In the days leading up to the 2014 NBA Draft, there were rumors that the Miami Heat, fresh off a Finals defeat to the San Antonio Spurs, would trade up to select UConn point guard Shabazz Napier.
"I’m not really worried about that," Napier said on Wednesday of the speculation. "The only thing I can worry about is playing basketball."
And now, after the Heat swung a deal with the Hornets to move up from No. 26 to No. 24 ... Napier is not only headed to Miami, but has the full support of the best player in the game.
My favorite player in the draft! #Napier
— LeBron James (@KingJames) June 27, 2014
"I know LeBron tweeted something out in the NCAA [tournament] about him," Heat president Pat Riley said after the draft, via ESPN.com. "Why not. If LeBron and I have the same taste in talent, so be it. But he didn't call me on the phone, or he didn't make a point to me about it."
Either way, Miami lands one of the nation's top point guards.
"He's a very competitive person," Riley continued, "and I think competitive without a huge ego, too. He's a winner. He's talented and he's skilled. You just have to watch him play the game and you can see the competitive level we all like."
Hopefully landing Napier means that James, who recently opted out of the final year of his contract with the Heat, will stay in South Florida.
"I would hope so," Napier said. "He's one of the best players in the world. So if me going there helps him come back, it just betters our chances of being a complete team."
For now, Napier just wants to prove he belongs, a road he went down early in his Huskies career on his way to leading the program to a national title as a senior.
"No, the chip never leaves my shoulder," he said. "It will never leave my shoulder. That's what makes me who I am. And I was saying that not to belittle any other point guards. There's a reason why they're here. But I was just saying that because that's who I am. I wouldn't be Shabazz Napier if I wouldn't have said that. I believe it, and I'm going to prove it.
"What I always learned was that whatever you put in is what you're going to get out. If I don't put in the work, it's not going to show. So there's always a chip on my shoulder to prove to myself that I'm the best, and to do that, I've got to work hard."