LeBron James mentioned this week that someday he might want to again play for the Cleveland Cavaliers. That likely won't prevent Cavalier fans from continuing to voice their displeasure as he makes his first appearance at Quicken Loans Arena this season.
James is again expected to receive a cold reception as he tries to help the Miami Heat match a season high with their fifth consecutive victory Friday night in Cleveland.
During Thursday's practice in his former home city, James said he would not rule out a return to the Cavaliers, the team he carried to the brink of a title in seven seasons before leaving as a free agent for Miami in 2010.
"It would be fun to play in front of these fans again," James said. "You can't predict the future. I'm here as a Miami Heat player, and I'm happy where I am now, but I don't rule that out in no sense.
"And if I decide to come back, hopefully the fans will accept me.''
James won't receive a warm reception Friday when he tries to lead Miami (23-7) to a third consecutive win over Cleveland this season. While both previous meetings came in Miami, this is the Heat's only regular-season appearance in Cleveland.
"It doesn't sting anymore,'' said James, averaging 25.3 points, 7.3 assists and 7.0 rebounds while going 5-1 against his former team since joining the Heat. "The booing isn't as bad as it was last year so it's not even a big deal.''
James scored 38 in Miami's 118-90 win in his initial return to Cleveland on Dec. 2, 2010, but the Cavaliers beat the Heat 102-90 at home March 29 despite 27 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds from the seven-time All-Star.
The Cavaliers (11-16) could have a hard time repeating that feat against a Miami club which became the first team since the 1979-80 Phoenix Suns to win three straight road games in three days. With Tuesday's 105-90 victory at Indiana, the Heat also became the first squad to win each of those three games by double digits since Milwaukee did it Nov. 20-22, 1970.
"Our guys wanted this challenge and we were able to stay focused,'' coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We threw out anything we could have used as a crutch.''
During their current four-game winning streak that's come on the road, the Heat have held opponents to 90.5 points per game on 39.8 percent shooting.
"I think as far as team chemistry, we got better every single night,'' said James, who had 23 points against the Pacers. "(Tuesday) we rebounded and defended. When we do that, we're very, very tough to beat.''
Though he scored 16 at Indiana, Dwayne Wade has averaged 24.0 points on 54.5 percent shooting in the last 10 games. That included a 26-point effort during a 107-91 win over Cleveland on Feb. 7.
Cavaliers star rookie Kyrie Irving had 16 points, six assists and six rebounds in that contest, but he banged his head into Wade's knee following a collision. The 2011 overall top pick missed the next three games with a concussion before scoring 22 points in Wednesday's 98-87 home win over the Pacers.
"I'm 100 percent,'' said Irving, averaging a team-leading 18.2 points with 5.1 assists. "Just because I had a concussion, it doesn't mean my game is going to change in any way. I'll play with the same aggressiveness.''
Cleveland, 6-7 at home, has not won two straight games since Jan. 1-3.
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Miami Heat
- LeBron James