LeBron James’ Debut with the Miami Heat: Deja Vu ALL OVER AGAIN
The New Look Miami Heat, DEJECTED
There are MANY storylines and takeaways from LeBron James and the Miami Heat’s opening night loss against the defending Eastern Conference Champion Boston Celtics. But perhaps the most obvious recurring theme, is that we saw the SAME OLD LEBRON JAMES. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as he is undoubtedly one of the game’s top 2 or 3 players depending on who you ask and he, as always, filled up the stat sheet. But if you look at the game closely, and look at the specifics of his performance and how HIS GAME fits in with the NEW LOOK MIAMI HEAT, there are certainly some of the same concerns that have plagued James throughout his first 7 years in the NBA.
The knock on LeBron James has long been that, while he is an incredible talent, he dominates the basketball far too much and plays 1 on 5 basketball leaving his teammates to stand around the perimeter and watch almost in awe. Now for the past 7 years, this blame was placed more on his surrounding cast in Cleveland, as they were perceived as substandard talent and teammates, than it was on LeBron James as a leader or as a player. But last night in his debut with the Miami Heat, we all saw much of the same. The commentators, the national media, and the casual fan will attribute last night’s loss and overall poor performance to the team not having a chance to “GEL” yet with all the new players and with Dwayne Wade missing all of the pre-season. To some extent, this is probably accurate as I do believe the Heat will win A LOT of games (I think at least 60), but that has little to do with the team “GELLING” but more to do with the lack of depth in the NBA and the fact that their superior talent will allow them to win a great number of games despite their lack of strategic advantage and team play.
I honestly thought, that given the harsh criticism that LeBron James has taken and given his new “business-like” approach to the game that he would’ve matured and evolved as a player to allow him/them to take the next step. Ignoring the fact that it is completely pathetic and sad that LeBron James considered the last 7 years of his career in Cleveland as just “fun & games” and now he considers basketball to be a job, to be serious and publicly said “now its time to win”. Really LeBron? So what exactly were the last 7 years besides your opportunity to build your BRAND?
I honestly thought that given this new attitude and given the presence of Pat Riley (despite not being on the floor….. YET), and given the leadership of Dwayne Wade who DOES know how to be a champion, that LeBron would have evolved his game more. But so far, he has not as we saw the same LeBron. Sure, he got his 31 points but at what cost? He dominated the basketball far too much, dribbled down the shot clock and hoisted countless fall away jumpers. Good thing for him and Miami that he’s just THAT good that he can usually get away with that kind of selfish and stupid basketball. But we saw, yet again, LeBron dribbling down the clock and 4 teammates standing around, watching on the perimeter.
In the second half, he controlled the ball even more as he “ran the point” for the Heat in an attempt to get them back into the game after scoring only 30 POINTS in the first half! Again, it mostly worked but only due to his immense talent and not because it’s intelligent basketball. And again, at what cost? The rest of his team was completely out of sync as Bosh & Wade combined for just 7-27 from the field with just 21 points. LeBron James’ domination of the ball provided 31 points, but with 8 turnovers, and the 1 on 5 game that he brought completely disrupted the Heat’s offense as it forced everyone else to stand around on the perimeter. This type of offense is obviously not conducive for two guys who are used to handling the ball so much in Bosh & Wade. Not to mention that LeBron SHOULD have had even more turnovers and less points as there were at least 2 very OBVIOUS charging calls that should have been called on James as he absolutely TRUCKED Paul Pierce.
Look, I believe the Heat will win at least 60 games and I believe they’ll advance in the playoffs. But there are some significant deficiencies on this team as far as the roster goes, before I even address the style of play and strategy. As was evident last night, the Heat do not have any kind of a presence in the middle. While they’ll be able to escape most nights in the NBA because there just aren’t that many quality teams, let alone quality teams with a good big man, it WILL catch up to them in the playoffs and in games against Boston, Orlando, and L.A.
Chris Bosh, while getting tremendous hype and accolades since he’s entered the league, is in my opinion a tremendous liability for the Heat. He’s one of the more SOFT Power Forwards in the NBA and due to the Heat’s situation at Center, they’ll call on him to play quite a bit at the Center position as well. As soft as Chris Bosh is as a 4, he’s obviously EVEN WORSE AT THE 5! This doesn’t even account for the fact that he’s not even that great of a PF. He’s a jump shooting 4, with no low post or back to the basket game whatsoever and he doesn’t even have great range as a shooter. Bosh is quite honestly very predictable to play as he only make jumpers out to about 15 feet consistently. He’s not even a good stretch 4 like Rashard Lewis who can space the floor with perimeter shooting. He’ll likely put up decent numbers just because of the attention LeBron James and Dwayne Wade will draw from defenses and due to the lack of overall talent in the NBA, but in a playoff series he will be a LIABILITY.
Then comes the Heat’s complete lack of depth and of a bench. They will get a boost once Mike Miller returns and he will provide some deadly 3 point shooting. His game actually fits very well with the LeBron James offensive scheme as he thrives from being able to stand around on the perimeter and take spot up jumpers. But beyond Miller, they are VERY thin and lack real NBA talent. This will also be a significant concern against good teams and in a playoff series.
LeBron James and Dwayne Wade will get their points. There is no question about that. But at what cost to the team? Both players have thrived thus far in their NBA careers as the primary scorer and as the primary ball handler in clutch situations. In LeBron James’ eyes, he is at his best when he’s dominating the basketball and dribbling down the shot clock going 1 on 2, 3, 4 or 5 if need be. LeBron might get his points, but he’ll continue to turn the ball over far too much and he’ll continue to disrupt the flow of his teammates. Dwayne Wade is not at his best when he’s standing on the perimeter, that is for sure.
Unless LeBron learns to play within an offensive scheme to best utilize his talents and the talents of his teammates, you’ll continue to see more of the same from LeBron. Great numbers, electrifying plays, but too many turnovers, out of sync teammates, and defenses that will frustrate him as he tries to dominate the ball too much and dribble too much. They’ll win 60, but this type of basketball will not allow them to advance past Boston, Orlando or L.A. in the playoffs. The Cavs won 60+ games in the last two seasons with this type of offense, or lack thereof, and by all accounts were the favorites to at least win the East, if not the whole thing. But as we’ve come to see, the playoffs are a different animal and you just cannot get by with that type of basketball. Unless LeBron evolves as a player and not only accepts, but fully invests in more of a strategic and intelligent offensive system, he won’t win. No matter who else is on the floor with him.