Wait, what? LeBron not ruling out return to Cavs


Wait, what? LeBron not ruling out return to Cavs

From Comcast SportsNet
CLEVELAND (AP) -- LeBron James could picture returning one day to the place where his NBA journey began, making an unlikely return to the Cleveland Cavaliers. After practicing in a gym where he refined his game for seven seasons, James said Thursday he would not rule out a return to the Cavaliers, a team he carried to the brink of a title before he spurned adoring fans by leaving as a free agent in 2010 to chase a championship with Miami. Asked if he could play for the Cavs again, James initially paused before giving his answer. "It would be great," he said. "It would be fun to play in front of these fans again. I had a lot fun times in my seven years here. You can't predict the future and hopefully I continue to stay healthy. I'm here as a Miami Heat player, and I'm happy where I am now, but I don't rule that out in no sense. "And if I decide to come back, hopefully the fans will accept me." James' comments may have been calculated, coming one day before the Cavs host the Heat for the third time since the superstar's messy exit from Cleveland. In mentioning a possible reunion, he may be trying to soften the negative response he'll get Friday from fans who haven't forgotten what he did to them. James said he has made no attempt to patch things up Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who harshly criticized James in a scathing letter to Cleveland's fans. Gilbert promised to win a title before James, questioned his character and told The Associated Press he felt James quit on the Cavs during the playoffs. James said he has no bitterness toward Gilbert. They have not spoken since James met with the Cavaliers on July 3, 2010, when they were one of several teams courting him to sign with them. "I don't have any hard feelings. He said what he said and I've moved on," said James, who is under contract with the Heat for two more seasons. "But there's been no attempt to patch things up." James, however, said he can envision being friends again with Gilbert. "I don't hold grudges," he said. "I hold them a little bit, but I don't hold them that long. He said what he said out of anger and he would probably want to take that back. But I made a mistake, too, and there are some things I would want to take back as well. "You make mistakes and move on." It wasn't clear if by "mistake" James meant the way he announced his departure from Cleveland or joining the Heat. He insists he's happy in South Florida and committed to winning a title with the Heat, who lost to Dallas in the finals last season. James acknowledged he's changed and enjoying hoops the way he once did. "I'm back to how I was in Cleveland, having fun with the game, appreciating the game, loving the game and playing at a high level," he said. "I got away from that last year. It was a difficult year for me last year, making the whole transition, on and off the floor, going through everything I went through. "I just got back to how I got to this point, back to playing the way I know how to play." James' comments about a return to Cleveland -- albeit unlikely -- caught former teammate Antawn Jamison off guard. "It surprises me that he's saying that now," said Jamison, who played 25 games with James in 2010 after coming over in a trade. "Three years down the road it wouldn't surprise me if he entertains the idea. But hey, after the first go-round, I don't think anything would surprise you as far as scenarios taking place." Cavs guard Daniel Gibson can't envision Cleveland fans ever receiving James warmly again. "I don't think he'd be welcome," Gibson said. "Not with the way that went down. It was a pretty tough situation. I'm sure they wouldn't feel comfortable with that at all." For the moment, and for at least the next two seasons, James is with the Heat. Miami coach Erik Spoelstra has seen a renewal in James, who he believes will one day be warmly recognized by Cavs fans for his time in Cleveland. "Time heals a lot of things and LeBron had many special years here," Spoelstra said. "There probably will be a time in the future where he will be embraced and acknowledged for the great run that they had here. It's a new chapter for their organization and they've got a bright future ahead." James knows what's coming on Friday. He's prepared for a rough reception, but not as hostile as the one the seven-time All-Star got on Dec. 2 last season. James expects to hear boos, but maybe not as many obscenities. "It doesn't sting anymore," James said. "The booing isn't as bad as it was last year so it's not even a big deal."

Haggerty: So what exactly has happened to the Bruins-Habs rivalry?


Haggerty: So what exactly has happened to the Bruins-Habs rivalry?

BRIGHTON, MASS -- It didn’t take last season’s embarrassing Winter Classic result to figure out something has been missing from the storied, legendary Bruins-Canadiens rivalry over the last few years.

