LeBron willing to mentor Paul George

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SAN ANTONIO -- LeBron James would be open to mentoring rival Paul George this summer if he's asked by the Indiana Pacers' star, James said Thursday night.

In an interview this week with BasketballInsiders.com, George said he hoped he could spend some time talking to James this summer to get some advice.

"It would be great to be able to pick his brain, pick his mind and just talk about the game because I think he's a player that can help me get to the next level and continue to keep going to the next level," George said. "I wish some day we have that relationship where he is someone I can talk to -- not during the season because I'm too competitive during the season -- but maybe in the summertime."

James' Miami Heat and George's Pacers have faced off in the playoffs in each of the last two seasons and currently are in a heated race for the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. James has worked out with rivals during past summers, notably the Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant.

"Pick [my brain] like Hannibal Lector?" James said jokingly. "You know me, I don't mind it at all. I don't mind giving guys [advice], whatever he wants to ask. Guys know I have an open door/phone policy."

Later, James ditched the mask he's been wearing for the past four games during a timeout against the Spurs. James had been using the mask to protect a broken nose. The Heat had been expecting him to wear it for another week.

Also Thursday, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the team has endorsed James' planned trip to Cleveland on Saturday night to attend the jersey retirement ceremony for former teammate Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

The Heat play in Chicago against the Bulls at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday. Overnight, the clocks will move forward an hour to accommodate daylight saving time.

The Cavs are expected to pursue James in free agency this summer if he elects to opt out of his contract, which adds intrigue to the invitation to the event. Ilgauskas, who has a role with the Cavs' front office, asked James to attend last year, and the Cavs purposely picked a date on which he could easily travel to the game.

But Spoelstra said the Heat knew about the plan months ago and several members of the team's staff will go as well, including assistant coach Ron Rothstein, who was an assistant in Cleveland when Ilgauskas was a rookie. Ilgauskas played for the Heat in his final season in the NBA, 2010-11.

"I think it's an incredible night; it was very touching that Big Z would reach out to Ronnie," Spoesltra said. "We have the ultimate respect for Big Z and we view him as a Miami Heat guy even though he's as much of a Cleveland Cavaliers as Udonis Haslem is to us. For that one year, you could see why they view him as so special."

James plans to charter a plane and return to Chicago after the ceremony, which will be held during halftime of the New York Knicks-Cavs game.

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