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Closer to Siding with Wade

First off, let me say that I've been solidly in the LeBron James camp from the moment he entered the league. When people debated James and Carmelo Anthony, I said I'd take James. When Dwyane Wade exploded in his second season, and single-handedly eviscerated the Wizards in the second round of the playoffs, a member of the Wizards public relations' staff said he might take Wade over LeBron. I told him it wasn't even close, James was the future of the league.

The Wade-James debate has taken on a life of its own in recent years, but even after Wade led the Miami Heat to the NBA Finals, I still said I'd take LeBron over Wade. Afterall, LeBron probably should've won the league's most valuable player award last season and had his own coming out party against the Wizards - and then the Pistons - in the playoffs. He also didn't have a teammate named Shaquille O'Neal.

This season, however, for reasons that I don't understand - be it fatigue from participating in the world championships, frustration with Cleveland's mismatched roster or that really is the old dude, Wise LeBron, wearing No. 23 - LeBron hasn't been the same player. Something isn't right. His production has declined, his performances have been inconsistent and after watching the Miami Heat beat Cleveland last night, I can honestly say, LeBron is not clutch. At least not yet.

James came back from a sprained right big toe and pretty much lost the game on his own. He shouldered the blame for the loss, afterward, and with good reason. The Cavs blew a 12-point second-half lead and he couldn't hit a free throw. He shot 3 of 8 from the foul line!?! He missed three big time free throws in the final 80 seconds then, he had that costly inadvertent closeline of Wade, which led to a flagrant foul - please don't suspend him NBA! - and basically sealed the loss for the Cavs. It was terrible meltdown.

On the other hand, Wade made every big shot - acrobatic, falling on his side - and connected on 23 of 24 from the foul line. That's clutch. That's what superstars do in big games. Wade was a participant in the world championships as well, but while battling through fatigue and a wrist injury, he has practically been a man on fire this season. He ranks second in the NBA in efficiency rating, trailing on Kevin Garnett (James ranks 11th) He is fourth in scoring and in his last 13 games, Wade has averaged 31.2 points per game. How else does a player on a team with a losing record get mentioned as a possible MVP candidate?

Don't get me wrong, James is still putting up amazing numbers - 27 points, 6.8 rebounds and 6.1 assists - and he might be the most exciting player in the league to watch. But Wade appears to playing at another level right now. And, he shares the ball and involves his teammates better than any scorer at his level. I can honestly say that I haven't completely jumped out of the LeBron James camp, but I am moving a bit closer to Wade. Both players are flashy and exciting, but if the game is on the line, I want the ball in Wade's hands. He knows what to do with it. LeBron is still figuring it out.

Speaking of the Class of 2003, I'm hoping that Commissioner David Stern gives Carmelo Anthony, the league's leading scorer his due and puts him on the all-star team as an injury replacement. Stern has two positions to fill with Yao Ming and Carlos Boozer unavailable because of injury and he has to add Anthony and possibly, Josh Howard from the Dallas Mavericks.

Anthony was obviously upset after getting snubbed by the coaches for the second year in row - last year, he averaged 26 points on a first place team and got left out - and he is still paying the price for punching the Knicks' Mardy Collins. Yes, punching Collins was stupid. But wasn't the 15-game suspension punishment enough? There has never been an all-star game without the league's leading scorer. At least Anthony has a good attitude about it.
"One incident like that is held over one person's head, life ain't fair," he told the Denver Post. "We all know life ain't fair anyway, right?"

But after two public apologies and continued quality play - despite Denver's recent struggles - he shouldn't have to keep suffering. Anthony met with Stern in New York City before returning from his suspension, which may have helped his cause. I also found it amusing that Allen Iverson earned enough good will in one month to get an invite (He certainly should've, given his lifelong body of work, but I'm just saying, Iverson has played 19 games in the West, while Carmelo has played 28). Both should be there.

