MIAMI – LeBron James doesn't have a reputation as a trash-talker. Unless he's engaged with a Stevenson. Or a Stephenson.
When James played for the Cleveland Cavaliers, he used to spar with Washington Wizards guard DeShawn Stevenson – so much so that Jay Z made a song in James' defense. Now, it's the Indiana Pacers' Lance Stephenson who is trying to rile James in the Eastern Conference finals.
"One thing I'm not going to do is give y'all a storyline," James said. "I'm not going to do that. This is the Pacers versus the Heat. I don't get involved in that.
"I've already been involved in a 'LeBron versus Stevenson' in my playoff career. I'm not going to start with another Stephenson. I'm not going to do it. You won't get me today."
James and Stephenson started exchanging words with 11:28 left in the second quarter of the Heat's 97-89 victory in Game 3 on Saturday. James was called for an offensive foul on Stephenson. James appeared agitated about the call.
After his offensive foul, James taunted Stephenson on several occasions when he or the Heat made a big play. Stephenson offered some words back in return. James finished with 22 of his 26 points after his offensive charge. Stephenson had 10 points on 3-of-9 shooting, 11 rebounds and five assists.
"To me I think it's a sign of weakness because he never used to say nothing," Stephenson said after Indiana's practice on Sunday. "I used to always be the one who would say, 'I'm going to do something to get you mad.'
"I feel like it's a weakness. I feel like I'm doing something right and getting under his skin."
James admitted he doesn't always stay quiet.
"I'm not much of a talker, but I can," James said. "I don't ever start it, but I can get involved in it. I can still keep my head and I'm able to do what needs to be done to help our team win. Winning the game is more important and understanding what the main goal is." James is a four-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a nine-time All-Star with two championships. While Stephenson called James "the best player in the game," he is not intimidated.
"I refuse to back down," Stephenson said. "I'm going to keep going after him."
Stephenson also said that as long as the talking doesn't escalate to something physical, there is nothing to be concerned about.
"This is basketball. I really have no beef with him," Stephenson said. "When you're on the court, you have no friends."
The Heat own a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven East finals with Game 4 on Monday night here. Miami has eliminated the Pacers the past two postseasons. While Stephenson refuses to be intimidated by James, he can't help but respect Miami's dominance over the Pacers.
"The Heat is a team that has took us out two years straight," Stephenson said. "It's like our big brothers have taken over. We got to live up to the challenge, keep fighting and hopefully we can beat our big brother."
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