VIDEO: Media Day: LeBron James
SAN ANTONIO – LeBron James arrived back in San Antonio for a short media session Saturday afternoon in a pleasant mood, low-key and cordial. The Miami Heat’s far-and-away best player in their so-far disappointing NBA Finals didn’t attempt to airbrush the reality of his team’s dire predicament. But neither was he here to concede that their bid for a first three-peat in the NBA since 2002 was DOA.
“You either don’t make the playoffs or you win a championship,” James said. “There’s no in between. I don’t want no first-round victory, no second-round victory, no Eastern Conference finals. Either I don’t make the playoffs or I would rather get my two months off, get my body rested or win the Finals. I don’t want no in between.”
The odds are heavily stacked against him. No team in league history has recovered from a 3-1 hole in The Finals to win the championship. The Spurs, after they arguably played as near to perfection during Games 3 and 4 in Miami as any team ever, have never lost a 3-1 lead in a playoff series with Gregg Popovich as coach. The Heat, so used to this script being flipped, have never faced such a deficit in the Big Three era.
So when the Heat take the floor at the AT&T Center for Game 5 on Sunday night (8 p.m. ET, ABC), James said his speech to his teammates will urge them to make the impossible possible.
“Why not us? Why not us?” James said. “History is made to be broken, and why not me be a part of it? That would be great. That would be a great story line, right?”
To do actually do it is another story altogether. The Heat will have to figure a way to slow down the Spurs’ hyper-efficient offense and reboot their own offense that has yet to crack 100 points in a single game this series and dropped off a cliff on their home floor.
James, though, is hardly to blame although he shoulders so much of the criticism. His offensive numbers in the series are eye-popping: 27.5 ppg on 60 percent shooting overall and 61 percent from beyond the arc. He’s put up two monster quarters in the last two games, yet neither even fazed the Spurs, who had blown Games 3 and 4 wide open before halftime.
“I’ve been telling myself I need to do more,” James said. “Is it too much to ask myself? I don’t know, I don’t know. I need to do more because what I’m doing isn’t enough. You know, it’s just what I put on myself. If you told me I was averaging 28 [points], shooting 60 percent from the floor and 61 [percent] from the 3-point line and we’d be down 3-1 … ”
“But that’s what the team is all about. It’s team basketball. But I put a lot more [on myself]. Maybe I need to get to 32, and 65 and 65 from the field and 3. It’s just the pressure I put on myself.”
James could go for 60 points Sunday and it might not matter if he doesn’t get more help. Heat point guard Mario Chalmers has had a nightmarish series. The other two members of the Big Three have to re-emerge. Chris Bosh had 21 points in Game 3 and 4 after scoring 18 in each of the first two games. Dwyane Wade, who said Saturday that physically he is fine, was 3-for-13 from the floor in Game 4 and has been burned defensively throughout the series.
To clear his mind, Wade said he headed to the gym by himself Friday night.
“It was just to touch, feel the ball, and wonder why I missed so many floaters. I’m high percentage around the basket, so I don’t like missing those shots,” Wade said. “Just to go in there a little bit and have your moments to yourself. I do it often, especially when I’m ‑‑ offensively when I don’t make the shots I want to make or do the things I want to do.”
James rattled off all the deficits in playoff series past that at one time or another no team had ever conquered — 3-0, 3-1, 2-0, whatever. He recalled the Boston Red Sox becoming the first team to overcome a 3-0 deficit in the American League Championship Series when they beat the New York Yankees.
“So history is made to be broken,” James said.
Maybe he even believes it. He certainly conveyed on Saturday that mentally — now 29 years old, a father and husband off the court and a veteran of today’s relentless, hyper-scrutiny on it — he’s as equipped as ever to overcome what never has before.
“I’m in a good place in my life — it’s basketball,” James said. “I understand it’s the media and the sport is the greatest sport in the world, I love it. It’s done so many great things for me, but it’s just basketball. It’s just basketball. So I let it all go. I give everything to this game. But right after Game 4, I was in the ice tub in the locker room and my two boys come running in there talking about let’s play some more basketball. I was like, ‘If y’all don’t get away from me, it’s the last thing I want to do right now.'”
“But it puts things in perspective, and I’m able to have a clear head about it.”
We’ll see if it’s enough to begin the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history.