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Posts Tagged ‘LeBron James’

Shook Ankles: A Quick Revisit To LeBron’s Meltdown

September 20, 2011 1 comment

Of all the mercurial things that happened with LeBron James during last year’s Finals, this singular moment has to crack the top three. A simple up fake and James, arguably the most versatile defender in the world, buckles? What? How does this make sense at all? Joel Anthony FLYING by Dirk’s move is understandable, because he plays the game like an 8-year-old who’s just funneled two gallons of espresso, but LeBron? Will we ever find an explanation for that whole week? There probably isn’t one, but that doesn’t make it any more coherent.

 

 

Shook Ankles: The Land Of Make Believe


I believe the otherworldly supernatural activity on True Blood to be be more realistic than the contents of this clip. I know this didn’t happen yesterday, but a Peja blow-by on LeBron James with a Greg Ostertag dunk serving as icing on the play’s cake makes this arguably the most unbelievable move in NBA history. Either that or the floor had a wet spot.

 

Shook Ankles: Lost In Finals Disappointment

Another warm Thursday evening in June, another gem from the NBA Finals. Between Barea’s reemergance, Wade’s overdo physical ailment, Dirk’s consistent kerplunking of long range jumpers, LeBron’s least appreciatd triple double in basketaball history, and Terry’s entrance into a whole new stratospheric level of clutch, a REALLY great basketball game existed.

Before we dive deep into one of Game 5′s most important plays, let’s first observe it analytically. As Sebastian Pruiti over at NBA Playbook points out—the clip above is from his site—the offensive foul on LeBron James was in fact the correct call, so what does this mean exactly if you’re Wade? (Not to overstate the play’s importance, even though it did come at a crucial juncture, but doesn’t this five second sequence kind of encapsulate the entire Finals up to this point?) Leading the way, Wade makes an unbelievable move, draws two defenders up on him and dishes to LeBron who uncharacteristically turns it over. Both in this play and throughout the entire series, LeBron’s failure has overshadowed Wade’s greatness.

Nobody will remember that Wade lifted Shawn Marion from his socks because drawn charges aren’t replayed 10 years later when they occur with over two minutes left in a game that remains in the balance. LeBron proved incapable of converting on the play so it will eventually get lost in the shuffle, and that’s a tragic thing. The move’s so instantaneous—just like the charge—but what does it mean? When you’re comparing talent so great, a single play can not prove one player to be better than another. However, what it can do is give us evidence as to one’s mental makeup. No, LeBron isn’t mentally weaker than Wade because he bowled into Tyson Chandler at the wrong moment, but aren’t their roles supposed to be reversed in that instance? Isn’t LeBron the playmaker and Dwyane the one who scores at the rim? Maybe Wade didn’t feel comfortable absorbing contact from the baseline because  of his hip. Maybe he didn’t trust LeBron enough to make the crucial play? I’m not buying that last reason as a possibility, but regardless of the result, if presented with the same situation on Sunday night do they both make the same decision? In the words of Mr. Wade, “Time will tell”.

Essay: Can This Be The Best Finals Ever?

June 9, 2011 1 comment

Each year in the NBA, roughly 2,542* basketball games are played before the Finals arrive. For the most part these games are forgotten—not too many people are able to recount where they were in 2004 when Utah defeated Los Angeles 115-107, snapping their nine game losing streak. The fabric of each season consists of such inconsequential hardwood squabbles, but much like a 128 minute movie that’s more remembered for its special ending, the mental imprint that’s carved in our heads for each season is defined by whatever occurs in the final series. Read more…

Essay: A Battle For Best Player Alive

May 23, 2011 3 comments

Back when I was in high school, at least twice a month I elected to get my hair cut at a communal barbershop located just outside Cambridge’s Central Square. Each time I visited I was greeted with vivacious conversation surrounding one of three topics: Basketball, boxing, and African-American artistry. The discussions were almost ceremonious in their consistency; questions were posed, debated, and ultimately resolved by whoever happened to be holding the long, potentially threatening, wooden broom. Men of wide ranging knowledge such as Henry Louis Gates Jr. were regular participants, and the chatter which made the shop palatial would put any talking head program airing on popular television today to permanent shame. Read more…

