With LeBron, respect is finally due

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With LeBron, respect is finally due

From deep down in my stomach, with every inch of me, I plain, straight hate you. But God damn it, do I respect you! Wes Mantooth, Anchorman

So, this is the world we live in.

Forrest Gump finally broke out of his braces. Superman found a cure for Kryptonite.

LeBron James is an NBA champion.

In the words of Kevin Garnett: "Whatchoo gonna say now?"

More than the fact that James won, is exactly how he won. Before these Finals started, that was the one loophole we left ourselves: "Well, what if the Heat win without LeBron playing his best? What if it's Wade or Bosh or some other character stepping up in the clutch while "The King" sucks his thumb in the corner? Can we still play the same game? Spin the same stories? Torment him with the same impending legacy as a Hall of Fame talent with kindergarten toughness?

There was never a definitive answer, but at this point it doesn't matter. Not only was LeBron at his best in these Finals slash in these playoffs, slash this entire season he was better than just about anyone who's ever played the game. He averaged 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 7.4 assists for the series (30.39.75.6 for the playoffs). He hit huge foul shots at the end of Game 2. He drained an enormous three at the end of Game 4. He triple-doubled in Game 5. He was never rattled, almost always in command. He embraced the post in a way that his supporters have long begged for and his haters have secretly feared.

I said this before after Game 6 against the Celtics but in these playoffs LeBron James finally became (or at least started to become) LeBron James. The guy who was almost universally loved and admired by NBA fans as a rookie. Who we all believed would change the game forever and leave us all eternally grateful. These days, reading (and writing) passages like that about LeBron make you want to take a shower. Over the last three years, he's done everything in his power to kill the good vibes of those first few seasons and turn himself into Public Enemy No. 1.

So much so, that there's no way that one ring, one transcendent playoff run, can erase all the angst, and entirely redeem him the eyes of the basketball world.

So if you want to keep hating, that's your right. Regardless of his greatness, he's not without flaws. There are still plenty of reasons most definitely in Cleveland, and certainly in Boston to hate LeBron James deep down in the your stomach, with every inch of you.

But through all the hate, you better leave some room for respect.

Like it or not, he's earned it.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Thomas won’t play Friday night vs. Raptors

Thomas won’t play Friday night vs. Raptors

WALTHAM, Mass. – The Celtics are about to hit one of the toughest stretches of the season and they’ll have to do it for at least one more game without their leading scorer, Isaiah Thomas. 
 
Thomas, who suffered a right groin injury on Monday against the Houston Rockets, did not play on Wednesday against Orlando and said that he will not play in Friday night’s game against the Toronto Raptors. 
 
“It’s day to day. I want to play. I want to be out there but it’s the smart decision to hold out and wait until it’s 100 percent,” Thomas said during a Season of Giving event for children of the Military Friends Foundation held at the Celtics’ practice facility. “If it was a playoff game I would be out there for sure.”
 
However, after consulting with a number of medical personnel, Thomas decided the best thing for him and the Celtics was to sit out Friday’s game which, along with Wednesday in Orlando, will be the first two he has missed since the 2014-2015 season. 
 
Thomas said there’s no specific timetable for his return, but he said he is planning to travel with the team to Oklahoma City for their matchup against the Thunder on Sunday. 
 
“It’s eating me a live to sit, but I have to do what’s best for my body, I have to do what’s best for this team,” Thomas said. “I need to be 100 percent healthy to give this team what I can give them.”
 
The Celtics are hoping for similar success they had Wednesday in Orlando (a 117-87 victory) on Friday against Toronto.
 
“They played a hell of a game last night,” Thomas said. “They’ll be ready tomorrow.”
 
The fact that Thomas intends to travel with the team is a good sign that the groin injury isn’t too serious. 
 
If he doesn’t play at Oklahoma City, that likely means he’ll return to action on Wednesday at San Antonio. 
 
“I’m going to do what I can to get back out there on the court,” Thomas said. “I gotta be smart about this. I don’t want this to linger on this season.”
 
Replacing Smart in the lineup against Toronto will most likely be Marcus Smart. 
 
Smart, who has been a replacement starter at small forward and point guard this season, had 13 points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals against the Magic.