LeBron James has an answer for those who felt he gave less than full effort in last year’s playoffs against the Boston Celtics: “That’s corny.”
Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert said he felt his former star quit against the Celtics in the second round of the playoffs last season. James played poorly in several games during the series and especially drew criticism for his play in Game 5 when the Cavs lost at home by 32 points with the series tied 2-2.
“He quit,” Gilbert said after James signed with the Miami Heat last summer. “Not just in Game 5, but in Games 2, 4 and 6. Watch the tape. The Boston series was unlike anything in the history of sports for a superstar.”
Asked about that sentiment Saturday on the eve of his third series against the Celtics in the past four years, James was dismissive.
“That’s corny,” James said. “I don’t understand that type of stuff.”
Though the Heat-Celtics series, which starts Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC, features seven current All-Stars and is laden with numerous future Hall of Famers, many are looking at it as a redemption chance for James. He lost to Boston in the second round in seven games in 2008 with the Cavs despite a 45-point effort in Game 7.
Last season James averaged 27 points, nine rebounds and seven assists when the top-seeded Cavs lost to the fourth-seeded Celtics in six games. In the three consecutive losses to close out the series, James was just 18-of-53 shooting with 19 turnovers. He was fighting an elbow injury at the time but declined to blame his performance on it.
After those defeats, James said this series with the Celtics had become personal.
“It is personal,” James said. “You don’t want to keep getting beat by the same team; the same team sending you home to plan vacations.”
Though he often relies on film work as part of his normal preparation, James said he has not watched the games from last season’s playoffs against the Celtics. Instead, he has focused on the four games against Boston this season. And he planned to spend a large part of Saturday studying the film, looking for any edge.
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