LeBron is embracing a role that he’s never taken on before, the role of being a veteran mentor. LeBron made it clear from day one, that he was going to welcome the challenge of taking an inexperienced team to a championship. He told SI’s Lee Jenkins, “My patience will get tested. I know that. I’m going into a situation with a young team and a new coach. I will be the old head.” But has LeBron coddled the Cavs too much?
LeBron told ESPN’s Chris Brousard that leading this Cavs team will be the biggest challenge of his NBA career. LeBron went on to say that leading this team will be harder than winning his first championship. He believes that it will take time for this team to break the bad habits it accumulated from losing for so long.
The Cavs are immature and inexperienced off the court, but they don’t need LeBron critiquing their every move on the court. Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving have proven in their young careers that they can be NBA stars. Their game is arguably superior to Bosh and Wade’s game(right now, not career-wise), but he isn’t treating them with the same respect.
LeBron has trusted his teammates throughout his career, and at times trusted them too much. He has never been afraid to pass the ball to another teammate. LeBron has averaged 7 assists a game in his career while playing forward. While he still trusts his teammates here, it appears that he only trusts them to a certain level. You can see in his demeanor that LeBron believes he has to carry this team by himself. He feels that he has the responsibility to teach them how to win. But in teaching them how to win he seems to be hurting his own game. He’s never been on a team where he is “the proven winner”. He’s always had someone else he could rely on. It appears this new role is taking a toll on him.
LeBron wants to make the Cavaliers a finals contender. But I believe he is going about his role the wrong way. It seems like LeBron is trying to force things at times and not let the flow of the game dictate the action. We’re not used to seeing games where he posts point totals in the teens. Those games he looked like he was trying to get his teammates involved too much. But in late game situations he is only trusting veterans. Look at the loss against the Spurs as an example. LeBron forced a pass to Varejao late in the game that resulted in a turnover. The next possession he tried forcing a give and go with Varejao that had the same result. Even on the last possession he was afraid to pass the ball to his open teammates down the court. Late in the game it appeared LeBron only trusted Varejao. I’ve never seen LeBron play like that in his career.
LeBron shouldn’t view this as the biggest challenge in his career, but rather as the biggest opportunity in his career. LeBron can build something special here and extend his prime 2 to 3 years just like Jordan did. LeBron found a way to trust Bosh who wasn’t a proven winner, he should be able to trust Love and Kyrie the same way. This is arguably the best team, talent-wise, he’s played on, and they can learn how to win. They’ve already proven they have the heart to erase large 4th quarter deficits. Just because a team isn’t proven doesn’t mean they aren’t winners. These players haven’t been placed in situations before where they can win.
LeBron just needs to lead by example and not alter his game. The Cavs’ best games have been when LeBron is playing like himself. He shouldn’t be afraid to take over a game, but also shouldn’t be afraid to rely on his teammates. He shouldn’t hesitate when passing the ball to Love or Kyrie late in the game. Kyrie has proven he can make big shots when they matter most. He made two critical free throws late in the game against the Spurs to bring the Cavs within one and hit big shots down the stretch in games against the Celtics and Pelicans. Not to mention all the shots in his previous seasons. Kyrie and Love know how to make plays late in the game.
LeBron will learn to trust his teammates, it’ll just take time. He’s putting the success of the team personally on his back when he doesn’t need to. On the court LeBron needs to just be himself. He’s the best player on the planet, and shouldn’t be afraid to play like it. He needs to do his teaching and mentoring off the court and let these young superstars play on the level they’re capable of. Don’t worry though, LeBron will figure it out. He has succeeded in every role he’s been placed in on the basketball court and this one will be no different.
pic credit to usatoday.com