On Tuesday, ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst mentioned on “The B.S. Report with Bill Simmons” that LeBron James calls his own plays at times and his a much more prominent role in the Cavaliers’ play calling on offense. Since the podcast’s publication, both James and head coach David Blatt have downplayed the importance of this designation, going as far as to compare the relationship to that of the chess-like game of football.
“What typically happens—and this has been happening for like three months now—is LeBron will take the ball, and LeBron will call the play. David Blatt will see what play LeBron calls, and he will repeat it to the team,” Windhorst stated to Simmons.
On Wednesday, Blatt shed some light on the machinations of the team’s offensive play-calling, further explaining what Windhorst mentioned.
“When the game is going on and you are in the heat of the battle at times, you can’t get a message through or you don’t want to stop the flow, so a guy may [call the play on his own],” Blatt said.
When asked if he encourages James to assume the play-calling responsibilities, Blatt responded with, “”Yeah, especially when it works,” Blatt joked. ”No, but I mean, again, it can happen and it’s not an all-the-time thing, but it certainly can happen.”
Following Blatt’s response, James then downplayed the situation and admitted that he has called his own plays at times throughout games. During Thursday morning’s shootaround, James stated that he has called offensive sets for the last 11 years—”I wasn’t smart enough my rookie year,” he said—and compared his on-the-fly decision-making to that of Hall of Fame-bound quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Tom Brady calling an audibles.
“I don’t have the freedom to call all the plays,” said James. “I have the freedom to call sets, but it’s no different from Miami and no different from when I was hear before. Why wouldn’t you? It’s no different than telling Peyton Manning or Tom Brady they don’t have the freedom to change [plays] in the huddle.
“It’s just I have a feel for the game,” said James. “I know what helps our team and we got great minds. Our coaching staff are great. I thank them that they allow me to give some input on what I think we should do at times, but ultimately it’s their call. So, it’s great to be able to just get different sides of the game with some of the great minds that we have.”
Blatt maintains his role of drawing up plays during timeouts, but even at this point, he gives James and the offense freedom as well. During the team’s recent victory over the Indiana Pacers, it was James who recommended center Timofey Mozgov guard the ball on a last-second in-bound play. The in-bound pass was lofted just high enough to get over Mozgov’s outstretched hands, but was subsequently not able to be corralled in time to get off a set shot, allowing the Cavaliers to walk away with a win.
“We have a package,” James said. “If I see something, I have the right to call plays. Kyrie does as well. We kind of do that play calling. Coach Blatt does the play calling obviously throughout the game in timeouts, but it’s great to be able to have some type of freedom out there with Kyrie to be able to call sets that we feel best suit our team.”