Between the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder, I was rooting for the team in a small town. I was also rooting against Lebron James.
He took a shortcut to the championship when he and Chris Bosh joined Dwayne Wade in Miami to form the NEW Big Three. The old one being Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen. Each of those players were close to or at their prime when they came together. Each of them were also franchise players who could carry a team by themselves. The only difference was that James, Bosh, and Wade were entering their prime and were much younger when they joined forces a couple years ago. Garnett, Pierce, and Allen had already spent their best years in their respective teams before forming a triumvirate.
The NEW Big Three are younger, faster, and stronger. During the Celtics/Heat series, I always knew that it was just a matter of time before Boston would wear out. They always started out well and ended up fizzling in the end, with the exception of game six when Lebron played a near perfect game.
I thought the Thunder were the more balanced team. They had gunners and slashers in Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden; and big men who can protect the paint like shot-blocker Serge Ibaka and bruiser Kendrick Perkins. They were also an explosive team, capable of erasing large deficits or pouring on huge leads in minutes.
But they had no answer for James. During the first two games, Durant got into foul trouble guarding him. They then went to Harden, a shooting guard who gave up three to four inches and forty to fifty pounds to James. Aiding the two was their 6’7” defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha, who had the length and quickness to deal with James, but couldn’t do much else. He was a reliable three-pointer shooter during the regular season (44%) and for much of the playoffs (39%), but in the Finals, Miami’s swarming defense shut that down pretty good (18%).
I’m disappointed that Ibaka and Perkins couldn’t keep James and Wade out of the paint like Tyson Chandler did with the Dallas Mavericks last year. Ibaka is the leading shot-blocker in the league with 3.6 per game during the regular season. Perkins is also a big 270 pounder.
Oh well, James finally got his championship. He definitely earned it. He’s improved his game. He’s a better post player, a better shooter, a better defender, and a better clutch player. He’s improved all facets of his game at a time when he’s already considered the best. But having grown up in a small town, I can’t forgive him for leaving Cleveland for greener pastures in Miami. Sorry, just can’t. Chris Webber, when he was entering his prime, didn’t leave Sacramento to get a championship with another team. There’s something to be said for loyalty (and max contracts).
Oh yeah, James also had a super-sized ego. And it just got ginormous with the ring. It was there throughout the playoffs. When he fouled out in Game 4 of the Boston series, his response was that he doesn’t foul out - he knows how to play the “game of basketball.” Therefore, it was the ref’s fault. Throughout the playoffs, the refs have been more generous towards Miami than their opponents. They get most of the calls, especially when it involves James or Wade. (Generally, it doesn’t matter, but during close games like so many in the Celtics and Thunder series, those calls can decide games.)
He’s gotta learn how to be humble like Wade. You don’t hear that kind of stuff from his teammate, who already had a championship ring.
Speaking of Wade, I’m more impressed with his defense than James’ even though the latter gets most of the accolades from the media. So often, I see him blocking and altering shots from guards, forwards, and even power forwards and centers. It’s very rare to see a guard blocking a shot from a center, but I see Wade do it on a regular basis.
The NBA playoffs didn’t have the outcome I wanted, but it was exciting and intriguing. Oklahoma City continued to improve and were actually favored to take home the trophy. The San Antonio Spurs got better when everyone counted them out. The Celtics surprisingly made it to the Eastern Conference Finals, thanks mostly to Derek Rose’s injury. They almost took out the Heat if Bosh didn’t return from injury.
Congrats to Wade on another championship ring. Congrats to Bosh, who will forever be the Heat’s most thankless player.