P.J. on LeBron: 'He's unguardable'

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- To say LeBron James owns the Nets would be an understatement.

James' teams have beaten the New Jersey/Brooklyn franchise 16 straight times, including eight in a row since James joined the Miami Heat.

The last time the Nets got the best of James? March 12, 2008. And he scored 42 points in that game.

In 32 career games against the Nets, James is averaging 27.6 points, 7.6 assists and 7.2 rebounds. The Nets will try again to contain him on Wednesday, when the 28-year-old superstar makes his first visit to Barclays Center.

This year -- just a season removed from winning his first NBA title -- James is shooting a career-best 54.7 percent from the field and 39.4 percent from 3-point range. His improved statistics have certainly caught the attention of Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo, who compared James to Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.

"(His improved shooting) makes him significantly better, which is hard to imagine," Carlesimo said Tuesday. "It reminds me of Michael as he progressed in his career. People forget that Michael was never a bad shooter. He was probably a better shooter than LeBron where they both started at. But the thing that I think got lost in the shuffle sometimes was that people never really appreciated how significantly Michael improved in different stages of his career.

"LeBron is doing that maybe even at an earlier rate. I mean, it's scary what LeBron has done."

Carlesimo was an assistant in San Antonio when the Spurs met James' Cavaliers in the 2007 NBA Finals. That postseason, at age 22, James shot just 41.6 percent from the field and 28 percent from 3-point range, but he still averaged 25.1 points in 20 games.

"You knew you could never really guard him because he was so big and strong and quick, but you said 'Let's let him shoot,'" Carlesimo said. "It was like he was doing us a favor if he did that. Now, it's to the point where he's, what, 39 (percent) from 3? So you put that on top of all the other things. He's unguardable. It's made it very, very difficult -- and it's really to his credit.

"People talked about when they won the championship what a significant step that was and how it changed things. But he's improved incrementally almost every year. And you start where he started and you realize he's still getting better. That's the thing I think was true of Kobe for an awful long time, it was definitely true of Michael and it's true of LeBron right now.

"Sometimes you wonder if other guys in the league don't get it."

That's what separates the greatest from the rest of the pack. Carlesimo wonders why players of far less talent and ability don’t seem to improve while elite players such as James continue to soar.

"Here's arguably the best player in the league ... and he's working on his game and he's getting better," Carlesimo said. "And you've got other guys that come back and they didn't do [a particular thing] well last year and then they come back and they continue to not do it well. And you think, 'How can this guy who can play the way he does and dominate, how does he keep getting better?'

"What fuels them to be the best and to win is an incredible thing. ... I see that with Kobe, Michael, I see it with LeBron right now, and it's a scary thing."

Asked in what way James has improved, Nets shooting guard Joe Johnson said: "Probably his IQ as a player and obviously the longer you're in the league, the more bulked up he's got, so that's probably the main things. But as you get older, you get smarter and wise, you do things a lot differently. If you look at it from early in his career in Cleveland until now, it's kind of like night and day."