When the Miami Heat tip off tonight against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the match-up is sure to draw more eyeballs than on a typical night during the NBA season. Yes, there's that highly-anticipated return of a certain player but here's another reason: 26 teams have the night off. Will those resting players tune in?
Count some of the Memphis Grizzlies as part of that audience. But not for the reasons you might suspect:
"Oh yeah," forward Zach Randolph said. "I'm definitely going to watch that. It's going to be interesting with uniformed police and undercover guys there. That's why I'm going to watch. You don't know what to expect."
The Heat and the NBA have taken additional security measures to ensure the safety of James and the team when they visit Quicken Loans Arena. Cleveland fans reacted with bitter disappointment when James announced on live television that he'd sign with Miami as a free agent.
"I'll watch the first five minutes to see what they do," forward Rudy Gay said. "This is really unusual. People forget it's all about basketball. ... It was a high-profile offseason as far as free agency. It's going to be the same way when Chris Bosh goes back to Toronto."
Tonight's game will be a spectacle of culture, more so than of basketball. Ask NBA fans about why they're watching the event and chances are it's not about the game itself but how Cleveland will treat their former hometown hero in his return to The Q.
And take it from Randolph and Gay, the fans aren't alone: NBA players are just as curious about the city's reception.