LeBron James revealed on Thursday that there might be a rift between the Heat’s former star and team president Pat Riley.
Speaking with reporters before the Christmas game against the Heat, James said he hasn’t spoken with Riley since his decision to return to Cleveland. Riley flew to Las Vegas this summer in a last-ditch effort to keep James in Miami, but the meeting turned out to be more of a courtesy visit than anything. James later announced his decision to return to Cleveland with an essay published by SI.com.
James informed Riley and the Heat with a phone call that he was returning to Cleveland shortly before the essay was published online. On Wednesday, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the Heat learned about the scheduled call about 20 minutes ahead of time. James isn’t opposed to speaking with Riley but indicated he’s not going to go out of his way anytime soon to mend fences.
“If the opportunity presents itself I don’t mind,” James said, “but I don’t know what his mind-set is.”
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Riley hasn’t spoken about James since this summer, and Spoelstra said the Heat was shocked that James decided to return to Cleveland. A little awkwardness certainly remains between James and the Heat’s front office, but it hasn’t affected how the franchise publicly remembers its time with the superstar. On Thursday, the Heat displayed a touching tribute video of James during the first timeout of the first quarter.
LIKE OLD TIMES
James said he visited with Dwyane Wade on Christmas Eve and enjoyed being back in Miami.
“It has been good,” James said of his first trip back to Miami. “I got a lot of memories here and a lot of friendships have been built up over the four years, so my emotions are really, really good.”
James and Wade had some epic battles before teaming up, and the two players brought the best out of each other on Thursday. Wade had 24 points in the first half, which set his scoring high for a half this season. James led the Cavaliers’ comeback in the second half.
“We’ve always enjoyed competing against one another, and we enjoy playing with one another as well, so it is back to where it was five years ago with us competing, and we’re going to do it for the rest of our career,” James said.
James said he was a little nervous about his return to Miami. It wasn’t exactly apprehension, but just mixed emotions about being back in the arena where he won championships in 2012 and 2013 and went to the NBA Finals four years in a row.
“I just had some butterflies coming in. It’s like I said, I played some great basketball here with my teammates,” James said. “I miss my teammates more than anything. The camaraderie we had and the guys that’s still here and the guys that’s not even here like Shane [Battier] and Ray [Allen], and I still have Mike [Miller] with me and [James Jones]. But all the guys, we built something that will last forever.”
PLEADING HIS CASE
James has played the villain role several times throughout his career, but it has never suited him. He pleaded for vague acceptance on Thursday for his career decisions when asked if he ever thinks about what could have been in Miami if he had stayed.
“No, I can’t do that anymore. I can’t live in the past or live with regrets,” James said. “I got to live in the future or live in the present moment, and, you know, what do you guys want from me?
“I go out and play the game of basketball at a high level no matter what uniform I’m in, no matter what city I’m in, you know. I’ll give you guys one huge press conference when I’m done with this and you guys can ask me anything, but for now just try to appreciate what I do on the floor.”