Heat’s Early-Season Record Will Decide How Fans Treat LeBron James on Christmas

LeBron James will make his first trip back to South Beach since his decision to rejoin the Cleveland Cavaliers when the Cavs face the Miami Heat on Christmas day.

So will Heat fans show some holiday spirit?

Or is LeBron in for a not-so-warm welcome?

Tune in to the video above with Ethan Skolnick to find out!

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Will Miami Fans Celebrate or Castigate LeBron James in Christmas Day Homecoming?

MIAMI — There was a time, not all that long ago, when LeBron James and Dwyane Wade seemed to be on the same side when it came to just about everything. Not only did they wear the same uniform for four seasons, but they carried some of the same burdens and shared quite a few sensibilities.

For instance, neither was especially pleased with the setup of the 2013-14 schedule. Specifically, with the NBA‘s lack of respect for what they had accomplished over the past seasons, illustrated—in their opinion—by the Miami Heat spending Thanksgiving and Christmas away from South Florida. It was particularly odd, and irritating, that the league stuck the Heat in Los Angeles on Dec. 25 to play a Lakers team that wasn’t all that impressive even before Kobe Bryant was sidelined a second and final time.

Prior to that 101-95 victory, James made his displeasure known.

“Great incentive, huh?” he said. “Growing up, I thought that was a rule. I don’t know if it was a rule, but I just thought that was like given. I don’t remember ever, besides, I guess, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen M.J. play on the road on Christmas. Maybe in the Garden, maybe.”

James’ guess was correct, though Jordan’s one Christmas at Madison Square Garden, in 1986, came before he’d ever won a championship.

“I always thought if you win a championship, you kind of get some perks,” James said. “But we’ve been on the road, we’ve definitely been on the road. But it’s alright. Whatever.”

Well, on Christmas 2013, James will be on the road again.

But this time, that’s as it should be. After all, James is not a defending champion. Neither, for that matter, is Wade, who raised the champions-on-the-road issue with incoming commissioner Adam Silver when Silver visited with the Heat last fall.

Silver promised he’d take care of the next champions, and he has honored that promise, with the San Antonio Spurs hosting the Oklahoma City Thunder at 2:30 p.m. ET this Christmas. While that is a marquee matchup, a rematch of the 2014 Western Conference Finals, it will be a mere undercard to the contest that comes next, at 5 p.m. ET on ABC.

That time slot, as was predictable since James chose to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers on July 11, and as became official Wednesday night, will feature James returning to Miami to face the Heat for the first time in a regular-season game since joining them in 2010.

It won’t be the first time he sees his old teammates since the free-agent period. Some, including Mike Miller and James Jones, are already on the Cleveland roster, and Ray Allen could be next. He’s worked out with Norris Cole and is expected to attend Wade’s Aug. 30 wedding, where he will see Chris Bosh, among others.

And, on Oct. 11, James will likely play a few minutes against the Heat in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in Cleveland’s second preseason game. 

But this will be most significant, of course, because it will be his first time back in AmericanAirlines Arena since the Spurs smoked his Heat by a combined 40 points in Games 3 and 4 of the 2014 NBA Finals. 

And, at this stage, it’s not entirely clear what sort of reception he’ll receive. 

It won’t be anything near as nasty as what James encountered in Cleveland on Dec. 2, 2010, a date that was seared into his soul, so much so that he often referenced it without prompting, whenever he was asked about later visits to Quicken Loans Arena or any other environment.

“Nothing could be like that,” James has often said.

Playing before a crowd that cursed his name during the national anthem, chanted about his mother throughout and carried signs with such warm sentiments as “Akron Hates You!,” James refused to retreat or relent, scoring 38 points in three quarters before sitting back in his chair for the rest of a 28-point romp and then telling TNT in the postgame interview that he didn’t “want to apologize” for his decision and that he was “satisfied and happy right now.” 

