The gamesmanship began quickly and with a nearly unified narrative.
Yes, on Wednesday, the day after the Great LeBron James Vanishing Act of 2011, the Dallas Mavericks sang a happy song: That LeBron wasn't the epic failure most of the world saw at the end of the Miami Heat's Game 4 come-from-ahead loss.
"I don't think he struggled at all," Jason Terry said, straight-faced.
"If you almost have a triple-double, if you fill up a stat sheet like he did, it's a pretty good game," promised Jason Kidd, who in another life apparently sold used cars.
Of course that's what they were saying. It's what they want you to hear. What they want the Heat to hear. What, most of all, they want LeBron James to hear.
Because the last thing they need is for the focus to be on the final play of regulation, when LeBron's fourth-quarter offensive vanishing act was punctuated by a defensive act of passivity that's almost criminal.