With LeBron, respect is finally due


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 ( 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

Agent doesn't expect Gordon Hayward to return this season, but foresees full recovery


Agent doesn't expect Gordon Hayward to return this season, but foresees full recovery

PHILADELPHIA --  Only hours removed from surgery to repair a dislocated left ankle and fractured fibia injury, Gordon Hayward’s agent tells NBC Sports Boston that his client is already attacking the rehab process.
“We expect him to have a full recovery,” agent Mark Bartelstein said via phone Thursday.
That said, Bartelstein also noted that it’s unlikely that the 6-foot-8 forward will return to action this season.
“We don’t have a timetable or anything like that for him,” Bartelstein said. “It’s about getting better, healthier every day.”
The Celtics released a statement Thursday afternoon indicating Hayward underwent successful “bony and ligamentous stabilization surgery for the fracture dislocation of his left ankle.”
Performing the surgery was Drs. Mark Slovenkai and Brian McKeon at New England Baptist Hospital, with Dr. Anthony Schena assisting followed by consultations with Dr. David Porter of Methodist Sports Medicine in Indianapolis.
Hayward suffered the injury in the first quarter of Boston’s 102-99 loss at Cleveland on Tuesday when he was attempting to catch a lob pass from Kyrie Irving.
On the play, Hayward landed awkwardly on his ankle, which contorted in a way where it was clear immediately that he would be out of action for a significant amount of time.
Since the injury, Hayward has received an amazing amount of outpouring of well-wishes and prayers from Kobe Bryant, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski and a cast of other current and former athletes. Both Edelman and Gronkowski know all too well about the challenges associated with returning to play after an injury.
"Go into rehab just like you go into anything else: dominate it," Gronkowski said. "Come back when you feel ready. Come back when you’re 100 percent. He wouldn’t be where he is now if he wasn’t a hard worker.”
And then there are the Celtics fans, whose support has been impressive.
Hayward delivered a pre-recorded message to the fans at the TD Garden that was aired on the Jumbotron high above half court prior to Wednesday night’s game against Milwaukee. Even after the video ended, there was no escaping Hayward’s presence was still very much in the building and on the minds of fans.
At one point in the 108-100 Celtics loss on Wednesday, Boston fans began a “Gor-don Hay-ward!” chant that soon swept its way throughout the TD Garden.
“It has been a bit overwhelming the amount of support that Gordon has received,” Bartelstein said. “It touched him in so many ways. The outpouring he got, certainly all the fans in the arena last night, from players around the league … it meant the world to him. And obviously, going through something like this, it’s devastating. So, to see so many reach out to him, it means the world to him and his family; there’s no doubt about it.”