USA TODAY Sports’ Sam Amick and Jeff Zillgitt discuss Cleveland’s 3-0 deficit in the NBA Finals.
USA TODAY Sports
CLEVELAND – LeBron James was at his best on the court in a Game 3 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday and then at his best during his news conference with reporters on Thursday.
His delivered exemplary performances in both venues even though the Cleveland Cavaliers are on the verge of being swept by the Warriors in the NBA Finals.
James opened his news conference with a thoughtful tribute to longtime NBA executive Todd Harris who died unexpectedly at 47 years old earlier this week.
“I worked with him for so many years … getting an opportunity to know his wife and his son and his daughter, seeing them all for the last few years,” James said. “Every time we played Brooklyn, I saw him in the tunnel taking pictures with the family. Just always been kind to me.”
It’s not the first time James publicly expressed condolences or wished good thoughts for someone. He is incredibly thoughtful on matters of importance.
And on matters of insignificance, too.
James is content – not necessarily happy he’s about to lose another Finals series but a man comfortable with who he is (one of the greatest players ever) and what he has accomplished (three titles, seven consecutive Finals appearances, four MVPs, three Finals MVPs).
Latest NBA Finals coverage:
He was clever, reflective, insightful, playful and funny.
James dismissed critics who crushed him for passing the ball to Kyle Korver for a three-point attempt late in the fourth quarter instead of driving to the rim for a shot attempt in Cleveland’s 118-113 Game 3 loss Wednesday. If you’re not a newcomer to the NBA, you know James is going to make what he believes is the right play.
Asked what he would do if he had the play again, James shrugged his shoulders and paused. “I would do the same exact thing,” James said.
Referencing Theodore Roosevelt’s anti-critic ode “The Man in the Arena,” James has no time for outsider’s nitpicking his game. “One of my favorite quotes, when I really stopped caring about what people say,” he said.
On Wednesday, James had 39 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists and played 45 minutes, 37 seconds of a 48-minute game. While James was on the court, the Cavs outscored the Warriors by seven points. In the 2:23 he sat on the bench, the Cavs were outscored by 12 points.
It’s a problem the Cavs face now and a problem they will face again if they meet the Warriors in the Finals next season. How can Cleveland – as its roster stands now – beat Golden State when James can’t take a rest?
“I don’t know the answer to that right now,” he said. “Obviously, I hate the fact that we’re not able to just try to keep the leads, and if I come out of the game or not, even keep the leads, just sustain it. I hate it for my teammates. I hate it for myself. I hate it for everybody that’s involved.”
Golden State has a better super team than Cleveland’s super team.
Asked it were fair that a perfect confluence of events in the summer of 2016 – Kevin Durant’s free agency, an unprecedented spike in the NBA’s salary cap and Golden State’s ability under cap rules to add a superstar such as Durant – has led to a potential dynasty for the Warriors, James had his answer ready. James, the first-vice president of the National Basketball Players Association, defended the Warriors.
“It’s part of the rules,” James said, adding, “Is it fair? I don’t care. I think it’s great. It’s great for our league. Right now, look at our TV ratings, look at the money our league is pouring in. Guys are loving the game. Our fans love the game. Who am I to say if it’s fair or not?”
He left his news conference with a proverbial and literal mic drop.
“You have an opportunity to sign one of the best players, and you can do it, go ahead and do it. Why not?” James said . “If I become an owner, I’m going to try to sign everybody.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.