LeBron James says he has always called offensive sets and plays throughout his career, and the Cleveland Cavaliers superstar says it would be foolish for any coach not to let him do so.
“Why wouldn’t you give me the freedom to play call?” James said. “It’s like telling Peyton Manning or Tom Brady [a play] and don’t give them the freedom to change in the huddle. I’m a smart, cerebral basketball player.”
As James and the Cavaliers prepared to face the Miami Heat in the NBA on Thursday, he was asked about his ability to call plays during the game. The relationship between James and first-year Cavaliers coach David Blatt has been scrutinized all season, with some observers viewing James’ play-calling as a sign that he is in charge.
Well, James said he has been running the show for years.
“It’s no different from Miami and it’s no different than when I was here before,” said James, who signed as a free agent with Cleveland last off-season following seven years with the Heat. “I do it every game. I’ve done it every game for like the last 11 years. My rookie year, I didn’t have the freedom, I wasn’t smart enough.”
James does not have the luxury to call all of Cleveland’s offensive plays, but the team’s coaching staff trusts the four-time NBA MVP to make the right read.
“I have the freedom to call the sets, whatever best suits our team... My basketball IQ is very high and I take that very seriously, so I know what best suits our team and our coaching staff does as well,” he said. “If you don’t allow me to call plays throughout the course of a game, it’s not going to benefit our team.”
Blatt has the Cavaliers in the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference standings, despite injuries, trades and relentless analysis.
He acknowledged that James and Irving have the go-ahead to call plays, and it is not unusual to give players that responsibility.
“When the game is going on and you’re in the heat of the battle, sometimes you can’t get a message through or you don’t want to stop the flow,” he said. “So we have sets that we know what we’re going to use going in. At times according to the flow of the game, somebody may call out a play. I don’t think that’s unusual, no. Certainly if you know what you’re doing, you have a plan going in.”
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