Watching the Miami Heat finish off the San Antonio Spurs in the crucible of a Game 7 in the NBA Finals, made me marvel at the changes LeBron James has made in his game since coming into the league 10 years ago out of high school. Watching him masterfully dispatch the Spurs, made me think about the changes and hopefully, major improvement we will see in the Panthers young star quarterback Cam Newton not only this season but the years to come.
James said after the game Thursday Night, ” I said before the series that I was a better player than I was the last time I faced the Spurs.” James stated that he is constantly working on his game. When James first entered the league, he had no jumpshot whatsoever to speak of. He worked tirelessly on this defect in his game. This past season, James shot a career high 56.5 percent and about 41 percent from three. His first season in the league, he shot 29 percent from three. You do not improve this much in shooting without hours upon hours of shooting and working with his coaches in practice to get better. Last night, the Spurs dusted off the 2007 game plan against James when they played him in the finals when he was with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Problem was the 2007 plan did not work on the 2012 version. He bombed them from three, hitting 5 last night enroute to 37 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 assists in a 95 – 88 win.
Cam faces similar holes in his game. Coming into the league, Newton athletically was off the charts. He could run a 4.5 40 at 6’5 250 and throw a country mile. The problem with him in his second season, was that defensive coordinators adjusted and took away the deep ball. Unable to hit Steve Smith deep, and forced to throw underneath the coverage he initially struggled. He eventually righted the ship, and we saw dramatic improvement over the last couple of games leading the team to a 7-9 finish in 2012. He threw for 3,869 yards with 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last season. His rookie year he threw for 4,051 yards with 21 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Yes, there was a slight drop in yards passing, but the improvement I saw in those numbers was the decrease in interceptions. To me, there was no dreaded sophomore slump. In year 3, we can expect a jump in his numbers across the board. He is more familiar with what defenses are trying to do to stop him and he will be better prepared to be able to counter act it.
LeBron let the world know what he thought about the haters in the media and elsewhere. Last night James stated, “Listen, for me I can’t worry about what everybody say about me. I’m LeBron James, from Akron, Ohio, from the inner city, I’m not even supposed to be here. That’s enough. Every night I walk into the locker room I see a number six with James on the back. I’m blessed, so what everybody say about me off the court, don’t matter. I ain’t got no worries!”
Cam should take a similar approach with his many detractors. Use them as motivation to get better and make the teams on the Panthers schedule pay for it. For Panther fans, it’s getting close to time to sit back and just enjoy the show.