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Friday, July 11, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 2/26/2006

James isn't deserving of booing fans

Booing LeBron James.

What's next for misguided Cleveland sports fans? Demanding Tim Couch's return?

Of all the ways for Cavaliers fans to express their frustration, booing James shouldn't be one of them.

Cleveland fans might need him, but James, who could become a restricted free agent after next season, doesn't need Cleveland.

James was asked about the booing directed at him during Friday night's home loss to Washington, and he replied that fans can do as they please.

He's correct. Fans buy the tickets and have every right to boo Cleveland's star player, but it's a ridiculous response.

Cavs fans should fight the urge to boo. James doesn't deserve it.

The Cavs, while not ready to challenge the Detroit Pistons in the NBA's Eastern Conference, are clearly a better team than a year ago. If for no other reason than that, James, who leads Cleveland against the Pistons today at the Palace, is a better player than a year ago.

James, the Akron high school phenom, is third in the league in scoring (31.1 points), second in minutes per game (42.3) and first in total minutes (2,328). He averages 6.9 rebounds and ranks first among frontcourt players with 6.7 assists per game.

He has led Cleveland in scoring for 18 consecutive games, and 49 of 55 games this season.

A few days after being the youngest player to be named MVP of the All-Star Game, James went 0-for-8 from the field and made only 4 of 12 free throws in the second half of a 102-94 loss to Washington, prompting a surprising shower of boos from the fans.

Never mind that James still led the Cavs with 25 points and nine assists and grabbed seven rebounds while playing all but 14 seconds in the contest. He was singled out as the culprit in the Cavs' second straight loss and fourth setback in seven games.

In defense of James, he's overextending himself and trying to do too much.

In his first three games since the All-Star break, James played 132 out of a possible 144 minutes. No wonder he looked tired Friday night.

James, 21, didn't forget how to shoot. But it's difficult to shoot well when you're carrying an entire team on your back.

Recently, James has taken on yet another challenge - becoming the Cavs' defensive stopper.

He realizes that while scorers win All-Star Game MVP awards, defense wins championships.

"Defense is the most important thing,'' he said.

James' list of negatives is short. As Cleveland's best player and team leader, he's tackling the issue of his lack of defensive intensity head on.

"He stepped up and asked us

if he can guard the best quote-unquote perimeter player on the other team,'' Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "That's the first step in getting to that first-team all-defense level, which I think he can get to some day.

"From there, he's got to keep working on his technique and fundamentals and experience guarding those types of guys. I don't think he has in the past, and you have to remember, this is his third year in the league. He should technically be a junior in college.''

James, who plays small forward, has guarded the likes of Philadelphia's Allen Iverson and Milwaukee's Michael Redd with mixed results.

"His on-ball defense can get better. His off-ball defense can get better. His defense against the pick-and-roll can get better,'' Brown said. "Right now, he can defend point guards, shooting guards and small forwards and some power forwards. He may be able to guard some centers. You gotta figure it's all upside with his youth. I believe the sky's the limit.''

There's no reason for Cavaliers fans to make NBA Finals reservations or even begin fantasizing about a deep run in the playoffs this season. LeBron's Cavs remain a work in progress, but what should silence those uncharacteristic boos is the scope of James' all-around game, his willingness to learn and his constant desire to improve.



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