The Norman Transcript


October 1, 2013

Heat locked on three-peat

MIAMI — LeBron James is not saying much of anything about next season. The second edition of “The Decision” is still nine months away, and the four-time NBA MVP is all too aware of the already-incessant buzz about what uniform he will be wearing a year from now.

He’s not interested in talking about that.

There’s more important matters to tend to first, he said Monday, on the eve of the formal start to his fourth training camp with the Miami Heat. And in between getting married, taking some time off and globetrotting about tending to business interests this summer, James offered the following assessment of his basketball abilities since he was last seen carrying his team to a win in Game 7 of the NBA Finals:

“I got better,” James said. “I’m a better basketball player than I was last year, in every aspect.”

Let the new season begin.

With mostly the same faces — the notable changes are the amnesty-mandated departure of Mike Miller, along with the additions of Greg Oden, Michael Beasley and Roger Mason Jr. to vie for spots in an already-jammed Heat rotation — Miami gathered as a team for the first time Monday, one day before training camp opens in the Bahamas.

And as typically is the case with the Heat, there’s plenty of story fodder.

Coach Erik Spoelstra just signed a contract extension, Dwyane Wade is driven to prove doubters wrong once again, Ray Allen and Chris Andersen came back on deals that would be considered bargains, Beasley is trying to resuscitate a career that started with so much promise in Miami five years ago and an oft-injured Oden is simply trying to get his going.

But the one talking point that will overshadow all others this season, even with James trying to win a fifth MVP and the Heat looking to join the rarefied club of teams who have reached the Finals in four consecutive years, is what will happen next summer. That’s when James, Wade and Chris Bosh all can opt out, become free agents on July 1 and possibly leave Miami.

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