MIAMI (AP) - LeBron James has this summer on his mind, and is already starting to plan for next season.
The summer of 2014, that can wait.
James said Tuesday that he is not thinking about the possibility of becoming a free agent in 12 months, though he did acknowledge that the prospects of competing with Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Erik Spoelstra and Pat Riley for several more championships with the Miami Heat is more than a tiny bit intriguing.
“That’s the goal,” James said. “That’s the ultimate finish. And we all hope that can happen, obviously.”
James‘ final interview session of this season revealed plenty in 17 minutes, including that he’s already feeling an itch to get back on the basketball court after just a few days off, that he’ll stop at nothing to give longtime girlfriend Savannah Brinson anything she wants on their wedding day in a couple months, and that he’s making no secret of his hope that the Heat bring back at least the majority of this year’s championship roster.
The most interesting news, however, was when he spoke of his short- and long-term plans. First, he’s vowing to come back better next season, which is no small promise from someone with four MVP awards, two Finals MVP awards and who carries the tag of “best player in the world.” And then next summer, it certainly sounds as if he’s going to give the prospects of staying in Miami a good, long look.
“This is what we came here for, so that would be the ultimate,” James said. “But you can never … I don’t know, life changes, things happen, and we have to be prepared for that. But this is what we all want to be here for, that’s to be able to compete for a championship each and every year. And if we can do that, then it’d be awesome.”
James scored 37 points in Game 7 of the NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs, carrying the Heat to their second straight championship in a season where he picked up his fourth MVP award. He’s gotten to the championship series in all three of his seasons with Miami, falling to Dallas in 2011, then beating Oklahoma City last season and the Spurs this year.
The team gathered for physicals and a quick meeting on Tuesday, and now begins the process of scattering for vacation and other business. James will make his annual trip with Nike to China next month, not long after Wade does some business there.
And already, James sounds like he’s missing the group that he spent the past nine months with.
“It’s like, `Damn, I wish we could come back in the locker room, have another practice, take another flight, have another bus ride with those 15 guys,’” James said. “That’s what it’s all about. You miss the guys throughout the summer. I know my family probably doesn’t want to hear that, but it’s the truth.”
It was not a Finals without speed bumps for James, who failed to score 20 points in any of the first three games against the Spurs. And after Miami lost Game 5 in San Antonio, James had to prepare without one of his most faithful sounding boards.
Maverick Carter, James‘ longtime friend and perhaps his most trusted confidant, wouldn’t talk with him for days after Game 5, other than challenging him by saying that great players have to be great in the biggest moments.
James responded with 32 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists in Game 6, then the 37-point outburst in Game 7.
“That’s why I like the guys around me, off the court,” James said. “It’s not just a bed of roses with us. They’ve been around me too long to allow me to be careless or not stepping up to the plate at the highest level, not in basketball but in everything.”