SAN ANTONIO – LeBron James stared into the cameras and the room full of reporters Friday afternoon and answered the biggest question hanging over the 2014 NBA Finals: After cramps forced him out of the final minutes of the Miami Heat's Game 1 loss, does James think he will be healthy enough to play in Game 2?
"If I had to say today, I would probably be out on Sunday," James said. "I probably won't play."
James smiled. He was joking. Yes, he's fine. And, yes, he plans to be on the court Sunday at the AT&T Center – hopefully a cooler AT&T Center – when the Heat try to even the series against the San Antonio Spurs.
"I should be 100 percent on Sunday," James said.
"Don't worry, you guys can talk about me as much as you want. I'll be there on Sunday as well. I'm not hiding."
James was in better spirits and health one day after he had to be carried off the court with cramps, forcing him to miss the final 3:59 of the Heat's loss after an electrical failure at the AT&T Center shut down the building's air conditioning and caused the temperature to climb near 90 degrees on the court. James tried to return shortly after leaving, but was rebuffed by Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
Spoelstra said James took seven cramping pills and drank electrolytes in failed attempts to reverse his pain. James said he slept little – caused by the 2½ bags of intravenous fluids he needed after the game and the resulting six trips he had to make to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
"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," James said.
Miami was up 86-84 when James went to the bench with 7:31 remaining. He returned with 4:36 left with the Spurs up 94-90. But after scoring to cut the Heat's deficit to two, he came up limping and exited for good.
"My body just shut down," James said. "Basically my body said, 'OK, enough jumping for you for the night. You've had enough.' Nothing I could do about it."
James said he was disappointed in himself for having to exit.
"I did everything that I needed to do to prepare for this game, prepare for this moment and, you know, to feel like my body failed me last night, I was angry in the fact that I couldn't help my team get over the hump in a huge Game 1, wanting to make a statement," James said. "After I made that layup, we were down two."
In hindsight, Spoelstra wished he had played James fewer minutes early because of the heat conditions. Because James' talent and competitive nature, that might have been unrealistic.
"Last night was extreme," Spoelstra said. "It's like trying to play a NBA basketball game in a hot yoga environment. It's not ideal. We're not making excuses for it, we're trying to adapt on the fly, and it was at an extreme level and he was competing at an extremely high level.
"The only other answer would have been to pace himself. And he doesn't have that in his DNA."
This also wasn't the first time James has been bothered by cramps on the NBA's biggest stage. He had them in Game 4 of the 2012 NBA Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
"Since then we think that our staff and LeBron's diligence has really taken care of that matter, just in terms of his preparation before games, what he's doing during games in terms of always filling himself up with electrolytes, fluids, cramping pills when necessary," Spoelstra said. "All of those things, we have been much more on top of it since Game 4 of Oklahoma City.
"We have had minimal issues with it, and he's been able to handle it much better than before. Last night was so extreme. That's the toughest part for people to understand. Look, 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."
Spurs forward Tim Duncan suffered through cramps during the fourth quarter and overtime of San Antonio's Game 7 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the second round of the 2006 playoffs. And he's made it a point to stay better hydrated ever since.
"There is no shaking it off," Duncan said. "Your body is shutting down and you're unable to move. Whatever is cramping, you're unable to get away from that. It's easy to say to shake it off, but once it's gotten to that point, it's hard to reverse in a short period of time."
Spurs guard Tony Parker is among those who want James at full strength.
"I want the AC to come back, I want to play the real Miami Heat, the two time champs, with LeBron back," Parker said. "I hope it's not bad, and I hope he's going to be 100 percent on Sunday because as a competitor you want to play against the best."
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