Ready to bury the Sixers, LeBron praises them

Posted: April 24, 2011

Though Miami has a chance to clinch its Eastern Conference series against the 76ers on Sunday, Heat all-star LeBron James was dodging questions about the Boston Celtics on Saturday the way he eludes defenders.

Both the Heat and Celtics lead their best-of-seven series, three games to none, and the two would face each other in the second round with wins Sunday.

The Heat will try to end the Sixers' season beginning at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center. Later in the afternoon, the Celtics will look to do the same to the Knicks in New York.

While James wasn't particularly interested in looking ahead, he was more than willing to look back on some of the positives he has seen from the Sixers.

The Sixers have been more competitive than their 0-3 record in the conference quarterfinals suggests. In two of the three games, they were in it until late in the fourth quarter.

As James sees it, the Sixers' success begins with the coach.

"I just love Doug Collins," James said Saturday after the Heat's practice at St. Joseph's University. "I have known him over the years as an analyst and a friend, . . . and to see what he has done with that young team is unbelievable."

James said he was most impressed with the way Collins kept the team together through a rough start.

"To start 3-13 and finish the season the way they did, to make the playoffs, he showed not only is he a great motivator, but he is still a great coach."

James, who is as astute a follower of the NBA as any player, also praised the Sixers' young personnel, starting with point guard Jrue Holiday, who won't turn 21 until June. Holiday is averaging 17 points, 5.0 assists, and 2.0 steals while shooting 9 for 15 from three-point range in the three games.

"Jrue Holiday is very impressive," James said. "He gets a lot of praise from our team, from me and D-Wade."

James has been especially impressed with Holiday's poise.

"We love the way he plays the game of basketball and how comfortable he is in this moment," James said. "He is not shy about this moment and is always under control."

James wasn't finished.

"Thaddeus Young is also a bright spot for them, [Andre] Iguodala is always a bright spot for those guys," James said. "They have a good team, but it starts with Jrue Holiday and it starts with Coach Collins."

Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or Follow him on Twitter at Twitter/com/sjnard


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