Saturday, February 18, 2012

Open mouth, insert foot

LeBron James just doesn’t know how and when to keep his mouth shut.

The other day, he hinted there’s a chance he’ll return to play for the Cavaliers somewhere down the road. Yes, he did. Right there at a shootaround the day before his Miami Heat dismantled the Cavaliers.

He wasn’t specific in his remarks. All he did was nudge the door open to the possibility of a return to his beginnings as a basketball player. In doing so, he toyed with the emotions of basketball fans in two cities.

“I think it would be great,” he said of a possible return to Cleveland. “It would be fun to play in front of these fans again. I had a lot of fun in my seven years here. . . . If I decide to come back (to Cleveland), hopefully the fans will accept me.”

Here he is one season and about half of the next into his career with the Heat and he’s already hinting that Cleveland could be in his future plans. He might look like a 27-year-old man, he might play the game as well as the greats, and he just might be the best player on the planet right now.

But when it comes to thinking things through, he too often lets his mouth precede his brain. That gets him in trouble. And now, he’s been forced to talkback his earlier words.

“The question (at the shootaround) was asked of me, could I see myself playing back here,” he said following the game Friday night. “I said yeah in the sense of I don’t know what my future holds and I don’t want to stake that out. I love the fans of Miami. I’ve got everything invested in this team. I’m looking forward to the years to come.”

He answered the original question as wrongly as possible. Instead of bumping that door open, he should have said something like, “Look, I’m a member of the Miami Heat now. I can’t be thinking about anything else other than winning a title with this team.

“I’m in Miami now and I love being there. Returning to Cleveland and playing for the Cavaliers is the farthest thing from my mind. To answer a question like that any other way would be foolish.”

How difficult would that have been? It would have cleared up any doubts. It was obvious he did not anticipate such a question and was totally unprepared.

Fact is he should not be taken seriously by Cavs fans, many of whom would rather see him play out his career anywhere but in Cleveland. The resentment at what he did and how he did it remains too strong. The animus is still there.

Some people will buy LeBron’s pabulum and honestly believe his return is a mere few years away. Word to the wise: don’t. All he’s trying to do is resurrect his image, his brand, his reputation after it was so badly beaten following his departure.

He wants to be the good guy again, the guy who led the Cavaliers from the depths of the National Basketball Association to elite status. He wants to be liked, not vilified.

He loves northeast Ohio. He maintains his home there. He just doesn’t like Cleveland. He said Akron, not Cleveland, was his hometown as if Cleveland was hundreds of miles away instead of 30 miles.

He says he likes Miami with its warm weather, humidity, bugs and no state taxes. Who can blame him? It’s the path he chose to take. The Heat and their fans are stuck with him for at least the next couple of years.

Chances are this little scenario will be revisited down the road, especially when LeBron returns to Cleveland. By then, he might have finally learned how and when to shut his mouth.

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