NBA PM: Changes Coming In LeBron’s Game
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At 28 years of age with two championships and four Most Valuable Players awards under his belt, the notion that LeBron James has room to improve is scary. He’s already the best player in the game today and is rapidly becoming difficult to leave out of the best of all- time discussion. However, those close to James along with James himself believe he’s yet to reach his ceiling.
“I don’t know what percentage, but I know I still have room for improvement,” James said when told by ESPN’s Chris Broussard that his agent and close friend Rich Paul assessed him to be 85 percent of the player he can be. “I feel I can improve on my shooting, on my ballhandling, on my low-post game. Since I started playing ball, I’ve only been in the low post for two years now, playing with my back to the basket. So that still needs a lot of improvement to catch up with the rest of my game. If it’s something I feel like I don’t do very well, I just try to come back and do it better.”
James had particular success in the low post in the Eastern Conference Finals. As it was clear that the Indiana Pacers were going to give them their toughest test yet, James planted himself on the low block, where he dominated and helped lead the HEAT past the Pacers and to their second-straight championship.
Safe to say, we’ll be seeing plenty more from James in the post in the future.
“Absolutely,” James said about playing on the block more. “I think it’s a dynamic that helps our team more than anything. We don’t have too many conventional post-up guys. Obviously, CB [Chris Bosh] can get down there, but he’s more of a spot-up, catch-and-shoot, pick-and-flair guy. D-Wade does a little bit down there as well. But it brought a new dynamic for our team when I started to change the pie chart of my game — less perimeter and now adding a little bit more in the post.
“I worked on a lot of post moves without dribbling, creating space and also getting to one countermove. If you take away one thing, being able to counter off of it, I also have a counter to a counter. If you take away the counter, I’m able to exploit that as well. So it’s going to be pretty fun down there for me this year.”
When James first started working on his low-post game, he sought out the tutelage of Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon. Olajuwon stressed to him the importance of playing in the post more to utilize the superior size and strength he has over basically every perimeter defender in the league and worked with him on some of his patented moves.
Since that time two years ago, James has developed his postgame into one of his most dangerous weapons.
“It wasn’t that I didn’t like [playing in the post]; it was just something I wasn’t comfortable with,” James said. “I would say I’m comfortable with it now. And for me, anything that adds value to our team and the guys around me, my teammates, I’m all for it. If it took me playing without the ball and cutting more or slashing more without the ball, if it took me playing point guard, if it took me playing center, if it’s going to help our team, I’m for it. And I felt like in order for our team to be more dynamic, I needed to be in the low post. It just creates so many matchup problems. Teams can’t play me one-on-one down there, so when a double-team comes, with me being as tall as I am and with my basketball IQ, I’m able to find guys uncovered. So it’s a dynamic for our team that not many teams have.”
Continuing to be more low-post centric could be key in James’ pursuit of his third-straight championship. Of course, no matter how much he produces or in what manner he does so, championships are always what is going to be brought up first. If he’s truly going to be remembered as the best ever – which he has publicly stated is his ultimate goal – he probably has to at least match Michael Jordan’s six.
“I don’t think about that,” James said. “That really doesn’t mean much to me. I don’t play the catching game. I’m not trying to catch Magic or catch Bird or catch Kobe. I’m into maximizing what I have while I have the opportunity to do it. I’ve played my first 10 years at a high level, and I’m trying to play my next 10 at a high level, or as high as I can be.”
Wiggins In High Demand: As Andrew Wiggins gets set to make his college debut for Kansas next month, the shoe industry is watching with a close eye, and a $180 million check according to Jared Zwerling of Bleacher Report.
Zwerling, citing industry sources, reports that adidas is currently willing to offer Wiggins a 10-year, $180 million deal but Nike and Under Armor are also very interested in the Canadian sensation who is currently the heavy favorite to be the number one pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
That dollar figure is mind-numbing, especially when compared to what LeBron James received from Nike out of high school. James received a seven-year, $90 million deal from Nike – Wiggins’ would be worth six million more a deal, if it indeed ends up being in the neighborhood of $180 million.
Of course, this is all dependent on Wiggins’ stock maintaining its current status throughout the year. We’ve seen plenty of cases in the past where a player who is projected to be the number one overall pick in the preseason slides down the draft board by the time draft night comes around. Wiggins appears to have a pretty firm grasp on the spot right now, but this 2014 class is deep and much top heavier than recent drafts. Kentucky’s Julius Randle is in the mix for the top spot, as is Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, Australia’s Dante Exum, Duke’s Jabari Parker and Arizona’s Aaron Gordon.
Just prior to Zwerling’s report surfacing, Kansas head coach Bill Self was doing his best to temper expectations, stating that he didn’t think Wiggins would put up monster stat lines like Kevin Durant did at Texas and Michael Beasley did at Kansas State. However, the Wiggins’ hype train has too much momentum to slow down, especially with the fact that he’s months away from being worth nine figures now being public knowledge.