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June 7, 2018
Cleveland, Ohio: Practice Day
Q. How much has the load that you've had to carry offensively this season affected your ability to play defense at the level that you're capable of?
LEBRON JAMES: I don't think it's affected it. The load that I have to carry offensively, it's been what the season has asked for. Obviously, we haven't had many playmakers throughout the course of the season. We had some early on, and we made the trades and things of that nature.
But it's been what the season has called for, and I've taken that responsibility to be able to have to make plays for myself and make plays for my teammates as well.
Defensively, we've surrounded ourselves with some more wing defenders this year that allowed me to not have to exert so much energy defensively. But whenever the number has been called for me to defend, I've been always taking that responsibility. So I don't think that's changed.
Q. There's always so much conversation about the Warriors offense, but what is it that makes their defense unique?
LEBRON JAMES: Draymond (Green). Draymond is a catalyst and the anchor for their defense. Very, very smart defensively. He knows pretty much every set. He kind of flies around and dictates their defense, either on the perimeter or protecting the rim as well.
Q. You mentioned the trades. When it happened, there wasn't much said by either of you. Do you ever look back now and wish that you still had Dwyane Wade?
LEBRON JAMES: Oh, absolutely. I mean, listen, not only from a brotherhood aspect and what we know about one another, and also from an experience factor. I believe that he would have been very, very good for us in the postseason. He's a guy that's kind of built for the postseason at this point in his career, who lives for the moment.
So definitely, definitely think about that. It seems so long ago that he was even a part of this ballclub, but definitely think about it from time to time.
Q. There is a maximum of four more games to the season for you guys. I know you're a live-in-the-moment type of guy. But when you look back at the 2017-18 season, what makes you feel good about the Cleveland Cavaliers and what you guys did?
LEBRON JAMES: That's too hard for me to answer right now. Like I said, I can answer that once this series is over. Like I told you guys before, this has been one of the most challenging seasons of my career from the standpoint of what's been going on with our ballclub. Not only from a playing perspective, but things -- guys changing, personnel changing, Coach being out for a couple weeks, players leaving and being out for a couple of weeks, injuries and things of that nature.
I was having a great couple months, and then not playing so well, and then trades happened and things of that nature. So I can go into more detail once this series is over. But it's been three or four, maybe four or five seasons wrapped in one, that's for sure.
Q. Completely different direction, but you said the other day when you were on FaceTime with Zhuri (James), your eye freaked her out. Does it freak you out when you look in the mirror? It's still as bright as the YouTube symbol.
LEBRON JAMES: Yeah (laughing). It's weird. It's weird seeing it. Hopefully, it will go away soon. But it is what it is. It's just part of a war wound. And that's what happens when you're in the war sometimes; you get some injuries. It hasn't stopped me from preparing, but it's different.
Q. Golden State this year, this has been probably the hardest of the four years for them just because they were dealing with some doubt for the first time. Steph Curry got hurt late. Obviously, they got challenged big time in the West Finals. As a fan of the game, as a student of the game, what have they shown you as far as their toughness and resiliency this year that wasn't really called on a whole lot in '15-' 17?
LEBRON JAMES: At the end of the day, you can never count out a champion, no matter what's going on in the course of their season. It's impossible to do that, because they're built from a different cloth, and I know that firsthand.
When you win a championship and you're around guys for a long period of time, and you know what you're capable of doing, all you need is to get healthy. If you can get healthy and guys are playing at the right level at the same time, then you can feel like you can beat anybody.
So the best thing about their team is that if one of their stars goes down, they have two or three other stars that are still able to hold the ship until everybody gets back. Steph's injury, him going down, K.D. and Klay, who never misses a game, and Draymond still being in the lineup -- if you look at the previous time when K.D. went down, the rest of those guys were in and held it until K.D. came back for the playoffs the year before that.
When you have the luxury of not being pressured to come back so fast -- and even with Iguodala, him not being pressured to feel like he needs to get back on the floor to help the team win, that the guys are going to continue to play well and whenever you're ready, we'll be ready for you to join. I think it helps the injury as well, because you're not putting that much pressure on yourself.
You can never count out a champion at the end of the day, no matter how vulnerable people may seem or people think they may be, or if they hit some adversity. I think it's all part of the process.
Q. A non-Finals one. It's not uncommon to see you courtside when Bronny is playing, of course. What's that process been like for you watching him develop? Obviously there's got to be some burdens on him being LeBron James Jr., of course. But what's it been like for you watching him grow?
LEBRON JAMES: It's been a treat to watch, being a parent and seeing my son grow as a basketball player.
But not only that, being a young man who he is today; the kid will be 14 soon. Just seeing him grow and grow and grow to become who he is today has been a treat.
