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Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012

Coach K believes LeBron will one day produce 20-assist game


NEW YORK — LeBron James with 20 assists? Mike Krzyzewski thinks it's possible.

News photo
Limbering up: Miami's LeBron James moves the ball during the Heat's 98-92 preseason win over the Bobcats on Tuesday. AP

The Hall of Fame Duke coach — and James' coach on the U.S. Olympic teams that won gold medals in Beijing and London — said in a televised interview that he thinks the three-time NBA MVP may have more assist chances than ever before this season, especially with the Miami Heat having so many players who can connect from 3-point range.

"Don't be surprised with a 20-assist game," Krzyzewski told Sun Sports, which televises Heat games, in a halftime interview of Miami's game in Raleigh, North Carolina, against the Charlotte Bobcats. "I'm telling you, because he has all these shooters and he's going to get easy assists."

James' career high for assists is 15, done three times. For his career, he's averaged 6.9 assists per game.

"That's a lot of pressure," James said when told of Krzyzewski's 20-assist prediction, not long after the Heat finished off a 98-92 victory. "But it's more pressure on our shooters. I'm going to get them the ball."

Krzyzewski has several long-standing ties to the Heat organization. He's close with Heat managing general partner Micky Arison. Heat CEO Nick Arison — the owner's son — was the Blue Devils' student manager for four years under Krzyzewski, who coached Shane Battier at Duke and had James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on Olympic teams. Wade and Bosh were on the 2008 team in Beijing, then couldn't play on the London 2012 team because of injuries.

"I don't think there's anybody in the world who defends the ball screen any better than Chris Bosh," Krzyzewski said, in reference to his Olympic experiences with the Heat players. "Dwyane was selfless. He said, 'I'll come off the bench.' So he comes off the bench and he's our leading scorer. And LeBron, you know, LeBron was LeBron."

As Krzyzewski was speaking live, James returned to the court to warm up for the second half. When he saw Krzyzewski courtside, he walked over and gave him a warm embrace.

"Just watching him tonight for a little bit, how much he loves to play," Krzyzewski said. "He's a student of the game. He's one of a kind. I'm so glad he's made the decisions he's made and he's with quality people, the level of talent around him. He's happy. He's a happy guy and a very talented guy."

The Heat added Ray Allen — the NBA's career leader in 3-pointers — in the offseason, along with Rashard Lewis, adding them to a list of shooters in Miami that already included Battier, Mike Miller, James Jones and Mario Chalmers, among others.

Krzyzewski thinks they'll all benefit from James' passing.

"How many 3's are you going to shoot this year?" Krzyzewski asked.

Dirk sees bright side


DALLAS — Now that Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki is through the first knee surgery of his career, he'll lean on the longest absence of his 14 NBA seasons to figure out how soon he can come back.

The short answer: He won't rush it.

The 11-time All-Star walked gingerly but without a noticeable limp in his first post-op meeting with reporters Tuesday, four days after arthroscopic surgery on his ailing right knee. He says he's encouraged but wouldn't go much past that.

Coach Rick Carlisle has said Nowitzki would miss six weeks, but declined Tuesday to offer any updated time frame.

"A timetable at this point is pretty ridiculous to talk about," said Nowitzki, hunched over the podium with the legs stiffened on his 213-cm frame. "It's hard to say right now when the swelling is going to be gone."

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