OAKLAND, Calif. — LeBron James never figured the Miami Heat would find their groove until at least 20 games into the schedule. The team knew it would take some time despite a superstar lineup.
Now, things are clicking all right.
“We always said it was going to take us 20 to 25 games for us to start figuring things out,” James said Friday. “Are we where we want to be? I don’t think so. But we have a great stride right now and we’re going to continue to do it.”
James and Co. are well past that highly anticipated Dec. 2 trip back to his former Cleveland home and ready to play like an elite NBA team — no matter what people might think of them. No matter the constant scrutiny and speculation about how good this team might really be.
The Heat headed into Friday night’s game at Golden State riding a season-best, six-game winning streak.
“I didn’t think we were going to be Team America when we all joined forces,” James said. “It doesn’t surprise me that people don’t like us. We don’t care.”
Coach Erik Spoelstra insists it’s been a series of things that have helped make things right, not just that now-infamous team meeting after a 106-95 loss at Dallas on Nov. 27 — Miami’s fourth defeat in five games. The Heat haven’t dropped a game since and are in the middle of their first long road trip, which concludes Saturday night at Sacramento.
James, averaging a team-leading 24.1 points to go with 7.3 assists and 5.8 rebounds, acknowledges he is still adjusting to a new system after seven years with the Cavaliers.
James had three 30-point games in his last six outings heading into Friday. He, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined to score 75 points in a 111-98 victory at Northwest Division-leading Utah on Wednesday night.
During that short funk, which lasted all of about a week, there was all kinds of talk about whether Spoelstra’s job was safe and whether the players were getting along.
“What we learned is we weren’t going to blame each other or point any fingers,” Spoelstra said. “The only people we could really count on were ourselves and that we were going to try to figure this out together. When you get through those moments, those are the very best moments really in this league — when you face adversity and you don’t break. When you finally do make it through there, you do become tougher and that has been apparent in our last three close games.”
After this trip, Miami hosts New Orleans on Monday and then has another date with Cleveland, but at home this time.
It sure seems the Heat are taking it all in stride these days.
James, for one, is feeling like his former dominant self.
Getting through that first meeting with the Cavs in a hostile environment has allowed James to finally breathe and relax. The two-time NBA MVP left Cleveland as a free agent after last season and became despised for it.
“My play affects our team and right now we’re playing great basketball. I feel like individually I’m doing the things that need to be done to help us win,” he said. “I’m good. My game is speaking for itself as of late, so just try to keep it going.”