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Doug & Wolf

Updated May 24, 2012 - 6:26 pm

Lord of the Eyes

I saw LeBron James do something in Game 5 of their best-
of-seven series with the Indiana Pacers and I’m having a
hard time getting over it. I saw King James get hacked by
a guy that has been talking about hacking LeBron and the
Miami Heat all series. I saw would-be bad boy, Danny
Granger, limp away from the entanglement after rolling his
ankle during the hackage. But I saw him hack LeBron.

And I saw LeBron James furl his brow, hood his eyes and
look away.

I stood up in the viewing room of the compound with arms
wide and mouth agape.

LeBron never made eye contact with Granger. He didn’t want
to make eye contact with Danny Granger. How could he not
want to make eye contact with Danny Granger? How King
James kept his eyes lowered when this man has made it his
mission to let the world know the Indiana Pacers believe
manhandling the Heat is the way you beat them? And LeBron
James has been the focal point of that dogma.

And you didn’t look at him, Lebron?

I realize I am far removed from the clash of competition,
obsess on competitive minutia and have not put blood to
boil since I retired in 1995, but this act of body
language contrition made an impression on me I cannot
shake; it seemed craven.

You should know that I am not a LeBron hater. I have great
respect for him and although he could have handled his
departure from Cleveland with so much more class and
dignity, I wish LeBron well. Nor do I do root against the
contrived greatness of the Miami Heat even though I do
have a problem with LeBron joining them instead
of beating them. I am not afraid of greatness and
appreciate it in any form.

But LeBron looked away and seemingly would have suffered
any hardship before he allowed himself to lock eyes with
Granger.

Why the Pacers have adopted this strategy of getting in
the face of LeBron and D-Wade and the Heat in general is
perplexing? There can be no misunderstanding, this is part
of the game plan for the Pacers. We have seen this
approach since Game 2 of the series and it has escalated
with each game. I have wondered aloud on Arizona Sports
620 where this ill-advised, ill-conceived policy had its
genesis.

Then I heard the legendary Larry Bird call the Pacers
soft after Game 5 – where flagrant fouls
populated the play-by-play like punctuation – and my
eyebrows rose.

Soft, Larry?

Suddenly, it dawned on me; it all made sense. This
proclamation of physicality, this edict of intimidation
was handed down from the President’s office. Larry Bird
was the mastermind behind the Pacers’ policy of bullying
the Miami Heat. Frank Vogel seconded the motion and Danny
Granger became the tip of the tactical spear.

The better question is: why? Why would Larry Bird believe
the Pacers chance of beating the Miami Heat lies within
the souls of LeBron James and D-Wade? Did he really
believe LeBron could be intimidated? Did he think D-Wade
would wilt when confronted? Did he truly believe King
James would shrink from the physical pressure the Pacers
would apply?

Yes…he did.

We can argue the merits of this scheme all day but the
point is moot: Larry Bird believed LeBron James
and Dwyane Wade could be manipulated, controlled, and
mitigated through intimidation and fear.

I’m not saying Larry Bird and the Indiana Pacers are
wrong; I’m saying they should have not made their game
plan public knowledge through overt quotes and chest-to-
chest, eyeball-to-eyeball confrontations in front of the
basketball world. They gave the Heat nowhere to back down
and hide.

After all, King James did look away.

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