HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The numbers alone say it all.
Since that wild and emotional Dec. 2 Heat-Cavaliers game at Quicken Loans Arena, the Cavs have gone 7-48 while the Heat have gone 41-14.
It was unclear at the time which team would use that night as a springboard and which team would not recover from the moment. We know now, of course. And that’s what takes some of the pop out of tonight’s game, which marks the second time LeBron James will head home to Northeast Ohio (yes, we know he’s from Akron and not Cleveland, but spare us the geography lesson).
“Can’t get no worse than it was December 2nd,” James told reporters before he and the Heat arrived in Cleveland Monday evening. “I know that for a fact.”
On that we can all agree.
One other thing that is certain, the in-game banter between James and his old teammates will not take place again, at least not in the same manner.
“If he comes down to the bench and wants to chat, that ain’t going to happen,” said Cavaliers guard Boobie Gibson. “We can rule that out.”
Fine, there won’t be any chest bumping or warm embraces to worry about. With only three players on the Cavs’ active roster — Gibson, Anthony Parker and J.J. Hickson — that actually played with James when he was in Cleveland, that hypothetical love-fest wouldn’t have lasted long anyway.
But at least we won’t have to see this trip marked by the nastiness that swallowed up the first meeting, a game in which James and the Heat fed off the venom of the atmosphere on their way to embarrassing an undermanned Cavaliers team.
Of all involved, Cavs coach Byron Scott seemed to manage his emotions as well as anyone back in December and since, in regards to James. (He obviously realized then as he does now, that the Cavaliers have more important things to worry about that the travel plans of James and his Heat teammates.) And his perspective on the return trip is just as refreshing. More from the Plain Dealer:
“I wasn’t here with most of these guys who played with him,” Scott said Monday. “Then you’ve got a bunch of guys who haven’t played with him, so I have no idea how they feel about him or what their response is to him coming back here.”
After enduring a dismal slide that included a record-setting 26-game losing streak this season, there is much less focus on whether toppling James and the Heat could salvage this season for the Cavaliers.
“We’d be what — 15 and something?” Gibson shrugged. “What would salvage the season is to finish strong, playing the way we know we can and showing fans the potential we have coming into next season.”
The Cavaliers’ focus for so long — since that loss to the Heat on Dec. 2, in fact — has been on their inadequacies rather than James’ defection to Miami. When Scott first accepted the head coaching position in Cleveland — just before James left — he heard about the former Cavalier nearly every day whenever he went somewhere. Now?
“I can’t remember the last time somebody said something about LeBron to me,” Scott said.
Once every six months is probably more than enough coach!