Why Phil Jackson Would Be a Better Coach for the Miami Heat Than Pat Riley

It is All About the Zen

(This blog was originally posted on the Yahoo Contributor Network on June 16th, 2011. As of 7/31/14 YCN has taken down all of its content)

With respect to current Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, after the Heat loss in the NBA Finals, there are calls in the media for Pat Riley to take back the coaching reins. If Spoelstra is going to be replaced, Riley should stay where he is and he should do whatever it takes to bring in the Zen Master.

For years many critics of Phil Jackson pointed to the fact that he coached great players such as Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant and used that to minimize his accomplishments as a coach and question how good he was. Pat Riley coached a few good players himself in Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, James Worthy, Dwyane Wade and Patrick Ewing and yet Riley seemed to dodge the, “you were successful because of who you coached charge” to the level extolled upon Jackson.

Upon further review we see that whereas none of Jackson’s players won a title prior to his arrival, (talked about in more detail here), it was Riley’s Lakers who had won a championship before he arrived. Further, Riley lost in the playoffs to lower seeds several years in a row as head coach of the Miami Heat, including losing as a number one seed to a number eight, before he quit just before the 2003-4 season.

If a superstar player had a stretch that bad in the playoffs the media would suggest that it is and should be an indelible part of the player’s legacy. And so it should be with coach Riley.

However, many in the media have always liked Riley more than Jackson. Further, they conveniently leave out certain facts about the 2006 Miami Heat championship team that Riley coached after the Machiavellian maneuver he employed to replace coach Stan Van Gundy.

Riley lovers such ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser and Skip Bayless have repeatedly stated that Riley brought that Heat team over the top and that Stan Van could not have coached the team to a championship. Lets remember that Van Gundy brought the Heat to the conference finals in 2005.

What Bayless and Kornheiser leave out when they say Riley made the difference between the Heat losing in game seven of the conference finals in 05 and winning in 06 are two key facts.

  • One, Shaq was healthier in 06 than he was in 05. Maybe you can dismiss that one as “The Daddy” was already past his prime and it was D. Wade’s team.
  • Two, Bayless fawns over Wade’s game. Understandable, the man has skills and is clutch. Okay, in that 2005 conference finals, Wade got hurt and missed game 6, and played hobbled in game 7, and they still almost won this series!

When comparing Riley to Van Gundy and who could have done what with which team, don’t you think its fair to bring up those little tidbits? With a healthy Wade (and Shaq) the Heat beat Detroit, without a healthy Wade, the Heat do not win in 2006.

Back to the present. The biggest issue facing today’s Heat is the mind of Lebron James. Clearly he has the talent. Since the end of this year’s finals on Sunday there have been fair comparisons of Lebron to baseball’s Alex Rodriguez and what he went through trying to win a World Series with the New York Yankees.

Further, the calls for Lebron to see a sports psychologist, I think is a good idea. Despite what I said about Riley above, I do think he is a great coach, but he requires players with a thick skin who are on the same page and can withstand and thrive under his intensity. Riley is old school and I don’t think he is the man for the psychological mess Lebron appears to be. Further, James already gets fast break, “showtime” style basketball. It is when the game slows down and is in the half court that he needs help.

Contrary to Riley, the Zen Master, with his books, movies, meditations and alternative approach is what might help heal Lebron off the court and Jackson’s triangle, share and move without the ball offense, might be the thing that redeems him on it.

Jackson has led tormented superstars to the promised land three times. Jordan, Shaq, Kobe, and Kobe a second time after Shaq and Jackson left the Lakers and they fell off the map and failed to make the playoffs. It is a road Jackson has traveled and succeeded on over and over again, more so than Riley.

When they win, Pat still gets the credit for being the executive that brought all the talent together and for having the ego strength to bring in Jackson. For all the unrest in Heat land right now, imagine the instant calm that would ensue if it were announced that Phil Jackson was putting his fishing rod down and taking his Zen to South Beach.