Shook Ankles: LeBron James Is The Best Point Guard

April 22, 2011 Leave a comment

In all seriousness, just stop the game after this play because you aren’t winning. Normally LeBron James is a very large man, but with the ball in his hands—moving 60 feet in just a few seconds—he’s undetectable. When he’s able to slither through defenders, untouched and ignorant of defensive efforts to impede his progress, James is at his most impressive level.  The way this man can not only pull this move off and blow by a (supposedly) quicker point guard, but follow it up with a high percentage pass resulting in a dunk, is something nobody, with his physical makeup, in the game’s history could do. The dunks and trailing blocks are entertaining and add to the package that is LeBron James, but moves like this are what make the league’s most hated player one of a kind.

Twitter: @ShakyAnkles

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Essay: LeBron James And The Fear Of Failure

April 8, 2011 1 comment

Editor’s Note: This essay is written by my friend and your special guest, Aaron Kaplan. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @Balls_Jericho if his work unwillingly forces you to stand and applaud. Enjoy!

 

The first five years of LeBron James’ career were amazing. He held the world captive every time his Nikes touched the parquet, and took our breath away every time they blasted off for a dunk. He’s a freak! He’s like one of the Monstars from Space Jam! As a 22-year-old, his performance in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals against Detroit will be remembered forever as one of the most dominant performances in playoff history. Yet James is not known as a great closer, like Kobe. Neither is he known for hitting game winning jumpers under pressure like Paul Pierce. Instead of stepping up and embracing the demands that his talent and personality call for, he avoids it altogether. The entire city of Cleveland and all 65 fans of the Miami Heat are forced to pose the question: Why??

Read more…

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Recommended Reading: New Faces In New Places

1) Of all the players dealt last week, Marcus Thornton has arguably (an argument you’d certainly lose) made the greatest impact on his new destination.

2) Eric Gordon wants to be the Kobe Bryant of San Diego. And this is why.

3) Why basketball’s small city markets will (hopefully) never look like baseball’s.

4) The league’s rookies are given an in-depth, behind the scenes, pull-the-curtain-back level of detailed analysis. Or, they’re just graded on how well they’re playing.

5) A pro-Miami Heat financial argument.

6) A new basketball blog was launched yesterday. It’ll probably end being very informative and well written. Basically on par with this one.

7) For the first time since high school, Corey Brewer is a seriously hot commodity.

 

Essay: The NBA All-Star Game Re-Cap of Re-Caps

February 21, 2011 Leave a comment

About 20 minutes before the opening tip to last night’s All-Star game, the beautiful Maria Menounos held an interview wth Diddy on TNT’s Magenta Carpet. After a few moments of captivating conversation involving which team Diddy roots for—he was born and raised in New York City, but owns “houses” in L.A., so his heart’s all torn up—the rapper/actor/producer/printer-of-money made a public gaffe by saying he wished Blake Griffin was playing in the night’s game. Griffin, of course, was selected weeks ago as a reserve and ended up scoring eight points in 15 crowd pleasing minutes. The fact that Diddy, who was either sitting courtside or damn near it on Saturday night, didn’t know Blake Griffin, the talk of the weekend, was playing in the actual All-Star game reaffirmed how little of an attraction it is compared to the entire “weekend” as an entity.  Last night’s exhibition wasn’t the best All-Star game of all time and it wasn’t the worst, but once again it sat in the background.

What ended up elevating the night was the duel-until-their-holsters-were-empty performances by Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, the two best players in the world. As the typical All-Star game goes in the first few quarter, both teams were crazy focused on putting on a show and entertaining what turned out to be a whole bunch of people. By the end, when LeBron got angry and discovered despite the fact it was an All-Star game he was still a man among boys, things got a little more competitive, but it wasn’t a memorable back and forth battle. Kevin Durant made sure of that.

