Af­ter Slow Start, James Takes It To An­other Level

The Washington Post Sunday - - On The Air Sunday Morning -

Af­ter fin­ish­ing sec­ond in the most valu­able player vot­ing and nearly lead­ing Cleve­land to a sec­ond-round up­set of the Detroit Pis­tons, LeBron James was ex­pected to run away with MVP hon­ors this sea­son. Prob­lem was, it took James al­most half the sea­son be­fore he be­gan to play at that level.

James was crit­i­cized for hav­ing re­gressed and was charged with coast­ing through the reg­u­lar sea­son. Oth­ers won­dered if he was fa­tigued from nag­ging in­juries and his par­tic­i­pa­tion with USA Bas­ket­ball. Those con­cerns have dis­si­pated as James has erupted since the all-star break, av­er­ag­ing 30.1 points, 6.6 re­bounds and 6.4 as­sists in 24 games. What led to the re­birth? “I’m not quite sure,” said James, who was named con­fer­ence player of the month in March. “I’m just get­ting ready for the play­offs.”

James added that neg­a­tive com­ments about his per­for­mance early in the sea­son had no im­pact. “Crit­i­cism is go­ing to hap­pen, no mat­ter what. It comes with the ter­ri­tory,” he said. “I don’t lis­ten to it. I just come out and play.” . . .

The New Jer­sey Nets might be strug­gling to make the play­offs, but that hasn’t di­min­ished point guard Ja­son Kidd’s opin­ion of his sea­son. Kidd has recorded a ca­reer-high 12 triple-dou­bles this sea­son and is nearly av­er­ag­ing a triple-dou­ble (13.2 points, 9.2 as­sists and a ca­reer-high 8.1 re­bounds). Asked last week if it was the best sea­son of his ca­reer, Kidd said: “It’s up there. It might be num­ber two [for] the whole pack­age. Prob­a­bly not as good as the first year I was here [in 2001-02]. That was prob­a­bly my best sea­son ever. And this one would rank sec­ond.”

Wiz­ards Coach Ed­die Jor­dan, who was an as­sis­tant in New Jer­sey dur­ing Kidd’s first two sea­sons with the Nets, didn’t hold back on his praise. “To me, he’s the best point guard in the NBA,” Jor­dan said. “You can put that down for his­tory.” . . .

Kidd and Vince Carter joined ex­tremely se­lect com­pany when they both recorded triple-dou­bles against the Wiz­ards on April 7. That feat has only been ac­com­plished by six other team­mate pairs: Chicago’s Michael Jor­dan and Scot­tie Pip­pen (1989), Bos­ton’s Larry Bird and Robert Par­rish (1987), the Los An­ge­les Lak­ers’ Magic John­son and Ka­reem Ab­dul-Jab­bar (1982), Seat­tle’s Lenny Wilkens and Art Har­ris (1969), Detroit’s Ray Scott and Don­nis Butcher (1964), and Os­car Robert­son and Arlen Bock­horn of the Cincin­nati Roy­als (1962).

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