Thursday, January 12th, 2012 at 10:45 am  |  71 responses

LeBron James Says He ‘Needs to Concentrate More’ on Free Throws

by Marcel Mutoni

Something decidedly strange was happening at the start of this NBA season: it was a little too quiet in Miami.

The Heat were steam-rolling opponents, LeBron James appeared to be cruising towards another regular season MVP award, and the general public’s hatred of the South Beachers seemed to have become somewhat muted.

A couple of close overtime losses on the West Coast have altered the narrative. And, of course, LeBron James is at the center of it all.

James was bizarrely unassertive in the Heat’s loss to the Golden State Warriors two nights ago, and clanked crucial free throws late last night in Clipper-Land, as Miami lost their third game of the year. LeBron went 9/17 from the line, and missed four big ones late in the game.

The tired debate around James’ ability to come through in the clutch has been revived, and armchair sports psychologists are going to have a field day with this, but according to LBJ, he just needs a little more focus at the line.

From ESPN:

Whatever [Erik] Spoelstra said to the players when they joined him in the locker room, there were smiles and laughter as the team collectively shrugged it off. “We gave ourselves a chance to win and we can be satisfied — you don’t like to lose — but we’re not going to hang our heads about this one,” James said, his eyes bright and his tone upbeat at his locker. “I need to concentrate a little bit more out there and knock [the free throws] down.”

The night before, in Oakland, James and his teammates were downtrodden after losing to the Warriors. There was barely a sound to be heard in that locker room. After this game, James was shouting rap lyrics and Wade was sharing private giggles with teammates as he iced his still sore foot. “You never want to lose, but no team ever goes undefeated,” Wade said. “We just move on from the frustration we have. We haven’t missed this many free throws as a team probably ever … you know it will average out.”

James actually played very well. Aside from his near triple-double (23 points, 13 boards, 7 assists), he was aggressive in the fourth quarter and overtime. Just couldn’t knock in his free throws.

As for the Miami Heat’s public approach to the mini losing streak, it’s probably a good idea to try and laugh it off. There will be plenty of time for doom and gloom in the postseason.

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  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    He shouldn’t be saying he needs to concentrate. He should actually be doing it.

  • http://Slamonline.com Milez Long

    Lebron will never reach his full potential until he gets a baldie. You could only run for so long Bron. It’s time to come on home.

  • robb

    the real problem is his mental strength (or lack of) down the stretch and everybody knows it.

  • jdote

    i agree a lot with this article. I thought Bron played pretty well up until overtime. He was aggressive, and played hard. I know it sounds like babying, but as long as he doesn’t look afraid of the moment, I’m good. He just missed shots. In overtime he was a bit out of control though, and looked more to draw fouls instead of making shots. But that’s what second nights of a back to back can do. It’s kind of like when Kobe went 6-28, the shots were there he just missed. Continue to be aggressive. Lebron had opportunities tonight at the line and he just missed. Continue to be aggressive. Yo, the Clippers look good when chris paul is aggressive and dominating. They need to find a way to get deandre jordan more involved. I was happy to see him get a few easy baskets. But, I have an argument: Lebron James holding the ball= Chris Paul dribbling and isoing for 20 seconds. The biggest difference is, Chris Paul doesn’t seem to miss when he does it. But I do think at times it breaks up the flow of the game, and he had plenty of lob opportunities but looked tentative to pull the trigger. Nevertheless for this team to reach its potential, I do think Paul has to be in the high teens to 20 point scorer. None of this 10 points 8 assist thing.

  • BlackStar

    I don’t know what else to say about Bron, but it seems he doesn’t get it. Why are you talking about “I need to concentrate on FTs” when this should no longer be a problem for you?! He should have been working on growing stronger mentally in addition to his post game this offseason. Homie has issues for real …

  • robertmavs

    his defense too…i know theyre offensive team….but defense is important

  • feez_22

    @jdote the reason chris paul can iso for 20 seconds and still be efficient is that he is a supreme decision maker, above average shooter and above average passer. Lebron is only 2 of those 3 things. his shot while above average midrange wise(ya its a secret don’t tell anyone) is still a shot he isn’t confident in shooting. he hesitates and did so against the warriors in the 4th/OT and against the clippers. Not to use an excuse for lebron… but after that ankle sprain he hasn’t quite been the same. he’s had a couple good games overall v. indiana/GS but he seems to have no lift right now. his jumper the past few games has been off balance. His drives have been weak compared to the beginning of the season. maybe it is his mental psyche but i think the ankle has at least something 2 do with that. Now wade’s ankle sprain has everything 2 do with his poor play so far. he’s been pretty bad this season. he might want 2 rest that… they say he might have plantar fasciitis

  • ryan

    he still give up ag 4th quarter.change that

  • ryan

    he still give up at 4th quarter.change that

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    We’re missing the most important part of this story people…please notice this line… “Wade was sharing private giggles with teammates”

  • bike

    He’s never been a very good free throw shooter which is unfathomable given his skill set.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    79% is pretty good.

