Everywhere you look in the media (ok, at least the 4-5 places I look, and where I look=everywhere), that’s the theme. This is LeBron’s time, his championship, and the Heat are on the verge. It’s a new narrative because just two weeks ago, most of these same people were ready to break Miami up. Didn’t Chris Broussard say Miami will never win with this team? Or was it Jon Barry? We know what Stephen A. Smith said–“they are DONE!” (Though hand it to Israel Gutierrez, Miami’s biggest homer reporter, for being right so far. But I’m guessing he picked Miami last year too. His latest defense of Wade against Durant is worthy of this blog’s defense of Ray Allen).
The guy I don’t get is Magic. His problem isn’t that, as an ex-superstar, he’s just not good on tv (a la Shaq). His problem is that he doesn’t seem very knowledgeable about basketball. Most recently, after laying into Russell Westbrook in game 2, he applauds his performance based in game 3. Based on what? Every erratic tendency Westbrook has was on greater display in game 3. He made 3 consecutive bad decisions in the important turning point moment of the third quarter, which led to his being benched. I’m a Westbrook fan, after game 2 and even 3. I just don’t get what Magic is seeing for him to change his mind. And why is Magic, with all his years of experience, having his basketball IQ kicked by Brian Windhorst at ESPN, a guy who I’m guessing never stepped foot on an NBA court?
LeBron does deserve his moment, if it comes. He’s the best complete player in the league. But there are some problems with this new narrative. First, he isn’t playing great in the 4th quarter–he’s playing well, but he’s disappearing for long stretches, just like last year. In game 2, he was scoreless for much of the quarter. He made one key shot down the stretch. I’m not criticizing him. But it’s not like he reversed himself in some incredible way. If he’s called for the foul on KD at the end, and the Heat lose, is the narrative that he played well in the 4th? In game 3, he also was fairly quiet, particularly after showing in the first half how completely dominant he can be.
LeBron is doing what he’s always done, which is a lot of everything. But he’s also continuing to do a lot of what he’s always done in the 4th quarter, which is not take over. Unfair? Probably. But the 1990s-2010s superstar in the NBA is someone who takes over the 4th quarter–Bird, Jordan, Reggie, Kobe, Durant. LeBron is more like Magic, Malone, maybe even Ewing–dominant over the course of the game, but not the big 4th quarter guy.
So, if the old narrative continues to be right, the team that gets criticized for being x, y, and z, comes out and does the opposite tonight. Which means, Thunder win this one by 8, and Wednesday’s narrative is 1), the fearlessness of youth coming out of Oklahoma city, and 2), is LeBron losing his moment to Durant for a generation?