As for Howard, he is averaging just 19.4 points and 7.2 rebounds but the Mavericks need more than one representative in Las Vegas since they have the NBA's best record. Last year, Detroit was 40-8 at the all-star break - one game better than Dallas - and sent four people. Shouldn't we reward winning? Did New Jersey really deserve two with a losing record? The Bulls get none?

By Michael Lee  |  February 2, 2007; 11:42 AM ET
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Next: Friday update


good thoughts, Michael, and i agree. wade has been more impressive this season (the way the refs call his game doesn't hurt - but then again the same is true with LBJ).

your stats were a bit off though. wade was 23-24 from the line (not 21-22). if he hadn't missed that one, he would have set an NBA record for most free throws in a game without a miss (record is 23).

and lebron missed 3, not 2, free throws in the last 61 seconds of the game.

all that said, wade did come close to setting another NBA record last night - most turnovers in a game, with 12 (to lebron's 2).

Posted by: AC | February 2, 2007 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Lost in all the praise for Wade is the fact that he had 12 TO's before he went off. Mike Brown blew that game. How is it possible that you not send an extra man at Wade? The one time he did, Walker missed a shot, they just didn't get the rebound. I was waiting for the press conference to see if Brown would go "Denny Green" on the media. Cause for real, "They are who we thought they were! And we let em off the hook"!

Posted by: C.Bell | February 2, 2007 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Yay, a new blog finally. ;)

"Both players are flashy and exciting, but if the game is on the line, I want the ball in Wade's hands."

Can't disagree with anything you've said Mike. In fact I agree. :)

Wade had Shaq to show him the ropes though and LeBron doesn't. I know Wade was a beast coming in, but what Shaq has put in his ear is just as valuable as him sitting under the rim.

Plus LeBron's toe is really bothering him. Crazy how one toe can mess someone up but that crap hurts. If he was healthy his numbers would definately be better then they are.

Saying that I've always liked D-Wade better. With me it comes down to attitude. I remember seeing a piece on D-Wade a bit ago on how he thinks he's the best player on the floor every night. Kinda like Gil this year, it comes outin your play.

Lebron is still learning how to win and D-Wade already knows. That's really the only thing that seperates the two.

If D-Wade is healthy two years ago they probably would have won the championship that year I've always thought.

Anyone would be happy with either I would think.....and you could put 'Melo in there also.

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | February 2, 2007 12:22 PM | Report abuse

The way I see it is.

Lebron thinks he is supposed to be the best.

Wade thinks he is the best.

Gil thinks everyone thinks they are bestest.

Shaq thinks 2 months of ball is best.

Carmelo thinks bygones should be bygones.

Nash thinks his teammates are the best.

Kobe is still playing MJ in his head.

Sheed is playing nintendo in his head.

Posted by: greg | February 2, 2007 12:36 PM | Report abuse

I could never root for Lebron anyway, such a whiney superstar... and what was that he said to gil before his foul shot?

He is lucky Ruffin wasn't on the court at the time, Lepunk would be missing a hand.

Posted by: greg | February 2, 2007 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Superstars everywhere and tomorrow should be fun with Kobe going to try and Hibachi Gil.

Posted by: Bridgewater, VA | February 2, 2007 1:06 PM | Report abuse

If you want to sell sneakers Lebron. If you want to win games go with the one that almost single handly carried his team to the final 4. Wade all the way.

Posted by: dc | February 2, 2007 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Gotta agree with Ray! Having the Big Diesel gives Wade the edge in alot of ways both on and off the court. It's easier to be a star in this league with a Vet that has been there before to show the way.
Lebron is carrying a huge load at a very young age. He does seem not as explosive when I've watched this year, maybe the toe is a nagging thing? But Cleveland's roster seems to be a group of role players, guys that can really hurt you when they surround a guy like Lebron at the top of his game. But there's not many guys there that can carry the team for long or get their own shot.
I loved Hughes, but when he was here he had trouble staying healthy. The problem seems to have followed him, never one thing just a series of bad breaks.
Does Darius look like he'll suit up Sat.? Any news on Ruffin's status? Haven't heard anything about him in a while.

