LeBron James’ new motto: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
And here’s the funny part: He still might not be able to beat the Orlando Magic. Or the Boston Celtics. Or, believe it or not, the Atlanta Hawks.
The Miami Heat aren’t yet a team and might never be. It’s tempting to call them a collection, but it’s more a mismatched set. There’s a power forward (Chris Bosh) who’s less power than finesse, and there are the two All-Stars whose styles most mirror each other.
Put LeBron alongside Kobe Bryant and Ray Allen or even Joe Johnson (when not in Iso mode) and you’ve got a working partnership. One drives and dishes and the other shoots and finishes. Station Lebron next to Dwyane Wade and you’ve got Miami Twice.
What does LeBron do? He dribbles and drives. Sometimes he shoots a jump shot, but shooting is the least part of his game. What does D-Wade do? He dribbles and drives and dishes. Sometimes he shoots a jump shot — he’s a better shooter than LeBron, but he’s still not Kobe.
How will this work? Will they take turns? (”This is your possession, ‘Bron; I’ll just stand over here in the corner.”) Will they go rock-paper-scissors to see who gets the ball when?
We saw it — admittedly on a different level — at Georgia Tech this past season: It’s never ideal when your two best players do the same thing. They don’t complement one another; they get in each other’s way. And for all the happy talk emanating from the purported Big Three today, wait and hear how it changes when the Heat lose three in a row.
Yeah, they got along when they were playing in the Olympics, but the NBA isn’t made up of players looking just to get the Dream Teamers’ autographs. Every player on every other NBA club now has a target, and there are a handful of teams in the NBA East capable of beating the Heat without it being an upset.
Bosh is accustomed to being the focal point on his team. LeBron and D-Wade are accustomed to being, more or less, the entire team. As much as they might insist, “I’ll do whatever it takes to win,” we cannot deny the presence of ego. It broke up the Beatles. It will get to the Heat.
Even now, Orlando is a better team: It has a center and shooters to surround him. Boston is a better team: It has a Big Three — actually a Big Four, given the ascendancy of Rajon Rondo — who have proved they can work with one another. The Hawks — yes, the Hawks — are a better team: They’re deeper and their three best players play different positions.
If LeBron thought the pressure to win in Cleveland was oppressive … well, he ain’t seen nothing yet. D-Wade has his title. If the Heat fail, it won’t be Wade who takes the hit. It will be the man who couldn’t get Cleveland past Round 2 despite the addition of Shaquille O’Neal, Antawn Jamison, Jamario Moon and Anthony Parker, not to mention the re-acquisition of Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
Had LeBron held up his end, those Cavs wouldn’t have crashed against Boston. But he didn’t, and they did. And what did owner Dan Gilbert say about his former employee’s playoff performance after the alleged King had abdicated his Ohio throne? Quoth Gilbert: “He quit.”
More from Gilbert: “He has gotten a free pass. People have covered up for him for way too long.”
Yes, this is harsh. But the reality of LeBron choosing to join Team Wade as opposed to leading a team of his own has thrown everything about James the player into question. There was a time when Michael Jordan couldn’t get past the Pistons, but he didn’t demand a trade to Detroit.
The man whom some have decided is the greatest since Jordan has just told us he can’t do it alone and no longer wanted to try. Where will he go if he can’t take a title with the Heat?
Well, there’s always the Yankees. Maybe they could use a pinch-runner.