No, Heat fans won’t greet him in that manner. The region never wrapped its identity around his broad shoulders and demanded that he carry it to prominence. Passion ebbs and flows in the Magic City like the waves just a short sandy stroll from Ocean Drive. 

But now, four months out, it’s a stretch to say they’ll shower him with Christmas spirit, the way Staples Center patrons showered Shaquille O’Neal with it on Dec. 25, 2004. That’s when O’Neal, after approving a trade from the Lakers to the Heat, returned with his new team and was greeted with a video tribute and a 40-second standing ovation. 

What will Heat fans do? 

“Well, listen, if they don’t cheer LeBron, there’s something wrong with them,” Charles Barkley said Wednesday night during NBATV’s schedule release show. “Listen, he got them two world champions, he got them to the Finals four years in a row, and he wanted to go home. If they can’t appreciate two world championships, get them to the Finals four years and decided to go back home, there’s something wrong with them.” 

Many Heat fans do appreciate all of that, as they absolutely should.

James, after all, never cheated them nor embarrassed them, not in the four years he represented them. He gave everything he had on the floor, and sometimes more. 

But, over the past five weeks on social media, that grateful majority of fans has given way to the more strident minority, a minority that has expressed extreme dissatisfaction with the way James left. 

That latter contingent, quite predictably, didn’t take too kindly to Barkley’s comments, especially after enduring four years of the analyst’s bashing while James wore Heat colors. Barkley certainly isn’t the only media member with a megaphone who has made Miami a target. The universal acclaim of James’ return to his Ohio roots wasn’t surprising, considering how few believed he ever should have joined the Heat in the first place, even if he accepted less money to try to win more, an action that is typically admired. 

It might have been different had he gone in 2010 to New York, playing just a subway or short train ride from where many prominent media members reside. In that case, the move may have been celebrated as James’ keen recognition of where basketball most matters, in the Madison Square Garden “Mecca.” 

Since James left, Heat fans—many of whom sweated out every second of the Alonzo Mourning/Tim Hardaway era of the late 1990s—haven’t felt like they’ve mattered much to anyone. The conventional wisdom is that they now have merely gotten what they deserved, just like an unworthy, unappreciative mistress who stole someone from a faithful, if somewhat vengeful, wife.

That empty feeling has been exacerbated by James excluding Heat fans from his otherwise-comprehensive essay in Sports Illustrated and his frequent allusions to the greatness of Ohio fans, including at his foundation event/return rally in Akron on Friday: “Those four years, I missed y’all! I missed this home cooking!” 

James did retweet a photo from the Miami Heat’s official account, one in which he’s standing on a table inside AmericanAirlines Arena, feeding off the frenzy of the “White Hot” Heat crowd. And he’ll surely say some nice things about Heat fans in the lead-up to the Christmas game, if not sooner, in one forum or another.

But for some, that won’t be sufficient, since they contend that they, as a collective, were his sole staunch defenders for most of those four years, as he endured an endless assault from any and virtually all media members and fans outside of Miami, from Bristol, Connecticut, to Northeast Ohio and all parts in between and well beyond. 

Further, while the Heat executives, coaches and players have generally taken the high road since his departure, sometimes tying themselves in verbal knots to avoid sounding sour about the way it went down, that road has been paved with subtle insinuations. Heat fans have rallied strongly behind Micky Arison and Pat Riley and, while both have been enormously respectful about what James accomplished for the franchise, both have also exuded an unmistakable air of defiance, making it clear that the organization’s success predated James and will absolutely outlast him.

And during a conference call with reporters, Riley made sure to say that he tried to connect with James by text and e-mail during the free-agent period, while trying to recruit reinforcements for the four-time MVP, and didn’t receive a response for more than two weeks. 

