It took 13 NBA seasons, but LeBron James – a two-time NBA champion, four-time MVP and 12-time All-Star – is now being viewed by many as a coach-killer.
James reportedly wanted Erik Spoelstra fired in Miami and did not get on board with him until well into his second season with the Heat. We all know what happened to David Blatt. Tyrone Lue is now the sixth coach that James has played for in his career, including his fifth in Cleveland.
That’s a lot of coaches.
So, is James a coach-killer, or is he just getting a bad rap?
“I don’t think LeBron cares who his coach is,” NBA.com writer Shaun Powell said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “Really, seriously, if you’re LeBron, why would you care who your coach is? You’re gong to do what you want to do anyway. But I think he’s a coach killer in this sense: If you’re coaching LeBron, you better win a championship pretty soon or else you’re done because of the expectations that go with coaching LeBron, particularly at this stage in his career. Early in his career, I don’t think there were great expectations, but right now, you’re going to get about a couple years. The Cavs, with that payroll, the expectations and also the angst in Cleveland to try to finally win some title of some sort in any sport, I think there’s so much pressure that you have to win with LeBron right now. If you’re a coach and you don’t win with LeBron, you’re gone.”
Cleveland is 32-12 entering play Jan. 28 and has a two-and-a-half game lead over Toronto (30-15) for the top spot in the East.
Lue’s biggest challenge will be deciding what to do with Kevin Love, who, despite being second on the team in scoring with 15.7 points per game, often gets lost in the offensive shuffle. Will Lue turn Love into a three-point specialist, have him post up like he did in Minnesota, or take full advantage of Love’s inside-outside game?
The answer to that question may very well determine whether Cleveland wins an NBA title this year – or in the years to come.
“You can’t go into the playoffs with this team as constituted and expect to go very far,” Powell said. “I know you’re not going to beat anybody coming out of the West, and you might not beat, who knows, Chicago or Toronto in the East. This team needs to improve, needs to play better. You can’t lean on LeBron to average 42 points a game in a seven-game series to bail you out. I know Kyrie wasn’t healthy last year. I get all that. Kevin Love wasn’t healthy. I get all that. But this team needs to diversify its offense, it needs to be less predictable, it needs to toughen up a little bit on defense and the players have to show up. It’ll be really interesting over the next three weeks if Tyronn Lue can get that out of them.”