CLEVELAND (CBS4) – Miami Heat superstar LeBron James will return to Cleveland for the first time as a visiting player Thursday night when the Heat take on the Cavaliers.
The game, which Cavs fans have had circled since the summer, could be one of the ugliest displays from a crowd since the “Malice at the Palace.”
Cleveland has hired extra security and Cleveland Police are expected to be on high alert before, during, and after the game. James played for the Cavaliers for years before declaring over the summer he would take his talents to South Beach.
LeBron said after the Heat’s dismantling of the Pistons on Wednesday night that it will really sink in with him when he walks the tunnel at the arena in Cleveland and goes into the visitors dressing room for the first time.
The Heat arrived a little after 3:30 a.m. Thursday, but LeBron wasn’t seen by the Cavs fans that waited for the Heat to arrive.
Heat guard Dwyane Wade said he couldn’t understand what LeBron was going to go through, but that the entire team had his back no matter what.
The actual game will match a Heat team on a two-game winning streak against a Cavaliers team that is three games under .500. The Heat are led by the big three of LeBron, Wade, and power forward Chris Bosh.
LeBron is averaging 23.4 points, 7.5 assists, and 6 rebounds per game for the season. Dwyane Wade is averaging 23 points and Chris Bosh is chipping in with 18 points and 7 rebounds per game. Wade has been struggling with his shot lately, but is now starting to find his stroke on the court.
Perhaps most important for the Heat has been the improved play of point guard Mario Chalmers and Carlos Arroyo. Both have been slowly but steadily improving their game as the Heat continues to tweak the lineup to get it right.
Still, the Heat’s big three are the only players averaging in double figures for the team. The Cavaliers counter with five players averaging at least 10 points per game, but the team is also averaging 13 turnovers per game.
The Cavs are paced by guard Mo Williams at 16 points per game and have big man Anderson Varejao down low who is pulling in nearly a double-double per game.
The Cavs will be playing with an entire city behind them and the fans will be booing and worse every time LeBron touches the ball.
It will be the best test of LeBron’s maturity to date and if he comes out and helps the Heat to victory; it will be the final smackdown in 2010 of a sports-cursed city.