Friday, May 14, 2010

Rocket Man

First, just in case people want to talk about it (I doubt it because if they did they would have hijacked yesterday's thread), let me write a paragraph about the Dale Scott/Wednesday's game situation. Yes, the calls were heinous. And yes, they potentially decided the game. But we're still predicating this off of the assumption that Ortiz would have gotten a hit. Not exactly a sure thing. But a few points: 1) umpires are human, and to a certain extent it is up to the team to make sure that the game doesn't come down to an umpire's call. Not scoring against Shawn Marcum probably hurt more than Dale Scott's bad strike zone. 2) Pat has talked about this before, but umpires really have no accountability for really anything. Are there sanctions against consistent poor umpiring performances, or do people just look at the Questec charts? Are salary considerations based on this? I have to think that we're talking about union labor and therefore salary considerations are based more on tenure than anything else. I mean, CB Bucknor and Tim Tschida still have jobs. 3) Finally, this was not an example of umpires on power trips, trying to make the game all about them. If that were actually the case, I would have written about it out of schedule last night.

Okay.

The Lebron situation after last night's basketball game was unbelievable. I cannot believe he repeatedly disappeared in this series. Pat thinks the word "disappeared" is unfair, because the guy still had a triple-double last night. I understand that at a certain point you can't do everything. But this is not like an ace throwing a shutout and losing. This is like the ace giving up 3 or 4 runs and losing. Bottom line is, a guy like MJ or like the rapist in Los Angeles, no matter what, makes it happen. The player did that in game three. So he's capable of it. But after game three, he didn't do it. At all. There were many instances where he simply didn't get open. You could see no urgency from the player. The player was very sloppy with his passes. And it seemed at times that he was trying to put the ball into his teammates' hands just to prove a point that it's everyone but him f'ing it up.

People have recently tried to compare the player to Arod. Everything about him being the biggest star in the world, the "chosen one" stuff, and performing poorly when it counted because he wasn't a team player. Because he's a guy so mentally insecure that he gets himself into a funk. A guy completely out of touch with his teammates and with reality. Yes. There are points there. But there's a much closer parallel between Lebron and a baseball player. And it's not Arod.

It's Roger Clemens.

Let's not get it twisted there. Lebron was not a guy in a funk. He didn't look like he was pressing. He just looked like he was in a coma. No intensity. The sloppy play, turnovers, and the fact that he wasn't hogging the ball is indicative of that. If Lebron were like Arod, he would have taken the ball nonstop and shot terribly.

Let's think about Clemens's shortcomings. The 1986 World Series? The player didn't want the ball when it counted. There was a questionable injury (a blister) that he says was there and others said wasn't there. He apparently took himself out of the infamous Game Six. Sounds a lot like a questionable elbow injury that nobody really knows is real or not. Clemens handed it over to his bullpen. So did Lebron. Repeatedly in this series. And Lebron's bullpen, like Clemens's, was just not good enough. Even the "weak supporting cast" argument is relevant. Roger's supporting cast in the late eighties was not good enough. But the star player was so good that it shouldn't matter when he's playing.

The blowout game last Friday looked a lot like Clemens imploding on a large scale in 1999 in the ALCS. In both situations, you looked at the star player and asked yourself, "hello? Do you understand that this is the most important game of your life?" Look at Pedro. And look at Garnett, Rondo, Allen, whoever. They elevate their game when it counts. Arod tried to do that. Lebron hid in a corner. And so did Clemens for a very long time.

Lebron's narcissism is not exactly like Arod's either. I mean, Arod wouldn't have said something publicly like what Lebron said a few days ago, something along the lines of "when I play poorly, I feel sorry for myself." He said last night that he's going through nightmares "individually." He's a lot realer than Arod's pre-manufactured, ingenuine comments saying "nuh-uh, I am a team player." The "chosen one" nonsense is a little bit like the centaur stuff, but it more closely resembles the "I'm a tough boy from Texas" thing. Arod certainly always wants it to be all about him, but he tries to hide it. With Lebron and with Clemens, they want to be the center of the story, and they don't hide it. Lebron has done everything except for contact Suzyn Waldman from George Steinbrenner's box. Enjoy New York.

