Heat happy NBA Finals showdown is rematch with Spurs
JUN 02, 2014 6:18p ET
MIAMI -- Some members of the media, having just watched the clownish antics of the Indiana Pacers' Lance Stephenson in the Eastern Conference finals, came to Monday's Miami Heat practice with a storyline already in place:
The San Antonio Spurs, who will face the Heat in the best-of-seven NBA Finals that begin Thursday, are a mature team, similar to Miami. Unlike what just happened with the Pacers, the Spurs series would be more "professional."
But when that thought process was presented to Heat star LeBron James, he took the question and ran in a different and, perhaps, surprising direction.
"They don't like us," James said of the Spurs. "They don't. I can sense it from (Spurs center) Timmy's (Duncan) comments over the past couple of days. They wanted this. They wanted us. We'll be ready for the challenge."
James said the series "should be fun" and opined that things with San Antonio might have a different and meaner tone going in if the teams played in the same conference.
But now that the teams are getting set to see a lot of each other in a short amount of time, James sounds like he is prepared for things to get nasty.
Either way, James said he is not worried about Duncan's comments, which were made immediately after the Spurs eliminated the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference finals Saturday.
The Heat were off that night, having already clinched their spot in the NBA Finals. But you can bet James wasn't out celebrating. Instead, he was watching his future opponent ... intently.
And he surely made note when Duncan said: "We're happy it's the Heat. We've got that bad taste in our mouths still. ... This time, we're going to win it."
Did those comments bother James?
"Why would it bother me?" James answered. "Once you get on the floor, you have to play. We're confident. We're not shying away from them. They want us. They got us. We want them, too."
Heat guard Dwyane Wade, meanwhile, couldn't resist taking a sly shot at the Pacers during his chat session with the media.
"This will be a tougher series," Wade said. "(The Spurs) are a better team (than the Pacers). The Spurs are the best team in the NBA -- they've shown that all year. Obviously, we're now the second-best team because we're here.
"One team wants to be the best when it's all said and done. We have a tall order ahead of us. But (the Spurs) have one, too."
Wade, asked about the NBA Finals home-court format changed back this season to 2-2-1-1-1 instead of 2-3-2, drew laughter from the media with his answer.
"I've never played in the NBA Finals under this new format," Wade began. "Has Timmy (Duncan) played it? He's been around for a while."
Format aside, the main issue with the Spurs at the moment is the health of point guard Tony Parker's ankle. No official update is expected until Tuesday, but published reports indicate Parker will be ready for Game 1.
Heat players and coach Erik Spoelstra expect that as well.
"We're preparing as if he will play," Spoelstra said, "and we'll go from there."
Heat forward Rashard Lewis said Parker's injury would have "no effect at all -- he has a couple of days to get treatment. Tony Parker is a warrior. He will be out there to play."
If Parker is indeed healthy or close to 100 percent, then this has the makings of a very competitive series.
"No one is entitled," James said. "This is no one's championship. It isn't ours. It isn't theirs. It's too teams who are fighting for it."