USA Basketball: A New Look For LeBron

LAS VEGAS – LeBron James sat on the edge of his chair, his arms crossed and a smile on his face as the questions came one after the other.

He’s still basking in that championship glow, the one that had escaped him for years, the one he owns now just weeks removed from his MVP performance in the Miami Heat’s triumph in The Finals.

That doesn’t mean he’s relaxing right now, though. After leading the Heat to the NBA’s ultimate prize, the new-look LeBron has some new responsibilities as the alpha male for the U.S. Olympic team as they prepare for London.

This is his third time preparing for the Olympics but his first time doing it without any loose ends lingering from the NBA season. This is an older, wiser and more focused James than we’ve seen in the past. And even if James insists that what he’s accomplished in the past eight months — a third MVP trophy, the first Finals MVP and Larry O’Brien trophy — change nothing, his Olympic teammates with championship experience of their own know better.

“He’s already an incredible player,” Tyson Chandler said. “He’s going to be a different player now.”

That’s great news for the U.S. and has to be a head-scratcher for the teams that await in London, many of whom are still rubbing the bruises they got from James and the gold medal-winning U.S. team in Beijing four years ago.

James knows this could very well be his last Olympics, what with a new wave of talented players rising up the ranks and the possibility of new rules that may keep veteran players on the sidelines. So he’s conscious of this team and its place in history. He also knows how important it is to lead them into the competition the way the best player in the world is supposed to.

“This is all about pride,” James said of the tone being set during training camp and the lead up to London. “It’s all about pride and representing this country the right way. And I’m happy to be a part of it.”

It’s a good thing that the Olympics came this year and not last. This time a year ago, James had locked himself inside his home. He went into seclusion after the Heat fell to the Dallas Mavericks in The Finals. He said he needed the time after that devastating failure on the biggest stage to assess some things about his life and his career, his game and his approach to it, before rejoining the rest of the world.

He emerged from that period a changed man.

U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said he noticed the change while watching James during The Finals. He seen more of it in the first few days here.

“These guys have such a great feel for the game of basketball,” Krzyzewski said. “And then, when they are with one another, they have an even better feel. Like LeBron the other day, he made a lot of terrific plays and made passes he may not make with the Heat. This brings out something new in these guys.

“Watching The Finals, there were five or six guys out on the court I’ve had the opportunity to coach. So it’s tough to pull for one. I wanted all of them to do well. In LeBron’s case, he’s taken such criticism for so many things, and I don’t think he’s ever committed a felony or anything like that, in fact I know he hasn’t. So I felt really good for him that [it finally] happened. He earned it. And he’s been great. He’s been terrific in practice. And the fact is, he was a great player in 2008 and he’s even better now. He’s exceptional.”

James is just two and half weeks removed from The Finals. He could have cited fatigue, physical and emotional, and bowed out of the games and left the burden of defending the gold medal to Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Deron Williams and others.

Both of his Heat teammates who are on the national team roster, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, suffered injuries that didn’t allow them to take their spots on the 12-man roster. Neither carried the sort of load James did the last eight months.

But James couldn’t resist.

“It’s a very quick turnaround, a very quick turnaround,” he said. “But I’m happy I’m here. I feel pretty good. Had I been injured and needed the rest, I might have thought about [skipping the Olympics]. But I finished the season pretty strong. And I didn’t have any injuries other than the small nicks and bruises that anyone has throughout the course of the season that would have kept me out of the games. So I’m humbled and blessed I was able to stay healthy and I feel good.”

He feels good enough to assume an even greater leadership role on this team, to help mentor the younger stars in the USA Basketball program in ways that never happened when he and Carmelo Anthony signed on before the 2004 Olympics.

He feels good to chase the latest challenge in a career built on great expectations and his ability to live up to them.

“I still have goals,” James said. “I accomplished one of my goals, the biggest goal I had. And now I have to set out more.”

42 Comments

  1. Mr Basketball says:

    It doesn’t matter how Lebron looks because him and the rest of team usa will look like clowns after Spain destroys them and the legacy of American basketball!!!

  2. KB 24 says:

    People hate LBJ because he has no talent he just has a great body and hes quick but thats all!

  3. Bob says:

    What I’ve learned from LeBron. You have to ignore the haters, but that is a big trial for the talented. Develop mental toughness and you and you can get there.

  4. john says:

    They said it might be his last olympics because of rules that might exclude veterans from playing, not because of his age

  5. GOD says:

    What I meant by the was, that’s what he’ll say. Just to be clear.

  6. Kurly says:

    This better not be his last Olympics. It’d be so damn boring without him. Basketball would be so damn boring without him…really hope he gets more rings very soon too!