  • Yesse

    nbk, for a guy at his position and level, nope.

    I can’t understand how LeBron keeps on failing in the 4th quarter this season. I thought he learned from the last one.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    75%* my bad. And no, it isn’t that bad. I’m not making excuses for him, but that is not a terrible %.. If he made 75% last night the Heat would have won. I think that’s proof enough.

  • tomtom

    “lebrick” was actually trending worldwide on twitter last night…that’s pretty pathetic. Dude can’t be missing FT’s like he is, but the man is an absolute monster. Believe me if he fades in the playoffs again then i will be all over that because i am no LBJ fan, but he is the best player on the best team and he is probably going to be the MVP. Give the Lebrick stuff a rest.

  • T-Money

    nbk: i think you’re overstating things based on the result and not the process. i try to stay away from the “fire in his eyes” kind of arguments. that jumper was a very decent look for him and he took it with confidence. billups doesn’t really have the capacity to contest his shot and he knew it. he made similar jumpers with the game on the line vs the bulls in the playoffs. miami made good decisions on almost every possession at the end of that game but failed to execute – i can live with that this early in the season. the loss against the warriors was much worse to me because they were playing like idiots.

  • T-Money

    argh wrong post.

  • Ugly_fish

    He’s too jacked and muscular to be a good free throw shooter.


    I think mentally he’s aight. The problem lies with his soft touch, i think he’s just too strong now to have a nice soft accurate shot, wheather its a free throw or trey. Fadeaways are fine coz he leans back, its straight up thats the problem. Hes just too strong.

  • Patrick

    What the heck else is he thinking about?!
    @Wayno I read that part and had to do a double take, haha.


    ^^^ Bazinga on that ish ^^^

  • kobesBESTfriend

    how bout working on not traveling when he drives to the basket…how come the refs never call that bs…and shane was playn dirty against blake all night that wasn’t being called either


    He should fadeaway on his freethrow.

  • 23

    Based on his physique his shooting ability is WAYYYYY above avg. Imagine ben wallace with lebrons shooting ability… almost seems impossible

  • 23

    And before I continue, yeah lebron needs to step up late in games. But let’s be real, all five of lebrons fouls were bs. Every single one was a result of a flop. And what was the bs call while he was getting post position????? Those calls alone made me want to stop watching

  • Rik Smits Mullet

    A rather have them loose a few games in the regular season then in the playoffs. i want to see mean mug lebron in the 4 qtr from now on

  • jdote

    the weird thing about his free throw is he changed his routine a bit last night. Before last nite, he was shooting and seemingly like stepping through his free throw. idk if y’all know what i’m referring too, but he took like a giant step forward leaning in after every free throw. last night he didn’t do that. For the heat though, i think they have a lotta problems but enough talent to hide it all. Like, why doesn’t james jones get minutes, is d wade’s foot ok, why has chris bosh only had like 4 good games all yr, can you trust norris cole to play minutes, and obviously lebron’s 4 quarter struggles. ooo and can they play a true center for a couple minutes, stop forcing wade and lebron to have the responsibility to protect the rim/rebound. it’s ridiculous

  • 23

    and i know im prolly gonna get jumped on for this. but seriously was deandre commiting lane violations every single time????? maybe it was just in my head but i seriously believe he was in the lane, WELL before everyone else

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    jdote, he was actually performing lane violations with the way he was previously shooting. I think that was brought to his attention. And he tried to adjust accordingly. My issue is with his release, which had about 4 different positions in his shooting last night.

