This isn’t the very best of times for LeBron James. Last week, he had to watch his dream of bringing an NBA title to Northeast Ohio crumble, as his Cavs lost a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals to the Warriors.
Now, one of the NBA’s most respected minds has declared that James’s penchant for traveling is symptomatic of what’s wrong with the league. No less an authority than Phil Jackson was quoted as saying the Cleveland superstar “might [travel] every other time he catches the basketball.”
Jackson’s comment came in a lengthy profile published Monday by Bleacher Report. The Knicks president spoke to veteran NBA reporter Howard Beck about his dissatisfaction with the league’s current emphasis on isolation play and nonstop pick-and-rolls, forsaking much of the game’s team-oriented “beauty.”
“When I watch some of these playoff games, and I look at what’s being run out there, as what people call an offense, it’s really quite remarkable to see how far our game has fallen from a team game,” Jackson told Bleacher Report. “Four guys stand around watching one guy dribble a basketball.” …
“I watch LeBron James, for example,” he said. “He might [travel] every other time he catches the basketball if he’s off the ball. He catches the ball, moves both his feet. You see it happen all the time. There’s no structure, there’s no discipline, there’s no ‘How do we play this game’ type of attitude. And it goes all the way through the game. To the point where now guys don’t screen — they push guys off with their hands.”
The only shame is that Jackson didn’t mention LeBron’s infamous “crab dribble.” But he did offer plenty of other thoughts, such as:
“If you give people structure, just like a jazz musician — he’s gotta learn melody, and he’s gotta learn the basic parts of music — and then he can learn how to improvise. And that’s basically what team play is all about.”
The 13-time NBA championship winner, including 11 as coach of the Bulls and Lakers, plus two as a reserve with the 1970s Knicks, said he wants players who can flow into “interpositional or interchangeable positions on the floor.” Perhaps that’s why his team has been rumored to be interested in signing Pistons big man Greg Monroe, who otherwise appears to be problematically similar to Carmelo Anthony.
Jackson also told Beck that he traded J.R. Smith, “who may not have been the best person for the kind of organization and structure that I’m talking about, to a place [Cleveland] where he could survive and be well, do well.” Is Jackson saying that he thought Smith’s game would mesh with James’s constant traveling?