LeBron James will spend his latest homecoming game this season watching instead of playing.
James is being kept out of Miami’s final road game Monday night — against the Cavaliers — as the Heat get ready for the NBA playoffs by resting all most all of their top players.
Coach Erik Spoelstra has decided to sit James and starters Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers for Monday night’s game. Dwyane Wade (knee), Shane Battier (knee) and Udonis Haslem (ankle) are injured and did not even make the trip to Cleveland.
Before the game, James shot around on the floor of Quicken Loans Arena and broke a healthy sweat, but would not be dressing in uniform for his sixth game in Cleveland since he left as a free agent in 2010.
”I’m never sad about sitting,” he said, smiling. ”I’m sad about not playing.”
Spoelstra said James, who has been slowed by tightness in his hamstrings, understands the decision to rest. Spoelstra will only have nine players in uniform and will start 40-year-old Juwan Howard. Spoelstra wasn’t concerned about whether James was miffed about not playing.
”I don’t know. I don’t care,” he said. ”He understands, and, obviously, this is a special place for him. But we’re focusing on getting our guys right and getting into a rhythm.”
With the best record in the Eastern Conference, the Heat have clinched homecourt throughout the playoffs. They will open the postseason this weekend against Milwaukee.
Wade played on Sunday and scored 22 points as the Heat won its 36th home game to set a franchise record. Spoelstra said he decided to sit James shortly after the game.
Against the Cavs, Miami started Norris Cole, Mike Miller, Joel Anthony, Rashard Lewis and Howard.
James said he was mildly upset about not being able to play in front of some family members and friends. However, the superstar supports Spoelstra’s decision.
”Yeah, it’s disappointing,” he said. ”But for us as a team, we did what we did during the regular season to clinch home court throughout the playoffs so it gives me an opportunity for me and some of our big guys to get some rest.”
On Miami’s previous visit to Cleveland, the Heat overcame a 27-point deficit to win. During that game, a fan ran onto the floor in the fourth quarter to try and reach James. The Cavs beefed up their security detail around Miami’s bench, and a team spokesman said additional security measures were implemented in light of the bombings in Boston.