Friday Bullets

June, 22, 2012
6/22/12
2:27
PM ET
Mason By Beckley Mason
ESPN.com
Archive
  • J.A. Adande on how things will change for the Heat, having won a title: "At the end of this journey for Miami from the brink of the depths to the pinnacle is ... liberty. That's according to Heat president Pat Riley, who entered South Beach restaurant Prime 112 to applause from the remaining diners in the 3 a.m. hour, then paused to share the thoughts he had as he watched the team he created consummate a championship. "It frees us up," Riley said. Freedom. He could be speaking for the entire NBA world, of course, which no longer needs to be consumed with speculation about whether LeBron James can translate his immense talent into a championship. Now the conversation can shift. It's no longer about his shortcomings, it's about his degree of greatness."
  • Tom Haberstroh on how LeBron James' Game 5 performance signified the broader changes in his -- and the Heat's -- play: "On Tuesday, James pounded the paint with precision and purpose. With 18 points in the paint in Game 5, James finished up a series that saw him average 17.6 points from that area. Last Finals? That number was 8.7 points, or half as much. When the Thunder realized they couldn’t guard James in the post one-on-one, they sent a cavalry to swarm him. And he mowed them down, one by one. On the night, James fed eight 3-pointers to five different players, each shooter catching the ball across the letters in rhythm. Who does that? The slicing passes from the post to the perimeter, that’s what separates James from any post player in the game. The 34 points that he produced on assists was the most of his postseason career and the second-most we’ve seen in the past 15 Finals series."
  • John Hollinger on James' historic season (Insider): "James' new legacy is one of the most amazing top-to-bottom seasons in NBA annals. Amazingly, virtually nobody discussed this while it was happening; that's how all-consuming the will-he-choke-or-won't-he meme became. In the modern history of the league, the only seasons that can really compare are Shaquille O'Neal's first championship season with the Lakers and Michael Jordan's first three championships with the Bulls. Everything else is orders of magnitude below. Check it out: James led the league in PER by a wide margin at 30.80, the 10th-best mark of the post-merger era. In the playoffs, he kept it up with a 30.39, which was doubly amazing because the competition in the postseason is so much tougher. It goes without saying that he led the league in both regular-season and playoff PER, and did so by wide margins. He also had the best adjusted plus-minus in the postseason, and nearly the best in the regular season. He wasn't just the best player in the league; he dominated it from start to finish, in a way only three players had done in the past four decades. Jordan. Shaq. LeBron. That's the list."
  • Daily Thunder's Royce Young on the heartbreak in Oklahoma: "Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden stood together on the sideline, watching as the inevitable ticked down. Their season was ending in disappointment, the dream was dead. Harden had both arms draped around Durant and Westbrook, as the three stood true to form, cheering on the seldom used bench guys. I saw it happen up in my perch in American Airlines Arena, and thought it was a really cool moment. Nothing I could do but crack a small smile and appreciate what those guys did, and represented, this season. For them to be standing and cheering despite the incredible wave of disappointment that was surely washing over them, was unbelievable. But not surprising. The TV monitor in front of me was on the game and had like an eight-second delay, and on the screen flashed those three, standing almost in defiance of the moment they were watching. Together. Family. One. And I won’t lie, I almost lost it. I’m almost losing it sitting here writing about it. Fine, I am losing it. I have no idea why. It’s just a damn sports team. It’s nothing more than a bunch of boys wearing blue jerseys with “Oklahoma City” wiped across the chest that happen to get paid millions to ball in my city. But we all know it means something more."
  • Some mighty sad photos of the Thunder.
  • The prospect of Durant vs. LeBron II, III, and maybe IV is pretty exciting.
  • What did fellow NBA players have to tweet about Heat winning the title?
  • Magic Johnson, to our Marc Stein, after the final buzzer: "Michael got better after his first championship, and so I think the same thing happens for LeBron. ... It's going to be LeBron-mania like we've never seen before."
  • Ethan Sherwood Strauss on HoopSpeak: "We’ve all been chasing the promise of LeBron for nearly as long as he has."
  • LeBron James' biggest critics respond to his team's victory.
  • Mark Haubner of The Painted Area compares James' Game 5 to another all-time classic closeout performance -- Larry Bird in 1986: "In the closeout Game 5 on Thursday night, it was a warm cycle-of-basketball life moment for this old hoophead, as LeBron's commanding 26-11-13 (including assists on 8 threes) echoed one of the greatest individual performances I've ever seen, the signature game in Larry Bird's career, when he hung a 29-11-12 on the Houston Rockets to clinch the 1986 title in Game 6 of the Finals."
  • The lovable Chris Bosh.
  • A look back at NBA history shows the falseness of premise that it was ever going to be easy for the Heat.
  • A strikingly straightforward explanation of why the Heat won.
  • An email from TrueHoop reader Noah Galuten: "On TrueHoop TV, J.A. Adande talked about how the Heat "out-futured" the Thunder by totally committing to this perimeter-oriented team, with Battier at power forward and Bosh at center. I think that D'Antoni was the pioneer of 'future ball,' who maybe just invented it slightly before its time. D'Antoni was totally right that small-ball lineups can win championships. He was just wrong about how important defense is. But really, I think it's just a lot easier if your MVP is 6'8," 250 pounds, instead of 6'3", 178." Beckley says: This is a great point, but I think the real message here is that versatility has never been more important in the NBA. If you can give up a couple inches of height and in return get a great shooter (as the Heat did with Battier at power forward, and in some respects Bosh at center) who can passably cover a few different positions, you've got to take advantage of it.
  • A whole lot of people watched Game 5, writes Maury Brown for Forbes: "This year’s Finals averaged an 11.8 overnight rating, the highest five-game ratings average since 2004 and second-highest ever on ABC, according to Nielsen. It is up five percent from an 11.2 rating through five games last year (Dallas Mavericks vs. Miami Heat). NBA Finals Game 5 delivered a 12.6 overnight rating, matching last year’s Game 5 number. In Miami, the game delivered a record 40.3 rating, which is the highest for an NBA game ever in the market. In Oklahoma City, the game delivered a 39.8."
Beckley Mason is an NBA contributor for ESPN.com.

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