CHICAGO — LeBron James might not be in the most wonderful mood Friday when his Cleveland Cavaliers tip off against the Chicago Bulls.
For one thing, James is coming off his worst performance of the season. He scored a season-low 16 points on 5-of-14 shooting Thursday night against the Los Angeles Clippers. He missed both of his 3-point attempts and missed five of 11 free-throw attempts.
For another, the Akron native and Cleveland Indians fan agreed to show up to the United Center wearing the full uniform of the Chicago Cubs. Yes, the same Cubs who overcame a 3-1 series deficit to beat his hometown Indians in the World Series.
“It's a bet,” James told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “You have to fulfill your bet.”
The winner of the bet, as most NBA fans know by now, is none other than Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade. If the Indians had won the World Series, Wade, a Chicago-area native, would have showed up to Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena dressed in full Indians garb.
Instead, Wade will be able to laugh at his friend's humiliating moment.
“I'm going to have my camera crew out there, too,” Wade told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Laughs aside, James and Wade know the real winner Friday will be determined by the outcome of their game. The contest marks the first of four meetings this season between the Cavaliers (13-4) and Bulls (10-7), two of the better teams in the Eastern Conference.
Both teams want to establish something positive after disappointing starts to the week.
The Bulls are coming off a sleepy loss on their home court to the Los Angeles Lakers. Coach Fred Hoiberg's team lost three of its past five games and is struggling to generate scoring off the bench with guard Doug McDermott (concussion) out of the lineup.
Bulls guard Jimmy Butler has scored at least 20 points in 11 consecutive games, which is the best streak of his career. Wade also is shining this season with 18.8 points a game, but Chicago needs more support from complementary players such as forward Nikola Mirotic.
Meanwhile, the Cavaliers are coming off back-to-back losses for the first time this season. Cleveland raced to the top of the Eastern Conference standings with 13 wins in its first 15 games, but coach Tyronn Lue's team lost its past two games by 17 points and 19 points, respectively.
The Bulls are 4-2 at home, the same record the Cavaliers own on the road.
Cleveland is led by guard Kyrie Irving, who is averaging 24.7 points per game this season. James is not far behind at 23.1 points per game, and forward Kevin Love is contributing 21.4 points per game as part of a dynamic, front-loaded attack.
James acknowledged that it would be strange to see Wade in a Bulls uniform. Wade, 34, spent 13 seasons with the Miami Heat before signing with his hometown team this summer.
“It will probably be the same as when I saw 'CP' (Chris Paul) in a Clipper uniform or 'Melo' (Carmelo Anthony) in a Knick uniform,” James told the Plain Dealer. “You know, we all have decisions to make, and we've made our decisions across my career and we've always supported each other, so it's going to be pretty cool, not only just because he's in a different uniform but just him being back home and understanding what his journey is right now. I think it's more than just basketball for himself, being back home in Chicago.”
Wade embraced the showdown with his friend. Once James removes his Cubs uniform and puts on his Cavaliers uniform, the friends will battle from start to finish.
“I won't be one of those cliche athletes to say it's just another game,” Wade told the Sun-Times. “I just enjoy it more. Simple as that. I enjoy playing against LeBron more than anybody else just because of the things I know he's going to bring to the game.”