Blog Entry

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

Posted on: June 8, 2011 1:58 am
Edited on: June 8, 2011 5:58 am

Miami Heat forward LeBron James disappears in Game 4 of the NBA Finals. Posted by Ben Golliver


DALLAS – Shrinking implies attendance. To shrink, one must first show up.

To say that Miami Heat forward LeBron James shrunk in Game 4 of the 2011 NBA Finals would be inaccurate. To say that he was invisible, absent and inconsequential in an 86-83 loss to the Dallas Mavericks would be closer to the truth. To pin the fact that the Finals series now stands at two games apiece on his shoulders is not only fair, it's unavoidable.

After stating Thursday morning that he was “starting to taste” his first NBA title, James -- the NBA’s most dominant force playing in the most important game of his career -- had the worst game of his season and made the smallest offensive impact of his playoff career.

He declared earlier this week that no single Mavericks player -- nor any single player in the league -- could guard him. He promised that he would be in “attack mode.” He scolded a columnist who questioned his late-game performance in Game 3 for focusing too much on the box score. He lauded his own defensive abilities and reminded everyone to check the tape.

And then he came out, played 45 minutes and laid the egg of his life.

James finished with eight points, nine rebounds, seven assists and four turnovers. His eight points marked the first time he has failed to score in double digits in 90 career playoff games. He finished with less than half of his regular season low point total: 17. He shot just 3-for-11 from the field, making just one field goal that wasn’t a dunk.

In the fourth quarter, James scored zero points, and had more turnovers (2) than field goal attempts (1). The last points he scored came with 1:17 left in the third quarter. He didn't take a shot in the game's final two minutes and, on the final possession, the Heat's fate rested in an errant jumpshot by reserve forward Mike Miller

“Definitely didn’t play great offensively,” James said, delivering the understatement of the playoffs. “I got to do a better job of being more assertive offensively, not staying out of rhythm offensively the whole game.”

Content to dribble around the perimeter, hide off the ball and defer to both Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, plus Miami’s role players, it was a performance unlike any we’ve seen from James this season.

“He struggled,” Heat forward Chris Bosh said. “Point blank, period. He struggled out there.”

Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra attempted to fall on the sword, trying to shoulder some of the burden for his massive small forward.

“We’ll have to look at the film,” Spoelstra said. “Obviously we would like to get him involved. He’s a very important piece to what we do. So we’ll work to help make it easier for him next game.”

The performance was so out of character that Spoelstra was asked directly whether there was something wrong with James.

“He’s physically fine,” Spoelstra said.

Rather than serving as reassurance, the words inadvertently hinted at a more serious, problematic explanation. If there’s no physical ailment, then surely the malady must be mental?

To James’ credit, and to the surprise of some whispering reporters, James didn’t duck out of his postgame press conference, showing up to face the music. Once he sat down, looking composed in a green suit, but clearly dejected, reporters openly questioned his confidence level.

“I’m confident with my ability,” James maintained. “It’s about going out there and knocking them down.”

The performance was as confusing as it was shocking, leaving both James and those tasked with stopping him unsure why he performed so far below par. James said it wasn’t because of any new defensive looks that Dallas was throwing at him.

“They haven’t changed their coverages on me,” James said. “Me just being more assertive, that’s what it’s about.”

The Mavericks did switch their starting lineup by inserting J.J. Barea for DeShawn Stevenson, which did impact the players who were guarding James slightly. Stevenson was in the game late, drawing the assignment on James along with his usual matchup: Shawn Marion.

"I don't know,” Stevenson said when asked to explain James’ night. “He's a great player. I don't know why he's struggling.

"That's not him. Cleveland days, he was attacking.”

 Marion, who James said over the weekend couldn’t guard him one-on-one, was happy to claim the credit.

“We did a great job,” Marion said. “I think our defense has been working pretty well. We just have to make him take tough shots. You keep him from getting those transition breaks and breakaways, and having to take tough fadeaways.”

“Phenomenal,” guard Jason Terry said of Marion’s defense. “[James is] having to facilitate a lot of times for his teammates and get them involved. But we’re just trying to get our hands up, distract him a little bit and when he puts his second hand on the ball, we’re trying to be there to distract him.

James would only point specifically to his inability to make better use of his touches in the low post.

“I got the ball in the post a few times, and I [saw] double teams,” James lamented. “I can’t let that stop my aggression when they bring two to the ball. I still got to make plays for my team, but also make plays for myself to keep me in the rhythm of the game.”

If the night left him without explanations, it also left him upset.

James said that he was most angry because it happened in a loss. “That’s all that matters to me," he said. "If I had had eight points and we won the game, I could be satisfied."

As he departed, James offered a promise: “I’ll come back in Game 5 and do the things that need to be done to help our team win.”  

All week, and especially in the aftermath of the Game 3 criticism, those traveling with the Heat have marveled at James’ ability to resist folding under the immense pressure. On Tuesday night, he didn't fold, he burst.

The rest of this Finals series will hinge on whether he can put the pieces back together.


Since: Mar 12, 2008
Posted on: June 8, 2011 6:14 pm

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

I would love LeBron to be a legend and great.   Nothing better than watching someone who is the best of an era.  The problem is that ESPN and everyone else keeps force feeding us how great he is with every good or great play and then ignoring his shortcomings or fialure.
When they (all of the Heat) rolled around like school girls on thefloor weeping becasue they beat the Cletics to make it to the finals of the Eastern conference they lost me.  I thought he was going to Miani to build his legend.  He was going to win more champioshis than most other players with Wade and Bosch.   Gettting giddy to win a chance for the Eatern finals didn 't seem appropriate comportment for a legend in the making.  Don't legends expect to win?

