MIAMI If Xs and Os were nameless and faceless, no one would say a word about the decisions LeBron James makes. But thats not the world in which the NBA is played, so every move the Miami Heat MVP makes is scrutinized, especially when it appears he is too unselfish.
James makes the right basketball play at least 90% of the time. He does what every player should do and what every coach wants his players to do.
But when the Heat lose a game in which James chisels a triple-double, as was the case in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday, James knows the narrative.
I should have done more, right? he asked rhetorically on Saturday, ahead of Game 2 on Sunday.
When are 18 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists from James not enough? When the Heat lose.
I know what I say to you guys, and I know the questions you guys ask me, but I dont really read too much of what people say, James said. I do whats best for the team. Whats best for the team doesnt always result in a win.
And thats what rankles the people who believe that James simply should take over and lead the Heat to victory with his scoring. Stop passing to Chris Bosh. Stop passing to Mario Chalmers. Shoot the ball. They believe that is what is best for the team for James to do it all.
They want James to be more selfish and take more shots down the stretch. They dont understand why James is content with six points on four shots in the fourth quarter. Why not 12 points on nine shots? With all that talent, why not lead the Heat to victory by himself?
The answer: Thats not the kind of player James is. Thats really never been who he is. He isnt going to launch 30 shots at the expense of making the right play which could be a pass to a teammate for an open shot or pass to a teammate who then passes to another teammate.
Hes as a cerebral player as there is in this league, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. Hell read the game as necessary.
James provides a similar answer when asked. He rarely admits to having a predetermined plan to his offensive attack.
I kind of let the game flow for itself, he said.
James prefers to read the defense early on. If the opponent is allowing James to drive or take open jump shots, he will do that. If he believes its best to find teammates and involve them in the offense for whatever reason, he will do that.
Its his style. He is not Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. Besides, if James took 30 shots and the Heat lost, he would be blamed for being selfish. Everyone loves a team-first attitude, except when James espouses it.
I had some more opportunities where I could have maybe been a little more aggressive or look for my shot. But I dont want to take away from any plays I made (in Game 1), James said. I was able to still find my guys for some shots. We missed some shots. We had some wide-open clips where I had two defenders guarding me.
My guys are open. Ive got this far with them. Im not going to just abandon what Ive been doing all year to help us get to this point.
James took 18.9 shots per game last season and 17.8 attempts per game this season. His playoff attempts in those two seasons are similar 21.8 in 2012 and 17.5 through 17 games this postseason.
He is averaging 25.7 points, 7.9 rebounds, 6.6 assists and shooting 51 percent from the field and 37.3 percent on three-pointers, and James needs to do more?
James knows what its like to do more. He did it when he played for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He pointed out he averaged 38.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and eight assists against the Orlando Magic in the 2009 Eastern Conference finals, and the Cavs lost in six games.
Ive done more and lost before, James said. I want to win just as bad as anyone. Im going to put myself and my team in a position to win. I have to try to make the plays. I cant worry about if people are saying, You should have done more. You should have been more aggressive because you got a loss. Winning and losing is part of the game.
He left Cleveland for more help, and if anyone needs to do more in this series, its the players around James.
San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has taken great delight in defending James game.
Hes a grown man, Popovich said. He doesnt need any of you to tell him anything. He knows more than all of you put together. He understands the game. If he makes a pass, and you all think he should have shot it, or he shoots it, and you think he should have made a pass, your opinions mean nothing to him, as they should not mean anything to him.
Hes a great player, and his decisions are what they are to gain. All decisions dont always work out. They didnt always work out for Michael (Jordan) or Tim Duncan or Shaq (ONeal) or Kobe Bryant or whoever. You make a decision, and thats what you go with.
All the chirp, chirp, chirping about what he should have done, I thought it was hilarious from the beginning. Frankly, I was very happy for him as the year progressed when it became obvious he was comfortable in his own skin and didnt need to listen to any of you all.
Maybe James could take more shots, inch a few steps closer to Bryants style. James does that every now and then but not often. He took 25 or more shots just four times during the regular season and once during the playoffs. He plays the game his way and is content doing so. And James and the Heat live with the outcome.
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