I especially like the fact that Kevin Garnett has become the Dave Stewart to Lebron's Clemens. The Jeff Pearlman book about Clemens alleged that Clemens literally hated Dave Stewart. Stewart was in Clemens's head. Completely and totally. It was Stewart against whom Clemens folded on a pretty consistent basis. Lebron doesn't seem to hate Garnett, but I'm sure the "I'm better than you" trash talking has contributed to the past chippiness between these two teams. It also has just happened that more often than not, Lebron has had to go through KG just as Clemens has had to go through Stewart. With poor results.

Eventually, Roger Clemens ended up signing with a supporting cast good enough to win his title. At this point, he was probably not the best pitcher on the earth anymore. But his good but not overwhelming performances when it counted could be hidden because his supporting cast was good enough to hide it. Lebron could have accomplished it himself with the team he had. He had Shaq. He had Varejao, whom the ESPN guys apparently have more than just a man-crush on. Shoot, they were good enough in the regular season, wasn't he?

Pedro Martinez in 1999 didn't ultimately win it all. (Ironically, Clemens and supporting cast did.) But Pedro Martinez, like Jordan, like the rapist in Los Angeles, dialed back when it counted. Lebron did not implode like Arod. But he disappeared.

Like Clemens.

10 comments:

the gm at work said...

Can't leave out Jamison. Bad spot on my part.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about the Clemens comparison but the bottom line is that that was a joke last night.

The Cleveland Cavaliers quit, plain and simple. And they quit/choked on a level that I haven't seen ina playoff game in quite a while.

For Lebron, you can't be a superstar at that level and let your team quit. The difference between Lebron and Jordan or Bird, or any of the other great players is that he doesn't have the same will. He has the potential to take over a game and for the last two games he simply didn't. As you said DV, he didn't make it happen, and that's what you are supposed to do in a big game on the road.

In any event, I don't want to go too overboard because he is 25 years old and has a lot of basketball ahead of him. But he looked like he was in a coma the last few days, and while I was rooting against him, it was still dissappointing to watch the supposed best player in the league not be able to get the job done against an aging team like the Celtics.

Also, Lebron's supporting cast did play poorly last night, but as whole that's not a terrible team they had around him in general. Last night it was clear they were looking for Lebron to lead and Lebron's whole posture and attitude was one that said- "I'm done with this, I just want to get out of here."

Finally, if you're the Knicks you need to add Lebron + another player, which they may very well be able to do. Lebron alone isn't taking them to a championship anytime soon (Knicks fans overrate Gallinari and David Lee). But I think the biggest temptation for Lebron will be to join Wade in Miami. I would do that in a heartbeat.

Patrick said...

i disagree with both of you at least in part.

first, comparing lebron to pitchers performance wise is absurd. pitchers have infinitely more control over the outcome of a game than an individual player does in basketball. that's because it's them vs. the batter. there are 5 defenders in a basketball game. i understand you aren't making a direct comparison, and that you are getting more at the mentality, also referencing jordan and kobe. but that's precisely where the idea of 5 defenders comes in. jordan didn't start winning and "taking over" until he had pippen. this is well documented. kobe has had at least one other premier player around him whenever he has won, and has one of the best supporting casts in the nba around him now. lebron has a very bad supporting cast, and i disagree with both of you on that front. mo williams is a good player but outside of that really don't have any complementary players, they have role players. there's a difference. role players do certain things well, like rebound and defend. this is varejo. complementary players help the star win. the cavs have none of this outside of mo williams.

second, and related, schematically the celtics played defense in a way that clearly they were not going to let him beat them. they were running 2 guys at him 30 feet from the basket. any time he put the ball on the deck 3, 4, even 5 players packed it in and converged, literally leaving other players wide open. he tried to make things happen early last night, but he clearly realized there was little he could do inside but force it. and that's not going to win games. he had little choice but to pass the basketball, and that's what he did. the cavs just didn't have enough guys who could do anything with it.

bandi's talking about lebron's will, and dv's is saying he "sits in a corner". he had 27, 18, and 10 last night, leading his team in all three categories. garnett was the only player who came close to being as good as he was on the court, and even still lebron was the best player for either team. there is only so much one guy can do. but even if we allow that 27, 19, and 10 is a lack of "will" or "disappearing", did you guys just start watching basketball this year. 25 points in a row in the 4th quarter on the road in detroit in 2007 at the age of 22? 45 points on the road in game 7 against the celtics (who the walked over the lakers to win it all) in 2008 at the age of 23? he did all of this with less than jordan or kobe ever had. any comparison to rodriguez (at least what typically used to be thought of rodriguez as not coming up big) is totally unfair, and so is any comparison to clemens (at least as far as "hiding in a corner" is concerned).

