Listen, we know you like Cleveland coach Mike Brown. He’s a smart man and particularly skilled at coaching defense. You’ve done some fine things together. You might even win a title this year. Here’s the problem. Brown’s approach to coaching the most unique, breakthrough NBA talent in decades has basically been, I will match up my five against your five, and because one of my five is LeBron James, I will beat you. On the whole, this has been effective, but, LeBron, watching you dribble around while everyone on your team waits for you to do something is excruciating to watch. We can’t imagine it’s that much fun for you, either.
Here in New York, we have Mike D’Antoni, the most innovative offensive mind of his generation. Remember Jack McCallum’s book Seven Seconds or Less? The title is a simplified version of D’Antoni’s coaching philosophy: Shoot early and shoot often. D’Antoni was the guy behind those high-octane Phoenix Suns teams from your first five years in the league, the ones that routinely averaged more than 110 points per game (a dozen more than the Cavs have been getting). Rather than carefully build their way into a high-percentage shot, D’Antoni’s teams routinely attempt the spectacular. Or at least, that’s what they do when he has the talent. And D’Antoni’s never coached a talent like you. Sure, he had that whirling dervish Steve Nash and the LeBron-lite known as Amar’e Stoudemire. But you are a whole different beast. You at “the helm of a Mike D’Antoni offense,” Thorpe says, “could be the most beautiful basketball ever played.” Just discussing the idea made Thorpe practically giddy: “LeBron allows a coach like D’Antoni to come up with matchups that have literally never been created before. The best finisher of all time, on an offense that thrives in the transition? Imagine!”
We don’t exactly have a Nash-level point guard at the moment, but that’s okay, because you could do it. This wouldn’t be the way the Cavs play you at the point, just dribbling, dribbling, waiting. This would be you in the role of Nash (plus five inches and 75 pounds). Thorpe again: “LeBron’s passing angles on the run would be like no one else’s. He sees the floor like no one else sees it. You could just run everything through him, but on the go.” Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Just check out the play below.
Plus, on a team that plays at a faster pace, you’ll have more possessions, and therefore more opportunities to score, rebound, and assist. Your stats this year are jaw-dropping, but they pale in comparison to what you would do in a D’Antoni offense. Your Cleveland team has a Pace Factor (the number of possessions a team has per game) of 93.5. That’s 25th in the NBA. The Suns’ Pace Factor during the 2007–8 season was 112.9. That’s 19 extra possessions a game, or 1,600 a season. If you play with D’Antoni, you could assault almost every NBA career record and love every second of it.
1. Chris Bosh rebounds and outlets to you on the wing (dashed purple line), then trails the play (solid purple line), making a “rim run” to clean up missed shots or finish an alley-oop.
2. You dribble toward the top of the key (curvy green line). Since no one player can stop you, the other defenders will be forced to choose between leaving their men to step in your way (not recommended) or staying put.
3. If the defender checking Danilo Gallinari comes to you, dish to Gallinari in the corner (dashed green line). He made the second most threes in the NBA this past year.
4. Or, if one of the defenders guarding the other two Knicks switches to you, hit the open man spotting up or filling the lane on the opposite side of the court (solid purple lines).
5. If the defense decides to stay put, you candrive past your man, head straight to the hoop, and unleash a ferocious dunk (wavy red line). But you knew that.