Apart from Chris Bosh’s put back, Kobe’s baseline 180, LeBron’s vicious end to end tomahawk, Blake Griffin’s sidespin give and go alley-oop with Deron Williams, and Kobe, once again, sneaking a two handed stuff by LeBron, the game’s dunks weren’t anything special. Some players kept deferring while others couldn’t wait to shoot. But nobody in the latter category could dare hold a flame to Mr. Bryant, who while crowded by four (FOUR) Eastern All-Stars on one possession still managed to get a shot up*. (He drew a foul). It seemed like a majority of guys needed at least a quarter of play under their belts to find their rhythm and feel comfortable. Some guys settled down to open up their bag of tricks—Ray Allen air balled a three-pointer for the first time in 17 years, but followed it up with this ridiculous move later on—while others just couldn’t get it together. Namely Dwight Howard, who looked disinterested; Carmelo Anthony, who looked tired; Rajon Rondo, who played like someone was chasing him (not a compliment); Al Horford, who looked overmatched; and Dwyane Wade, who posted a plus/minus of -15, badly rolled his ankle, and was drunk.

MVP Observation:

If the game hadn’t been played in Los Angeles, no voters had access to a box score, and Kevin Durant twisted his ankle midway through the fourth quarter, a serious dark horse for MVP would have been Chris Paul. With his name’s sudden disappearance from “league’s best point guard” discussion, nobody came into the game with more of a chip on their shoulder than him, and it certainly showed. Paul dictated the All-Star game’s pace and tempo in a retro dominant way, much like Jason Kidd used to do. He broke down Rondo and Rose on several occasions—blowing by the two young guns like it was nothing—stole the ball five times, and hit shots when he was open. With his performance, Chris Paul reminded everyone who the league’s best point guard truly is, and when you factor in what he’s working with (rookie head coach, uncertain future, slew of below average teammates besides David West) all with two unhealthy ankles? It’s astonishing his name doesn’t come up in league-wide MVP debates more often.

Random But Interesting Facts:

Rondo had the second most assists in the game (eight), which is shocking when you consider how poorly he played.

Kevin Garnett was the only player to log less than 10 minutes of action. Probably a coincidence.

Amare Stoudemire grabbed three defensive rebounds in 28 minutes of play. In 11 minutes, Kevin Love had four.

The Western Conference sported three 7-footers: Dirk, Duncan, and Gasol. None of them technically centers.

In almost 11 less minutes of action, Deron Williams had the same amount of assists (seven) as Chris Paul.

The game’s only lead change came on a Carmelo Anthony lay-up just three minutes into the first quarter.

Under The Cover Observations:

LaMarcus Aldridge might be a better overall basketball player than Kevin Love right now, but he can’t change the game’s momentum with the flick of his wrists. Not knocking Aldridge, because only one player can do this, but Kevin Love’s ability to throw a Tom Brady outlet pass should make him a prerequisite lock for the next six All-Star games. Let’s briefly walk through his end of the first half bomb to Chris Paul, aka the game’s most overlooked stroke of genius.  With 1.4 seconds left on the clock and Love set to inbound from the baseline, he two hand overhead lobbed a beautifully placed ball into the hands of a running Chris Paul right at the opposite free throw line. The pass is an incredible one not because of its silly distance or pin point accuracy, but when it happened; its context. I know it’s an All-Star game and nobody plays defense in All-Star games, but to throw a pass over Rajon Rondo, one of the game’s best ball hawks, when he should be expecting the long outlet, is very, very impressive. Love had three or four passes like this in the game, but none more impressive than the buzzer beater to end the first half. 

Slightly less impessive was LeBron’s decision to have Chris Bosh turn the game’s most important three ball into a misguided scud missile, passing up a wide open shot for himself in the process.

