Miami • LeBron James was back in the Miami Heat locker room on Friday morning, took a look around at his teammates and quickly came to a realization.
The reigning NBA champions might even be better this time around.
With 12 players back from last season’s championship roster — foremost among them himself, after a season where he won the NBA’s MVP award, the NBA Finals MVP, his first league title and then an Olympic gold medal over the summer for good measure — the Heat clearly have tons of talent. Adding Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis to the mix figures to make them that much better.
Naturally, James isn’t complaining.
“It’s scary to see, to look in our locker room today and say that we can be better than we were this past season,” James said. “Are we better right now than we were just a couple months ago? Of course not.
“But we have the potential to be better. We have the potential to be a lot better. That is scary.”
Friday was the annual media day for the Heat, who open their training camp officially with practice on Saturday morning — the Heat can open camp earlier than most other teams because they have a trip to China in early October.
Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh talked about how they’re continuing to heal after injuries dogged them in last season’s playoffs, and Udonis Haslem was followed around by a camera crew there to, as he said, document “The Little 12,” his description for everyone not in the “Big Three” club of Wade, Bosh and James.
Haslem’s cameras might have been the only ones not on James, who hasn’t spoken publicly much since the Olympics ended.
“He’s not on cruise control, no,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said when asked about James. “He’s as driven a professional as I’ve been around. He understands not only his legacy, but team legacy and the opportunity that this team and organization has. And he savors that. He’s the ultimate competitor.”
It took James nine years to win that long-coveted first title, after leading the Heat past the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games. His clinching performance was a classic — a triple-double, 26 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds. James came out with 3:01 remaining and the celebrating started, waving his arms and jumping on the sideline, then wrapping anyone and everyone he could reach in massive embraces.
So began his summer vacation. It lasted about a week.
Not long after the champagne dried and the Heat parade ended, James went to play for the U.S. Olympic Team, helping the Americans win gold. After that, some business dealings — including a trip to China and a switch of agents, from Leon Rose to Rich Paul — took up more of his offseason.
And now, training camp has already arrived.
Not much down time, but neither James nor the Heat seems all that concerned.
“I’ve worked on a few things,” James said.