Negative attention has consumed the Indiana Pacers since they fell from their early season pedestal. They've been lambasted, ridiculed and in some circles, written out of the championship race entirely.
But James doesn't care.
"I can't put the 2010-11 criticism that we got ... it will never compare to any other team," he posited, via ESPN's Tom Haberstroh. "I don't know what they're dealing with. Obviously, I watch television and I can hear some of the frustration that's coming out of that team, but as far as the criticism and the scrutiny, it will never compare to our team."
This has a very "Why does everything always happen to me?" feel to it. To say no other team will ever face the same trials and tribulations Miami did three years ago is presumptuous, bordering on ignorant.
It's also not the first time James has devalued the struggles of another high-profile contingent. Last January, when the star-packed Los Angeles Lakers were grinding their way through unforeseen mediocrity, he once again played the "They'll never know what we know" card, per the Miami Herald's Joseph Goodman:
No one will ever be able to compare what we went through. Even though they’re not winning and they’re losing a lot of games, it’s still nowhere near what we went through.
Yeah, right. That level of magnitude was nowhere near where ours was two years ago. Nothing. Nothing compares to it.
At least he's consistent.
In this case, he's also right.
There's no whitewashing the Pacers' downturn. It's a big deal. It's disappointing. It's generating a lot of attention. And yet, it's nothing compared to what the 2010-11 Heat labored through.
Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and James entered that season expected to run away with everything. They were supposed to challenge the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' record 72 regular-season victories while effortlessly winning the first championship of James' career.
The Pacers entered this season held to an entirely different standard. Rivaling Miami was the expectation. Steamrolling the entire Eastern Conference was not. Their 33-7 start isn't something we could have predicted, or anything other than a pleasant surprise.
Whatever they're facing, whatever incivilities are being lobbed their way, aren't in the Heat's league. Not even now that they're essentially surrendering first place to Miami, per the Indianapolis Star's Bob Kravitz:
The white flag of surrender has been raised over Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Pacers, who've spent the entire season talking about the importance of earning the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, are essentially conceding that top spot to the Miami Heat.
How do we know this?
Because Frank Vogel, who gave his starters a second straight day off Tuesday for the first time in his coaching career, said he's going to rest his starters periodically in the final four games of this regular season.
Everything about their situation is different. Not irrelevant, just different.
One day, there will—yes, will—be another team that's forced to withstand the same season-long audit Miami slogged through. There will be another team that can relate to the hawkeyed inquiries and never-ending stream of doubt.
These Pacers, however hard and far they fall, just aren't that team.
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