With his team down 3-0 in the NBA Finals to rival Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors, a reflective LeBron James not only had a bunch of good things to say Thursday about his close friend, Dwyane Wade, and how he might have helped him in these playoffs, but he also discussed what he valued heavily about his four-year run to the Finals with the Miami Heat.
Wade, who was traded by Cleveland to Miami at the trade deadline in February as the Cavaliers rebuilt their roster, was arguably the Heat’s best player in their five-game opening round loss to the Philadelphia 76ers in April. The Cavs traded him to the Heat for a heavily protected second round pick essentially because Wade was being phased out of their rotation.
Thursday, though, James was asked if he wished he still had Wade, 36, by his side.
“Oh, absolutely,” James, 33, said Thursday in Cleveland on the eve of Game 4. “I mean, listen, not only from a brotherhood aspect and what we know about one another, [but] also from an experience factor. I believe that he would have been very, very good for us in the postseason. He's a guy that's kind of built for the postseason at this point in his career, who lives for the moment.
“So [I] definitely, definitely think about that. It seems so long ago that he was even a part of this ballclub, but [I] definitely think about it from time to time.”
Set to become a free agent this summer, James called his run with the Cavaliers this season one of the most challenging of his career. Oddsmakers have given the Heat the fifth-best odds to land James as a free agent this summer.
James, who has been to eight straight Finals, won the first two of his three championships in Miami playing alongside Wade, 11-time All-Star Chris Bosh and a number of savvy veterans like Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller, Shane Battier and Ray Allen.
It’s clear he’s come to appreciate what he had with the Heat. If the Cavs lose Game 4 on Friday, James will have lost four of the five times he’s lead Cleveland to the Finals.
“I felt like my first stint here I just didn't have the level of talent to compete versus the best teams in the NBA, let alone just Boston,” James said. “When you looked at [Rajon] Rondo and KG [Kevin Garnett] and Paul [Pierce] and Ray, you knew they were great basketball players. But not only great basketball players, you could see their minds were in it, too, when you were playing them. They were calling out sets. Rondo was calling out sets every time you come down. It was like, OK, this is bigger than basketball.
“So not only do you have to have the talent, you have to have the minds as well. I knew that my talent level here in Cleveland couldn't succeed getting past a Boston, getting past the San Antonios of the league or whatever the case may be.
“I played with D-Wade, I played with Bosh in the Olympics. I knew D-Wade for years. I knew their minds. I knew how they thought the game, more than just playing the game. Obviously, we all knew their talent, but I knew their minds as well. So I linked up with them. We went to Miami. Got some other great minds in Mike Miller; UD is a great mind but also a competitor. And guys that were talents. You build that talent. That's what you want to try to do.”
▪ Bosh told Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd on Thursday he thinks James will end up joining Chris Paul, James Harden and the Houston Rockets this summer. Houston lost in seven games to the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.
"It's like the next Avengers movie,” Bosh said. “Golden State with like 100 superheroes and then Houston with 100 superheroes and then they fight.
“What's happening now is that the stars are figuring out their power. He'll be the biggest free agent ever in history. With the dynamic that Houston has -- you can argue that they could have taken Golden State down this year.
"Kind of like what Golden State did -- KD went there. They teamed up and it's like, 'OK. beat this.' And now, I think, it's on another organization to get that same narrative."