NBA PM: All Eyes On LeBron in Game 7
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All Eyes On LeBron James in Game 7
When the Miami HEAT take the court for Game 7 of the NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs, all eyes will be on LeBron James. Will he look to score or facilitate? How will he follow up his 32-point, 11-assist, 10-rebound triple-double from Game 6? Will he capture the second championship of his career?
James is no stranger to the spotlight. He has been under the microscope and projected to be great since he was in high school, which helped prepare him for moments like this. Fair or not, he’s expected to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy tomorrow night and this season will be considered a failure if he doesn’t get it done, no matter how close Miami comes in the end.
“I already know that,” James said. “It is what it is. I understand the moment for me. I’ve been pretty relaxed, though. I’ve been pretty relaxed throughout the playoffs. I’m going to be antsy, I’m going to be excited. I’m going to have some butterflies. I’ll be nervous. Everything. That’s how I should be. The moment is going to be grand. Like I said, I’m happy to be a part of it.”
“We expect LeBron to be LeBron,” Shane Battier said. “He’ll be loose tomorrow. Usually, in shootaround, he does a few dunks that would win any dunk contest if they were televised and that’s his way of saying, ‘Ok, I’m ready to go.’ He’s going to come here, listen to his music and then do what LeBron does. The one guy that we don’t have to worry about is LeBron.”
Over the next 24 hours, James will try to stay relaxed, which should be easy with many of his family and friends in town. He’ll do his best not to focus on the game and just have a laid back night.
“It’s going to be light‑hearted,” James said of his plans for Wednesday evening. “I’m going to spend a lot of time tonight with my friends and family, like I always do the night before a game. We’re going to laugh and joke about things that has happened in the past. Got a few of my high‑school teammates, friends, my best friends in town. My two boys are here so they’re not going to let me be too serious. They’re going to make me watch Sponge Bob or something at 9:00. It’s going to be light‑hearted around the house, man. You don’t want to think about the game too much. I understand it’s a huge game. It’s probably going to be one of the biggest games, if not the biggest game, of my life. But I’m going to just keep it the same way I’ve been doing, and tomorrow night I’ll be able to focus on the job at hand.”
James understands that he’s one of the most polarizing athletes in the history of sports so he’ll be criticized win or lose. This no longer bothers him, and he couldn’t care less about what his critics think.
“It is what it is,” James said. “That’s okay. It won’t stop me from loving the game, playing at a high level, doing it for my teammates, putting that uniform on. First of all, I mean, I’m blessed, man. I don’t even know how I got here. I wasn’t supposed to be in the NBA, if you go by statistics and things of me growing up where I grew up. Every time I go into my locker room and see the “James” on the back of an NBA jersey, I’m like wow. No criticism can deter me from playing this game because of that. I’m not supposed to be here. The fact that I’m doing what I’m doing and doing it for my teammates, it’s all that matters.”
“He’s a different being and he’s grown up with it,” Battier said. “I guess if you were dealing with this for going on 15 years, you would find a way to block it out. It’s foreign to all of us because we don’t have to deal with it, but he’s been dealing with this since he was 14 or 15 years old. You just figure it out after awhile.”
After winning his first NBA title last season, James admitted that he’s let himself think about repeating and becoming a two-time champion.
“I thought about it for sure,” James said of repeating. “It’s human nature. I want to go down as one of the greatest. I want our team to go down as one of the greatest teams. And we have an opportunity to do that. There haven’t been many people to win back‑to‑back championships. It’s so hard. It’s the hardest thing. I said last year it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, winning my first. Last year don’t even come close to what we’ve gone through in this postseason and in these Finals.
“My only goal is to win championships. I said it, this is what I came here for. This is what I wanted to be a part of this team for. As far as validation of me being here, I don’t really‑‑ I don’t think so. That side doesn’t really matter to me about what validates us coming together. The camaraderie and the friendship and the teammates and what we’ve done over the three years can never be replaced.”
The numbers are on James and Miami’s side. In the last 30 postseasons, home teams have went 17-2 in Game 7s in the Conference Finals and NBA Finals. The last team to win a Game 7 of the NBA Finals on the road was the Washington Bullets all the way back in 1978.
Before Game 6, James promised that he would deliver and put Miami on his back. He did just that, joining Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Wes Unseld, Jerry West and Bill Russell as the only players to record a triple-double in a Finals elimination game. However, that performance – or this season – won’t matter if James isn’t able to duplicate that success and win the championship on Thursday evening.
“I’ll be there tomorrow night,” James said. “I’m going to give it my all. I’m going to leave everything on the floor. Whatever happens, happens. I’ll be satisfied with that.”
Finals News and Notes
• Following last night’s devastating loss, the San Antonio Spurs had a team dinner in order to get over the sting and frustration following Game 6. “It was a great dinner,” Tony Parker said. “We shared histories and what happened in different games. You just share those moments and try to see what you can do better and prepare for Game 7. It was definitely a great dinner, and I think everybody understands that we have a great opportunity. It definitely helped, because obviously in the locker room everybody was very disappointed. We knew that we blew a big opportunity to get it done, to win the championship. So it was great to just talk to everybody and make sure everybody doesn’t stay sad too long. It’s very important that we bounce back and that we forget last night.”
• Manu Ginobili had one of the worst games of his career in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, finishing with just nine points and a career-high eight turnovers. He was still feeling upset about his performance when he addressed the media on Wednesday afternoon, but tried to look on the bright side. “I’m still down,” Ginobili said. “A blow like that, it’s not easy to get back up. But after 12 hours now, I feel a little better knowing that we have another chance, that we can do so many things better, and that we are in a Game 7 of the NBA Finals. There’s not much more than that. So we are still in a good situation. We are where we wanted to be at the beginning of the season still. It’s up to us. We have to have our best game.”
• Rashard Lewis can’t wait until Thursday night because he knows he’s potentially 24 hours away from winning his first championship. “It started sinking in a little bit sitting at home last night and thinking about how the Spurs could’ve been holding the trophy up last night,” Lewis said. “The basketball gods seem like they’re on our side. With Ray hitting that big three to force overtime and then with us winning the game, I’m looking at how we pulled it off and it might be meant to be for me to win a ring. It feels like I’m right there, so close but yet so far. They’re a smart team and they’ve already proven that it’s going to be tough to beat them.”