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King on the Court?

Halfway through his sophomore campaign Lebron James has already earned his “King” nickname. Thanks to that improved outside shot and improved recognition on defense, you could make the argument that Lebron is indeed the premier player in the league. That’s what happens when you average 25 points, seven boards, and close to eight dimes a game. Oh, can’t forget about those two and a half steals.

Yet there is still one thing missing from King James’ arsenal. It’s not a more refined post game or the ability to completely suffocate someone on the defensive end. No. What’s missing from Lebron’s game is contempt.

Out and out disdain for a person who’s only sin is being assigned to guard Lebron.

Jordan had it. If any schlub standing across from His Airness started pulling on his shorts with anything other than a look of complete fear on his face, it was like committing an unspeakable atrocity. Who did he think he was, thinking he was going to stop Michael? He’s Michael Jordan! You don’t D-up on Michael Jordan. You get beat 20, 25 times in a game and then you thank him for the privilege of being humiliated by Michael Jordan.

Lebron needs rise out of his throne, spike his scepter into the hardwood, remove his Kingly robe and proclaim: “I am the King. I am the chosen one. This is my game. Now get down on your hands and knees and give me one good reason why I shouldn’t destroy you for even thinking about stopping me.”

But that’s not Lebron. Yet. Lebron will go out there and play the game. Find an open shot and knock it down. Find an open teammate and let him knock it down. And Lebron will win more often than not because he is Lebron. Surround Lebron with the right people and Lebron might win a championship or three.

We will sing Lebron’s praises, calling him the “best player since”. But we will leave out Jordan’s name. And not because Jordan won six rings with little more than a sidekick and a bunch of guys you could find at a local YMCA.

We will leave out Jordan’s name because Jordan remains on a different level. Jordan dominated players. He filled up the stat sheet, as does Lebron, but Jordan went out there most nights with a personal vendetta to fill. Call it competitiveness if you so choose. But I’ll call it contempt. Jordan wanted to dominate, to prove that he was truly His Jordan-ness. Any time someone took the court across from him all they were really saying was, “You’re not the best player in this game.” That was enough to make Jordan go out and do ungodly things to humble his opponent.

It’s the like the difference between a thief and a robber. A thief will see something that’s there for the taking and will quietly commit the act with none being the wiser. A robber, on the other hand, will set his or her sights on a mark and ruthlessly have their way with it.

Lebron's still just a thief.

In Cleveland’s 92-90 loss to the Nets earlier this season, Lebron went for 23-9-9, including 18 points and six assists in the second half. Not his best outing, but a strong one nonetheless. And you can pin the “L” on his shoulders all the same. Not because of the two traveling calls and the technical down the stretch. Not because he and Jeff Mcinnis had a breakdown in communication when the Nets in bounded the ball for an alley-oop with less than 2 seconds left to win the game. But because Richard Jefferson owned the game with 42 points, seven assists and six boards.

Yes, Lebron did elevate his game in the second half to keep the Cavs in it as Jefferson continued on his career night. But Lebron also melted down in the final two minutes. Two turnovers, a tech, a missed jumper that probably would have won the game, and then the blown assignment on the alley-oop to RJ. Lebron should have been all over Jefferson on that final play. Silas called for a switch in the huddle. But Lebron should have overruled him. Jordan would have.

To be truthful, it shouldn’t have even come to that. As the second half unraveled, and Lebron recognized the back and forth between him and Jefferson, King James should have set his intensity meter to Jordan-level. Don’t get me wrong, Jefferson is an All-Star and a great player, but Lebron should have stepped up and turned RJ into Gerald Wallace. But he didn’t. Lebron was content to do his thing while Jefferson did his. See who comes out on top.

RJ won that duel.

An isolated incident? Perhaps. But lest we forget, Coach Silas and his staff were on Lebron last season about being too buddy-buddy with the opposition during pre-game warm-ups. They wanted him to become surly to the point where he was unapproachable. Even this season, during his duel with the only other potential heir to Jordan’s throne -- Kobe Bryant -- James spent half-time checking on Kobe’s sprained ankle. The Cavs lost that one down the stretch, too.

Am I being too hard on a 20-year-old? Could be. Maybe Lebron just hasn’t had the opportunity to develop a tempestuous attitude yet. Most of his basketball life so far has come to him with ridiculous ease. When Jordan was a junior in high school, he was battling to make the cut for his varsity team. When Lebron was a junior in high school, he was already being called the next Jordan.

I do know that long before Jordan got cut from varsity as a high school sophomore he was shooting jumpers late into the Carolina night. And I also know that you don’t shoot jumpers late into the Carolina night for the fun of it. No. You do it because you’ve got something to prove to someone. Even if that someone is you.

Has Lebron developed himself into a legendary NBA player? Absolutely. Has Lebron developed himself into The Chosen One? Not yet. No King ever reached greatness without the ability to hate a foe.

Rivers to SF for the #1 pick?

A fun rumor swirling around has San Diego trading Phillip Rivers to San Francisco for the first pick in the upcoming draft.  This is one of those rare trades that needs to happen for both teams.

Rivers would give San Francisco everything they need.  Not only is he a franchise quarterback, he already has a year of NFL tutelage and verbiage under his belt, giving the 49ers a better chance of winning more than two games this year.  More importantly, Rivers is fiery.  He's going to command the type of respect in the huddle that a rookie can't.  With the young, undisciplined skill talent on the '9ers roster, that is something that can't be undervalued.  Rivers is a hard worker that will set the kind of example the 49ers desperately need. 

A couple hundred miles south, landing not only the #1 pick overall, but the #12 pick overall for Eli Manning would be a major coup for the Chargers.  San Diego now has the potential to add three studs to an already talented roster.  San Diego would likely take WR Braylon Edwards at the top.  Depending on how the next 10 picks fall, the Chargers could add a defensive playmaker -- Antrel Rolle or Shawn Merriman -- or a potentially dominant tackle in Alex Barron.  Theoretically, the Chargers could end up with Nate Kaeding, Braylon Edwards and Antrel Rolle for Eli Manning.  That's pretty good.  That's three potential Pro Bowlers.  Add in a third first round pick...possibly Marlin Jackson if they opt for Alex Barron, or maybe even a gamble on a guy like Channing Crowder...plus last year's second round pick Igor Olshansky, and that's five guys with loads of upside.  Not to mention guys named Tomlinson, Gates, Brees and Jammer.  That could be sick.