When LeBron James(notes) and the Miami Heat visited the Cleveland Cavaliers on Dec. 2, it was a nearly unprecedented situation in the annals of NBA lore. With Clevelanders at extremely high levels of anger regarding LeBron's dastardly move to South Beach, law enforcement officials were on high alert. Of course, it turns out that fans just yelled a lot and the Heat won in a blowout. All things considered, it was pretty uneventful.
Since then, the Cavs have become the losingest team in the league, going on a league-record streak of futility after that loss and generally looking like a team many years away from contention. Things are quite depressing inside Quicken Loans Arena, and Cavs fans could use something to energize them.
Coincidentally, the Heat are now in Cleveland for Tuesday's game against the Cavs. But Public Enemy No. 1 LeBron James expects a less crazed crowd this time out. From Ira Winderman for the South Florida Sun Sentinel (via Eye on Basketball):
"It can't get no worse than it was December 2nd," James said, as he prepared for his second homecoming. "I know that. I know that for a fact."
From a basketball standpoint, at least from James' perspective, it also probably can't get any better. Not only did the All-Star forward score 38 in the Heat's 118-90 blowout victory, but he scored 24 in the third quarter on 10-of-12 shooting.
The Heat exited The Q at 12-8, headed to one of the top records in the Eastern Conference; the Cavaliers exited 7-11, never to recover, now an NBA-worst 14-58.
"After that game," James said, "we took off."
Two things before we move on: First, by the rules of double negatives, LeBron is technically saying that the crowd will actually be worse this time, so everyone is reporting this incorrectly. Next, please note that the Heat "taking off" involved a run of good form against mediocre teams followed by the same kind of marginally disappointing losses to East powers like the Celtics and Bulls. Everything's relative, I suppose.
All joking aside, LeBron has reasons to think that things will be less crazy: Time heals all wounds, I suppose, and most fans probably got their anger out in the first meeting between the teams. However, it's worth noting that the first meeting between these teams came at a time when the Cavs were at least a passable squad rather than a historically inept operation. When facing the abyss of a terrible season, when fans react with increased anger. It's easy to imagine some Cleveland fans not calming down, but actually getting angrier at LeBron for the way he did the Cavs dirty last summer.
That's not to say that LeBron is in mortal danger right now, or that someone in a Dogg Pound mask is going to put a banana in the tailpipe of the Heat bus Tuesday night. But don't be surprised if Cavs fans are no less upset during the game as they were in December, because the Cavs have given them few reasons to be happy this season.