The Indiana Pacers spent the better part of the past two season working to prove they could sustain an elite level of play and compete for an NBA championship with other elite teams like the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs.
Now that they've established their spot among the top teams, they are done trying to show others what they can do. Outside impressions are meaningless as they focus internally on striving to reach their goal of an NBA championship.
So after LeBron James made it known to Paul George that he "was gonna remember" Lance Stephenson's late game dunk in the Pacers' win over the Heat last week there was no concern in the Pacers locker room.
Paul George admitted hearing what I guess amounts to a warning or threat from James to unleash everything he has on the Pacers and rub it in Lance's face as much as possible. Well, cool. Go for it.
"We only care about what's going on in this locker room," George said. "We don't care what other teams say, how other teams are going to prepare, we just work on how we're going to prepare."
George also thought Miami had no right to complain about the dunk since it was their fault for not getting back on defense after the Pacers grabbed the rebound. It was a seven point game with more than 30 seconds to play. Anyone else see a bigger lead evaporate in less time in the NBA?
In fact, the Heat had time for Ray Allen to make a three-pointer before the Pacers eventually ran out the final eight seconds on the clock. But as the Pacers prepare for the rematch with the Heat in Miami, no part of LBJ's reaction concerns the Pacers. They already expect him to give them his best effort.
"If I was him (LeBron) and in his position, this is a game I would be up for and look to lead my team to a win," PG said.
David West broke from his stoic post-game demeanor following the win over Charlotte on Friday to laugh off any concerns about the supposed slight felt by LBJ.
"We're beyond that," West said regarding his team worrying about how other teams or players feel.
"I think for us, we come out with this attitude, and coach has really been strong about it, in terms of the belief that every single night we come out we should expect to win. We may not win, but the expectation is for us to come out and win regardless of who we're playing against because we feel that our group is that strong."
The Pacers will have to find that strength to raise their game after faltering against Detroit on Monday night. But one thing is for sure, they will take the floor against the Heat as a united team expecting, as West emphasized, to win. And if Lance somehow distract LeBron then all the better.
Jeremiah Johnson has the video linked here of James voicing his displeasure over the dunk to Paul George. This clip was not part of the broadcast but was unearthed via FOX Sports Indiana, so thanks to JJ for posting the clip as it aired on the Pacers pregame show on Friday.
By request, ICYM Pacers Live Pregame Friday, segment featuring LeBron "I'll remember that one" (1:15 in) http://t.co/PnlTB9XnYZ— Jeremiah Johnson (@JJFSINDIANA) December 18, 2013
I guess Utah's Alec Burks won't forget LeBron powering by him last night to dunk, pose and stare while putting the Heat up 18 late in the fourth quarter on Monday night. Yeah, LeBron has a lot of room to complain. Plus, he made that move after tweaking the ankle that has him questionable to play against the Pacers on Wednesday.
Hopefully after all of this, LeBron shows up ready to play and make a statement. Always more fun that way.