Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 4/13/12
Oscar Robertson has great respect for LeBron James. He believes he's the leading candidate for MVP. He calls it "fair" that King James often is compared to the Big O. Then again, there's one comparison Robertson wouldn't make. "LeBron gravitates too much to the backcourt," Robertson said in phone interview about the Miami small forward. Wait a minute. Didn't the Hall of Famer play in the backcourt? Well, not exactly. "I know when I played (from 1960-74), I was more effective from 15 feet to the basket than I was from 25 feet to the basket," said the 6-foot-5, 205-pound guard, who could punish guys near the basket and is the only player in NBA history to average a triple-double in a season. "It's a simple thing." Robertson said James would be even better if he sometimes didn't play so far from the basket. "As gifted as LeBron is, you want him to finish plays," Robertson said. "You can start a play and finish it by yourself, but it's more difficult. I think I would want LeBron to finish plays and get more to the frontcourt than taking longer shots. "LeBron is a great athlete and he could be great anywhere he plays. But I think he could put tremendous pressure on any team by going inside and finishing plays. You pass the ball around all day long, you run your plays, boom, all of a sudden here comes LeBron, and either take it to the basket, shoot the ball or make a play. Make a play from 15 feet instead of 25 feet. That's the difference." Robertson said when the 6-8, 250 James gets inside, his post moves are fine. He said Miami "needs to understand what it takes to win a championship." But what about the fact the Heat aren't particularly strong at point guard, one reason James handles the ball a lot outside? Robertson doesn't believe that should be a factor. "From my sense of (starting point Mario) Chalmers, if you're the point guard, you got to fight and demand the ball," Robertson said. "He's got to set it up and get guys in position." That hasn't always worked out. Chalmers had no assists in 31 minutes Tuesday against Boston. "That's not good. That's not good at all," Robertson said. But even if the Heat can get James to play more inside, Robertson still doesn't believe it will be easy for them to win the title. "(James is) a great basketball player and he's played great since he's been in the league," Robertson said. "But you can't win a championship by yourself (The Heat) need somebody in the middle. You don't win championships without having a decent center." That the Heat don't have. Searching for somebody to do the job, they've started three different centers the past seven games: Joel Anthony, Ronny Turiaf and 6-8 Udonis Haslem, who usually plays power forward but got the nod in the pivot for Thursday's 96-86 overtime loss at Chicago. "I think it will be difficult for them to win," Robertson said. "With Oklahoma City being tough and Chicago's got a tough basketball team, and (Miami) not having a center who can compete with those teams." Still, Robertson has great respect for James. While Robertson said it would be "very difficult" for another player ever to average a triple-double in a season, he said James possibly could do it. James' career high in assists for a season is 8.6 and for rebounds is 7.9. But James, in his ninth season, still doesn't have a championship. Robertson, who didn't win a title until his 11th season, knows quite well how that feels. "Whether (criticism is) undue or not, he's the star of the team and he's a great basketball player," said Robertson, who played his first 10 seasons with the so-so Cincinnati Royals before being traded to Milwaukee before the 1970-71 season and immediately winning a title alongside legendary center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. "The press has anointed (James) the guy I can criticize for not winning. That's because he hasn't won." Robertson also touched upon comments made this week by Dwyane Wade, James' Miami and Olympic teammate, and Boston guard Ray Allen that NBA players in the Olympics should be paid. Wade later stressed he wasn't saying he wants to be paid this summer when he is expected to play in his third and final Olympics. While Wade and Allen have been criticized for their comments, none of that has come from Robertson, a 1960 Olympic gold medalist. "I'm very sure that not only Wade and Allen are talking about it," Robertson said. "I'm sure other (players) are talking about it (at least privately). But maybe this is the way you get the talk started There's so much money in the Olympics, it's unbelievable. It staggers you I'm not going to say it will happen, but I'm leaning more to the side that says they're eventually going to be paid for going over there to play." Robertson played in an era when amateurs represented Team USA. NBA players first appeared in the Olympics in 1992. "I was happy to play for my country and we got like 15 for laundry money," Robertson said of 1960. "But now we're in 2012, and times have changed What are you going to do (if NBA players want to be paid for the Olympics)? Go back to the college guys? They wouldn't win any games." James didn't agree Olympians should be paid. The last thing he needs is any more criticism. Chris Tomasson can be reached at christomasson@hotmail.com or on Twitter@christomasson
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