WASHINGTON, October 27- After an emotional NBA return to the Cleveland Cavaliers following four seasons in Miami, LeBron James will try to end his home region’s half-century major sport title drought.
James, who won two titles in four trips to the finals after leaving Cleveland for the Heat in 2010, plays for the Cavaliers for the first time in more than four years on Thursday when they entertain Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks.
“It feels right,” James said of wearing a Cavaliers jersey again.
Cleveland fans had burned James jerseys after his departure, but welcomed him home in July after he signed a two-year deal with the Cavaliers, holding off on a long-term contract until a new nine-season, $24 billion NBA television contract begins in 2016.
But James made it clear that he is determined to give Cleveland a winner and is patient enough to oversee the building process.
“I don’t want to get too ahead of myself,” James says. “I don’t want to talk about it too much. We’ve got a long way to go.”
James won titles in 2012 and 2013 with Miami and is a four-time NBA Most Valuable Player who joins guard Kyrie Irving and big man Kevin Love in giving the Cavaliers a “Big Three” to rival the combination he enjoyed with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.
“I will be the leader of the team,” James said. “I can lead by example. I can lead by voice. I can lead by command. I can lead by just my presence and that’s the most important thing for me.
“That’s what I’m more excited about than anything is leading these guys every single day in practice, every single game, every single shoot-around, every single film session, and hopefully it can trickle down to everyone else and make us a better team.”
– Best lesson is patience –
The Cavaliers, coached by NBA newcomer Dave Blatt, also have added a strong supporting cast, with sharpshooter Mike Miller and Shawn Marion, who helped Dallas win the 2011 NBA crown.
“Patience is the biggest thing I’ve learned,” James said. “Everyone always wants to see the end result and what’s at the end of the tunnel and (they) don’t quite understand what goes on from the start to the finish and what’s in between that. I understand that and I know that.
“It’s going to be a different challenge for a lot of guys on our team that haven’t played in big games in a long time. So the good thing about it is we do have some veteran guys that have hoisted the trophy that can give their experience about what it takes to get it done and it’s the hardest thing that you can ever do in your career.”
James has been a three-time loser in the NBA Finals as well as winning twice, being swept by the San Antonio Spurs while with the Cavaliers in 2007 and losing with Miami to Dallas in 2011 and the Spurs last June.
As a result, James knows every day is precious when building a champion.
“The challenge is that every single day we have to understand we can’t waste that day,” James says. “We have to prepare each and every day to get better. And if we don’t choke up the process, we’re going to give ourselves a good chance of contending at the end of the year.”