Dwyane Wade compared that season to a “bad marriage.” Ray Allen said the team “didn’t learn how to manage our bodies better.” And now we have something else — ESPN’s Dan LeBatard said that the Heat felt like LeBron James “checked out” of the Finals.
LeBatard is well-connected within Heat circles. We also know that Pat Riley felt his free agent meeting with James in the summer of 2014 was insincere — Riley said that James kept glancing at a World Cup game while he gave his presentation to convince James to remain with the Heat.
It’s also important to note that other people thought something was up with James during that Finals. Bill Simmons said that James looked “detached” in the 2014 Finals in an article he published after James announced his decision to sign with the Cavaliers.
During Game 5 of the 2014 Finals, something happened that few people noticed because San Antonio played so wonderfully. Trailing by seven after halftime, LeBron came out for the third quarter and wouldn’t shoot. Every pass was sent with a little extra zip, as if he were telling Micky Arison and Pat Riley, here’s the team you stuck me with. Watching it in person, you could tell he was tired and pissed, but you couldn’t tell if it was because the season was slipping away … or because of something deeper. He wasn’t openly sulking, but he wasn’t rallying everyone, either. He looked detached again. Much like Games 5 and 6 of the Boston series in 2010, actually.
The Spurs quickly extended their lead to 20, with LeBron attempting one shot in Miami’s first 14 possessions. If he wanted to prove a point, he certainly proved it. Midway through the fourth quarter, trailing by 18, he missed a 3 and didn’t even run back on defense. The man was totally spent, mentally and physically. He had given everything he could give.
Even though the 2014 NBA Finals was one of the most lopsided in recent memory, the Heat actually looked good through the first two games of that series. In Game 1, the Heat led the Spurs 86-79 with nine-and-a-half minutes to go, but San Antonio went on a 31-9 run to end the game (and James was limited to just five fourth-quarter minutes with cramps). Miami won Game 2, stealing home-court advantage. But the Spurs blew out the Heat in the ensuing three games. At some point over those games, did James “check out” as some in the organization apparently believe?
What do you think — is it unfair for the Heat to criticize the player who won two Finals MVPs for them? Let us know in the comments.