With a season done and a championship won, LeBron James offered encouraging news for Heat fans during his season-ending news conference on Tuesday when he said the ultimate goal would be to ride it out long-term here with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
But he stopped short of saying he would definitely remain with the Heat beyond next summer, when he can exercise an opt-out clause in his contract.
Asked if something unexpected would need to happen for him to want to leave the Heat next summer, he said: “I don’t know. I’m not really thinking about that right now. Our focus is how we’re going to get better this year with all these other teams getting better, to keep that trophy here.”
But when asked whether he has thought of riding it out with Wade, Bosh, team president Pat Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra for years to come, he said: “That’s the goal. That’s the ultimate finish. We all hope that can happen, obviously, to be able to have success with two guys and with Riles and Spo.
“This is what we came here for. That would be the ultimate. But I don’t know. Life changes, things happen, and you have to be prepared for that. But this is what we all want to be here for. And that’s to be able to compete for a championship each and every year. If we can do that, then it would be awesome.”
He said the prospect of another free agent decision next summer will not weigh on him next season and he won’t think about it until “it comes up. It won’t roll around in my mind [before then]. I’ve been in this position before. It can’t get worse than the season before I became a free agent in 2010.
“What I prepared for right now is to come back a better player and try to defend our crown and be the leader of this team and try to go for a three peat. I’m going to come back a better player because I owe it to my teammates.”
During the past two summers, he concentrated on improving in one particular area. In 2011, it was his post game. Last summer, it was his three-point shooting.
This year? Even James isn’t sure.
James said when he takes time later this summer to assess his 2012-13 season, he will determine “what aspect of my game that I least went to throughout that previous season. That’s what I try to work on coming back,… so I can be even more dynamic.”
Free throw shooting is one potential area of improvement.
But he said “I don’t need a shooting coach. For me, it’s continue the repetition and continue to work on it. During my workouts in the summer time when I’m dead tired, those are the opportunities I should go to free throw line and challenge myself to be able to make five in a row or 10 in a row because you’re going to be put in those situations throughout the season, where it’s late game, fourth quarter, you’re dead tired and you have make free throws. It’s mental more than anything.”
James addressed other issues:
### He said this team is good enough as is to compete for a title but said “every individual has to get better.” He said he won’t ask Riley for more help.
### On winning a title: “It’s unexplainable feeling. My emotions were out of this world last year when we won it and they were out of this world again this year.
It’s something I want again. I’m obsessed with success. I want I want that feeling again – I want to be able to win another championship because it’s the best feeling in the world.”
### On the fact he has been so exceptional in game 7s: “I love Game 7s – I have been able to be pretty good in Game 7s – I say, if I’m on one team and playing another team, you’ve got to beat me one game and I like my chances in one games. I have a lot of confidence in my ability.”
### During the Finals, Maverick Carter – his childhood friend and business associate didn’t talk to him for five days – which is highly unusual.
“I usually talk to Maverick after every game,” he said. “After Game 5, he went five days without talking to me. It’s not just a bed of roses with us. They’ve been around me too long to allow me to be careless, not stepping up to the plate at the highest level. They critique me more than I critique myself. They got on me.”
### On his September wedding, in San Diego, to Savannah Brinson: “I am involved enough to where everything is going to go right. The most important person is Savannah. If she’s happy, I’m happy. That’s all that matters. I don’t care about nobody else on that day besides her.”
### Other plans this summer include a trip to China for Nike and a basketball camp in Ohio, which the top 100 high school players will attend.
“I will find time to rest and work on my game. When you don’t have to be on your feet, that’s rest. For me, rest is not playing basketball which is hard for me to do, so hard. I have to police myself.”
Spoelstra said he believes James will be back in the gym within 10 days because he loves the game so passionately. “That’s possible,” James said, smiling. “I love the game so much. I start to miss it. I’m missing it already. My body feels great – I don’t know how it feels like it does right now. You miss the game less than a week after it’s over.
What’s the one thing he can’t wait to? “It’s like: ‘Damn, I wish we could come into the locker room – have another practice, take another flight, have another bus ride. Those 15 guys. You start to miss the guys throughout the summer. I know my family probably doesn’t want to hear that, but it’s the truth. You spend so much time with these guys. That’s what you start to miss.”