Thursday, May 13, 2010

OHIO IS KNOWN AS 'THE HEART OF IT ALL' ... DO YOU HEAR THAT LeBRON?


If LeBron James is wondering why there's an absence of rings on his fingers, I'm pretty sure there's at least one or two mirrors in his 35,000 square foot castle in Akron, which can provide the answer for him.


During the past two years the Cleveland Cavaliers have been champions of the regular season, but come playoff time — when it counts most — the boys from C-Town have been lacking something critical.


After Cleveland was upset by Orlando in last season's Eastern Conference Finals, many simply thought that a lack of quality personnel prevented the Cavs and LeBron from claiming the ring. So, Cavaliers general manager Danny Ferry went out and added a few more pieces to the puzzle bringing in future hall of fame center Shaquille O'Neal and star forward Antawn Jamison (via mid-season trade), as well as veteran guards Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon.


That additional talent should've been enough to help "The King" get his ring, right?


Well, with Cleveland just one loss away from elimination in this year's conference semifinals against Boston, it has become more and more clear as to what the Cavaliers have been lacking. They're lacking heart, they're lacking a sense of urgency and the blame can be laid directly at the feet of his Royal Highness, Mr. King James himself.


Now, I am as guilty as anyone when it comes to handing out praise to a player who's never proven what it takes to be a champion.


I was even part of the crowd who compared him to six-time champion, Michael Jordan. Don't get me wrong, I still believe LeBron James is the most athletically gifted player the game has ever seen, but what Jordan proved numerous times during his illustrious career was that his heart, was that of a champion.


Jordan was cold blooded assassin on the hardwood, and when his team had their backs against the wall, he never backed down — he tore it down.


It isn't a secret that James idolizes Jordan. LeBron wants to pattern his career after MJ, both on the court and in the business world.


However, James needs to ask himself these very important questions ...


— Would Jordan have passed it to Anderson Varejao for a 20-foot jumper with a playoff game on the line?


— Would Jordan have allowed the Celtics to determine whether or not he was going to take the ball to the basket simply because they were rotating their defense his way?


— Would Jordan have allowed the Celtics to outscore his team by a 50-point margin in their last two home playoff games?


— Would Jordan have relied on long jump shots or just simply passed the ball away to less talented teammates when the season was on the line?


The answers ... No, no, no, and no.


The sad thing about it is, all of James' problems may be because of his greatness.


LeBron has always been bigger, faster and stronger than everyone he's gone up against. Again, he's the most athletically gifted player to ever play the game.


But, because of that, James has never had to learn how to grind. The word "urgency" isn't in his lexicon.


Players like Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade weren't always the best, so they had to learn how to grind their way to the mountain top. They had to develop a killer instinct.


They play as if they are behind on the scorecards.


LeBron, on the other hand, has relied too much on his brawn and on his name. He seems to play with a sense of entitlement, you know, as if the world is just going to give him the ring because he's ... well ... LeBron James.


Well, the world doesn't work like that.


It takes heart to be a champion. It takes heart to be a leader. It takes heart to get the ring.


And ... LeBron has until tonight to realize that.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

HEYWARD: BEING A CAPTAIN IS A GOAL FOR THE UPCOMING SEASON


COLUMBUS — Ohio State senior defensive lineman Cameron Heyward is a man amongst boys on the collegiate gridiron.

The 6-foot-5, 288-pound native of Georgia — and son of former NFL running back Craig "Ironhead" Heyward — nearly always has his way on the football field, tossing aside offensive tackles as if they were made of feathers and tissue paper.

Heyward, who many scouts felt would have been a first round selection in last month's NFL draft, decided in January to pass on the riches — at least for now — so he could finish out his career at Ohio State with the group of teammates he arrived in Columbus with three years ago.

"You know, I love playing with these guys right here," Heyward said to me on the field directly following last January's Rose Bowl victory over Oregon. "I would love playing another year. Being able to finish with my class would mean the world to me."

With Heyward returning for his senior season, the big man will now have a huge responsibility that he hasn't had to deal with during his career in Columbus — being a leader. More importantly, a vocal leader.

For such a quiet and laid-back person such as Heyward that role may take some getting used to.

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said that Heyward's leadership on the field will be just as important as sacking quarterbacks and punishing runners. And the coach expects him to deliver.

"Cameron is a great player, a great kid," Tressel said. "He is going to be a great leader for this team. Obviously, we will count on him a lot on the field. He has a good knack of bringing other people along. It's just the type of person he is. He is a real inclusive guy.

"He knows we lost a great deal of personnel on the defensive front to graduation, plus losing Thaddeus Gibson early. (Heyward) is at the front of the room and the line encouraging the guys.

"His performance will be crucial for us and his leadership will be just as important."

Heyward's other coaches are expecting much of the same.

"Cam has done a good job playing and working hard," OSU defensive coordinator Jim Heacock said. "Now he has to step up and be a leader. Coach Tressel expects that."

Heyward, who led the team in sacks (6.5) and the defensive line in tackles (46) last season, is ready for the challenge and even admitted that he would like to become a captain his final year.

"That's a goal of mine," Heyward said. "I want to be a captain."

I'm sure his teammates will oblige him.