LeBron may sit preseason opener
MIAMI -- After pushing through an MVP performance in the NBA Finals and winning an Olympic gold medal in the past 10 months, Miami Heat forward LeBron James said Sunday he's taking a cautious approach to training camp.
That process could start with James skipping the Heat's preseason opener Oct. 7 against the Atlanta Hawks.
James said he's not concerned about wearing down before the Heat open defense of their title. But after 10 months of relatively nonstop basketball, the league's reigning regular season and Finals MVP doesn't want to overwork himself leading into the Heat's Oct. 30 opener against Boston.
After facing the Hawks next Sunday, the Heat immediately depart for a weeklong trip to China for two exhibition games against the Los Angeles Clippers.
"I don't even know if I'll play much at all in that game," James said Sunday about the game in Atlanta.
Although the Heat are alternating single practice sessions and twice-daily workouts this week, the team is monitoring how much time James spends on the court during drill work. The plan is for James to rest as much as possible in camp to remain in peak shape for the season.
James joked Sunday that he's been in basketball shape "for about 18" consecutive months. That timeframe would include the start of a lockout-shortened NBA season last December and a schedule that didn't end for the Heat until they defeated Oklahoma City in the Finals in late June. Two weeks later, James was in Team USA training camp preparing for the London Olympics.
While the rest of his Heat teammates are working their way into regular-season shape, James has been there for months.
"It does feel different," James said. "I'm in better shape right now than I've been, because I've played so much basketball. Usually, it takes me a week, a week-and-a-half of camp to kind of get back into it. But at the same time, I've still got to be cautious. I've played a lot of basketball and I've got to be cautious and not allow myself to be out there too much. We'll monitor that."
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James isn't the only key Heat player being handled cautiously in training camp. After participating in the camp's opening workout Saturday, guard Dwyane Wade was limited to Sunday's team warm-up session as he continues to recover from knee surgery in July. Swingman Mike Miller, who rehabilitated a back injury throughout summer, went through about 75 percent of the practice.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has said the availability of certain players will vary from day to day, which might also be the case during Miami's eight preseason games.
"Everybody was able to do something today," Spoelstra said. "But we're being smart about it."
For James, the challenge in camp is to resist his urge to jump into every competitive scrimmage drill. Moments after Sunday's practice ended, James quickly ran over to the far end of the facility to join Wade, Ray Allen and James Jones as they finished a 3-point shooting game.
"Even though sometimes I want to be out there, they'll hold me back," James said. "And I've got to try to hold myself back from being out there for a lot of our drills and games. But we'll be fine."
James knows there will be far more important times when the Heat will count on his relentless participation during the season. James, 27, never has missed more than seven games during any of his previous nine seasons in the league. James is coming off his most rewarding season in 2011-12, when he averaged a career-low 37.5 minutes a game.
The mental and physical grinds of performing at an elite level for a decade in the league haven't taken too much of a toll, James said.
"I'm blessed I've been able to last this long," James said. "Once you get in game shape and great condition ... I don't worry about peaking (too soon) at that point. This being my 10th year, I know kind of how to monitor and keep building throughout the months of the season. I've always gotten stronger throughout the months. So I'm not afraid of that."