NBA AM: LeBron James’ Focus Pays Off
For the last two months, LeBron James has been in his own world. Since the postseason started on April 28, the superstar hasn’t tweeted, watched television, perused the internet or picked up a newspaper. James has even ditched his cell phone, cutting off contact with family and friends until after the playoffs.
“Since the postseason started, everyone has been shut down,” James said. “They understand what I’ve been going through over the years. My family has just been allowing me to just play the game and not worry about everything else that’s going on. They wouldn’t dare get in my way at this point.”
When he’s not on the court, James has been reading to pass the time. Before and after games, James can often be found flipping pages in front of his locker. He has read book after book during the postseason, starting with Jerry West’s biography West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life. He has since read The Hunger Games trilogy, Decoded by Jay-Z, The Pact: Three Young Men Make a Promise and Fulfill a Dream, and The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.
“It just slows my mind down,” James said of reading. “It just gives me another outlet. Throughout the playoffs, all you think about is basketball. All you want to do is play basketball. At the same time, it can become a lot. It can come to a point where it’s overloading to the mind, and you think about it too much. It’s hard to get away from it because you’re playing every other day, you talk about it every single day and you prepare every single day. The reading gave me an opportunity to, just for those couple hours of the day or those 25 minutes before the game, think about something else and get a sense of what else is going on besides the game of basketball. It’s made me comfortable. I’m not saying it’s the trick. It’s just something that I decided to do at the beginning of the postseason, and it’s worked for me.”
James has removed all outside distractions from his life and focused entirely on basketball, which wasn’t always the case last season. Last year, James listened to his critics and played angry in an effort to prove them wrong. He was also enjoying the rock star lifestyle, booking club appearances after many road games. Looking back on last season, James admits that he was “immature” and learned from the experience.
“Last year after Game 6, after losing, I was very frustrated,” James said. “I was very hurt that I let my teammates down, and I was very immature. Last year, I played to prove people wrong instead of just playing my game, instead of just going out and having fun and playing a game that I grew up loving. So I was very immature last year after Game 6 toward (the media) and toward everyone that was watching.”
“One thing that I learned is the greatest teacher you can have in life is experience,” James said. “I’ve experienced some things in my long but short career, and I’m able to make better of myself throughout these playoffs and throughout this whole year. And that’s on and off the court. I’m just happy that I’m able to be in this position today and be back on this stage where I can do the things that I can do to make this team proud and make this organization proud.”
Going into a vacuum seems to have worked for James. During last year’s Finals, James’ struggles were well-documented. He averaged just 17.6 points and disappeared for long stretches against the Dallas Mavericks. During this series, James has been nearly unstoppable, averaging 29.3 points, 10 rebounds and 6.3 assists.
“I’m just more comfortable,” James said. “I think this is just me being more comfortable and just trying to seize an opportunity. This is my third crack at it. First of all, I’m blessed because a lot of people never go to the Finals. Second of all, if they go, they never go back. And this is my third opportunity. So I’m just trying to make the most of it. Win, lose or draw, I’m giving my all, and I’m going to be happy. I’ll be satisfied with that.”
With James focused and playing at a high level, the Miami HEAT is one game away from winning the championship.
“I haven’t even really looked at it as just one game away,” James said. “I look at it as this is our next game. As crazy as it sounds, I haven’t got caught up in it. I won’t get caught up in it. The human nature is to automatically think about after we win it, what are we going to do. I’m not there. I won’t get there until those zeros hit and I see that we won. I’m the leader of this team, and I’m not comfortable right now. I’m comfortable in my game, but I’m not going to be comfortable until we seal this thing. Game 5 is a Game 7 for us. It’s a must‑win for them, but it’s a must‑win for us, too, and as a leader of this team, I’ll approach it that way.”
After removing all distractions from his life, James is on the verge of accomplishing his goal and silencing his hordes of critics. Tonight, the Larry O’Brien trophy is finally within James’ grasp.
Watson Expects to Stay With Bulls: C.J. Watson is coming off of a successful season in which he filled in for an injured Derrick Rose and helped lead the Chicago Bulls to the best record in the Eastern Conference.
Now, the Bulls have a decision to make. The final year of Watson’s contract is a team option and Chicago has yet to indicate whether or not they’re going to retain the point guard for $3.2 million. Watson says he hasn’t heard one way or another from the organization, but he’s optimistic that he’ll return.
“I expect to come back,” Watson said. “They have until July 10 so I’m just waiting to hear from them and see what happens. I want to be back. I love the team, I love the city, I love my teammates and I love my coaches. I think it’s a good fit.”
Even with Rose sidelined into next season, Watson believes the Bulls have what it takes to be contenders in the East. He hopes the team brings back many of the same faces so that they can avenge their first-round loss to the Philadelphia 76ers and try to make a deep postseason run.
“I think our expectations are going to be the same: Win a lot of games during the regular season and then try to reach the Finals,” Watson said. “I think everyone is going to count us out with Derrick being out, but hopefully we can bring back the same team and get back on track. We know we have a team that can make it to the Finals.”
The Bulls have until July 10 to exercise their team option on Watson.
Dudley Believes Suns Have Shot at Re-Signing Nash: Will the Phoenix Suns be able to re-sign Steve Nash this offseason? That’s the big question looming over the team because it’ll likely determine whether Phoenix tries to retool for a playoff run or start the rebuilding process. Nobody is sure what Nash is going to do this summer, but his teammate Jared Dudley believes the Suns have a shot at re-signing him.
“If he wants to go try to win a championship, hey, more power to him,” Dudley said. “If he wants to stay and help this process, more power to him. I definitely think he’ll weigh his options and see what he can do. Steve wants to compete and he wants to play for an organization that wants to compete. If he feels that’s the Suns or another organization, he’ll definitely decide that, but I definitely think it’s 50/50. I think the Suns have a huge, real shot at bringing him back.”
The Suns are expected to offer Nash a multi-year deal that would pay him $8 to $10 million per season, according to sources close to the situation. The Miami HEAT, New York Knicks and Dallas Mavericks have been mentioned as possible suitors for Nash. If Phoenix cannot re-sign Nash, they may be willing to facilitate a sign-and-trade so that Nash can make more money and they can receive something in return.