Miami Heat forward LeBron James added another historic distinction to his resume Monday, when he was named the NBA's Eastern Conference player of the week for a record 44th time in his career.
The honor caps a week during which James led the Heat to wins over Milwaukee, Dallas and Charlotte while he averaged 34 points and shot 70.2 percent from the field overall and 62.5 percent from 3-point range. James aggressively looked for his shot a bit more than usual out of necessity, with the Heat missing as many as three rotation players for various reasons at one point last week.
But taking on an additional offensive load is nothing new for James, who led the league in scoring at 30 points per game for Cleveland during the 2007-08 season. His highest scoring season came in 2005-06, when he averaged 31.4 points but saw Kobe Bryant take the scoring title at 35.4 points per game.
James said Monday he learned a valuable lesson about piling up shots and points during his earlier years with the Cavaliers.
“I could go out and do it every night and not feel tired, not feel anything,” James said. “But when the playoffs start, you've got to have multiple options. You've got to have guys. You can't have it where defenses are loading up on you and daring you to shoot or daring you to pass. But as far as leading the league in scoring, it wasn't much of a burden. I felt great every night and went out there and just did it.”
The biggest difference between his offensive approach then and now with the Heat is that he has more capable scorers, and slightly less of a burden to carry the load on a nightly basis. James insists efficiency is everything with the Heat and that his recent stretch of 30-point games have been a breeze.
“It's actually easier, this stretch I'm in now,” James said. “I feel like I'm a better basketball player. Back in my earlier days, I took more throw-away shots. Here, you've got to take advantage of the shots you get, because we spread the ball around so much. But I'm in a good groove now, as far as scoring.”
Heat teammates said it's simply a case of the best player in the game still finding ways to get better.
“We've always known he's had great efficiency,” center Chris Bosh said. “His play has stepped up every year, if you can imagine that. It's a lot we're asking him to do, but he steps up to the plate every time.”
Heat guard Dwyane Wade revealed Monday he would have skipped Saturday's game in Charlotte to rest his knees had Mario Chalmers not served a one-game suspension for a flagrant foul on Dirk Nowitzki in Miami's previous game.
Instead, Wade struggled through knee soreness and a 1-for-7 shooting effort before leaving in the third quarter against the Bobcats to receive treatment after playing both games of a back-to-back set. Wade confirmed Monday that he's still dealing with chronic knee soreness and isn't yet comfortable playing games on consecutive nights.
That means he's likely to play Tuesday against the Atlanta Hawks, but then sit out Wednesday when the Heat travel to face the Orlando Magic. Wade was limited by problems with both knees during the playoffs last season, and had shock-wave therapy on his surgically-repaired left knee over the summer.
Working his way back to relative full health has been a tedious process. A night before facing the Bobcats, Wade had 17 points, eight assists and a season-high eight steals in 36 minutes during Friday's home win against Dallas. It was his first attempt of the season to play games on consecutive nights.
“I didn't plan on playing during that back-to-back, but I did,” Wade said after Monday's practice. “You just continue to learn from it and understand that my knee wasn't ready for that after playing a lot of minutes the night before. Like I said at the beginning, it's a day-to-day process, and it's a long season. I've got a long mindset. So I'll try to move on from there and just get back to feeling good.”
Wade (knee) is expected to start Tuesday against the Hawks. Ray Allen (flu) and Udonis Haslem (back) both went through Monday's practice and said they also expect to play. Allen and Haslem both missed all of last week.
Did you know?
LeBron and global soccer icon David Beckham are in discussions to bring an MLS soccer team to Miami. James already owns a stake in Liverpool FC of the English Premier League.
Quote of the day
“I guess I've got the target on me now, so I'll be a little more subtle with what I do. At the end of the day, I'm not a dirty player. It's just a minor setback for a major comeback, like the saying goes.”
-- Mario Chalmers, on adjusting after being assessed two Flagrant Foul-2 penalties in as many weeks.