Published by Jeff Schubert

Jeff Schubert is the Host/Executive Producer of the show Filmnut that airs on thestream.tv. Each webisode provides an in-depth interview about the making, marketing, or distribution of film, TV or new media…

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LeBron Hits A Home Run With Return To Cleveland

LebronCleveland

I’ve been hard on LeBron James in the past. I wasn’t a fan of how he left the Cleveland Cavaliers with “the decision”, and I thought it took him out of the conversation of all time greatest.

Mind you, prior to his leaving Cleveland I was a big fan of LeBron’s. And as big of a Michael Jordan fan as I am, for the first time, I thought one of the so-called heir apparents, LBJ, actually had a chance to eclipse MJ. So, while I wasn’t in the burning jerseys crowd, and I did think Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert went too far in his letter in response to the decision, I was feeling some sports hate (not to be confused with actual hate), for LeBron.

But his return to the  Cleveland Cavaliers and his letter on Sports Illustraded.Com has me feeling the sports love (not to be confused with actual love) for LeBron. He opened himself up, shared honestly, took the high road in looking past Gilbert’s letter, and took ownership for his owns actions.

One of LeBron’s biggest cheerleaders, ESPN’s Colin Cowherd, says it is now as if “the decision” never happened. I can’t go that far. From the point of view of how he handled the decision, yes, that part I can mostly agree with. It is officially time to move on from that aspect of it. (I have always tried to go by the saying, forgive don’t forget, learn don’t regret)

However, I still think his leaving Cleveland and needing Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat, champions prior to his arrival, to get over the hump, takes him out of the Jordan conversation. Colin will point out that Jordan never won until Scottie Pippen arrived. But the point Colin leaves out is that Pippen never won without Jordan as D. Wade did without James.

The leadership, the dual press conferences, Wade being a closer, these are things Jordan didn’t need from Pippen that helped LeBron grow as a player on and off the court.

I still think had LeBron never left Cleveland he was physically talented enough to lead them to a championship, but perhaps needed to grow mentally. And the truth is, by his own admission, he has. And that is a good thing. Besides, there are more important things in life than being the best of all time in basketball. And there is nothing wrong with being just one of the best. Even his most ardent haters can’t take that away from him.

Haters and cynics may cling to arguments like, well if the Heat were better positioned, if Wade wasn’t on his downside, if Cleveland didn’t have Kyrie Irving and a good foundation, or if there was a better option with another team, blah, blah, blah he wouldn’t have come back. All that is irrelevant. Bottom line is LeBron, as the most powerful man in the game, had all the choices in the world. He could have:

  • Went on a ring hunt, and joined teams like the Chicago Bulls.
  • He could have taken a two-year deal with a one year opt out to see how Miami retooled.
  • Or taken a similar deal to play with the New York Knicks and Carmelo Anthony (someone he has allegedly always wanted to play with).   And made max money in a year.

He could have done any of the above and more and still returned to Cleveland in the future. But he chose to go home now. He chose to take the high road with his former owner and see things from his and the fans perspective. He chose to do what was best for his family (something many say but do not follow through on). He chose a young team with promising talent but far from a guarantee of a championship.

I hope it doesn’t come easy, and that he and Cleveland have to work their way through it. Like Jordan’s Bulls had to do it with the Detroit Pistons, but it would be a nice story to see James lead Cleveland to a championship.

 

Why LeBron James Should Take Less Than A Max Deal

Lebronthumbsup

LeBron James has stated that in free agency this time around  he wants a maximum salary deal. On the one hand, LeBron is clearly worth max money. He is currently the best player in the NBA and he brings value to a franchise as far as chances of winning a championship and marketing. However, given the restrictions of the NBA salary cap and LBJ’s desire to accumulate rings and build on his legacy, LeBron should be among the first to take a cut in pay and not the last.

As the saying goes, there is no “I” in team. Good luck winning an NBA championship alone. Do elite players deserve to earn more? Of course they do. But three, four, five, ten, twenty times as much? No, they don’t. Not when it hurts the team’s chances of building a successful team because one or two players eat up so much money towards the cap.

