami teammate Shane Battier. “We know that’s Eastern Conference basketball, especially in the playoffs. Teams are going to try to make it a game without spacing, without pace and we’re going to try to do the opposite. We’re going to create a bunch of space and try to create tempo. That’s our strength.

“We know that every other team is going to view that Chicago game as some kind of blueprint maybe. That’s OK. We can play any style of basketball that’s required and I’m pretty sure LeBron can handle himself.”

In the end, that’s all that matters, how James handles himself. When opponents tried to body up Jordan, it only stiffened his own resolve. When anybody took him down to the floor with a bit of extra flourish, Jordan usually got back up and made them pay with a bit of extra mustard mixed with venom.

It is a different game now, one where it’s almost impossible to impede a player on the perimeter without setting off the kind of alarm sounds that accompany airport metal detectors. It’s why point guards have never thrived more at any time in the history of the league than today. The rules have been tweaked and rewritten to put less emphasis on brute strength and more on speed and skill.

The dilemma is that James, at 6-foot-8, 260, has the brute strength to overpower while giving up none of the speed and skill. Until somebody finds a way to put a muscle or two on Kevin Durant, LeBron is a cut above, in a class by himself.

Being so talented makes him singular and makes him a target and in the history of stars in any sport that does not make him special. The other guys don’t come to praise you, but to chop you down.

It’s a fact of life and complaining about a lack of whistles from referees or retaliating with a bull rush at Carlos Boozer will not stop it, only let them know that they’ve gotten under your skin.

Jordan channeled his anger into a raging fury that was belied by that photogenic smile that launched a thousand ad campaigns. Oh yes, we all wanted to be like Mike. But never ever forget that Mike, when provoked, could be a very bad man with a ball in his grip.

“We’re aware of what everybody’s game plan is against us,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. “They want to prevent layups and dunks and highlight plays at all costs. That can mean hard fouls. We know that.”

Battier views from across the court and across the locker room and sees an awesome physical specimen and a supremely talented player who is finally at peace with who he is.

“I’m pretty sure,” he said, “that LeBron is ready for anything.”

He’ll have to be, since now the plan and the game is going to change.

25 Comments

  1. Bubuh19 says:

    Darn, I thought that guy was playing basketball not chess. Gotta love those 90′s physical plays no friends only foes, If your not wearing the same uni you are foe.

  2. dziner305 says:

    One thing for sure, lots of you who are commenting against Lebron’s claim happen to be in a “Memory Loss” lane in here. In last year’s (2012) playoffs, the Pacers came up with this tactic before…and how did the Heat respond? I guess the rest is history!…Listen ya’ll, the Heat or Lebron has a right to complain about non-basketball plays, at the same time, as you’ve seen it before, in the Real Season, THE PLAYOFFS, THEY DON’T BACK DOWN AGAINST NOBODY’S PHYSICAL PLAYS…( Ask Celtics 2011 & 2012, Bulls/ “claim-to-be” bench mob 2011).

  3. MJ says:

    Yadda..Yadda..Yadda..Sad state of affairs how angry the human race is…you need to find hobbies that make you smile more often and not be so angry…hate this …hate that…blah blah blah…In case you were wondering your opinion really DOESN’T matter..all your points are pointless, irrlevant…Someone misinformed you at some point. Comical almost…man’s invention for modern day knuckle draggers..Blogs

  4. Freida says:

    If d Rose came back and got slammed like LeBron you might as wait another 1-1/2 years before D Rose comes back from another injury. Dwight Howard used to get banged up all the time and never got foul calls and thought Howard would never be hurt and look what happened to him. If the Bulls want to play dirty, the Heat will find a way to shut them down. Go Heat!!!

  5. Arky says:

    Um, I’m pretty sure people have been clubbing him all along. It’s not something he’s going to suddenly have to get used to. He can handle it.

