Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James, right, watches as teammate Cleveland Cavaliers’ J.R. Smith, left, shoots during an NBA basketball practice, Wednesday, May 30, 2018, in Oakland, Calif. The Cavaliers face the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday in Oakland. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

It’s an annual tradition for LeBron James: The NBA Finals

OAKLAND, Calif. — LeBron James spent Memorial Day with his kids enjoying some barbecue. Once the grill got turned off, the television went on and he tuned in to study Game 7 of the Western Conference finals.

Golden State at Houston.

James had no doubt who would win.

“Going against the Warriors in the last three years in the finals, I kind of figured or thought that they could get it done,” James said. “Just because of the 18 of a possible 21 finals games that I’ve played against them in the last three years, I figured that they could make it happen. Just their championship DNA.”

He was right. And Warriors-Cavs IV now awaits.

The NBA Finals are now as much a part of James’ calendar each year as birthdays and holidays. He’s always there, now eight consecutive years and counting, the last four of those with the Warriors standing in the way of James and his Cleveland Cavaliers. Game 1 is Thursday night, and even with James playing at absurd levels the Cavs find themselves as significant underdogs.

James is averaging 34 points, 9.2 rebounds and 8.8 assists in these playoffs. Anything less than that, and he’d have a lot more time for those barbecues with his kids. And in this series, even more might be required if he’s to win his fourth ring in the past seven years.

“He doesn’t walk around acting like he’s carrying a team, like he’s carrying an organization,” Cavaliers guard Kyle Korver said. “He doesn’t walk around like that. I mean, he knows he’s LeBron James, and he knows who he is. But he’s really for all of his teammates. He’s always talking to guys, trying to help them get better. He’s a really great leader.”

That’s one of the countless areas where James has gotten better — one of the countless reasons why the finals are now an annual rite for him.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr remembers watching the last Miami-San Antonio title matchup in 2014 when the Spurs basically dared James to shoot the ball from the perimeter by sliding under every screen the Heat would set for him.

The Spurs won that series in five games. They made it look easy at times, too.

“Contrast that to now where he’s shooting fadeaway 3s from 30 feet to close games out,” Kerr said. “I think his confidence level in his shot is the biggest thing. But I think it is pretty remarkable when you’ve got a guy who is already considered one of the top few players ever to play the game can make that much improvement late in his career. It’s a testament to his work ethic and to his work on his skillset.”

The Warriors have more talent, by a very wide margin. They have four All-Stars — Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green. They have former MVPs in Curry and Durant. They have a former Finals MVP coming off their bench, or rather they will when Andre Iguodala returns from the bone bruise that has kept him sidelined of late.

The Cavaliers have James.

That represents hope. He makes the Cavs better. He even makes the Warriors better.

“LeBron’s one of those guys that in order for you to be great like that, you’ve got to do it, day after day after day,” Durant said. “A lot of people don’t have that mental capacity to even think about being that great every day, you know what I’m saying? So that’s inspiration right there. That’s just motivation to be the best that you can be as well.”

Once that TV went on Monday night, James locked in on this series.

Around-the-clock treatment on his body Tuesday, including 4 1/2 hours of it on the team’s flight to San Francisco. Treatment and workouts on Wednesday. Treatments and pregame shooting on Thursday. Then game time.

Unlike that Rockets-Warriors game, he doesn’t know what will happen in Game 1.

But he’s ready. He’s always ready.

“The level that I can play at is to be seen, but the level that I put into the game and put into my craft is who I am,” James said. “So numbers and things like that kind of take care of itself. But for me, I understand and I know how much I put into the game. So everything else is OK.”

Just Posted

Windstorm: One year later

Signs remain of the devastation from windstorm that toppled hundreds of trees

Aurora Cannabis to spin off U.S. holdings to publicly traded Australis Capital

EDMONTON — Aurora Cannabis Inc. is planning to spin off its Australis… Continue reading

Flair Airlines moving headquarters from Kelowna, B.C, to Edmonton

EDMONTON — Flair Airlines Ltd. has found a new place to roost.… Continue reading

Study seeking cause of Crohn’s disease hopes to develop predictive test

TORONTO — With three brothers affected by either Crohn’s disease or ulcerative… Continue reading

Reported grizzly bear sightings near Penhold

Two people called in reported sightings Saturday

VIDEO: What separation from parents does to children: ‘The effect is catastrophic’

This is what happens inside children when they are forcibly separated from… Continue reading

Camargo lifts Braves over Blue Jays with first career grand slam

Braves 11 Blue Jays 4 TORONTO — Jaime Garcia is searching for… Continue reading

A beetle brings a nightmare on ash street

Introduced pests and diseases put the fear of God into plant biologists… Continue reading

Photos: Blair House is where the president’s guests get VIP treatment

WASHINGTON - Diagonally across the street from the White House is a… Continue reading

Ten Humboldt Broncos bus crash survivors meet in Las Vegas for NHL awards

HUMBOLDT, Sask. — Ten of the 13 survivors from the Humboldt Broncos… Continue reading

Triathletes young and old prepare for weekend event in Red Deer

Woody’s Triathlon goes Saturday and Sunday

Driver knocks over metal barricade, rolls several times in crash near Olds

A man is in hospital after his SUV crashed into the QEII… Continue reading

In tit-for-tat, Trump threatens more tariffs against China

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has directed the U.S. Trade Representative to… Continue reading

Commons Speaker says no to Tory calls for emergency debate on Canada-U.S. trade

OTTAWA — The official Opposition is calling for an emergency debate in… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month