LeBron James wanted to look to the rafters at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse Thursday night and gaze at the 2016 NBA championship banner again.
But the Los Angeles Laker superstar’s lone game in Cleveland may have been wiped out after the league suspended play over two weeks ago due to the coronavirus. With the world in the throes of the pandemic, what will happen to the rest of the regular season and the playoffs has not been determined.
“It’s always special going back there, looking up there, looking at that banner, thinking about all the great memories that we had,” James said of his time with the Cavaliers. “Then being able to play in front of my friends and family again, that would have been so cool. … being back home, kind of bummed out about that.”
James remotely reunited with former Cavs teammates Channing Frye and Richard Jefferson and former Fox Sports Ohio sideline reporter Allie Clifton, now the Lakers’ studio host, for the latest episode of the Road Trippin’ Podcast, posted Thursday on his Uninterrupted platform. James spoke from the wine cellar of his Brentwood, California home.
James also mentioned his aborted homecoming on Twitter on Thursday afternoon.
“Was so looking forward to being back in Cleveland tonight playing in front of my family, friends and fans I spent 11 years of my career with,” James wrote. “Always a special place in my heart! Until next time! #thekidfromAKRON #StaySafe.” His message included emojis of a king and praying hands.
James, 35 and in his 17th season, said he has been working out in his home gym five days a week and has been cleared to resume sessions with his personal trainer Mike Mancias starting Monday. He said the Lakers were essentially quarantined after being tested following the announcement that four members of the Brooklyn Nets were among the 14 NBA players and personnel reported to have contracted the virus. The two teams met on March 10, the night the NBA suspended the season.
“I work out in the morning. At night I’ll be sitting around, I’ll say ‘I’ll go get another workout in.’ It’s like ‘I am legend’ right now,” he said.
“The narrative … ‘LeBron, he’s 35, he’s got so many minutes on his body, now he gets so much rest.’ It’s actually the opposite for me. My body when we stopped playing was asking me ‘What the hell are you doing? … It’s March 13, you’re getting ready for the playoffs, why are you shutting down right now?’ I was right there turning the corner. I felt like I was rounding third base and getting ready for the postseason.”
The Lakers (49-14) have the best record in the Western Conference, 51/2 games ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers. James isn’t sure what the league should do if it does resume, except in one regard.
“One thing you can’t just do is go straight to the playoffs. It discredits the 60-plus games that guys had fighting for that position,” he said. “I think maybe 1 1/2, two weeks of a little mini training camp and five to 10 games and then get ready for the playoffs.
“If we’re talking about finishing the regular season, then you don’t need that much. We could do a week of training camp and then get back into it.”
James still has reservations about resuming without fans in the stands. On March 7 as the outbreak began to spread in the U.S., he said if he were forced to show up to an empty arena, he wouldn’t play.
“I still think having a game without fans is just … what is the word sport without fan?” James said on the podcast. “There’s no excitement, there’s no crying, there’s no joy, there’s no back and forth, there’s no rhyme or reason that you want to go on the road and just dethrone the home team because of their fans. That’s what also brings out the competitive side in the players, to know that you’re going on the road in a hostile environment, yes, you’re playing against that opponent in front of you, but you really want to kick the fans’ a–, too.
“It’s a weird dynamic. Can you have family there or no? They put everybody in suites? You can’t even be close to the floor? What happens when a guy who’s tested positive for corona and you’re out there on the floor with him and there’s a loose ball?”
James said he would change his in-game celebrations and pre-game rituals because of the pandemic, but some of his comments may have been tongue in cheek.
“I ain’t high-fiving nobody for the rest of my life after this s—,” James said. “Wait ’til you see me and my teammates’ handshakes.”
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