James may understand the value of putting in extra time and working hard in a gym over the summer months, he indicated as much in his own post-finals press conference, but sometimes that just isn’t enough. All the practice in the world isn’t going to prepare him for the pressure that comes with making plays when the game is dwindling down to the last 12 minutes.
During his time in Cleveland, James was always the go-to fourth quarter guy. It was never even in question. The team depended on him more so than the Heat do now with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the Miami lineup. Throughout the course of the season, you could maybe catch a glimpse at what could potentially de-rail James and the Heat en route to an NBA title, but nobody could’ve imagined James’ inconsistencies in the fourth quarter. While his ineptness during crunch time is just one way of justifying the Heat’s failed attempt at a title, it’s only part of the story.
Even though the Heat’s pseudo-celebration with seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter of Game 2 hardly qualified as a motivator for Dallas, the aftermath of it was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Miami. Mentally, they just never knew how to put a stop or stay atop Dallas for an extended period of time.
Dallas on the other hand, figured out a way to beat the Heat. The Mavs were as veteran-saavy a team as they come, the Heat perhaps one of the more athletic in the league. Wisdom won out in the end. Regardless of the Heat’s short-comings, you give all the credit in the world to Dallas.
Despite having two of the top players in the league, the Heat were at their best in transition, but became stagnant in the half-court setting. I’ll always wonder why James admitted to being pushed out of the paint during the fourth quarter and being limited to jumpers when he has the physical capacity to put his head down and steam roll guys out of the paint. Especially considering the way the game was being called and the fouls that had already been handed out to the Mavericks front-line of Tyson Chandler and Dirk Nowitzki. It just doesn’t make any sense, James didn’t just fail, it didn’t even appear as if he tried.
It all comes back to will and desire. I can’t say James doesn’t have either, that’s a bit unfair. Everyone always thought of James to be the next Michael Jordan or even Bryant, but he’s not even a fraction of either player. James could have shut every one of his so-called critics with one monstrous fourth quarter, in fact I was waiting for it. It never came. And if it never does come, then James isn’t Jordan, he isn’t Bryant, he’s not even Nowitzki or Wade. He’s just LeBron James, the guy who everyone thought was unstoppable, but was very stoppable when it mattered most.
What’s worse is that James hasn’t even given the public any indication that he’s learned anything from this whole experience other than he needs to work harder over the summer to prevent another fourth quarter let-down. You can’t just have the skills, you have to know how to win and that’s the part James hasn’t figured out.
Yes, at the end of the day, we all go back to living our same lives, our same problems are still there, but the same goes for James and the Heat. They’ll have time to reflect on the loss to the Mavs and improve upon what they were able to accomplish this last season, which shouldn’t go unnoticed.
What James has to do is remember the sweep that ended his season in 2007, the feeling of finally getting past the Celtics and everything that happened over the year-long journey that started with a decision to play for the Heat and ended with the decision to be a spectator instead of an aggressor during the final minutes of the most important game of his life up to that point. He can spend the entire summer working on post-moves, which would probably be beneficial, but it’s not going to do him any good unless he also takes the time to reflect on his inner-workings. The experience of making it to the finals, being that close to attaining his ultimate goal helps, but it’s just a step.
As he himself noted on Twitter, “The Greater Man upstairs know [sic] when it’s my time. Right now isn’t the time.” It’s okay to leave our destinies up to a higher power, but sometimes we have to go out and make our own destinies. James has already received the gift of sheer talent, it’s his turn to go out and do something with it.