Tuesday, May 29, 2012

LeBron keeps Celtics in perspective and at a distance - USA TODAY

The questions floated perfectly, like a dry fly on a Colorado trout stream, appetizing and ripe for the taking.

Yet, Miami Heat forward LeBron James didn't bite. Oh, he rose to the surface, considered the questions like a wily trout inspects a potential morsel, but in the end, James refused the bait and said the right things, something that hasn't always happened in a James news conference.

James was asked if he looks at this version of the Boston Celtics and see what everyone else does, a proud competitive group that is a tad older, a tad more beat up, a tad slower, a tad more tired and just unable to keep up with the Heat's speed, strength and dominant two-man show of James and guard Dwyane Wade.

"They are a championshipâ€'caliber team," he said. No matter what injuries goes on, I look at them as a top opponent, as a top contender, and as a competitive group. Anytime I look out there and I see Paul (Pierce) and I see Ray (Allen) and KG (Kevin Garnett) and (Rajon) Rondo, no matter who they have in their supporting cast, I feel it's a championshipâ€'caliber team. I approach every game with a high intensity both mentally and physically."

Were the Heat trying to take advantage of a the fatigued Celtics, who played six games in the first round and seven games against the Philadelphia 76ers in the conference semifinals?

"That's a veteran ballclub," James said. "They're mentally tough, one of the most mentally tough teams that we have in this league. So we don't even put in the factor of them being fatigued. We don't let that be in our head. We try to work our games, work our habits, the coaching staff gives us a great game plan, try to execute that and hopefully it continues to result in wins for us."

James' teammates suggested he frustrated Celtics point guard into a hollow 16-point, nine-rebound, seven-assist game.

"It's going to be tough on all of us," James said. "We have to be in tune with Rondo. He's probably the No. 1 unpredictable guy we have in our league as far as how he forces his action. A lot of his points come in transition where you kind of â€'â€' you want to lull to him, but also he spreads out the threes. He's that good. He's that good that he forces a lot of our triggers. He forces us to pay a lot of attention to him, and then he's able to get him a shot or get someone else a shot.

"We try to make it tough on him, like we do any other guard or any other player in this league. We try to make it tough for him and wear him throughout the game. But he's a great talent."

Finally, Rondo said the Celtics had to be more physical with James and Wade, knock them to the floor. James didn't engage.

"That doesn't change anything for us," he said. "We expect to hit the deck every single game, me and Dâ€'Wade. It's how we feel like teams approach us. They feel like they need to put us on the floor, hardâ€'foul us. It doesn't change our approach. We still have to be in the attack mode no matter what happens, because that's when we're at our best as a team."

Last season, James may have responded with an answered that turned into a maelstrom of controversy.

Not right now.

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