Tag Archives: Miami Heat

You Can Go Home Again: LeBron James Wants to Bring an NBA Title to Cleveland

12 Jul

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

LeBron James and Kyrie Irving were teammates at the 2014 All-Star Game. Now they are teammates with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Irving was the MVP of the All-Star Game.

LeBron James and Kyrie Irving were teammates at the 2014 All-Star Game. Now they are teammates with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Irving was the MVP of the All-Star Game.

PHILADELPHIA—LeBron James decision to re-join the Cleveland Cavaliers is reminiscent of that old biblical parable, “The Prodigal Son.”

Four years ago, James left Cleveland as the city’s most hated man since Art Modell moved the old Browns franchise to Baltimore. Today, the city and team owner Dan Gilbert have killed the fatted calf and is welcoming James home with open arms.

While this will go down as a good “feel good” story, the bottom line is that James made a good business decision from a basketball stand point and for his family. In his letter to Sports Illustrated, James made a point to say that he wanted to bring home a title back to Northeast Ohio.

Behold! The next great journey in the Book of James—bringing home a title to a city that hasn’t won a major sports title since 1964 when the Cleveland Browns shut out the Baltimore Colts 27-0 to win the NFL Championship of the pre-Super Bowl era.

What makes this challenge even more unique is that with the Cavaliers there is no guarantee or certainty that this team is going to be in the NBA Finals next year. James will be playing alongside talented young players like point guard Kyrie Irving and No. 1 draft pick Andrew Wiggins. He will also have to get used to a new head coach in David Blatt.

There’s also a possibility of the Cavaliers landing former Minnesota Timberwolves big man Kevin Love. James is also looking for the Cavaliers to bring in shooting forward Mike Miller and possibly Ray Allen, who can still fill it up from three-point range despite being darn near 40.

Unlike 2010 when he jilted Cleveland for a Miami squad that included superstars like DeWayne Wade and Chris Bosh, James will be playing with a rising, young squad in the middle of rebuilding. Compared to his Heat squad that was built to win immediately, James will have to lead a team that will no doubt go through the growing pains of being a playoff tested team.

While a few sports pundits and a few Las Vegas bookies believe that the Cavaliers will be in the NBA Finals next year, I think the process may take a little longer that. I might go with 2016, 2017 or even 2018. And that’s the beauty of the challenge awaiting James and the Cavaliers over the next couple of years.

None of the current group of Cavaliers players has any playoff experience. Can those players elevate their game to be on the same page as James? It is going to be that age-old debate that we have on social media about superstars—who are supposed to make players better around them.

The Cavs will have to make other additions to shore up any weaknesses. The one thing that James will have in Cleveland that he didn’t have in four straight appearances to the NBA Finals (two championships) with the Heat is a true point guard in Kyrie Irving.

The 6-foot-3 Irving averaged a career-high 20 points and 6.1 assists per game. Irving is a speedy ball-handler who can penetrate the defense, attack the basket and hit it from the outside. In three years in the league, Irving is shooting 37 percent from three-point range.

The Irving-James combination, along with a few players to compliment their talents, is eventually going to be hard to beat. If the Miami Heat had a point guard who can penetrate and score like Irving, they would have won four straight crowns instead of two.

But the caveat with Irving is his ability to stay healthy for a full 82 games. He missed 38 games in his first two seasons with a montage of injuries including a broken nose, a fractured jaw and he had a torn bicep last season. He played in 71 of 82 games in 2013-2014.

Irving signed a five-year, $90 million extension through 2020.

With James at his side, maybe Irving doesn’t kill himself every game with the burden of carrying the offense by himself. James can do the hard work of taking the ball to the basket. When you have a point guard like Irving who can penetrate and shoot, you open up the floor for players like James and you know what he can do.

To be sure, the Cavaliers will not win the title overnight. They have to establish team chemistry, hope young guys like Wiggins can develop into solid NBA players, add some pieces and more importantly, stay healthy.

If James can lead a young, rising Cleveland squad to an NBA title, it will certainly add to an already outstanding legacy. This will not be an easy mountain to climb considering that teams like Indiana, Chicago, Washington and other squads in the Eastern Conference are getting better.

The fact that it won’t be easy makes this an even more compelling story. Stay tuned.

