After Slow Start, James Takes It To Another Level
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).