The LeBron James’ of the world, the Kevin Durants, and Carmelo Anthonys, they stand to gain the most from winning a championship. Both from a legacy point of view, and from a financial, marketing and endorsement point of view. They should be the ones making the financial “sacrifice” to bring in the pieces necessary to win.  Not the other way around.

Recently it was reported that Michael Jordan’s net worth eclipsed one billion dollars. I don’t think former Bulls teammates, Horace Grant’s, Dennis Rodman’s or Toni Kukoc’s portfolio is anywhere close to that.

It’s not just his game, but the six rings Jordan’s teams won that have him spoken about (deservedly) as the greatest of all time and being on the Mount Rushmore of basketball. A place LeBron fancies himself being a part of.  The winning (along with his MJ’s charisma) provided the platform for his success outside of playing.

It was only his last few seasons with the Bulls that Jordan finally became the highest paid player.  Something he never made a fuss over or seemed to care much about.  True, he was under contract, however, he could have easily held out.  It is likely he saw the bigger picture.

Well, what is that worth to you LeBron? Sacrificing a few million a season off your playing salary now could mean:

  1. More money in endorsements
  2. Matching or surpassing Jordan in rings
  3. And a place on basketball’s Mount Rushmore later.

And by “sacrificing” a few million a season, you will still be making far more than most (if not all). And by winning more championships you’ll likely recoup that money in endorsements.

Star players shouldn’t think of taking less than a max deal as a sacrifice, rather as an investment that can pay monetary and personal dividends. LBJ took a little less to play with Miami these last four years; it is safe to say that investment paid off for him.

Today, Miami Heat President Pat Riley met and pitched Luol Deng. Deng is capable of being a key piece on a championship team. How much money is he going to make in endorsements if the Heat win again? Is he going to make the hall of fame? Be on Mt Rushmore some day? Cumulatively make money anywhere in the same zip code of LBJ? No, no, and no. So I don’t blame him if the report is true that he is not interested in taking a pay cut.

The other free agent players the Miami Heat were thinking about or have targeted, Kyle Lowry, Anthony Morrow, Trevor Ariza, etc. Who do you think the extra money is more important to?

Bill Wennington, B.J. Armstrong, Luc Longley, Craig Hodges, and Scott Williams. Any of these names ring bell? They are all also former players on Jordan’s Bulls team that won championships.

Ten years from now how many people are going to remember that Mario Chalmers was the point guard for the Heat? We know LeBron’s family is going to be fine in ten years, players like Chalmers need to get what they can now.

If a sub marquis players wants to take a pay cut to live in a certain city or because they like their current team and want to give them a home team discount, that is always up to them. And if they wants to do it to win a championship? Great. But there should never be pressure on these players to do it. Let the legacy chasers take the cut.

 

Why It’s A Bigger Deal When LeBron James Flops or Dwyane Wade Is “Dirty”

NBA: Playoffs-Miami Heat at Indiana Pacers

Fair or not we expect more from superstars.  Love’em or hate’em, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are stars of the highest order.  (Albeit Wade is past his prime).  We tend to exaggerate their successes and failures.

Another way we judge players of all sports is in how they play the game.  Playing the game, “the right way”, or “the way it is supposed to be played” are two common expressions of coaches and players meant to validate:

  • Hard-nosed play.
  • Physical play.
  • All out effort.
  • Honest way of playing.

True there is also a sports expression that states, “if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.”  But that best represents a sentiment from a pre-social media era.  With drug testing, digital technology, and the traditional media no longer in the back pocket of the games, players simply cannot get away with the things they did years ago.

Technically, since flopping is now a fine-able offense, you can say it qualifies as cheating.  And as much as we don’t like cheating, we like it even less when stars do it.  See the reaction when a player like Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens gets suspected of using steroids versus someone like Melky Cabrera actually testing positive for something.

Hypothetically, if a 45-year-old knuckleball pitcher named Phil Niekro got busted for doctoring up a baseball that would be viewed one way.  If Clemens did it?  It would be stop the presses and call into question everything he ever accomplished.  Again, we expect more from superstars.  This is not entirely new.

