If nothing else, LeBron James found an ally when the Miami Heat arrived in Los Angeles on Sunday for what turned into a 93-83 loss to the Lakers.
Lakers coach Mike Brown, who coached James in Cleveland, said he remains surprised by those who criticize James for deferring at the ends of close games, such as James’ late pass in Friday’s one-point loss in Utah.
Brown, who went through similar episodes of media scrutiny regarding James in Cleveland, said the right basketball play is the right basketball play. Period. “I mean, he’s a great player,” Brown said. “I know if I’m coaching him and he did that, I don’t have a problem at all. Other people will. It’s good talk for people, I guess, you know, to debate that type of stuff.
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“But he’s made plenty of those plays. Up in Toronto, he had an OK look at it if he wanted to take it. He drove the ball and drew two. He can score over two people very easily. He kicked it to Damon Jones for a wide-open corner three, and he hits it and we win.”
Brown said the criticism is media driven.
“If I’m his coach, I live with it,” Brown said. “If I’m a fan or a journalist, maybe I don’t. I don’t know. But to me, nine times out of 10, he makes the right basketball play, if not more. His IQ is extremely high. To me, it wasn’t a big deal.”
Brown said all coaches have to accept the decisions of their stars.
“When you have a great player, you live with what the great player provides. Kobe, LeBron, D-Wade, those types of players, Durant — can they score in double coverage? Yes,” Brown said. “As a coach, would you take them shooting in double coverage? Yes.
“But if they made a play or a pass to a guy that they thought was open, are you mad at that? No. That’s how I feel. If you feel like you can step up and knock the shot down, do it. And I’m going to ride with you. You make it, we’ll celebrate. You miss it, we move on to the next game. If you don’t, I’m still riding with you, because you’re my guy.”
To Brown, it’s relatively simply.
“You did what you’re supposed to, or what you felt was best,” he said. “And I trust it and I believe in you.