The sky is on a path to a furious falling in the world of LeBron James. With the Miami Heat down 2-3 to the Dallas Mavericks as the series moves back to Florida, he has taken much of the blame thus far.
For much of Games 4 and 5, and the fourth quarter of all five games, he has played well be low his talents and public standards.
At this moment he is facing at least three calendar seasons of more intense criticism from sports writers, TV personalities, and average fans. Even more than he faced following "The Decision."
All isn't lost yet however. He has a chance to dig himself out out this current hole in dramatic fashion. Leading the Heat to back-to-back wins in these next two games in Miami would earn the championship and at the same time, rescue him from a whole new pantheon of bashing from all angles.
But to do that, it's gonna take a lot more than what he has shown of late.
Here's what he can do to fix this.
I really hate to list this reason. The word "aggressive" has been used so much by members of the Heat, and analysts on ESPN, ABC, and NBATV over the last few days. More often than not, describing how LeBron's approach needs or needed to be in games.
Even though it's become a cliche and sounds corny to say at this point, the two-time MVP really does need to be aggressive.
Dictionary.com defines the elusive word as "making an all-out effort to win or succeed." Perfect correlation to the matter at hand.
He's been hardly that the last two games. It was even a struggle for me to find a recent picture of him in the database where he was even looking aggressive. There were mostly snapshots of his blank stares.
At some point or another, LeBron has to take a look a the four-inch shorter, 50-pounds lighter, 11-years older Jason Kidd who's guarding him, and know that there's no way he should be a match for him with the ball in his hands. Same goes for Shawn Marion and DeShawn Stevenson when they're covering him. Especially when he's got them in the post. He's at a serious physical advantage at that point. Passing the ball erases a golden opportunity when he's backing them down.
There's no reason he should not be scoring at will whenever he wants. He's gotta have that mentality to be in attack mode for 48 minutes. If not the for the first 36, than definitely the last 12.
If that's what "aggressive" is, then so be it.
LeBron has never been a terrific jump shooter. Every now and then he'll catch heat from outside but overall, it's not his strongest trait.
That hasn't stopped him from putting together multiple stretches in this series where he constantly settles for jumpers. And his stroke has been no where near as hot as it was in the second and third rounds.
He goes through these phases as if he's not one of the most prolific slashers in history. Like he doesn't have a breath taking aptitude to get to the rim with ease. Like there's someone who can stop him from doing that.
In basketball, you live and die by jump shots. But mostly good things come from getting the ball inside. Especially when you can do it like LeBron James can.
The mind of the LeBron James seems all but clear. So many things appear to be on his mind as he plays, and as a result his game is the one that's clear.
Rumors of his personal life are once again swirling, and that could be the issue.
The pressure of establishing his legacy and delivering in the NBA Finals is expected to be present, and that could be the issue as well.
Whatever it may be, he's gotta just put it aside until Wednesday if he doesn't want it to be topped with nationwide flak for months.
He's got to find a way to put his focus solely on the games remaining.
LeBron has wandered through Games 4 and 5 and seemed to play like there wasn't a single thing at stake. His lack of inspiration to put his all into the games was more than obvious.
You would think that being a stone's throw away from an NBA title would be enough motivation to bulldoze anyone in your way to get to it.
But perhaps LeBron needs something more to fuel his fire.
Well, he's got all the material in front of him.
There's so much doubt about his capability coming from TV and radio critics, and ones behind keyboards. This is where he should feel inclined to prove them wrong.
An NBA senior citizen in Jason Kidd, and two players well below his stature in Shawn Marion and DeShawn Stevenson have been the three players who have guarded him this series. This is where he should feel disrespected by the Mavericks and light them up in spite.
Multiple Mavs have gotten in his ear during games this series. Probably saying things that aren't very kind or respectful. This is where he should look to silence them in a major way.
Many players throughout time have been amongst stuff like this and took personally to channel it into an admiral performance.
LeBron has more than enough to work with in this regard.
LeBron's career to date, has been built on him getting the benefit of the referees' decisions more often than not. At times when a play is a close call, the refs usually swing it his way.
It seems as if the officials have turned on the seven-time All-Star. Even before he began his ineffective play, they have refrained from bailing him out. Through the five games, he's only attempted 16 free throws. No more than four in any of the games.
Apparently he was used to having those extra three guys on his side. Every call that doesn't go his way is followed by a visual reaction of disgust. Even while the game is still in play.
He should to play like he's just your average player for the rest of the way. There's no time to worry about why the refs ceased to surrender to him, and there's no time to complain.
From here on out, his mission should be to not expect any call to go his way. He should make everything happen at his own cost, and not look for whistles to decide what occurs.