MIAMI (Reuters) - The criticism leveled at LeBron James for his fourth-quarter scoring woes in the NBA Finals is unfair because the Miami Heat All-Star is so often compared to Michael Jordan, James’ high school coach said Saturday.
James can score but, unlike Jordan, he can also rack up the assists, said Keith Dambrot, the former coach at St. Vincent-St. Mary high school in Akron, Ohio.
”People judge him more like Michael Jordan than what he really is,“ Dambrot told Reuters in a telephone interview on Saturday. ”He’s really a mix between Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson.
“He has more of a passing formula in his head than he does scoring at times.”
James has been sharply criticized during the finals for not scoring down the stretch in close games. He has 11 fourth-quarter points in five games during the finals.
The Dallas Mavericks hold a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series and can claim their first championship with a win either Sunday, or if necessary, Tuesday in Miami.
Dambrot, now the coach at the University of Akron, said the Mavericks ‘have decided that they’re not going to let this guy beat them with points and assists, they’re going to make him pass the ball.’
”Dallas is doing a lot to eliminate his shots,“ said Dambrot. ”They’re double-teaming him off of every ball screen, they’re doubling him in the post.
“And even in this last fourth quarter, he got out in transition and they’re grabbing him when he’s ahead of the pack. And he threw two balls to (Dwyane) Wade that he probably could have kept.”
James has maintained he is not concerned about scoring in the final quarter as long as he can help the Heat win.
”LeBron has played his whole life to win,“ said the 52-year-old Dambrot, who has kept in contact with James during the finals. ”Ultimately it’s going to go down whether he can win or not -- not how many points he scores.
”The criticism is unfair. If his team wins then he’s doing what he’s supposed to do. Sure, they lost those two games and he’s going to be under scrutiny.
”But almost anything he does is wrong right now. A lot of it has to do with leaving Cleveland and the way he left. The guy has been one of the world’s most team-oriented players.
“It may be the first time in the history of basketball where a guy is being criticized for not shooting the ball more. Most of the time you’re criticized for shooting it too much.”
Dambrot said he talked with James this summer about being vilified for his free-agent move to Miami after spending his entire NBA career with the hometown Cleveland Cavaliers.
“It’s a new thing for him. This guy has always been the hero,” he said. “It’s uncharted waters for him. But he just has to concentrate on winning and not pleasing everybody.”
Editing by Martyn Herman