View Full Version : 2012: "A No-Excuse Season"

04-24-2012, 05:44 PM
After tumultuous first year in Miami, LeBron returns a new man
By Lee Jenkins, Sports Illustrated

. . . James isn't just coping, he is completing one of the finest all-around seasons in the NBA's modern era. At week's end he was averaging 27.1 points with 7.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists while shooting 53.1 percent. Larry Bird never shot 53.1 percent. His player efficiency rating of 30.6 leads the league by more than four points, and he is holding opposing small forwards to an anemic efficiency rating of 10.4, according to 82games.com. The 6-foot-8 James is the Heat's best ball handler, passer and post scorer, but he also covers everyone from point guards to centers, sometimes in the same game. "We are asking him to play at an MVP level," says coach Erik Spoelstra, "and at a Defensive Player of the Year level." James is attempting fewer three-pointers than ever while making them at a higher clip (36.2 percent). He is grabbing more rebounds in part because he is spending more time inside. His game log is a litany of near triple doubles. The NBA has not witnessed such a balanced and prolific individual assault since Michael Jordan in 1988--89, two years before his first title.

Of course, James did not move to Miami and incur a nation's wrath so he could enhance his efficiency rating. He went for rings, presumably fistfuls of them. "No, not a fistful," James says. "I don't need a fistful. But I need one. I need to get one first. I have short goals -- to get better every day, to help my teammates every day -- but my only ultimate goal is to win an NBA championship. It's all that matters. I dream about it. I dream about it all the time, how it would look, how it would feel. It would be so amazing." As the 27-year-old James leans forward in the booth, the playoffs are two weeks away and still he is logging 35 minutes a night, even though it's clear the Heat will likely be the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference and many of his peers are resting. "It's my choice," James says. "I'm looking for opportunities to get better, and if I sit out, I can't get better. This is a no-excuse season for me. I've put everything into this season."

On the night last June when the Mavericks beat the Heat in Miami for the NBA championship, James drove to his house in Coconut Grove and did not come out for two weeks. "I couldn't watch TV because every channel -- doesn't matter if it was the Cartoon Channel -- was talking about me and the Heat," James says. "On the Cooking Channel it was like, 'So we're going to make a turkey burger gourmet today, and LeBron James failed!'" He wanted to listen to music, but hip-hop didn't feel appropriate, so he queued up the old-school playlist on his iPod and set it in the dock in his bedroom. He wallowed to the strains of Barry White, Curtis Mayfield and Bobby Womack. Every once in a while his mother, Gloria James, or his longtime girlfriend, Savannah Brinson, ducked in for a pep talk. "I didn't hear what they wanted to say," James says. "I didn't care what they were talking about."

. . .

After the Heat acquired Cleveland State point guard Norris Cole on draft night, James invited him to Bath to work out. On a table in James's living room was a book about leadership called "The Ant and the Elephant," a gift from a friend. James is not much of a reader, but he opted for the book over TV. "It's about an ant who is trying to find his way to this great place, this oasis, but the only way to get there is to train an elephant who wants to get there too," James says. "At one point the ant is on the elephant's back and they are walking through the sand and there is a pack of lions, and the elephant scares the lions off. The ant is like, I have the toughest friend in the world. But later that day the elephant sees a mouse, and he gets scared and runs away. The ant can't understand how this big creature could be so dominant over a pack of lions but so scared of a mouse. The ant has to train the elephant to let him know, You are the biggest, baddest thing out here." James pauses for a moment. As a member of a supposed juggernaut, he can relate to the ant. And as a 250-pound force of nature, he can relate to the elephant. "I took a lot from that," he says.

James finally summoned the courage to watch the Finals and studied every game except the first one, his best. He was a wallflower in the fourth quarter of Games 4 and 5, scoring two points combined. "I make impact plays," James says. "I make game-changing plays. I'm not saying I didn't make any in that series, but I didn't make nearly enough. I'm used to making double-digit impact plays per game, and there were a few games I had single-digit impact plays. It was time for me to get back to the fundamentals."

For years coaches have harped on James to move off the perimeter and into the post, where he can pass out of double teams or bulldoze to the hoop. Dallas provided the motivation. "I didn't do it because people told me I needed to do it," James says. "I was looking at myself thinking, How can I get better and ultimately make our team better? The post game was something I needed to work on." He flew to Houston and spent three days with former Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon, videotaping the workouts. Olajuwon showed James variations of the Dream Shake to use against bigger defenders, smaller defenders and when the shot clock is winding down. James uploaded the video onto his computer and took it everywhere he traveled -- England, Spain and China -- repeating the footwork in individual sessions with his private trainer.

James also believed his ball handling was deficient, so he went to Kentucky to work with Brandon Weems, a high school teammate and Wildcats assistant director of basketball operations. James practiced with two basketballs at a time while Weems shadowed him as he dribbled, leaning against him and smacking his wrists and hands.

"The greats always stay uncomfortable," says Spoelstra. "LeBron is no different. He came back looking like a new player in terms of his offensive skill set." James traditionally shot three-pointers with the guards after practice. Suddenly, he was bodying up with the centers. "If I'm going to work more in the post, I have to give up something," James says. "I had to decide, Is it the mid-range? Is it the fadeaway? To be more efficient, it had to be the three, because I'm more effective in the paint." James hung around AmericanAirlines Arena for hours with assistant David Fizdale, honing two basic power moves on either block: one to the middle and one to the baseline. When a second defender arrives, he sidearms the ball to the open man, quick as a shortstop turning a double play. "Everything we did was about being good at less, great at more," Fizdale says. They even tinkered with James's shot, noticing too many instances when he fell away from the basket. He repeated hundreds of open and pull-up jumpers with his chest squarely over his feet.

. . . ask James to recount his finest performance of the season, and he refers to a clunker at home against the Magic in March in which he scored 14 points on 4-of-14 shooting. "I shot horrible," James says. "But it didn't stop me from doing other things." A glance at the box score reveals that he racked up 12 rebounds, seven assists, five steals and a 91--81 win over a team that has caused the Heat trouble. To see the look on his face as he talks about that game -- pure satisfaction despite only 14 points -- is to peek inside his basketball soul.

. . . but he is no more assured of a championship than he was a year ago. Miami still has no depth, no center and a tendency to play hot potato at the end of games. Wade and James are closers often cast as setup men. "At times it's difficult because we're both used to being in that position, and now it's split," Wade says. "But it's something that we want to work." The Heat is 14-1 without Wade this season.

As much as James craves a championship, he is still only 27, and he knows Jordan did not win his first until he was 28. Oscar Robertson was 32. Jerry West was 33. James believes deeply in karma, that the Heat lost last year for a reason, and whatever happens this spring will be for a reason also. He views his whole life that way. "My father wasn't around when I was a kid," James says, "and I used to always say, 'Why me? Why don't I have a father? Why isn't he around? Why did he leave my mother?' But as I got older I looked deeper and thought, 'I don't know what my father was going through, but if he was around all the time, would I be who I am today?' It made me grow up fast. It helped me be more responsible. Maybe I wouldn't be sitting here right now."

. . . .
Read more:http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2012/magazine/04/24/lebron.james/index.html#ixzz1szoigYQT

04-24-2012, 06:38 PM
This is no joke. No excuses this year its a do or die moment, must win situation. I've been pissed since june 12 wen we lost in the AAA. I have so much trust in Lebron after last season that hes gonna show everyone and shut all thos haters up and prove to everyone why hes going to be a nba champion/MVP and it starts this year........... AHHHHHHHHHH SO PUMPED FOR THE PLAYOFFS

04-24-2012, 06:43 PM
**** yea!