  • stlheatmaniac

    every team bringing they A game when they kno the heat coming to town. LJ did all he could in the 4th but he couldnt buy a free throw. sometimes that happens. its just one game. in a series these teams cant play at that level consistantly but we can. i aint worried at all. wade will help LJ mental get even stronger. in OT u win some u lose some be winning this chip and thats all that matters. this is preparing us for the playoffs. its making us tougher. and its adding another aggressive attacker to closing situations which is LJ. Wade usually dominates to close out but now they are gonna get wade and LJ equally aggressive and its just gonna take a lil time to get it down pact. im not worried at all. i knew we wasnt going undefeated. dis chip is the Heats. we getting stronger mentaly already and going to war like this is making us more battle tested. by playoffs itll all b figured out then the haters wont have nothing else to celebrate about. i aint trippin at all. LETS GO HEAT!

  • http://www.stephentompkins.net St

    “James was bizarrely unassertive in the Heat’s loss to the Golden State Warriors two nights ago” —-did you watch the same game I did?

  • MLK4Life

    LeBron worked on his postgame but it doesn’t look like he has a lot of trust in it. His midrange game also still needs work. He has to get that in order so that it won’t be either shoot a jumpshot inside the three point line or bulldoze to the basket. What is sustaining Kobe as a great player is his midrange game. He could score 50 if he had to without scoring on a layup or hitting a three point shot. That’s why you see the Heat struggle against zones. LeBron doesn’t really know what to do if he can’t get to the basket and his outside shot isn’t falling. That contributed to his disappearance in the Finals last year.

  • Bawse

    It comes down to heart! He plays well until the game gets close!

  • lisa

    OMG it’s always an excuse for him and every other player. He didn’t make his free throws. He should’ve made them, end of story. I always felt like Wade should have the ball at the end of games.

  • MLK4Life

    It seems like Wade wants to help prove that LeBron is capable of hitting important shots at the end of games. I don’t see why it’s that big of a deal to either one. Wade has clearly shown to be the guy who can do that, why not give him the ball? LeBron is a better playmaker, let him be the one who sets Wade up. What’s so bad about that? Forget what fans and critics say. Just win the game. Put the ball in Wade’s hands and be done with it.

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    Before hitting 2 GWs this seasons, Wade was 2nd to last in the L when it came to GW or GTying shots. Just thought I would put that out there for the “Wade should close” brigade.

  • bike

    75 percent FT is not good for an MVP-caliber player who plays the way he does.

  • OTB

    JT – The point is that Lebron usually clams up in a shell and gets super passive, whereas Wade takes on the responsibility and tries to come up big, whether he tries or fails. Its just downright weird for the best player in the league to clam up like that. In the game against GS especially, he was just non existent.

  • http://nbasobrietystrike.blogspot.com/ CoolWhip

    “Bi**h, you wasn’t with me when I was shootin free throws in the gym” – Dwayne Wade

  • http://www.crappyrappers.com Simon Caine

    Lebron = all of the blame. Wade = all of the credit. Lebron and the Heat play better with Wade on the bench. Wade dominates the rock. Not a willing passer at all. He hit a couple game winning lay ups, big deal. If he wasn’t playing hero all game, it wouldn’t come down to that.

  • bike

    …and this buisness that he doesn’t have the physique to be a good free-throw shooter..that he has too much muscle…wouldn’t that translate into a poor all around shooter? I mean, come on.

  • lisa

    MLK… You know there will be a lot of hoopla on LeBron passing the ball in crunch time instead of taking the shot himself. He is a great player, extremely gifted, but one of his flaws is finishing games. I don’t like it when people make excuses for him, or any other player. He is a professional b-ball player, who has been in the league for 8 seasons. He should have it down by now. This is holding their team back, quit waiting on him and give the ball to Wade. I thought LeBron joined Wade and the Heat, not the other way around. Besides Wade has proven he can handle the pressure. And yes it’s early in the season, but it was free throws… C’MON MAN!

  • lisa

    THANK YOU OTB! I was just about to say that. Great players do make game winning shots. It also says something when you take them, wether you make them or not. LeBron still has issues with failure… Great players know they will mess up but they also know that there are other games. They make up for their mistakes.. It is early in the season which means he has time. Eight seasons in his career and still the same issues. Smh

  • MLK4Life

    The Heat do not play better with Wade on the bench. I don’t know what you’ve been watching. LeBron stops the ball routinely himself. In fact, Wade plays better than LeBron without the ball. Come on bro. And Wade’s made more than just a few game winning layups in his career. You should know that if you’ve watched him since he came into the league.

