A player’s shortcomings become magnified in the finals. What was odd about LeBron James’ playing passively through the last few games of the NBA finals is that he’d been so good earlier in these playoffs — he was Miami’s best player against Boston and Chicago. He attacked in the face of the challenge of Boston’s court full of Hall of Famers, he stood up to the Bulls’ defense.
And then came the finals, when he scored 8 fewer points per game than the regular season, where he seemed hesitant to attack. LeBron could not get comfortable, could not get a couple shots from spots he loves to fall and parlay that into a run (the way Dirk Nowitzki did for Dallas).
Former Suns GM and current TNT analyst Steve Kerr made an interesting comment on ESPN Chicago about that and the controversy of Scottie Pippen saying before the series LeBron has more rounded game than Michael Jordan.
“The irony to me is that LeBron is not Michael. LeBron is actually Scottie,” former Bull and current television analyst Steve Kerr said Monday on “The Waddle & Silvy Show” on ESPN 1000. “He’s so similar to Scottie in that defensively he was just a monster, could guard anybody, really more of a point forward than scoring guard. Scottie always loved to distribute the ball. That’s really where LeBron’s preference is.
“Phil Jackson used to call Scottie a ‘sometimes shooter.’ Sometimes they would go in, sometimes they wouldn’t. That’s how it is with LeBron. He’s a great talent and a great player but you can see his flaws as a basketball player. He doesn’t have an offensive game that he can rely on: no low-post game, no mid-range jump shot so when the game really gets tough he has a hard time finding easy baskets and getting himself going. That’s what Michael did in his sleep so that’s why the comparison is wrong.”
For some, being called Pippen is an insult. It shouldn’t be — the Bulls are not the Bulls dynasty without him. He defended, set the table, could score when needed. He is one of the 50 greatest players of all time, a Hall of Famer. Being Pippen is no insult. Even is we expect LeBron to ascend to a higher plain.
It’s too early to define LeBron’s legacy — he is just halfway through his NBA career. Five years ago Nowitzki fell short on the big stage, the flaws in his game exposed (lack of a post game, for one). That has changed, he grew. LeBron can do the same thing. He can become more Jordan.
But for now, he’s going to have to listen to a lot of critics this summer. Because on the biggest stage he was no Jordan, and really no Pippen either.