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Wednesday, May 4, 2011
What part of LeBron James quit?

By Henry Abbott

The theory is that LeBron James lost his will to win in the playoffs last year. But the evidence, as amassed by Jeff Fogle of Hoopdata, is that he lost his shooting ability -- only in games with shorter rest.

In other words, he shot perfectly well in the first and third games of the series, which each featured long rest, but shot very poorly in games 2, 4, 5 and 6, which came with just one day off.

To Fogle, this is congruent with the idea that his known elbow injury (he shot a leftie free throw at the end of the prior series) hung around his final series in Cleveland more than was evident. Fogle writes:
LEBRON AT THE RIM

Games 1 and 3: 12/19 (63 percent)

Games 2,4,5,6: 15/26 (58 percent)

A slight drop off. But, the closer you are to the basket, the less an elbow injury is likely to affect your shot.

LEBRON FROM 3-15 FEET

Games 1 and 3: 4/7 (58 percent)

Games 2,4-,5,6: 4/10 (40 percent)

Quite a difference there. He's dropped off in both cases because he's further from the basket, but the spread is now 18 percentage points rather than just five.

LEBRON FROM 16-23 FEET

Games 1 and 3: 5/11 (45 percent)

Games 2,4,5,6: 4/16 (25 percent)

We're in the range where a bad elbow could definitely affect your jump shots. With three days between games, LeBron was at 45 percent. In the quicker turnarounds, that percentage plummeted to 25. Note again that both percentages are going down (as expected) the further he gets from the basket. The spread between the two situations is now 20 percentage points.

LEBRON ON 3-POINT SHOTS

Games 1 and 3: 5/9 (56 percent)

Games 2,4,5,6: 2/17 (12 percent)

LeBron was hitting his open looks from distance in the games where the arm was well rested. In fact, he was more accurate from behind the arc than in the 16-23 foot range. But, in the quick turnarounds, he was a woeful 2 of 17 on treys (44 percentage points worse). Doesn't THAT suggest a potential injury issue all by itself? A guy's got a bad elbow, and he goes 2 of 17 on long shots in games with limited preparation and rest time.

Fogle goes on to suggest that James knew he was not shooting well, and frantically tried to assault the rim (remember that?) which dramatically increased his turnovers. Those turnover totals can be taken as support of narrative that James quit, or the opposite.