There is a common belief out there between most sports media members that something changed in LeBron James last year when he won his first NBA championship.
LeBron finally got over the hump and now he would be free to go on and win title after title for the rest of his career.
It starting to seem like the actual matchups and basketball being played on the floor was overlooked.
As we watch the NBA Finals this year, it’s impossible not to remember the way LeBron and the Miami Heat played in 2011 against the Dallas Mavericks.
LeBron looks passive and unsure of himself while the Spurs are executing a game plan to contain him.
It’s my belief that one of LeBron’s greatest strengths is taking what the defensive gives him. You could easily make the case that this San Antonio team and Dallas in 2011 have done the bets job in not giving LeBron much to work with on offense.
So what does LeBron do when he is looking to penetrate and sees two guys waiting in the paint for him? He makes the right basketball play and swings the ball on the perimeter hoping to find an open man. It can work and it did in Game 2 but the Spurs were more prepared last night and the constant deferring by LeBron seems to have gotten in his head and made him revert back to 2011 Finals form.
It also seems that LeBron is a little more passive than usual in the Finals. He definitely has been this year and in 2011 compared to the series leading up to it and even last year, he didn’t exactly dominate the Thunder by overwhelming them.
You could even say LeBron wasn’t aggressive last year. He posted up more but the Thunder allowed it and often had James Harden trying to defend LeBron in the post. Kevin Durant got in foul trouble far too often as well and the Thunder’s rotations resembled a chicken with its head cut off. They played right into what LeBron could do and it all came together for the King and the Heat. That’s how they won the title and there’s nothing wrong with that.
LeBron is a certain way though. He won’t overwhelm a good, disciplined team like the Mavs or Spurs and that’s what we’re seeing again in these Finals. He can’t just sit in the post and wait for a double and know he can easily pick apart the Thunder’s rotations.
This series looks like it’s going to demand LeBron to do something he’s not crazy about. He needs to force the issue more, work hard to create more for himself and in turn that will of course also mean creating more for his teammates.
The Heat should have a better chance to come back in this series than they did in 2011 simply because their opponent doesn’t have that Dirk Nowitzki.
But let’s not act like because the Heat are a really bad matchup for the Thunder that now LeBron is a different person, a champion who we don’t need to worry about on the biggest stage in the sport. LeBron is who he is and always has been. He’s simply not a killer, unless his opponent allows him to. The Spurs won’t and that’s why this series and what is to come will be so interesting.