Patrick said...

(continued, ran out of space)

there's no question lebron had a bad game in game 5. but in game 6, i'm not sure what else he can do? the celtics put together one of the better defensive efforts i've seen, and were taking the "we're going to make someone besides lebron beat us" mentality, and he STILL got 27. i understand our expectations are high, but yeesh. sometimes other teams are going to play good D, and if the guys around him could do anything at all he'd have looked like a smart and unselfish player for making the smart fundamental basketball plays all night. and i don't want to hear that star players sometimes have to not make the fundamental play to help their team win. i'm factoring that in. the defenses the celtics were running at him last night made it a more extreme situation, he would have been playing bad basketball not to make the passes he was making.

which leads me to my last point. people have so vastly underrated the celtics. bandi just called them "aging". true. i didn't know aging meant incapable. they are only aging in the sense that they can't do it every night for 82 games plus the playoffs. outside of that they are still one of the most talented teams in the league. after lebron, the celtics probably have four players better than the cavs second best player. so because they happen to be slightly older lebron is supposed to be able to just do whatever he wants on the court? again, the defensive effort last night was amazing from the celtics. absolutely amazing. couple that with the weak supporting cast around lebron, and that is the reason lebron couldn't do more. it has nothing to do with his mentality or his play. he's done more in the playoffs in the last 4 years than most people do in their entire careers. if i was him, i'd be frustrated that i've been in a place for seven years and they haven't been able to put a decent team around me too. we've watched the same movie unfold with the cavs for four years in a row. lebron takes them as far as he can and the second they run into a team that is better overall it's either lebron does it all himself or they lose. it's tough, dealing with the best players in the world, to do it all by yourself.

Anonymous said...

Pat,

First, If Lebron doesn't go to NY will you still defend him like this? It's as if you are already wearing your bias glasses in preparation for his arrival.

Second, watch any tape of Jordan in the early 90s (where he played teams that were far better than the 2008 Celtics) and you'll see what I mean by taking over a game. It's not just about overall offensive stats, it's about making key plays in the key moments.

Lebron shot a poor percentage, and turned the ball over 9 times! The rebound and assists- definitely impressive. Maybe saying he disappeared is too strong. But part of being a great player in a team sport is helping your team play to its potential and not lose in a 7 game series. Is it excusable for the Cavs to lose to the Celtics on a given night? Yes. But not 4 times in 6 games.

If you had seen the Celtics consistently throughout the last two years, you would have thought there was no way they were going to win this series. Absolutely no way. That's not underrating- that's being realistic. In reality, Garnett is a 12 point scorer at this stage of his career who no longer changes a game defensively. Ray Allen is a limited player offensively who cannot defend, Paul Pierce had a terrible series (usually their best player), Perkins can't catch a pass, and as we all know Rondo isn't very good (but seriously, he can't make a jump shot).

Finally, coming off the bench is Big Baby, Tony Allen, and Rasheed Wallace. All three played well this series but there was nothing in the way the regular season went to indicate that was going to happen. At some level that has to be on the Cavs and Lebron for letting these guys go off. At one point last night down the stretch, Lebron had the ball against Tony Allen, got doubled by Big Baby, tried to make a move and got stripped. I'm trying to imagine Jordan losing the ball to Tony Allen and Big Baby down the stretch in an elimination game...not happening.

bandi

TimC said...

Everyone here is overreacting, and overreacting by a lot. First, the Celtics. This is a team that, until KG's injury last year, had been the best team in the NBA for one and a half seasons. After his injury, they pushed Orlando to seven before they made the NBA Finals. Orlando, you may recall, has smoked both Cleveland and Atlanta (the other top teams in the East) over the last two years but were fortunate not to lose to the depleted Celtics in six last year.