Posted by: GM | February 2, 2007 1:23 PM | Report abuse

No news on Ruffin is good news.

Posted by: C.Bell | February 2, 2007 1:37 PM | Report abuse

My caveat on LeBron has been that the human body isn't built to be that big and that ungodly athletic. The pounds per square inch stresses that he's putting on his knees and feet suggest he's going to suffer nagging injuries at some point in his career, if not the dreaded microfracture surgery blown ACL etc.

The upside though is that he's got the passing game working as well, so even when his game needs a re-fit he'll still have something to lean on while he develops a floor game and a jumpshot. There's room to grow.

I just think he's not accustomed to adversity or struggle, he's got the 'god-given' thing and has had the talent mismatch his whole darn life. The whining is a symptom of this. He kinda expects that god just loves him more than you.

But DWade is the kind of mental clutch that you just can't learn. He's a psychic heavyweight, very few in his class. A stone cold winner. If you put DWade out there in flippers and a ball and chain he'd find a way to kill you.

Shoot, in the Dallas series his team needed him to hit threeballs and outside shots? Suddenly he had a jumpshot. He's got 'nother level' like nobody else in the game right now.

Dwade don't complain. DWade just wins.

Posted by: doclinkin ( | February 2, 2007 2:01 PM | Report abuse

I think Gil's been pretty clutch.

I'm becoming annoyed with all the calls Wade gets. It's almost worse than what MJ got. Breath on Wade, he goes to the free throw line. Within five feet of him when he shoots, send him to the foul line.

Posted by: Colin | February 2, 2007 2:15 PM | Report abuse

How is ruffin in the NBA? Seriously, that pretty much says if you are 6 foot 9, or whatever, you can play in the NBA. He has no game at all. True, he hustles and rebounds, but that is about effort not skill. Please explain, somebody.

Posted by: JJ | February 2, 2007 2:16 PM | Report abuse

I don't understand the Ruffin-hating. The dude is a 100% pure throwback Bullets team player. He's the very antithesis of a superstar, and while his game don't scare anybody, his face might.

That said, he gives more effort in 12 minutes a night than half the opponent's starters, and even though he makes probably league minimum, he'll go all Mick Foley and kill himself to save a ball or grab a long bound.

Basically, he is your epitome of the maxim, "work hard, and you will play". As a rebounding-only dude who always gave it my all in high school ball but usually had to ride the bench because I couldn't consistently camp at the arc and nail 3's, I have to say I love that the Wiz have a guy like Ruffin on the roster.

It's a principle thing. Consider him the anti-Kwame.

Posted by: Gack | February 2, 2007 2:26 PM | Report abuse

i know ML wrote this entry, but where's the Gil/DeShawn story referenced by Stein of the SportsBog!?!?!

inquiring minds want to know.. ;-)

hook it up IC!

Posted by: hmmmmm | February 2, 2007 2:30 PM | Report abuse

"How is ruffin in the NBA?"

You answered your own question. He hustles and he rebounds. When the big three are on the floor, you don't need another scoring threat. You need somebody to grab some rebounds, set some picks, and put a body on someone on D.

Posted by: burke | February 2, 2007 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, if you haven't read Agent Steinzzz report of Gil vs DeShawn's shooting contest today in the Sports Bog, you are seriously missing out.

One-handed Hibachi? Sick!

Posted by: Gack | February 2, 2007 2:34 PM | Report abuse

ruffin = secret weapon charles jones!

Posted by: disco steve colter | February 2, 2007 2:35 PM | Report abuse

This posting by Michael reminded me that the number of the players from the world championships last summer who have been injured this season is growing:

Chris Paul

Anthony missed time, but due to suspension, not injury. Brand hasn't been himself, but I don't think he had been injured.

