SAN ANTONIO — The flair for the dramatic was back, even if it temporarily might have stopped the hearts of Miami Heat teammates still reeling from the impact of his Thursday departure.
“If I had to say today,” LeBron James told a packed news conference Friday at the San Antonio Spurs’ practice facility, “I would probably be out on Sunday. I probably won’t play.”
He paused. Some gasped. Then he smiled.
“No, I’ll be all right,” he continued. “I’ll be in uniform on Sunday. I should be 100 percent on Sunday.”
With treatment ongoing for the cramping that sidelined the All-Star forward for the decisive latter stages of the Heat’s 110-95 Thursday loss to the Spurs at the AT&T Center in Game 1 of the best-of-seven NBA Finals, James said extensive overnight hydration, round-the-clock therapy and a return to air-conditioned confines had him in a far better place than those sweltering and debilitation hours when he attempted to play through the air-conditioning malfunction at the Spurs’ arena.
Arena officials said Friday the matter had been resolved and that Sunday’s Game 2 would be played at a less-balmy AT&T Center, with a concert and WNBA game scheduled at the facility in the interim.
James, beyond his brief not-playing tease, said he would be good to go, trying to even the series before it shifts to AmericanAirlines Arena for Games 3 and 4, on Tuesday and Thursday nights.
“I’m pretty sore right now just from the muscles spasming up, and they’re starting to release, but I’m pretty sore in my legs,” he said, with the Heat limited to video work Friday, before resuming practice Saturday. “What I went through the last 12 hours was getting up and using the restroom a lot.
“I got two and a half bags of IV (Thursday) night right after the game. So between 2 a.m. and 11 a.m., I got up about six or seven times. So obviously I got no sleep.”
Estimates of temperatures Thursday at the AT&T Center ranged from 88 degrees as reported by ABC and the official in charge of arena operations, to the 90s by some individual measurements.
“I’ve never played an NBA game like it was (Thursday) night as far as the heat,” James said. “Not an excuse, but it was an extreme condition. I looked at the stands at one point and I saw every last fan having fans, double entendre, waving fans and I knew at that point, this is something different.”
James said, contrary to some outside speculation, he did everything possible to push through conditions that did not take a similar toll on any other player.
“I always hydrate,” he said. “Every time I’m out, I’m hydrating every timeout.”
Coach Erik Spoelstra said what makes James unique as a player also makes him susceptible to such episodes, also having to take himself out during the 2012 NBA Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“Look, 99.9 percentile of people have never pushed their body to that level,” Spoelstra said. “He was burning through his fluids and calories at an extraordinary rate, so about halfway through the first quarter, we understood that this was a different environment. The preparation he had to the game was excellent. It needed to go to another extreme level. He took seven cramping pills. He was taking electrolytes the entire game, during halftime, building up his fluids.
“The only thing, in hindsight, maybe I could have done in the first half was maybe to rest him more and look at him more as a 28-, 30-minute player (Thursday) night. But how realistic is that in an NBA Finals game?”
Spoelstra did not anticipate further heat-related concerns.
“It probably won’t happen again, ever,” he said. “Now, we might have to deal with the absolute opposite in Game 7, who knows. It will be 55 degrees in the arena, unless they don’t get it fixed, which if they don’t, there should be a fine.”
As for James, he said he would be fine. But he felt anything but on Thursday night, a helpless bystander to the Spurs’ game-ending assault.
“My body just shut down,” he said. “Basically my body said, ‘OK, enough jumping for you for the night. You’ve had enough.’ Nothing I could do about it.”
Other than make sure it wouldn’t happen again.
“I hydrated as much as I could to the point where your stomach feels like it just can’t take anymore,” he said, anticipating returning to court work Saturday.
“I should be back on my feet, full go. And I got all day Sunday to get ready for Sunday night.”