It sure does seem like Dwyane Wade is rooting for LeBron James to win the NBA Finals.
Although many Heat fans haven’t gotten over James leaving Miami to return to Cleveland, the face of the team apparently holds no grudges against his former mate. On Tuesday night, Wade interviewed James for ESPN after the Cavaliers’ stunning victory against the Golden State Warriors in Game 3 of the Finals. Heat fans might have cringed at the sight of Wade together with James again, but the awkwardness didn’t extend to the postgame set inside Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena. The interview had the feel of a conversation between old friends, and the comfortable exchanges facilitated some useful insight into not only the current Finals series, but also into James’ years in Miami.
No player in the game today knows James better than Wade, so it made for good TV, and not just because of the inherent reminder that James was seated next to the player he left last summer only a short while after another brilliant performance by his current team. The Cavaliers defeated the Warriors 96-91 on Tuesday to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 championship series.
“I see a different LeBron, a different focus, that I haven’t seen, and I’ve seen a lot,” Wade said to James. “Tell everyone about your mind-set.”
James answered candidly.
“I’m just trying to do whatever it takes at this point,” James said. “And being overmatched, being undermanned and being counted out, everything is against us right now. We don’t have nothing to lose.”
In other words, James’ environment in these Finals seems a little healthier than the collective stress the Heat felt this time last year after falling behind the San Antonio Spurs 2-1. The Heat was attempting to win three consecutive titles.
The major difference between the series is simple: The Cavaliers’ perimeter defense against the Warriors has been better than the Heat’s last year against the Spurs. The Spurs shot 47.73 percent from three-point range through its first three games of the 2014 Finals. The Warriors are shooting 31.73 percent from three-point range against the Cavaliers.
“We’re not comfortable, we’re not satisfied, and for us we have to stay even-keeled,” James said. “It’s the first to four wins, and I’ve been here before, and this guy next to me [Wade] has been here before, and we know.”
In addition to his defensive prowess, James has been a one-man offensive juggernaut against the Warriors. Wade pointed out that James’ efforts in these Finals is similar to what Wade did in the 2006 Finals against the Dallas Mavericks.
“Which one is the best Finals?” Wade asked.
James played along: “Well, I’m going to say yours … because you were down 0-2, coming back home … down 13 in the third, and you ran off four straight.”