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

Amir Johnson a game-time decision for Game 4 with shoulder injury

Amir Johnson a game-time decision for Game 4 with shoulder injury


CLEVELAND – Brad Stevens won’t know until shortly before tip-off tonight if he will have to make another lineup change.
 
Amir Johnson, whose right shoulder was injured in the Celtics' 111-108 Game 3 win on Sunday, is questionable for tonight’s Game 4.
 
“It’s better for sure,” Johnson told CSN this morning. “Yesterday, it was hard to lift. Today, I can move it all around. In shoot-around, I’m going to get a couple shots, see how it feels and go from there.
 
He added, “it’s definitely going to be a game-time decision. I’m going to go and shoot around, just to get a feel. And then for the game-time, I’ll shoot around some more, see how it feels and take it from there.”
 
Healthy or not, Johnson being with the starting group is far from a given.
 
The 6-foot-9 veteran has consistently been the first starter subbed out and usually winds up playing the fewest minutes.
 
In Game 3, two of his backups – Kelly Olynyk (15 points) and Jonas Jerebko (10 points) – shined brightly.
 
Here are some other highlights from the Celtics’ morning shoot-around.
 
THOMAS UPDATE: Isaiah Thomas met with a hip specialist on Monday, according to Stevens. “Still collecting information,” said Stevens, adding, “We’ll wait and see or we’ll discuss second, and third, and fourth, and fifth opinions.”

Thomas injured his right hip March 15 and later re-aggravated it in the first half of the Game 2 loss Friday. Less than 24 hours later, he was deemed out for the remainder of the playoffs.
 
He was replaced by Marcus Smart in the starting lineup and Smart responded with a career-high 27 points in Game 3, which included seven made 3’s which is a career-best mark as well.
 
BOUNCE-BACK CELTICS: The Celtics winning Game 3 sent shockwaves throughout the league, especially coming on the heels of a 44-point home court drubbing at the hands of the Cavs. “If you’re in sports long enough you’re going to have clunkers,” Stevens said. “You’re going to have games that don’t go your way. And our guys took seriously the idea of responding and just playing the next possession as well as they could.”
 
ROZIER HOMECOMING: The second-year guard grew up in nearby Youngstown, Ohio (75 miles southeast of Cleveland), so you can expect he’ll have a decent contingent of fans at tonight's game.
 
While he’s all-in for the Celtics, the same is not true of his friends and some family members.
 
“My family does a good job of staying on my side except for my one younger cousin,” Rozier said. “She loves LeBron.”