Understanding the intricacies of LeBron's Game 5 letdown

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lebron celtics game 5.pngLeBron James had a rough Tuesday night. He shot 3-of-14 from the field as his team struggled to escape from under the heel of the Boston Celtics. Cleveland lost by 32 points on their home court, and when that happens to the best team in the league (record-wise, at least) boasting the best player in the league, the people will demand answers.

How could this happen? And why?

The how part is slightly easier to figure out, as behind LeBron’s very poor performance was a team of highly-paid bystanders. James had an off-night in terms of execution, focus, and effort, but this team is theoretically constructed to withstand that. In fact, plenty of players are being compensated very well to ensure that this very thing doesn’t happen. The acquisitions of Shaquille O’Neal and Antawn Jamison were supposed to make this situation avoidable, yet when James turned in a sub-par game on the Cavs home court, those teammates — which were rumored to be a championship-level cast — vanished as well.

For further analysis on that topic, I’ll defer to FanHouse’s Tom Ziller:

Completely putting the blame on LeBron here…masks very real issues. The Celtics play absurdly good defense and match up particularly well against James. Williams can’t guard a single person on the Boston roster. Jamison, O’Neal, Anderson Varejao and Zydrunas Ilgauskas still aren’t comfortable with each other on offense or defense, and the Celtics’ scorers are hitting some tough shots in this series. It’s not like LeBron is shooting 3-14 against folding chairs. Boston had the league’s No. 5 defense this season, despite a year filled with injuries to key cogs. And with so few Cavaliers scoring with any efficiency, the Celtics have been able to send two good defenders at LeBron as soon as he makes his move. (Despite that, James had 12 free throws and seven assists Tuesday.)

On one hand, it’s tough to entirely blame those, like Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who set out to crucify James after they witnessed him make frequent defensive mistakes, float on the offensive end, and hoist his fair share of errant jumpers. He’s the best player in the sport, and he’s supposed to play accordingly in the playoffs.

Ziller notes that LeBron’s Game 5 isn’t as simple as many media reactions indicate, and he’s right; to deny the significance of Boston’s defensive brilliance and the futility of James’ teammates is to ignore a crucial part of the story here.

The Celtics are no slouches on the defensive end, and while their first round series against the Heat may not have provided the best example given Miami’s limited offense, the enduring effectiveness of Boston’s D over the course of the regular season is beyond commendable. There was no question they were going to turn basketball from play into work for LeBron, and they’ve done just that.

Ultimately, the best way to properly address James’ night may be to show rather than tell. Kevin Arnovitz did just that over at TrueHoop. Others could watch that very video and see  justification for their verbal lashings of LeBron, the pariah, but I see a guy that’s just completely out of sync. His passes were off to an irregular degree, his shooting troublesome, and his focus waning. It’s easy to maintain that focus when your team is in control of the game, but with neither the Cavs or LeBron clicking, he floated.

It happens. He deserves to be criticized for it, just not drawn and quartered. Being the best in the world doesn’t remove the possibility of having a bad game — mentally as well as physically — at an inopportune time, and that’s what we all witnessed last night.

   

Stephen Curry explains trash talk with LeBron James at end of 2018 Finals Game 1

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LeBron James had been a dominant force in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, but he was a frustrated man at the end after the legendary J.R. Smith blunder at the end of regulation, and the fact the Cavaliers still had a timeout at that point. Rarely does an NBA Finals feel over after one game, but LeBron had been brilliant and pushed that Cavaliers team as far as he could, and they still lost in overtime. It was crushing.

LeBron showed his frustration at the end of OT (the video is above). With the Warriors up double digits and just :30 seconds left in the extra period, Stephen Curry went in for a layup at the end of the shot clock and LeBron slid over and skied blocked it. Then the trash talk ensued — between Curry and LeBron, then with Klay Thompson stepping in and jawing at LeBron.

What went down? Curry talked about it on The Bill Simmons Podcast (as transcribed by Drew Shiller of NBC Sports Bay Area).