Oftentimes, commentators (paid guys, guys like us, etc.) understate the impact of injuries on a team. We are in a sports culture where the ability for an individual to play through an injury is respected among almost all other qualities (see Drew, JD) and we make the mistake of extending that to the team concept. Unfortunately, it is far more difficult for a team to overcome an injury to a teammate than it is for a player to overcome an injury to himself and yet by extending this toughness standard we punish teams that fail to reach their goals due to injury by labeling them as "aging" or past their prime. This is ridiculous. The Celtics, when KG, Allen, and Pierce were healthy TOGETHER this season, were among the very best teams in the league, and they proved it over the last two weeks.

It should also be noted that the Celtics matched up incredibly well with Cleveland. Basically, Cleveland did not have the individuals to stop the Celtics from imposing themselves offensively. For a team that relies on individuals to initiate the offense wit their moves like the Celtics, this was a perfect scenario. No one on the Cavs could stop Rondo, obviously, but the key guy was Garnett. Jamison was too weak to keep him off the block and Shaq was too slow to keep a hand in his face. Pierce did have a "bad" series but he was being blanketed by LeBull and did do some of the defensive work needed in the series. Without Pierce, the Celtics do not win.

TimC said...

PF-style double dip here. Second, LeBull James. Part of the problem with the perception of LeBull is that he is not the type of player who takes over games. These types of players are guys who can score at will from ANY point on the floor such as Kobe, Durant, etc. today and Bird, Jordan, etc. in the past. LeBull, for all that is said about his ability, still is not a reliable jump shooter. He is a great finisher and has taught himself to shoot a three, but he is not yet the player who can stick a fifteen-footer time and time again. LeBull is great at shooting, but he is not a great shooter.

He also does not have the ability to put himself into dangerous areas off the ball like some of the aforementioned take-over guys. LeBull did not once come off a screen to post up because his low-post game is not developed to the point where he can score consistently (remember the Tony Allen strip in the fourth quarter of Game 6?). LeBull did not come close to posting up ten to fifteen feet from the hoop as much as he should have in this series because he is not enough of a threat to stick that jump shot. Instead, if he was off the ball he would usually catch it 20-25 feet from the hoop (good D from Boston to push him out, of course) and it would be no different than him dribbling over half court.

When he does take over games, it usually happens against teams that try to play him somewhat straight up. The famous explosion against the Pistons was a great example because in that series Detroit relied a lot on Prince to slow James down and allow the big men to provide weakside help. This is the kind of defense he can destroy because of his athleticism and will driving into the lane.

However, a team like Boston can defend against this because they pack the lane as PF said and force him to either shoot or pass. If LeBull had a good shooting night in Game 5 people would NOT be talking about him like they are today but the reality is that he is not yet at a point where he can hit those shots. In Game 6, LeBull made the right passes and the Cavs had some success (Mo Williams in the first half, for example). He did play well, in my opinion, and his teammates just were not good enough. Think about it- if they went on to win the NBA title, is that team not the worst supporting cast to win the title in NBA history by a long shot? If the best player was removed from every title winning team and those teams all played a round-robin tournament, the Cavs minus LeBull would lose each and every game.

But the real problem with him is people do not watch the NBA nearly often enough and recall only moments like his 48 against Detroit in the '07 playoffs without understanding that, tactically, the Pistons made a gamble and lost. LeBron takes over if he can get into the lane because that is the type of player he is. If he gets going, he is also capable of heating up and taking shots he is comfortable with from the perimeter. But he is not a pure scorer who can impose himself like some guys; instead, he is a supremely gifted athlete who makes his teammates better, is a great finisher, is wildly entertaining, and does everything else basketball-wise good but not great.

TimC said...

Part III, this will be short, the topic of LeBull James and the summer. I think he should either go to LA or stay in Cleveland. I think he will go to either Chicago, NY, or stay. I also think that the best case scenario for NY might be three of these elite guys opting to take small pay cuts to form a nucleus in NY and try to save the Knicks. How does Joe Johnson, Bosh, and Dirk sound? Amare, Wade, and Boozer, anyone? Obviously, LeBull could get involved here, but I don't see him and two others taking that kind of a cut when the "others" are bound to get overshadowed by LeBull. However, an equal three-way partnership like the one seen in Boston might benefit all parties involved.

TimC said...

Obviously, I just finished finals.

jason said...

pat sorta sounded like he was talking about jeter there... dont u make fun of him hes my baby