No? Well you missed this.
Part of the star trio for the Heat - Lebron James and Chris Bosh, really giving it their all. (Not pictured is Dwyane Wade, also benched for the game).
The Miami Heat weren't the only ones to sit their top players. The Celtics shelved Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett. (note: Garnett has had some injury. I'll allow. And Paul Pierce played. What a stud. Maybe his motive was to surpass Larry Bird... but if anyone has a reason to rest his legs it's that guy and he went on. Pierce also has a history of getting stabbed a bunch and shrugging it off, so I won't question his commitment on a public forum.)
My husband said this practice of pre-play-off benching was discussed on Mike and Mike the next day, but I know it couldn't have possibly been talked about with the ire that burns in my soul - so I'm bringing it up again. (if you disagree, we can go battlerounds in the comments)
This rude practice isn't new to James. In 2010, Neil and I spent $75 a pop for the opportunity to see a "superstar" play. It was Cavs vs Magic and it was Fan Appreciation Day. The Cavaliers were locked in for their play-off spot but did I stress yet that it was Fan Appreciation Day?!? On the bench - wearing stupid suits and dress shoes - were Shaq, Mo Williams, and Lebron James. I felt very under appreciated.
This is blurry, but you can see Shaq in the bottom left,
Lebron, Mr. Beige, in the center,
and I'm tearfully seated behind the camera
Maybe I don't need to rehash the events that conspired in the 2010 playoffs. The confident Cavaliers fell apart. You could actually watch Lebron crumble under the pressure of carrying a team... I'm sorry I should say 'team', because his supporting cast was non-existent. You could actually see him wearily fall apart. This was before the fated "Decision," yet I could have told you when they sat him that Fan Appreciation Day, the road ahead was bleak...
I know that the NBA is not college ball. It is centered around superstars, that's how tickets are sold. BUT play-offs are different. No way the Lakers could be wearing a ring if it weren't for the people that surrounded Kobe and played like a team when it was needed. And there's no way the team would have rallied like that if they didn't believe that Kobe was giving everything he had on the court.
Let me give you a more concise break-down of why I think seating your 'best' players before play-offs is the worst... I'll try to keep my emotions out of the equation
ITS BAD FOR THE PLAYER - Lets revisit that fated Lebron playoffs in 2010. He was given a message that 'We need to sit you now, because we need you to carry the whole team later." He was not ready/willing/able to do it then. He was essentially given the message "all of Ohio's eggs are in your basket" and benching him only intensified that. You may argue that some players thrive under such circumstances - I still say its ego-inflating, pressure inducing, and toxic.
ITS BAD FOR THE TEAM - If the message to the benched 'great ones' isn't horrible enough, how do those still playing a junior varsity version of NBA ball feel? A distinct red line has been drawn down the roster between those that matter and those that don't. How do the lesser team members begin ramp up for play-offs right at the time when they are put-down? You may argue that we, the fans, know all along who the marquee players are, but this benching feels like a very public and unnecessary demoting.
ITS BAD FOR THE COACH - Play-offs call for an elevated level of play and an enhanced feeling of teamwork. Excuse the drama here, but is physical and emotional. It's the finals! The coach has to take a group of guys and make them play in a coordinated, unified way. SO the week proceeding the play-offs, he divides the team by their value, separates them, and has them NOT play together? Good luck reversing all that in a few days, buddy.
ITS BAD FOR THE FANS - NBA tickets are expensive - especially Celtic tickets. Expensive. Want to take your two kids? Want to park your car? Want to eat a hotdog? By the time the day is over you could easily be $2,000 in the hole. That is a stretch for a lot of middle class america, but so many kids would see "HEAT vs CELTICS" on the schedule beg to attend. Parents would save up for that. A father would say - I remember seeing Jordan, I want them to remember seeing James, and Wade, and Garnett. You know what they're remember from tuesday's game - Keyon Dooling walking off the court screaming curse words. Yep. that's their precious memory. But back to those crestfallen fans... the last week of NBA play is NOT like professional football. There is almost no risk of losing your point guard or having your center go out for the season. And after a shortened season this year, I wonder how 'rest' is the excuse that could stick. This only seems like a slap in the face to the people that pour money into a program. The fans that make them the superstars, are repaid with this?!?
Michael Jordan didn't sit out before play-offs. Not when they locked-in a top seed. Not when coasting 'seemed logical'. Not when he was the indisputable best and had every reason to do what-ever the H he wanted. He didn't pull this crap. He played. His fans bought tickets without hesitation. His team seamlessly played like a team right on to the finals. Incidentally, he wears a lot of rings.
I used to have some love for the Celtics in 2008 when they pulled the 'boston three party' maneuver. When they cultivated a young point guard. When they knew the only way to go from the worst team (in 07) to the best team was to shelve egos and play like a team (and draft exceptionally well). Now they are formulaic. Rajon, who's freaking young and healthy and who has been streaky feels it prudent to sit down? I used to like this team, but now I hope Chicago crushes their way through the east. I hope those scrappy Bulls (that pulled together despite Rose's injuries) play and win with a lot of heart. I hope the Heat and the Celtics get the chance to begin their summer vacations early - and have the 'rest' they deserve.