LAS VEGAS: Less than three weeks removed from his NBA Finals victory, LeBron James was back on the basketball court Tuesday at Mendenhall Center on the campus of UNLV. It wasn’t much of a break following a grueling, lockout-shortened NBA season, but James feels healthy and is eager to represent Team USA in the London Olympics this summer.
He has plenty of reasons to feel good, starting with his first NBA championship.
“Do I feel different?” James asked, repeating the question of how his first title has changed him. “I am a champion. I feel like that. But I still have goals. I accomplished one of my goals — the biggest goal I had. Now I’ve got to set out more.”
Next on the list is a second gold medal after winning his first four years ago in Beijing. He missed the start of the Americans’ training camp here last week to squeeze out a few more hours of precious rest, something USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo encouraged for all of the guys whose season only recently ended.
“He knew we were not going to push him at all,” Colangelo said. “We were going to give the players who went deep into the playoffs the time they needed. We don’t look at this week as being our camp, in terms of preparation. It’s a four-week camp, as long as we’re ready for London when we arrive in London.”
Despite how long the NBA season went this year, James said he never really considered skipping the Olympics mainly because he finished the year healthy.
“If I would have been injured or hurt and knew I would have needed to rest, I would have gave it some thought,” James said. “But I finished the season pretty strong. I didn’t have any injuries besides the small nicks and bruises everyone has throughout the season that would keep me out of these games. I’m blessed that I was able to be healthy and I feel good.”
One-third of the Americans’ roster (James, Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook) participated in the NBA Finals. James is the only one of the quartet who walked away with the championship, leaving the Thunder players in the unenviable position of having to show up and face James every day for the next month.
When the Miami Heat lost to the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals last year, James went underground for a couple of weeks. He needed the time to recover, mentally more than anything, and emerged stronger.
The Thunder’s trio, led by Durant, aren’t so fortunate. They didn’t have long to get over the loss and now get reminded of it every day at practice, although James insisted talk of the Finals rarely surfaces these days and he certainly isn’t going to rub the Heat’s victory in the face of his good buddy Durant.
That’s probably a good thing, since Durant conceded on Tuesday that seeing James every day still stings.
“It does, but what can I do?,” Durant said. “He’s my teammate now. I’m a team player. I can’t let that affect this. This is bigger than that. I’m just going to get over it, still be a great teammate, come out and play hard.”
James understands why. He said it would’ve been difficult for him to be teammates with Tyson Chandler last summer so soon after Chandler won his championship with the Mavericks.
“It would have bothered me,” James said. “I bet it bothers him [Durant] and Russell. They probably don’t want to hear about it. It would bother anyone. You’re competing at the highest level and you want to win and then you have to team up with them not too far removed from the games.”
James said he has not had any discussions about a public appearance in Akron to celebrate his first NBA championship.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.