Friday, December 21, 2007

LeBron and "taking it strong"

Ya know how when your passing game is working in football how it opens up the running game? We've seen this really well all year with the Browns, even last week when some early fifteen yard passes kept the Bills from lining up with seventeen guys on the line of scrimmage despite that fact that they knew they were running. This is a luxury that guys like Adrian Peterson and the Raven FORMERLY known as Jamal Lewis do not know of.

Well, has anyone ever considered that this idea works in other sports? Constantly people are criticizing Lebron for not "taking it strong" or "settling for jumpers". Maybe there is something to this. Have we considered that the greatest basketball player alive knows what he's doing?

Have you seen him try to dribble into the lane during a set. He gets swarmed, killed and beaten up. Occasionally he'll get free, or find an open teammate for a look, but almost as often as that he is eaten up, hit, and forced into a bad situation.

This is the SAME thing that happens to a running back with no passing game. So what do you do? You find the tight end over the middle to occupy a line backer. You send a slot guy deep to occupy the safety, and if those plays are successful, the aforementioned linebacker and safety are kept honest, can't key on the run, and leaves the O-Line two less guys to worry about. A two yard gain turns into a six yard gain.

The same thing needs to happen with LeBron. LeBron NEEDS to take jumpers. First off, despite popular belief that he can't shoot - he is actually one of the better off the dribble shot makers in the league. Put next to T-Mac and Kobe he looks like Michael Cage, but LeBron has a similar outside game to guys like Vince, Baron Davis or Paul Pierced. I'm not saying he has as good of form as them, or can hit three balls like them, but his shot is on par with theirs, it is just a smaller part of his game because of his amazing ability to make plays with his strength and athleticism.

I know, it seems that when he drives, good things happen. But those drives are PRODUCTS of his shooting. Those drives are part of a bigger picture of his game, and with the current state of the woeful Cavs, maybe we do need LeBron to shoot more.

Think back to his signature game, his 48 pointer last year. His two dunks at the end of regulation were products of a few things. Number 1, he had hit consecutive jumpers the last two times down. Number 2, the Pistons were in a late game mentality trying hard not to foul (watch Tayshaun Prince's 'defense'), and three, for one of them, all he had to do was beat "The Mayor" Jason Maxciel off the dribble and get a running start on Wallace. Easy bucket.

But in the 2 OT's - it was his outside game that won the game. Until the final minute of each period he hit jumper after jumper knowing that he would NEVER get a serious shot attempt in the paint. Jumper over prince on the left wing - behind the back dribble and jumper over Billups at the top of the key - jumper over 3 guys from 20 feeet on the right wing - three ball on the left wing - THEN, after all this, with the Pistons again going into no foul mode and fearing the 18 footer more than ever before, he waltzes into the lane (gets hacked) and hits the game winning lay up.

No one complained that 80% of the shots he took in the 10 minutes of overtime (in which he scored 18 points) were jumpers. He HAD to take them. If he didn't make them, we lose the game - thank god he made them. But to call him out (like Cheryl Miller did after last night's game) for not taking it to the hoop would be like chiding an offensive coordinator for not running up the gut with a big running back despite the 9 man box. If it's not there - then start throwing!

LeBron without a doubt needs to get better at shooting, but to tell him to stop shooting and consistently dribble into traffic despite 8-9 men in the box is ineffective and a losing strategy. There are definite improvements that need to be made to the Cavaliers offense (like the way they use LeBron) but to call him out personally for him playing the game the right way is wrong.

No comments: