In these NBA playoffs we saw the Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James giving everything he had, and more. However, it wasn’t enough. He led all players in the Finals in points, rebounds and assists. There was serious conversation of him deserving the Finals MVP title despite being on the losing side.
Instead, Andre Iguodala of the Golden State Warriors won the Bill Russell Award. Iguodala was said to have won because of spirit and energy he brought to the team.
Stats-wise he fell short of his co-captain and the league’s regular-season MVP Steph Curry in every category except rebounds.
The fact that the team leader beat out the stat leader for MVP encompasses the essence of the Warriors’ concept of team ball.
Curry posted outrageous numbers in his own right, but the Warriors’ respect for the leadership of Steve Kerr, his assistants and the veteran bench players allowed them to adjust to any opponent. Playing with five unified NBA-level athletes is much easier to do than relying on one of the greatest players of all time to do it by himself.
Phil Jackson, who won 11 NBA championships as a coach, mentioned James as an example of how the league has drifted away from team ball to star ball.
“Four guys stand around watching one guy dribble a basketball,” he told Bleacher Report. “I watch LeBron James for example. . . . There’s no structure, there’s no discipline.”
James throughout the Finals – in fact throughout the season – showed disdain for his coach, David Blatt. He ignored his calls, looked the other way during team huddles. He seemed not at all interested in structure or discipline. He wanted the ball.
Which is not to say he loafed on defense or that he refused to pass to an open teammate. But Jackson is right that a team needs structure. Screens must be set. Plays must be designed and executed.
James is, as he claims, “the best player in basketball.” But in order for him to silence the naysayers and enter the Michael Jordan echelon he needs more titles.
I do not think the max-paid King James can do it on his own. After the last Collective Bargaining Agreement there may not be enough room under a salary cap to build a championship team around a max-contract player.
To put it in perspective, the highest-paid player on the Warriors is David Lee at $15 million. The highest paid player on this team averaged just 8 minutes in the playoffs. This shows how the Warriors use lower-priced players to establish a team concept, much the way the San Antonio Spurs did before them.
The Spurs’ and Warriors’ way may yet catch on, even if Jackson doesn’t see this coming.
James somehow will have to step up his game still more -– perhaps shoot with more than 40 percent accuracy. Or he will have to accept adjustments in his role and his salary to reign at the top of basketball.
Click Here for Phil Jackson’s full story on Lebron James’ play