During the course of last season, Miami Heat forward LeBron James underwent a transformation that turned him from being a “Poster Boy” for all that was good in the NBA into a pariah, a man who was among the most hated in all of professional sports. His choice to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team he played for during the first seven years of his career, to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh alienated many NBA observers, then his adoption of the persona of a villain from pro wrestling throughout the campaign, further fueled the contempt for him.
After his team lost the NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks, the All-Star forward congratulated the “Haters” who had rooted against his club. He claimed that their feelings did not bother him in the least, however he proved just the opposite by acknowledging their presence. James was idolized for his skill on the hardwood since he was in grade school and although he would not admit it, the anger he inspired clearly shook him to his core.
In a series of interviews at the beginning of this season, the former NBA MVP admitted having a bumpy transition last season and that it effected his performance on the court, as well as the way he acted off of it. The glare of the spotlight seems less harsh in South Beach in year two, or else he has adjusted to it. LeBron has also pretty much steered clear of controversy so far this season; except for a spitting match with Thunder center Kendrick Perkins when the Miami forward posted a tweet about Clippers forward Blake Griffin laid a monster dunk on him.
Miami won their ninth straight game on Thursday night as they traveled to Portland and pulverized the Blazers 107-93, in a game that could have been called at the half as the Visitors went into the locker room holding a 60-42 edge at the end of the second. With Bosh away from the club due to a death in the family, it was up to James and Wade to put on a show at the Rose Garden and they were more than capable of the task. James racked up a double-double including a game high 38 points,11 boards, 6 assists, 5 steals and a block while D-Wade also notched a double-double with 33 points, 10 assists, 3 steals, 2 rebounds and a block.
LeBron has been a key part of why the Heat won their last nine games, as he leads the squad in scoring with 27.7 points, in assists with 6.8 and with steals with 1.76 per contest while he is second in rebounding with 8.2 so far this season. He was able to help the club win most of their games during the absence of Wade, due to injury earlier this season and stepped it up on Thursday while Bosh had to be with his family.
Miami not only has the best record in the Eastern Conference with a 29-7 mark, they are winning by dominating their opponents. The club is averaging 103.8 points per game while only allowing 94.3, a differential of 9.5 points which is tops in the Association. The only other team that comes close are the Chicago Bulls, whose differential is 9.2 points per game; is it any wonder why most NBA observers expect those two teams in the Eastern Conference Finals, once again this Spring?
Regular readers of these pages realize that I have written many times I can never admire or respect the former Cavaliers star, after his actions throughout last year. Although I can not respect the man any longer, I have to admire and respect what he has done on the court this season.