1) Listen, sometimes you get the doucheball, sometimes the doucheball gets you. The Celtics had the douchiness ratcheted up early: on Miam's first offensive possession, Chris Bosh took a little wing jumper that spun around the rim, then dropped through, at least until Paul Pierce reached up through the bottom of the net and knocked the ball back up through the basket for unnecessary goaltending. Doucheball. Miami was desultory, just absolutely made no collective effort at all. They have won 15 in a row in Miami, and are a league-best 21-2 at home. On the other hand, they have only won 3 of their past 10 on the road. That's not encouraging. More positively, I was feeling down all weekend for no real reason, and reached a nadir of sorts this morning when my Premier League soccer team, Liverpool, delivered a brutal performance of their own in a 2-0 loss to Newcastle. As the Celtics began methodically hammering the Heat, though, I actually began to feel better. You know what? I don't have problems; KJ James and Chris Bosh have problems - I feel a lot better about myself now! Thanks, Liverpool, KJ, and Bosh!! Let's go!
2) I want to address something briefly - I know we have explained this before, but a very polite Great Friend of the Blog wrote in late last week to ask why we call LeBron James "KJ." I am sorry, sir, I'd give you credit, but I deleted your email. One, LeBron isn't a very cool name. Two, the name kind of belongs to his time in Cleveland. Three, so does "King James," and I don't like that much either. But most importantly, it's really a tribute to former NBA coach, and current announcer, Hubie Brown. If you don't watch the NBA, Hubie is like a crusty (but good-hearted) old white dude who broadcasts in the second person: "Okay, you are Miami, you are down by ten on the road - what do you have to do to get back in the game?" And, also, he mangles names, not by mispronouncing them, but by inappropriately pairing a name with a player's nickname; or oddly, in other cases, not using the nickname whatsoever. For instance, he used to consistently call Shaquille O'Neal, "Shaq O'Neal." That's like the one derivation no one uses. You can call him "Shaquille O'Neal," or simply "Shaq." You can't call him "Shaq O'Neal" (unless you are Hubie). Conversely, former NBA guard Ronald Murray's nickname was "Flip." Everyone just called him "Flip Murray" (kind of like how everyone just calls Mitt Romney, "Mitt," and not by his given name, "Mitten"). But not Hubie - he didn't even call him "Ronald Murray," which was the only other way I had ever heard him referred to at all - he called him "Ron Murray" - the first time he did it, it took me 8 possessions to figure out who he was talking about. So, searching for a name for LeBron, we just "Hubie-d it up." "KJ" stands for "King James," his primary nickname - in classic "Hubie" form, we are calling him "King James James." That's a long explanation, and not particularly interesting - but a GFOB asked nicely.
3) On to the playing. I am saying it again - everyone is saying it. Something is physically off with KJ James. He lacks quickness, he lacks explosion off the floor. He isn't going to to the post and getting to the rim like he was much of the season. He isn't rotating property on defense, which is something he always does. I'm not saying he is hurt - I don't know. He might just be exhausted - the schedule is insane, and he plays incredibly hard in all aspects of the game. He's such a good player that his numbers still look presentable: 23 points on 11-20 tonight. But he had no assists (for only the second time in his entire career), only four rebounds, and no steals. Worse, he kept losing focus and letting his man cut by him to the rim - he must have given up 5 or 6 layup just on sheer inattentiveness. Yet, not only are the Heat not sitting him down for a few nights, but Coach Spo actually reinserted him into the game halfway through the fourth quarter today, down like 25. That was bizarre and senseless. Miami's primary rival for the Eastern Conference title, Chicago, hasn't played their best player, Derrick Rose, in like 3 weeks, as they try to get him right for the playoffs, which start in less than a month. They took a beating today in Oklahoma City, but know that's a meaningless result - only being healthy at playoff time really matters. Not sure why Coach Spo isn't taking the same approach. Might be time for my dad, Pat Riley, to step in and make Spo give KJ a few nights off.
4) Much of Miami's offense, especially in the third quarter when they got absolutely annihilated 31-12, looked like this: Miami ran an early action wth Chalmers going over a screen from Joel or Bosh, while Wade ran the baseline looking for seams. KJ stands 30 feet from the hoop on a high wing. If Wade didn't find his way to the ball, KJ rotated out even higher, and Emcee would throw him the ball with about 12 seconds to go on the shot clock. Then KJ would, at about 60% speed and force, drive the ball towards the paint. He wasn't really getting clean past his guy because he wasn't exerting his usual athleticism. As the help defender would get to him, he would come to a jump stop, hesitate, then flip the ball out to a spotting-up Chris Bosh on the wing, who would catch it, then launch a gyroscopic moonball somewhere in the general vicinity of the basket area. 2-11 for Chris for 4 points. I absolutely hate him again, by the way - never say his name to me. He did have 11 rebounds - after the game someone thought they had him figured out: he can only score or rebound in a game. Please don't ask him to do both. By the way, he makes more money than Dwyane Wade. The only time all night that I was sympathetic towards him was in the middle of the third quarter blowout, when he was guarding Kevin Garnett (without the ball) at the elbow. KJ's man, Paul Pierce, backscreened Chris, and Garnett rolled to the rim directly past KJ, who was in an absolute coma and never moved as Garnett ambled by him, received a pass, and layed it in. The Miami bench called timeout, and Bosh turned around and literally screamed in KJ's ear, because he was so frustrated by KJ's inability or unwillingness to help. It was a weird moment. Doucheball can get to all of us, at times...
5) Play of the Game: In the second quarter, after Miami had gotten down 10 in the first quarter, Dwyane Wade led a 10-0 run to get Miami back in the game (temporarily). Culminating the run was an inbounds play under Miami's offensive basket. With Battier inbounding the ball, his man, Paul Pierce, turned his back to him to sight the rim, and Battier flipped the ball off his back, stepped inbounds, caught it, and layed it in. The lesson, as always: GUYS WHO LOVE TO MAKE DOUCHEBALL PLAYS HATE TO HAVE DOUCHEBALL PLAYS DOUCHED BACK AT THEM!
6) Man, I love the writer James Frey, the author who wrote A Million Little Pieces, and then famously got into a dispute with Oprah when she turned out to be stunned that an author used the creative process in crafting a work of art. Mon dieu! This review is like years too late, but I just read his latest book, Bright Shiny Morning, over the last week (it came out in 2008). So, so good. It is an epic tapestry of American stories (small and large), connected only by the fact that they are all set in Los Angeles, and that they broker in the imperfections (small and large) that make us all human. In all his books, his characters, like real people, have flaws so profound that our vulnerabilities to our own choices, and those of others, can seem insurmountable. In that way, I think he is a lot like John Steinbeck. In The Grapes of Wrath, what is more important: the fact that Americans consistently chase this shiny idyllic "American dream" that we hold up like a beacon of light (and which sometimes comes true); or the fact that so often that hope gets crushed by the powerful forces of injustice, inhumanity, and sometimes, simple fate? James Frey's books are about the same things. And whereas A Million Little Pieces and My Friend Leonard, are (marvelously) claustrophobic mind-freaks - one dude, one set of problems - Bright Shiny Morning opens it up to the whole country (like Grapes of Wrath). I love this guy, even if he can be tough to read. I very much recommend this book.
Next 5 are at home - if we start playing poorly at home, I won't know what to tell you. Tuesday against Philly (then Wednesday vs OKC). If you need me before then, I'll be elbowing my 5' tall 9 year old in the head "accidentally," Kevin Garnett-style. Doucheball stand up!