Fast Break Thoughts

Darius Soriano —  July 9, 2010

LeBron James (L) of the Cleveland Cavaliers shoots as Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat watches during practice for the National Basketball Association All-Star game in New Orleans, Louisiana in this February 16, 2008 file photo. James said Thursday he is leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers to join forces with fellow All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh at the Miami Heat next season in the hope of winning an elusive NBA championship.   REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

There’s a bit too much on my mind to offer any sigular idea today.  So, you get some fast break thoughts on Summer League, Lebron, and the future prospects of the Heat…

*The Lakers have their first Summer League game today in Las Vegas so we finally get a chance to see the Lakers two 2nd round picks playing actual basketball against other pro-quality players.  If you haven’t bought the NBA’s Summer League Broadband service you can actually watch the Lakers vs. the Pistons at 5pm (PT) online via ESPN at this link.  I won’t say the game itself will be entertaining, but it will be interesting to see if Ebanks and Caracter can perform well and if any of the other pick ups show enough promise tonight (and in future games) to maybe earn and invite to training camp.  If you’d like to know more about the Lakers’ roster, check out Land O’ Lakers’ breakdown of the team or Silver Screen and Roll’s take on what the summer sqaud has to offer us Lakers’ fans.  Personally, I don’t think any of the Lakers’ pickups (outside of the draft picks) are going to make the team, but I’ll still be watching intently because the Lakers still do have some holes to fill and one of these guys may be the inexpensive player that shows enough promise to get picked up.

*I really can’t say anything about Lebron’s decision that hasn’t already been said, but I’ll give my two cents anyway.  First of all, I thought Phillip had an excellent take on the subject this morning and if you haven’t read it, you should stop and go that now.  As for what I think, I look at the desicion two ways – from a basketball standpoint, I think he did the right thing.  Lebron went to the place where he thinks he can get the players and can play for an organization with great owners, a very successful GM in place, and two of the best players in the league to flank him. Some may want to disparage him for that, but I won’t do it. He’s giving himself what he (presumably thinks) is the best chance to win. And while his singular ability would likely give him that chance anywhere, if given the option to choose your teammates and you know who is really great and who is merely really good, I think I too may choose the guys that are really great and see where that takes me. Why should we expect a guy to put himself in a situation where he’s potentially less likely to be successful based his own judgements? So he can prove his own greatness? Based off what many have already said about him and his outsized ego, he already thinks he’s the cow’s milk so do we really believe he thinks he has to prove anything to anyone? Based off what he’s said, winning matters most and based off how fans respond, he’s right. And on a side note, we consistently have said that Kobe’s great and that those who tried to discount his performances and contributions during the Shaq era were fools. And we’d be right to call those people fools. I don’t care what trumped up stories the media throws out there, Kobe was a champion before 2009 and he was integral to those teams. If he retired with only three titles because he never had another team good enough to win, I wouldn’t have thought any less of him. So, at this point, I’m not going to say that Lebron is less a player because he’s on “Wade’s team” and they happen to win a title. I’m pretty damned sure if the Heat end up winning with this group, Lebron will have a big hand in why it happened. The man is a great, great player and trying to tear him down or make him seem less of a talent comes off as petty to me. As fans of one of the most divisive players of the last 25 years (that guy that wears #24), I would think we’d understand this phenomenon best.

But from the standpoint of how the decision was made – the one hour special, the Jim Gray interview, etc – I thought it was a poor decision and it made me feel awful for the Cavs and their fans.  The people that root for that organization and the employees of that franchise got kicked in the stomach on national television and it didn’t need to be that way at all.  Lebron chose to advertise himself and turn his leaving the Cavs into a spectacle.  It was done behind the good will of charity and seemingly with no malice intended, but in the end I can’t agree with the way this played out nor with how it was presented to the viewing public.  A simple press conference with his new team with a heads up to the Cavs that he was leaving would have been a more mature way to handle this situation, but that’s just my two cents.  In the end, I think Lebron could have saved a lot of people some grief and torment and the reactions that he’s receiving right now would not be nearly as harsh.  So, yeah, I wouldn’t have done it this way.

*As for the Heat as a team moving forward, even though Lebron, Wade, and Bosh gave us their answers, I’m still left with more questions.  I’m interested in which players fill out the roster.  Can they get the shooting necessary to flank their big three?  The signing of Mike Miller would be a good start, but he’s only one player and they’ll need more than just him.  Can they find the types of defensive minded big men who can protect the paint, rebound, and play selfless basketball in the name of the greater success of the team?  Those guys don’t grow on trees and every team in the league is looking for more of those guys.  The market for those players has exploded to the point that Brendan Haywood got over $50 million and Shaq is receiving interest from multiple teams for the full mid-level.  Even guys like Jermaine O’Neal and Brad Miller will likely command more than minimum salaries.  So, I have my doubts Miami will find the big men they need to effectively ensure that Bosh is not on an island defending the likes of Dwight Howard, Yao Ming, Pau, Bynum, etc – at least next season.

I also have questions about the X’s and O’s that will be employed by Coach Spoelstra.  By all accounts he’s a very good coach that will take advantage of these players’ fantastic gifts.  However, there is some duplication in Lebron and Wade’s respective games and it will be interesting how this all comes together and what plays/schemes will be used to ensure that both of these players excel.  The first comparison that comes up when discussing Wade/Lebron is Jordan/Pippen.  However, it must be noted that those two had their greatest success running a read and react system where they were used in a variety of areas on the court and developed their games to the point that they were effective attacking from nearly every position on the floor.  Whether it was shooting from the perimeter, posting up, driving to the basket, or slashing off the ball Jordan/Pippen developed games to match the needs of the system.  And despite the greatness of Lebron and Wade, they’re not that well rounded yet.  Both have been mostly isolation players or ball handlers in the P&R for most of their careers and have been the primary offensive creators for their teams.  Both have good mid-range games (Wade’s is superior to Lebron’s) and both are okay three point shooters (and that may be generous).  So, since both players excel at driving the ball, it will be interesting to see how their games diversify or how the schemes employed ask them to grow their games in order to better mesh.  I don’t have concerns about chemistry because both players are unselfish and have typically made the right basketball play when on the court.  But finding the right sets to get the most out of them will be an issue that needs to be resolved.  And I haven’t even mentioned Bosh yet and how his particular skill set as a turn and face post player vs. being a traditional banger probably means fewer double teams on the post and a heavier reliance on either P&R’s or isolations to get him going.  Which brings me back to what scheme is going to work best for everyone.  There’s a lot of talent in these three but cultivating it to the point that it flourishes is on the head coach and we’ll just have to see how it goes.

Darius Soriano

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