The Halftime Show:

Nothing much to say about the Halftime Show, except it was 6785142 times better than the Super Bowl’s and made every man who chose to watch it with his wife/girlfriend feel incredibly uncomfortable. The NBA would be foolish not to include an annual Rihanna performance into the “Guaranteed Invitation For Kevin Love’s Outlet Pass” contract.

This also dropped over the weekend…

*This quote from Stoudemire, capturing the Black Mamba in a nutshell: “You could tell he started out from the start, he wanted to get the MVP…He was not passing the ball, at all. But that’s Kobe.”

Essay: The Game Within The Game

February 2, 2011 Leave a comment

Great individual match-ups in the NBA are a lot like Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream: plays within a play.  Not often are we blessed with two person battles that nearly separate themselves from the game in which they’re participants.  Some nights it seems the stage is set solely for two special combatants; even though the score reads some large number like 112-108, the only digits fans take away are the impressive lone point totals tallied by two great rivals.  Sometimes the numbers don’t matter, and it’s just a good fight each time down the court. Last night, in the Rockets-Lakers game, with the scoreboard teetering back and forth in the fourth quarter, Kobe Bryant began to abuse Kevin Martin. There was jab step followed by ball fake followed by a pull-up swish right in Martin’s eye, and a baseline blow-by or two that made the Rockets defender look powerless. It didn’t seem fair.  Then a Houston time out was called and Shane Battier was inserted to defend Bryant, who all of a sudden had to work for his two points a whole lot harder than he wanted to.  With the score tied and four seconds remaining in regulation, the Lakers set up a play to free Kobe where he’d come off a Gasol pin down screen, catch a pass from Odom and hit the game winning shot somewhere around the edge of the key.  But Battier bulldozed the pick by Gasol, who crashed into Bryant as he tried to curl the pick, forcing a last second miss from Odom.  Even though this play involved several players, it helps capture the determination one player has in stopping another from completing his job. The individual battle.

Today, most of the great clashes come not at the center, forward, or swingman positions, but at the point. It’s far and away the most backloaded, overflowing-with-talent spot in the league; to be the best, you must beat the best, and if you’re a floor general chances are you’ll have a confidence boosting opportunity every other night. While beautiful point guard play is likely spearheading the game—in its on-court essence—into such a prosperous era, it’s partially responsible for the suffocation of great one on one performances.  In Oklahoma City there’s Westbrook with the ball in his hands more than Durant; Boston has Rondo orchestrating four future Hall of Fame inductees like a conductor; and in Utah and Chicago, Deron Williams and Derrick Rose have their team’s offenses run through them.  Overall, point guard isn’t a position designed to attack an individual opponent. It’s not the job description.  This isn’t to say I’m championing isolation play, but there’s a definite draw in watching two Goliaths pick their spots and blindly collide with each other once in a while. Throughout Sunday’s Heat-Thunder game, it seemed whenever LeBron chose to check Durant, he dominated. Balls were slapped out of Durant’s hands and a rhythm didn’t look to be found. Even though I sat with the majority of viewers rooting for OKC, to watch James certify his status as the game’s best player was great theatre.

But the individual match-up isn’t always for two Goliaths.  Sometimes David sticks his nose into the fray and the drama’s gravitational pull brings you to your seat’s edge just the same.  This brings me to Ariza, the league’s Icarus who has all but disappeared from the public spotlight down in New Orleans. He’s started every game this season, but is putting up the worst rebounding, assists, field goal percentage, and points per 36 minute numbers since his rookie season. (Right now, you could say he’s playing the role of David.) Tonight, on national television, the Hornets face off against Durant’s Thunder. The last time these two squared off, Ariza held Durant to his only scoreless fourth quarter of the season.  As the Oklahoman article suggests, much of the pregame hype will surround point guards Westbrook and Paul, but if you keep your eyes on Ariza each and every time he confronts Durant, there’s a good chance that individual match-up will overshadow the undivided game.

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