After the Cavaliers epic beatdown of the Celtics in Game 2, LeBron was asked about whether he saw that he was not being a finalist for MVP.
"No, I didn't see it. And what are you going to do about it at the end of the day? My only job is to try to be the MVP for this team every night, put my teammates, put our franchise in position to be successful and ultimately compete for a championship. For me, I know what I bring to the table. This league knows what I bring to the table. That's for you guys to write about. It's not for me to be concerned about."
James clearly took the high road at the postgame presser, but Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com reported that LeBron was a little more irritated than he let on during the press conference.
"Fourth?" James said. "I haven't been fourth in a long time."
A LeBron fueled by perceived disrespect is a scary thing, and though James was being diplomatic, his teammates were not pleased with the slight.
Richard Jefferson pointed to voter fatigue to explain the slight.
"I think it started with Shaq. It started with Shaq where every year he was the most dominant guy. Every year, you had to game plan. Every year there were teams going and signing guys to million-dollar contracts to compete against them, and he was just dominant, winning three championships, and he only had, what, one MVP? It started then. And like they say, nobody roots for Goliath."
J.R. Smith and Channing Frye explained that the MVP isn’t really the point for LeBron.
"Just another chip on his shoulder, which helps," JR Smith said. "He got a vote for [All-NBA] second team. Somebody's trippin'. ... He's driven by a completely different monster. He's not playing for Russ or James. Like he said, he's chasing a ghost. Right now, that's the only thing to compare to him."
"Consistency is boring, it's not a good story," Frye said. "I don't know what the weatherman gets paid in Hawaii, but it's going to be sunny today. We don't care. I'll be honest, I don't know if it's a motivating factor for him. Other than his legacy for the future. For him, what's more important? Getting stats and winning the regular-season MVP or getting 'chips and being considered one of the greatest."
All of LeBron’s teammates going to bat for him is admirable, but to some extent, they’re making the media’s point for them.
Jefferson cited Shaq as his example, a player who famously played himself into shape over the course of the regular season and reserved his best basketball for the postseason.
Smith discussed that MVP isn’t really on LeBron’s radar, that he’s got Michael Jordan squarely in his sights. That’s all well and good, but it’s still a regular season award. You have to outperform those guys in the regular season and all the trappings that go with it.
Frye is right. Winning the MVP shouldn’t be a motivating factor. Every message LeBron James has sent to the viewing public is that he doesn’t value the regular season a ton. And he is clearly right to. It’s working swimmingly for the Cavaliers.
With that said, you can’t expect to have your cake and eat it too. Sure, you can quibble with the voting results depending on your interpretations or ideas of what the award should be, but it’s hard to send the message that you really care about the hardware while actively dismissing the stretch of games that goes into determining who wins.
What is more important: MVPs or championship rings? I think we all know the answer, and LeBron does too.