CLEVELAND -- Four men unaffiliated with the Cavaliers stood across the street from Quicken Loans Arena, in freezing temperatures, handing out “Come Home LeBron” T-shirts before the Heat-Cavaliers game on Wednesday night.
Meanwhile, LeBron James stood outside the Heat’s locker room before the game, acknowledging that the T-shirt giveaway is “very flattering” but offering no clue about his intentions next summer, when he can become a free agent.
Asked whether he will ever return to the Cavaliers, James said: “You guys know I’m not talking about free agency right now. My only concern is hopefully win a third straight championship.”
James said “it’s always fun to be back” and that returning to Cleveland “is still weird. I stayed home last night. I’m going to stay home tonight. To drive up to the arena and actually walking into the first locker room is still weird. I spent seven years here.”
James offered an amusing answer when asked whether the bitterness from Cavaliers fans has dissipated. “I have no idea. I haven’t done the whole Family Feud thing where you ask 100 people on the street, ‘Do you still like LeBron or not?’”
Asked what reaction he expected from the fans: “I don’t know. That’s not for me to worry about. If you’re not wearing [their uniforms] they don’t like you. That’s how it should be.”
What does he miss about Cleveland? “I’ve always said the fans are amazing, the excitement they give to their team. It’s one of the best in the league [with] OKC, Chicago, Detroit, San Antonio, Miami for sure.”
The four men handing out the T-shirts were not permitted on arena grounds and instead stood across the street, near a garage. About 20 people were lined up for shirts when a truck delivered them two hours before tipoff.
Student Tom Miano, one of the 20, conceded the T-shirt giveaway “will make no difference” in James’ decision, admitted he booed James vociferously when he first returned to Cleveland as a member of the Heat and said he simply wanted a free T-shirt.
“But we need him,” Miano said.
Joe Wisniewski, a student who also waited for a shirt, said he planned to sit behind the Heat’s bench and cheer James.
Besides having 1,000 T-shirts to distribute, the organizers of the “Come Home LeBron” campaign will erect two billboards in the coming weeks. One will be near James’ former high school, St. Vincent-St. Mary.
Those who take a picture wearing the shirt and tweet @Come Home LeBron will be eligible to win 2014-15 Cavaliers season tickets.
“Time has healed things, and we realize [James] leaving was a business decision,” said commercial realtor Josh Raggi, the “Come Home LeBron” ringleader. “He didn’t have the supporting cast here he needed to win.”
This and that
• James said his back is about 95 percent: “It started the season at about 50. It’s sore in the morning, when I first wake up. I’ve felt great the last few weeks.”
• James said: “I’m the most complete player I’ve been. I feel like I’m a better player. I’m not done. I’m not satisfied where I’m at…. Everything is comfortable for me. I’m in a good place right now.”
• Cavs forward Anderson Varejao, asked by Cleveland media about the possibility of James returning next summer: “It could happen. Bron is from Akron… Eventually in his career, he probably wants to play at home…
“The way he left was wrong. But regardless, he helped me a lot. I have nothing against him.”
• Forward Shane Battier traveled with the team, but missed Wednesday’s game with the flu.