HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We’re not done with you yet LeBron James.
You didn’t really think we’d just go away now that you got that trip home to Cleveland out of the way, did you?
As your fans have reminded us so many times the past month, one game does not a season make. So we’re diving right back in with you and the Heat this weekend now that you have your pre-“The Decision” flow back.
The Heat finally look like the team we thought they’d be, a metamorphosis that began at Quicken Loans Arena Thursday night, cathartic moment for James that was captured dramatically by my main man Israel Guiterrez of the Miami Herald:
The Heat, for the first time all season, looked unified. The Heat looked like a collection of talent instead of a frustrated bunch of individuals.
That’s because, for the first time this season, the Heat was playing for an actual cause. Not just the goal of improving, but for the cause of supporting James and Zydrunas Ilgauskas in their return to Cleveland.
No longer was Dwyane Wade playing concerned, wondering whether he was doing too much and not involving James enough.
No longer was James waiting his turn. No longer did the defense look confused or allow a point guard to devastate it.
This historic return home for one of the NBA’s greatest might have become his biggest victory to date.
He came out of this not only with the reassurance that he made the right choice, but he left more confident about it than ever. He came out of it knowing that Wade isn’t a player with whom he’s competing for touches, but possibly the best teammate he could have in moments like this.
He came out of it knowing that, just days after he reportedly turned on his head coach, the Heat would still come together to support him.
“There are times where we don’t like each other,” Spoelstra said of his team. “That can be a good thing as well. You only really get to know each other and get tested when you’ve seen both sides and you’re able to respond and move on.”
Now LeBron can move on.
He can move on to Saturday night’s home game against Southeast Division rival Atlanta, a game featured prominently on the must-watch list known around here as HT’s League Pass Spotlight: Weekend Watching (sorry, there is no discount for Miami Heat fans or anything, but you can click here to make sure you don’t miss a second of the action):
LA CLIPPERS at DENVER 9 p.m. ET
Why we’re watching: We really have to explain it? Blake Griffin. Carmelo Anthony. Anytime you can catch a game with the two of them on opposing sides it’s worth a bit if your time. Griffin never disappoints. And Antony always puts on a show, especially when there is another superstar (or superstar in the making in Griffin’s case) setting foot on his floor. The Nuggets are chasing their sixth straight win and trying to keep the pace with Dallas and Utah in the rugged Western Conference.
LA LAKERS at SACRAMENTO 10:30 p.m. ET
Why we’re watching: The Lakers’ malaise can’t go on forever. There’s a cure in sight for whatever it is that is ailing them, and that cure is the lowly Kings. Paul Westphal‘s club is reeling, having lost 11 of their last 12 games. If they want to shake out of their own funk they couldn’t find a better way to do it than to knock off their former rivals (we use the term former because the Kings haven’t posed a legitimate threat to the Lakers in years). Someone gets on the good foot after this one.
ATLANTA at MIAMI 7:30 p.m. ET
Why we’re watching: With all the attention on the Heat this week, the Hawks have flown a bit under the radar despite having some season-altering news of their own drop Wednesday. Joe Johnson‘s out for at least the next month after right elbow surgery. Facing the Heat on the road with Johnson was going to be tough enough. Doing it without him, though, makes the task that much tougher. Mo Evans is slated to start in Johnson’s place but reigning Sixth Man Award winner Jamal Crawford is the ham whose game will have to fill the void for the Hawks’ leading scorer.
HOUSTON at CHICAGO 8 p.m. ET
Why we’re watching: Carlos Boozer‘s Bulls debut was, shall we say, a little less than stellar. But that’s to be expected when the “new guy” misses the first month of the season with a cast on his hand. But the Bulls can’t waste any more time getting comfortable as a group. They need to start their push now if they want to catch up to the Eastern Conference elite and chase one of those top four spots in the standings. And they’ll need a sizable contribution from Boozer to get that done.
GOLDEN STATE at OKLAHOMA CITY 7 p.m. ET
Why we’re watching: With explosive guards on both sides, anything other than an offensive fireworks show would be a disappointment. Russell Westbrook is playing lights out basketball these days, making he and Kevin Durant arguably the toughest 1-2 punch in the league right now. Westbrook and the Thunder will have to contend with the Warriors’ two-guard attack featuring Monta Ellis and Steph Curry. Like we said, fireworks!
WASHINGTON at PHOENIX 8 p.m. ET
Why we’re watching: There won’t be any torch passing ceremony when Steve Nash decides he’s done working his magic on the court. Still, it’s always fun to watch an aging virtuoso work against a budding prodigy like John Wall. We’ll overlook the fact that the Wizards are currently suffering through a brutal stretch of their season and the Suns clinging to their .500 record these days. Watching Nash and Wall hook up, however, is the real draw here. We’ll only get to see them square off a handful of times with Nash in the twilight of his Hall of Fame career and Wall in the starting blocks of a career he hopes will have similar results.