Thursday Bullets

June, 21, 2012
6/21/12
2:58
PM ET
Mason By Beckley Mason
ESPN.com
Archive
  • The New York Times' Howard Beck on LeBron James' evolving legacy: "On Tuesday night, James had his “Jordan flu” moment. After being carried from the court because of painful leg cramps in the fourth quarter, he returned and hit the 3-pointer that put the Heat ahead for good. Moments like that shape a legacy, and James has been modifying his all spring. When he made his first finals appearance with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2007, James was heralded as a pass-first superstar. At some point, selflessness became more of a fault than a virtue. The Cavaliers were swept, 4-0, by the San Antonio Spurs. By the time James flamed out against the Boston Celtics in the 2010 playoffs, it was his mental state that had become reason for suspicion. When he finally returned to the finals with the Heat last June, James seemed overwhelmed by the moment and by the expectations he himself created with his promise of multiple titles. This time James shows no such frailty. Before games, he calms his mind with a good book. Once tipoff arrives, he does not distract himself with silly poses or sideline dances, or gestures to the crowd, as he did in Cleveland. 'He’s a little bit more focused than I ever seen him,' said the Thunder’s Kendrick Perkins, who as a former Celtic has seen James a lot. 'You can just see it in his eyes,” Perkins said, adding, 'You can just tell, he really want to win. Like he don’t care how it get done.'"
  • Why are Thunder down 3-1? Simple, says John Hollinger (Insider), they're just not making shots: "The main reason has to do with 3-pointers, and the fact that Oklahoma City will eventually make a few of them. Through four games, the Thunder have shot 21-of-77 from 3-point range (27.3 percent), and the looks have not appeared to be more difficult than the ones they've tried at any other point this postseason. This flies in the face of what we would have expected entering the series. Oklahoma City was 11th in the NBA at 35.8 percent on 3s in the regular season, and the Heat were just 26th in 3-point defense, at 36.5 percent. Based on each team's deviation from the league average of 34.9 percent, we'd expect the Thunder to be shooting at a 37.4 percent clip in this series. That's just what Oklahoma City did in the first three rounds of the playoffs, converting exactly 37.4 percent. This series? The Thunder are shooting a full 10 percentage points lower. That translates into eight 'missing' 3-pointers over the first four games, which translates into about 21 'missing' points. (It's not quite 24 because the offensive team rebounds some missed 3s and scores, making up some of the gap.) Because the Thunder have lost three games by a combined total of 16 points, I'd say those missed 3s are looming rather large."
  • Despite the lockout, this season has been far from a bust.
  • The lesson here: don't try to dunk on Steve Nash.
  • Should Russell Westbrook have shot more than three free throws in Game 4?
  • Daily Thunder's Royce Young on whether Scott Brooks deserves blame for the Thunder being in a 3-1 hole: "Amazing what a difference a series, and a few losses, make. After the Thunder’s Game 6 triumph over the Spurs, the Thunder seemed to validate so much, as well give Scott Brooks a proper coronation for a wonderfully managed series. It wasn’t just a matter of if he was getting that contract extension in Oklahoma City, it was a question as to how much it would cost to keep him. Now, the table hasn’t just turned, it’s been flipped over with all four legs ripped off. Scott Brooks is the target, the one who is supposedly responsible for this Finals disappointment. Why? Because it’s easy. When you have a team that is as talented as this Thunder squad is, and they lose? Well, it must be someone’s fault. Because there’s no way they’d do it on their own. And the coach is always the easiest target. Not to say Brooks hasn’t made his errors. His substitutions have been erratic, he’s fallen in love too often with Derek Fisher, he doesn’t seem to share the same affinity for Nick Collison that I do, and in terms of pushing magical buttons in the same way he did against the Spurs, Brooks has struck out a few times. But the question is, did Scott Brooks make James Harden go 4-20 the last two games? Because if he did, then yeah, it’s all his fault."
  • Why the Thunder should consider using Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison on LeBron James.
  • The Nets are a franchise trapped in the land of "maybe."
  • What should the Spurs pay Tim Duncan?
  • This list suggests that over time, NBA teams do a pretty good job of evaluating top ten talent.
  • For all his superhuman attributes, LeBron James has changed and evolved much like the rest of us.
  • Anyone interested in a bouncy, ambidextrous 6-10 player with a 7-5 wingspan?
  • A helpful guide to the trade between the Wizards and Hornets, franchises with two very different rebuilding strategies.
  • Should how you feel about an NBA owner impact how you feel about his team?
Beckley Mason is an NBA contributor for ESPN.com.

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