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LeBron James has returned his talents to Edgewater Beach, the Cleveland municipal park on the southern shore of Lake Erie. We hear it's nice, although colder than Miami's South Beach. On Thursday night the stage was set for a celebration, but James shot 5-for-15 in the debut of Act II in Cleveland, and the New York Knicks beat the Cavaliers.
Joe Vardon of the Cleveland Plain Dealer was at the game and he spoke to Bill Littlefield about James' return.
BL: Joe, describe the scene as James took the floor in Cleveland as a Cavalier for the first time since 2010.
JV: Well I've used a bunch of different words over the last couple of days to try to describe this and I think the best one is pandemonium — I think that's probably the best way to go. And LeBron was right before the game when he said this was one of the biggest sporting events, he said, ever. I think he meant in Cleveland. But, there it was. And so, you just have all these emotions that have been building up over the last several months and really the last four years coming to a head. And it all just came pouring out. And that was all before the ball went up in the air. After it went up in the air, it was totally different.
[sidebar title="The Philadelphia 76ers And The NBA's Basement" width="630" align="right"] As the Cavs compete to be NBA champs, the 76ers have a chance to earn another distinction: the worst team in NBA history. [/sidebar]
BL: Totally different. LeBron shot 5-for-15. Did that ruin everything?
JV: I'm not sure that the shooting did. I mean, for a guy who averages 27.5 points a game for his career to take 15 shots, unless he missed all 15, that's not what was going to be the drag. The drag was the eight turnovers by LeBron. He was lost several times on defense, which seemed odd. And it was just kind of an overall out-of-sorts effort which is what let some of the air out of the room.
BL: James should have a lot of help going forward this season from Kyrie Irving and Cleveland newcomer Kevin Love. Have the Cavs assembled a roster that will complement James and vice versa?
JV: There's no reason to think that this roster, at this point, isn't what we all said it was, which was highly capable of winning it all. Kevin Love is very good; he's one of the best players in the league and I thought he showed it in the opener. And Kyrie Irving is on that level too. And then they have some guys that they can use off the bench and in starting roles. And it was one of those things that the coach David Blatt — it's his first year in the NBA; After some really balanced playing time for everybody and rotations in the preseason, we just didn't see that Thursday night either. So just chalk it up to everyone being out-of-sorts.
BL: The Cavaliers also have a new coach, David Blatt, who has spent his entire coaching career overseas. What do the Cavs see in him?
JV: I think they see someone who is somewhat of an innovator, someone who was highly regarded by the players whom he coached overseas. And they wanted to shake it up a little bit and he brings all those things. But one thing that came to mind, Thursday night was the first game he'd ever coached that mattered that was 48 minutes long. All the games that he coached in Europe and in the Olympics, those were all shorter games. So it's an adjustment for sure.
BL: When LeBron James left Cleveland for Miami, his relationship with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert was strained at best. This week, Gilbert went out of his way to say that his relationship with James is now very good. Do you believe him?
JV: I think that Dan and LeBron are both forward-thinking people. They're both very rich, they're both very powerful in their own right and they're both in positions where it does them little good to dwell on the past. Are they going to be going to each others' house and sharing bottles of wine? I don't think so, but there's no reason to suspect that the business relationship is anything but sound. Dan has shown a willingness to spend money to put players around LeBron and will continue to do so, and that's what LeBron needs from him. So at some level, yeah.
BL: James has recently said that he now plans to retire as a Cleveland Cavalier. What do you think the likelihood of that is?
JV: My opinion of that today, after having viewed that Nike ad...
...I would say I don't see how he could go anywhere else. I mean you don't cut an ad like that where you suggest that an entire city are rallying together because of you and then you leave a couple years. I just, I don't see it. Everything that he says suggests that he's here for the long term, so, I suspect he'll be here.
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This segment aired on November 1, 2014.
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