Heat notebook

LeBron James says focus is on Miami Heat’s title chase, not potential opt outs

 
 
Miami Heat forward LeBron James dunks during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center in Dallas on Feb. 18, 2014.
Miami Heat forward LeBron James dunks during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center in Dallas on Feb. 18, 2014.
LM Otero / AP
WEB VOTE Has LeBron James surpassed Dwyane Wade as the greatest player in Miami Heat history?

grichards@MiamiHerald.com

A number of Miami players said LeBron James’ comments during a taped interview Monday didn’t offer a relief to building tension in the team locker room.

That’s because there is no tension nor, at least as far as plans go, any concern.

James, speaking to NBA television analyst and former Heat guard Steve Smith, said he couldn’t picture himself playing anywhere else but Miami at this current time.

As echoed by the likes of Chris Bosh and Shane Battier on Tuesday, James said his sole focus right now is getting the Heat a third consecutive NBA title.

“It’s going to take everything we have to win a championship,’’ said Bosh, who like James and Dwyane Wade, can opt out of their current contracts this summer and either re-sign new deals with the Heat or move on to another team. James can also opt out next summer.

“We realize what lies ahead. It’s going to be extremely difficult and you don’t have room to think about anything else. If you’re giving something else attention, you’re not fully committing what you need to win it all. There’s chatter outside the team about the summer, but we’re not. We’re looking at right now.’’

In an interview that ran on NBA-TV Monday night, Smith asked whether James could “picture yourself someplace else.’’ James said he couldn’t — although that could change.

“At this point I can’t,’’ James said. “But we don’t know what can happen from now until July. So, what I’ve been able to do this season up until this point is what’s at hand. And that’s winning a championship.

“Hopefully at the end of the year I can put myself in the position where I can hold that Larry O’Brien Trophy once again and then I’ll assess what I have to do with my future after that.’’

On Tuesday before Miami’s game against the host Mavericks, James said he didn’t watch the interview but said friends gave it good reviews.

“Winning is No. 1, of course, and that’s the reason I came down here,’’ James said. “The organization speaks for itself.’’

Smith brought James back to his first season in Miami, one in which the ‘Big 3’ didn’t get off to the start they had hoped for. James admitted that he and Wade didn’t click at first, with Miami’s 9-8 start bringing up some serious self-doubt. And playing the role of villain wasn’t something James felt comfortable with.

“At one point in the season we were 9-8. We weren’t playing good basketball, we were out of synch,’’ James said.

“Me and D-Wade, we looked at each other like, ‘Did we make the right choice, man? Is this what we really wanted?’ That was that moment. Two guys who held franchises on their shoulders, we gave one shoulder to each other. D-Wade came to me and said, ‘In order for us to be great, you have to be the guy. I’ll take a step back.’ ’’

Coach Erik Spoelstra certainly remembers that time, one in which there was plenty of clamoring for team president Pat Riley to replace his coach and take over the team as he did early in the 2005-06 campaign when Stan Van Gundy stepped down. The Heat won its first championship that season.

Spoelstra stuck around and is now in his sixth season as Heat head coach. Being in Dallas, he said Tuesday morning, often brings up those memories of the lone failure of Miami’s ‘Big 3’ era.

“Some of our best times with this particular group came through adversity,’’ Spoelstra said. “The tough things we had to go through; the Finals loss against this team. There probably would have been a lot of coaches fired that year. Even after 9-8. We were able to stay the course and grow.

“... That was a very humbling time for us. We had to reinvent ourselves, had to improve. The game we were playing wasn’t good enough. We came back more committed. That pain? We’ll never forget that. Coming to this arena, we’ll never forget that.’’

Wade returns

Wade was back in the lineup after missing Miami’s final two games before the All-Star break.

Although he didn’t play going into the break, Wade started Sunday’s All-Star Game, saying he felt he owed it to those who voted him in. Wade played limited minutes.

“I wanted to play for my fans from around the world who voted me in,’’ Wade said. “I tried to represent them as much as possible, then got out of the way to let the young guys get in there.’’

• Dallas rookie Shane Larkin has gotten off to a slow start after the Mavs took him with the 18th overall pick last summer.

Larkin, who led Miami to the Sweet 16 as a sophomore last spring, sustained a broken ankle in July and missed Dallas’ first 10 games.

“We’ve been a fan of his since he was at the University of Miami, got to know him a little bit,’’ Spoelstra said. “The slow start is because of the setback with the injury. He’ll have a fine career in front of him.’’

• Miami’s Chris Andersen looked a touch different Tuesday after buzzing his spiked mohawk. Spoelstra smiled when asked if he was worried the multicolored tattooed forward would still be recognizable without his painted coif.

“No,’’ Spoelstra deadpanned, “I think he still has quite a few other things people can look at.’’

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