  7. GOD says:

    Sometimes people need motivation, not love.

  8. Macky says:

    This USA team might have a bunch of future hall of famers on it. It’s def not the dream team but its a great team nonetheless. Lebron, Durant, Kobe, Melo, Paul, Willliams, Westbrook, Chandler, Love.. Those guys will def be hall of famers barring major injuries of course.

  9. maranda underwood says:

    that is good that u accomplished that goal i accomplished a goal and won the girls basketball city championship at martin a ryerson and i have two more accompishments and is to be like u but be in th wnba and i wont to be the mvp just like u one day

  10. comment says:

    LBJ all day

  11. Kingdom says:

    I know the reason why everyone hates LeBron…
    It is because he is too good…

  12. Jason says:

    Dwight Howard is the most most overated, overpaid player in the league. Ya he’s a beast and the best deffensive center in the game and a great rebounder..but other than dunking, he has a miserable offensive game. Bynum is a head case, but his offensive game is so superior to Howard and you don’t have to pay him nearly as much as Howard.

    • Pierce says:

      umm you must have not seen dwight play cause he has one of the prettiest hook shots ive ever seen. you can pretty much guarantee a 20 point game from him every game.

    • YoYo says:

      Bynum isn’t DPOY material and he is way more injury prone, and Dwight can alway learn couple more post moves….

    • QuestionMark says:

      You pretty much called almost every C terrible, most Cs can’t do anything except dunk or shoot inside the paint, there are exceptions of course, like Duncan, KG. However Howard has a great hook shot, and if you watched him last season, he is improving big time on his bank shot and jumpshot.

  13. fansince07 says:

    well shooting wise anyway…

  14. Benjamin Boi says:

    Voice Of Reason: Orlando Wants Draft Picks Thats Why Its So Complicated!

  15. SomeGuy says:

    I still don’t understand how everyone hated lebron more than Kobe… Lebron has never had a felony, Kobe has. Lebron is much more humble… why did everyone hate him?

    • L says:

      I hate him cuz he’s too good.

    • DurantulaKnight says:

      LOL my friend you have it backwards, people hate Kobe more than LeBron, might just be because he has scored 50-65 or more on everyteam in the NBA. Has Repeated championships in the past 4 years..maybe because he was more focused on winning then becoming scoring champion of the NBA in 17 seasons playing hmm…And the fact the felony never existed since charge were dropped..So the question is why do you hate Kobe more than LeBron?

  16. voiceofreason says:

    i dont know why they’re making the howard trade so complicated, it should be Howard and Turkoglu (dont know how to spell his name) for Andrew Bynum and Metta World Peace. Done, plain and simple.

    • two says:

      No, Metta aint going anywhere, he’s the best defender in the league and we’ll need him since nash is no defender.

    • Nonbiasedfan says:

      well… the only team that Dwight will commit to is Brooklyn Nets. it’s just Howard’s commitment that’s in question imo.

    • fansince07 says:

      i hope u do know howard is better then bynum and turgolu is better then metta world peace

  17. nbafan says:

    you the man! go heat!

  18. EH says:

    LBJ the Kang

  19. lbj says:

    dwight howard will sign for Miami, Orlando gets haslem,turiaf,anthony and future round picks. Go Miami

  20. Wow says:

    USA Team Basketball for the GOLD!

  21. John says:

    He’s 27. He’ll still be the best player in the league in 4 years. Barring injuries, it won’t be his last Olympics unless he wants it to be.

    • Carrington Banks says:

      look at Kobe, this won’t be lebron’s last olympics

    • Adam Buerner says:

      it appears you guys arent reading the article properly. It has nothing to do with whether he wants to or not. The NBA are leaning towards allowing only upcoming superstars to be in the famed Olypics, and verterns such as Lebron, will have no option to join the team, due to him being a Vet

      • MinneLakers says:

        Finally, someone who understands!

      • Jones17 says:

        Don’t be ridiculous Adam or MinneLakers – They have been leaning toward younger players because they are better than some of the old guys available. Players like Billups, Wade are injured otherwise they would have been there. They are choosing the best players available regardless of age. Why else is Kobe there? Because he’s still better than younger options such as Gordon, Paul George etc. LeBron will still only be 31 and will still probably be the best player in the world.

        Are they going to tell the best player in the world he can’t play because he’s not young?

      • wadefan says:

        its not an nba rule they are talking about.. they are talking about an olympic ruling on it.. like some international sports only allow players under 21 to rep their countries.. i hope this doesnt happen though.. they should be able to play the best players in the world against each other..