Coaching LeBron James is both a gift and a curse. On the one hand, he is one of the best players in the history of the sport and thus makes life easier for you. On the other hand, he prefers a certain style of play and does not always buy himself when the coach tries something different.
Before the negotiations with Tyronn Lue failed, the Lakers seemed to understand how they could best optimize the situation with James. Now Frank Vogel has to figure this out in a relatively short time, but as he said Joe Vardon of The Athletic, he thinks he has an idea on how to best balance James in a more structured offense:
Pushed on How does his schematic plan for LeBron look like? Vogel said, "In general, we're looking for more structure for what we do." Vogel declined to say what that meant. Here are some navigational buoys to point you in a particular direction.
Lue in Cleveland asked other Cavs stars to submit to LeBron. Lue designed the offense so that it ran through LeBron, and whether he put the ball on the court or not, LeBron should stand in the middle of the high post and distribute from there or score. That's what Lue told the Lakers he would do if he were hired.
Lue also wanted Vogel to sit on his bench as an assistant and talked to him about his plans before the contract negotiations with the Lakers came apart to coach James on work. It led to several championship appearances and even a ring. If Bird took something out of his talks with Lue, which is probably good news, because, as we all know, Luke Walton's approach last season was far less successful:
Walton specifically did not interpret the Lakers Offensive that way. In Walton's offense, each of the four ball handlers on the court could get it and go. If the ball made it into LeBron's hands, great. If not, so be it. LeBron took over the offense alone, but there was no "structure". He did not love it. Sources near LeBron said the lack of structure on the offensive and the bad, forced shots that some of his younger teammates fired made him discouraged the season. The person who shot the most "forced" shots was probably Brandon Ingram, but the more disappointing overall player last year was Kyle Kuzma. If anything, Lonzo Ball did not shoot enough to get involved in this discussion. I think there are only a few things we will never know.
"It's not this massive innovative approach that we're taking action on, that nobody has ever seen before, "said Vogel. "We're not going to rebuild the wheel, but there are little things that we can tweak like any player in the team to put him in the best position to use his abilities.
"And I would also say it's maybe less about how I use it than the environment around it. "
It'll be interesting to see what that looks like. On the one hand, it makes sense not to rethink this and implement a system that mimics Lue's approach. It was successful and it might be the best way to get consistent buy-in from James. On the other hand, James is a year older and may not be able to carry the offense as he did in Cleveland. And if he gets hurt with the crime he has just developed for him, that's quite a change of course, and I do not know if anyone is prepared for it.
Vogel said at his press conference that he had a positive conversation with James, and he does not seem so headstrong that he would refuse to stoop if James asks him to. Hell, he said it's part of his coaching philosophy to coach different players in different ways, and when we're real, it does not matter at the moment how Vogel sees the offense, because we do not know who else it will be will be on the list.
The best part here is to wait and judge this system when Vogel brings it out. He and the Lakers, however, can not afford to do anything wrong.
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