LeBron James of the Miami Heat during a game against the Boston Celtics at American Airlines Arena on November 11 2010 in Miami Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Should he be what you want him to be? Maybe LeBron James should just shut up and play basketball.
LeBron James upset an entire state's worth of NBA fans when he "took his talents" from Cleveland to "South Beach", even though that's not precisely where the Miami Heat plays. (You can imagine what kind of "talent" is at South Beach, but that's another story.)
The Heat is off to a slow start, with a 5-4 record that's behind 12 other NBA teams at this early stage of the season. Last night's Miami loss to the Celtics put the lie to ESPN commentator Jeff Van Gundy's comment before the season started that the Heat would break the Bulls' regular season win record and "will never lose two games in a row this year." Yesterday was their second straight defeat, so they made that prediction wrong in only nine games. To break the Bulls' 72-10 mark would now require them to go 68-5 the rest of the way -- that's about as likely as Jay Cutler breaking all of Brett Favre's NFL passing records.
James says he's got the answer; he was quoted as saying in this Yahoo article that he and Dwyane Wade are getting "too much" playing time and that 44 minutes for him and 40 minutes for Wade (as those two had in the 112-107 loss to Boston) takes away the "energy" those two need at the end of games.
James is averaging 37:30 per game of playing time and Wade 35:02. This is roughly comparable to star tandems of their caliber such as Pau Gasol (38:29) and Kobe Bryant (32:47), or the Bulls' Derrick Rose (37:31) and Luol Deng (37:23). The Thunder's Kevin Durant is a veritable ironman by these standards, averaging 42:13 per game.
The problem is, as many thought before the season started, that the rest of the Heat just isn't very good -- thus, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is trying to get the most out of who are supposed to be the best players in the league. Right? Most of the rest of the Heat roster is washed up has-beens and never-weres, a result of paying James, Wade and Chris Bosh -- who, according to the article, is a good guy who got swept up in something he probably shouldn't have -- far too much money.
As noted above, there are 12 teams with records currently better than Miami's. It's early and that probably won't last, but the idea that the Heat would run away with the Eastern Conference is turning out to be laughable. They're good, sure -- but so are several other teams in the East, and at the very least, the Lakers, Spurs, Hornets and Thunder in the West. It wouldn't surprise me if Miami made a first- or second-round exit in the playoffs. You know, kind of like James' Cavaliers did against the Celtics last year. In retrospect, it's good James didn't sign with the Bulls; Rose, Deng and Joakim Noah are strong player-leaders with a good group of players behind them. Coach Tom Thibodeau is doing a good job of molding them into a winning team, as they showed in their blowout of the Warriors on Thursday night.
James has been slammed by Cleveland fans in one of the videos parodying his pretentious and narcissistic Nike commercial as running out on a promise he made to "not stop" until he brought a championship to Cleveland. Instead, he followed the dollar signs because he thought he could simply lead all the best players to join his team and win in a city he chose, just by showing up.
It's not working out that way and James comes across as a whiner, not a winner.