LeBron unaware of Riley jab: ‘Not my concern’

Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com

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  • Cavs and NBA writer for ESPN.com
  • Covered the Lakers and NBA for ESPNLosAngeles.com from 2009-14 and the NBA for NBA.com from 2005-09
  • Syracuse University graduate
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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — LeBron James’ playoff tradition of turning off his phones and avoiding social media altogether is meant to help him mentally prepare for the opponent at hand. That practice ended up protecting James from his past this week as well.

Miami Heat president Pat Riley took a thinly veiled shot at James on Monday, telling reporters there were “no more smiling faces with hidden agendas” in the Heat organization that could affect his approach to the draft and free agency this offseason.

  • Pat Riley took another shot at LeBron, but the Heat’s president should understand LeBron’s decision as well as anybody.

Last summer, of course, James unexpectedly left Miami to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Riley’s comment came as news to James when he was asked about it after the Cavs’ shootaround Tuesday in advance of Game 2 against the Boston Celtics.

“I’m unaware,” James said. “Whatever he said, for me, it’s not my concern right now. My concern is Game 2. I have no notion of what transpired yesterday.”

Just how contained is James’ bubble? He hasn’t talked to his friend and fellow LRMR marketing firm client, Johnny Manziel, since the Cleveland quarterback checked out of a 10-week rehab stint because, “I have no forms of communication right now.”

He explained his motivation behind his postseason communication embargo, which he began after the Heat lost to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals.

“I don’t care about nonsense. There’s too much nonsense out there. This is a time where I lock in right now and I don’t need nothing creeping into my mind for no reason that don’t need to be there. I put all my energy and effort toward this team, that’s all that matters.”

LeBron James, on his annual social media blackout during the NBA playoffs

“I don’t care about nonsense,” James said. “There’s too much nonsense out there. This is a time where I lock in right now and I don’t need nothing creeping into my mind for no reason that don’t need to be there. I put all my energy and effort toward this team, that’s all that matters.”

James said reporters are actually providing him with a service.

“I don’t have no forms of communication, so I don’t have no phones, I don’t have no social media or anything, so I don’t know what’s going on out in the world right now besides what people tell me,” James said. “I guess you guys just keep me informed and I appreciate it.”

Once his availability with the media ended, James pulled aside a reporter to learn more about Riley’s comments.

James’ last tweet and Instagram post both came on the eve of the Cavs’ playoff opener Saturday night when he sent out a black square with the message, “zero dark thirty-23 activated.”

“Everybody do their own thing,” James said. “I’m the leader of this team, and I’ve got to be more in tuned that anybody — that’s how I approach it. It was hard early on, but I’ve been doing it for a few years now. It is very tough to just be away from everything. It’s just a challenge. I love challenges, and I don’t mind it.

“The only people I need to hear from is my family. I see them every day and when I’m on the road, I have ways to get in contact to them and I see those fans when I show up to the building. I’m around my guys every day, so nothing that’s happening … I need a form communication [can’t make it out].”

LeBron James has not paid attention to social media since the night before Cleveland’s postseason opener against Boston. Brian Babineau/Getty Images

Kevin Love said he has noticed a shift in James’ demeanor since the regular season wrapped up last week.

“Just a lot more serious,” Love said. “He’s our leader and he’s the guy we look to, so we’re going to kind of follow suit. Everything trickles down after him. So he kind of goes dark on the social media, gets very serious around us and shootarounds like today, getting there before the game. You know it’s loose, but you know that there’s a lot at stake here.”

Kyrie Irving said last week he has “no superstitions” about changing his communication patterns like James because “it’s not a big deal for me,” but he has imitated one ritual of his two-time champion teammate.

“One of the things I took from Bron is putting the games on mute and just listen to music while you watch the game,” Irving said. “No disrespect to the announcers or halftime show, but you want to be in silence. Watch good basketball, high-intensity basketball, just watch the game.”

Like James, Love hasn’t tweeted in days and plans to keep that up.

“I’m not going to turn off my phone, but no social media, no,” Love said. “I won’t be throwing up any of my chocolate milk ads for a couple months. No BodyArmor, no. Starter, no. I might be wearing the jackets though.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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