Thursday, June 13, 2013

LeBron Raging At Underperforming Heat

LeBron James is steaming at the Heat. 

Don't buy that cool, calm, determined act he's putting on for the media. Behind the scenes, according to two sources close to a Heat player, LeBron, since Miami was crushed by the San Antonio Spurs Tuesday night, has been on the warpath. Report the sources, he's angry, surly and bursting at the seams, on the verge of  ripping the locker room apart. What's happening is that he's boiling mad at his teammates for their lazy effort in the NBA Finals, which Miami trails 1-2. In the entire series, Miami has played only one exemplary quarter, that final one of the second game--their lone win.

A raging LeBron is apparently a frightening creature, one that's not easy to deal with. He's the team leader, the guiding force. But he has created an unpleasant atmosphere, a locker room dripping with tension. The players are on edge, not sure how to deal with him.Quite possibly, his fuming may be doing more harm than good.

Everybody, says the sources, is scared of LeBron. The person who really fears him most, they say, is coach Eric Spoelstra, who knows his job is based on the superstar's approval. If LeBron doesn't want Spoelstra in charge, the coach is history. LeBron is the lion and Spoelstra is the lamb. If the Heat lose this series, guess who may be collateral damage.

People close to the team know part of the problem is that LeBron is mad at himself. During the season, he got caught up in chasing the Lakers' record, 33-game winning streak The Heat's streak, which reached 27 games, took its toll on the team. The players are burned out. Pursuing the streak, they were giving the kind of effort normally reserved for playoff games. Now, in the playoffs, when it really counts, many of the older players are running on empty.

What LeBron wants his teammates to do now is funnel all their energy into winning three games. That title would mean that Miami reached the NBA Finals three times in a row and won twice. That's respectable.
If they lose this series, the person who'll take the heat is LeBron. What he's done so far, his status as the best player on the planet, won't matter. He'll be the star who could only lead his team to one win in three NBA Finals. That's a huge stain on his legacy.

Clearly, this is the swan song for the Heat's Big Three. Never a great interior presence in the first place, Chris Bosh has peaked. To stay competitive, Miami needs someone more ferocious on the inside. Also,.Dwyane Wade has faded dramatically, a victim of age and injury. He's the one who was most damaged by the ill-fated streak chase. Without those two in top form, Miami won't be a championship contender any longer.

Miami, now, may have just a fifty-fifty shot at winning the championship, but they should beat the Spurs tonight, evening the series. For one thing, Miami usually follows a crushing defeat with a win. Also, Miami hasn't lost two in a row since January. In addition, and maybe most important, Spurs' point guard Tony Parker has a sore hamstring, which should limit his mobility. If he's not in top shape--his speed is one of his assets--the Spurs' chances of winning dip drastically.

Miami is capable of playing lights-out defense. But with so many aged players, they can't do it that often. The reserve of skills is there. Miami just has to tap into it.

Miami has to find a way around the Spurs' game plan, which has worked well so far. Defensively, San Antonio is ganging up on LeBron, limiting him to outside shots, which he's only made sparingly, daring the other Heat players to step up, which they haven't. That's how the Spurs beat Memphis, neutralizing star Zach Randolph, which essentially crippled the Grizzlies.

The Heat entered this trio of San Antonio games knowing they needed just one victory, feeling they could win the last two in Miami. Well, tonight's the night. This is one of the most important games of LeBron's career. If the Heat lose, they're in a 1-3 hole, just about guaranteeing a Spurs' championship. If the Heat don't win this title, many of these players will be gone next season. Can angry LeBron cool off long enough to be a capable leader and spur his team to victory?

I think so. So do the odds-makers, who have made the Heat a one-point favorite. But if the Heat lose tonight. I feel sorry for LeBron's teammates. If you think he's mad and unpleasant now, imagine what he'll be like after such a crucial loss.