INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- In a moment of candor, LeBron James strayed from the one-game-at-a-time sports-world cliché and conceded that he has thought about a potential Eastern Conference finals showdown between the Cleveland Cavaliers and his former team, the Miami Heat.
"Naturally, of course," James said after Cavs shootaround Wednesday morning, when asked about the chance to play the Heat. "That's since I've came back. It'd be great to play against those guys in the postseason.
"Throughout my whole career, I've always wanted to go against [Dwyane] Wade in a playoff series. We've always talked about it even before we became teammates in '10.
"It's not been heavy on my mind, but it's crossed my mind throughout my whole career." James, drafted No. 1, and Wade, drafted No. 5, entered the league as rookies together in 2003 and teamed up in Miami from 2010 to 2014, making four straight trips to the Finals and winning two championships in that span.
Since James came back to Cleveland in the summer of 2014, the Cavs have gone 3-4 against the Heat. Cleveland's 122-101 loss in Miami in March prompted Cavs coach Tyronn Lue to sit down with James about his leadership after James spent part of halftime fraternizing with Wade even though the Cavs were down double digits.
Wade has enjoyed a strong postseason for Miami, averaging 19.6 points on 47.1 percent shooting, 5.5 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.1 blocks per game. He had a classic performance in a must-win Game 6 in the first round against the Charlotte Hornets with 23 points (including going 2-of-2 from 3), 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks and 2 steals.
James has been watching from afar and drawing inspiration from Wade.
"Any time one of my best friends is able to go out there and perform the way he performs, it's definitely motivating," James said. "I was looking forward to Game 1 [against Toronto] after watching him in Game 6, you know, the way he was able to close that game out.
"They all gritted last night. Not only Miami but Toronto. It was a slugfest watching that game, and they were able to pull it out as well. But any time I'm able to watch my guys do work is definitely motivating for sure."
While a Cavs-Heat series would provide ample storylines, both teams must survive their current matchups.
The Heat needed overtime to get past the second-seeded Raptors in Game 1, and the early talk of an Eastern Conference finals series featuring James and Wade isn't sitting well with Toronto coach Dwane Casey.
"I've said this before -- nobody respects us," Casey said. "Everybody has written us off and that's fine. The people in this building right now, in that locker room over there, are the most important people to believe that. Hopefully our guys take that to heart and take offense to it. ... They're the ones that can do something about it."