Jun 1, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James reacts during the second half in game six of the Eastern Conference finals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
LeBron James will have his chance to get revenge on the San Antonio Spurs when the NBA Finals kick off in Miami on Thursday. In 2007, LeBron took the big stage as he led the Cleveland Cavaliers to the finals. As it is known, San Antonio quickly dispatched the Cavaliers in a sweep.
From that point on, LeBron knew that to compete in this league he would have to come out and be ten times better. Gregg Popovich and the rest of the San Antonio Spurs have already seen the type of player he has grown into and what could possibly become. It is scary. You can’t deny how great of a player James is. Love him or hate him, that is just something you cannot deny.
After his teams early exit back in 2007, LeBron has since added a title to his own and almost a handful of MVP awards. He also has been working on adding more elements to his game. A refined low-post game, an always-improving jump shot, near-impeccable shot selection and a big-game aura typical of the league’s best player.
Jun 3, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) reacts against the Indiana Pacers in the first quarter during game 7 of the 2013 NBA Eastern Conference Finals at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell- USA TODAY Sports
Earlier this season Gregg Popovich told reporters what he thought about LeBron and his skills. USA Today brought this to light once again.
“We all know what his skills are. He’s a great passer, he can rebound, he can defend,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told reporters earlier this season. “But I think, if anything, he is maturing mentally in the sense that he is enjoying playing the game. He doesn’t listen to talking heads anymore — or a lot less than when he first came in the league.”
Monday after the Miami Heat eliminated the Indiana Pacers in game seven of the Eastern Conference Playoffs, LeBron had to add to how much better he has become since that 2007 date with San Antonio.
“I’m 20, 40, 50 times better than I was in the ’07 Finals,” he said.
The Spurs prepared him to become this way. They used Bruce Bowen to make scoring difficult for him, guarding him into taking jump shots. As a result, James averaged 22 points on 35.6% shooting from the field and 20.0% on three-pointers in four games.
When the Spurs face James this time around, they’ll know they can’t leave him open for a jump shot — inside or outside of the three-point line. James shot career highs from the field (56.5%) and on three-pointers this season (40.6%).
Another lesson LeBron learned and talked about was when he once again went to the Finals before losing to the Dallas Mavericks.
“Ever since I lost the Finals to Dallas, my mind frame changed that off-season,” James said. “I just wanted to get back to playing the game that I love and have fun and play it at a high level. …
“I just went back to the basics. I went back home. I went back to Ohio. I worked out with my high school coach. I went back to my high school gym and just put myself in the mindset of what made me fall in love with the game. And it’s because I had a lot of fun with it.”
As the Spurs have proven through these playoffs, defense has really been key and the area in which they improve on every single game. LeBron will score his points San Antonio knows that. One thing certain though is the genius that is Gregg Popovich has proven that he can adjust his gameplan to take players out of their rhythm. It will be hard to do with LeBron but one thing is for sure, they will throw bodies, after bodies against him to let him know, someone will always be around.