- Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com
- 0 Shares
CLEVELAND -- Could LeBron James see himself playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers again? He won't rule it out and said that if he decided to return someday he hopes the town's famously scorned fans would accept him back.
James qualified it all by saying he's happy playing for the championship-contending Miami Heat. But making his third return to Cleveland since his high-profile free-agency departure, hard feelings seem to be thawing from James' perspective.
"I think it would be great, it would be fun to play in front of these fans again," James said after the Heat's practice Thursday at Quicken Loans Arena.
"I had a lot of fun times here. You can't predict the future. Hopefully you continue to stay healthy. I'm here as a Miami player and I'm happy where I am now but I don't rule that out in any sense. If I decide to come back, hopefully the fans will accept me."
Dwyane Wade, who helped convince James to leave Cleveland two years ago, admitted he could see James coming back -- but not in the near future.
"Anything is possible," Wade said. "Hopefully I'm retired."
James, who is under contract with the Heat for two more seasons with an option for two more, also seemed to extend an olive branch to Cavs owner Dan Gilbert. The two have taken various high-profile shots at each other since James' departure in July of 2010. The most memorable was Gilbert's rambling open letter to Cavs fans the night James announced his decision on ESPN.
"I don't hold grudges, I hold them a little bit but I don't hold them that long," James said. "He said what he said out of anger. He probably would want to take that back, but I made a mistake, too. There's some things I'd want to take back as well. You learn from your mistakes and move on."
James and Gilbert have not talked since the Cavs' free-agent meeting with James on July 3, 2010. The two were in a collective bargaining negotiating session in New York for several hours last fall but did not speak. James said there hadn't been any attempts by either side to patch things up.
But time and circumstance seem to be closing the wounds. The Cavs drafted former Duke player Kyrie Irving with the No. 1 overall pick last year, as well as Tristan Thompson with the No. 4 pick. Thompson is represented by one of James' closest friends, Rich Paul. James still spends his offseason living in nearby Akron, where most of his family still resides.
But could he play for Gilbert?
"Dan is not the coach," he said. "I can play for any coach. We'll see what happens."
Attempts to reach Gilbert were unsuccessful.
James acknowledged he has changed and is enjoying hoops the way he once did.
"I'm back to how I was in Cleveland, having fun with the game, appreciating the game, loving the game and playing at a high level," he said. "I got away from that last year. It was a difficult year for me last year, making the whole transition, on and off the floor, going through everything I went through.
"I just got back to how I got to this point, back to playing the way I know how to play."
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra has seen a renewal in James, who he believes will one day be warmly recognized by Cavs fans for his time in Cleveland.
"Time heals a lot of things and LeBron had many special years here," Spoelstra said. "There probably will be a time in the future where he will be embraced and acknowledged for the great run that they had here. It's a new chapter for their organization and they've got a bright future ahead."
James' comments about a return to Cleveland caught former teammate Antawn Jamison off guard.
"It surprises me that he's saying that now," said Jamison, who played 25 games with James in 2010 after coming over in a trade. "Three years down the road it wouldn't surprise me if he entertains the idea. But hey, after the first go-round, I don't think anything would surprise you as far as scenarios taking place."
Cavs guard Daniel Gibson can't envision Cleveland fans ever receiving James warmly again.
"I don't think he'd be welcome," Gibson said. "Not with the way that went down. It was a pretty tough situation. I'm sure they wouldn't feel comfortable with that at all."
James still expects to be booed heavily when the Heat play against the Cavs Friday night, but doesn't think it'll have the same effects as last year.
"It doesn't sting anymore," James said. "The booing isn't as bad as it was last year so it's not even a big deal."
Brian Windhorst covers the Miami Heat for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
LeBron James won't rule out playing for the Cavaliers again.