Speaking at length about Rajon Rondo, LeBron said he is more Barry Sanders than Derrick Rose.
MIAMI -- When you try to ask an NBA player about his emotions and feelings regarding a playoff series, he may give you a couple generic sentences. Ask him about that same topic in front of dozens of reporters and a dozen more TV cameras transmitting his answer across the world? You’ll get a couple words. If you’re lucky.
They are basketball players, not psychologists. They are not formally trained or paid to understand inner emotions or interpret them. Many players aren't inclined to articulate their feelings to a crowd of journalists hungry for a story. Would you be?
But these are the types of questions players receive in the playoffs. If you ask LeBron James a long-winded question about what this Boston series means to him, he’ll look down and start munching on his fingers while he prepares to cook up a media-friendly response. And typically, what you’ll get is a dry muffin with a pinch of narrative.
But these guys know basketball. They know it cold. If you ask LeBron a specific question about the game, his eyes will light up, he will engage you, and he will go on for days if you let him.
At practice, I wanted to know about Rajon Rondo. I had just heard Heat coach Erik Spoelstra say that Rondo is virtually impossible to prepare for because he’s an improviser. He’s unpredictable.
So I wanted to know from LeBron, in a purely basketball context, how does one prepare for Rondo, master of the unpredictable?
“You really can’t,” LeBron said. “You just have to be in tune. Every time he has the ball, you always have to know that he’s capable of making something happen, not only for himself, but for his teammates."
LeBron could have stopped there, but he continued with his scouting report.
“For a point guard like Rondo, there’s not many plays -- it’s crazy -- he doesn’t get many plays called for him, but he makes all the right plays, if that makes any sense.
"There’s a lot of point guards -- like Derrick Rose -- he gets a lot of plays called for him, a lot of pick-and-roll sets, he comes off pindowns or floppy actions. But Rondo, he’s either running pick-and-rolls or he’s improvising on the break.
"You have to know that when he has the ball there’s always a possibility or a chance that he can attack the rim, get under the rim, try to bring your defense into the paint and then spray it out to all those great shooters that they have.
"He’s always live. That’s what we call it.”
How do you combat him in transition?
“You try to meet him before he gets his speed up,” James said. “But you don’t want to be up on him too much because he’s so fast. He’ll run around anybody in this league. You have to be aggressive but you also have to be smart.
“He’s like Barry Sanders. You wouldn’t want to run up on him all crazy in the backfield back in the day either. He’ll spin you around and get a touchdown. So you gotta be smart with it.”