Both in Miami and during his first stint in Cleveland, LeBron James had the ball in his hands in the vast majority of his team’s offensive possessions.
Part of that was due to him being the best player on the floor, of course, but it was also due to the personnel each team had in place. Playing LeBron off the ball didn’t make a whole lot of sense as a consistent strategy, considering that there wasn’t anyone on those teams capable of running things cohesively, and getting him the ball in a prime position to score.
That’s changed dramatically now that James has returned to Cleveland to play alongside Kyrie Irving, who is arguably one of the top five point guards in the game. Because of that fact, LeBron seems more than ready to hand over the primary ball-handling duties, putting them in Irving’s capable hands.
“I’ll probably handle the ball a little bit, but this is Kyrie [Irving‘s] show,” James said Saturday following the Cavs’ first practice of training camp. “He’s our point guard. He’s our floor general and we need him to put us in position to succeed offensively. He has to demand that and command that from us with him handling the ball.” …
Now he’ll have another ball-dominant guard in Irving to play with and not only is it something that James accepted in his return to Cleveland, it actually played a role in selling him on the move from Miami.
“Coming back, my [Sports Illustrated] letter kind of spoke for it, what this city and Northeast Ohio, what I mean to it. That had a lot to do with it, probably 95 percent of it. And the fact that Kyrie was here as well. That’s a huge part,” James said. “I’ve never played with a point guard like Kyrie Irving, a guy that can kind of take over a game for himself. We need it. So, that was a huge thing and that was way before we even got [Kevin] Love and signed Mike Miller and Trix (Shawn Marion) and the rest of the guys. That was very intriguing.”
Irving is just 22 years old, but is already a two-time All-Star, and was named MVP of the FIBA World Cup this summer. Still, LeBron saying that the Cavaliers are “Kyrie’s show” only goes so far.
James will be expected to be the primary cog in the Cleveland machine next season, even with Irving and Kevin Love playing right alongside him in the starting lineup. New head coach David Blatt has all kinds of nifty sets available to create easy offense, and with Irving initiating things on the bulk of the possessions, James will have the freedom to play off the ball more than he has at any point in his career.
But make no mistake — whether Irving is doing the bulk of the ball-handling or he isn’t, LeBron is the one who, justly or not, will shoulder the blame if at any time during the upcoming season the offense begins to sputter.