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John Schuhmann

LeBron James
LeBron James is not at his most comfortable with his back to the basket.
Steve Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

Heat working on ways for LeBron to score in the low post

Posted Oct 28 2010 10:13AM

PHILADELPHIA -- As LeBron James said on Tuesday, Rome wasn't built in a day.

Neither was James' low-post game.

Two games into the season, it's still a little surreal seeing James wearing a Miami Heat jersey and walking onto the floor alongside teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. It's also a little surreal to see his team running plays with James in the low post.

James in the post was a rare site in his seven years in Cleveland. He handled the ball on the perimeter almost exclusively. And it's clear that the reigning MVP isn't entirely comfortable with the ball on the block. But Heat coach Erik Spoelstra will be patient, knowing that his team needs some sort of post presence to be successful offensively.

Miami's defense, to date, is clearly a couple of steps ahead of its offense. Both the Heat and their opponents have scored less than a point per possession over their two games.

That was to be expected. With Wade missing all but three minutes of the preseason, and with an unprecedented influx of talent, it's going to take some time for Miami to develop the cohesion it needs to flourish offensively.

But for the Heat to truly be at their best, they need more than chemistry. They also need variety. James and Wade are deadly in transition and excellent coming off of screens, but at times, an offense needs to be able to work inside-out.

As we saw in Boston on Tuesday, when James or Wade is handling the ball up top, a good defense can keep the ballhandler on the perimeter. That's where running a play out of the post can help.

But because the Heat don't have a big man with an effective back-to-the-basket game, they need James and Wade to get on the block and make plays.

"It won't be the majority of it with Dwyane and LeBron," Spoelstra said Wednesday, "but we want to incorporate them both more to be able to back in, create two on the ball, create situations where we can play inside-out, just to offer some more variety."

Wade has spent some time in the post in the past, and has developed an effective baseline turnaround shot. James, however, doesn't have a go-to move on the block. Against the Celtics on Tuesday, he posted Paul Pierce on three occasions, was rather deliberate with the moves he made, and failed to score or create a basket for a teammate each time.

"I've spent a lot of time [in the post], but not enough," James said. "But this year, I'm going to key in on that, because we have more guys that can penetrate on the perimeter."

The Heat have gone to Chris Bosh in the low post in their two games. Bosh is the one skilled big man on the roster, but he's always been more of a high-post player than a low-post one, more comfortable facing the basket than with his back to it. He, too, has to get used to having the ball on the block.

Against the Celtics on Tuesday, Bosh got the ball in the low post seven times, and those possessions produced just four points. Two came on an impressive baseline move around Kevin Garnett, but the other two were scored when James bailed him out with a jumper at the shot clock buzzer.

Mostly, Bosh looked uncomfortable and hesitant in the post against the Celtics. Against the smaller Sixers, he was a little more effective. Still, he was most effective when he got the ball at the elbow and could out-quick Elton Brand.

Bosh not only has to adjust to where he's getting the ball, but also to the idea that he's no longer the focus of all five defenders. "I'm still trying to learn how teams are going to play me, what they're going to do, how they're going to react to me," he said.

James has the potential to be a force in the low post. As he did against Pierce on Tuesday on a possession where he simply missed a point-blank shot, he can use his strength to back down anyone who tries to defend him single-handedly. And if the defense sends a double-team, he should be able to pick it apart with his passing skills.

Both Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, neither of whom had the size or court vision that James has, reaped the benefits of developing a post game when they could no longer beat defenders off the dribble. Though he's a few years from losing his quickness, it's now LeBron's turn.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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