Posted by: Henry | February 2, 2007 2:54 PM | Report abuse


I guess you've never heard of The Worm huh? Ruffin will never be as good, but in many ways his approach to the game is not all that unfamiliar. The more you know the game, the more you respect some of those role players like Ruffin.

Posted by: Going G.A.G.A. over Gilbert | February 2, 2007 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Finally! D-Wade is getting the respect and recognition he deserves. Just don't jinx him!

Posted by: Anonymous | February 2, 2007 3:15 PM | Report abuse

I have one of the 4 ruffin jerseys ever sold... his mom is mad at me.

Seriously you have to love the way this guy approaches the game. And you just hope that an ounce of it rubs off on the young guys.

God may "love Lebron more" but ruffin hates everyone who wants his rebound more.

Posted by: greg | February 2, 2007 3:26 PM | Report abuse

henry's got it - the guys that play in the world champs are exhausted, it's ridiculous, i'm glad agent zero got sent home. lebron is nowhere near the player he was last year, same with brand. wade's been hurt a bunch too, i can't believe at this point anyone would choose lebron over dwade, i mean come on, dude did it in the FINALS! he won that whole thing singlehandedly, shaq was a backdrop, there's no more clutch player in the league right now and yes, he does get every absurd call, he wasn't even touched on several of those last night

Posted by: agent nero | February 2, 2007 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Do you have any tickets for the Portland game?

Posted by: Ed | February 2, 2007 3:35 PM | Report abuse

I get it GAGA.....all i'm saying is i'm sure there are other 6 foot 9 guys, not in the NBA, who have no skills and would hustle after rebounds for a couple milion $$.....just wondering why ruffin and not all the others who could do the same thing. Worm? no idea. never heard of him. was he a baseball player?, football? tennis?

Posted by: JJ | February 2, 2007 3:51 PM | Report abuse

I would take Ruff hands down over a handle full of stiffs or has beens that have worn the Bullets/Wizards uniform.

Manute Bol
Melvin Turpin
Mark Alarie
Hot Plate Williams
Tom Hammonds (dude was so frustrating should have been a beast in the pros)
Pervis Ellison
Kenny Walker (was the man in college but hurting in the nba)
Kevin Duckworth
Jim McIlvaine
Otis Thorpe ( love his game but was done when he got here)
Aaron Williams
Christian Laettner
Popeye Jones
Tyrone Nesby
Peter Ramos
Samaki Walker

See now I'm all nostalgic and missing the 1985 and 1986 teams

Gus Williams
Jeff Malone
Greg Ballard (85)
Cliff Robinson
Dan Roundfield (86)
Jeff Ruland
Rick Mahorn(85)

Damn that was 20 years ago??

Posted by: dc | February 2, 2007 3:53 PM | Report abuse

It's OK for Ruffin to be on the team, but sometimes EJ gives him way too many minutes. He probably shouldn't play at all, to be truthful. He can teach the youngsters about hard work and persistence in practice, not in a game.

Posted by: Colin | February 2, 2007 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Wow, dc, if you would take Ruffin over Hammonds, Pervis, Walker, Duckworth, Thorpe, Williams, Laettner and Popeye, you either are related to Ruffin or you don't know jack about basketball.

Posted by: to dc | February 2, 2007 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Dawg, Michael Ruffin is the type of player you bring in when the game is over, or when nothing is falling for the regulars and you wanna mix things up a bit. In no way shape or form should he even be considered to start in Jamison's absence. You might as well play 4 on 5. He has ZERO offense, even worse at the foul line, and truth be told, he ain't even 6'9. More like 6'6,6'7. Remember the playoffs last year? Those 2 buzzer beaters Lebron made? Guess who was in the game. You guessed it, Ruffin. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt on the one in d.c. when Lebron used the ol' Patrick Ewing 4 step drop step, but in Cleveland, when Lebron went baseline (Put your foot on the baseline next time Antawn and make him shoot a jumper) and elevated, Ruffin never left the ground. All he's good for is a few crowd pleasing hustle plays, a few rebounds and a couple charges. That's it. And dc, U crazy as hell if you'd take Ruffin over the other bamas U named. Give me Never Nervous any day! But how can you forget Lorenzo Williams? or the Infamous Charles Jones?

