"He struggled. Point blank, period. He struggled out there. ... I want to see him aggressive again. He can turn it up, his aggression, a notch." -- Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh, talking about his teammate LeBron James after Tuesday's 86-83 loss to Dallas
Say what you will about his disappearance in the fourth quarter of games during these NBA Finals. Cite him for "shrinkage" in the aftermath of his Game 3 disappearance. Ridicule him for his triple single in Game 4 (8 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists; oh yeah, and 4 turnovers), if you must.
But the greatest referendum on LeBron James' continued fall from grace in these NBA Finals may be the fact that Chris Bosh, of all people, had to take up for the self-proclaimed "King" in post-game interviews last night.
All season long, Bosh has played Turtle to LeBron's and Dwyane Wade's Vince (sorry I didn't warn with a "douche alert" for that Entourage reference. My bad), simultaneously blending in with Joel Anthony and the rest of the Heat supporting cast while sulking about a lack of touches.
Put simply, if soft-serve Chris Bosh is pontificating about your need to be more aggressive, it may be time to take up needlepoint or scrapbooking. At least in the fourth quarter of games.
In a series where an average performance from LeBron means that the series would probably be over right now, James continues to push the bar lower and lower for his personal "worst case game scenario" -- statistically, aesthetically, historically.
Subjectively, if you were judging this series like you would a prize fight, Miami is winning fairly convincingly on rounds. They've appeared to be the better team for about 80 percent of the series. However, because LeBron has morphed into a daydreaming kindergartener on the perimeter late in games (9 fourth quarter points in the series) and because Dirk Nowitzki turns into a steely-eyed killer in the final five minutes (44 fourth quarter points in the series), the current scorecard has it as a split decision.
Dallas 2, Miami 2.
Nowitzki has been the best player in the league throughout these NBA playoffs, with Wade making a late charge. You can tell a lot about a player by what their team looks like when that player is off the floor. How sure are they? How is their swagger? How does the offense run? When Dirk Nowitizki is on the bench, the Mavericks run like a decent lottery team, at best. (Put it this way, Dirk-less Dallas runs much less efficiently than the Rockets. Much less.)
The Heat have evolved to where the guy they can't do without is Wade. And that's at both ends of the floor. When Wade's not finishing at the rim at one end, he's blocking the dunk of a seven-footer at the other end.
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When LeBron showed up on South Beach last summer, he was outwardly deferential to his good friend, saying that "This is still D-Wade's team." I don't think anybody ever believed one word that was coming out of the "King's" mouth, least of all LeBron himself. LeBron came to Miami to be the centerpiece of a multiple title team, just with a more souped-up supporting cast. Swap out Anderson Varajeo and Mo Williams, plug in Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.
And let the titles pile up.
The titles may still pile up, but LeBron was right, even if he didn't want to be -- this is still D-Wade's team.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.