LeBron James played his first game in a LA Lakers uniform against his old team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Lakers won 109-105 in a bittersweet homecoming for Ohio legend.
The Cavs led for most of the game, but LeBron led his new team to a comeback victory. The Lakers won by four points to improve to 10-7 for the season. LeBron finished the night with 32 points, 14 rebounds and 7 assists. The Cavs sunk to 2-14, which is the worst record in the league.
Warm Homecoming for LBJ
There’s a popular phrase from American author Thomas Wolfe, “You can’t go home again. You can’t recover the past.”
While both might be true, LeBron James and the Lakers embarked on a road trip that saw LeBron face both of his former teams. On Monday, the Lakers beat the Miami Heat and LeBron lit up his old squad for 51 points.
Two nights later, on the eve of Thanksgiving, LeBron faced his former Cavs teammates and ex-team for the first time this season. No one could predict how the Cleveland crowd would react to LeBron James after he left the team for a second time. However, the crowd gave LeBron a standing ovation during introductions.
The crowd in Cleveland reacted positively with another boisterous reaction when the Cavs played a tribute video after the first timeout of the game.
“Luke was actually drawing up a play, so I had to pay attention slightly,” James said about the tribute. “I didn’t want to miss that and mess up the play coming out of timeout. But I was able to catch some of it at the end.”
The tribute included highlights from the 2016 NBA Finals, which finally ended a championship drought for the city of Cleveland. It also highlighted the positive impact that LeBron had on the entire community.
“The kid from Akron has come home,” said the narrator of the tribute. “The Cavs are NBA champions and the impossible dream has come true.”
“I appreciate these fans, just as much as they appreciate me,” LeBro saidn. “Every single night we stepped on the floor, they always showed their appreciation to not only myself, but to my teammates over these 11 years, especially the last four years, those championship runs that we were making, so that was just my salute to them for appreciating what I was able to accomplish with my teammates and coaches along those four years.”
Just five months earlier, LeBron sported a Cavs jersey and led the team to the NBA Finals. The Cavs were crushed by the Golden State Warriors, who won back-to-back NBA championships.
LeBron bolted Cleveland for Los Angeles when the Lakers made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. With LeBron sporting the gold and purple colors of the Lakers, the Cavs imploded.
Love Bad Toe
Losing Kevin Love did not help the Cavs, but they were doomed before Love went down with a big toe injury. Love completed successful surgery, but he’s expected to miss more time than he’d like.
Initially, Love went under the knife on November 2 and the team suggested he would be out of action for six weeks. Mid-December was the initial estimate for Love’s return, but he told the media that he will be out a couple weeks longer than anticipated.
“There’s just no telling at this time with the weight-bearing injury what it is going to be like moving forward,” said Love. “But, I expect to be back sometime after the new year.”
Love played in only four games this season. The center was averaging 19 points and 13.5 rebounds before he headed to the disabled list. The injury-prone Love missed 45 games over the last two seasons due to a myriad of injuries. He also suffers from mental health issues.
Time to Trade JR Smith
The Cavs are currently 2-14 and the worst team in the NBA. With Love out, the management wanted the Cavs to focus on their younger players. Head coach Ty Lue rejected that notion and continued to play veterans like JR Smith and Kyle Korver. After an 0-6 start, the Cavs fired Lue for not following orders.
The 33-year old Smith is averaging a career low 6.7 points per game. Smith, who always had a contentious relationship with the Cavs, fell out of the rotation. He’s since demanded a trade. The team rejected the idea of a contract buy out, because Smith’s is supposed to earn $14.7 million this season.
On Tuesday, the Cavs and Smith mutually agreed that it would be best of he took a leave of absence. Meanwhile, team officials are working on a suitable trade.
The Cavs released a statement: “The organization wishes JR and his family well and appreciates and thanks him for his contributions in the community, to the team and his role in the 2016 NBA Championship.”