  • http://slamonline.com datkid


  • http://slamonline.com datkid


  • lisa

    That’s why Wade has a ring… Because of those game winning layups. LOL, Right… Smh

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    Over the course of their career, LeBron has been FAR more productive in clutch situations & 4th quarters then Dwyane Wade. And he had a ring because he played with a motivated Shaq and Pat Riley was his coach. Not because he was some unworldly clutch player. Wade has been better then LeBron on bigger stages, specifically the playoffs his rookie year, and the playoffs in 2006. But other then that LeBron has consistently been a better player, whether it be the 1st minute or last.

  • http://slamonline.com jumpman22

    Be self-centred more. Forget trying to be the ‘best’ player on court. Try set target being the league/team number one scorer or assist maker or rebounder, blocker etc. See how it effects the result.

  • Sparker

    mj career ft 83.5%. kobe career ft% 83.7%. o robertson 83.8%. mind you, karl malone 74.2%

  • Cheema

    I liked how lebron played last night. He was aggressive going to the rim instead of settling for those long jumpers or not shooting at all. He just had a off night from the freethrow line. it happens. I hope Lebron continues to play like he did yesterday in the 4rth quarter. BE AGRESSIVE!

    And about how wade should have the ball. Well he did have the ball against Warriors but shot 1-8 from the field in 4rth quarter. and scored no points in overtime. he was also 1-7 yesterday in 4rth quarter and overtime!

  • MLK4Life

    Wade took over in the Finals and pulled Shaq along with him. That’s why the Heat won in 2006. Let’s not discredit the amazing performance Wade had in that series especially as the Heat won four straight after goign down 2-0. He played like the best player in the world in that series. If LeBron has gotten to the point where he is unable to even attempt to do anything at the end of a game, the statistics don’t matter. There’s no hesitation on Dwyane’s part. There is with LeBron. What sticks out to people is the fact that Wade’s performances in the Finals are far better than LeBron’s. They’ve both been twice. We know what happened LeBron’s first time against the Spurs and we saw what happened against Dallas. LeBron has to fix that. October to May doesn’t matter. He has to do it in June in order to get rid of that criticism.

  • http://www.adultism.com justlenny

    i worship LeBron but he needs to get his sh!t together in the 4th quarter/OT

  • http://www.alllooksame.com Tarzan Cooper

    Wayno sees what’s really important. And datkid owes me rolaties, pay what you owe nucca!

  • http://slam kinglira23

    i’m a big big lebron fan but he needs to get is sh*t together in the 4th quater/OT realtalk!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    Wade is why the Heat won no more than Shaq is. I realize Wade was better in the finals. But you have to win all the series before it too get there. And Shaq was the reason they were in a position like they were. The amount of attention Shaq was demanding and production he was giving in those two years in Miami are so underrated just because of (1) 4 game stretch by Dwyane Wade. Which is cool and all, but Wade repeatedly getting all the credit for that last title is absurd. And would everyone stop talking about the finals like it’s some other type of sport then the rest of the playoffs? LeBron struggled twice in the finals. Kobe has missed the playoffs during his prime. Tragic Magic Johnson got swept out of the finals TWICE. Everyone struggles at some point, whether it be the finals, or regular season. There has only been 1 all-time great who never had trouble winning. And his name is Bill Russell.

  • lisa

    We’re not talking about 4th qtrs.. In clutch situations as of NOW, LeBron disappears. Wade won a ring because he stepped up under pressure, not solely because of Pat Riley and a motivated Shaq LOL. Even with that people doubted them… Oh yeah you forgot about UD’s free throw line jumper in transition. Wade put on a show and it was quite refreshing to see. LeBron is better than Wade. In crunch time Wade should have the ball. He will be confident, focused, and not afraid to fail in the big moment. Which are all excuses people give LeBron, when he doesn’t show up and play like the best player in the world.

  • lisa

    Now my comment comes up… Oh well it was supposed to be up a lot earlier…If Wade is no more than what Shaq meant to the Heat in the playoffs, then why did you mention it? Bill Russell doesn’t count the C’s had no one to challenge them, they made it look easy for a whole decade. That’s not fair you went from LeBron to Kobe to Majic to Bill… Some timeline huh? Just messing with you :)