    For all the people who like to claim Miami gets the whistles, LeBron has 25-30% less free throw attempts this year than Harden, Durant or Kobe even though he is third in the league in shot attempts at the rim. Anyone who watches the Heat play without bias can see that there’s a lot more missed calls against LeBron than bad calls in his favour. It’s like the refs figure he’s so strong that if he goes through contact as if it isn’t there then the contact doesn’t count.

    • Chris says:

      Interesting… Nice to see the stats brought into play. However I don’t think people complain about the quantity of his free throw attempts but rather when he is allowed the bad call free throw attempts. It seems they come during potentially game changing moments. I’m sure this Super Star treatment isn’t just Lebron but any team that has the Green light to go for the championship. I hate to get into conspiracy theories but consider the fact That San Antonio has never repeated yet still has four championships inbetween some of the most exciting championships of their decade of Dominance. They were also the lowest rated Finals in NBA History. Miami is clearly a more exciting team, more excitement means more money… I sometimes wonder if the Refs do do the little things to get the money makers into the finals, but then I look at the Lakers this year and go “Nope.”

  6. Stern H8r says:

    james is the most gifted player in the league….he should act like it instead of acting like a kitty.

  7. Alex says:

    It is interesting that if teams use the fouls on Howard it is ok but on James it is considered a point to discuss. James should play the game.

  8. Rocks says:

    I agree with you Fran that most teams are getting more desperate as the play-offs approaches. And believe me the physicality nature of these teams is only beginning. But can Lebron soar above all that? Absolutely. Lebron is becoming a complete player with time. His game has evolved so much over the years that it’s going to take more than hacking and bullying to stop him. Yes, he is strong enough to tussle with any player in the world but he doesn’t have to do that. MJ overcame the brutal defence of Detroit by getting his team involved. And this is what Lebron has been doing this whole season (hence the historic 27 winning streak). Unlike MJ, Lebron does not need to average 30 points for the Heat to win a championship. He’s got Wade, Bosh, Ray, Chalmers, Battier, to keep the score board running. I don’t think this is a huge challenge for Lebron. Imo I think the huge challenge for him is having the confidence of closing a game in crunch time. That in itself will elevate him to the legendary status.

  9. celticspride says:

    I get it lbj they played you hard and physical, you were frustrated but you went 237 consecutive min in basketball without a foul. You cannot complain about officiating ever. Also while we are here. Is it just a unwritten rule in NBA that travel is no longer called?

  10. Melo says:

    He was the best player in basketball right now, probably. I think that he should just play his game and don’t complain. If you lose, just accept. Lost is a lost.

  11. Loki says:

    Hope he doesn’t get injured, not because I want the heat to win but if the heat do lose I don’t want anyone to say its because Bron was out like Chicago did with Rose in last year’s first round. Play hard but try not to kill each other

  12. KaplanLBJsGF says:

    How’d I just wish Lebron was playing back in the 90′s… that he had to undergo the defenses of Rodman, Oakley, the Davis’ and other enforcers the NBA had before (and yeah, Bruce Bowen and KG won’t be considered a dirty defender during that time). That was when MJ, Miller, Stockton, Richmond, Payton and other players half his size thrive and cemented their legacy. Now, LBJ can just whine and cry about the officiating for physical plays (if Cuban made those comments, there’d be a fine for sure). What a shame.

    • dattebayo says:

      I see this argument all the time and it goes both ways. Can you imagine what a defender James could be, if he could hand check and bully people on the perimeter? Let’s say he and Durant both played in that era, even if James wouldn’t score as much, I don’t see KD averaging 20 points against him…

    • Game Time says:

      These arguments are so stupid. You’re talking about the era of guys who where nowhere near the size of players today (with a few exceptions like Malone). Those lanky players could pummel each other all day because the force they were using is nothing compared to getting hacked by the bigger players of today, and by bigger I mean in weight not height. You are ignorantstupid is you don’t believe players today are stronger. The game was more physical back then, but guys were mostly lean. The bigger you are and the harder you fall and with those skinny players they could take a beating because of carrying less weight.

