LeBron James with 20 assists? Mike Krzyzewski thinks it's possible.
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, N.C. 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.
And on Tuesday, he raved about all of them, plus said that he told Battier it would be a mistake if he didn't sign with Miami in 2011.
"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.