Cavs’ Varejao says of LeBron return: ‘It could happen’

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — With LeBron James and the Miami Heat set to make their season debut in Cleveland on Wednesday, there’s no shortage of the usual speculation.

Will LeBron opt out of his contract? Will he leave the Heat in the offseason? Will he return to the Cavaliers?

“It could happen,” Cavs big man Anderson Varejao said Tuesday from the team’s practice facility.

Varejao is the last remaining member of the 2007 Cavs team that reached the Finals. James, of course, was in Cleveland then, too. So was current Cavs coach Mike Brown.

But James left for the Heat on a nationally televised show announcing his decision, Brown was fired and the Cavs have never been the same.

Same goes for James and the Heat, who have made three straight Finals appearances — the last two resulting in championships.

James has won back-to-back league MVPs (and four overall), and appears to be on his way to a third this year. He enters Wednesday’s game with typical eye-opening averages of 26.0 points, 6.6 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game, and the Heat are 11-3.

Meanwhile, the Cavs have finished last in the Central Division three straight years. They rehired Brown before the season, but the results have yet to change. Even with the likes of Varejao and young star Kyrie Irving, the Cavs (4-11) haven’t found their footing.

James’ departure wounded Cleveland not only because he is the game’s best player, he’s also a native of Northeast Ohio. He was expected to rescue the franchise after it made him the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft.

And while the Cavs set a franchise record with 66 wins in ’09 (and won 61 the following year), they reached the Finals just once (and lost) during the LeBron era.

So, what makes Varejao think James could return?

“Bron is from Akron; Akron is not too far from here,” Varejao said. “Eventually in his career, he probably wants to play at home.”

Brown was considerably less willing to speculate, saying he respects James and the Heat, but his focus is on his own team. That makes sense, since anything beyond that could be considered tampering.

“(James) plays for the Miami Heat right now,” Brown said, smiling. “He’s done a fantastic job with the Miami Heat, just like the rest of those guys. They’ve been to the Finals three straight years. (Coach) Erik Spoelstra’s done a heck of a job for that team. We’ve got a long road ahead of us here.”

James can opt out of his contract at the end of the season and become a free agent. He could also pick up the option on his contract and remain with the Heat. He has dropped no hints on his plans.

If he did decide to return to the Cavs, he would get no argument from Varejao.

“I think the way he left was wrong, but regardless …,” Varejao said before interrupting himself. “He helped me a lot, helped my game and helped me as a person. I have nothing against him. It could happen.”

Twitter: @SamAmicoFSO