    • KaplanLBJsGF says:

      @dattebayo – I understand, and that’s the thing I can really hope for. I still believe LBJ has that rare combination of skill, speed and strength that can take him beyond the greatest players. But the sad part in today’s league is that this skillset that he has (or KD, Rose, Melo etc.) aren’t even that much being challenged because its like you aren’t supposed to be tough against these “porcelains”. If LBJ can become a better defender by playing physical (but w/o the intention to injure), then that would be much respected. It is still a big man’s game, and he is one of the biggest at his position, he shouldn’t be whining.

      @Game Time – Im sorry my friend, but this isn’t a argument, but a fact. If this fact is stupid to you, then there’s something wrong with how you see things :). Of course you can have special players on every generation (LBJ’s strength and speed, a 7ft Dirk that shoots everywhere, Rose’s agility and strength, Howard’s strength and athleticism, etc.). But you can’t really generalize that this generation is much better than the last. I hope you’ve seen a 6’9 PG in Magic, a 6’4 Barkely that can outrebound 7 footers, a center that has a footwork of a guard in Hakeem, G. Payton that can abuse the PGs today at the post, etc. I don’t deny that some players today have become bigger and the ability to play multiple positions is prevalent. But the thing I’m pointing out today is the toughness of the league. KG for example, is considered dirty, rude and just plain fierce… but that was the league he grew up in, and he wasn’t even considered one of the toughest during that time.

      This generation goes gaga on big men dunking against small guards (now that’s bullying LOL), but if you’ve just seen MJ dunking the ball with Ostertag hanging on to him, now that’s something. Today’s league being generally stronger – that can be argued… But tougher? not a chance.

  13. pearlmg says:

    Of course with his ability, talent and strength, he can do anything plus he is with the best supporting cast! LETS GO HEAT! YOU CAN BEAT ALL OF THEM

  14. Me says:

    “Lebron can handle anything” huhuh that’s why he cries to the refs so much, pathetic

    • dattebayo says:

      At least he doesn’t throw hissy fits like Kobe. If Kobe got mauled like James did in that game, the Bulls frontcourt would have been ejected in the first half…

  15. sanjay says:

    if any physical fouls like that happened in chicago against lebron in playoffs. It will be sraight flagrant 2 foul on players. And after one or two are sent packing, others would not even dare to repeat it!
    This is a game of skill and touch. So let the defenders come with the equal skill to stop him.
    Grabbing him, hitting him in the face,tripping is not basketball and people calling it is old school have no idea, how the game should be played. I hope referees take this in to account and call the game right. It is not just lebron, it is true for everybody. All ready this season is full of injuries.
    people are there to see well contested basketball match and not a wrestling match.
    This deliberate phyiscal game in the name of toughness will only make the game unpopular!
    The officiating in the bulls game was amateurish and cost the heat the streak. But it could be a blessing in disguise as james has already earned a weeks rest!!!!!

  16. Chris says:

    Good! I want the physicality back. I don’t blame Lebron for getting mad about those plays, that’s a throw back to an old era he was like.. 5 during. He’ll adapt, but it’ll he interesting to see HOW he adapts. What I find silly is the whole Pat Riley deal. I’ll never consider myself a heat fan but I appreciate good basketball so look forward to seeing not only the new strategies players implement to take them down but how Miami will respond to them.

  17. LordP says:

    The Chicago bulls due to their lack of talent only way to have a hope on beating the Heat is clubbin’James on every possession..but I wanna know how happy they’d be if Rose get a similar type of treatment???

    • The Worm 91 says:

      we will be happy if DRose gets similar treatment. DRose had been hacked a lot but no foul calls, unlike LeBron hacked a lot but goes to the line frequently. And LeBron ain’t called for fouls for his own clubbin’…so YES! i’d definitely be happy if DRose gets similar treatment…specially from Refs…………………………and STERN.

      • Game Time says:

        I’m really starting to hate Chicago fans. They are getting even more ignorant than Laker ones. In the 2011 playoffs Rose had so many phantom calls it was ridiculous. Quite complaining about the refs because Rose got the star treatment as well.