Whether he's playing mind games or just buttering up to Cleveland Cavaliers fans, Miami Heat star LeBron James said he wouldn't rule out a return to the Forest City in the future to play for the team that drafted him No. 1 overall back in 2003.
Right now James is property of the Heat and will make his first visit to Cleveland this season tonight in a matchup at Quicken Loans Arena.
"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."
Fans in Cleveland have treated James as public enemy No. 1 ever since the All- Star took his talents to South Beach. They will most likely be out in full force Friday with their disparaging signs and cold reception towards James, who will try to lead the Heat to a fifth straight win in the finale of a six- game road trip (4-1). Miami is coming off Tuesday's 105-90 triumph at Indiana in which James led the way with a game-best 23 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and four steals.
Norris Cole scored 20 points in a reserve role, Dwyane Wade netted 16 and Chris Bosh finished with 13 points and seven boards for the Heat, winners in 12 of their last 14 games. Miami shot 50 percent from the floor, raced out to a 33-16 lead after 12 minutes and has scored 100-plus points in each of the past four games. The Heat are averaging 103.5 ppg, second-most in the NBA.
"When you have three games away in three days on the road, we knew we were going to have to come out and get a good start, and we did," Wade said after Miami won its third straight road game in as many nights. "We knew we had a job to do and I think we really out-played them at both ends of the floor."
The Heat became the first team to sweep such a stretch on the road since the 1979-1980 Phoenix Suns, and the first team to win each game by double-figures as the visitor since the 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks. They have scored 100 or more points in 18 of their 30 games in 2011-12 and a win tonight would mark the first time Miami has had a cumulative winning record in the club's 24 seasons (942-942). A win would also match the best 31-game start in team annals.
After tonight's game in Cleveland, the Heat will return to south Florida for a three-game homestand versus the Magic, Kings and Knicks. On the injury front for Miami, guard Mario Chalmers (hand) is listed as probable.
The Cavaliers will play their fifth game on a lengthy nine-game homestand tonight and are 2-2 so far on the residency. In Wednesday's 98-87 victory over the Central Division-rival Indiana Pacers, rookie and No. 1 overall pick Kyrie Irving came back from a three-game absence due to a concussion and registered 22 points and five assists.
"[Irving] really looked fresh and rejuvenated," Cavs head coach Byron Scott said. "He was more efficient on the offensive end and the defensive end."
Semih Erden set a career-high with 18 points to go with eight rebounds, while Ramon Sessions and Antawn Jamison each netted 13 points in the win. Cleveland is in the midst of the longest homestand in franchise history, and the last team to have a residency of nine or more games was the Vancouver Grizzlies in the 1999-00 season.
The Cavaliers are 6-7 as the host this season and will also entertain the Kings, Pistons, Hornets and Celtics on the homestand. In injury news for the Cavs, guard Daniel Gibson is doubtful for Friday's game with a sprained left ankle. Center Anderson Varejao (broken wrist) is out for at least six weeks.
Sessions is averaging 12.9 points, 8.9 assists and 3.9 rebounds in his last eight games. Jamison has averages of 22.0 points and 9.3 rebounds in his previous seven outings.
Cleveland is 0-2 against the Heat this season and has dropped five of the last six matchups in this series. Miami hasn't played so well at Quicken Loans Arena lately, losing 11 of the past 14 trips there. Irving is averaging 16.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists in 30.0 minutes per game against the Heat this season. James is posting 25.3 points, 7.3 assists and 7.0 rebounds in six career games against the Cavaliers.