NEW ORLEANS — Scheduled rests are scarce for someone in his position, and so, sometimes, LeBron James needs to get creative.
On Saturday afternoon, the Miami Heat forward snuck in a short nap in the truck outside the Boys & Girls Club his foundation had refurbished in Gretna, before the grateful kids there greeted him with an elaborate stepshow.
And, now, late Sunday night, after scoring 22 points in the East's 163-155 comeback win against the West, he slumped against a wall of the crowded media workspace.
After conducting an interview with NBA TV, he rose to his feet to dispose of his general media duties and trudge off into the New Orleans night.
No, this won't go down as the most memorable of his 10 All-Star appearances, not when he missed all seven of his three-point attempts, and not when he was overshadowed on his own team by his close friend (Carmelo Anthony) and his Cleveland successor, Kyrie Irving, not to mention by two guys out West, Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin. But at least there weren't any new narratives of note to annoy him as the season's stretch run starts, not as there were in 2012 when he passed on a final jumper, and passed into a turnover, in Orlando. He made enough poised plays in the final minutes, including a couple of pinpoint passes to Joakim Noah, to hold the buzzards at bay.
"We wanted it," James said of the victory. "I've been a part of the last three and in defeat. And we've been getting killed a lot this season, talking about the Eastern Conference is pretty bad, it's a two-man race and we're not holding up our end of the bargain. So it was special to get this win."
That may be so, but this win won't matter as much as any he'll register the rest of February, let alone March, April, May or, if the Indiana Pacers don't get him, June. And the East's honor isn't particularly his problem; just the Heat, part of that two-man race, exempt from the ridicule.
So this weekend was what it was: a break in a six-game Heat road trip, one that finished with him at his most ferocious, with 73 points, 22 rebounds, 12 assists and seven steals in wins at Phoenix and Golden State, the last of which he secured with a 28-footer before the buzzer. It was an opportunity to regroup if not exactly refresh, considering that he spent the weekend showing all of his sides: playing comedian at press conferences, suggesting he might join the Dallas Cowboys in free agency; philanthropist, at the Boys & Girls Club; and party hopper/host, at the Sprite bash on Friday and the GQ shindig (rapping with Rick Ross and Juvenile) on Saturday.
Much earlier on Saturday, in that spiffy gym in Gretna—the one with the mural of a lion wearing a "King James" crown—he showed his philosophical side, too.
He spoke of prioritizing which events to attend, and about how he knew he needed a nap to give the kids his proper attention. He spoke of being "right in the middle of my professional career," of being "in a great place, as far as my professional career," but about his calling going beyond basketball.
He spoke of deeper understanding.
"I just think when you get to a point in life where you know what's important, and you know what's not important, things become very easy for you," James said. "I'm not saying what I do is easy. I'm just saying as far as mentally, you know what's important to you, and you know what's not. What I'm doing today is very important. Being here with these kids is very important."
That was much more than what he doing Sunday, putting on his annual show for All-Star watchers. He did fine there too, even if his outside shot was erratic, and his anticipated duel with Durant never really materialized—they guarded each other sparingly, and passively, under the final few minutes. James dunked a few times, he missed a few times, and he laughed a few times, especially that time when Benny the Bull playfully nudged against his face.
"They had a lot of bragging rights," he said of the West. "So to be able to come through being down 18 was huge."
Not really, as he well knows, and will be reminded Tuesday in Dallas, when the Heat's regular season resumes, two nights before a visit to Durant in Oklahoma City.
Beating the West in June?
As far as basketball goes, only that would be.
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