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    The point is, you don’t abandon ship because you have had a rough stretch of 15 games. What were you saying against Boston and Chicago when Wade was giving the Heat nothing? How would LeBron have choked in the finals if he didn’t carry them there? you answer that question lately? THe idea of giving the ball to a worse player at the end of games in the beginning of the season, because he seems unafraid, is like saying, you don’t think LeBron will ever learn to be calm and confident in clutch situations. You always assume he will fail. Which, again, looking back at his career, is a quick way to look silly. People said the same sh*t about LeBron not being able to get past Detroit…… People said the same stupid sh*t about Jordan. Every star player fails. ANd they even said similar stupid sh*t about Kobe, “He can’t win without Shaq” – There is a pattern, star players struggle for a few years, or something changes and the “doubters” come out of the woodwork, then a couple years later all those doubters are either completely silent, or on the other side of the fence. If LeBron continues to struggle in late game situations all the way until it starts to actually matter (the playoffs) then yes, I would be inclined to let me season rely on the player who is better in those situations. But as of now, 11 games into the regular season, the only thing you’ll do by making late game situations Dwyane Wade’s sole responsibility is prematurely panic and compromise your team (the Heats) chances at improving.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    I am saying Wade was no more valuable to that Heat team than Shaq. Or Pat Riley. NOt that he was insignificant. Or that they won solely because of the other two. Read my words, don’t fill in the blanks with your imagination.

  • lisa

    I didn’t say you said either one was more important.. But what was the purpose of saying it took XYZ to win, when basketball fans with knowledge should know that. I was just stating that Wade had proven before that he had what it took. I was the first to say Wade disappeared.. Not on here though. I was also the one who noticed Bosh stepped up a couple times as well. I never said that I wanted LeBron to fail, I wouldn’t wish that on anybody… But it’s been 8 seasons now I’m tired of waiting. This is also coming from a big Kobe fan, who is not in a state of denial and knows that his time is running out.. So can you stop saying “Just wait till later on in the season”… We are trying to enjoy the last couple of years in his illustrious career. I also love KD as well.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    I’m stating what it took to get too that point becuase its the same f*cking sport. If a player can do something in the 1st round, he sure can do it in the finals. Just have to learn how. Normally that takes a failure or two. Like i’ve repeatedly said throughout this conversation. And you have been waiting 8 seasons for what? LeBron has been on a realistic championship team for exactly 1 year, and nobody intelligent who I have talked to, genuinely thought Miami would win the title on their first try together. So what exactly have you been waiting for? He’s already been better in every conceivable way outside of the finals then every other player except Kobe over the course of his career. Which includes the clutch. And Dwyane Wade.

  • lisa

    Please stop cursing, it’s rude… I know I’m such a girl. You had to go with Wade huh? To be honest I’m waiting for him to prove why he is “KING”. Seriously he is amazing but a King has bling.. This has nothing to do with Kobe or Mj. It is quite frustrating for someone to be named King and they only have 2 MVPs the same amount as Nash. Everytime there is an excuse for everything. I thought they could have won the championship, only after they made it to the finals. I expected more from him… And Wade.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    I apologize. That was rude, you are right. — Regarding the nickname, I didn’t give that too him, and I sure don’t agree with it. But he has earned his reputation as the best player in the league, he just needs to learn how to perform with the whole world putting pressure on him. This season is by far the most important to his legacy. (imo) he should be given this year to go through the ups and downs before we as fans, declare anything about him. At this age, Michael Jordan was on his way too winning his 1st championship, and his criticism was that he could never win as the league leader in scoring.

  • MLK4Life

    @nbk You must not have watched. That’s the only way one could say that Shaq was just as valuable as DWade was. There’s a reason why Wade was Finals MVP. By the time the Finals were over, DWade was widely regarded as the best player in the league. Shaq was on the downturn. LeBron has been on 2 championship teams, not 1. His last season in Cleveland, everyone predicted it was finally time for LeBron to get to the Finals. We watched Game 3 against the Celtics in the 2nd round when they blew them out, Bron played great and figured that team would get to the Finals. Then LeBron decides to disappear in Game 5 and they got eliminated. One more disappearance in the Playoffs and it will be disastrous for him and his career.

  • http://Slamonline.com nbk

    smh. Read what I say. But no Wade has never been considered the best player in the league. Ever.

  • Matt Park

    Lebron’s free throw stroke is actually looking a LOT better than last year… He started the season sort of stepping past the FT line as he shot and that seemed to give him confidence in his stroke. He seems to have stopped so maybe his confidence dropped?

  • robb


  • robb

    that was for nbk

  • Mburb321

    @MLK4LIFE So wade had a great finals performance and became widely known as the best player in the league??? Kinda like how Dirk is considered the best player in the league now huh?? I always though kobe passed the torch to lebron, didnt know wade ever had it…

  • Justin G.

    Bill Russell also won a lot of titles because every other player on his team was a Hall of Famer