SAN ANTONIO — LeBron James was trying to joke about it.
“If I had to say today I would probably be out on Sunday, I probably won’t play…”
Then LeBron laughed and said what everyone already knew.
“No, I’ll be all right. I’ll be in uniform on Sunday. I should be 100% on Sunday.”
After missing almost all of the final seven minutes of the Heat’s Game 1 loss to the Spurs due to severe cramps, LeBron spent Friday night and Saturday hydrating — he got two-and-a-half IV bags of fluid after Game 1 — and taking the other steps to be back on the court for Game 2 Sunday night. The extra day off between games is coming in handy for him here.
“I’m pretty sore right now just from the muscles spasming up and they’re starting to release, but I’m pretty sore in my legs,” LeBron said.
LeBron’s cramping has become a national conversation on a couple of fronts. One is the misguided discussion about toughness, one fueled by the Gatorade tweets, as if cramping was a personal failing. This conversation is taking place mostly on social media and sports talk radio, where guys eating a bag of chips on their couch call out LeBron’s mental makeup.
LeBron shrugged that off.
“What everybody has to say, you guys should know me by now; I don’t care, I really don’t,” LeBron said. “I really don’t care what people say about me, I don’t care about that sports group, the drink group that I’m not even going to say their name. I’m not going to give them a light in The Finals. This is about the Spurs and the Heat, and it’s not about everybody else, man, I don’t care.”
Dwyane Wade shrugged it off, too.
“LeBron gets criticism all over the place from everybody,” Wade said. “Us as athletes, we all do. It’s the nature of the beast. It has nothing to do with basketball.”
Even Spurs coach Gregg Popovich came to LeBron’s defense on this one.
“What may be more amazing to me is the way he’s conducted himself over the years with all the scrutiny,” Popovich said. “None of us really understand what that is. He’s done it pretty damn well.”
The other thrust of discussion on LeBron’s cramping is was a why this is a pattern with him on a big stage — remember he cramped up in Game 4 of the 2014 NBA Finals against the Thunder.
Both LeBron and Heat coach Eric Spoestra played down the pattern idea, saying Thursday night was not a normal situation.
“It was some extreme conditions, I have never played in an NBA game in those conditions.” LeBron said.
“Let’s separate the past to last night,” Spoelstra said. “Last night was such an extreme situation and you have to be able to differentiate the two. Now, Game 4 in Oklahoma City that everybody knows about, since then we think that our staff and LeBron’s diligence has really taken care of that matter, just in terms of his preparation before games, what he’s doing during games in terms of always filling himself up with electrolytes, fluids, cramping pills when necessary. All of those things, we have been much more on top of it since Game 4 of Oklahoma City. We have had minimal issues with it, and he’s been able to handle it much better than before. Last night was so extreme….
“You know, the biggest issue that I think is lost out there is how competitive LeBron James is when you get to this level. Most athletes pace themselves, it’s not a coincidence and a secret and why we have had the success we have had with the best player in the world, when he pushes his body past the point of regular limits for a competitive advantage. I think it’s an extremely admirable trait….
“Most athletes pace themselves, that’s not in his DNA.”
LeBron and the Heat took it easy on Friday, Spoelstra saying that day was scheduled to be a film session with no physical work in practice anyway. Spoelstra added he would play Saturday by ear on how much work the players would go through.
Whatever the next day and a half hold, come Sunday night LeBron will be ready to go.
“Obviously I’m going to take it light today,” James said, “Training staff said I should take it light today. Give the body another day to recover, tomorrow I should be back on my feet full go, and I got all day Sunday to get ready for Sunday night.
“Don’t worry, you guys can talk about me as much as you want. I’ll be there on Sunday as well. I’m not hiding.”