If LeBron James captures a championship this year, he’ll do it for the first time in his career without a major ingredient: an enforcer.
“I’ve won championships with one, I’ve lost championships without one,” he said after practice on Thursday. That’s a telling response. James mentioned Udonis Haslem and Chris “Birdman” Anderson as the two enforcers who helped him win it all twice in Miami.
“As far as an enforcer, we don’t possess that this year,” James said. “Losing Perk was a big piece of our success last year, even with his limited minutes. But what he meant to our team both in the locker room and when he got his opportunity was huge.”
“[An enforcer], it’s vital. It’s vital. Having an enforcer like that, [someone] that has championship experience,” Irving said. “I don’t think we just necessarily want an enforcer, but enforcers are always on championship teams. They have that one guy that we put into the game. That Boston series, it changed drastically just because of Perk going in.”
“We don’t have one of those this year,” Irving said. “No replacement for Kendrick.”
This is how I know the Cavs are overreacting to the role of an enforcer. Cleveland was up 3-0 and leading Game 4 by 19 points when Perkins made the entrance Irving described. (Perkins also played an uneventful two minutes in Game 2.)
What did Perkins do?
He shoved Jae Crowder, raising tensions even further after Kelly Olynyk ripped Kevin Love’s shoulder out of place. Then, J.R. Smith whacked Crowder – drawing a two-game suspension that cost Cleveland a rotation player in the second round. A lot of good that did.
It sounds as if LeBron is just making preemptive excuses for not winning a championship, as if Perkins would make a difference against the Warriors. Perkins is a good teammate, and the Cavs might be better off with him in their locker room. But they need to get over this and show their own toughness – not keep whining about the absence of an “enforcer.”
Then again, if they’re as mentally weak as they sound in these quotes, maybe they need a designated tough guy.