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NBA / Dec 2, 2010 / 10:00 am

Cleveland should show LeBron “nothing but love,” says Cavs teammate

LeBron James (photo. David Alvarez)

On paper, it’s a matchup between an 11-8 team and a 7-10 team. Both are in third-place in their respective divisions. Between them, only two players (maybe three) are on track to play the NBA All-Star Game next February. But it is the dynamic — and potential interaction — between one player and the crowd that has made Heat/Cavs tonight the most anticipated game on the NBA schedule so far this season.

When LeBron James returns to Cleveland to play the Cavaliers as a member of the Miami Heat, it could be in front of the most hostile crowd any pro ballplayer has faced in decades. Every pro has been booed at one time or another, but speaking to players in the League, almost all of them agree that this is a unique situation.

In the locker rooms before Tuesday night’s Knicks/Nets game, I asked a few players — including one of LeBron’s 2004 Olympic teammates, and one of his former Cleveland teammates — about what it’s like playing in front of a hostile crowd and what LBJ could face this week:

*** *** ***

AMAR’E STOUDEMIRE (Knicks)

What is it like going into a hostile environment as a player?
“Some players can take the pressure, some players can’t. Me personally, I love it. It really turns me on. But it all depends on how other players react.

How do you think the fans will treat you when you go back to Phoenix for the first time?
“It’ll be great. The fans are gonna love me, and I love the fans.”

*** *** ***

JORDAN FARMAR (Nets)

What is it like going into a hostile environment as a player?
“I look forward to it, but I think LeBron’s situation might be a little different. (Laughs) Because it’s his hometown and he was their franchise and he left, it’s gonna be different for him, the whole experience. I went home earlier this year when we played the Clippers, and just being in L.A. it was a different feeling not playing for the home team. There are gonna be a lot of emotions involved. I’m interested to see how it goes. I know I’ll be watching.”

What is the toughest crowd you’ve dealt with?
“Lakers/Celtics in the NBA Finals. And throughout the Western Conference you have really good crowds. You go into Utah, that’s a really tough place to play. Or at San Antonio, at Phoenix, those can get really hostile.”

Was that heightened because you played for the Lakers?
“Oh yeah. Everywhere you go, the crowd is sold out. It might be the one time all year they see you and they’re excited.”

*** *** ***

KELENNA AZUBUIKE (Knicks)

What is it like going into a hostile environment as a player?
“It’s kind of fun because it’s a challenge, you know? If you go in there and get a win it makes you feel great.”

What do you think it will be like in Cleveland on Thursday?
“I mean, I’ve never been a part of anything like what LeBron is about to go through. With him leaving Cleveland, a lot of people were upset about that. But I wish him the best; hopefully it’s not too crazy over there. I hope it doesn’t get violent or anything.”

What was the most hostile crowd you’d experienced?
“In college when we (Kentucky) played Florida. They were our rivals and those games got intense. The fans did some bad stuff, but I don’t even wanna talk about it. It’s not good at all.”

*** *** ***

JOE SMITH (Nets)

You played for the Cavs. What do you think the Cleveland crowd will be like on Thursday?< ?i>
“I don’t know, man. I’m sure it’ll be weird for LeBron just going to the visitor’s locker room, doing everything from the visitor’s standpoint when he’s used to being The Guy there. But I’m quite sure you’ll hear some cheers, some boos.”

Is it a no-win situation for him?
“You can’t make everybody happy. You can’t please everyone. I hope it’s not too bad for him, because he did a lot for that city. LeBron’s a heck of a talent and he did so much for that city, they can’t show him nothing but love.”

What is it like going into a hostile environment as a player?
“It’s actually a motivational tool. It gets you going a little bit. You definitely wanna go out there and quiet the skeptics, quiet the critics. So that’s what I say hopefully he doesn’t go in there too anxious or too excited and get out of character.

What is the toughest crowd you’ve dealt with?
“Every time I go back to Golden State for some reason. It’s been going on for years. Especially in early in my career when I’d go back there, every time I touched the ball they’d boo me. So I’ve been around that corner before. You just have to stay on course and play your game.”

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  • yoda

    “When LeBron James returns to Cleveland to play the Cavaliers as a member of the Miami Heat, it could be in front of the most hostile crowd any pro ballplayer has faced in decades.”

    dude, you don’t know what hostile crowd is. come to europe, where police sometimes has to extract players from visiting teams, sometimes in light armored cars. in usa, you just hold signs, wave with your foam fingers and thats it. no disrespect but in europe in some leagues, sometimes players had to be under constant police protection. :)

  • Jah

    @ yoda:

    I hope I’m wrong but from reading your comment it sounds as if you’re proud of fan violence. If so, then get a life. A positive one. Again, I hope I’m wrong, because people like that disgust me. Be proud of something positive and influential or go and kill yourself.

