Forbes reports that Miami Heat star LeBron James plans to attend the Cavaliers' honoring of retired player Zydrunas Ilgauskas Saturday in Cleveland. James and Ilgauskas played together the entire time James was in Cleveland, and Ilgauskas followed James to Miami when he left in 2010.
And the implication is that the plan is about more for the Cavs than just honoring a former franchise anchor.
This isn't a coincidence. If Ilgauskas, now the Cavs' assistant GM, invited James, the date was set last October for this two-day break in Miami's schedule.
This thaw was years in the making, fostered by James insiders in Cleveland passing the word that the Cavs would be on Bron's list if he was to leave. If that looks unlikely at the moment with Bron saying recently he doesn't see himself going anywhere, it's championship or bust for the Heat. The team is in conservation mode after three Finals runs with Dwyane Wade's health an ever-larger issue.
Some days of infamy live forever. Some don't last four years.
James' attendance at the ceremony would be legitimate, whatever its side benefits. James and Ilgauskas are indisputably tight. With all the condemnation ringing in Bron's ears when he left Cleveland, Z followed him to Miami three days later.
“When I came in the league as a rookie, you try to find veteran leadership, someone to grab onto as far as how to be a professional and he was that guy for me,” said James last week in Miami.
Heat officials are unhappy, but this isn't Shane Battier. With no inclination to disappoint James, the team has kept a low profile to this point.
Allow us a brief moment to reflect on the irony of the Heat being unhappy with the possibility of tampering, particularly by the Cavaliers.
If the report is accurate, and the Cavaliers are still chasing James, it's kind of, well, desperate. There was the possibility at the start of the season that the Cavs could play their way into being a legitimate possibility for James to sign there if he opts out this summer. But since then, the Cavaliers have had a disaster of a season, are still 3½ games back of the playoffs even after trading for All-Star Luol Deng.
The odds of James seeing Cleveland as the best place for him to add to his championship total are low. So to pursue him with emotional overtures is a bit much.
But it's good that James is attending the ceremony. Ilgauskas and James were close, and James deserves to be able to congratulate his friend on the accomplishment. James should just hang out backstage, though, and the Cavs shouldn't try to bring attention to James. After all, that Cleveland crowd hasn't exactly gotten over The Decision.