The last traces of the latest, great incarnation of the B’s-Habs rivalry were clearly still there a couple of seasons ago when the two hockey clubs met in the second round of the playoffs. After falling short the last few times the teams met in the postseason, Boston was summarily dismissed by Montreal in Game 7 on their own home ice during that series. The following season the B’s simply had so many of their own players struggling to put out a consistent effort, so the games against the Habs didn’t really register highly on the importance scale, and last season both Boston and Montreal suffered through subpar seasons that saw them each fall short of the playoffs.

Since the second round loss to the Habs in the 2013-14 playoffs, the Bruins are 2-7 while being outscored by a 31-18 margin in nine regular season meetings over the last two seasons in an incredibly one-sided chapter in the two teams’ shared history. The real lack of competitiveness has been a noticeable lack of deep emotion or ill will on the ice between the two hockey clubs, and that is very different from the recent past when signature players like Milan Lucic, P.K. Subban and Shawn Thornton were card-carrying members of healthy hate that regularly spilled out on the ice between the two rival NHL organizations.

Instead it will probably be new blood that breathes glorious, hard-edged life into the history between the two Original Six teams, and new personalities like David Backes, Shea Weber and Andrew Shaw are likely to do just that. Certainly the Canadiens wanted to be much more difficult to play against in recruiting players like Shaw and Weber, and, their presence along with the offensively explosive Alex Radulov, could make it a tough matchup for the Black and Gold.

Either way, the Bruins are curious to see what the matchup looks like this season with the electric P.K. Subban removed from the mix as one of the classic Habs villain-type characters from a Boston perspective.

“It’s always fun to play Montreal at home, or in Montreal. This will be our second time counting the preseason, and our first time at the Garden. It’s going to be pretty cool,” said David Krejci. “When you say any NHL team there are a few names that pop out for that team, and [P.K. Subban] was definitely one of them [for Montreal]. But P.K. is gone, and now it’s Shea Weber. So it’s going to be a little different, but he’s a hell of a player as well so it isn’t going to be any easier.

“It’s a big game. It’s a division game. We don’t want to take any game lightly within the 82 games because you don’t know what can happen at the end. When those games against [Montreal] are done you always feel like you’ve played two games, and not just one. It’s high intensity, and it’s obviously a rivalry that you get up for.”

As Bruins head coach Claude Julien would say it, things are a bit too civilized between the two enemy teams when thinking back to the days of Georges Laraque chasing Milan Lucic around the ice challenging him a fight on the Bell Centre ice, or the awful epoch in B’s-Habs history when Zdeno Chara clobbered Max Pacioretty with a dangerous, injury-inducing hit into the stanchion area.

Nobody is looking for players to get hurt on borderline plays when the two teams suit up on Saturday night, but something to introduce a new chapter into the Boston-Montreal rivalry would be a good thing for both teams, a good thing for the fans and a potentially great thing for an NHL that prides itself on good, old-fashioned rivalries.

“We need to make sure that we’re ready to play [on Saturday]. I like the way that we’ve played so far, and except for Toronto we’ve managed to compete with all of the teams that we’ve played against,” said Julien. “I don’t know if it’s going to stay that way, but I’m going to use the word that [the rivalry] has been more civilized for the last few years. There hasn’t been as much of the sideshow as there has been [in the past].

“I think there’s still a lot of hatred between the two organizations when they meet, but I think the way the game is trending, and how costly that penalties can be in a game, both teams are a little cautious in that way. I still think there is great intensity and both teams get up for the games, so hopefully that happens tomorrow, and the fans get to see a good game.”

One thing that should ensure a good, familiar showdown with plenty of hard-hitting and honest-to-goodness rivalry-like behavior: both the Canadiens and Bruins are off to strong starts at the top of the Atlantic Division in the first couple of weeks this season, and there are some new faces that are undoubtedly going to want to announce their presence for these Bruins-Habs tilts with authority.

Let’s hope this happens because last season’s Bruins-Habs games needed a pair of jumper cables and 1.21 jigowatts of electricity to shock them back into their elevated level of intensity, and that’s when hockey is served best after all.