To say Leonard will need every ounce of that focus against James, potentially for 7 grueling games and 14 draining days, is an understatement.
But his teammates have his back, and he has a future Hall of Famer and coaching legend in Gregg Popovich preparing him.
“It’s not easy for anybody to guard LeBron, so we’re not expecting anybody to accept the challenge 1-on-1,” explained Danny Green, who will also slide onto James when necessary. “It’s gotta be a team effort. We’ve got to have everyone’s back. We’ve got to be on a string, rotating when need be and try to make it tough on him.”
“Like I said, we need to help everyone out,” said Splitter. “It’s difficult to guard LeBron 1-on-1. It’s a team job and everybody has to help, not just me and Timmy.”
No matter what, the Spurs know they won’t be able to stop LeBron.
“We’ll try to do the best we can to try to slow him down,” explained Parker. “You can’t stop him. That’s for sure.”
The Spurs playmaking scorer/slasher/mid-range menace/virtuoso passer has been uncontainable, also.
As a result of routinely torching opponents’ point guards, Parker has gotten acclimated to being guarded by taller, stronger, longer players.
“For me I’m getting used to it,” said Parker. “A lot of teams put taller guys on me, stronger guys, to avoid me to go in the paint and go for my teardrop and stuff like that. I just have to keep playing my game and be aggressive and try to find stuff for my teammates, and try to get open with pick‑and‑rolls, or staggers and stuff like that. We’ll see if they are going to do that. But I’m kind of used to it, because a lot of teams use that option.”
However, as a result of their quickness and athleticism, the Heat employ a different defensive strategy than a lot of teams in the NBA in an effort to create turnovers and score easy buckets at the other end.
“We just have to wear on him,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said Wednesday. “We’ve worked on pick‑and‑roll defense now for three straight years for match‑ups like this. And our defense will be tested, but we trust it. We built a lot of habits with it.”
The pressure the Heat apply to Parker on a possession by possession basis will add up to a worn-down Parker, the Heat are hoping.
“Throw different bodies in front of him, and then hopefully there’s a cumulative effect of wearing on him,” continued Spoelstra.
Parker is probably the best screen splitter in pick-and-roll situations on the planet, so the Heat will certainly need to be wary of that.
Whether Parker can be worn down – mentally or physically – is another question.
“It’s easy to go get 28 or 30 one night,” said Popovich. “It’s easy to get 20 and 10 one night. But will you do that night after night and will you guard at the other end of the court? And will you lead and will you support your teammates when things are going badly in a game? All those sorts of things on the mental side he’s improved over the last couple of years. That’s what’s allowed him to take another step.”
One advantage Miami has is that if need be – in transition, in a switch situation or at the end of a quarter, half or game, or if Parker simply gets too hot to handle – they can throw LeBron James — “1-through-5,” as he’s referred to in South Beach — on him.
“We’ll see how it plays out,” said Spoelstra, as it relates to matching up with Parker. “But he’ll be on every single one of those players at some point, and then we just have to see how the games are going and what’s needed.
“He’s our Super Glue; wherever we need to put him, he’ll make it work.”
If there’s one thing for certain, it’s that no matter how exhausted or drained Parker might be, he’s going to relish the moment and fight on.
“When I was 21 and I won my first one, it was kind of fast and we think it’s going to happen every year,” explained the tested, 31-year old Parker. “We think it’s easy. But after a lot of years in the league, you realize it’s really hard to go to The Finals. Now we take nothing for granted. We appreciate every moment. And we’ll see what happens.”
You can also bet that no matter how tough LeBron James is played by San Antonio, he’s going to keep his eye on the ultimate prize.
“A lot smarter,” said James, describing how far he’s come since the Spurs swept the Caves. “More Experienced. Older. More mature, both on and off the floor.”
And unlike in the 2007 series, when his jumper was still very much a work in progress, he’s going to find a way to score no matter what strategy the Spurs employ.
“If you go under my pick‑and‑roll now, I’m going to shoot,” explained James, exuding fearlessness from the podium. “And I’m confident I’m going to make every last one of them. I’m just more confident in my ability to shoot the ball. But at the same time, I also have a lot more weapons this time around going against this team, where in ’07 they loaded three guys to me a lot on the strong side of the floor.”
“So like I said, I’m a better player and you can’t dare me to do anything I don’t want to do in 2013,” James continued.
James has all the tools imaginable to be the immovable object. So does Parker.
Whichever one is contained the most will likely end up on the losing end of this series.
Jeremy Bauman is an aspiring shooting coach and scout who writes columns and blogs for SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.