Cavaliers prepared for LeBron visit
CLEVELAND—LeBron James is coming back to Ohio for his first NBA game since splitting this summer to play in Florida.
King James won't get the usual royal treatment.
"It's going to be 10 times worse than when Carlos Boozer came back," said Milwaukee's Drew Gooden, who played four seasons in Cleveland. "I think 20,000 fans are going to have headaches from booing."
Indeed, the Cleveland fans are going to let him hear it. But the Cavaliers want to make sure that's all they're doing.
To ensure the safety of players and fans, and ease concerns about potential trouble, the team is beefing up security in and around Quicken Loans Arena for James' hyped return on Dec. 2 with Miami, a game Cleveland fans have eagerly awaited since July when the two-time league MVP famously announced his decision to join the Heat.
"We want to make people feel safe coming to the game," Cavaliers spokesman Tad Carper said.
And that includes James.
The Cavaliers have been working with the league and city officials since the NBA's schedule was released in August. The main goal is to provide a secure environment for everyone without compromising the inherent advantage Cleveland has in playing at home.
The team is asking its fans to refrain from wearing any profane or vulgar clothing directed at James or his family, and any obscene signs will be confiscated. However, that doesn't mean the Cavaliers are telling folks not to express their opinions toward the superstar forward or the Heat.
They just want to keep it clean.
"We think this is a great opportunity for our fans to positively show their support for their team, the organization and the city," Carper said. "There is a way to express yourself, enjoy yourself and show your excitement without crossing the line and exceeding the boundaries that are in place."
There will be uniformed police as well as undercover officers stationed near Miami's bench and along the tunnel area leading to the visitor's locker room. Instead of serving plastic beer bottles, vendors will pour beverages into cups to prevent anyone from using the containers as projectiles.
In 2001, Cleveland fans bombarded the field at Browns Stadium with thousands of plastic bottles -- some of them full of liquids -- after a controversial call in a loss to Jacksonville.
NBA spokesman Tim Frank said the league does not comment on security matters.
The Cavaliers will adjust their in-game security procedures accordingly, Carper said. There will be personnel on the lookout for any inebriated patrons causing trouble, and the team is prepared to remove anyone from the arena who doesn't comply with rules.
Fans entering the arena will pass through full-body metal detectors, which have been in place since owner Dan Gilbert bought the team in 2005.
"We have a high standard for security that exceeds what the NBA requires from us," Carper said. "We don't want people to feel like they're in a police state. We're going to take the proper steps that need to be taken, but we want fans to come down and have a good time."
Next week, Carper and other team officials plan to appear on radio and local television to remind fans planning to attend the game to act properly.
Cleveland fans don't seem as edgy as they were in July when James went on national television to announce his decision during a one-hour ESPN special dubbed "The Decision", which has been spoofed dozens of times. Shortly after James revealed his intentions to team up with All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, a few fans burned his jersey while others threw rocks at his picture on a downtown building billboard.
The Cavaliers don't expect violence. But they're ready just in case.
"We feel confident," Carper said, "we have a good plan in place."