THE SCOWLEYS: Hating LeBron James is strictly Cleveland’s complex now
BY JOE COWLEY email@example.com January 5, 2013 1:16AM
LeBron James became a villain when he moved to Miami, but winning NBA and Olympic titles has erased much of the animosity. | David Santiago~AP
Updated: February 7, 2013 6:38AM
MIAMI — The city of Cleveland is now an island: the last bastion of unadulterated hatred for LeBron James.
Everywhere else? While James might not be the beloved figure he was before ‘‘The Decision’’ to leave the Cavaliers for the Miami Heat, winning remains the cure-all, and no NBA player has won more in the last eight months. Not only was James the NBA MVP and the Finals MVP last season, but he put an Olympic gold medal on the mantel just for good measure.
Just like that, all has been forgiven . . . outside of Cleveland, which still feels spurned by James’ walkout after the 2009-10 season.
Get over it, Cleveland. Everyone else has.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra admitted that in Year 3 of the James Dynasty, especially coming off a title, life in opposing arenas is less venomous.
‘‘I think people wanted to point a finger and have a scapegoat,’’ Spoelstra said. ‘‘It was an easy target; we were an easy target. All those experiences steeled us, made us tougher mentally, but I think that his reputation now as a person is what it was before, and he’s a great guy. He’s a magnetic personality, you want to be around him, teammates love him, coaching staffs love him. He’s so gregarious, he’s enjoyable to be around.
‘‘What the perception has changed now is as a competitor. People see him as the ultimate winner now. He was able to get over the top and finally wear the hardware, and that’s probably been the most gratifying change for him. You also don’t see him relaxing and becoming complacent. He’s continued to reinvent himself and push our franchise to another level. It’s about legacy now.’’
Earmuffs, Cleveland, because what Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said about James was more salt in the wounds.
‘‘When you really study what he did in Cleveland, they didn’t lose because of him,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘He always performed at an extremely high level in the playoffs, whatever. He probably didn’t have enough at that particular point, but obviously here [in Miami], the depth has really put them at the top.’’
†What’s life like for an NBA player in Toronto? Not good if the player wants recognition.
‘‘Being in Toronto, you get starved for attention because you don’t get any south of the Canadian border, really,’’ said Heat forward Chris Bosh, who began his career with the Raptors.
† Expect a slow trade market with so many NBA teams at the hard-cap limit.
Player of the week
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors. It’s no coincidence that since Mark Jackson took over as coach, Curry has learned how to be a better point guard. With the Warriors red-hot the last week, Curry put up a combined 53 points and 17 assists in wins over the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers.
Team of the week
Indiana Pacers. With wins over the Memphis Grizzlies and Washington Wizards, the Pacers suddenly are playing up to expectations. That also included a stretch in which they won six of seven games to rise back up in the Central Division.
The big five
1. Heat. 2. Oklahoma City Thunder. 3. Clippers. 4. San Antonio Spurs. 5. New York Knicks.
19.6 The shooting percentage for the Clippers from 15 feet and beyond in their Jan. 1 loss to the Denver Nuggets, which ended their 17-game winning streak. During the streak, they had shot 36.7 percent from that distance.
Key games for week
of Jan. 7-13
Heat at Pacers, 6 p.m. Tuesday. The Pacers finally got their wake-up call and face a Heat team that has been very mediocre on the road.
Los Angeles Lakers at Spurs, 7 p.m. Wednesday. Kobe Bryant thinks it’s been bad so far? It won’t get any easier with games against the Nuggets, Spurs and Thunder this week.
Bulls at Knicks, 7 p.m. Friday. The last meeting between the two at the Garden ended with nine technicals and four ejections. Hide the wife and kids.