AL HAMNIK: King James a threat to crown Spurs once again

2014-06-09T18:00:00Z 2014-06-10T22:53:06Z AL HAMNIK: King James a threat to crown Spurs once againAl Hamnik Times Columnist nwitimes.com
June 09, 2014 6:00 pm  • 

With all apologies to Skip Bayless, "my" San Antonio Spurs are in deep trouble now.

I blame Miami's LeBron James, who else?

His 35-point, 10-rebound, 14-of-22 shooting performance in Sunday's 98-96 win gave me cramps.

This NBA Finals series is now knotted at 1-1 with the next two dates in Miami, where the Heat have won 11 straight playoff games dating back to last year.

And it has resurrected that tired argument concerning who is the best player ever — James or Michael Jordan.

These are two different eras in the NBA. Can we all agree on that? Jordan won six world championships while James is gunning for No. 3. Let's see how his career shakes out before anointing him MJ's successor.

But I have to admit, I'm liking his chances.

MJ was great on the court and he knew it. He played with an anger and used any personal slight or controversy he could to ramp up his game. He played to win, nothing else mattered, and he rarely credited teammates for their contributions, big or small.

James is being called the greatest teammate in NBA history by many, and I can't argue. He plays for his team and as driven as he is to succeed, wants them to figure in the outcome as well.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has said it many times: "You have to care for the guy on your right and the guy on your left or you don't belong here."

Whether he is hot or cold, LeBron James will look for a teammate who has a higher-percentage shot. He drove to the basket late in Sunday's game and kicked it out to Chris Bosh in the corner for a 3-pointer that put Miami ahead for good with 1:18 left.

Bosh has been incredible from deep in the playoffs.

James knew that and found the rangy lefty.

MJ would've flown in for the dunk, thinking Sportscenter highlight all the way.

The fact James doesn't need to feed off fans' ridicule or scorn is most impressive. Unlike MJ, he doesn't take it personally. Again, he's playing for the team, not for vindication.

"Look, he's the best player in the game," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told Bleacher Report. "Does that mean he's going to get 35 every night? You don't know.

"But he has an incredible way to put his fingerprints on a game in a lot of different ways."

And now the Spurs have their backs pushed firmly against the wall in Miami, with no one to blame but themselves. They missed eight free throws in Game 2, including four in a row mid-way through the fourth quarter, two bricks each by "stars" Tony Parker and Tim Duncan.

The Spurs also abandoned their key principles of ball movement and constant motion, looking shamefully out of sync as they missed 11 of their last 17 shots.

"Move it or you die," Popovich said afterward.

"We've got to be close to perfect to win," added Manu Ginobili, who should be leading a search party for the missing Kawhi Leonard.

The Heat, meanwhile, have won 47 straight postseason games without losing twice in a row.

James' battle with debilitating cramps in Game 1 is long forgotten, most importantly, by him.

Bosh and Dwyane Wade are making an impact in crunch time. Didn't want to see that.

I still think Spurs in seven games, but don't quote me.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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