Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Release the Hounds: It's LeBron's time now - Freeport Journal-Standard

There was something liberating about seeing the Boston Celtics fall in seven games to the Miami Heat last Saturday.

Sure. Even though the team I had the most vested interest in was eliminated, the end of the Celtics trio of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett was almost certain and the possibility of KG’s retirement is as realistic as it has ever been, I felt free.

It took a while following Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals to really grasp what it was. But I eventually came to grips with the reality that whatever angst I once had for LeBron James was and is gone.

It’s over.

Say what you will about LeBron needing to team up with some of the league’s best, about his departure from Cleveland and the completely overblown “clutch” thing. But facing a 3-2 deficit in the Eastern Conference finals, LeBron balled and nearly single-handedly beat the Celtics through sheer will, talent and a “screw you” attitude to boot.

James finally had enough and was about as clutch as you could ask a player to be.

He finally realized no Celtics player on the floor could guard him and didn’t give a damn what anyone thought about his approach the last two games of the series. It was greatness (finally) realized.
And I can’t hate greatness.

It was after Game 7 I understood that it’s LeBron’s time now. And he knows it too.

LeBron James will have earned his first title, whether it’s this year or the next â€" I have Miami winning in six by the way. Unlike the Celtics when their Big 3 of Garnett, Pierce and Allen seemed to fit like a glove in terms of their styles of play and the remaining roster, the Miami Heat’s Big 3 of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh was a clash of similarities.

All three of Miami’s Big 3, generally speaking, need the ball in their hands to truly dominate. Plus, both James and Wade are alpha-dog superstars. And as you saw all of last season, both players took turns on offense doing their thing.

In Boston, Garnett was a jump-shooting power forward who could just as easily spot up as he could create his own shot both in the post and from outside. Allen only needed the ball once he got open from screens, though in his prime he could do more. And Pierce was strong enough to get his shot from just about anywhere on the floor.

This season, it took for Wade to finally step aside â€" partly because he was the one getting in the way â€" and let LeBron be the dominant player he was in Cleveland. As a result, James is this year’s MVP and averaged 33.6 points per game, 11 rpg and shot nearly 53 percent in the conference finals.

Make no mistake, this is LeBron’s team and once again, he’s led a team to the finals. Only this time, he’s that much better, that much more fierce and he’s truly ready for an NBA title.

Unlike what some â€" including me â€" would have believed just two years ago, he’s earning it every step of the way. Because absolutely nothing has come easy for LeBron since joining the Heat.

Joey Baskerville is a sports writer for The Journal-Standard and can be reached at

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