We admire greatness but feel betrayed by it when it looks to cheat, or for lack of a better word, a weasely advantage.  It was one thing for Vlade Divac or Derek Fisher to be floppers for the Los Angeles Lakers.  It would be another if Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal or Kobe Bryant were habitual floppers.  Just wouldn’t feel right.

LeBron refers to it as a legit strategy.  Forgetting for a moment that it is now a fine-able offense, so is bunting a runner to third base in a critical late game situation in baseball.  If a pitcher or even a leadoff hitter like Brett Gardener does so, we’re excited, but if Alex Rodriguez or Albert Pujols did that in their prime, it would not be greeted with the same enthusiasm.  Plaques aren’t built for bunt sacrifices and floppers.

jordanutahIt was much more satisfying watching the Chicago Bulls win games on Michael Jordan clutch shooting as opposed to if he flopped to draw an offense foul.  MJ, Magic, Bird, Russell, they weren’t known as floppers.  Lebron, do you want that attached to your resume?

Now let’s look at hard fouls/ cheap and or dirty play.  Unless you’re talking about the 80’s bad boy Detroit Pistons led by Isiah Thomas, at best that is a role player function.  Kurt Rambis of the Magic Johnson Lakers, Dennis Rodman with Michael Jordan’s Bulls, and Bruce Bowen for earlier versions of Tim Duncan’s San Antonio Spurs are examples.

dwadeelbowIf Duncan fouled people or executed the cheap shots that Bowen did it would be a bigger deal.  As it is now with seemingly nice guy Dwyane Wade who is slowly building a resume of questionable plays.  Because of his nice guy persona he has enjoyed the benefit of the doubt, but elbows, like the one he threw in game three against Indiana’s Lance Stephenson are starting to add up.

For reasons already well documented, fans already root for the Miami Heat and their not five, not six, not seven proclamation to fail.  Flopping and dirty play only gives them two more reasons to root for them to lose, and minimize them if they win.

As players, James and Wade do so many things the right way and are so talented, they shouldn’t need to flop and or cheap shot to win.

It’s fine for people to trot out the old cliché about only remembering the winner… But with Twitter, Youtube and Facebook, that is not as true as it used to be.

Memo to Commissioner Stern:  Kudos for instituting a fine for flopping, but increase it.

 

Making The Case To Keep The Boston Celtics Together

NBA: Boston Celtics at Orlando Magic

It may be approaching closing time but the bar is still open and there is time for one more round.  So the Boston Celtics lost in the first round to the New York Knicks Friday night.  Paul Pierce looked out of gas; Kevin Garnett was playing though injury and Ray Allen is in the rear view mirror playing for the Miami Heat.

Now is not the time to panic or make hasty decisions.  It’s the time to be realistic.  Look, I am no fan of Boston.  While I respect what the latest version of the Celtics has accomplished, I can make the argument that resting on the laurels of being one of sports most storied franchises, it has been overrated. But they are winners.  From Celtic team President Danny Ainge, coach Doc Rivers, and the players, they are loyal to each other.  And there is a mutual affinity between the team and its fans.

As someone over forty, I can say we don’t see that as much anymore in sports and it’s worth strongly considering keeping together.  Beyond sentiment here are reasons why the Celtics should keep the Garden a place where everybody knows the names:

rajonron_edited

Rajon Rondon driving to the hoop against the Miami Heat.

With a healthy Rajon Rando, and better production out of Jason Terry the Celtics would have finished between the 2nd and 4th seed this season making who knows what kind of run in the playoffs.

The days of logging 40 plus all-star minutes a game are gone but it’s premature to write the eulogies for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.  Stars like John Stockton, Steve Nash and Jason Kidd were/are able to perform at high levels because their minutes were strictly monitored as they aged.  Injuries and lack of depth forced the Celtics to abandon this strategy in the playoffs and push their aging stars too much.  This made Pierce look worse than he is.  Health and augmentation is required.  Not disassembling.

