They may be the two-time defending champs, but the Miami Heat will be on the road for both Thanksgiving and Christmas this season. LeBron James will try to make the best of the situation this week, though, when he will host the entire team at his house in Akron for turkey day.
The Heat are in Cleveland Wednesday night, then travel to Toronto for a game Friday night. The team altered its travel plans so they could join James' family about 40 miles away from Cleveland.
"We would have loved to have been here for the holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas being here in Miami," James said. "We don't mind playing on those holidays. Wish we could have been here, but I am happy that I'm able to do something for the team for Thanksgiving."
James said he and his wife will split cooking duties. He has also gone over even small details, like asking teammate Shane Battier what beer he prefers (the answer: Bud Light).
"I'm a great host," James said. "It's natural for me. I don't mind giving guys what they want — what they deserve."
James' teammates are happy about the gesture.
"We're not at home with our families for Thanksgiving but it couldn't work out any better that at least we could be in someone else's home," Miami's Dwyane Wade said. "And it's a very nice home that we're going to, so I'll make sure I'll put on the right clothes and the right socks, gotta-take-your-shoes-off-at-the-door type of house."
James, an Akron native, played in Cleveland for the first seven years of his career in Cleveland after the team selected him with the first pick of the 2003 NBA Draft.
Since joining the Heat in 2010, games between the two teams in Cleveland have taken on a circus-like atmosphere. With James eligible to opt out of his Heat contract and become a free agent this summer, a group of Cleveland fans is launching a "Come Home LeBron" campaign.
A billboard with the slogan was erected near James' high school, St. Vincent-St. Mary High in Akron, and the group will hand out shirts with the slogan outside the Quicken Loans Arena on Wednesday night.
In his 11th season, James is playing some of his best basketball ever. He is shooting 60.9% from the field, including 48.8% from three-point range (both career highs), and for the seventh year in a row leads the NBA in Player Efficiency Rating, an advanced statistic that measures the entirety of a player's output on the court.