LeBron James is back in the NBA Finals for a fifth straight year, after he and the Cavaliers completed a sweep of the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night. Prior to that game's conclusion, Adam Jones and Rich Keefe recapped LeBron's "gutsy" performance in Game 3, and Jones expressed what bothers him most about the best player in the world.
Adam Jones: "Just a Herculean effort from LeBron James. I mean, just leaving it all out there on the floor. No Kevin Love, no Kyrie Irving, I mean, the guy could barely even make it to the final buzzer. He collapsed right at the final buzzer.
Rich Keefe: "It was quite a moment."
Jones: "Because he put everything he had into it. And I say a lot of this tongue in cheek, as it relates to LeBron James. ... I have to get this out, because my criticism with LeBron isn't the obvious. And I think we all feel this way: LeBron needs to already just tone it down with the injuries. Like ... what are you doing? Everything on you is aching right now? Your ankle's that bad? You're limping around, you're asking out of the game. ... He's fine -- he's clearly fine -- and he can go out there and he can run around and he can jump and he can dominate, it's what he's done all series."
Keefe: "Well, you notice some of the times, you watch a highlight of him, and you think, 'Oh, that must have been pre-injury, because he looks great. He looks like he's always looked.' He slashes down the lane and dunks in traffic, and then two seconds later he's grabbing something and gingerly getting up the floor."
Jones: "It's a classic thing. You miss a shot, oh, my finger's bothering me. You turn it over, oh, I just -- my ankle's really bad. It's just what people do to mask any deficiencies."
Keefe: "Does the best player in the world need to do that, though?"
LeBron James, Postgame, Sunday Night: "I played to exhaustion. I play hard, and I give my teammates and I give myself as much as I can give. Sometimes the body just kind of shuts down at times, and that's what happened tonight at one point. But even in overtime, I asked to come out, but I had a second thought. And there was no way I could -- I wouldn't have felt right about the situation -- win, lose, or draw -- if I would've went to the bench and not been out there for my teammates. So, it was mind over matter at that point."
Keefe: "Nobody's stronger."
Jones: "That is just so over the top from LeBron. That commentary is more frustrating than what he's doing on the court. Some of it's the sport, some of it's professional athletes. People will turn this into an NHL vs. NBA thing, where you've got guys diving all over the ice in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, just like they do in the regular season, faking injuries to draw a penalty, let's not pretend it's just an NBA thing. That bothers me. BUT, we've seen it before in the sport. LeBron grew up idolizing Michael Jordan, right? I mean, Jordan was being dragged around like a corpse because he had the sniffles once in the NBA Finals."
Keefe: "He had a hangover, is what he had."
Jones: "It happens more in the NBA, I would acknowledge that. But let's not pretend it's just strictly an NBA thing. ... The embellishment and the hamming it up I think is something you see a lot, but LeBron truly takes it to the next level. But I can wrap my head around that. OK, he's trying to play up the 'It's a Herculean effort, he's just so banged up and he's incredible because he's still able to produce the way he produces even though he's hurt.' But I don't think that's what he's setting us up for. Do you know what he's setting us up for, Keefe?"
Keefe: "I think I do."
Jones: "He knows he's going to lose. He knows he's going to get it handed to him by Golden State. Unless Steph Curry split his head wide open last night on the court, he knows he's losing to Golden State. ... The Warriors are going to hand it to them -- hand it to them -- in the NBA Finals. ... He sees what's going on, and he's already setting himself up for an out in the NBA Finals. 'Well, I could've overtaken Golden State, but we didn't have Kevin Love, he got knocked out in the first round. We didn't have Kyrie Irving for a lot of it. I had to drag Matthew Dellavedova and Tristan Thompson and a bunch of garbage, I had to drag them to the NBA Finals. And I'm worn out. And it took too much out of me. And as good as I am, as much as I can overcome, I can't overcome the Golden State Warriors with their home-court advantage in an NBA Finals. I'm not that good.'
"That's what he's setting us up for and that, to me, is part of the LeBron mentality. Either he's going to blame that, or he's going to blame the head coach. And maybe he'll do both. But you know he's setting you up for something. And that's what bothers me about LeBron. That's what bothers me about the commentary. I think he's afraid on some level to compete and I think really go out there and give it his best, and if he gets beat by somebody else, he can't just say, 'They're the better team.' It has to be, 'I'm hurt. I dragged this team to the Finals because I'm great. We shouldn't have even gotten to this point. I got us here, I just couldn't take us any further. I got us as far as I was gonna go.'
"And that is what bothers me about LeBron. He's already setting up an out because he doesn't think he can win. And that to me is just cheap and pathetic and whatever you want to say about it. That's how I feel about LeBron."
"I just feel like he is setting up -- Hey, look at what I had to drag to the NBA Finals. You should be appreciative of what I dragged to the Finals. We didn't have Kevin Love, we didn't have Kyrie Irving for half the Eastern Conference finals, and I still got us there. That's what he's setting up, and I just think he always has an angle with this. He never just wants to go compete. He never just wants to go toe-to-toe with the Golden State Warriors and actually take them on, and if he loses, say at the end of the day, 'You know what, we gave it a good effort, but they're just the better team.'
"LeBron doesn't do that. LeBron sets up an excuse, and he sets it up a whole round ahead of time, so that he has an easy out when he loses the NBA Finals. Which, by the way, he's going to lose the NBA Finals."
"It's all a long con from LeBron James. That's what bothers me. It's not that he's faking injuries -- 'faking' is probably the wrong word. Just over-exaggerating injuries. I'm sure his ankle hurts a little bit. But it's not like he can't run around out there. It's the same dings and dents that everyone's dealing with. And he has to ham it up and over-exaggerate it. I'm sure his ankle bothers him. I'm sure his big toe really doesn't feel like it did at the start of the year. But it's a long con. He is setting it up so that when -- not if, when they get blown out by Golden State, which is happening, get ready for it -- when that happens, he has an excuse.
"And I can't believe more people don't see through it. The national commentary on LeBron James, that more people don't see through this, is scary, quite frankly."
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