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Washington Wizards star Paul Pierce has insisted that he has total respect for LeBron James and their rivalry and dislike does not go beyond the court.
Pierce and James are set to come face-to-face on Friday night with the Cleveland Cavaliers heading to Washington, and their rivalry has become compelling viewing over the years after countless battles.
While Pierce’s uniform has changed more regularly in the last three years, James returned to Cleveland this past summer and remains one of his toughest challenges in the league.
The veteran star who is now in his 17th season in the NBA is hoping to help the Wizards build on their second round run last season, and it could eventually lead to a sixth playoff series in the last seven years between Pierce and James.
“I think a lot of it is really misunderstood,” Pierce said Thursday. “If I see LeBron walking down the street, it’s not going to be no fistfight. I’ve got a lot of respect for him. It’s like fighting for the same girl. How am I going to be cool with that guy? I’ve got total respect for him as a person. It’s just the thing we go through on the court.”
“It’s just the competitive nature of both of us being at the same position, being on the top teams, gunning for the same trophy year in and year out, and that’s where that comes into play,” Pierce said after the Wizards’ practice at the Verizon Center.
“It’s just something about great players when they play in certain arenas or against other great players. They elevate their play. LeBron is one of those guys. He feels the moment. He understands the moment. And this could be a moment tomorrow.”
James has previously spoken of his respect for Pierce by insisting that he relishes the prospect of taking on the best players in the league, and ultimately they are both fighting for the same thing and it is an honour to take on a future Hall of Famer.
Nevertheless, Pierce says he expects a playoff type atmosphere on Friday night as the Wizards look to prove that it is more than just a two-horse race in the Eastern Conference between the Cavs and the Chicago Bulls.