LeBron James mocks Bulls in Cavs victory


Dec 5

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LeBron James made a big fuss recently with his suggestion of a homage to Michael Jordan by asking that the league have all teams permanently retire Jordan’s No. 23.

But in the Cavs 101-87 victory over the Bulls Friday, James insulted what Jordan stood for as a competitor and basketball player and demonstrated why James, at least, doesn’t even deserve to wear Jordan’s number.

With the Cavs leading by 19 points with six minutes left in the game and the Bulls having long given up and not playing any of their top players in the fourth quarter, James began strutting around, shimmying and dancing on the sideline after he was fouled on a drive.

It was pretty classless behavior acting like a clown and rubbing it in with guys still trying to play.

James may have the all around talent of someone like Oscar Robertson, but hardly the class and dignity. Legends of the game like Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird would be horrified by such demeaning and selfish behavior. You never saw anything like that from them. They understood the game transcended everything, that it was the game that enabled you to have everything you did. It’s a sad testament about the game today to see it celebrated in the image of someone like James given his insulting behavior.

With James at the free throw line, Bulls center  Joakim Noah, who seems to respect the game much more than James, yelled to James to stop showing off. James made one free throw and then walked menacingly toward the Bulls bench.

How dare anyone question the player who adoringly calls himself, “the King.”

Noah and James after the game declined to say what was said, but I consulted a lip reader who watched the replays and said Noah was telling James, “That was #$&%$& lame. You’re lame.”

Noah is young, but the veterans of the game would be proud of him. I wished more of the Bulls were as insulted. When legends say the game has changed, that’s what they mean.

James’ act was pathetic, and like his puerile refusal to meet with reporters following his playoff loss last season when he ran away and hid, James’ talent seems only exceeded by his narcissism and egotism.

Of course, the Bulls still would like to have him as a free agent next summer.

So here’s the real question from Friday’s bad Bulls loss, which I’ve been able to avoid writing about thus far.

Will James be more likely to consider Chicago because the team has someone like Noah who isn’t afraid to stand up to him and thus James could have a teammate he knows will fight with him. Or is James so vain and arrogant that he wouldn’t care to be on a team with players, unlike in Cleveland, who would dare question anything about him and not show the proper obedience?

“Nothing (happened),” said Noah, who had seven points and 10 rebounds in 31 minutes, his fewest in a month. “When you’re losing the way you’re losing and guys are rubbing it in your face, dancing and all that…It’s just a frustrating situation. It’s just frustrating to lose the way we’ve been losing lately.  That’s really it. It just sucks to lose.  That’s the toughest thing.  We can’t compete 48 minutes. We’ve just got to find a way to win games because this losing thing is just not a good look.  It’s not what, I think, that anybody in this locker room expected.  We’ve just got to find a way to start winning games.  This losing thing is really frustrating.”

Noah said he respected James, though James threw in a little snarky shot when he told reporters after the game: “It’s nothing against Joakim or none of those guys. This is not something that is new. We have fun. We love to play the game of basketball. It’s nothing about showboating. I’ve seen it happen all last year. I think he was more frustrated about the way he played as an individual. He didn’t help his team win.”

James is a great talent, one of the best the game has seen, though he again clanked a bunch of free throws on the way to a game high 23 points and 11 assists. It’s why some believe James eschews the big late game play for fear of having to shoot the free throws. It’s why most team executives still grade Kobe Bryant a bit higher. James is more talented overall given his size and explosiveness. But Bryant will do what the true stars do, which is challenge the defense and take the big shot.

James’ big shots seem as likely aimed at piling on and embarrassing someone.

Michael would be ashamed.

The Bulls had to be a little ashamed as well as they collapsed after halftime, missing 12 of 13 shots in one stretch as the Cavs went on a 19-4 run behind James’ scoring and passing to blow open a tight game.

The guy really is a terrific player.

