For LeBron, game day/birthday is combo blessing

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 31, 2011 - 12:47 AM

Miami's Lebron James drove to the basket against the Wolves defense Friday at Target Center.

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

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LeBron James turned 27 years old and reflective all at the same time on Friday.

He celebrated another birthday by playing the Timberwolves at Target Center and counted himself blessed for being able to play another game on his birthday.

"My birthday and my mom's birthday are the two days I feel real good about playing basketball," he said before Friday's game. "I've had the luxury of having games on my birthday and my mom's birthday, so we'll see what happens."

What happened was another dominant performance that brought the hostile road crowd out of its seats to cheer a flying slam dunk or baseline drive by the player who has the rarest combination of speed and power in the league. James had 34 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds in Miami's 103-101 victory.

Asked if he plays best on his birthday because it puts him in a focused state of mind, he said: "Absolutely. It's just a testament to where I am now. I don't take it for granted. You know, my birthday when I turned 15 or I turned 9 when I was growing up, it wasn't the best of days on my birthday. To see where I am today and to be able to turn 21 and be in the NBA and turn 22 and now turn 27 and be part of this league, it's a testament.

"I'm very humbled that I am able to be here and I am very blessed."

James will be host to his own combo birthday party/New Year Eve's party Saturday night back home in Miami Beach's South Beach district.

Lee out

Wolves rookie guard Malcolm Lee underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus ligament in his left knee Friday and could miss as much as six weeks.

His knee grew sore as training camp progressed. He has surgery to repair the meniscus on the same knee after the college season last March, but this surgery is not related to that one, the team said.

"It's unfortunate for him, but better to get it fixed than wait," coach Rick Adelman said. "He had played very well. We were very pleased with him. We would not have hesitated to play him."

Barea aims for Sunday

Wolves guard J.J. Barea missed Friday's game because of that hamstring he injured Tuesday at Milwaukee but said he hopes to practice Saturday and play Sunday against his former Dallas team.

"Not there yet, but way better," he said. "If it was later in the season, I think the trainer would say let's try it. But it's so early and it's a hamstring, so you just want to be careful."

Role model

Friday's game reunited Adelman with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. The two have known each other since Adelman coached the Trail Blazers and Spoelstra played high school and college ball in Portland, Ore.

"Over the years, he has probably been one of my biggest influences, to even get into coaching," Spoelstra said. "Even when I was in college, he was a role model of mine. I've always looked up and admired his teams and his coaching ability. It's interesting to watch him coach different teams because he will make tweaks in the system to fit the personnel."

Do the math

Wolves rookie Derrick Williams played his first NBA game against James, a guy he says he "grew up watching." He also attended James' summer camp for the nation's top high school and college players one summer.

Is that possible? Can you grow up watching a guy who just turned 27?

"Uh, how old is Derrick, 21?" James asked about the 20-year-old. "So you subtract nine [years in the NBA] from 20 and yeah. It's very humbling, man. He's a great young player. I watched him in college. I watched him in high school as well. They've got a good one there."


• Wolves center Nikola Pekovic (strained groin) also missed the game.

• Williams, Lee and Ricky Rubio are scheduled to receive their first NBA paychecks Sunday. The league pays its players on the 1st and 15th of every month. Asked if he already has that money spent, Williams said, "Nah, nah, my mom would kill me."

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