CLEVELAND — Appearing relaxed and confident, LeBron James took the politically correct approach Wednesday afternoon when asked about the possibility of playing for the Cavaliers again.
“Right now, I’m focused on right now,” the Miami Heat small forward said following a shootaround at Quicken Loans Arena. “I don’t really get involved in the road ahead. As a team, right now we’re focused on trying to defend our championship.”
The 28-year-old James, who can opt out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent following the 2013-14 season, was extremely cordial and gave lengthy answers while surrounded by about 30 media members, most from Northeast Ohio.
His comments created no major buzz, which was in sharp contrast to the Heat’s one visit last season, when James freely admitted he could one day see himself playing for the Cavs again.
When asked what kind of reception he expected for his fourth game at The Q since signing with Miami in July 2010, the 6-foot-8, 250-pounder said: “It can’t get no worse than Year 1. Dec. 2, 2010, it can’t get no worse than that, so I’ll be all right.”
Some Cavs fans will never forgive James for leaving the franchise after seven seasons, while others are eager to take him back. Still others are tired of the ongoing saga and don’t care at all.
When asked whether he thought Cleveland fans had moved on, James, an Akron native, said: “I haven’t spent much time in Cleveland. I’m back home in the summertime. Back home has always kind of been different.
“I have no idea. I would hope (they’ve moved on). (The Cavs) have got some really good pieces here, too, and they’re trying to move on as well.”
One of those pieces is 20-year-old point guard Kyrie Irving, who’s out with a sprained shoulder.
“He’s unbelievable,” James said. “He’s a centerpiece to build around.”
For seven years and the first two of his MVP seasons — he’ll likely win a fourth this year — James was that centerpiece in Cleveland.
“A lot of memories come back, of course,” he said when asked about being back at The Q. “I’ve had some really good games here. As a team, we played some really good games. A lot of memories come back.”
Miami entered Wednesday with a 23-game winning streak, the second-longest in NBA history. The 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers won 33 in a row.
“The No. 1 thing for us is we’re getting better,” James said. “We’re making a push at the right time of the year.
“We don’t really get involved in it,” he added. “We understand the streak that we’re on, but we don’t really talk about it much.”
Boston’s Jason Terry said he wasn’t impressed with the streak prior to Miami overcoming a 17-point deficit and defeating the host Celtics 105-103 on Monday. Cavs coach Byron Scott begged to differ.
“Unlike Jason Terry, I am impressed,” Scott said. “Twenty-three straight in the NBA is no joke. That’s playing some great basketball.”
On the subject of Terry, James received a technical for taunting him after a monster dunk. James said he was glad the slam came against Terry because he “talks too much.” While with Dallas, Terry claimed James couldn’t guard him when the Mavs beat the Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals.
About an hour before tipoff, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, who was fined $100,000 by the league for the infamous email he wrote to fans ripping James hours after he signed with the Heat, weighed in on his Twitter account.
“Cleveland Cavaliers young talent makes our future very bright,” he posted. “Clearly, LeBron’s is as well. Time for everyone to focus on the road ahead.”
Quinn to win
Prior to the game, the Cavs signed well-traveled point guard Chris Quinn for the rest of the season. Quinn had been playing for the Tulsa 66ers of the NBA Development League.
“My goal was to get back to the NBA,” said Quinn, who spent last season in Russia and was with the Utah Jazz over the summer. He then spent a month in Spain before joining Tulsa.
Quinn, an Ohio native who played at Dublin Coffman High and Notre Dame, was in uniform against the Heat and wore No. 20, his high school number.
In 25 games with Tulsa, the 6-2, 175-pounder averaged 12.7 points on .475 shooting, 2.6 rebounds and 6.1 assists in 32.4 minutes. The 29-year-old played in the NBA from 2006-11 with Miami, New Jersey and San Antonio. In 234 games (26 starts), he averaged 4.6 points and 1.9 assists.
“He’s very steady,” Scott said. “He just knows how to play. He doesn’t do anything he’s not capable of doing when he’s on the basketball court. He can run a team and he can make shots. He’s a very heady and smart basketball player.”
Though Quinn attended the same high school and college as former Browns quarterback Brady Quinn, they are not related.
Cavs rookie shooting guard Dion Waiters is out at least a week due to a loose cartilage fragment in his left knee and might require arthroscopic surgery that would probably end his season, but he remains upbeat.
“A minor SETBACK for a MAJOR comeback. H&H (Humble & Hungry),” Waiters posted on his Twitter account Wednesday afternoon.
Said Scott: “I always try to go worst-case scenario. Worst-case is he is done for the year. If he gets back, I’ll be thrilled to death.”
By the numbers
The Cavs entered Wednesday with a 62-153 record (.288) since James left. In seven seasons with him, they were 349-225 (.608), including 127-37 his last two seasons (.774).
Cleveland had 22 victories this season prior to Wednesday, its most in the post-James era (19-63, 21-45, 22-45). That’s one victory less than the 23-game winning streak Miami brought into The Q.
- When his formal interview ended following Miami’s shootaround, James hung around and chatted with a group of media members, many of whom covered him regularly when he was with the Cavs. Topics included his upcoming wedding and two young sons, as well as University of Akron and Ohio State men’s basketball.
- James entered Wednesday with an 8-1 mark against the Cavs, including 2-1 at The Q.
- Cleveland shooting guard Wayne Ellington, who started in place of Waiters, made seven of 11 3-pointers and scored 25 points in 27 minutes when Memphis beat Miami 104-86 on Nov. 11.
- Heat president Pat Riley turned 68 Wednesday. Cleveland’s Irving will turn 21 Saturday.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.