DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Having endured his own messy divorce from the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2004, Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer can empathize with the type of reception that will greet LeBron James on Thursday night.
James and the Miami Heat play in Quicken Loans Arena for the first time since James shocked Cleveland by leaving after playing his first seven seasons with his hometown team.
"It will be tough for him," Boozer said after Thursday afternoon's practice. "As a personal friend of his, I know it's going to be a tough moment because he had a lot of great memories there. I just wish him the best of luck. I know it's kind of a place he embraces because he built so much there.
"Coming from there, being from there, giving everything he had for those seven, eight years he was there, I know it will be emotional for him."
Boozer was drafted by the Cavs in the second round of the 2002 draft. He rose to prominence in two years averaging 15.5 points and 11.4 rebounds in his second season. Controversy ensued after he became a free agent and backed out of an agreement he had with the Cavs to sign a more lucrative offer with the Utah Jazz, and Boozer was booed in his return to Cleveland.
He knows what a difficult night it will be for James to get through, especially given the way the reigning MVP left the team earlier this summer.
"It was the same thing [James will be going through]," Boozer said. "Emotional and tough."
Not all the Bulls will be focused on James' return.
"Everybody's interested in watching him play there," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said. "It's a big story in the league, but I have bigger things to worry about here."
When asked if he would be watching James' much-anticipated return to Cleveland, Bulls All-Star point guard Derrick Rose responded this way.
"Probably not," Rose said. "I've got my second season of 'Dexter' so I'm good."
Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.