This will be brief. I have only two thoughts to share. One pertains to the widespread panic surrounding the Miami Heat. The other; Kobe Bryant’s dominance.
First, the Heat. Yes, the Miami Heat has (always sounds weird) disappeared in the 4th quarter and overtime in consecutive games. Yes, LeBron has looked less than super in both outings. No, Dwyane Wade hasn’t looked much better. As a result, media outlets have begun to panic about the heralded team from South Beach. The Heat can’t win a title because they can’t close. LeBron James still disappears in big moments. It’s time to start worrying about Miami’s issues in the 4th quarter. Blah blah blah. Settle down, everyone. Just settle down.
Please note; I am not a Heat fan, nor am I a LeBron fan, but didn’t this very same thing happen last season when Miami started the season hovering around .500? Eventually, the Heat advanced to the NBA Finals. Are we really doing this again? The season’s not a month old yet. Miami has played in only 11 games. More importantly, and this applies to every team, the Heat has (still weird) only had limited opportunities to prepare for the season and practice as a team due to the lockout. It’s going to take time for teams to hit their groove and figure out what works and what doesn’t, especially late in close games.
Do LeBron’s disappearing acts raise concerns? Yes and no. Against the Warriors, LeBron didn’t attempt a single field goal in the 4th quarter and scored zero points. This shouldn’t come as too great a surprise. LeBron often relied on his teammates like this in Cleveland. He’s an equal opportunity teammate. He has all the gifts of an NBA superstar, but, for better or worse, he lacks a superstar’s mentality on the court. Who knows, maybe LeBron intentionally shied away to help his teammates build confidence for similar situations later in the season? It’s a stretch, but still a possibility. On the other hand, LeBron has proven he doesn’t excel in defining moments, so anytime he flops in the 4th quarter of a close game is a little worrisome for Heat fans.
As for Miami’s performance against the Clippers on Wednesday night? Again, no need to panic. LeBron and Wade both had plenty of good looks in the 4th quarter. They simply weren’t falling. James especially had a number of chances within six feet of the rim that wouldn’t fall. It happens. Poor officiating didn’t help matters, either. Still, it’s too early in the season for this level of panic, regardless of what ESPN wants you to believe.
As for Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, they have a familiar look. Welcome to the pre-Pau Gasol era. In my opinion, the media is 0-2 on these stories. On one side, the media is overreacting about the Heat falling apart. On the other, those same outlets are praising Kobe for carrying the Lakers. Absolutely, Kobe deserves credit. He’s the gutsiest superstar in the country right now and has been for the past decade. He plays hurt. He wins hurt. True baller.
Still, we’ve seen this version of Kobe and the Lakers before. The same media that wants to exploit Miami’s struggles ignores the proven issues that come along with Kobe scoring 40+ points every few games. History has shown that when Kobe is hoisting more than 25 shots per game, the Lakers aren’t title contenders. Even during his prime, when Kobe was by far the best player in the NBA, the Lakers were still a relatively easy out in the NBA playoffs. And yet, when you turn on your TV right now, Kobe and the Lakers are plastered everywhere as one of the league’s elite teams. Elite player? No question. Elite team? Questionable.
Similar to the Miami situation, it’s still early. It’s not fair to assume Kobe will continue to carry the Lakers at this level. After all, he knows all too well that titles aren’t won with him carrying the scoring load night in and night out. If this trend continues, though, and we’re unable to escape the – Kobe and the Lakers are back – hype, just remember how this story ends; a loss in the Western Conference Semifinals. Kobe + Kobe + Kobe doesn’t equal title number seven. Kobe + Gasol + Bynum + team equals a legitimate contender for title number seven.