LeBron James and the Heat haven’t had much down time over the past three seasons. They hope that continues for a fourth.
Playing into June is a good problem to have, one every other team in the league would take off Miami’s hands.
Since James left Cleveland to join the Heat in the summer of 2010, no NBA team has played more games than Miami.
And no player has played more games than James.
Between Miami’s three trips to the Finals, his eight-game run to Olympic Gold in London following his first championship with the Heat in 2012 as well as those free-wheeling All-Star exhibitions, James hasn’t had much time off.
All told, that’s 346 games — not including Miami’s preseason — over the past four years for an average of 86.5 per season. That number will rise.
James most definitely is not complaining.
“This is the final stretch, you know, then the playoffs start,’’ James said after Monday’s evening practice.
“I take pride in the fact I’ve been healthy. I’ve had bumps and bruises like anyone. But I take pride in being out there for my teammates. I would love more rest, who wouldn’t? But when the schedule calls, I’ve been proud to be there for the most part for them.’’
The Heat kick off the unofficial second half of its season here on Tuesday night. Sure, there are 31 regular-season games left, but the focus for coach Erik Spoelstra now turns to making sure his team — including James — manage things before the season truly begins comes playoff time.
“We’re just looking to finish the road trip,’’ Spoelstra said of an eight-game trip that started Feb. 1 in New York and ends Thursday in Oklahoma City against the Thunder.
“It’s been strange to finish on the road then start back up on the road. But no excuses. The business-trip mentality we had [before the break] served us well.’’
With the Heat and Indiana the obvious class of the Eastern Conference, Miami does have an advantage over rivals from the west as it probably won’t have to exert itself too much over the next few months.
Miami comes into Tuesday’s game against the Mavericks — who stunned James and the Heat in 2011 to win their only NBA title — holding the second seed in the East behind Indiana.
Just don’t expect to see James take too much time off.
“He has a God-given gift where there’s only a small percentile of people who can be in that conversation,’’ Spoelstra said. “He doesn’t take that for granted. I haven’t been around too many pros who are as committed and dedicated to their craft as LeBron is. He puts in a lot of time behind the scenes with extra stretching, mobility, stability exercises. It’s a full-time job for him and a great lesson for young players coming into this league.’’
As James has motored through the past four seasons in Miami, Dwyane Wade has taken things slower because of various injuries.
This season, Wade has missed 14 games because of his knee issues.
“He just wants to play,’’ Wade said of James, sitting a few chairs away courtside. “Even in the games he has missed with small injuries, he wanted to play. We had to tell him to sit down.
“He’s a guy who takes a lot of pride in his game and he’s been blessed with a body that has been steeled enough to take on the grind of the NBA. He wants to go out every night and be great.’’
James caused a bit of stir around basketball circles when he said he would include himself on a ‘Mount Rushmore’ of NBA all-timers. James put himself in with Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Oscar Robertson.
“The facts are the facts and I believe in myself. These are my personal goals,’’ James said Monday. “I don’t care if no one else puts me with the best ever or where the so-called gurus of basketball put me when I’m done. I believe I can be one of the best if not the best to ever play this game. And that’s my personal goal.’’
Bill Russell, who won an NBA-record 11 titles with the Celtics, noticed he wasn’t part of James’ list of legends and apparently mentioned it to him at the All-Star Game.
“Obviously I have the utmost respect for Bill Russell for what he’s been able to do not only on the floor but off it,’’ James said when asked about Russell. “He paved the way for guys who came after him.’’