James certainly remembers painful loss

Much has been made of LeBron James returning to the NBA Finals to face the San Antonio Spurs.

It seemed like a lifetime ago, but it's only been six years since the Spurs won their last title, dispatching James and his misfit cast of Cleveland Cavaliers in four games.

The sweep was painful, but predictable.

James assuredly remembers the defeat.

"It's been a while since I've seen the series," James said on Wednesday. "It was tough. We ran against a team that was more superior, more experienced, more better -- that's not even a word -- better than we were at the time.

"I have something in me that they took in '07; beat us on our home floor, celebrated on our home floor. I won't forget that."

Comparing the 2007 Cleveland Cavaliers and the 2013 Miami Heat is like comparing pineapples and pine cones.

Cleveland started James, Daniel Gibson, Drew Gooden, Sasha Pavlovic and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Miami features Hall of Famers-in-wait in Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, alongside Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem.

The Cavs won 50 games that season and had the seventh-best record in the NBA. The Heat won 66 this season and clinched home-court advantage throughout the playoffs early.

Oh, and they also won the NBA title last season and lost in the Finals the season before.

"I have a lot more weapons with me," said James in one of the biggest understatements in recent basketball memory.

The teams are different, but the philosophy facing James is somewhat similar.

Throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs, James himself evoked his Cleveland persona. There were games James had to dominate because of the ineffectiveness of both Wade and Bosh.

But perhaps the biggest difference in this whole series doesn't have to do with the fellas in Heat jerseys. The biggest difference resides in the man wearing a No. 6 Heat jersey.

After the Heat finally eliminated the Indiana Pacers in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals, James said he was "20, 40, 50 times better than I was in the '07 Finals."

Wade joked that James is "50, 60, 70 times better than he was in 2007."

Wade's right.

Since that Finals defeat, James has won four MVP awards and an NBA title. His game has evolved in that he's now a force on the low post and even from the 3- point line, where he shot a career-best 40 percent.

And James is a more weathered man.

He became an instant villain after "The Decision," his ill-conceived television show to announce his intention of signing with the Heat. Then, in his first season in South Beach, James and the Heat were bounced in the NBA Finals by the Dallas Mavericks.

"Just smarter, a lot smarter, more experienced, older, more mature both on and off the floor," James said. "And I think that's the most important thing. I've matured as a basketball player. I've matured as a man. And it has allowed my game to sprout."

And sprout it has. So has his basketball IQ and his confidence is astronomically high.

James may not have watched the 2007 Finals much, but he certainly remembered what the Spurs did to stifle him.

"When I got the ball, they kept me on the sideline," James said. "They went under a lot of my pick-and-rolls and dared me to shoot. Back in '07, I ran a lot of pick-and-rolls. They funneled me to the sideline with Duncan and (Fabricio) Oberto and Bruce Bowen and Michael Finley, and those guys funneled me to the sideline and dared me to shoot it, and didn't allow me to get to the paint where I did most of my damage back in '07.

Now, James also has the answers.

"If you go into my pick-and-roll now, I'm going to shoot," he said. "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."

Perhaps the most chilling statement James made to the media came immediately after breaking down the Spurs defense back then and how it won't work six years later.

"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."

Yeah, James remembers that 2007 Finals loss. He remembers it well.