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

By 12.02.10

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:

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”


TOPICS#LeBron James
TAGSAMARE STOUDEMIREDimeMagJoe SmithJORDAN FARMARKelenna Azubuike

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