(SportsNetwork.com) – LeBron James’ return to the Cleveland Cavaliers was
spoiled, but he won’t have much time to cry about it as his squad faces the
Chicago Bulls at the United Center Friday night.
Amidst insane hype, immense hoopla and an appearance by Justin Beiber, James
took the court at Quicken Loans Arena Thursday as a member of the Cavaliers
once again. After four seasons, and two titles, with the Miami Heat, the
prodigal son returned.
And the Cavs lost and James looked shaky.
The New York Knicks rode into Cleveland and left with a 95-90 victory.
James, the four-time MVP, scored 17 points on 5-for-15 shooting, and committed
eight turnovers. It was the first time in his already illustrious career that
he had at least eight turnovers, fewer than 20 points and fewer than five
“Eight is not okay,” James said of the turnovers. “I think some of the
turnovers were careless. My turnovers, some of them were careless and some of
them were chemistry. I’m throwing passes where I was hoping some of my
teammates would be.
“It was a huge night. It was exciting for the fans, exciting for the city,”
said James. “But, now we can just play regular basketball. ”
Kevin Love, acquired in a blockbuster deal from the Timberwolves, had 19
points and 14 rebounds in his first action in a Cleveland uniform, while
returning star Kyrie Irving led the way with 22 points and seven assists.
Anderson Varejao and Dion Waiters both chipped in 10 points.
The Cavs allowed the Knicks to shoot 53.6 percent from the floor and 50
percent from beyond the 3-point line. While all five Cleveland starters scored
in double figures, the bench was out-pointed, 41-12. James and Irving both
played over 43 minutes in the Cavaliers’ season-opener.
Things certainly don’t get easier for LeBron and company. Most pundits
predicted a showdown for Eastern Conference supremacy between the Cavs and
Bulls and their first battle comes just two games into the long campaign, in
the home opener for the Bulls no less.
“It’s as good as it gets. Just being able to play in that building is very
special,” said Chicago’s Joakim Noah.
The Bulls opened the 2014-15 season against the Knicks and squashed them,
104-80, Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
The key to the Bulls’ success this season rests on former MVP, Derrick Rose’s
shoulders. Actually, the key rests in his knees to be more specific. He played
only 10 regular-season games the last two seasons, but scored 13 points and
handed out five assists on Wednesday.
“We played good basketball and it led to an easy game,” noted Rose. “It’s just
the first game, (but) when things run smooth like they were running tonight,
everyone will look at our entire team and see how deep we are.”
Bench player Taj Gibson led Chicago in scoring with 22 points. Pau Gasol, the
prize free-agent acquisition of the offseason, finished with 21. Aaron Brooks
chipped in 13 with the reserves and rookie Doug McDermott and Kirk Hinrich
both scored 12.
The Bulls, one of the best defensive teams in the league since head coach Tom
Thibodeau took over, held the Knicks to 36.5 percent shooting from the field
and 17.6 from 3-point range.
Jimmy Butler, Chicago’s versatile young wing, missed Wednesday’s game with a
thumb injury. Original reports had him done for two to four weeks, but Butler
might give it a go on Friday.
“He did a little more today. It wasn’t a heavy day,” Thibodeau said after
practice on Thursday. “We’ll see where we are tomorrow. It’s day to day. We’ll
The Bulls won three of four against the Cavs last season and went 13-2 against
their Central Conference rivals while James was in South Beach. Cleveland is
2-8 in its last 10 at Chicago.