James has held one press availability since Riley’s conference, at the Akron rally, and he wasn’t pressed about anything Heat-related. Even if he had been, it’s not clear he could ever offer Heat fans an answer that all of them would readily accept. Some of them simply need to feel aggrieved and angry, because it feels better than feeling nothing; ask anyone who’s struggled to try to come to grips with losing a love. And it’s clear that James simply wishes to move on, to a promising restart in the place that he understandably loves best, leaving the details and the drama behind.

Yes, the last four years happened. They were unforgettable. 

But they are gone, and so is he, even though he’ll be back on Dec. 25, attempting to win on that date for an eighth straight time. 

Once again, and as he must have expected, James won’t play at home on Christmas.

Instead, he’ll be in Miami. 

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NBA schedule sends LeBron to Miami for Christmas (Yahoo Sports)

AKRON, OH - AUGUST 08: LeBron James speaks during a press conference at The University of Akron before the kickoff of his welcome ceremony at InfoCison Stadium at The University of Akron on August 8, 2014 in Akron, Ohio. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (AP) — LeBron James will play his first game since rejoining the Cleveland Cavaliers at home Oct. 30 against New York, then return to Miami for the first time on Christmas.


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Lakers to Play Howard’s Rockets on Opening Night, Gasol’s Bulls on Christmas

LOS ANGELES — Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol have distinctly different legacies in Los Angeles, but these days they share a link: They’re moving on in life as former Lakers, having left Kobe Bryant behind.

And in the established and admittedly irresistible tradition of NBA scheduling with a vengeful accent on the not-so-dearly departed, Bryant will be going up against Howard on opening night and against Gasol on Christmas Day in two of the Lakers’ and the league’s highest-profile games of the 2014-15 season.

Although the schedule won’t be officially announced until NBA TV unveils it at 3 p.m. Pacific time Wednesday, the Lakers are set to face Howard and the Houston Rockets at Staples Center on Oct. 28 and visit Gasol and the Chicago Bulls on Dec. 25, according to league sources. The games will mark the first times Bryant plays against Howard and Gasol as former teammates.

As an added boost to the old revenge angle, Lakers Jeremy Lin (former Rocket) and Carlos Boozer (former Bull) can circle those same dates on the calendar. Even better!

The Dwight-less Lakers were relevant last year, too, playing (and beating) the Clippers as part of the NBA’s TNT opening night showcase. With Bryant plotting his return, it’s logical that the league thinks enough of the Lakers to feature them again on the opening Tuesday night broadcast.

But it’s a testament to how much the Lakers’ past remains prominent in their future when the NBA makes Bryant’s first game back from Achilles and knee injuries last season against the guy who deserted him while he was down.

No matter how much diehard Lakers fans are ready to embrace Julius Randle and Byron Scott and savor whatever small victories they earn along the rebuilding road, the reality is that the Lakers’ 2012-13 car wreck was massive enough for rubbernecking still to be taking place years later.

Bryant, Howard, Gasol and Steve Nash were supposed to make magic as Lakers, but they so didn’t. And just as we don’t want to forget underdogs who rise to stunning success, we don’t want to let favorites forget their epic fails.

Bryant’s injuries meant he didn’t play against the Rockets last season, which was Howard’s first after snubbing the Lakers’ “Stay” ad campaign to move to Houston. Now Gasol, whom Bryant has said he considers “a brother,” has left the Lakers via free agency in hopes of winning his first NBA title without Bryant in Chicago.

We could argue for more years to come on which was truly the first domino in the Lakers’ 2012-13 mess. Nash suffering what would be a career-threatening injury in just his second game as a Laker certainly tilted the court immediately into an uphill battle.

But would Nash have even been effective in Mike Brown’s undefined offense (or Phil Jackson’s triangle offense)? Would Gasol have ever been effective at forward in Mike D’Antoni’s spread-floor offense? Did the team ever have any real chance on defense or at greatness with Howard never buying in to being a Laker?

As intriguing as those questions remain, the guy who is being scheduled to play those mind games on opening night and Christmas Day most assuredly has already left them behind.

