Monday, November 29, 2010

10 comments LeBron and Dwyane Need to Harness Their Inner T.C. Williams

Who is this new writer for BotB, you ask? I used to write my own blog, Pardon The Opinion, which housed my biased ramblings on various sports topics (for my complete archive, clink on the link to check it out). Unlike Bengoodfella, I am not a media critic. That is not to say that I do not criticize the media, but I will not provide the line by line thrashing of the worst of sports journalism. Instead, I will present completely subjective opinions in an attempt to synthesize the many goings on of the sports world. From where does my subjectivity originate? The city of New York. I am unequivocally devoted to the Knicks, Giants, Yankees and Rangers.

A few more random thoughts:

1. I know pictures are not the norm around here, but I think they spruce things up a bit. Weren't picture books better than all the books you read now?

2. I am very opinionated. Criticism, therefore, comes with the territory. But don't worry, I can handle it. That said, please explain why you think I'm wrong instead of simply subjecting me to your cruelty. I am always looking to improve and enjoy heated debate.

3. For those of you who remember, Bengoodfella and I previewed the NFL season with a series of podcasts. We plan on continuing podcasts at some point. When that moment arrives, let us know how we're doing. It's always difficult to self-evaluate.

Anyway...

Chris Broussard wrote today that Heat players are not pleased with Erik Spoelstra. This article is the official signal for the beginning of Spoelstra-watch (depending on your perspective, it may have started with LeBron's signing with the Heat). I, for one, refuse to believe that the problem begins and ends with Spoelstra. Nor does it have to do with their lack of inside play, leadership or any other conceivable issue that the media has concocted. The problem lies at the core of the LeBron/Wade friendship.

As Broussard points out, Heat players are afraid to step on each other's toes. Truth be told, winning pickup games with your friends as teammates is very satisfying. But what happens when you start losing? Nothing. Ultimately, the importance of the friendship outweighs the importance of victory. If LeBron and Wade hope to find joint success, they should emulate the Julius Campbell/Gerry Bertier relationship in "Remember The Titans." They were friends and they won, you say. Yes and No. Their friendship, unlike LeBron and Dwyane, maintained a united front within the racial divides of the team. Although they were friends, Bertier lead the white Titans and Julius the black. Under their supervision and example of friendship, the Titans found success. But in the end, Bertier was the unquestioned leader whom Julius supported. LeBron and Wade need to find this balance. Both are, without question, alpha dogs. However, their offense either resembles hot potato until the shot clock forces someone to heave a brick or LeBron James circa 2002 (before he realized that the paint was his friend).

But neither has the mentality that winning trumps friendship. Their belief that it can coexist will continue to impede their success. Yet no basketball duo can remain true friends when one man does not share the glory. Every championship team has had that one player to whom others deferred. Whether it was the end of the shot clock, end of the game or simply the attitude of "I don't know what to do with the ball so I'm giving it to my alpha dog and hoping that he can create something," the alpha dog must be defined. While Kevin Garnett may provide the emotional leadership and Ray Allen the leadership by example, Paul Pierce is the man, plain and simple. So was Tim Duncan on the all the Spurs' championship teams. Same with Kobe Bryant. As great as Pau is, the Lakers are Kobe's team.

All these team leaders have one key characteristic that separates them from their pack of coexisting superstars: they are both the best on their team and the longest tenured star. Clearly it takes more than one to win an NBA title. But those other pieces cannot be greater than the centerpiece (unless there was no previous centerpiece, as with the Knicks and Amar'e. He is clearly that player as of now). Wade, obviously, is that centerpiece for Miami. It will always be his team, despite LeBron's attempts to make it his own. But we cannot kid ourselves into thinking that Wade is better than LeBron. Miami's importing of a superstar greater in caliber than it's already established star upset the natural order. LeBron's departure to South Beach clouded the question of team leader. Had Wade and Bosh gone to Cleveland instead, both would have fallen in line behind LeBron. He's the best player, he's been there for 7 years. But Miami does not have that luxury and will falter unless LeBron seizes the mantle and truly subjugates Wade to secondary status. An unlikely scenario, I know.

A second, non related leadership issue. Is it not amazing that most did not foresee this problem? We all assumed their talent would smooth over any issues and allow them to defeat teams by 30 on a nightly basis. Looking back, they signed two men who have the exact same game. LeBron and Dwyane both have, at best, mediocre jump shots and an uncanny ability to get to the bucket. Yet the evolution of the hybrid player, one who can score, rebound and dish the ball, has become the norm. No longer do teams sport players each with a defined role. Even the idea of a center has disappeared into the complex black hole of "big man." The formula now has become to find this hybrid player in whatever form he exists and surround him with shooters and one big man. Put the ball in this hybrid's hands and let the rest take care of itself. But Dwyane and LeBron are both hybrids. They both demand the ball. Their whole basketball careers have evolved around their penetrating and everyone else watching. So what happens when they don't have the ball? They watch, like everyone else. They neutralize their superstar status every time they give up the ball.