The Bulls trailed 76-61 after three quarters and Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro basically threw in the towel then as Taj Gibson, who had 14 points and 13 rebounds, was the only starter to play in the fourth quarter.

I’m not so sure I was happy to see that. I know the Bulls are shorthanded, but they haven’t played a back to back in more than three weeks.

With Jannero Pargo, Lindsey Hunter, Gibson, James Johnson and Brad Miller opening the fourth quarter, the Cavs took a 19-point lead on a Jamario Moon lob dunk with just over eight minutes left.

“I just didn’t think we were playing well in the third quarter,” said Del Negro.  “And, with the number of minutes some of the guys have been playing and with the back-to-back tomorrow night at home (Toronto), I thought about bringing them (starters) back with nine minutes to go to make another run at them.  We were down 18 or 20 at that time, and the energy it would have taken and they were beating us to the ball a little bit, I just felt it was a better decision. We’re a little short-handed right now.   We need some more bodies, we know that, but the guys keep playing hard.”

The game wasn’t over, but with Tyrus Thomas and Kirk Hinrich out and another game Saturday, Del Negro made the decision. So it’s under eight minutes now, the Cavs leading by 15 and no Bulls regulars are coming back into the game. That’s pretty clear.

So Cavs coach Mike Brown, for some reason, brought James back into the game.

Maybe they all were mad the Bulls beat them at home last month.

It seemed Brown wanted to do some rubbing it in as well as James was up and dancing after Moon’s dunk and then with teammates dancing and shoulder shimmying in timeouts.

The Cavs kept the lead at 19 on a Mo Williams three and then James drove and was fouled by Aaron Gray, stumbling off to the right sideline. James again began dancing and shaking and as he went to the free throw line. Noah began telling James how unprofessional he was. James shot one free throw and then began walking toward the Bulls bench, where players stepped between he and Noah.

James drew a technical foul for walking toward the Bulls bench, which could have precipitated a fight or incident.

“The stuff the Cavs do during games is just so awful,” said one NBA coach. “Clowning, dancing.”

Sounds like the kind of team that’s never won anything.

Winners, as Jordan and all the great ones know, don’t act like that.

It doesn’t do any good for the Bulls, though.

After defeating the Cavs earlier this season, it was a disappointing effort as the Bulls fell to 7-10 and 2-9 on the road.

Gibson played well, leading the Bulls with 14 points and John Salmons was good early with 12 points. Derrick Rose added 13 points and seven assists. But Rose didn’t get a chance to get aggressive in the second half as the Cavs pulled away midway through the third to effectively end the game.

“I just thought we ran out of gas a little bit there in the third quarter when they were able to get over the hump,” said Del Negro.  “I thought we did some good things, especially in the first half.  We gave up too high of a field goal percentage (58.3 percent for the Cavs in the first half), but we were still down one (47-46).  So, I felt good about that.   Then, in the third quarter, they jumped on us.”

There wasn’t much good to say for the Bulls about Friday’s game.

Gibson, who had been in foul trouble a lot lately, was aggressive with his shot early and hitting it from his favorite spot at the elbow, though the Cavs led 30-25 after one quarter. The Cavs didn’t get much from Shaq and barely played him in the first half. But the pairing of Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao proved too big for the Bulls as the Cavs would finish with a 46-20 inside scoring margin.

Del Negro finally gave James Johnson some time in both halves and Johnson made a nice score switching hands on a drive. He clearly should be something of a ball handling forward and could prove a good mismatch playing that way.

The Bulls remained close through the second quarter, though I thought Rose was easily beating the Cavs guards on the perimeter and then pulling up and passing to open shooters. It is the right basketball play, though I’d like to see him force things a bit more and draw some fouls and get the defense in more foul trouble. As it is with his passing the Bulls are shooting too many jumpers.

The Bulls actually pulled ahead 54-52 on a baseline jumper from Rose with about eight minutes left in the third before the Cavs went to their LOL routine and broke open the game. The Bulls, at least Noah, and good for him, didn’t find it funny.

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