MIAMI – If you didn’t know better, you would have thought Tim Duncan had blown the words directly into LeBron James’ ear.
Instead, they merely were offered at the end of a televised interview about this impending rematch of the 2013 NBA Finals: “We’ll do it this time.”
Doesn’t matter. Not after last season’s epic seven-game series that gave the Miami Heat its second consecutive NBA championship. Not with Duncan’s San Antonio Spurs holding home-court advantage in the NBA Finals rematch that opens Thursday at the AT&T Center.
Not after Duncan’s Saturday podium interview session included, “We’re happy to have another opportunity at it. We’re happy it’s the Heat again.”
If there were any doubts about things being bigger in Texas, there weren’t after Duncan’s Saturday words were put on spin cycle after Monday’s Heat practice at AmericanAirlines Arena, the Heat’s first session since the title-series rematch was assured.
“They don’t like us. They don’t,” James said after the Heat returned to the court following two days off in the wake of finishing off the Indiana Pacers in Friday’s Game 6 the Eastern Conference finals. “I can sense it from Timmy’s comments over the last couple of days.
“They wanted this. They wanted us. And we’ll be ready for the challenge.”
Unlike the Pacers and blowhard guard Lance Stephenson, whose annoyances included blowing in James’ ear during Game 5 of that six-game series, the Spurs under coach Gregg Popovich mostly have let their play do the talking.
Even rarer has been soft-spoken Duncan as the voice of bravado.
“It’s a little different,” Heat forward-center Chris Bosh said. “But we love it, for extra motivation. We’re coming into this thing without home court this year. We know nobody’s going to hand anything to us and it’s never easy.
“So, with that said, we’re glad to get a little bit of extra added motivation for ourselves and our team. And any time that we’re not focusing, we could just think back to that quote and it will lock us back in.”
James, apparently, in particular.
“Once you get on the floor, you’ve got to play,” James said. “We’re confident. We’re not shying away from them. We want them, too.”
James said there likely would be more heat in the rivalry if the teams met more than only twice during the regular season, perhaps like the four regular-season games against the Pacers.
“It would be a lot different, probably, if we were in the Western Conference or they were in the East, and we’re seeing them time after time,” he said. “It’d be a little different.”
Duncan and the Spurs have been idle since finishing off the Oklahoma City Thunder in Saturday’s Game 6 of the Western Conference finals. The Spurs’ first practice since that victory is scheduled for Tuesday.
The Spurs led last season’s best-of-seven series 3-2, before the Heat won Game 6 of the 2013 Finals after a miraculous Ray Allen three-pointer forced overtime and then Game 7 when Duncan flubbed a late inside scoring attempt.
Where James wouldn’t go was with the notion that it’s now the Spurs’ turn.
“No one is entitled,” he said. “This is no one’s championship. It isn’t ours, it isn’t theirs. It’s two teams fighting for it.”