If the Miami Heat are healthy they will likely be the favorite to win it all next season no matter what you do.  But Dwyane Wade is starting to break down, and if things fall into place, the C’s can be right there.

Pierce is under contract for one more season.  Unless someone offers you a crazy no-brianer trade for him, why not play it out?  Get Rondo healthy, get Jared Sullinger healthy, pick up a free agent piece and be relevant.

Speaking of Pierce, he may not be Larry Bird or Bill Russell but he is a Celtic legend.  Do you want to jettison him a year too soon and see him play in another team’s colors?  (Okay so I snuck in a reason based on sentiment)

Rebuilding is always a risky proposition with no guarantees.  So unless Danny Ainge has scouted a high school senior who he projects will come out of college after his freshman year for the 2015 draft, and can guarantee the Celtics will be in the right draft position to get him, what is the rush to suck next year?

oden

Number one pick in the 2007 NBA draft Greg Oden shaking hands with Commissioner David Stern.

Because that’s the argument isn’t it?  Rebuilding is painful but the sooner you start the sooner you get through it.  Not necessarily.  Great prospects don’t equate to a turnaround.  I’m sure Portland felt they were on the right path when they drafted Greg Oden and Sam Bowie.  Washington when they drafted Kwame Brown.  Detroit when they drafted Darko Milicic.  And these were high picks.

The Indianapolis Colts said goodbye to Peyton Manning but it took four neck surgeries and the guarantee of replacing him with stud rookie Andrew Luck.  The Celtics don’t have anywhere close to that type of certainty in replacing Pierce or KG.  Maybe the next Kobe Bryant or Tim Duncan is in the 2015 draft class; maybe he is in the 2016, 2017 or 2027!

The fact is, at this point there are more unknowns with rebuilding then there is with one more run.  Why rush to start over and end this chapter of Celtic history when there could be one more story to tell?  A story that your fans and the media love and respect.  Sure Ainge should be on the lookout for deals and possibilities but don’t break it up just to break it up.

It may be time for last call but upon further review it might not be time to break up the band and send everyone home just yet.  Samuel Adams anyone?

The Curse Of The Zen Master

Phil-Jackson

If you had an NFL running back who rushed for a 1,000 yards but could get one who repeatedly rushed for 1,500, and you wouldn’t have to give up any other player, would you?  How about letting go a MLB 25 home run guy for a 40 plus guy?  If money wasn’t an issue, these are pretty easy calls right?

Yet after the 2012 NBA season a few franchises seemingly had no problem bypassing arguably the greatest coach in its sports history, Phil Jackson.  Let’s look at three teams that coulda shoulda  went Zen.

The Los Angeles Lakers – I have been a fan of current Laker Coach Mike D’Antoni.  Loved him in Phoenix  with the Suns, and thought he got a raw deal in New York with the Knicks.  If not for a cheap shot by San Antonio Spur Robert Horry against Steve Nash, that instigated Amar’e Stoudemire and Boris Diaw  to come off the bench and get suspended, I think Phoenix beat he Spurs in that 2007 playoff series.  They’re then the favorite to win the championship.  That win would have put to rest whether D’Antoni’s style of play can win it all.

PhiljacksonKoThat aside, his style was clearly not the best match for this Laker team.  Not with their bigs, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol.  And not with their star player, Kobe Bryant, being so comfortable with Phil Jackson and his triangle offense.  Which oh by the way is better suited to star center Dwight Howard who they hope to retain as a free agent.

True the Lakers were hit hard by injury, but they clearly under performed this season and had chemistry issues. This forced Bryant to play far to many minutes down the stretch just in the hope of nabbing one of the last playoff spots.  Bryant wound up rupturing his Achilles tendon, an injury that Laker personal says you can’t attribute to the excessive minutes thrust upon the 34-year-old star.  However, according to WebMD, the causes for an this tear include overuse and stepping up activity too quickly.  Um, playing 45 to 48 minutes a game qualifies as overuse and stepping up ones activity.  This seems to agree with common sense.

