LeBron James claims he’s 50 times better the player he was in 2007 when his Cleveland Cavaliers were swept by Tim Duncan’s San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals.
Based on what we’ve seen so far through three games in the 2013 NBA Finals, LeBron needs to be 100 times better.
If LeBron was 50 times better than he was in ’07 then he must have played like a scrub six years ago because the 2013 version of LeBron James against the Spurs has been downright awful. He still looks like the flawed player who struggled to make wide-open jumpers and puzzled by San Antonio’s zone defense.
James takes full responsibility for the Heat’s terrible performance in Game 3, a game in which the Heat were thrashed 113-77 but more alarmingly James appeared hesitant and passive.
However, LeBron guarantees he’ll be better in Game 4.
“They’re doing a great job of putting bodies in front of me and not allowing me to have any creases,” James said on Wednesday. “I’ll be better. I’ll be much better. Better than last night. I played like sh*t.
“Me as a leader I can’t have a performance like that and expect us to win on the road. It’s that simple,” James continued. “I’m putting on all the pressure on my chest, on my shoulders to come through for our team.”
James was 7-for-21 shooting from the field Tuesday night, and was even worse away from the paint (2-for-12). The more he missed the more he seemed reluctant to shoot. He looked like a third-grader playing in his first youth league game.
“I gotta do whatever it takes. I mean 7-for-21 and zero free throws ain’t gonna cut it,” said James, who is averaging just 16 points per game and shooting 38% from the field in The Finals. Those are well below his regular season numbers (26 points and 56% field goals) and nowhere near the level of play he has shown in the previous rounds.
“He was not aggressive at all. Even when the Spurs made their run he wasn’t more aggressive,” TNT and NBA TV analyst Charles Barkley said. “The one thing I like about great players is I’d rather see them screw up being too aggressive than being passive. I thought [LeBron] was a little passive.”
LeBron recently told the media that the Spurs “can’t dare me to do anything I don’t want to do.” So far that pre-Finals boast has turned into an empty promise because the Spurs are daring James to shoot over the top of their defense and he’s shooting the ball as if his eyes are closed.
“It’s not just us stopping him, he’s kinda stopping himself out there and we’re getting lucky,” said Spurs guard Danny Green, who knows James as well as anyone having played with him in Cleveland.
The Spurs are banking on the simple fact that James, and Dwyane Wade, can’t and won’t be able to beat them from outside, and James and Wade are making Gregg Popovich and his coaching staff looking like geniuses.
Popovich says the Spurs are not using the same scheme they used in the ’07 Finals, but it’s just coach speak. The names of the defenders have changed but Pop and his staff are employing the same strategy against LeBron. Kawhi Leonard is playing the role of Bruce Bowen. Danny Green is playing the role of Michael Finley. Tiago Splitter is playing the role of Fabricio Oberto. And Tim Duncan is playing the role of Tim Duncan.
The Spurs are loading up their defense and funneling James to the sideline on all his pick-and-rolls, and his man (mainly Leonard) is going under the screens and inviting James to shoot his shaky midrange jump shot. And when James tries to post up, they are bringing Duncan along the baseline.
James had been efficient shooting the ball all season and his supporting cast in Miami is much better than the group he had in Cleveland. But for whatever reason, the Spurs have managed to bring him back to his dark days when his game was still raw and immature.
“He’ll figure it out. He always figures it out. I’m not concerned about that,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We’ll work to make sure he’s getting to places where he’s comfortable and confident.”
LeBron keeps saying he’s a much better than he was in 2007. With his team down in the series, it’s time for The King to get off his throne and start wielding his sword.