“It was an interesting moment …I was hot because I was trying to finish out a possession, I think it was less than a minute left, I didn’t see him coming over from the weak side so I tried to do a little soft scoop layup and he pinned it. Then he stared me down and he said something to me.

“And I was like, ‘That’s what we’re really on right now? We’re about to win and you’re worried about mean-blocking my shot and talking trash?’ And then the whole Tristan (Thompson) and Draymond (Green) thing happened and I went back up to him and I was like, ‘Yo, what’s up? Is this really what we’re about right now?’

“And he was like, ‘I gotta do that to make sure my teammates know I’m a mentor’ and it’s a part of his leadership and that type of deal. And I was like, ‘I don’t want to be the sacrificial lamb for your leadership.’ (laughter). Come on man, that’s messed up.”

There was nothing wrong with what LeBron did — the clock was running, the game was still on, and he made a play. Doesn’t matter if the game was decided, Curry decided to take a shot and LeBron stopped it. And LeBron was frustrated, so he talked a little.

Now, LeBron’s in the West with the Lakers. Last season Steve Kerr talked more than once about the challenge of keeping the Warriors focused, motivated, and building good habits during the grind of the regular season. You think LeBron in the Warriors’ division might help with that a little this season?

Dwyane Wade warns Jimmy Butler to stop commenting like that on photo of his wife, Gabrielle Union

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Jimmy Butler stays having no chill.

Not when his teammates don’t match his level of competitiveness. Not when his coach eases up. Not when a fan gets too demanding.

And not when Gabrielle Union posts this photo to Instagram:

💧

A post shared by Gabrielle Union-Wade (@gabunion) on

Butler commented:

Then Butler posted an unrelated video to his Instagram captioned “The good, the bad, and the ugly,” on which Wade replied:

Wade and Butler – who both played at Marquette then were teammates with the Bulls – are friends.

At least, they were.

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer: ‘We’re moving to Inglewood come hell or high water’

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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The Lakers and Clippers share an arena in Los Angeles, which – as everyone understands it – means the Clippers play in the Lakers’ arena.

That doesn’t sit well with Clippers owner Steve Ballmer. So, he wants to get a new arena built just for the Clippers in Inglewood.

And cost, legal red tape and lawsuits aren’t going to stop him.

Helene Elliot of The Los Angeles Times:

“We’re moving to Inglewood come hell or high water,” he said of a proposed arena near the site of the stadium being constructed for the Rams and Chargers. “We gotta have a house. So we’re working on a plan to get our own house. We want to get our own house. It turns out the way this works in L.A., which is much beloved to me, that if you start now you might be done in six years.”

Ballmer is probably used to getting what he wants. I doubt he backs down here. It should be noted some of the legal and public relations push back on the plans comes from funding via the Madison Square Garden group (owned by Knicks’ owner James Dolan), which five years ago sank $100 million into the Lakers’ old home the Forum to refurbish it into a major concert venue. The new Clippers building would be just a couple blocks away from the Forum.

This also at least partially explains why the Clippers insist on remaining competitive. Local politicians are less likely to greenlight a new arena for a tanking team.

Juan Carlos Navarro retires

AP Photo/Seth Wenig
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It took Juan Carlos Navarro a long time to try the NBA.

It didn’t take him nearly as long to determine the league wasn’t for him.

The No. 40 pick in the 2002 draft, he finally signed with the Grizzlies in 2007. But after only one season as a backup guard in Memphis, he returned to Europe.

Now, his standout career in Spain is ending.

Barcelona release:

The club hereby announces that Juan Carlos Navarro shall be forming part of its basketball structure from the 2018/19 season, as established in the contract signed in September 2017, now that he has retired from active sporting duty.

Most NBA fans will never realize how talented Navarro was. He was a good score-first point guard at a time many teams still wanted a more-traditional point guard. Unhappy on a losing team in a foreign country, he didn’t try to find a workable solution.

Instead, he starred in Spain, out of sight of American fans – except international competitions, where he reminded everyone how good he was.

We should appreciate Navarro’s impressive career. We can also wonder about the “what if?” surrounding him and the NBA.