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You may have missed this, while doing a talk-radio interview or updating your Web site with The Real Story on Shaq’s Lakers demise.
(It was all Jerry Buss’ doing; now it can be told.)
Anyway, there’s this thing going on in the playoffs.
LeBron James just threw down a gauntlet. At your feet.
You think you have it bad? Surrounded by mediocrities, burdened by inept management, asked/expected to hoist a team all by your lonesome?
LeBron is in the same fix.
Except he’s just lugged his team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, all the way to the NBA Finals.
So it can be done.
You don’t have to resort to demands for trades or trying to be the general manager in your spare time. If you play hard enough, smart enough, relentlessly enough, great things can happen.
It would be nice, sure, to have Jermaine O’Neal or Jason Kidd as a sidekick. But LeBron’s wing men are Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Larry Hughes.
And LeBron is in the finals. Did we mention that?
You have Lamar Odom; LeBron has Drew Gooden.
You have Luke Walton; LeBron has Hughes.
You have Kwame Brown; LeBron has Ilgauskas.
You have Jordan Farmar; LeBron has Sasha Pavlovic.
You have Chris Mihm, Andrew Bynum, Maurice
ShawEvans and Brian Cook off the bench. LeBron has Anderson Varejao, Daniel Gibson, Donyell Marshall and Damon Jones.
Would you rather have his supporting cast over yours?
If so, not by much. And probably only because Gibson (a kid the Lakers passed on last June to draft Farmar) looks like a star in the making. But it’s close, yes? Your guys, his guys. Not much to choose from there.
And LeBron is in the finals. You went out in the first round.
OK, we’ll grant you some mitigating circumstances.
You finished seventh in the superior Western Conference and got the 61-21 Phoenix Suns in the first round, and they’re kryptonite to you and the lads. LeBron finished second in the inferior Eastern Conference and faced 41-41 Washington without Gilbert Arenas, then the 41-41 New Jersey Nets.
But then they got the Detroit Pistons, a veteran playoffs team that rolled over you and Shaq in 2004 â€” and ousted the Cavs last year â€” and LeBron pretty much willed the Cavaliers past a team with a better starting five and a deeper bench.
Maybe you saw Game 5? LeBron scored 48, including Cleveland’s final 25 as the Cavs won in double overtime. An epic performance, and the game that broke the Pistons’ backs.
LeBron does some things you, frankly, can’t do. Even if you were generally considered the league’s best player, until a few days ago.
He is bigger than you, and much stronger. He is a better rebounder.
He turns it on down the stretch when you’re running out of gas and banging the front of the rim. The Pistons seemed almost afraid he would hurt them when he was going to the basket; you don’t inspire that sort of fear.No.
He seems to make his teammates better, and that’s not something you’ve ever really figured out. Seems as if you have only two modes: “Getting my teammates involved” and “shooting on every trip.”
When iIt seems as if there ought to be a middle ground there. The one Which LeBron James seems to have discovered.
You’re saying you need help. That you can’t do it alone. But LeBron is four victories away from winning an NBA championship with Sasha Pavlovic in the starting lineup. And if he and the Four Dwarves who suit up with him pull that off, beating West monster San Antone … well, you might want to reframe your rants.
Maybe along the lines of, “If I were as good as LeBron, and I think I am, I’d make the best of a bad situation. I would rise above it. And bring everyone with me.”
Perhaps management will find a way to get you some help. It probably will come only at the expense of Odom, who is better than anyone on the Cavaliers’ roster whose initials aren’t LBJ. Unless some Brinks’ heist of a trade presents itself, the Lakers’ roster won’t be significantly improved, next season. And you won’t be happy.
But if LeBron wins an NBA title, he cuts the legs out from under you. He demonstrates that, in the watered-down, modern NBA, one great player and four non-entities can win it all. If that great player is as good as LeBron James. And we’re guessing you think you are.
The gauntlet is at your feet. Will you pick it up? Can you show you can lead a batch of Average Joes to the finals? Only your legacy is at stake.