No, not LeBron James. He’s gone, too. But I’m talking about all those traditional, stand-around NBA offenses where you isolate your best player or your superstar and allow him to play one-on-one.
Damn, we saw this thing fail again as Cleveland fell to Boston. James got the ball a lot — but with the challenge of weaving his way to the basket against a defense stacked against him. The Celtics basically jumped him with an overloaded defense that had the impact of an old box-and-one. Geesh, we’ve seen this before, haven’t we?
It’s incredible to me how long it’s taken many pro coaches to adjust to the fact that NBA defensive rules have changed and basically zones are legal. Help now can come from all directions and double- and triple-teaming is now so much more possible and prevalent than it used to be. Man, in the old days, you COULD basically play one-on-one.
But as we’ve seen, it’s really not possible any more. And more frequently, defenses are learning that no matter how talented the player is, he can be stopped with what amounts to the basketball version of gang tackling.
After watching Brandon Roy and Joe Johnson struggle in that sort of attack this postseason, it was not surprising to watch the best player in the league — James — do the same thing. The Celtics would just not let him get to the basket. You simply can no longer hand the ball to a good player and expect him to “create his own shot” — unless it’s a long jumper.
I’m telling you, Trail Blazer fans, your team is going to have to change. Portland must adapt and evolve with the league. And what’s working now is dribble-drive penetration, flex or passing-game offenses, ball movement, player movement and a share-the-ball mentality. Or Phil Jackson’s triangle. Some may even have to set a good screen once in a while.
Spreading the defense is now going to have to be the No. 1 priority. Heck, people are going to blame LeBron or his teammates, but the fact is, he was swarmed by the defense to such a degree, it was very difficult for him to even pass to open teammates — it’s why James ended up with nine turnovers Thursday night.
That stuff just doesn’t work consistently anymore, particularly in the playoffs when teams have the preparation time to gameplan against it.
And if LeBron James can’t make that kind of offense work, I don’t see how anyone else can.