I can honestly say that I was one of the first people off of the LeBron James bandwagon, falling out of love with the phenom before last season. There was just something about him. A lot of people blame ego but ego is what makes players great. You need a bit of attitude and tenacity to be something. It's why someone like Zach Randolph can become a difference maker and why Al Jefferson probably never will. The problem wasn't that LeBron was egomaniacal; it was that he paired it with a sense of entitlement.
At the Sloan Conference, Jeff Van Gundy stated that the worst thing to happen to Tracy McGrady was his talent. He was so good and things came so easily to him that he stopped working on his game. While I'm not ready to dismiss LeBron as the next T-Mac, there are some similarities. LeBron hasn't changed up his game and still relies on a bull rush that is growing less and less effective. This season, he needed to change up his approach to fit his new team but all that he's seemed to do is cede a few shots to Wade while keeping the rest of his game exactly the same.
All that being said and despite my dislike of LeBron still strong, I have to say that the beating the guy is getting in the press is starting to get ridiculous. For all the complaints that sportswriters levy against blogs, most national writers are more jaded, biased, and downright unfair than the average blogger. Case in point, Adrian Wojnarowski is now famous for hating LeBron. Reading a piece from him on LBJ is kind of like asking Glenn Beck what he thinks of Barrack Obama. And there was one quote in his latest piece that really jumped out at me.
“I’m used to coming down in the fourth, having the ball, making mistakes, getting a chance to make up for them, etc."
Now don't get me wrong, this is the epitome of LeBron's problem. He hasn't changed up his game. He still think he can make mistakes but put it on himself to fix them in the end. He doesn't even seem to consider that there are other players on the team. To him, making mistakes is OK as long as he gets the chance to make up for them. He seems to treat Wade and Bosh as if they are Mo Williams and JJ Hickson. It's a problem and one of the reasons that the Heat are struggling. And it's all there in that one quote.
There's just one problem.
LeBron didn't say that.
Dwyane Wade did.
So does Wojnarowski use this quote to point out that Wade also needs to realize that he's not a man amongst D-Leaguers? No, Wade is painted as a sort of victim who should have known better to team up with LeBron because LeBron... thinks the same way he does.
So while I have to admit to enjoying bashing LeBron (and I will also admit that taking joy in that says more about me than LeBron), the idea that he is the ruin of the Heat has to stop. When the Superfriends first took the stage, LeBron infamously predicted seven titles but the possibly more bothersome quote came from Wade who said the team's main issue would be sacrifice. But that's not really it. The Heat's biggest issue is evolution. Wade, LeBron, and Bosh have all sacrificed shots but what they haven't done is change their games to fit together as a team. LeBron hasn't become more of a facilitator, Wade hasn't improved his off-ball movement, Bosh hasn't committed to closing down the paint on defense and crashing the boards like it's nobody's business. They've made small sacrifices in terms of offense and acted like that entitles them to wins or somehow equate to them functioning as a team. As everyone has now seen, it doesn't work that way. Since The Decision, I've felt like Wade and LeBron's games are too similar to work together and maybe that's true but you'd like to see them at least try to switch up their styles to try to make it work.
But before we put the blame all on them, coach Erik Spoelstra also deserves some of the spotlight on this one. The Heat's offense doesn't play to its stars' strengths. It didn't make much sense to try to force the square peg that is Michael Beasley into the round hole in Coach Spo's offense but it's downright nonsensical not to draw up a better offense for the likes of LeBron and Bosh.
Happily for me, I doubt the Heat will figure this out this season. It'll probably take a coaching change and a long offseason of attitude adjustments to get the Heat on the right page. And, honestly, there's a good chance that LeBron, Wade, and Bosh are never able to put it together. But if that doesn't happen, it's on all of them and not just LeBron James. It's one reason why I don't like James being an MVP candidate. We're seeing what LeBron can do right now but it's not what he needs to do. And until the Heat as a team realize that what they're experiencing isn't growing pains but is actually a lack of growing at all, they'll struggle against the NBA's elite teams.
The Miami Heat are still a threat to win it all and, like many true threats, their first and toughest hurdle might just be themselves.