(JTA) — The Cleveland Cavaliers in LeBron James’ return to his hometown NBA team routed Maccabi Tel Aviv in a game that pitted the Cavs’ new coach, David Blatt, against his former squad.
On Sunday, James scored 12 points in playing only the first half of the 107-80 victory over the 2014 Euroleague and Israel Super Basketball League champions.
The exhibition game had been scheduled long before Blatt signed on as Cavs’ coach in June. For Blatt, it was his NBA coaching debut.
‘I was nervous before the game, but not because it was the first time I coached in the NBA,” Blatt told reporters after the game. “I was playing against my friends.”
James, who returned to Cleveland as a free agent after spending four seasons with the Miami Heat, has been bothered by back problems.
More than a dozen of the credentialed reporters were from Israel, including the major newspapers and television stations, according to the Cleveland Jewish News. Blatt conducted a second news conference in Hebrew for the Israeli media following the game.
The game was also billed as Jewish Community Night.
About 50 pro-Palestinian protesters demonstrated outside Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena before the game over comments Blatt made to an Israeli newspaper in the summer in support of Israel’s military operation in Gaza.