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posted: 4/26/2010 12:01 AM

James not planning on return for Game 6

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  • Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James looks up at the scoreboard late in the fourth quarter in 121-98 win over the Chicago Bulls Sunday in Game 4 at the United Center.

       Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James looks up at the scoreboard late in the fourth quarter in 121-98 win over the Chicago Bulls Sunday in Game 4 at the United Center.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

 

As he sat in the visitors locker room after Game 4 on Sunday, his feet soaking in an icy tub and his eyes locked on his smartphone, LeBron James let slip a secret.

While he's big on eating fish and chicken, the Cleveland superstar doesn't bother with red meat.

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That ought to give the Bulls' marketing department an idea for Game 6: Change the franchise's postseason slogan from "See Red" to "See Red Meat."

There's just one problem with that self-preservation strategy:

After feasting for 37 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists in the Cavaliers' 121-98 blowout, James walked down the UC's locker-room corridor with a carnivore's strut and a message for anyone who believes there'll be a Game 6 here Thursday.

"We don't plan on coming back here," James said. "This is the last time you'll see us in Chicago."

If James says it, then it must be true. At least, that's how everything turned out Sunday.

He delivered Cleveland's pregame speech, the postgame statement mentioned above and virtually all of the verbiage in between.

"After Game 3, the team in general was just so frustrated," said Cleveland forward Antawn Jamison, who contributed 24 points. "Right before the game, me and him came over together and he just had that look in his eye."

"I was really focused on this particular game because it was the most important game of the season for us," James said. "I just wanted to enforce my will tonight."

In James' mind, his fifth career playoff triple-double was almost incidental to the way he has attacked his leadership responsibilities in this series.

"I'm supposed to be effective on the court," James said. "But the intangible things that you guys don't always see is what's raising our team."

James was so intent on maintaining his businesslike veneer after Game 4, he didn't allow himself to relax and smile until he fielded a question about his jump-shooting range.

In case you missed it, James swished a third-quarter buzzer-beater one step inside the half-court line with Derrick Rose in his face.

"I can comfortably shoot that shot from half-court and beyond," James said. "Comfortably. I mean, it's a regular jump shot. It is.

"I can walk and dribble into a half-court 3, just like I would do if I was standing at the (free-throw) line."

He made it sound so simple. Kind of the way the Bulls' Joakim Noah made the antidote sound easy.

"You just have to find a way to get the ball out of his hands," Noah said.

Considering James' series statistics improved to 35.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 8.0 assists per game - better numbers than Michael Jordan's when he led the Bulls to their first NBA title in his seventh year - it doesn't seem to matter whether James keeps the ball or dishes it to open teammates.

Jamison, one of the primary beneficiaries, praised James as one of the Cavs' two Hall of Famers. The other guy in that group, 38-year-old center Shaquille O'Neal, offered a more short-range compliment.

"Unanimous MVP," he said.

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