Originally Published: November 2, 2012

1. Why LeBron Isn't A Perfect 10

Stein By Marc Stein
ESPN.com
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LeBron JamesXiao Yingying/Getty ImagesLeBron James received 10s from 103 voters in #NBArank. Guess who gave him his only 9.

Confession time.

It was me.

No need to go blaming Skip Bayless for this one.

I'm the solitary idiot, from a panel of 104 voters, who didn't see fit to award LeBron James a gleaming 10 in ESPN's recent #NBArank extravaganza.

I'm the lone, unremorseful idiot.

And here's why: I am generally opposed to the idea of perfect 10s and couldn't be swayed, after one championship in a row, that even LeBron should get one. I'm stingy with the notion of perfection, particularly when it comes to grading basketball players, so no one was going to get a 10 from me when our bosses asked us in August to size up every single name on the NBA map. Not even LeBron after an unquestionably storybook season in which he won two MVP trophies and assumed the role of dominance from Kobe Bryant on the American squad that won a gold medal in London just a few weeks after James broke through with the Miami Heat in his first NBA title run.

Not quite yet.

Flawless as so much of the above sounds, it's only one season. I'd have said the same thing about Michael Jordan after the Bulls' first title in 1991 -- going to have to see that sort of brilliance sustained over at least two seasons to give it all away. So LeBron was one of only five players to receive a 9 from yours truly, along with Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Derrick Rose, who just happened to finish Nos. 2 through 5, in that order, in #NBArank.

In retrospect?

With a month of hindsight since LeBron landed at the top of the #NBArank heap?

No regrets.

In a perfect world, with more flexible scoring options, I'd have loved to list LeBron as a 9.5 or perhaps even a 9.7, with Durant at, say, 9.3 and maybe CP3 at 9.1. I suspect many other voters would have followed suit and withheld their 10 from James in those circumstances until #NBArank 2013. That option, though, wasn't available. So 9 felt more right than 10 to me, given the absolute nature of the 0-to-10 scoring dictated by the current rules of #NBArank.

If I were to go back and change anything, I suppose I could downgrade Howard and Rose to 8s, thanks to the serious injuries that derailed both last season and the questions that persist about how long it'll take D12 and D-Rose to return to their fearsome best. You can sell me on the idea that perhaps I should be handing out even fewer 9s if there aren't going to be any 10s.

Otherwise?

I look at LeBron's final score of 9.99 and have to say I'm glad it worked out this way. My purported stupidity, if nothing else, might in some small way help reinforce the notion that LeBron still has some things to accomplish after Ring No. 1. (Which is something LeBron himself, incidentally, freely admits.)

After a month of season-preview blather about how he suddenly has the six-ringed MJ in his crosshairs, I can't shake the feeling that a lot of us -- after utterly savaging LeBron throughout Year 1 in Miami and the Heat's 2011 Finals flameout -- are overcompensating now and going way overboard with our fawning to try to make up for it. You probably didn't need too many guesses to predict whose name would be revealed at the end of the #NBArank procession, since we all can agree this is the first time King James has begun a season as the sport's undisputed monarch. But the dreaded narrative has gone too far the other way lately with all this LeBron versus Jordan stuff.

I know I'm in that minority that never felt the need to worship at the altar of His Airness, but even I'm here to say: C'mon. Talking about LeBron in these terms, even after the Jordanesque heights he clearly grazed with that Game 6 destruction of the Celtics in Boston with the Heat on the brink of elimination in the Eastern Conference finals, is preposterous at this point.

Can we wait to see what happens in 2012-13? Can we resist the increasing urge to go on and on about James as if he's one of the Invincibles when, counting Game 4 of the Finals and Tuesday night's opener against Boston, he's actually been felled by crunch-time cramping in two of Miami's past four games that counted? I long ago learned my lesson about doubting Pat Riley and fully subscribe to Riley's post-Finals contention that the real fun starts now for LeBron and the Heaters after they so swiftly exorcized their Dallas demons. But we've got to see some of that fun first.

Doesn't James have to have at least two seminal seasons in a row before we all lose our minds and drown in superlatives?

Even the annoyingly stingiest of scorers will be forced to rethink matters if LeBron, working as he does these days so powerfully from the post, delivers a second successive championship with anything close to last season's style. I'm man enough to say standards can change and belief systems evolve, and that a 10 from me is in play if LeBron continues to lord over us all.

Or you can just call me crazy and click back here next Friday for a saner Weekend Dime. Your prerogative.

Think about it, though. Can't imagine that, deep down, we're too far removed from a consensus that LeBron still has plenty to play for, plenty to accomplish, as he starts to dig into the 100 or so games to go in his 10th NBA season.

No matter how (in)significant my approval really is.