 

I

 

The Better Team Won: LeBron’s Greatness Not Diminished By Finals Loss

16 Jun

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

 

The Spurs simply outplayed the Miami Heat in the 2014 NBA Finals. (from left to right): Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobli.

The Spurs simply outplayed the Miami Heat in the 2014 NBA Finals. (from left to right): Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobli.

PHILADELPHIA—Now that the San Antonio Spurs have emphatically captured the 2014 NBA Finals in five games over a proud, but outgunned Miami Heat squad, I hope fans will realize that the better TEAM won.

The emphasis on team with all caps goes out to all those on social media, sports talk radio and in various sports bars throughout the country who are under the impression that winning championships come down to the individual efforts of one superstar by himself.

In this series, fans were in one of two camps those who adore and worship LeBron James and those people who want to see him fall on his ass every time he steps out on the court.

To a generation of fans weaned on 24-hour cable sports networks, sports talk radio and social media, James not getting “his” third ring will somehow invalidate his greatness as a player. That’s the cult of personality among NBA fans today.

LeBron James scored 31 points and had 10 rebounds in the Heat's Game 5 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the 2014 NBA Finals. The Spurs won the series 4-1.

LeBron James scored 31 points and had 10 rebounds in the Heat’s Game 5 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the 2014 NBA Finals. The Spurs won the series 4-1.

LBJ detractors are out in full-force saying that he choked and is overrated, etc. Some are saying that it is proof positive that he is not as good as Michael Jordan, who led the Chicago Bulls to six titles and current Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant who has five championship rings.

Of course, that’s total nonsense because seemingly lost somewhere between the rants of those two guys on ESPN’s First Take and some of the silly arguments I’ve seen on Facebook and Twitter is one obvious and simple thing: basketball is still a team game.

Always has been, always will be—whether you’re talking Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls winning six titles or Bill Russell’s Boston Celtics winning 11 titles in 13 years. Contrary to popular belief, Jordan and Russell had other guys around them to help win those crowns.

One little detail that folks seem to forget—The Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics names are on the trophy—not Jordan’s or Russell’s.

If wasn’t for the collective efforts of players like Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, Steve Kerr, Ron Harper and Dennis Rodman, Jordan and the Bulls would not have won those titles. If Russell didn’t have Bob Cousy, Sam Jones, K.C. Jones, John Havlicek or Don Nelson, the Celtics would not have won.

In the case of the Spurs, you had a core group of three great players Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker that’s won championships together as a unit along with a solid supporting cast and a coach in Greg Popovich, who molded that team into playing as a singular unit.

The 2014 edition of the Spurs got a tremendous contribution from an unexpected source from Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who slowed down James on defense and was a huge contributor on offense, especially in the last three games when he averaged 23 points and nine rebounds per game.

The former San Diego State star gave the Spurs that stop on defense, a key rebound, a big dunk or a big three-point bucket among all the Spurs Hall-of- Fame stars. Under Popovich’s system, everybody can be great because everybody can contribute.

Explaining that there is a team concept in basketball to NBA fans caught up in the cult of personality is the equivalent of your mom telling you to eat your greens because they’re good for you when you’d rather have ice cream.

On one hand, I do believe that all great teams need that one superstar, that go-to guy in the clutch when the game is on the line. That superstar also needs a solid group of teammates behind him to play specific roles. He can’t do it all by himself—everybody has to play defense and everybody has to contribute whether it’s setting the pick to get a teammate open or making a key offensive rebound.

James played well for the Heat and he did everything he could to help his team in the 2014 Finals. He averaged 28 points per game, 7.6 rebounds, four assists while shooting 57 percent from the field and 51.9 percent from three-point range. Arguably, those are Finals MVP numbers.

Unfortunately, the rest of his team didn’t play well enough when he needed them. That’s because the Spurs exposed, as they did in last year’s Finals, the Heat’s weakness at the point guard position and a thin bench.

At the end of the day, the best TEAM won.

Love Him or Hate Him, LeBron James Fourth Quarter in Game Six Was Unforgettable

20 Jun

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

LeBron James is looking to come up big in Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals.

LeBron James is looking to come up big in Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals.

I don’t know if Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals is going to match up to the thriller that was Game 6, but we sure can hope.

In any event, the rollercoaster that was Game 6 of the NBA Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat was arguably one of the best of this generation and maybe of all-time. It definitely raised the bar for tonight’s  Game 7.

