BEIJING (Reuters) - LeBron James shot down questions about his hunger to repeat as a National Basketball Association champion by dazzling fans in the Miami Heat’s 94-80 preseason win over the Los Angeles Clippers in the Chinese capital on Thursday.
Playing in the NBA’s largest market outside of the United States, the reigning league Most Valuable Player had 20 points, five rebounds and five assists in 26 minutes and let everyone know the Heat were not feeling complacent.
“We understand it was a tough season, and are looking forward to new challenges,” James said during a news conference after the game. “We are a hungry team and should be fine, should be a fine season.”
James, widely considered the world’s top player, won his first NBA title in his ninth season in June, the highlight of a career that already includes several MVP awards, All-Star nods and a scoring title.
But until the self proclaimed “King James” had his crowning moment with Miami at the end of last season, he was called out by some for failing to produce late in key games, a notion he quashed in the 2012 finals versus the Oklahoma City Thunder.
While the Heat are in China as part of a two-game jaunt with the Clippers to help promote the NBA in a massive market, James did offer a glimpse into his team’s outlook for the 2012-13 season.
“Our expectation is to play as a team,” said James. “You know, get better each and every day and put ourselves in a position to win ball games, and that’s all we can ask for.”
Offseason acquisition Ray Allen, the NBA’s all-time leading three-point scorer and a 10-time All-Star who won a championship with Miami’s Eastern Conference rivals, the Boston Celtics, fit right in with the team chemistry.
Allen, who joined a team widely known for its ‘Big Three’ players of James, and fellow All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, added 15 points in Miami’s victory.
“Everybody that joins our team understands that the most important word is sacrifice, and so a lot of times the role may be different than what it was for these guys, on other teams and other years,” Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters in the previous day’s training session.
“So we feel that we have great depth, versatility with our team. We plan on using it, and it requires the guys’ sacrifice to be able to do that.”
The Heat play the Clippers in Shanghai on Sunday before returning to the U.S.
Editing by Frank Pingue