Bryant has been known to hold a grudge, but his modus operandi is just as certainly not to wallow. He is all about going onto the next thing he can control, and right now that’s his body, mindset and whatever ways—individual and team—he can continue his pursuit of excellence.

If the Lakers are to have a successful season, that’s the theme that is going to have to pervade: forward progress.

Bryant will need to be healthy and strong enough to make his comeback a singular story of inspiration that transcends whether the guy he’s scoring over is evil Dwight or good Pau. Scott, Lin, Nash and Boozer will all have to be rowing meaningfully in that same boat toward individual redemption, and guys such as Randle, Jordan Hill, Nick Young, Ed Davis, Ryan Kelly, Xavier Henry and Robert Sacre will all have to step up for a lot of look-what-I-can-do nights.

If not, then it’s going to be a long season in which the most meaningful storylines are indeed about the opponents and the past.

The only good news on that front is that Gasol, even with his clear decline, is a lot more likely than Howard to be the one winning the post-Lakers title this season.

The Rockets were weakened by Chris Bosh not coming and by Chandler Parsons going, while it’s nearly impossible to find anyone with the Lakers who begrudges Gasol future success. Given the obvious defensive deficiencies on LeBron James’ new Cleveland team, Gasol has an excellent chance at following Derrick Rose and Tom Thibodeau into another immediate NBA Finals.

Yes, there are those with the Lakers who were disappointed by Gasol’s level of aggressiveness and commitment to earn the massive contract extension Jerry Buss gave him. But if the Lakers are OK with having to visit anyone on Christmas, it’s Gasol.

The Lakers haven’t had to hit the holiday road often. They’ve played on Christmas every year since 1999, and the only times in that 15-year span they’ve had to load up their sleigh and leave Staples were in 2005 and 2006 to play at Miami.

Those games followed the original Kobe-Shaq Christmas Ice Show at Staples in ’04, and that three-game Christmas series after their breakup just goes to show how the NBA tries to help out: by giving families at home for the holidays the chance to bond together while watching people on TV not get along!

Although Gasol did choose to leave the Lakers, it’s different in this case. Christmas might pit brother against brother, but you know Kobe and Pau will have a heck of a hug right after.

What Bryant will have to prove that night and every other is that the Lakers’ season isn’t about the guys they no longer have.

 

Kevin Ding is an NBA senior writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @KevinDing.

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Dwight Howard gives teammates luxury watches for Christmas

It appears Dwight Howard’s teammates were in for a good surprise this Christmas as each of them received luxury watches from the Houston Rockets big man.Howard didn’t just buy the same watch for every teammate, though. No, he decided to mix it up by gifting flashy watches from all brands, shapes, and colors.Well done, Dwight.Via Bleacher Report

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WATCH: TNT’s ‘Inside the NBA’ crew exchanges Christmas gifts

The guys from TNT’s “Inside the NBA” exchanged Christmas gifts live on the air Thursday night, and Shaq, Ernie, Kenny and Charles didn’t disappoint.

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Carmelo Anthony sprains ankle;may miss Christmas game

The New York Knicks may be without Carmelo Anthony when they participate in the NBA’s annual holiday showcase.
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The post Carmelo Anthony sprains ankle;may miss Christmas game appeared first on Players View.

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College basketball teams hilariously sing Christmas carols

Jingle Bells and Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer were performed hilariously.

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LeBron James says Heat players hate sleeved Christmas jerseys

James says they’re causing problems for the team’s shooters.

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Ray Allen Will Wear Custom Green and Red Jordan 10 PE’s on Christmas

The Miami Heat take on the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas day, and to get in the spirit, Heat guard Ray Allen will be wearing custom green and red Christmas Jordan 10 PE’s. 

Allen previewed the shoes on his Instagram account at a mall signing. Who do you think has the best Christmas day shoes between Allen, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant? 

Hat tip to Ray P. of The Shoe Game for the find. 

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