Can LeBron Seize Finals MVP?
By Martin Rogers
Modern sports science focuses with great specificity on things like sleep and rest, and how, in a sense, to get more out of your body by sometimes doing less.
LeBron James doesn’t want to hear it.
Not now. Not with a fourth NBA championship and, with historic significance, a fourth Finals MVP within his grasp. Rest can come later. Sleep can come later. Everything else … can come later.
“For me, I mean, at this point in the season, I don't care about rest,” James told reporters. “I really don't. I don't care about sleep. I don't care about resting throughout the game. I can rest in a week, max. I could rest for a month straight. (When it’s done) I can sleep eight hours and get up and eat and then go right back to sleep if I want to.”
To be clear, this isn’t James flouting research and data at a pivotal moment. And yeah, he is going to get forty winks a couple of times between now and the Los Angeles Lakers’ potential title-clinching Game 5 matchup against the Miami Heat on Friday.
His words were about a mentality, and not just any mentality. They were about the state of thinking that will soon prove to have been the ultimate decisive factor in giving this inherently restructured NBA season an ending that feels somewhat normal.
It is about James using his willpower and smarts to overcome each hurdle and to carry his team over the line. No compromises, no excuses. He hasn’t always been at his best and he has lost the ball too often, but as the bubble has shrunk and moved towards its conclusion, the intensity has always been there.
It has been the difference, which is why the NBA Finals MVP debate isn’t a debate at all, or shouldn’t be.
Barring a monumental Heat comeback that absolutely no one thinks is likely to happen, there are only two possibilities for MVP. LeBron James and LeBron James. Okay, fine, according to some, it is between James and Anthony Davis, the second superstar who has lifted the team to a new level.
FOX Bet has James listed at -800 to secure the award, with Davis at +600 and no one else within sight. Yet Davis does have his supporters, and there is no comprehensive unanimity on which man is more responsible for the Lakers having surged through the postseason.
“I still think (James) is behind A.D. to win this MVP award if you really look at this series and how it has gone,” three-time NBA All-Star Antoine Walker told FS1’s First Things First. “LeBron has not been great, 14 turnovers in the last two games and hasn’t been great offensively. A.D. has been more consistent and defensively the job he did on Jimmy Butler in forcing him away from the basket and making him make tough decisions has separated him a bit.”
However, the argument in favor of James seems to be far stronger. James has more points, rebounds and assists than Davis, yet more important is the reality that he is the rhythm to which L.A. beats.
The Lakers feed off James and they follow his example. On Tuesday, in what might have been the Heat’s final flurry, he scored 28 points and chimed in with 12 rebounds and eight assists.
Davis is a difference maker and possibly on course to be the finest player in basketball. Nothing can be said to diminish his accomplishments and the Lakers would not be playing for a title without him. But they wouldn’t have even sniffed the NBA Finals without James, whose resiliency and toughness are not spoken about enough.
On Tuesday afternoon, following his pregame nap (see, he does actually sleep), James sent a two-word text message to each of his colleagues. “Must win,” it said. Davis said afterwards that the moment he received the note from “our leader” it immediately switched his mind into game mode.
“I just wanted to relay that message to my teammates, the type of zone I was in, the type of moment it was and the kind of team we were playing against,” James added.
It was a simple message, not poetry. Hundreds like it have probably been sent across the smartphones of players all throughout the bubble. But it is a peek into the window of how James feels the finishing line is near, and how he was able to will his group to what we assume will be a title.
“LeBron took the game over in the second half,” FOX Sports’ Shannon Sharpe said on Undisputed. “He just refused to lie down. Now is my time.”
Time now, to get the job finished. Time to collect a title that, hang on a minute, puts him just two behind Michael Jordan’s tally of six.
Time to sleep? Nah, though the way things are going, that will come soon enough.