When we reflect back on him in 20 years, we may remember 2012 as the year LeBron James started to fulfill his potential.
And he can now add Sports Illustrated “Sportsman of the Year” to his list of accolades from 2012 that include NBA champion, NBA regular season MVP, NBA finals MVP and leading Team USA to a gold medal at the London Olympics (and make no mistake, when you watched that team practice it was clear whose team it was).
The magazine made its announcement Monday. The last time an NBA player won the honor? Back in 2006 when Dwyane Wade did it.
For years LeBron had seemed unable to reach his full potential. Sure, he had put up monster numbers, twice been NBA MVP, he’d led teams deep into the playoffs, he had a gold medal, he’d been the best player walking the planet for maybe five years. But there was always another level you could sense but that he couldn’t reach. You felt something holding him back.
In 2012 he matured enough mentally to reach those heights. He needed to be out of Cleveland — where he was close to home and where team ownership bent over backwards to cater to him. Basically, he needed to move out of the home he grew up in.
Then he got to Miami where Pat Riley wasn’t bending the franchise for him. More importantly, he became hated by many and had to adapt to people seeing him as a villain. He didn’t like it.
But somewhere after his first season in Miami, he seemed to accept that and find his mental balance. He grew up. And when that happened he could tap into all that potential. He averaged 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game — but he had better statistical seasons before. What was different was the leadership, the ability to take over a game late (or whenever it was needed). The Heat became LeBron’s team and Wade was 1A.
And he put together a year that nobody has ever done save Michael Jordan.
That is what Sports Illustrated is recognizing.
The list of traditional ball-handling point guards who liked and thrived in Phil Jackson’s triangle offense is a short one. While guys who could initiate the offense then play off the ball did well (Derek Fisher, for example), traditional points used to controlling the flow of the game chaffed in the system. Ask Gary Payton about it.
So how are things going with Derrick Rose as he adjusts to the triangle in New York?
If Phil Jackson were going to be any of the seven dwarfs, it would be Grumpy.
The Knicks are going to run a hybrid version of the triangle that will incorporate coach Jeff Hornacek’s preferred up-tempo style and the offense Jackson wants in the halfcourt.
Slotting in a number of new players — Rose, Joakim Noah, Brandon Jennings, etc. — with a new system likely means some early-season struggles on offense for the Knicks. The team’s offense should smooth out as the season stretches out — so long as they can stay healthy. But that’s a different discussion.
Three all-time greats retired from the NBA this year.
What’s next for Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett?
Kobe is making movies and babies. Duncan is hanging around Spurs practice and is expected to join the franchise full-time.
Garnett? Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue, who was an assistant coach for the Celtics when Garnett played in Boston, wants him to join his staff.
Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:
“I talked to him about it,” Lue said Thursday, following the Cavs’ practice. “I know his wife is pushing for it a lot. Brandi is pushing for it, trying to get him to come and coach. He says he’s not ready yet. He goes back, ‘I might do it,’ but he’s back and forth. We’ll see.
“But I’d definitely make a spot for him if he wanted to come back and coach.”
Lue said Garnett would be in Cleveland for the Cavs’ opening night ceremonies, which will include the raising of the franchise’s first championship banner.
I’d be surprised if Garnett joins Cleveland’s staff, but I’m also surprised Garnett is joining the Cavs to celebrate a title he played no part in winning. So, maybe ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.
More importantly, has Lue checked with LeBron James about this idea? LeBron might not like it.
The ProBasketballTalk Podcast at NBC Sports is done with its summer hiatus, and there will be a couple of podcasts a week now running through the NBA season, trade deadline, playoffs, and eventually free agency. We’ll talk about it all.
We start with NBA season previews, going division by division, and we start that tour on the West Coast. Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News joins Kurt Helin of NBC to talk about the Lakers and their rebuild. From there the conversation goes to questions such as can anyone beat the Warriors? Are the Clippers contenders? Plus we talk about the building processes going on in Sacramento and Phoenix.
As always, you can check out the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes (check there to see all the NBC Sports podcasts), subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out our new PBT podcast homepage and archive at Audioboom.com.
The Rockets created a little roster confusion by giving Gary Payton II a fully guaranteed deal, bringing Houston to 15 players (the regular-season roster limit) with guaranteed salaries plus restricted free agent Donatas Motiejunas.
This won’t clarify the situation, but P.J. Hairston will give the Rockets another intriguing piece.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
Hairston was a first-round pick just two years ago, and at age 23, he still presents upside. He has at least stopped producing negative headline after negative headline after negative…
Now, we can focus on just Hairston’s major on-court flaws. He misses a lot of shots and does little else. But he has some raw tools, even if they barely showed with the Hornets and Grizzlies.
If the Rockets make a roster-clearing move, they could take a chance on keeping the talented/troubled wing around. More likely, he heads to the D-League, where Houston can develop him in its system.