LeBron James, Heat Teammates Show Solidarity
CLEVELAND -- "Time to Roll."
It's no coincidence that LeBron James wore that jacket with that message scrolled across the back on his way out of Quicken Loans Arena, right? A black jacket, no less.
"Time to Roll."
LeVillain not only rolled out a spectacular 38-point performance and a crushing of Cleveland 118-90 win in LeReturn, but he did it in the worst way possible as far as so many locals see it.
On a red and black carpet.
The pride of the Miami Heat, who was too proud to say sorry to his hometown fans, rolled the Cavs and then rolled out of town again, but not before rolling through the tunnels of this old haunt to what amounted to a victory parade. A woman worker who was clearly an acquaintance of James' from his seven seasons here poked her head out of a doorway, then yelled, "Hey baby!"
A smiling, warm James shouted back, "Hey sweetheart, how you doing?" He embraced at least a dozen people before he hit the bus, including a man who said, "You're still the King, my man. I ain't mad at ya."
He stole this city's cathartic moment, orchestrating a purging and punishing of his own only to roll out on the most peaceful of terms.
And as if that wasn't painful enough for these most tortured of fans, he did in such an overwhelming way that the anti-Heat contingent could no longer cite darkness on the grander scale. These hated Heat, it appears, are ready to roll indeed.
Their fourth win in five games certainly felt like the sort of performance a team doesn't forget, the kind of us-against-the-world answer where the fight in the dog is more frightening than the size of dog in the fight. As it turns out, it was personal for the Heat, too, for those around James more than James himself.
"I really saw a group of brothers playing for their brothers," embattled Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. "But more importantly than that, I saw a group playing as brothers. It was a great collective effort, very competitive. But I saw guys doing it for each other, and playing as brothers, which is the first time we've really seen this connection, really, all year long."
Before tipoff, a Cavs official had described James and Dwyane Wade as locomotives. The apparent problem, of course, was that these trains simply couldn't find a way to share the track. Or so it seemed.
While James was simply incredible (15-of-25 shooting, eight assists, five rebounds, no turnovers), Wade added 22 points on 10-of-16 shooting and nine assists. Both trains, in other words, got rolling. And they did it while fending off all the pesky bandits dressed in Cavs jerseys who tried to derail them.
"The one thing we preach in Miami is family," Wade said afterward. "This is our brother coming back into a very emotional situation. We knew it was going to be a very hostile environment, so we had each other's back...We came out with great focus and it was our best, most complete game of the year."
Don't be too surprised if some of the anti-Heat hype has taken a serious downturn by the time their Christmas Day faceoff with the Lakers arrives. The schedule ahead coupled with this revelation that they can show this kind of collective gusto, dare we say the 'All For One, One For All' mentality touted by the Cavs, could mean the Heat are about to get much hotter.
That much wasn't obvious coming in. With so much focus on how James' old mates would handle the event, James Jones said his new mates quietly resented the way in which he was portrayed.
"It wasn't just the history, the drama, and the saga (between James and the Cavs), but (they were excited) because this is one of those games that we all signed up to play for," Jones said.
"We take it personal as well. We're just like them. They have a chip on their shoulder because of what happened, and we have a chip on our shoulders, because we feel that this is a player's game, and regardless of if they like it or not, he had an opportunity to do what was best for him and he chose us. If they're against him, they're basically saying they're against us because he chose us. It makes for an interesting battle."
Just as the Heat had won a feisty game against Washington leading into this one, they showed genuine fight in this one. Guard Eddie House was ready to do just that after the game. After receiving double technical fouls in the fourth quarter for a mix-up with Cavs guard Boobie Gibson, he sat stewing outside the Heat locker room and could be heard saying, "If that (expletive) comes around the corner, I'm putting my hands on him."
Teammates Carlos Arroyo, Jamaal Magloire and a number of security staff helped avert this conflict. It's the winning that will quiet this bigger storm and keep controversy at bay, though. With reports swirling that Spoelstra was already infuriating his players and the turmoil was on the rise, James capped his evening by insisting all was well on that front too.
"Our coach is coach Spoelstra," James said. "We try to go out and execute the game plan every night. We know when we lose or when we play that there will always be something said about us -- win, lose or draw. But as a family, we can't let anyone from the outside break us apart.
"It's a long season, and if you let one clip or one message get into the locker room in December, it's a long season and you can't let that happen. We're excited about our expectations, we're trying to get better every day and trying to work ourselves to greatness as a team."
Time to roll.
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