LeBron 'checked out' and it makes sense - NBC Sports

LeBron 'checked out' and it makes sense
Usually irrational Stevenson hits nail on head with assessmentof James and what the Heat star needs to do in Game 5
AP
Miami's LeBron James, right,ÿand Dallas' DeShawn Stevenson take a break during the second half of Game 4ÿon Tuesday night. When asked Wednesday about James' poor performance, Stevenson said he thought the Heat star had 'checked out.'
June 9, 2011, 12:06 pm

Dirk's two game-deciding drives come to mind. LeBron or Wade in transition. The Dallas Mavericks' fourth-quarter fury in Games 2 and 4.

And now this, something so unexpected, so incomprehensible, so clearly out of the ordinary that it leaves you gasping:

DeShawn Stevenson making sense.

Yes, you read those four words correctly, he of the self promotion and Soulja Boy and incessant inanity with LeBron James over the years.

What started as a typical NBA finals firestorm Wednesday, another apparent irrational moment by the Mavericks' backup guard, turned into something more reasonable by day's end, as on-target as the three 3-pointers Stevenson drained in the 86-83 Game 4 victory that knotted these best-of-seven finals at 2-2.

The initial comment came off as look-at-me as the tattoos that mask Stevenson as a uniform beneath a uniform.

One by one, as Mavericks players returned to the court following Wednesday's practice, they were assigned to various podiums - Shawn Marion to the left, Jason Kidd to the right, J.J. Barea on one side of the scorers' table speaking Spanish and Ian Mahinmi on the other side speaking French.

And then came the announcement that Stevenson was approaching his podium.

Thanks, Jason, got to go. Thanks, Shawn. Thanks, Brian Cardinal or Rob Corddry or whoever you are.

Stevenson had his audience, perhaps not as large as the one Dirk Nowitzki was commanding in the main interview room, but at least every germaphobe who preferred to keep a Dirk distance.

And then Stevenson, among the most irrational of all, began to make sense.

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Minutes later, during his media session, Wade, indeed would acknowledge, "That's what we've been dealing with all year, trying to play with three guys that can get it going."

Continued Stevenson on LeBron, "I don't think he was in the same attack mode as he usually is."

LeBron has taken all of 14 free throws through the first four games of this series.

Stevenson was on a roll now, and it had nothing to do with mockingly feeling his face or waving three fingers.

"I think he's not getting the same looks," he said. "I think he's trying to find other guys."

Hmm.

Even before Stevenson starting going all reasonable and rational, Charles Barkley went on a Chicago radio station Wednesday morning and offered his updated assessment of where LeBron stands in the Michael Jordan comparison debate.

"I think the fairer assessment with LeBron James would be Magic Johnson," Barkley said. "It's clear, anybody who is paying attention, he's not an aggressive personality. Kobe Bryant is more of a killer than LeBron. LeBron would rather pass the ball first. He's a great, great player, but as far as going to kill people like Michael, I don't think he has that in his DNA."

James closed Tuesday's loss with a game-high seven assists. He attempted just one fourth-quarter shot. He, uh, well, did "check out."

Stevenson said he broached the issue merely because he was so surprised.

"At the same time, he's a player that can get it going at any time."

Relayed shortly thereafter more bits than actual pieces of what Stevenson had said, James smiled.

"DeShawn, he's been talking for a long time, since our Washington-Cleveland days," LeBron said. "I don't let that get to us. Those guys are playing well. We're playing well. It's a three-game series.

"Talk is cheap. You have to play the game of basketball. Let the scores and the plays define the game. We don't get caught up in that too much."

This time, talk wasn't cheap. It was accurate, perceptive and, if it had come from anyone other than DeShawn Stevenson, hardly would have led to much of a back-and-forth on the way to Game 5.

Stevenson was moved to the bench in Game 4 because of a lack of contribution. Suddenly, he was now becoming go-to guy, pressed if he expected a Game 5 breakout from LeBron.

"I think he has to," Stevenson said. "Basically, Miami, this is his team. He has to go out there and produce. And I think he's going to come out strong."

And so this is where we stand in the middle of these finals, DeShawn Stevenson approaching the argument from a position of lucid logic and LeBron James approaching the games with an indifference that, Tuesday, was confounding.

Do as you please with the clich‚s about what pressure can create. What it created in these finals is DeShawn Stevenson as the voice of reason. We knew this would be a unique series.

We just didn't realize how unique.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.



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