Title: The Soul-Crushing Dominance of LeBron James
Date: May 4, 2018
Original Source: Vice
Synopsis: In my latest for Vice, I wrote about the incredibly, soul-crushing dominance of LeBron James.
Blame Dwane Casey.
This is not a “Fire Casey” take. He is a good coach, has built the foundation of everything the most successful run in Toronto Raptors history has been, and very well may win Coach of the Year as a result. Quibble with the micro-decisions all you’d like, but Casey’s only real macro-failing the last three years is an inability to beat LeBron James. And to hear James tell it, Casey deserves blame because this version of James—the seemingly ever-improving best player in the world, maybe the best ever—is a monster of his own creating.
To understand, you have to go all the way back to the 2011 NBA Finals, when Casey worked as Rick Carlisle’s lead defensive assistant. It was then that Casey earned his reputation as a defense-first coach and made his case to be hired as head coach of the Raptors. Faced with a talent disadvantage despite Dirk Nowitzki still being in his peak, the Dallas Mavericks had to get creative to stop a Miami Heat “Big Three” that had rounded into form after a shaky start to an alliance that would eventually lead to two championships.
It was far more nuanced than “zone James up,” but Casey’s zone elements stagnated the Heat, who hadn’t quite figured themselves out to the degree where they were matchup-proof. James averaged a pedestrian-by-his-standards 17.8 points and 6.8 assists, the Heat offense scored just 103.3 points per-100 possessions, and the Mavericks won the title in six. James, still without a ring to that point, had to, unfathomably, get even better.