I'm sorry but the last tow championship game 4th quarter he is more like LeGone James than Lebron James legend to be.   Things change in a hurry in the NBA but amybe he's just great. Top 20 of all time kinda guy which is still something very special.   Just better if he wouldn't pose for thehighlight reel so mcuh when things are going well if he's going to make LeGone Smith play as much Bball as LeBron SMith

Since: Jun 6, 2011
Posted on: June 8, 2011 4:42 pm

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

he didn't shrink. gregg doyel's a dummy. mavs just played well. check out this article on 'the story of gregg doyel's stupidty':


(there should be no spaces in between 'doyel' and '-writes', but the cbssports textbox inadvertently creates this.

Since: Jan 21, 2008
Posted on: June 8, 2011 4:35 pm

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

Good, grief people. NO ONE should be discussing whether anyone is the greatest of all time in the middle of their career anyways!

@twocoach you are correct!  But I wasn't the one who first brought it up.  It was ESPN and stupid Pippen trying to place the label of GOAT to his resume.  He might one day be a great player but he is far from being that guy.  Yes he's talented but it takes more than that to be mentioned with the Greats of All Time.  So in short blame the media and dumb people for giving him this label.

Since: Jun 8, 2011
Posted on: June 8, 2011 4:29 pm

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

Is it just me or does the ENTIRE world have amnesia?  Isn't this the same guy who when faced with adversity last year in the playoffs QUIT on his team and basically disappeared against Boston?  At the end of the day, this is everything he wanted; i.e. Miami, in the Finals, with Bosh and Wade...and he doesn't show up? WTF?

Since: Jan 17, 2008
Posted on: June 8, 2011 3:31 pm

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

"So Doyel did make a point the other night.  Lebron apologists just acknowledge he's not the GOAT or the greatest player on his team."

Good, grief people. NO ONE should be discussing whether anyone is the greatest of all time in the middle of their career anyways! WHY do we have this desperate craving to put athletes on the "best of all-time" lists whenever they do ANYTHING good. Dirk is having the first good playoff series of his life and he is being compared to Larry Bird. GET A GRIP, PEOPLE.

Does LeBron posess the natural gifts to make a run at the GOAT moniker when he's done? Yes.

Does he have the mental makeup? So far, no, but this can change. Many people said the same thing about Jordan in his earlier days when it seemed he was more interested in getting HIS shot than getting the best shot because he had no faith in his teammates. I think James is trying TOO HARD to show faith in his teammates and has forgotten that his teammates need HIM to play like he is capable.

Since: Jan 20, 2009
Posted on: June 8, 2011 2:07 pm

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

He didn't just have a bad game, he didn't even try.  He's a big baby, who's pouting because he's not the "go-to-guy" anymore.  Just like he didn't know how to handle not being able to win on his own, he can't handle not being the hero all the time.  So he curled up into a fetal position and gave up.  Everytime he touched the ball in the 4th quarter, he was looking to pass.  D Wade was amazing and the Heat would've won if Lebron could've sucked up his pride and went to work like he usually does.  On another note, who seen his pre-game speech?  That was one of the most unmotivational speeches I've ever heard of!  Why was he giving that speech?  This is Wade's team!  Juwan Howard could've done better than Lebron!!

Since: Mar 13, 2008
Posted on: June 8, 2011 1:48 pm

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

It matters little...  It is still highly likely the Heat will pull this out, we many of us do not want.  He will not be the last "sup-erstar" to buy into a championship after being unable to life a franchise up to title status.  It's the NBA, who cares.  New York park basketball brought to the bigs.  But he will have to know the Heat could win it without him perhaps, but he, certainly, could not win without the Heat.


Since: Jan 21, 2008
Posted on: June 8, 2011 1:22 pm

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

So Doyel did make a point the other night.  Lebron apologists just acknowledge he's not the GOAT or the greatest player on his team.  It's funny everyone says Lebron burned Doyel with the question he responded to the other night.  In reality he didn't think of the response on his own.  Why the hell is he looking down at a paper which someone else wrote the answers to be relayed back to the reporter when they ask a question?  Shouldn't he have enough talent to answer these on his own without reading someone else's input.  Are these interview questions being staged and rehearsed before they even come out to answer them?  How about the league just let them be big boys now and answer questions on their own without someone giving them a political correct script to regurgitate back to the reporters. 

Since: Sep 16, 2009
Posted on: June 8, 2011 1:19 pm

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

Another problem LeBron is having is that opposing players aren't afraid to challenge him.  In the regular season, when you see him about to lift off from a monster dunk,  you just get out of the way.  there are still 82 games to play.  But in the playoffs, there aren't anymore games to play - lose or go home, so the opposing players are willing to put themselves at risk in order to stop james. 

Since: Feb 13, 2008
Posted on: June 8, 2011 12:58 pm

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

If the refs had called Game One the same way they've called the other 3 games and allowed the Mavs the same graces they gave the Heat players, the Heat would have gotten blown out in that game.

And, it isn't the Heat's Series to lose - that's saying there's only one professional team here and the other doesn't belong.  That's bogus.  The Mavs are the better T.E.A.M., but the Heat have bigger stars.  That doesn't mean they're better players - Matrix and J.Kidd provide a really nice argument against that and Jet, DeShawn and Chandler provide something Miami doesn't have -- alternatives.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or