  • yoda

    jah, i’m not proud of violence, actually i really hate it because i survived a war. but just pointing out that whats called hostile crowd in usa is generally 40 years old with kids in the old continent :)

  • Jah

    @ yoda:

    That’s good to know. Thanks for the clarification.

  • Ross

    Getting back to the post…These clowns they interviewed get boo’s everywhere and there likely due to performance. Asking Joe Smith what its like…really? Lebron left a city that was thirty minutes from where he grew up. A city that built its hope on a player for the first time since Jim Brown. I grew up in Ohio, I watched people pack the stands to see this kid in high school. And honestly it should be more than hostile. He left for what reason again? He promised a championship in cleveland, and ducked out by saying cleveland is different than Akron and he didn’t like it growing up..really? A man is and will always be define by what he does.Period.Somethings in life are bigger than you as an individual, he should have seen that while in Cleveland and if he wanted to go, he should have been man enough to say that and give the reason.You put in a two weeks when you leave a job don’t you(Leaving on good Terms)? Lions will never be led by Lambs.

  • DH

    So hostile crowds turn STAT on? TMI…

  • K

    Ross get over it. he was a free agent who cares if it was in his home. He figured a better work environment/ (better chance to win) was in miami and thats what he chose. again he was a FREE AGENT.

    oh but this is sports and different rules apply here than any other profession. Sorry to break it to you sports stans but the yes the players love the game but this also their jobs and they have to think like the owners and GMs and make smart business decisions.

  • http://bt.davka.info/ Sparkyjay23

    @ K

    The problem most have was having a tv program specially to tell Cleveland he was leaving Live. If he’d given the Cavs the heads up and given them more time to re-tool the result is the same but without the hate.

  • common sense

    lol @yoda, so true, especially in places like Turkey, Russia, heck, any Slav country… them guys are straight crazy, oh yeah, don’t forget italy… actually, all of europe.. lol

  • Ross

    @K. Is playing basketball for your hometown really a job? Bad comparison, it doesn’t matter, the problem with people now is that the easy button(choics) are so much about you that you forget the biggest sacrifice is for othrs.The franchise was built around him, his friends got jobs, stuff paid for, all the perks. Everyone knows the game of basketball is about loyalty as well.learn how to stand for something, its apart of being an adult.

  • JAY

    @ yoda: “in usa, you just hold signs, wave with your foam fingers and thats it. no disrespect but in europe in some leagues, sometimes players had to be under constant police protection.”

    It’s the “no disrespect” part that makes your statement seem like the crowds are better in europe because of the violence.

    To paraphrase:
    “In the US the crowds are civil, normal, the games are safe… no disrespect but the games get violent in europe.
    ^^ see what I mean??

    I know you apologized, but like Wikileaks exposing politicians, you can’t take it back.

  • Claw

    @K – I don’t want to call you an idiot, because that would be too easy. You grow up there you say you are there to bring a title and won’t leave till you do then plain quit cause its too hard and you want to have fun and play with your “boys”. Lebron, having fun yet?

    Love the video where they play Lebron’s whay should I do and then throw in MJ’s old Nike commercial, that explains the difference between trying to be transcendent and great to whatever Lebron is.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLZzWJxt-LE

  • Celticsdada

    The title is so misleading.

    This is his former teammates who played with him for a season or two, it is too short of a period for them to have the same feeling the current Cavaliers feel. The author is trying to cover up for lebron again with the title. SMH. I would bet my left nut, that every Cavaliers today wanna smack Lebron in some way somehow tonight. i would not be surprised to see an altercation during the game. Maybe not directly toward Lebron, but one of his teammates.

  • Claw

    @Celticsdada – I’d be pissed if I was his teammate and he basically said you suck and I can’t win with you and acted like a fool in that last playoff game.

  • yoda

    @jay
    never meant to say crowd here or there is better because of this or that, but just wanted to say that that hostile crowd in clevland is not really a hostile. its not like someone will rush from the stands to try to hit lbj or something. maybe those with cheap tickets but they are far away anyway :D

  • K

    @Ross

    Well Lebron clearly stated Cleveland is not his home town and he never considered it his. also YES to most of these athletes its is a job regardless of circumstances. (not that they dont love the game). They would be stupid not to approach this as business first.

    and stop saying its just because of the decision show. people wouldve been hateful and ignorant no matter what. the show just gave them something extra to point at. Im from Boston and am not a huge fan of Lebron but all this animosity towards him is ridiculous.

    Be angry, sad, boo him and get the fuck over it.