Cavs rookie identifies with suspended RB's plight

CLEVELAND -- LeBron James has just one wish for his close friend, troubled Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett.

"For him to get back on the field," the Cleveland Cavaliers' rookie said, "and not for anybody else but for himself. Because he loves to play."

James slowed downtown traffic, members of the visiting Minnesota Twins and office workers on their lunch hour Friday while shooting a television commercial for the Cavaliers at Public Square.

After arriving on the set, James discussed Clarett's plight. They have known each other for a few years.

Earlier this week, the Buckeyes' star was suspended for the season for violating NCAA rules. The school said Clarett accepted thousands of dollars in improper benefits and lied to investigators.

James can appreciate Clarett's predicament.

During his senior year at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, James was stripped of his eligibility and suspended for the season by state high school officials for accepting two "throwback'' sports jerseys as gifts.

James also was investigated for receiving a lavish sports utility vehicle as a birthday gift from his mother. He fought the season-long suspension in court and had it reduced to two games.

"Maurice is a great friend of mine," James said. "I just want to show my support to him as much as I can with him being in a tough situation. He loves football just like I love the game of basketball.

"I went through something like it last year when basketball was taken away from me. I know it's tough for him because I was in a similar position last year and I'll show him my support as much as I can. I'll be there 24-7 for him if he needs me."

James said the ordeal made him tougher and wiser. He hopes Clarett's situation will have a similarly positive outcome.

"I never looked at the situation as 'Why me? Why did they put me in this position?'" James said. "I always looked at it that it would make me a stronger person, and I think this is going to make
Maurice a stronger person. I know it's going to make him a stronger person. I hope he just knows I'm there for him."