The Orlando Magic and Miami Heat already have played each other three times this season, so their game Saturday night will be the last time the Magic have an up-close, in-person look at LeBron James until the 2014-15 preseason or regular season.
Here's a guarantee: In the next seven months, or however long until the Magic face him next season, James will improve at least one aspect to his game.
He always does.
- Orlando Magic's Arron Afflalo won't play against the Miami Heat on Saturday night
- Dewayne Dedmon, a basketball late bloomer, is trying to earn a permanent NBA spot with the Magic
- Orlando Magic are in discussions with a D-League team to create a hybrid affiliation
- Pro Basketball
- LeBron James
See more topics »
And that's one of many things Magic players and coaches respect about James. He's a four-time NBA Most Valuable Player who is never content with his own game. In recent offseasons, James has made marked improvements to his long-range shooting and his post-up game, and the Heat have been better off because of those efforts.
"He's the most efficient guy in the game right now," coach Jacque Vaughn said. "He gets the shots that he wants throughout the course of the game, and that's pretty tough to even concede even one possession throughout the course of the game. I think his post-up game is growing also, but he has an innate ability to pass the basketball, and he takes pride in not turning the ball over.
It's impressive because if there's any player in the sport who has a right to be satisfied, it's James.
His team has won the last two NBA titles, and he's won the league MVP award the last two years.
There's a lesson there for the Magic's young players to absorb.
They need to make major strides in the upcoming offseason.
Center Nik Vucevic, for example, needs to add strength and quickness and improve his low-post moves. Guard Victor Oladipo wants to improve his strength, outside shooting and his ability to finish drives with his left hand. Swingman Maurice Harkless and forward Tobias Harris can improve on their outside shooting and ball-handling.
James is a role model for them, and they know it.
"I'd say definitely his shooting has improved from the outside," said Harris, who will spend at least some of Saturday night's game guarding James.
To be sure, James is more efficient this season.
He's made 57.9 percent of his shot attempts.
That's a huge improvement from his first season with the Heat, when he shot 51.0 percent from the field.
James' field-goal percentage has improved from year-to-year in every season but one. In his third NBA season, he made 48.0 percent of his shots. The next season, he made 47.6 percent of his shots. But the year after that, he went back to making improvements, elevating his accuracy rate to 48.4 percent.
James should provide an example to the Magic's young players, and so should one of their teammates: Arron Afflalo.
Afflalo is in his seventh NBA season, and yet he spent the offseason changing his diet, adding to his post-up game and improving his outside shot. The results speak for themselves. He's averaging career highs in points (19.7), rebounds (4.0) and assists (3.6). Even at the age of 28, Afflalo almost certainly is the Magic's most improved player.
Afflalo won't play Saturday night. He was feeling sick on Friday and didn't make the trip to Miami, team spokesmen said.
His absence could make James even more conspicuous than usual.
"He's one of the greatest — if not the greatest — athletes in the world and basketball players as well," Oladipo said. "It's tough. He can affect the game in many different ways. He's a load definitely. He's tough on the break, and he defends.
"We're definitely going to have to be on our 'A' game if we want to get a win in Miami."
email@example.com. Read his blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/magicblog and follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.