Amid LeBron mania, Sixers win summer league title

Travis Bader (33) pushes his way past Memphis Grizzlies' Scottie Wilbekin, right, on a drive to the basket during an NBA summer league basketball game in Orlando, Fla., Friday, July 11, 2014. (John Raoux/AP)

ORLANDO - The 76ers summer-leaguers were upstaged by LeBron James.

James announced "I'm coming home" to the Cavaliers via his first-person article on about 12:20 p.m. Friday. At the time, the Sixers and Grizzlies were midway through the first quarter of the Orlando Pro Summer League final.

The Sixers went on to win, 91-75, at the Amway Center practice court. The game might as well have been played on a desert island. James' decision to sign a free-agent deal with Cleveland following four seasons with the Miami Heat was the main topic of discussion.

Reporters on press row read James' article in the second quarter instead of watching the game. NBA TV, which broadcasts the summer league, did a piece on his return to Cleveland during its halftime show. And several Sixers discussed the move in their locker room after the game.


Will LeBron James deliver a title to the city of Cleveland this time around?

Assistant coach Lloyd Pierce, who led the Sixers Orlando summer league squad, always expected James to return to Cleveland.

Pierce was the Cavs' director of player development from 2007 to 2010 - James' final three seasons in Cleveland before heading to Miami. The two have remained good friends.

"Without a doubt," Pierce said of James' return. "He's just a loyal guy. He's from there. He's always talked about his home, and done a lot for Akron, for Northeast Ohio. So I know it weighed on him."

Pierce said fans in Cleveland were as avid as Philly fans. He found them to be just as passionate about the Cavs, Browns, and Indians.

"You know they were heartbroken for a few years," Pierce said. "It's kind of like a lovefest now going on. Having him back, you see the type of attention it has drawn.

"I'm happy for him. I'm happy for them."

Scottie Wilbekin is also happy for James.

He had five points, four assists, and two steals as the Grizzlies backup point guard. He will play for the Sixers in the NBA Summer League, which began Friday and runs through July 21 in Las Vegas.

"I want to see if he will wear [jersey] No. 6 or will he go back to 23," said Wilbekin, a former standout at Florida. "I'm excited that he went back to Cleveland.

"Me being a player that played college ball in the same city [Gainesville, Fla.] I grew up in, I can understand how the fans really love you and support you in your hometown. So I'm sure that they will love him and welcome him with open arms."

Meanwhile, the Sixers (4-1) were happy to win the summer-league title. And they did so with just eight players in the championship. Nerlens Noel (rest day) and KJ McDaniels (sprained left ankle) did not play.

But they weren't needed in the Sixers' fourth straight victory.

Swingman Hollis Thompson led all scorers with 21 points on 8-for-15 shooting. Point guard Casper Ware added 19 points to go with a game-high seven assists. Former St. Joe's standout Ronald Roberts had 12 points and 11 rebounds at center in place of Noel.

Noel, McDaniels, Ware, and Jerami Grant flew to Las Vegas on Friday night to join the Sixers' NBA Summer League squad. The Sixers open play against the Jazz at 10:30 p.m. Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.