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Kerr: LeBron James feels pressure, needs championship

TNT analyst Steve Kerr says LeBron James will feel more pressure than ever to win an NBA championship.
TNT analyst Steve Kerr says LeBron James will feel more pressure than ever to win an NBA championship.
  • Steve Kerr says LeBron James new team should win more than 60 games
  • James under pressure; needs to win a championship to validate his legacy, Kerr says
  • Kerr expects there to be a lockout of NBA players before next season
  • He says rising player costs have led to the league losing hundreds of millions of dollars

Editor's Note: Steve Kerr is a five-time NBA champion and is the league's all-time leader in three-point shooting percentage. He was general manager of the Phoenix Suns for three seasons before resigning earlier this year. He currently serves as a color commentator on TNT and will announce Tuesday night's game between the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics

(CNN) -- One of the most anticipated NBA seasons gets under way Tuesday night. LeBron James' decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers to join the Miami Heat and fellow stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, fueled passionate off-season conversation about him and the league.

While the focus this season is what will take place on the court, there are financial issues looming for the NBA that many expect will result in a work stoppage next season.

CNN spoke to TNT NBA analyst Steve Kerr about the excitement around this week's league openers and the economic clouds looming next season. Below is an edited transcript of that interview.

CNN: What should fans expect from LeBron James early in the season?

Steve Kerr: They can expect the usual highlight reel play. That's not going to change. But I think fans need to temper their expectations for the team. It takes some time for the team to find its identity and find their roles especially with Dwyane Wade injured for most of the pre-season. I think it's going be fun to watch it all unfold.

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CNN: So fans shouldn't wonder why the team isn't on pace for 75 wins (teams play 82 games) from day one?

Kerr: I get that question a lot since I was on the [NBA record] 72 win team in Chicago [in 1996]. It is pretty unique and I don't think it will ever happen again, but Miami is going to win a ton of games. I don't think anyone will ever win 73 but they will probably be in the 60s, and if things go really well they could be in the high 60s.

CNN: James told CNN that he thought race played a role in the criticism of "The Decision" and he recently re-tweeted a racially charged tweet someone sent him. Will this result in people seeing a different side of LeBron James, perhaps not the carefree kid they saw for many years in Cleveland?

Kerr: I think this whole thing has to have hardened him and given him a different perspective on people. I think if you combine "The Decision" TV show with the fact that he hasn't won a title, he's starting to feel pressure and people maybe don't look at him as the "boy wonder" anymore. It's more "When are you gonna win?" That brings a lot of pressure, an edge and that comes with the territory and I think he understands that. He has to go out and win a title at some point to validate his legacy.

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CNN: You were a general manager and a player, so you've seen the league's economics from both sides. The NBA is projecting about $350 million in losses this season -- do you think that's an accurate figure?

Kerr: Yes. Having been on the management and seeing a lot of numbers both in Phoenix and elsewhere, I think that's an accurate number.

CNN: How did it get to that point?

Kerr: Rising player costs. The salaries really exploded and you combine that with the downturn in the economy. ... It's been a tough go for most of the teams in the league. It's like a lot of other things in the country: People don't have a lot of spending money and the first thing you cut back on is your entertainment expenses.

The other factor is that when the owners bought franchises 30 years ago, they knew they were sitting on a huge franchise value escalation. They bought it for $20 million and they knew it would grow and they could afford to lose some money knowing they could eventually cash in.

But now you have a whole group of owners that bought-in at $300-400 million, so owners aren't sitting on that huge payoff at the end that they used to be, so there's a little different mentality on a year-to-year basis.

CNN: Is it realistic that player costs can be reduced by 1/3 as the commissioner David Stern says he wants to do?

Kerr: I don't think anyone really knows. Usually in these situations, Stern's the master in these negotiations for sure and everything he says is calculated and there's a plan behind it and maybe the plan is go for 1/3 and get 1/4 -- I don't know. He knows what he wants, he knows how to get it, and he also knows that it is a partnership with the players and there has to be compromise and we'll see how it all unfolds.

CNN: How hard might the players fight this?

Kerr: Having been through it in 1999 (the last NBA lockout) the end result was the players gave up more than the owners did and that's usually the way it works. You have 450 players versus 30 owners and the owners have other businesses, and generally speaking the owners are going to be able to weather the storm easier than the players are. That said, the owners are going to lose a lot of money in a lockout too. I think it's something that'll be resolved but usually the owners come out with the better end of the deal.

CNN: What are the odds that there will be a lockout next year?

Kerr: I think the odds are pretty good It's impossible to give a number. I think circumstances are very unique, probably more severe than in 1999 because of economic conditions in this country, and the fact that a lot of the owner's other businesses may be struggling a little bit.

CNN: What should fans watch for in the early part of the season?

Kerr: Can the Lakers stay healthy and motivated? They're trying to get to their fourth straight NBA finals which is very hard to do. Watch Kobe Bryant -- can he sustain it for another full season? Chicago has made a lot of improvement. Orlando is the team that's flying under the radar. Everybody is watching Boston and Miami. Nobody is talking about Orlando. They have the best defensive player in the league, Dwight Howard, and they're going to pose a lot of problems for everybody.

CNN: Is Orlando your surprise winner?

Kerr: I picked Miami to play the Lakers, with the Lakers winning. But it wouldn't shock me at all if Orlando got to the finals.