The Miami Heat toughed out a 103-100 overtime nail biter over the San Antonio Spurs that had more plot twists and turns than any episode of the ABC-TV series, “Scandal.”

This game had its share of heroes on both teams. When it looked like Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and the Spurs were going to blow the Heat out of the water, LeBron James refused to allow to Miami to go gently into that good night with an outstanding effort in the fourth quarter and in the overtime.

I am by no means a big LeBron fan of any sort and some of the criticism he gets is deserved for being hyped as “King James.”  At the same time, the negativity he gets is way over the top.

That said, a struggling James came into the fourth quarter shooting just 3-of-12 field and his team down by 10 points. He put his team on his back and did just about everything he could to put his team in position to eventually win it.

Not only did he score 16 points in the fourth quarter, he made plays on defense including a huge block on Duncan driving to the basket. Even when he had a few foibles along the way which included a turnover and some missed shots, James never quit and just kept finding ways to make plays.

That’s called “heart” ladies and gentleman. James would not let his team die even when Miami fans were filing out of the arena thinking that their team was done. He was like that line from a Rudyard Kipling poem: “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you.”

Finishing the game with a triple-double—32 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists, it’s safe to say James definitely kept his wits about him.
James’ big three-point bucket with 20.1 seconds left that put the Heat to within three actually came after he missed an attempted three-ball shot a few seconds earlier.

It was James missed three-point shot with under 10 seconds left that wound up in the hands of teammate Chris Bosh who passed it to Ray Allen, who sank the game-tying three-point bucket  that sent the game into overtime.
If you want to say Miami was lucky that James missed three-ball fell into Bosh’s hands, okay feel free.

To me, good things can happen when just you keep firing. Just as James carried his team when they needed him through much of the fourth quarter, Bosh with the critical rebound and Allen with the big-time three, lifted him when he needed them.
That’s called team work, folks—a foreign concept in an era where fans, including those of James, are foolishly caught up in the cult of personality and an overindulgence of individualism.

Even if Miami had lost this game and the Spurs had walked off with the title, I would say the same thing about James effort in that fourth quarter. He gave his team a chance to win or go down swinging.

And so beyond all the overblown hype of James’ most devoted disciples who see him as “The Chosen One ” and the ignoble impulses of his detractors who want him to lose just to prove James followers wrong, I thought Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals was an “instant classic.”

I suspect that James and the Heat and Parker and the Spurs will leave everything on the floor in Game 7.  I am also predicting that no matter how well James plays in a losing or winning effort, those who love him and those who loathe him will be arguing well into the night on Facebook and Twitter.

Reality Check: Sixers Hang With the Heat For Three Quarters Before Getting Knocked out in the Fourth

4 Feb

Andre Iguodala scored 10 points in loss to Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Sunday Sun.

The setting for Friday’s game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Miami Heat at the Wells Fargo Center seemed more like the NBA’s postseason in April or May than a regular season game in early February.

One indication of the electricity in the air was the fact that there wasn’t an empty seat to be found as the Sixers sold out their home court for the first time this season.

While some fans undoubtedly came out to see Miami’s big three, the vast majority came out to see if the young Sixers could somehow pull out a win against one of the favorites to win the NBA Finals.

For the youthful Sixers, it was another chance to prove that they are among league’s best teams. Taking on the Heat’s superstar trio of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh wasn’t going to be an easy task for the Atlantic Division-leading Sixers (16-7).

As it turned out, the Sixers discovered that they still have a lot of growing and a lot of learning to do as the Heat (17-6) turned a close game into a devastating display of their awesome talent in their 99-79 victory over the upstart 76ers in front of 20, 694 disappointed fans.

For  the first three quarters  , the Sixers hung with the highly-touted Heat and tied the game at 61-61 on a jumper from the corner by rookie Lavoy Allen with 2:25 left in the third quarter. But from there, the Heat outscored the Sixers 38-18 the rest of the way and turned their homecourt into their own personal playground.

“We could never really make the push that we were hoping to be able to make,” said Sixers head coach Doug Collins. “Lebron hits one of those at the end of the third quarter that are momentum shots, puts them to four. We missed a couple of shots Mike Miller hits a three and a layup, so in three possessions we go from one to nine and then we’re playing uphill. They just overwhelmed us in the fourth quarter.”

The Heat came into the game with a chip on their shoulders after blowing a fourth quarter in a road loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday. There were no fourth quarter breakdowns against the Sixers.