Had Jim Buss been able to set his ego aside and hire Jackson, the Lakers would have been in a better position and likely would not have had to push Bryant.  This may not have eliminated, but certainly would have reduced his risk for this injury.

True Jackson would have cost more money then D’Antoni, but Kobe is going to cost Buss 30 mil next year that he will not be getting a good return on.  And who knows, with a fourth or fifth seed maybe these Lakers could have pulled off the offset and won it all.  Then all of the Jackson haters could have said yeah but look at all of the talent Jackson has.

PhiljacksonKnThe New York Knicks – As soon as Mike D’Antoni resigned in mid-season from the Knicks, it didn’t take long for the rumors to start about Phil Jackson returning to the team he was drafted by and had won a championship with as a player.  Assistant coach Mike Woodson was promoted to interim coach and certainly did more than enough to earn the job full-time.

But I go back to my opening analogy, if you have a 30-homerun guy and 40-homerun guy who do you take?  The additional money Jackson would cost amounts to pennies for Knick Owner James Dolan.  The Knicks have had an up and down year but do appear to be rising heading into the playoffs.  They do have the talent to upset Miami and win it all.  Will they?  Anything short of that should leave questions with respect to what they would have done with Jackson.

For as good job as he has done, Woodson has placated the supremely talented but ball stopping Carmelo Anthony.  The chemistry between he and a healthy Amar’e Stoudemire is still not there and Melo still shoots too much.

phil-jacksonmjKPhil Jackson and his gravitas may have been the best thing to ever happen to Melo.  If Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant were able to accept and thrive in the ball moving triangle offense, you know Melo would have had to try to make it work as well.  I also think Jackson would have gotten Melo to play better and more consistent defense.  The book is still open but anything short of a championship this season or within the next two and you have to wonder.

Oklahoma City ThunderScott Brooks has done a great job with the Thunder.  They made the NBA finals last year and got a little jobbed by the officials on their way to losing to the Miami Heat in five games.  Brooks’ contract expired and he was a coaching free agent.  For a minute, it looked like he might not reach agreement.  There was a slight murmur of Phil Jackson to OKC, but not any serious exploration.  This was a mistake.

durantwest_editedThey may say all of the right things off the court but clearly there are on court chemistry issues between Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.  The Zen Master, has a little experience in this department with two stars, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, who didn’t like each other.  Durant and Westbrook appear to like to each other and do want to win.

With the departure of James Harden to Houston, I think Jackson would have made an even bigger difference heading into this year’s playoffs, especially in confidence and fourth quarter execution.  In fact I will go ahead and say it: With Phil Jackson, OKC would have won it all this year.  Now we will see.

Unlike LA or NY, money could have been a real issue with OKC, but I think it was foolish of ownership not to explore further.  Maybe Jackson takes less for this opportunity?

Like Woodson in NY, Brooks earned his place.  But this isn’t about that.  Sports is a win now business.  When the window is open, you never know how long it will stay open.  And when the game’s best is available for the job and can take you that next level, you seize it.  Or at least explore all avenues to see if you can make it work before making your choice.

I think all three franchises struck out here.  We will see if and how it haunts them.  We will see if and when they raise their next or first championship banner.  And if they don’t win, we will wonder if they would have done better  if they went Zen.

Philjacksonzen

Why Michael Jordan Would Crush LeBron James In A One-On-One

***The blog below was originally posted on 2/14/13 on: http://sportsnuthub.com/   The site is no longer up so I am re-posting on my personal blog.

Michael Jordan excepting an NBA all-star MVP award.

Michael Jordan excepting an NBA all-star MVP award.

Wow, since I wrote my recent blog about ESPN’s Colin Cowherd’s insane mission to tear down Michael Jordan while building up LeBron James, (Click Here), the Herd has only become more obsessed with the subject.  Today, I heard him talk about the prospects of the two playing in a one on one.  He talked about a majority of fans saying Michael would win.  The Herd dismisses this as fans liking Michael more than LeBron.