10 comments:

Yawn said...

zzzzzzzzz.......

Bengoodfella said...

Not sure "Yawn" got the idea of what the post was about or just was so bored he felt the need to tell us, but anyway...

I thought, and still think, the Heat will win one championship with these guys. I am not sure when it will be, but I definitely see it happening at some point. The problem lies in what you said, the fact there isn't a clear order. Specifically, how Bosh has turned out to not be anymore than a really good player. Of course I think we all knew subconsciously he wasn't really on the same level as Wade and James, but ignored this.

I don't think it was meant for guys like Wade and James to come together at this point in their careers. They are too much of the same player. LeBron is the alpha dog, but Wade is the one w/ the experience on the Heat team AND he has a championship. Wade was even the best team on the championship. So like you said, we have two guys who don't want to step on each other's toes.

LeBron is very used to be "the man" on a team, and being treated that way. It is going to be a huge adjustment to have to share those duties.

One other point that may sound stupid, but I don't think the Heat are used to having another team's best shot night after night. They are going to get the "A game" of every team they play and I don't know if they have enough experience in this role to understand how that works. James and Bosh didn't play college ball so they may not be used to every team getting up to play them. It may sound stupid, but it's how I feel.

Dylan said...

I defintely agree that teams gear up to play the Heat. There's a reason why the Celtics have followed up both wins against the Heat with dismal performances. That said, it is something that they are going to have to adjust to. Teams also bring their A game against the Celtics, Lakers, Magic, etc.

I still think the Heat will win the title. Dwyane will eventually adopt his olympic team role as a player who scores in bursts, plays great defense and invigorates the team. The sooner he allows LeBron to be LeBron, the team will succeed.

Bengoodfella said...

Dylan, I think the Heat will get used to other teams bringing their best against them. I am not sure if it will be this year or not.

If Wade takes that role on then the Heat will have a much better chance, but I don't see them winning the title this year. I give it until next year.

Also, I would not be surprised if Spolstra doesn't get fired simply b/c the Heat want to try and prove they win w/o firing him.

Jeremy Conlin said...

Enjoyed this. I felt like it was the beginning of a longer piece and it seemed to end abruptly. I'd love to see you take this idea and run with it a little more.

As for the Wade/LeBron dynamic, I feel it is somewhat similar to the Kobe/Gasol dynamic. Kobe, deep down, wants to be THE guy for all 48 minutes. However, because of his advanced age, his body can't handle playing at that energy level every night. So, he lets the offense flow through Gasol and Odom/Bynum, getting his points within the context of the offense, and then takes over in the last 4 minutes. With LeBron/Wade, both want to be THE guy, and it's more awkward for Wade because he isn't as good as LeBron. However, where he IS better than LeBron is as a closer in crunch time. The perfect balance for those two would be for LeBron to carry the load for the first 3 quarters and for Wade to take over in crunch time if need-be. I don't think this will end up happening, because LeBron doesn't seem to be in a place mentally where he's capable of making that sacrifice, at least this season, which is why I've basically written them off as title contenders this season.

Dylan said...

Jeremy,

I agree that I ended it abruptly. I felt as if I was beginning to ramble and decided to cut myself off.

I'm not so quick to write them off as title contenders quite yet. I think their overwhelming talent will show through eventually, even though it is not as of yet. I am, however, much more skeptical of them than I was before the season, when I assumed they would easily win the east and the NBA title. I also agree that Wade is the better closer, but as you said, LeBron will not necessarily allow Wade to become the closer. Although based on what we've seen so far, it seems Eddie House is the closer more than anyone else.

Bengoodfella said...

Jeremy, I don't think LeBron is capable of making that change, which is why I am not sold on them as title contenders either. They could easily win the title this year, assuming Miller comes back healthy, but it doesn't appear it will happen.

I think Wade being the closer makes sense, but LeBron isn't going to want that to happen.

Of course, like Dylan said, it appears that Eddie House is the closer, which is very disappointing...and also a terrible way to win basketball games.

Not Yawn, but close said...

I agree with Yawn. I'm sick of reading about how fatally flawed is a team that has been together for only six regular season weeks, and I'm really sick of reading the words "alpha dog" regarding NBA players. If I wanted that shit I'd read Bill Simmons.

I know I sound like a troll but it's not my intent to shit all over the post, because it made a couple fine points, but this subject just doesn't interest me in December like it might in March or April.

Not Yawn, but close said...

eh, ignore my previous post. Reading it over I realize now how pointless it was, and I apologize to anyone who wasted precious seconds reading it.

Bengoodfella said...

Gotcha, I will ignore the post. I can see how it may be too early to make any definitive judgments, but some people had essentially handed the Heat the NBA title for this year and I think it is somewhat newsworthy it isn't gelling that fast.