LeBron James stepped to the free-throw line in last night's Game Four matchup with the Chicago Bulls needing only to sink the first attempt in order to give his team a two-possession advantage in a close game.
James calmly swished the first through, then curiously attempted the second free throw with his left hand. James missed the shot, but the Cavaliers went on to defeat the Bulls and advance to the second round of the playoffs.
After the game James went on to explain he was dealing with some discomfort from a right shoulder injury he had sustained earlier in the series but that he didn't think it was serious enough to merit any attention.
ESPN was of the opinion that no one would have even suspected James was injured if not for his awkward free-throw attempt, so what was his motivation for the left-handed lob in the first place?
I can understand their point, and considering James' issues from the free-throw line in end-game situations, why not use the moment to improve your free-throw percentage in preparation for the time it really matters?
If a player wants to shoot a free throw underhanded, then that's their prerogative, but what purpose does it serve to alter your free throw for a phantom injury James admits is not even a problem.
Maybe James was just bored with the Bulls, and in order to give the media and pundits something else to talk about, he decided to give life to what may be one of the biggest non-issues this postseason.
The ruse worked, because people were falling over themselves wondering how James' injury might affect his play in the Cavaliers' upcoming series against the Boston Celtics.
The Celtics figure to offer more resistance to the Cavaliers than Chicago did, and what better way to ramp up anticipation for the showdown than to suggest that James is possibly injured?
Or was it just another instance of James pandering for the spotlight in an attempt to keep his names on the lips of every relevant commentator?
I'm not sure I buy that assumption; after all, if anyone is going to fake an injury, and then miraculously return to form, then it would be the Celtics' Paul Pierce, who is good for one or two of those moments each postseason.
Could it be James is offering the Celtics a false glimmer of hope in a series most believe will fail to even reach six games? After all, the mental games played in the postseason are just as important as what takes place on the court.
I think it may be a little of both, because most eyes were tuned to Dwyane Wade and his Miami Heat's exit from the playoffs, and what the loss may mean to Wade's future in South Beach.
There was little attention paid to the goings-on in Cleveland because most observers expected the Cavaliers to make quick work of the Bulls and prepare for the second round—until James made his final trip to the line.
James may indeed be injured, but if he had decided to shoot the second free throw the same way he shot his first, I wouldn't be writing about it, and SportsCenter wouldn't be talking about it.
The pain from James' shoulder could have been the circumstance dictating the lefty free throw, but did it take the game's final moments for James to realize how much he was hurting?
He definitely didn't seem like himself last night, and his 5-of-14 shooting effort is evidence of that, but James is a master at keeping the glare of the media focused squarely on him, and this reeks of another opportunity.
There is a possibility James may be hindered by the injury in the series against Boston, and if so he has himself to thank for cluing the Celtics in, but more likely this is a case of the King crying wolf.
The chances of James being hampered by this injury are slim and none, and I'm sure the left-handed free throws against a much better Boston team will be few and far between.
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