ESPN radio and TV personality Colin Cowherd

ESPN radio and TV personality Colin Cowherd

He suggests we take the emotion out of it, and he poses this question: “what if I asked you who would win in a one on one between person “A” and person “B”?  Person A is bigger, faster, stronger, and oh by the way a better ball handler”.  (Nice sarcasm Herd.  Is sarcasm an emotion?)  Of course, person A in this fantasy example is LeBron James.

The Herd also states on many occasions LeBron is a better rebounder and passer than Michael.  (Though he still claims to think Jordan is the better player.)

Here is the problem with the Herd’s “A” and “B” scenario.  He leaves out a big part of what makes Jordan, Jordan.  Even if I cede all of the Herd’s other points, lets now say player B is more clutch, handles pressure better, and has more intangibles.  And just to be clear, player B is Jordan!

If the one on one were played in a local YMCA, with nobody watching, I would give LeBron a chance.  I’d still take Jordan, but LeBron might be able to keep it close.  If the hypothetical match-up were held in prime-time, on national TV, and on a neutral site like Madison Square Garden in New York, or the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Jordan would win easily.

From his sometimes disappearances late in playoff games, late game free throw shooting percentage (and his hesitancy to go to rim late in games because of free throws), and never hitting a walk off shot, his abilities here are far from elite.  LeBron is unquestionably awesome, but that type of pressure is not his thing.  He certainly doesn’t measure up to Jordan in this category.

Further, LeBron has never entered an NBA dunking contest in his career.

lebron_dunkThis doesn’t make sense considering his ability and desire to build a billion dollar global brand.  Something dominating a dunking contest could have helped.  I can only speculate that he weighed the risk of losing as outweighing the gain of winning.  What other stars of his caliber, ability, and name, have passed on the contest their entire career?  I don’t think he could take the pressure to win despite the fact he would have been a worthy favorite.

True, it is fair to say the book is still open on LeBron, as his career is in progress, but any inference he could take Michael in a one on one now is premature.

I’m going to end this blog with an example comic book fans might enjoy.  The Incredible Hulk and The Thing, (from The Fantastic Four), are two or Marvel Comics physically strongest characters.

Hulk_Vs_ThingThey fight a lot.  The Hulk always wins.  (At least back in my collecting days). However, there was one storyline where their minds switched bodies, and in this issue, The Thing, with the Hulk’s mind, won the fight.  The moral of the story is The Thing always had the physical tools, but lacked the mental abilities, whether it was courage, belief in himself, ability to handle pressure, or smarts, etc., to beat the Hulk.

Staring each other down in their prime, I know Michael would have the belief, down to the core of his being, he could win.  He would easily handle the pressure.  Do you think LeBron would have that same belief and be able to handle the pressure just as well?  I don’t.

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Update:  Here is who Magic Johnson thinks would win between Michael and LeBron.  (Hint, the Herd might not want to read) Click here.

 

WHAT DO THE LAKERS, HEAT AND KNICKS HAVE IN COMMON?

The talking heads have gone back and forth pontificating about the fortunes of these teams.  Lets start with the Los Angeles Lakers.  The two-time defending champions were being overlooked to start the NBA season, and while many were picking the Miami Heat and their big three to run away with it (Jeff Van Gundy saying 70 WINS was doable), the Lakers got off to a sizzling start and all of a sudden the talking heads were commenting on how under the radar the Lakers were and now many were in their corner citing Kobe Bryant, coach Phil Jackson, their size, experience and chemistry.  But then all of a sudden the Lake show was having a tough time beating winning teams.  Andrew Bynum was recovering slowly from off-season knee surgery and then they had a three game losing streak before the All-Star break including one loss to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers.  The plethora of sports talk shows were all asking the same question: On a scale of one to ten how worried should the Lakers be?  Or my other favorite:  Is it time for the Lakers to panic?  Now, they were not referring to Kobe as the game’s best closer, rather, he was old, Bynum was not healing, Ron Artest was playing uninterested, and the Lakers were done as far a championship this year…   Post all-star break, the Lake show is back!  They’ve won ten out of eleven, Bynum is healthy, Kobe is back as the best closer and Skip Bayless is touting him as an MVP candidate (That is just Skip being Skip, everybody knows it will and should be D. Rose)

