NBA Playoff Notebook

James still happy with Cleveland

Associated Press / June 1, 2009
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LeBron James finally talked about not making the NBA Finals, and insists Cleveland's loss to Orlando will not impact his future with the Cavaliers.

James stormed out of Amway Arena without speaking to the media Saturday night after the host Magic eliminated the Cavaliers, 103-90, in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals. The league MVP, who also did not shake hands with Olympic teammate Dwight Howard or congratulate any Orlando players as he left the floor, said yesterday that he's happy in Cleveland and feels the Cavaliers made major progress this season.

"I'm great. I feel great about this situation that's going on," James said at Cleveland's training facility in Independence, Ohio, where the team gathered one last time before parting ways for the summer. "You want to continue to get better, that's all you can ask. We got better and I feel this team will be better next season. You don't want to take a step backward."

The Cavaliers won 66 regular-season games, the most in the league, en route to their second Central Division title.

James, who averaged 38.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 8.0 assists against Orlando, said he hasn't given any thought to signing a contract extension with the Cavaliers this summer.

Cleveland can offer the extension July 18 - the three-year anniversary of him signing his previous deal.

"I don't know," James said when asked if he'll sign. "I haven't thought about it just yet. I'm just going to take time off from basketball and not think about contracts or the game period. I'll relax with my family. We'll figure [it] out once it comes from them."

James said he sent an e-mail to Howard following Saturday's game.

"It's hard for me to congratulate somebody after you just lose to them," he said. "I'm a winner. It's not being a poor sport or anything like that. If somebody beats you up, you're not going to congratulate them. That doesn't make sense to me. I'm a competitor. That's what I do. It doesn't make sense for me to go over and shake somebody's hand."

Magic play spoiler
Had Cleveland made the Finals, it would have set up a highly anticipated duel between Kobe Bryant and James, the last two NBA MVPs.

The Magic ruined that script. Now they look to deny Phil Jackson his 10th coaching title, which would move him past Red Auerbach for most all time, when the best-of-seven series begins in Los Angeles Thursday night.

"To get to the Finals is most definitely deserving for this team, but we feel like we still have work to go out there and do, and try to go out there and win it all," Orlando forward Rashard Lewis said. "Getting to the Finals is not enough for us."

The Lakers are stuck on 15 championships, second behind the Celtics (17). Boston beat the Los Angeles last season in six games, the clincher a 131-92 blowout that still stings.

But the Lakers are in much better shape this season. First, they have home-court advantage. Center Andrew Bynum is healthy after missing the 2008 postseason with a knee injury, and Trevor Ariza - a former Magic player - has become a key starter after missing most of last year's playoffs with a foot injury.

However, the Lakers lost both regular-season games to the Magic. Orlando won, 106-103, at home in December despite 41 points from Bryant, then pulled out a 109-103 victory in Los Angeles about a month later behind 25 points and 20 rebounds from Howard.

Nelson could return
Orlando is evaluating All-Star point guard Jameer Nelson for a possible return to the Magic lineup for the Finals.

Magic spokesman Joel Glass said that Nelson's rehabilitation from a shoulder injury is ahead of schedule but that his status remains uncertain.

Nelson has been out since February with what had been called a season-ending shoulder tear. He has been working out and has full range of motion.

Magic president Bob Vander Weide told The Orlando Sentinel after Saturday's victory that he wanted Nelson to take another MRI and consult with doctors for a possible comeback.

Wallace may retire
Cleveland center Ben Wallace is considering retirement. Wallace, a 14-year veteran and four-time defensive player of the year, said that a combination of injuries, declining production, and a loss of passion for the game has him thinking about quitting. He plans to sit down with his family before deciding his next move . . . Orlando's Eastern Conference championship-clinching victory drew more than 8.3 million viewers, capping a strong series for TNT. The network averaged 8.6 million viewers for the six-game series, a 37 percent increase over its 2008 coverage of the Western Conference finals. The series also had a 43 percent increase in total viewers over the 2008 East finals between the Celtics and Detroit.

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