The upcoming preseason matchup between the Cavaliers and the Heat was scheduled long before LeBron James bolted Miami for Cleveland in free agency this summer. James is a big enough draw on his own for the fans in Brazil to come out and see, and Brazilian native Anderson Varejao on Cleveland’s side is a national hero from a basketball perspective.
But now that this contest is officially LeBron’s first game against guys he played alongside with on the way to four straight Finals appearances, the interest level has increased exponentially.
The fact that it’s the preseason takes the edge off at least a little bit, however, and playing out of the country should similarly lessen the emotional impact for the players involved.
“I think everybody is very cognizant of the fact that LeBron is playing against his old team and playing against a team where he had such great success and they had such great success, and I’m sure they understand that it’s a particular kind of game,” Cavs coach David Blatt said Tuesday, shortly before the team left for its 10-hour chartered flight to Rio de Janeiro. …
James similarly downplayed the reunion when asked about it earlier this week.
“It’s not much of an issue for me going up against Miami, I think,” James said. “It’s a preseason game. It’s in Brazil so it’s not really on an NBA floor, as well. But it gives us an opportunity to keep on continuing to broaden the game in a huge, worldwide aspect and it will be great for both teams.”
A meaningless preseason game in a foreign land isn’t the time for an emotionally-charged battle between former teammates, and James (along with the Heat contingent he’ll be facing) certainly realizes that.
This one should be a pleasant reunion which features hugs, handshakes and smiles all the way around. Once things count for real during the regular season, however — and once James is introduced with the Cavaliers in front of the Miami crowd on Christmas Day — that’s when we may see some more genuine feelings on display.