Found February 11, 2013 on Fox Sports Florida:
MIAMI Did Michelangelo get better after painting the Sistine Chapel? Did Beethoven improve after his Fifth Symphony?So that begs the question I asked LeBron James: Has he gotten even better after the Year of LeBron?Thats for you guys to dictate or to write about or say if Im having a better season than I had last year, said James, the 2012 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year.Since James is welcoming outside opinion, the answer is yes. While it wouldnt end up being the case if his Miami Heat fail to repeat as NBA champions, so far James has been even better than he was when he won this third MVP award last season.James lately has been playing the best ball of his 10-year career. Over the past five games, hes shot 55 of 77 for 71.4 percent while averaging 31.0 points. That includes one insane stretch from the fourth quarter at Toronto on Feb. 3 until the third quarter Sunday against the Los Angeles Lakers in which he made 42 of 52 shots.Put it all together and James field-goal percentage has risen from 53.1 last season to an astounding 56.2, in line to be a career best. While his scoring has dipped a tad, from 27.1 to 27.0, his assist average is up from 6.2 to 6.9 and his rebounding from 7.9 to a career-high pace of 8.1. Hes raised his 3-point percentage from 36.2 to 42.1, also in line to be a career best.James is playing so well that even Lakers star Kobe Bryant is in awe. All Bryant could do after his teams 107-97 loss to the Heat was gush about James recent play.Its sensational, Bryant said. He seems to have a lot of confidence in his jumper, which opens up the rest of his game We all know about his passing ability and his ability to finish at the rim. I think hes working on his game, and hes added things to his game, which makes him even tougher.Bryant said the 6-foot-8, 250-pound (at least thats his listed weight) James has figured out how to use his size. He compared him to a certain 6-8 Lakers icon.With his size, he can look over the defense like Magic (Johnson) could, Bryant said.During James recent hot stretch, its been quite evident the two parts of his game that have improved so much: His post moves and 3-point shot.When James shot 13-of-14 Feb. 4 against Charlotte, he bullied the Bobcats by taking every shot inside the paint. But in his next two games, against Houston and the Los Angeles Clippers, James stepped outside to shoot a combined 7-of-11 from beyond the arc.His game is getting better, and thats scary, said Lakers coach Mike DAntoni.James on Monday was a no-brainer choice for his fourth Eastern Conference Player of the Week selection of the season. That award actually takes into account just his last four games.James on Sunday became the first Miami player in the 25-year history of the franchise to score 30 points in five straight games. He also joined Adrian Dantley (1979-80) and Moses Malone (1981-82) as the only players in NBA history to have scored 30 points in five straight games while also shooting 60 percent or better from the field.But Dantley rarely shot 3-pointers, which can hamper field-goal percentage. Neither did Malone, who feasted upon layups and dunks.James, with the exception of the Charlotte game, has stepped out regularly for jumpers during his streak. Hes 9 of 15 from 3-point range in the five games, which is 60.0 percent.I say this to Miami fans, dont take it for granted, said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. Hes making greatness look easy.Its become a challenge for Spoelstra each game to try to come up with new superlatives to describe James play. He said James lately has been playing in the same manner he did late in last years regular season and playoffs.But can James sustain this level for an entire regular season? Theres plenty of indication he can.While James last five games really have been in the spotlight, his consistency throughout the season has been astounding. Out of 48 games, hes scored below 20 points just once. Hes shot below 50 percent just eight times.Forget about all of those individual numbers, though. The only stat James claims he pays attention to is the Heat being 34-14, including having won all five games during his magnificent stretch.All I care about is us winning, James said. Thats the No. 1 thing is us winning Its not about everything else, the individual Its about the team. Whatever you guys write, you guys will figure it out as far as my individual game.Unfortunately for James, he doesnt have in 2013 another Olympics he can win. But all signs so far are hes bound for an even better year.Chris Tomasson can be reached at or on Twitter @christomasson

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