Last Thursday, Charles Barkley sat on his TNT soapbox and said that Dwyane Wade’s game had taken a step back. Wade had just had a 3-of-13 shooting night against the Knicks, which came on the heels of a 9-for-19 game a couple nights before versus Washington.
Barkley said Wade was “starting to lose his athletic ability” and needed to adjust his game, to learn to play below the basket. He said it in the most Barkley way possible.
But the reports of Wade’s decline Wade’s decline have been greatly exaggerated. In the two games since Wade has 52 points on 20-of-25 shooting. He was at the heart of the Heat’s best game of the season Monday, beating the Hawks.
So, LeBron James, you have anything to say about Wade’s performance (via NBA.com)?
“It means Charles Barkley needs to shut up,” James said. “I mean, the man [Wade] is shooting 80 percent from the floor the last couple of games. That’s like, crazy, right? That’s why he is who he is. Unbelievable.”
Wade had off-season knee surgery, to expect him to be 2006 Wade out of the gate is a bit much. Wade has pretty clearly not been vintage Wade this season, the question is how much is age and wear and tear — few players throw their body around as recklessly as Wade, although he has curbed that some — and how much is his knee not being 100 percent?
Barkley isn’t wrong — Wade is aging and he is having to adjust his game. He’ll own up to that. It’s just that Barkley saying it bluntly on a national platform isn’t going to play well in the Heat locker room. They are going to defend their own. Plus Wade is still plenty athletic, even now.
If the Wade we see come the playoffs is anywhere near the Wade we saw against the Hawks Monday, Barkley is going to look wrong on this one. Not that he cares.
The battle has, stupidly, raged on between supporters of Michael Jordan and LeBron James. Both sides seem to believe their preference is irrefutably the choice for the best player in NBA history.
And because they did not play in the same era, the question will never be answered. No doubt in 50 years they will write columns about Jordan vs. LeBron, just like their fathers, and their father’s fathers before them.
James has certainly seemed to take a bit of a leap in the eyes of the NBA community this season, likely because of his wonderful performance at age 33. He’s also single-handedly won two playoff series this year. It’s been incredible.
But LeBron rising above Jordan has also brought out some more reasonable takes. Former Chicago Bulls legend and Jordan running mate Scottie Pippen spoke up recently about the debate, giving a measured analysis that I think is pretty strong.
In short, Pippen basically said you can’t compare the two because of the eras, the style, and the fact they just don’t play the same position (if LeBron even has a position, that is).
That sounds right to me.
Chewbacca was at Game 3 in Cleveland Saturday. Sitting courtside.
Why? Because growing up on Kashyyyk he played a little hoop and admires LeBron James‘ skill? Because Drake gave him the tickets? Maybe. I mean, it’s not like that was just a clever little publicity stunt for a movie.
After the Cavaliers’ win, Kevin Love decided to make a little joke of it with noted humorist Kendrick Perkins, and it went over as well as expected (with Dave McMenamin of ESPN catching it).
That’s vintage Perkins.
Cleveland dominated Game 3 Saturday night. They played harder, to start. The Cavaliers’ defensive pressure on the ball was better, they were sharper rotating out to shooters and covering passing lanes. Cleveland’s role players stepped up and helped LeBron James.
Boston, meanwhile, wilted in the face of that pressure Saturday, something it has done a few times on the road these playoffs. The Celtics got away from the things that got them to the Eastern Conference Finals. Guard Terry Rozier put it more bluntly, via A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston:
“I feel like we needed this (loss) to get us back … to get us ready for Monday,” Rozier said.
Rozier later added, “We needed to get our butts whipped. Come back to reality and take care of business on Monday.”
Cleveland is a championship team — from LeBron James on down through the core guys, they all have rings. They have been down before, and heading home it was expected they would play with force. Cleveland’s back was against the wall and they responded.
From the Celtics’ perspective, they also got a little too fat and happy and were not ready for what the Cavaliers came with in Game 3.
Now the pressure is on Boston to push back, to get back to their level of execution and do it under pressure. Make the Cavaliers prove the improved defensive effort was not a one-off game. The Celtics must move the ball and play with some pace, then see if the Cavaliers can keep it together in the face of crisp play.
When this series heads back to Boston Wednesday, it will either see the Celtics in control up 3-1, or the series will be a best of three (with the Cavs still having to figure out if they can win on the road). At home, the Cavaliers are going to play with force again and have some depth. We’ll see if Game 3 was enough of a wakeup call for Boston.
Houston found its blueprint to beating Golden State in Game 2: Strong defensive pressure on the ball, quick switches and communication on defense, getting out in transition when possible, and starting sets earlier in the shot clock and attacking downhill with James Harden and Chris Paul.
Now can they do that on the road? Against a more focused and sharper Warriors’ team?
That will be the question in the next two games of the Western Conference Finals, and it’s what I discuss in this latest PBT Extra.