Posted by: C.Bell | February 2, 2007 4:24 PM | Report abuse

LeBron's problem is coaching. LeBron should be the next Magic and instead the Cavs are trying to turn him into the next Jordan. Secondly because the Cavs haven't done a good job getting the right pieces around LeBron (overpaid a lot for Larry Hughes) the offense is stand-around and watch LeBron play. To me he ain't getting any better in that type of offense and if you aren't improving you are getting worse.

Posted by: George Templeton | February 2, 2007 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Pervis Ellison.

Let's look at his great Wizard career. He was trade one year come into the league.

Games played with the Wizards

Oh FYI I'm using this site as a reference guide.

1991 76
1992 66
1993 49
1994 47

Ever year he played lesson time. Only once in his Wizards, well bullets career did he score over 1000 points.

I'm mean honestly in college he was a beast. But I think the doctors missed something. Why else would Sac town dump him so soon? I mean they did get Lionel Simmons in the draft the next year. They had some other talent as well.

But basically Previs Ellison was a number one overall draft pick and had a career total 4494 points. Hell Gilbert would score that in less then 2 seasons. And you all pick on Kwame?

I'm not going to give the guy a hard time he had some knee issues.

Last season Ruffin played in 76 games and only took 77 shots. You know how frustrating that could be to some people. Hmmmmmm Dude hustles and is a physical presence on the floor. On Offence the dude sets soild picks. Do you know how valuable it is to have someone on your teams that is going to make a good picks every time out and to crash the boards afterwords? Ever hear of Bobby Jones, Kurt Rambis, Marc Iavaroni. Every team needs a hustle type players that not going to worry about shots. The reason I didn't mention Charles Jones is because he was version 1.0 . A physical defense of presence. The game is not all about offensive. There is a big difference between a guy that is part of a team and a buy is playing out their bad contracts. Ask Isiah.

Duckworth ?? Come on the dude couldn't even stay in shape here.

Otis Trope was a 14 year old veteran when he got here.

John Williams? Seriously dude had talent to be in the top 10 or 20 players in the league. Didn't have the focus or the heart.

Hammonds Bullets season point totals

1990 321
1991 367
1992 440

You'd take that again? Love the guy not his career here.

Kenny Walker last 2 seasons of his career here.

1994 73 games played 351 points
1995 24 games played 57 points

was out of the league after that.

And you know the one big difference between Ruffin and 90% of those guys I just named. Ruffin made it to the playoffs 2 years in a row.

One Playoff appearance between 89 and 2005.

Lorenzo Williams?? I've totally block that experience out of my mind. : )

Posted by: dc | February 3, 2007 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Ask Gilbert if he coming down the floor and Kobe is picking him up who he would prefer setting a pick on Kobe?

Posted by: dc | February 3, 2007 12:00 PM | Report abuse

When I first saw LeBron in HS I was amazed at his ability. He had something that couldnt be taught - vision. He was the second coming of Magic.

Now I watch him and all I can see is how much he's regressed. All he does is dominate the ball (always demanding it) and occassionally play two on two. What seperated him from everyone else seems gone from his game. It's as if he's trying to be the next MJ now (and that's just not his game).

As of right now, Wade is the better player because LeBron believes his own hype and is trying to be something he is not. Give him a real coach (one who will occassionally rein him in), a real offense, and teammates that fit his game (no more big z) and things could change. Unfortunately fro CLE that won't happen with the Cavs as they have no room to make changes and their roster has multiple personality disorder.

Oh and Ruffin is the epitome of everything right and good in the world. speak no ill of him lest thee speak ill of thyself.

Posted by: Thunder and Lightning | February 3, 2007 2:27 PM | Report abuse

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