I think from the burden of him having the name itself, I think him understanding that just go out and just play the game and have fun and play for your teammates and give it all you've got. You play hard, you play smart and have fun, and let everything else take care of itself.
The one thing that I have is the luxury of knowing everything that he can expect. There's nothing that can hit him that I haven't seen in my life. There is no obstacle that he will run into that I haven't been a part of that I can't coach him.
At the end of the day, he's still going to have to live his own life and find his own path. But I hope he turns off his comments on social media. That would be the smartest thing he can do.
Q. How does the outcome of these three games impact your love for competition and your mental approach to a challenge that has become even bigger now?
LEBRON JAMES: No, listen, I love to compete. At the end of the day, no matter win, lose or draw, being a part of the biggest stage in our sport is something that I've always loved and never taken for granted.
My love of the game continues to get bigger and bigger and greater and greater, and hopefully my game and my health continue to be at a level it is today for some years to come.
Q. Kevin Love said after Game 1 that you've said to him this is the best you've ever felt. You've obviously played in every game. How much of a source of pride is that to you to have played this many games at this level? Also, is this the best you've ever felt physically?
LEBRON JAMES: I think the simple fact to be available to my teammates every single night and knowing that I will be in uniform, that's the pride factor right there that I don't take for granted.
And that's something I take a lot of pride in, just working my body every single day, no matter if it's a win, if it's a loss. No matter if we're getting in at three o'clock in the morning, four o'clock in the morning, waking up the next day and doing something, either from a treatment side, lifting, conditioning, shooting or just preparing myself for the long journey.
I just feel like I'm in a great groove right now as far as my career, as far as my body, knowing what I need to do to be in the best possible shape. I said this at one point throughout this playoff run -- I had a walk-off with Cassidy Hubbarth after the game, and I told her it's the best I've felt in my career.
She kind of gave me one of those Cassidy looks, and I got some response from that. But I was very truthful about it.
I still feel good, even with turning my ankle last night or getting a finger jammed into my eye and taking the bumps and bruises and grinds throughout this playoff series. I still feel like I'm excited to put on the uniform tomorrow. So, yeah.
Q. As a quick follow-up on the ankle. The TV cameras kind of caught you like turning it or putting it back into place. Did you fix your ankle on the court?
LEBRON JAMES: I don't (laughing) -- I'm a little weird. That's all. Just a little weird.
Q. You mentioned getting ready for Game 4 tomorrow. A difficult finish last night. But what did you see when you reviewed the game this morning that you can take as a positive heading into Game 4 for your performance in Game 3?
LEBRON JAMES: From a team aspect? We just had great moments. We had great moments. It's hard for me. I'm not a guy that takes positives from games. If you lose, it's negative to me. It's just how I am. You can take little bits and pieces and say, OK, well, we played great for the first 24 minutes, but then we didn't play well for that 12 minutes in the third quarter. We should know that Golden State is the best third quarter team in the NBA, and they try to put you away in that third quarter.
The fourth quarter, we had opportunities. They scored, we came right back. They hit momentum plays -- they went up 4, we came down and hit a 3. Made it a one-possession game.
You've just got to try to hunker down and get stops and try to create a little space. But we weren't able to do that. So there were some positives, but there were a lot of negatives as well.
In the third quarter, they had six or seven dunks or uncontested layups. I mean, you can't have that. You've already got to worry about the three-headed monster shooting from 35 feet in Klay, Steph and K.D. And then you're giving up layups and dunks to McGee and Draymond and Iguodala and Livingston. You just can't have that.
Q. You first faced Kevin Durant on this stage back in 2012. I think he was 23 at the time. You guys beat him 4-1. Did you leave that series at all thinking like that guy's going to be a roadblock down the line, really on this stage a lot?
LEBRON JAMES: Yeah. I thought it would be in OKC. I thought we'd have to face them for a while. Yeah, absolutely. Who wouldn't see that?
Q. Do you remember anything specifically in that series that he showed you? Obviously, he was already a good player to that point.
LEBRON JAMES: I mean, in that series, I don't know. I mean, it's Kevin Durant at 23. It's Kevin Durant at 18, it's Kevin Durant at 20, 21, 22. There's nothing that Kevin Durant could show me at 23 that would make me like, Oh, years from now -- no, Kevin Durant was great at 23. As you get older and older, your game gets more and more seasoned. But everyone knew that. That's Kevin Durant.
So it's not like you would think that he would fizzle out. You knew he was built for greatness from the time that he was drafted. I mean, everybody knew that besides Portland, I guess. Sorry, Portland. Sorry.
