BOSTON – When LeBron James(notes) was running roughshod over the Cleveland Cavaliers, it became common for him to respond to tough coaching and differing degrees of conflict with the sheer shutdown mode. There goes LeBron, stomping off to the locker room with a staff member in hot pursuit to talk him back into practice. Come on back, King. We need you.
James would mope back onto the floor, reluctant to be told that someone disagreed with his belief on a matter. The Cavaliers’ culture of enabling, letting things go and go, exacerbated these issues. James stayed in a cocoon of perpetual adolescence.
“His coping skills,” one perceptive ex-teammate said, “had been largely underdeveloped.”
The world is watching James in a different way now, with a far more critical eye. Everything changed in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals last May, when the private acting out spilled into the public for the first time. Without leaving the floor, LeBron walked out on the Cavaliers and so started a spiral that eventually led him on that private jet to Miami International and into the waiting arms of old man Riles and his boy wonder, Erik Spoelstra.
Bill Reiter spent four years as sports enterprise reporter for The Kansas City Star, also contributing to The Des Moines Register, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Chicago Tribune, St. Louis Post Dispatch, Washington Times and The (London) Express. Reiter was a finalist for the Livingston Award, and The Associated Press Sports Editors have recognized his work.
Updated Nov 23, 2010 12:32 PM ET MIAMI
This, Miami Heat, is what it looks like when all the spin, the glass-half-full, the it’s-us-against-them-so-they-must-be-jealous talk comes to a screeching halt.
This is what it looks like when the truth blankets you like a bad dream you can’t shake off, when the greatness you just know you’re destined for becomes not a Yellow Brick Road to scoot along but a hard slog – a battle – you might not be able to surmount.
Follow the Heat and Lakers as these favorites shoot for the NBA Finals.
This, Miami Heat, is reality.
And unless LeBron James puts what he wants completely behind him in order to give his team what it needs, this could be reality for a long time.
That’s what Jordan or Magic would do immediately, now, yesterday.
“We understand that this is who we’ve got,” head coach Erik Spoelstra said Monday night. “And we have to be active participants right now in our own rescue.”
Spoelstra is talking about LeBron James, about looking inside the locker room for solutions.
The Miami Heat are beat up. They are too small and not tough enough. The soul and guts of their team, Udonis Haslem, is out for months.
LeBron James is a superstar with a track record of that not being enough. And of not doing enough. Chris Bosh is a superstar in a role that might allow him to hit his numbers (finally) but might also make him the wrong piece in a stumbling machine.
The injury Gods have looked down on this team (from fate or hubris or just bad luck, it is hard to say) and touched not just Haslem but Mike Miller and, for the preseason and again in recent days, Dwyane Wade).
And there’s still a very long season to go.
Oh, and they just lost to the now 6-6 Indiana Pacers in a 93-77 beat down at home.
The Miami Heat, The Team That Would Win 72, is now 8-6.