Throughout the years, Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James has had his fair share of run-ins with the San Antonio Spurs.
James met the Spurs three times in the NBA Finals, only winning one of them. That’s a credit to San Antonio and head coach Gregg Popovich, who found ways to slow down James despite his otherworldly abilities.
Ahead of yet another matchup against the King on Wednesday night, Popovich talked up James’ intelligence.
“He never played the game as the most athletic guy on the court. I think that really sells him short,” Popovich said of LeBron. “I think that he played the game to be as wise and smart of a player as he could be to win the basketball game. I think he enjoys passing more than he enjoys scoring, to this day. He’s just a fine passer, he knows what’s going on, he understands spacial relationships on the floor and he gets as big a kick out of that as knocking down shots. His ability on the court using his intelligence was just as impressive as his physical gifts.”
As far as James’s offensive game, Popovich went into detail about how he was able to improve from every area on the floor.
“All those sorts of things are processes. When he came into the league, he did use his athletic ability more than anything else. But as you’ve seen him more through the years, all of a sudden you see him on the post. And he can score in the post and hurt you or he hits teammates. He loves to come and get double-teamed like we’re gonna do tonight. We’re gonna double-team him all the time and we’re gonna try to make his life miserable, so you can tell him that now. As soon as he touches it we’re gonna be all over him and he’s just gonna be licking his chops trying to find guys for open 3s and cuts to the bucket and all that and I’ll just raise my hand and say ‘awe, what the hell, it’s LeBron.’
“So he developed that post game, both passing and scoring. And then you saw him with the fadeaway over his right shoulder and then came the 3-point shot. I think he made two or three last night [laughs]… So he developed that part of the game because at the beginning I know we used to play him where we would just try to stay in front of him and give him a lot of room and if he shot it we were happy. Then as the years went, you’re much less happy each year. He started to learn how to knock that shot down and now he’s shooting 3s so it’s been a process for him.”
It’s high praise for James from one of the best head coaches in NBA history and a testament to how much work he’s put in during his 20-year career. James continues to dominate and has legitimately shown no signs of slowing down.
Gregg Popovich explains LeBron James is most dangerous in transition
James is able to control a game on a possession-by-possession basis, but Popovich noted he’s most dangerous when he’s running the floor in transition.
“I’ll tell you what, LeBron is most dangerous in transition because he’s still like a locomotive coming down the court. Nobody seems to want to get in front of him, maybe that’s a life wish that they want to continue life, I don’t know. But when he’s going that fast on the court and he’s such a good ballhandler all at the same time, you know he can get to the rim but at the same time he’s gonna find everybody. He’s gonna find the cutter coming from the lane on the outside, he’s gonna find the open 3 in the corner. That’s when I think he’s most devastating.”
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