Five months ago, LeBron James broke the hearts of Clevelanders everywhere when he announced in an ill-conceived television special that he was "taking his talents" to South Beach and the Miami Heat. On Thursday night, James will make his return to Cleveland for the first time, as the Heat take on the Cavaliers in the first game of a TNT doubleheader.
The hype for this game is enormous. To account for what should be a potentially vicious scene, the Cavaliers will have extra security and have banned signs and T-shirts with "crude" language. Meanwhile, a movement on Twitter is encouraging Cavaliers fans to laugh at James rather than boo him. In an ominous start to the proceedings, the Miami Heat team plane had a "wing flap issue" last night and did not get into Cleveland until 2:30 in the morning.
Of course, beyond the hype, there is an actual game to be played. The Heat's slow start adds more intrigue to the proceedings. Miami was able to blow out the Detroit Pistons last night, but they sit at just 11-8 after nine games. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers are hanging in there in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, though they are coming off a blowout loss to Boston on Tuesday night. The Cavaliers have lost a lot with James gone, as Tom Ziller notes, but they are still somewhat competitive.