Mo Williams knows the pain and frustration Cleveland fans have been feeling since LeBron James left town six months ago. That's one reason Williams is looking forward to Thursday night, when James makes his long-awaited return to Cleveland as a member of the Miami Heat after playing in in the city for seven years.
"This game is not just for us," Williams said following practice Wednesday. "It's the 20,000 fans and the millions watching who will be pulling for us. We've got people who aren't even Cavs fans who will be pulling for us. We've got a lot behind us."
Williams says he and the Cavaliers are excited about the opportunity to face their former teammate, who led the franchise to the NBA Finals in 2007 and to the league's best record the last two seasons.
"The whole world is watching," Williams said. "It's something that will go in the history books. I'll be a part of it. I'm proud of that."
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Williams, acquired from Milwaukee prior to the 2008-09 season, seemed more troubled by James' decision to leave than any player still on the team. He was quoted in a story during the summer that he considered retirement, comments which he backtracked on at the team's media day.
Williams and James had a chance meeting afterward and cleared the air. Williams said they have not spoken since.
If any Cleveland players feel resentment toward James, they're keeping it to themselves.
"I think we are all looking forward," guard Daniel Gibson said. "We're ready for the opportunity. He did what he had to do and it's a matter of us doing what we have to do. That was the approach we took from day one and that's the approach we still have."
■ The Cavaliers have enlisted a law firm to investigate the circumstances leading to James' signing this summer with the Heat, according to a Yahoo Sports report. Yahoo cited anonymous sources who say that Cavs owner Dan Gilbert has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to a Midwestern law firm to investigate suspicions that the Heat broke NBA tampering rules while pursuing James and that he plans to present the findings to the league.
"I'm here, I'm a Miami Heat player representing this franchise," James told the Sun Sentinel (Orlando) before Wednesday's game. "That's out of my league. I don't have anything to do with that. We've followed the process as every other free agent and this organization did also."
Heat 97, Pistons 72: LeBron James scored 18 points, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade each scored 16, and the Heat dominated the second half with defense in Miami.
Next up: James' "homecoming" in Cleveland.
"I'll be ready," James said.
It was the Heat's second-stingiest defensive showing of the season, only bettered by holding Orlando to 70 points on Oct. 29. The Pistons shot 36 percent, and no Detroit starter reached double figures.
Hawks 112, Grizzlies 109: Al Horford scored 20 points and host Atlanta won after learning star Joe Johnson will have elbow surgery and miss four to six weeks. Six Hawks scored in double figures, including a season-high 16 points off the bench by Josh Powell, to overcome the loss of Johnson, the team's four-time All-Star and top scorer. The Hawks have won four straight.
Johnson will need arthroscopic surgery to remove a "loose body" in the elbow. It will take place Thursday. He said the elbow has caused discomfort "off and on" this season. "It just got unbearable yesterday," he said at halftime.
Magic 107, Bulls 78: Jameer Nelson scored 24 points and visiting Orlando dominated the paint, spoiling Chicago's debut of forward Carlos Boozer. Boozer played his first game after missing all the pre-season plus the first 15 of the regular season after breaking his right hand in an accident at his home on Oct. 2. Tentative most of the game, Boozer finished with five points and two rebounds in 22 minutes, shooting 2-for-5 from the floor.
Celtics 99, Trail Blazers 95: Ray Allen missed his first five three-point attempts before hitting one with 10.7 seconds left to help Boston hold off a late charge at home. It was the Celtics' fifth straight victory and the fifth straight loss for Portland. Paul Pierce scored 28 points, Kevin Garnett had 17 points and eight rebounds, and Rajon Rondo had 10 points and 10 assists.
Raptors 127, Wizards 108: DeMar DeRozan scored 20 points, Andrea Bargnani and Sonny Weems each had 18 and host Toronto set a season high in points.
Rookie John Wall scored 19 points for Washington. Raptors rookie Ed Davis made his season debut, scoring 11 points and grabbing six rebounds in 24 minutes.
Around the league
Thunder: NBA leading scorer Kevin Durant missed Oklahoma City's game against the Nets with a sprained left knee Wednesday night. Thunder Coach Scott Brooks said Durant's knee started acting up after Sunday's game against New Orleans. The forward, who is averaging 27.3 points, is day-to-day.
Timberwolves: Guard Jonny Flynn plans to report to the development league affiliate in Sioux Falls, S.D., for a game on Friday as he works his way back from hip surgery. Flynn has yet to play in a game this season. He had surgery on his left hip in July and has started ramping up his workouts over the past few weeks.
Nets: Point guard Devin Harris is going to miss the next two games with a sprained left knee. An MRI on Tuesday morning revealed the sprain.