This past weekend, Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel expressed discontent after losing to the Miami Heat in the playoffs for the third straight season. Vogel, however, rationalized this string of defeats by referring to LeBron James as the Michael Jordan of this era and the Heat as the 1990s Chicago Bulls of this era.
George Gervin, who played for the Spurs for more than a decade in the 1970s and ‘80s, disagrees on both counts.
“No, he ain’t the Michael Jordan of his era; he’s the King James of his era,” Gervin said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “There’s no other Michael Jordan era. LeBron James, to me, is the best individual in basketball today. I don’t think there’s no question about that. As far as the Miami Heat being the Chicago Bulls, I’m doubting that, too. The Miami Heat is a good basketball team, but the San Antonio Spurs are pretty good, too.”
The Spurs, of course, came within a Ray Allen three-pointer of beating the Heat in the NBA Finals last year. Instead, they lost in seven games. With the first Finals rematch since 1997-98 upon us, Gervin expects another close series – but he does think the Spurs are better this year than last.
“I think we’re deeper with (Marco) Belinelli (and) Patty Mills joining the team (and) giving us that extra outside threat along with Danny Green and Matt Bonner,” Gervin said. “And you got some big guys like (Jeff) Ayres and some guys that can come off the bench and bang, beat up on guys. That’s going to make a difference. I just think we’re better than what we were last year.”
That’s all well and good, but the series may hinge on James – specifically, on his ability to hit jump-shots. Yet, Gervin doesn’t expect one-dimensional play from James, regardless of the Spurs’ defensive scheme.
“LeBron’s special,” Gervin said. “I think what makes him so special is he makes the type of adjustments in the game that the defense puts on him. I think he’s that versatile. That’s what makes him the best in basketball. He takes good shots most of the time. I think he makes the right decision most of the time. So obviously, I’m a LeBron James fan, but I’m a basketball fan first, and he does a lot of things right, man.”
“What the Spurs are going to do to him, I don’t know,” Gervin continued. “But I know that the Spurs are going to be prepared, just like Miami. I know it’s going to be a great series for all of us. We can’t talk about what’s going to happen Thursday because none of us knows. But we do know that we’re going to have two great basketball teams competing for the NBA Final, and it’s going to be fun. I want my Spurs to win, but they got to earn it – and they got to earn it against a great basketball team, the Miami Heat.”
Whatever happens in this series, Gervin is not at all surprised the Spurs are back in the Finals.
“People didn’t think that they was going to get there (last year) – and they was there,” Gervin said. “I keep saying the only team that can beat the Miami Heat in a seven-game series is the San Antonio Spurs. These guys mesh together and play the game like it’s supposed to be played. You don’t see basketball played like that in this era. None of those guys (have) egos. Their only goal is to win basketball games. That’s something special.”