MIAMI (AP) – LeBron James’ latest return to Miami will only be a night off.
James was not in Cleveland’s lineup for its game against the Heat on Saturday, with coach David Blatt saying he was responsible for the move.
James did not make himself available for comment before the game, though was in the facility. Cleveland went 0-2 in his appearances in Miami last season, his first times back as an opponent after a four-season, two-championship stint with the Heat. James also had said earlier this season that he wanted to play in all 82 games this season, something that now won’t happen.
“He wanted to play,” Blatt said. “No question.”
It’s the earliest point in a season that James has ever missed a game for rest purposes. He missed a December game last season with a sore left knee, but has never before sat out a game in November or December without an announced injury.
“It was a situation I felt was not worth risking,” Blatt said.
Cleveland entered with a two-game slide. James also logged 45 minutes at New Orleans on Friday, and the Cavs didn’t reach their Miami hotel until around 5 a.m. Saturday.
James talked after Friday’s game about the physical demands of an overtime game and the looming late arrival in Miami, but gave no clear indicator that he was thinking about sitting the Heat game out.
“I know this is a special place for Bron and the people here want to see him and I totally understand that,” Blatt said. “We played Miami four times last year. They’ve seen Bron with his new team and we’ll play them (two) more times this year. I understand, but under the circumstances I’ve got to think about him first and the team going forward.”
James appeared in each of Cleveland’s first 19 games this season. He is putting up his usual elite numbers – 26.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game.
Blatt insisted he had to “force the issue” in a conversation with James about playing or not playing. He also said James had no injury after logging big minutes against the Pelicans, other than expected soreness.
“Just thinking long-term here, being conscious of taking care of him and taking care of the team going forward,” Blatt said.
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