MIAMI -- This is the LeBron James that Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra worked with during four trips to the NBA Finals and two championships. The LeBron James who then went on to an additional four NBA Finals with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
At 34, after an uneven, injury-filled season, the second year of the LeBron James experience with the Los Angeles Lakers is rekindling nostalgia -- and fear.
"I think he's got the fountain of youth that we're all searching for," Spoelstra said Thursday, with the Heat facing the Lakers at 7 p.m. Friday at AmericanAirlines Arena. "But I've said it before we played them, the last time we played, that the fountain of youth for LeBron James is a bunch of work and no days off when no one's watching."
That was before James dropped 25 points on the Heat in the Lakers' Nov. 8 victory at Staples Center.
"This doesn't happen by accident," Spoelstra said. "During the summer, he rarely takes a bunch of time off. So it's not like he's working to get himself fully back into shape after enjoying three or four months of doing nothing. He's usually about, at any point during the summer, he's probably three or four, five days away from being ready to rock for training camp.
"He invests a lot of time into his craft and to his body, on all levels, to give himself the best chance of fighting something that we will all lose to. But when you give a great fight that most people aren't willing to do, you can do remarkable things."
Heat guard Jimmy Butler said that James' mileage at 34 makes this revival even more impressive.
"He's played a lot more games than anybody, because he's constantly going to the Finals," Butler, 30, said. "And he plays both sides of the ball, as well. So we're talking about a guy that has done it at that level for so long.
"He's always taken care of his body, super smart. I think everybody wants to be like that. Prime basketball? Is he still in his prime? Who knows? Yes? No? But he's still effective and he's one of the best players to play this game."
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