Huge Opportunity For
Redemption Awaits In
Thursday's Game 6
By JOHN P. WISE
One Great Season
Through the first four games of the Eastern Conference semifinals between the Cavs and Celtics, it wasn't even clear that the greatest player on the planet was the best player in the series. Rajon Rondo had carried Boston to both of its wins in much the same way LeBron James has carried Cleveland for seven years.
The King is largely regarded as the best player in the NBA, but after Tuesday night's perplexing Game 5 in which James scored only 15 points and looked almost entirely disinterested in an embarrassing loss to the Celtics, there are questions upon questions.
WHO'S BETTER: Kobe Or LeBron?
One question I've asked people over the years is whether winning is a skill like ballhandling and shooting are. It's a very subjective topic, and if the answer is yes, than maybe Kobe Bryant -- not LeBron -- is the best player on the planet.
And speaking of Kobe and the guy both he and James were compared to upon their respective entries into the NBA -- Michael Jordan -- there are certain things about Bryant and Jordan that I see far less often in James. The ability to find and step on an opponent's jugular is chief among those differences.
Where LeBron is capable of doing something great every time he touches the ball, Jordan just was great every night he stepped on the floor. People forgot about their lofty expectations of Jordan's greatness because when he was at his peak, never once did he not embody it.
Kobe, though not quite Jordan-esque in that regard -- nobody is -- remains far ahead of LeBron when it comes to being great.
What makes it difficult to watch LeBron sometimes isn't the mediocre Game 4 or the abysmal Game 5, but the shortcomings contained within those performances that actually show their ugly heads frequently.
Sometimes James' shot selection isn't great. And on other occasions, shot selection is OK, but the actual result is grotesque. Three times Tuesday night James got good looks from 20-22 feet, yet his efforts were almost air balls, barely scraping rim before bouncing into a Boston player's hands. And sometimes the out-of-control ballhandling will yield a sloppy turnover here or there. Great players don't perform like that.
As Thursday's Game 6 in Boston approaches, there are countless scenarios being talked about in the blogosphere, but I'm only considering these two:
+ LeBron has a huge opportunity to silence the many, many critics with a performance for the ages that sends the series back to Cleveland for Game 7.
+ The Cavs are put out of their misery by a better Boston team and the countdown begins toward the day LeBron decides to stay in Cleveland or take his quest for a championship to Chicago or New York.