LeBron James sprints away from shooter instead of playing defense (Video)
LeBron James used a familiar defensive strategy early on in the Cavaliers’ win over the Celtics Tuesday night, and it is one that plenty of other players across the league would be crucified for.
When Jonas Jerebko caught a pass in the corner near the baseline, LeBron closed out just long enough to make the Celtics forward take a step inside the 3-point line and take a jump shot. James did not, however, stick with the play, instead opting to sprint away in transition and give Jerebko a wide open look.
— Sean Highkin (@highkin) December 16, 2015
Dan Devine of Ball Don’t Lie did some fantastic research and learned that LeBron has taken that approach to “defense” on numerous occasions throughout his career. In a 2012 Heat.com feature, the logic was actually explained.
Both James and [Dwyane] Wade play the probabilities when it comes time to decide whether to run out on the wing. They don’t always have to know that their team has collected the ball, but they have to believe there is a high percentage chance of a HEAT player corralling the rebound before they leak out into transition. It’s a similar relationship between gambling in passing lanes and playing straight up on defense. Players have to make the reads and weigh the risks and rewards of each situation within split-moments. Run the other direction too early, and that tipped rebound becomes an advantage possession for the other team.
But when James or Wade is confident that Miami will end up with the ball, they are off like bullets.
As Devine noted, Jerebko is shooting just 27.7 percent over the past month. LeBron has probably earned the benefit of the doubt in this situation, and we wouldn’t be surprised if he was well aware of Jerebko’s struggles and felt trying to get a fast-break in that situation was worth it. Jerebko ended up missing, though the Cavs were unable to get a quick transition basket out of it.
Whether LeBron’s strategy works or not, we know at least one NBA superstar who would never get away with it without being bashed for months.