- Associated Press - Friday, February 17, 2012

CLEVELAND (AP) - LeBron James could picture returning one day to the place where his NBA journey began.

Back in Cleveland.

Imagine that.

After practicing in a gym where he refined his game for seven seasons, James said Thursday he would not rule out a return to the Cavaliers, a team he carried to the brink of a title before he spurned an entire region by leaving as a free agent in 2010 to chase a championship with Miami.


Asked if he could play for the Cavs again, James initially paused before giving his answer.

“I don’t know. I think it would be great,” he said. “It would be fun to play in front of these fans again. I had a lot fun times in my seven years here. You can’t predict the future and hopefully I continue to stay healthy. I’m here as a Miami Heat player, and I’m happy where I am now, but I don’t rule that out in no sense.

“And if I decide to come back, hopefully the fans will accept me.”

James‘ comments may have been calculated, coming one day before the Cavs host the Heat for the third time since the superstar’s infamous and messy exit from Cleveland. In mentioning a possible reunion, he may be trying to soften the negative response he’ll get Friday night from fans who haven’t forgotten what he did to them.

However, James appeared sincere when talking about a potential return to the Cavs, his fractured relationship with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and topics ranging from phenom Jeremy Lin to rookie Kyrie Irving following practice on the fourth floor of Quicken Loans Arena.

Perhaps it was because he was back in familiar surroundings that prompted James‘ remarks. Or maybe it’s part of a larger agenda. Whatever the case, his past with Cleveland, and his decision to bolt from the Cavs, will always be a sensitive subject.

After all, James put Cleveland back on the NBA map by taking the Cavs to one finals and winning two MVP awards during his stay. He left the franchise during a summer in which he held an entire city at bay as it awaited his decision. After he announced he was joining the Heat during a nationally televised special, the Akron native was vilified by the same fans who cheered every one of his dribbles and dunks.

Time has healed some of the wounds _ not all.

James said he has made no attempt to patch things up with Gilbert, who harshly criticized James in a scathing letter to Cleveland’s fans. Gilbert promised to win a title before James, questioned his character and told The Associated Press he felt James quit on the Cavs during the playoffs.

James said he has no bitterness toward Gilbert. They have not spoken since James met with the Cavaliers on July 3, 2010, when they were one of several teams courting him to sign with them.

“I don’t have any hard feelings. He said what he said and I’ve moved on,” said James, who is under contract with the Heat for two more seasons. “But there’s been no attempt to patch things up.”

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