MIAMI — After a recent Miami Heat practice in Washington, Ray Allen told the coaching staff he was skipping the bus ride and running back to the hotel.
LeBron James’ ears perked up.
With that, the three-time league MVP went looking for his running shoes.
“LeBron said, ‘If you’re going to do that, I’m going to do that too. I’m not going to be outdone by somebody else,’ ” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “So he gets very competitive with things like that. If other people are working on their game, he takes notice.”
That approach must be working. James’ game — already considered among the best in the NBA — might be better than ever right now.
He’s made 37 of 47 shots over his past 111 minutes, a torrid 79 percent clip. For the season, he’s shooting a career-best 56 percent so far, easily on pace for his sixth consecutive season of improvement in that department. His 3-point shooting, at 42 percent this season, is much improved. He’s shooting 70 percent inside the paint.
“I want to continue to push the button, continue to get better, maximize my potential and not waste an opportunity,” James said.
The numbers go on and on. He’s averaging 26.9 points this season. According to STATS LLC, only five players in NBA history have averaged that many points while shooting at least 56 percent over a full season. Maybe that’s why Heat guard Dwyane Wade marvels when talking about James these days, saying “every year, it seems like he does the amazing.”
“Numbers don’t lie,” James said.
At least, they don’t in this case. After winning his third MVP award, second Olympic gold medal and first NBA championship, James said he wanted to get even better.
“It’s kind of like, where is the bar for this guy? Does he have a bar?” Wade said. “And I’m glad that he’s doing all this while he’s in a Miami Heat uniform.”
Miami continues its homestand today, playing host to the Los Angeles Lakers, who have won seven of their past nine games.
While he’s been sensational all season — sweeping the Eastern Conference player of the month awards so far, almost certainly moving to the front of the class in the MVP balloting once again and once again averaging more combined points, assists and rebounds (42.0) than anyone else in the league — James has been particularly hot of late.
Starting in the fourth quarter of Miami’s game last weekend at Toronto, James has generated 102 points on 47 shots. How off-the-charts effective is that? Remember, if he went 47-for-47 on 2-pointers alone and did nothing else, that would add up to only 94 points.
His “bad” game in the past week was an 11-for-18 showing against Houston. His 13-for-14 shooting Monday against Charlotte was marred when he appeared to get fouled on a layup attempt for his lone miss. Against the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night, his 9-for-11 shooting included a shot that probably wasn’t a try.
Nonetheless, it all adds up to James missing 10 shots in the last 121/2 quarters. Across the NBA, 14 different players missed at least 10 shots on Friday night alone.
“We try to come up with new superlatives every game,” Spoelstra said. “He’s the best player in the game and he’s continuing to reinvent himself.”