With a season done and a championship won, LeBron James offered encouraging news for Heat fans during his season-ending news conference Tuesday, saying the ultimate goal would be to ride it out long-term in Miami with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
But he stopped short of saying he definitely would remain with the Heat beyond next summer, when he, Wade and Bosh could exercise opt-out clauses in their contracts.
Asked if something unexpected would have to happen for James to want to leave the Heat next summer, he said: “I don’t know. I’m not really thinking about that right now. Our focus is how we’re going to get better this year with all these other teams getting better, to keep that trophy here.”
But when asked whether he has thought of sticking it out with Wade, Bosh, team president Pat Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra for years to come, he said: “That’s the goal. That’s the ultimate finish. We all hope that can happen, obviously, to be able to have success with two guys and with Riles and Spo.
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“This is what we came here for. That would be the ultimate. But I don’t know. Life changes, things happen, and you have to be prepared for that. But this is what we all want to be here for. And that’s to be able to compete for a championship every year. If we can do that, then it would be awesome.”
He said the prospect of another free agent decision next summer will not weigh on him and he won’t think about it until “it comes up. It won’t roll around in my mind. It can’t get worse than the season before I became a free agent in 2010.
“What I’m prepared for is to come back a better player and be the leader of this team and try to go for a three-peat. I’m going to come back a better player because I owe it to my teammates.”
During the past two summers, he concentrated on improving in one particular area. In 2011, it was his low-post game. Last summer, it was his three-point shooting.
This year? Even James isn’t sure.
He said when he takes time later this summer to assess his 2012-13 season, he will determine “what aspect of my game that I least went to throughout that previous season. That’s what I try to work on coming back … so I can be even more dynamic.”
James said he believes the roster, as constituted, is good enough to compete for another title but said “every individual has to get better.”
He addressed other topics:
• On winning a second championship: “My emotions were out of this world last year when we won it, and they were out of this world again this year. It’s something I want again. I’m obsessed with success. I want to be able to win another championship because it’s the best feeling in the world.”
• On the fact he has been so exceptional in Game 7s: “I love Game 7s. You’ve got to beat me one game, and I like my chances in one game. I have a lot of confidence in my ability.”
• James said Maverick Carter — his childhood friend and close confidant — usually speaks with him after every game. But “after Game 5, he went five days without talking to me. It’s not just a bed of roses with us. They’ve been around me too long to allow me to be careless, not stepping up to the plate at the highest level. They critique me more than I critique myself.”
• On his September wedding, in San Diego, to Savannah Brinson: “I am involved enough to where everything is going to go right. The most important person is Savannah. If she’s happy, I’m happy. That’s all that matters. I don’t care about nobody else on that day besides her.”
• Other plans this summer include a trip to China for Nike and a basketball camp for the top 100 high school players.
“I will find time to rest and work on my game,” he said. “For me, rest is not playing basketball, which is hard for me to do — so hard. I have to police myself.”
Spoelstra said James might be back in the gym within 10 days because he can’t stay away. “That’s possible,” James said, smiling. “I love the game so much. I’m missing it already. My body feels great. I don’t know how it feels like it does right now.”
What’s the one thing he can’t wait for? “It’s like, ‘Damn, I wish we could come into the locker room — have another practice, take another flight, another bus ride. Those 15 guys. You start to miss the guys throughout the summer.”
Read more revelations from James at Barry Jackson’s Sports Buzz.