“This was a very good win against a very good team that has been playing well,” said Miami head coach Erik Spoelestra.

Wade led the Heat with 26 points while James added 19 and Chris Bosh poured in 12. Players like Miller, who scored 12 points, Mario Chalmers (13 points) and rookie Norris Cole, who had 12 points were the ones hitting the shots that ultimately buried the Sixers in a hole from which they could not recover.

The Sixers were woefully inconsistent on the offensive end. They shot just 39 percent from the field and their seven turnovers led to 14 points for Miami. Power forward Elton Brand was held scoreless on 0-of-3 shooting. Thaddeus Young led all Sixers scorers with 16 points.

“It’s definitely a damper, but I’m looking at it like it was one bad quarter of basketball,” Brand said. “We were right there. It could have been a fight to the finish, but they got in the open court, got some layups, got some threes with Mike Miller and Cole hit a few threes. I think it was a bad quarter of basketball other than that, I think we’re fine. We just got tighten up the ship.”

Young said the most important lesson the Sixers got out of this loss is that they can’t afford momentary lulls in execution against a that knows how to make teams pay for their miscues. He said once Miami got it in gear they were difficult to stop.

“It tells us the that we have to minimize our mistakes,” Young said. “We have to take good shots and we have to make shots because those guys can crank it up any time. Once one gets going, it’s like one of those snowball effects where it keeps coming and keeps coming.”

 

 

Young Sixers Hope to Prove Themselves to Fans against NBA Heavyweights

26 Jan

Thaddeus Young and Sixers teammates will get tested against the NBA's elite. Photo by Webster Riddick.

By Chris Murray

For The Chris Murray Report and The Sunday Sun

The Philadelphia 76ers are in first place in the NBA’s Atlantic Division and are the only team in that division with a record above .500

But for all of the newfound success that this young team has had, I get the feeling that the city isn’t completely behind them yet. Don’t get me wrong. The fans that come out to Wells Fargo Center are loud and boisterous. But they’ve only had one sellout since the home opener.

That might be because the teams they’ve beaten for the most part are also-rans. This weekend, the Sixers take on the Charlotte Bobcats and the Detroit Pistons, teams that are hardly world beaters.

But the team’s big tests come later this week in the form of the Miami Heat, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Chicago Bulls and the Orlando Magic, teams that are laden with superstars. While it’s been easy to have at least five guys routinely score in double figures, teams with actual defenses will determine whether or not this is a fluke.

Between Jan. 30 and Feb. 10 the Sixers will face the Magic, the Bulls, the Atlanta Hawks (on the road), the Lakers, San Antonio Spurs and an improved Los Angeles Clippers squad. If they can win at least half of these games, it might attract fans to the Wells Fargo Center.

But even if they don’t, this team still deserves some love from the Philly faithful.

While they may be in first place in their division, I still think the Sixers are a work in progress. As a part of that growth, they’re probably going to lose some of the games. But they’re not going to stink up the joint like they would have in years past…mostly because head coach Doug Collins won’t allow them to.

At this point, the Sixers are not expected to get to the NBA Finals or even the Eastern Conference Finals, but you have to like the unselfish way they’re playing this season. Almost every night a different player seems to lead the team in scoring or makes a big play down the stretch. One night it’s Andre Iguodala or Lou Williams.

“For one thing, we can score,” said Sixers point guard Jrue Holiday earlier this month after a win over the Indiana Pacers. “We know each other really well as a team and that’s really it. It’s our chemistry. We don’t really have a go-to guy. The way we win is by playing as a team and everybody scoring and playing defense collectively.”

With their record, the Sixers are beating up on the bad teams, something that good teams should do on a consistent basis. When they met the Miami Heat on the road last Saturday, they hung in the game until late in third quarter when the Heat went on a 23-8 scoring-spurt to put the Sixers in a deep hole.

This group of young Sixers is probably the best this city has seen in quite some time, at least to this point. That’s the fun part about this team is that they are at the beginning stages of becoming a perennial contender in the NBA.

To be sure, the Sixers are going to take their knocks against some of the league’s tougher teams, but I believe that this team will get better, whether it’s with young veteran players like Williams and Thaddeus Young, or via the trade or free agency route.

I can understand the cynics and skeptics in this city who want the Sixers to get to the point where they’re a contender for an NBA title. All I can say to them is be patient and enjoy the ride.

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