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Sports Authority

Padanilam: Stephen A. Smith, you need to let it go

| Thursday, February 15, 2018

Let’s get one thing straight here.

The only person who seems to still be trying to “control the narrative” is you, Stephen A. Smith.

The other day, I sat scrolling through the ESPN app for updates about the Olympics, news around the NBA and other items of interest, and what did I see? A video of you breaking out the tissues for LeBron James as a means to mock the suggestion that the Cleveland Cavaliers’ struggles prior to the trade deadline were the result of a lack of strength on the roster surrounding James.

Apparently the mere idea that the Cavaliers’ losing play prior to last Thursday was due to players beyond James was so laughable.

But was it?

James might not win this year’s MVP award because of the spectacular play of James Harden in Houston, but he’s undoubtedly a legitimate contender for the distinction.

It cannot be ignored that he’s averaging the most assists per game he’s ever accumulated in his career, and he’s also averaging the second most rebounds per game of his career. All while ranking fifth amongst the league’s top scorers, 12th in field-goal percentage (including the best mark amongst non-bigs), fourth in player-efficiency rating and first in estimated wins added.

In short, this might be the best season of his illustrious career thus far.

But I know what you’ll say — you certainly recognize his greatness, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be criticized.

Sure, James — like any other athlete — is not absolved from criticism. But let’s make sure the criticism is fair before we get into it.

You suggest it’s laughable that James’ supporting cast was at fault for the Cavaliers poor season. But the numbers make it pretty clear his play on the court never suffered, while the statistics show that players like Isaiah Thomas, J.R. Smith and others certainly did.

And off the court? Well, it’s difficult to say how much James can be blamed for the well-documented lack of chemistry in the locker room. Yes, as the team’s leader, he carries some of that blame — but can he be blamed for Thomas pitting a fraction of the locker room against Kevin Love over concerns about the legitimacy of his illness? Or for the number of players unhappy with their roles after the roster overhaul in the offseason?

I would tend to think not.

So no, James is not blameless, but the suggestion that what surrounded him was at fault for their struggles is not laughable.

First, consider the expectations and the reality; the Cavaliers, struggles and all, were still holding their ground as the three seed in the East. The “struggles” were relative to the expectations — if the Cavaliers were no longer the clear-cut favorite in the East and competitive with the Golden State Warriors then, by their own standard, they were falling apart at the seams. And James’ play was not the reason for it.

Then, look at what has happened in the short time since the trade deadline. The sudden cohesion of the team against two strong opponents after an overhaul of half of the team’s rotation, it cannot be ignored that James’ leadership is a big part of the reason why — restoring at least some faith that the leadership struggles the team faced ahead of the overhaul cannot be solely placed on a lack of leadership from James.

And, by the way, you all but backpedalled just a day later, admitting the new-look Cavaliers are simply a much better team now.

Sure, you won’t admit it’s backpedalling, but what else can you say going from laughing at the idea of blaming James’ supporting cast for the team’s struggles to suddenly praising their new roster after that aforementioned cast has been shipped out is?

So I guess my only question is, why are you such a hater, Stephen A.?

Is it because you are still upset at James’ refutation of your report from the offseason with regards to the Kyrie Irving trade demand?

That is, after all, when you started hammering this idea that James wants to control the narrative, bringing it up multiple times since.

Did you not expect him to deny the report?

You’ve been in the business of journalism a long time, so you shouldn’t be surprised he did. And you of all people should know that his denial alone only discredits your work and your source when you react the way you did.

So I think it’s time you let it go. Because now, it’s just ironic.

Because now, you’re the only one who’s trying to control the narrative.

It’s just petty at this point.

P.S. Sorry you had to read another Sports Authority about the Cavaliers, Mrs. Mazurek.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Benjamin Padanilam

Ben is a senior and The Observer’s former Editor-in-Chief, now serving as its interim Sports Editor. He is in the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS) and also pursuing minors in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) and Business Economics. He hails from Toledo, Ohio, and has enjoyed the few highs and many lows of being a Cleveland sports fan.

Contact Benjamin