The Miami Heat.  To be fair, some did say at the start of the season, that it would take time for Dwayne Wade, Lebron James, Chris Bosh and the rest (on Gillighan’s Island) to develop chemistry, and that the Lakers and Boston Celtics should be favorites. Not surprisingly the Heat under performed to their talent to start the season, got hot, got cold and more recently hot again, putting together their most impressive three game winning streak against the Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs.  And presto magic they are all of a sudden a threat to win it all again.  In between, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was thrown under the bus, pulled out, and thrown under again several times. Wade, James and Bosh were questioned and criticized every which way.  James went from not being an MVP candidate, to being one to not being able to close out a game to being great.  For Wade, it was his team, then Lebron’s, and now whispers that he should be an MVP candidate.

You see intellectually people knew there could be growing pains for the Heat, just like they know there are “dog days” in a season for veteran teams like the Lakers, but when the growing pains happen in front of us or a veteran team slumps, for some reason we are shocked by it and way overreact to the good and the bad along the way.

The New York Knicks.  Weren’t suppose to be a good team this year.  They overpaid for Amare Stoudemire, (according to the talking heads).  He and coach D’Antoni didn’t get along in Phoenix (true but that was a forced marriage, here they were both willing going in) and the Knicks didn’t have any other talent to surround Amare with.  Stoudemire winds up exceeding expectations, not only as a player but as a leader as well.  He and D’Antoni are getting along swimmingly and Coach D. does what he always does, and coaches up players getting more out of them then what was thought he could.  But still, the Knicks weren’t going to be players for Carmelo Anthony, because they didn’t have talent to draw interested from Denver.  Well as we all know, Denver had little choice but to deal with the Knicks and they trade Melo and Chauncy Billups to New York.  Billups might have been the most disrespected element of any trade I have ever seen.  Former all-star, former champion, great clutch player currently shooting over forty percent from the three point line but that is besides the point.  The talking heads declared this doesn’t make the Knicks that much better this year but now if they get Chris Paul or Deron Williams  after 2012 then they’ll be a championship team.  So then what happens?  Everybody remembers, oh yeah, Chauncey Billups is pretty good too.  The Knicks upset Miami, Memphis, and all of a sudden their stock rises.  They can beat the Heat in the first round of the playoffs proclaims ESPN’s Michael Wilbon.  But then Billups gets hurt, the Knicks lose a few, the Denver Nuggets win a few and now the Knicks are done, Wilbon retracts his prediction, Mark Cuban and others are saying Denver got the better of the trade.  Never mind that it has taken the Heat almost the whole season to first be getting it together.  Now we got the media holding D’Antoni by the wrists and ankles getting ready to throw him under the bus because a team that was not supposed to compete for a championship under any circumstance, and was to be an underdog if they made the playoffs under any circumstance is going through the same growing pains that we just saw the Heat go through!

Moral of the story?   Dudes!  Chill out!  A pro sports season is a marathon not a sprint.  Patience is a virtue, and there are going to be ups and downs.  Fans beware, many in the media are no smarter than the drunk boob at your local sports bar.  Thank God they don’t actually run or coach a team…

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Can’t wait for the NBA playoffs and the annual this team is done, this same team is great that occurs game to game based on one win or a loss…

Kendick Perkins referred to Pau Gasol as soft?  Yo Kendrick… Pau is an all-star and a key contributor on a two time defending champion… If he is soft then maybe soft isn’t so bad…

Skip Bayless.  The difference between Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose as far as MVP this year, is the consistency of the Bulls play all season, and that Derrick carried the Bulls and played exceptional when key players were out (Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer).  Kobe started looking like Kobe and getting MVP talk only when Bynum was healthy.  Before that the Lakers weren’t playing on a championship level, your criteria for even being considered.