Q. I guess in your career, this started with the Celtics getting Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, then you go to Miami with D-Wade and Chris Bosh to try to take those guys out. You come back here with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, and the next thing you know the Warriors have Kevin Durant. How do you view that dynamic where players, superstars in this league are able to kind of control their own destiny to some degree? Or is there a level of disappointment having now been maybe on the other side of that a little bit that you put in all this work to put a team together and build it a certain way and put in all the work, and someone just comes along and puts something else together that might be better?
LEBRON JAMES: Yeah, that's the challenge in this league. I think every GM and every president and every coaching staff is trying to figure out how they can make up the right matchups to compete for a championship and win a championship.
Like you said before, I felt like my first stint here I just didn't have the level of talent to compete versus the best teams in the NBA, let alone just Boston. When you looked at (Rajon) Rondo and KG and Paul (Pierce) and Ray, you knew they were great basketball players. But not only great basketball players, you could see their minds were in it, too, when you were playing them. They were calling out sets. Rondo was calling out sets every time you come down. It was like, OK, this is bigger than basketball.
So not only do you have to have the talent, you have to have the minds as well. I knew that my talent level here in Cleveland couldn't succeed getting past a Boston, getting past the San Antonios of the league or whatever the case may be.
I played with D-Wade, I played with Bosh in the Olympics. I knew D-Wade for years. I knew their minds. I knew how they thought the game, more than just playing the game. Obviously, we all knew their talent, but I knew their minds as well. So I linked up with them. We went to Miami. Got some other great minds in Mike Miller; UD (Udonis Haslem) is a great mind but also a competitor. And guys that were talents. You build that talent. That's what you want to try to do.
Then you come here. I knew Kyrie, having the talent, I wanted to try to build his mind up to fast track his mind because I felt like in order to win you've got to have talent, but you've got to be very cerebral too.
Listen, we're all NBA players. Everybody knows how to put the ball in the hoop. But who can think throughout the course of the game?
This is so challenging for me to sit up here and say because people who really don't know the game don't really know what I'm talking about. They just think that you go out, and, Oh, LeBron, you're bigger and faster and stronger than everybody, you should drive every single time and you should dunk every single play and you should never get tired, never. Like it's a video game and you went on the options and you turned down fatigue all the way to zero and injuries all the way down to zero (laughing).
So we come back here and we get the minds and we build a championship team. And then Golden State, because of Steph's injuries early on in his career and his contract situation, and then them drafting Draymond and drafting Klay and them being under the contracts they were in, allowed their franchise to go out to get K.D.
So they win a championship. Then we play them and we come back from 3-1 and we beat them. But that was the best regular season -- probably the best team I had ever played against. They go 73-9, and then you add one of the best players that the NBA has ever seen.
So now everyone is trying to figure that out. How do you put together a group of talent but also a group of minds to be able to compete with Golden State, to be able to compete for a championship? That's what GMs and presidents and certain players -- it's not every player. Every player does not want to -- sad to say, but every player doesn't want to compete for a championship and be in a position where every possession is pressure.
You had a follow up, it looks like (laughing).
Q. You mentioned in the first part of your answer, when you were here the first time, you came to the conclusion you didn't have enough. I'm not trying to get you to say anything negative about anybody. But how do you feel now?
LEBRON JAMES: You actually are trying to get me to say something (laughing).
Q. I don't know what your answer is.
LEBRON JAMES: Listen, at the end of the day, I'm living in the moment now. I went back for you for your question. We've had an opportunity to win two of these games in this three-game series so far, and we haven't come up with it. Obviously, from a talent perspective, if you're looking at Golden State from their top five best players to our top five players, you would say they're stacked better than us.
Let's just speak truth. Kevin Durant. You've got two guys with MVPs on their team. And then you've got a guy in Klay who could easily be on a team and carry a team, score 40 in a quarter before. And then you have Draymond, who is arguably one of the best defenders and minds we have in our game. So you have that crew.
Then you add on a Finals MVP coming off the bench, a number one pick in Livingston and an All-Star in David West and whatever the case may be. So they have a lot of talent.
We have a lot of talent as well. We've been in a position where we could win two out of these three games. So what do we have to do? Do we have to make more shots? Is it we have to have our minds into it a little bit more? Is it if there is a ball on the ground we can't reach for it but you've got to dive for it?
When you're playing, like I stated last night, or like 12 hours ago -- was it 12 hours ago? -- the room for error versus a team like this is slim to none. And I think I said last night it's like playing the Patriots. It's like playing San Antonio. The room for error is slim to none. When you make mistakes they make you pay, because they're already more talented than you are but they also have the minds behind it, too, and they also have the championship DNA.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports