LeBron James is the best player in the NBA, no qualms, no caveats. He does have flaws however.
The Miami Heat star is not a great closer. There are several examples of failed opportunities in the clutch. This topic has been debated ad nauseum. Every pundit, columnist and radio host is a certified psychologist in respect to James’s psyche. So I have no interest in beating a dead horse again by giving my take on an ever evolving concept.
With all of his flaws in closing minutes, James is the most versatile player in the league. James can defend every position on the floor. His teams use that as a crutch sometimes.
James’s responsibilities already included: setting up the offense and getting others involved, rebound at a high level, be the team’s leading scorer; be the team’s leader in assists; be the best defender on the perimeter while occasionally checking a big man down low.
With Chris Bosh’s injury, James has to wear more hats on the basketball court. He now has to guard Indiana’s big forward for extended minutes.
Banging in the lane is tiring. A 6’7”, 250 pound James is a small power forward. He can compete and even win the match-up, but the battle in the painted area tires you out. You expend energy every play. Boxing out takes effort, so does fronting a bigger player. On the perimeter, James can roam and play free safety on certain plays. No so down low.
James admitted as much yesterday to the Miami Herald.
“It’s a lot more taxing being in there with bigger guys,” James said, according to the Miami Herald.
He said that defense “is the biggest difference. When you’re on the perimeter, there’s more space. The interior is more cramped and physical.”
Some will criticize James for this outlook. But can you really blame him. We expect more of James than any other NBA player.
But this is playoff basketball. This team, without Bosh, is not good enough to win a title. If they get past the Indiana Pacers, it will be a testament to James and Dwayne Wade’s talent.
Teams in the playoffs are too good and the stakes are too high.
“Forty minutes in the playoffs is different than 40 minutes in the regular season,” James said, according to the newspaper. “Intensity is raised. The grind is much more intense. Hopefully, I can get a few minutes here and there.”
There are no other options besides playing James big minutes against bigger players. He has to put the team on his back and carry them to a series victory.
If James does defeat the odds, the spoils will certainly be his. But NBA superstardom is an even-money gamble because, if not, he can expect to keep the Skip Bayless-looking media monkey on his back.