JUNE 15 2007 10:08h
Just minutes after getting swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA finals, LeBron James vowed to return next year as a better player.
The muscle-bound Cleveland Cavaliers forward averaged 22 points, seven rebounds and seven assists but admitted he did not perform up to his advanced billing.
"If I don't play well, our team is not going to have a good chance to win," he told reporters.
"I've got a lot of things to work on to get better for next year."
The 22-year-old James shot poorly all series, committed 23 turnovers and failed to have the breakout game many had anticipated.
He shot only 35 percent from the floor, 20 percent from three-point range, and had only three dunks in the four games.
In Thursday's title-clinching 83-82 Spurs victory, James missed 20 of his 30 shots.
Cavaliers coach Mike Brown credited San Antonio's pressure defense for keeping James in check.
"They did a nice job blitzing him at times, keeping two on him, and then at other times they just dropped him," he said.
"The changing defenses throughout the course of the game was something that we as a team didn't adjust to very well.
"But he had some great looks and they didn't go in, and not just his jump shots. He had a few lay ups almost every game that normally go in, but for some reason they didn't."
Spurs center Tim Duncan, a four-times NBA champion, credited defensive ace Bruce Bowen for shutting James down.
"It was Bruce Bowen sitting down on him for 40-odd minutes every night," he said.
"It was our guys understanding that he wasn't able to do it himself. But it just starts with Bruce.
"He did an awesome job of standing in front of that guy and making life tough for him."
James, who grew up just outside of Cleveland, shouldered much of the blame for the Cavaliers' disappointing first appearance in the NBA finals.
"I have to be much better on and off the court, and that will carry our team to higher levels," he said. "It starts with me first and then it will trickle down to everybody else."