By Jason Keidel
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The NBA Finals had a clear, New York feel. And smell.
If you need to know why LeBron James produced more offense for a team in the championship round than any in league history, just look at his most unsupportive, supporting cast.
Indeed, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert stunk up the joint. After all the turnovers, terrible shots, and passes toward phantom teammates, you understand why the tandem didn’t make New Yorkers forget about Clyde and Pearl, or even Oakley and Mason.
For instance, Smith played 28 minutes in Game 4, scoring 4 points, while shooting 2-for-12, missing all eight of his 3-point attempts, which is tied for most misses without a make in Finals history. Cleveland was out scored by 28 points while he was on the court. In the Game 6 clincher, Shumpert scored eight points, shooting 1-for-6, with six fouls.
Shumpert and Smith, the hardwood iteration of Beavis and Butthead, shot 37 and 40 percent from the field in these playoffs, respectively, combining for fewer than 20 points per game and 31 total turnovers. They looked a whole lot better while cloaked by a cadre of All-Stars.
Once LeBron could only count on about 19 points from his secondary and tertiary teammates, he was literally on his own, as you saw Tuesday night.
No doubt the Golden State Warriors have all the bona fides of a big-time team. Going 67-15 and breezing through the ornery Western Conference in the playoffs is more than enough to qualify for the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
But we seem to forget that LeBron practically played alone, sans serious talent that helped get him to the playoffs. Two authentic All-Stars, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, sat out these Finals. And considering Cleveland was actually up in this series after three games, it wouldn’t be preposterous to presuppose that the Cavaliers would have won it all with those two studs at LeBron’s side.
No sour grapes. No excuses. Golden State’s outhouse-to-penthouse narrative, the longest chasm between titles in NBA history, is a nice enough narrative. You just wish King James had his two princes at his flank.
But it’s still hard to ignore the New York angle. Not just the undynamic duo of Smith and Shumpert but also Steve Kerr, who rejected Phil Jackson’s overtures and took the Golden State gig, perhaps the smartest business move since buying Apple stock 15 years ago.
Then you had Jackson bloviating on the vices of jump-shooting teams, pointing out they are too woefully flawed to win a world championship. Right on cue, a perimeter-shooting team wins a world championship.
So not only did LeBron lose a sacred shot at reverting from pariah to messiah, falling two games short of bringing his beloved homeland its first title since Jim Brown bull-rushed the Browns to an NFL title, he got an accidental taste of what it was like to play with the Knicks.
Which explains why he never came to New York.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel