Coaching LeBron James is a unique challenge.
Take the time he and Kyrie Irving kept shooting after a Cavaliers practice during the 2015-16 season.
Jason Lloyd’s book “The Blueprint: LeBron James, Cleveland’s Deliverance and the Making of the Modern NBA,” via The Athletic:
What it lacked, however, was showers. So while Irving and James remained on the floor shooting and shooting, the rest of the sweaty Cavs stood on the sidelines or sat in the bleachers and waited. As the minutes swelled into an hour, their patience waned. Sasha Kaun, an NBA rookie, was the first to be visibly irritated. Anderson Varejao saw how mad Kaun was getting and laughed at him.
“He doesn’t get it,” Varejao joked with me. “This is life with LeBron. Sometimes you wait.”
Yet after about 20 more minutes, Varejao wasn’t laughing anymore. Now he was annoyed, too. (Kevin) Love fidgeted with his phone. Assistant coaches made dinner plans. James and Irving, however, never flinched. They simply kept shooting.
“I will never leave the court without him,” James told me. “Meaning if he’s the only person in there shooting, I’m not going to leave. I’m not. And he knows that.”
James knew teammates and coaches were getting upset, but he didn’t care. The shooting session went on so long that even Tyronn Lue, still (David) Blatt’s lead assistant, stormed back into the gym as James and Irving were concluding. “Let’s go!” Lue shouted across the gym. “This is fucking rude and disrespectful!” James chuckled and told him not to get so upset in front of the media, even though there were only a few of us there at the time.
“They can leave us. They don’t have to wait for us,” James told me later. “We know the way back.”
Maybe LeBron thought everyone could leave without him and Irving. Maybe LeBron would have been even more upset if they actually did.
This is the unspoken difficulty of working with LeBron. He wields all the power. The Cavaliers walked on eggshells around what they thought he wanted.
Except Lue. As a former player, Lue – now Cleveland’s head coach – has a certain sway with LeBron. Can you imagine David Blatt speaking to LeBron that way?
Lue can push boundaries others can’t, but even he is in a tough spot. Who wants to stop a player from supporting a teammate by putting in extra work? Consider LeBron’s stature, and this situation becomes far more complex.
These are the types of issues that come up nearly daily with LeBron. He has earned his lofty position, and he’s not afraid to leverage it – usually for better, but sometimes for worse. And it’s not always clear which or how to handle it.