Heat keep Cleveland plans quiet
MIAMI -- If Miami Heat forward LeBron James decides against performing his powder-tossing ritual before Thursday night's highly anticipated game against Cleveland, he won't be alone in changing up his normal pregame routine.
The Heat also have changed their plans and will not release details of the team's itinerary for the trip to Cleveland.
The Heat typically release the team's travel schedule, hotel location and pregame workout plans as a courtesy to select media outlets that cover the team for home and away games.
But a team spokesman said Wednesday that the Heat do not plan to reveal that information for the trip to Cleveland, which will be the first time James returns to the city he spurned in free agency when he decided to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.
The Heat and the NBA have taken additional security measures to ensure the safety of James and the team this season.
Cavaliers spokesman Tad Carper told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that the team's secruity will be "remarkably similar" to the norm at Quicken Loans arena, though he did admit that "it's fair to say we'll have more security in general."
"We're not trying to create a police state for this game," Carper said, according to the Plain Dealer. "We've gone through a very comprehensive process with the league security folks, the local authorities, the Cleveland Police Department, and we feel like we have a great plan in place to make sure we have a safe, law-abiding environment."
The decision to keep details of the trip private raises speculation that the Heat might elect not to stay in a downtown Cleveland hotel, as the team normally does when facing the Cavaliers.
James, who saw Cavaliers fans burn replicas of his jersey on July 8 after he announced his decision to leave Cleveland after seven seasons, has expressed a range of emotions in recent days regarding his bittersweet homecoming. The Akron, Ohio, native has said he's not sure whether many family members and friends will attend the game.
The defending champs are trying to three-peat. The Heat Index.
James and his new teammates are expecting a hostile -- and perhaps virulent -- environment at Quicken Loans Arena from the moment they enter the building to the time they board the team bus after the game.
"I think it's going to be tough," James said. "But I'm there to win a basketball game, and I understand how passionate fans are about sports. So I'm ready for whatever response I'm going to get."
When asked if they were concerned about their safety, several Heat players said they don't know what to expect, but trust that team and league security will have a solid plan in place.
"[It's going to be] very animated," Bosh said. "I don't think we know what to expect, but I'm sure it's going to be something like we've never seen before. As long as he's prepared and we're prepared, I'm sure we can go out, block out all the distractions and play basketball."
Wade said James is looking forward more to Thursday night's departure from Cleveland after the game than he's anticipating the team's arrival.
"I know he's going to enjoy the atmosphere and the hype that's been created," Wade said. "I know he's going to enjoy it more when it's over. Our focus cannot be on safety and security. We understand that the NBA wants nothing but safety for us -- the Miami organization as well. They pay us a lot of money. They don't want nothing to happen to us. I'm sure we'll be just fine."
James has tried to downplay the moment, as hard as that might be.
"It's one game, everyone is making a huge deal," James said. "But I'm very respectful to those fans that I have. So we'll see what happens."
Michael Wallace covers the Miami Heat for ESPN.com.