Dimes past: Oct. 30 | 31 | Nov. 1


2. LeBron By The Numbers

A 10-chart statistical ode to LeBron James as he begins his 10th season ... with an assist to Ernest Tolden from ESPN Stats & Info and the Elias Sports Bureau:

3. Western Conference


Phoenix's Wesley Johnson, New Orleans' Al-Farouq Aminu and Houston's Cole Aldrich are among the 2010 first-round picks who will be unrestricted free agents in July after their fourth-year team options were declined before the Halloween deadline.

What else do they have in common?

Johnson (No. 4 by Minnesota), Aminu (No. 8 by the L.A. Clippers) and Aldrich (No. 11 by Oklahoma City) were all lottery picks.


Some numbers of note in the West this week:

6: Only six teams have started a season 0-2 and went on to win the championship, with the Lakers (most recently in 1984-85) accounting for three of those six titles. The 1990-91 Bulls are the only team to win it all after starting 0-3.

3: This is the only the third time in Tim Duncan's 15-season career that he's scored at least 20 points in San Antonio's first two games of the season.

86: Just how out of sync offensively were the Thunder in their first game without James Harden? The 86 points San Antonio scored Thursday night to beat them, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, is the lowest point total to deliver a win over the Thunder since Memphis' 86-84 home win over OKC on Jan. 22, 2010.

29: Jamal Crawford's 29 points off the bench in the Clippers' season-opening win over Memphis accounted for the highest opening night total for a reserve since Leandro Barbosa had a 30-point game in the Phoenix Suns' 2006-07 opener.

29: Minnesota's Rick Adelman began the season 29 wins shy of becoming the eighth coach in NBA history with 1,000 career wins. He trails only Don Nelson (1,335), Lenny Wilkens (1,332), Jerry Sloan (1,221), Pat Riley (1,210), Phil Jackson (1,155), Larry Brown (1,098) and George Karl (1,074).


One of the factors that quietly contributed to Oklahoma City's decision to trade James Harden: OKC might be one of the league's bottom three markets in terms of size, but the Thunder are projected to be a revenue-sharing payer under the terms of the league's new revenue-sharing model. The Clippers waived guard Travis Leslie earlier this week despite the $250,000 of guaranteed money on Leslie's contract this season.

4. Eastern Conference


Atlanta's Josh Smith has an expiring contract and an apparent fan in Magic Johnson, who playfully suggested during a Fantasy GM segment on Friday night's "NBA Countdown" show that he'd love to see the Lakers trade for Smith -- even if it meant surrendering Pau Gasol -- because L.A. so badly needs athletes.

Dwight Howard would surely learn to live with such a swap, too, given how close he and Smith are off the court, but there's currently zero evidence in circulation to suggest it's anything other than a fun discussion for entertainment purposes.

The distinct vibe you get when you ask around is that Smith will most likely finish the season in Atlanta, flashing onto your screens in adidas commercials when hes not trying to sneak the Hawks into the playoffs and then proceeding to free agency in search of a new long-term deal. There's a benefit to holding off, since the longest in-season extension Smith could get with the Hawks is a three-year deal. The Hawks also appear intent on preserving as much cap flexibility as they can for a busy offseason.

So those concerned about the state of the Lakers, like Magic, will likely have to look elsewhere for saviors.


Some numbers of note in the East this week:

23: Anderson Varejao's career-best 23 rebounds for Cleveland on opening night were the most in any NBA opener since Sidney Wicks pulled in 23 boards for the then-San Diego Clippers in 1980. Varejao also ranks as the first player with at least 9 points, 23 boards and 9 assists in a season opener since Wilt Chamberlain in 1967. The last player with at least 9 points, 23 boards and 9 assists in any regular-season game was Charles Barkley in 1987.

2: A double-double for Jonas Valanciunas in his Raptors debut (12 points and 10 boards) will go down as just the second double-double in franchise history for a new Raptor (Damon Stoudemire had the first, in 1995).

1: Philly's Spencer Hawes became the first player to amass at least 16 points and 12 rebounds as a sub in his team's season opener since Nov. 1, 1991, when two players hit those levels: A.C. Green (28 points and 16 rebounds for the Lakers) and Anthony Bonner (17 points and 14 rebounds for Sacramento).

120: The 120 points Boston surrendered in their season-starting loss at Miami marked the second-highest point total the Celts have surrendered with Kevin Garnett in the lineup, falling just two buckets short of the 124 points allowed to Denver on Feb. 19, 2008, in KG's first season in green.

31.6: The Knicks, based on opening night rosters, have the league's oldest team, with an average age of 31.6 years. Next in line are the Los Angeles Clippers (29.8) and Miami (29.6). The only current Knick younger than 26 is Iman Shumpert, who, at 22, is recovering from ACL surgery.

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