LeBron hosting Thanksgiving for Heat in Cleveland
MIAMI (AP) — LeBron James will have his favorite Thanksgiving foods — turkey, yams and macaroni and cheese — on his holiday table Thursday.
More importantly, that table will be surrounded by his favorite people.
If an upside exists to the Miami Heat having to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas on the road, a schedule quirk that the NBA champions are not happy about, it’s that one of those swings is through Cleveland. Miami visits the Cavaliers on Wednesday, and altered its postgame travel schedule so James could host Thanksgiving dinner at his northeast Ohio home.
“We would have loved to have been here for the holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas being here in Miami,” James said. “We don’t mind playing on those holidays. Wish we could have been here, but I am happy that I’m able to do something for the team for Thanksgiving.”
James has tried to address every detail, like telling the team to wear casual attire and asking Shane Battier what beer he wants with dinner. James’ wife and his chef will split the cooking duties.
“We’re not at home with our families for Thanksgiving but it couldn’t work out any better that at least we could be in someone else’s home,” Miami’s Dwyane Wade said. “And it’s a very nice home that we’re going to, so I’ll make sure I’ll put on the right clothes and the right socks, gotta-take-your-shoes-off-at-the-door type of house.”
James’ previous visits to play against the Cavaliers, a team he led to their only NBA Finals but then spurned as a free agent, have taken on circus-like atmospheres. And this one, given that he could choose to become a free agent again this coming summer, will likely be no different.
His first game in Cleveland was a hatefest as Cavs fans turned on the once adored superstar, booing his every move with unprecedented venom. Last March, James rallied the Heat from a 27-point deficit in the third quarter to beat the Cavs in a game that included a fan running on the floor wearing a T-shirt that said: “We Miss You, 2014 Come Back.”
That moment prompted Josh Raggi, a 24-year-old real estate broker, who like most Cavaliers fans felt betrayed by James’ departure, to take action to bring James home again.
Raggi and three partners — including James Blair, the fan who ran on the floor — launched “Come Home LeBron,” a campaign to hoping to lure James back. The group plans to hand out T-shirts outside Quicken Loans Arena on Wednesday night. A “Come Home LeBron” billboard went up near St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, James’ beloved alma mater, on Monday.
“We’re not trying to beg him to come back,” Raggi said. “We want to show him that he would be welcomed back. ... Time has healed.”
The Heat are aware of the planned rallies, and James was tight-lipped about his thoughts.
“Heard about it,” said James, who says he won’t talk about next summer until it arrives. “Heard about it.”
Battier understands where fans are coming from.
“If it was anyone else besides LeBron, I’d say no,” Battier said, asked if free-agent lobbying this early is odd. “But he’s sort of past the sublime level. For someone else? Yes. It’s gone from the ridiculous to the sublime in general with LeBron.”
The same can be said about his play.
He’s a four-time NBA MVP who is shooting 61 percent from the field, 49 percent from 3-point range and 80 percent from the foul line, which puts him on career-best pace in each category.
Still, James contends he’s not quite rolling.
“I’m not there yet, but I’m rounding the corner,” James said. “I’m rounding third. I’m feeling better every week.”
Upon hearing that, Wade scoffed with a grin.
“He’s there now,” Wade said. “He’s there. It’s remarkable.”
James has shot 65 percent or better five times in Miami’s first 14 games, including an 11-for-14 effort Monday against Phoenix.
“Experience, his IQ, his understanding of our offense, understanding of how we want to attack, that’s at an elite level — that’s at coaching level,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
For that, Spoelstra is thankful.
For this team, James is thankful. That’s why he’s rolling out the welcome mat Thursday.
“I’m a great host,” James said. “It’s natural for me. I don’t mind giving guys what they want — what they deserve.”
AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.