DeShawn Stevenson says LeBron “checked out,” is that news?

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Because somehow a Game 5 of the NBA finals with the series tied 2-2 isn’t enough, there seems to be some manufactured drama going regarding LeBron James. And it isn’t even his fault this time.

First comes this from the Associated Press:

Mavericks guard DeShawn Stevenson is directing some sharp words toward Miami’s LeBron James on the eve of Game 5 in the NBA finals. Stevenson says the Heat forward “checked out” in the final minutes of Game 4 on Tuesday night, when James was held to eight points – the lowest he managed in 90 career playoff games.

In general, when you see a controversial quote where only two words are used and not a sentence or paragraph, you should question the context. PBT’s reporters on the ground said Stevenson’s comments on the whole were not that incendiary. Follow up quotes from ESPN Dallas bear that out:

“Dwyane Wade had it going and sometimes you get like that when a player has it going,” Stevenson said Wednesday afternoon…

“Our defense was good, but at the same time he wasn’t in attack mode,” said Stevenson, who scored 11 in Game 4. “We all know that LeBron can get to the basket and when he has his shot going, it’s pretty tough to keep him from the free throw line.”

Besides, didn’t LeBron James say over and over he didn’t play well in Game 4? That’s right, he did Tuesday night and again Wednesday at media availability after practice.

“Definitely didn’t play great offensively,” James said after Tuesday’s Game 4, in which he scored 8 points. “I got to do a better job of being more assertive offensively, not staying out of rhythm offensively the whole game.”

Some are going to try and say Stevenson’s comments fired up LeBron, who will undoubtedly come out much more aggressive in Game 5. Most media see it that way. But LeBron’s play is what should do that — he had Jason Kidd and Jason Terry on him for long stretches of that game and didn’t demand the ball, didn’t attack the mismatch. You can say he “checked out” or “played like Game 5 against Boston last year” or however you wish to define it. Nobody is really denying it, not even LeBron.

Game 5 already has plenty of drama, and how LeBron comes out will be a big part of that game’s story. But these comments have nothing to do with that.