by Marcel Mutoni / @marcel_mutoni

The Cleveland Cavaliers, valiant as their early-season effort has been, are who we thought they’d be once LeBron bolted for South Beach: A scrappy, but ultimately, crummy team.

With the whole world’s eyes on their city tonight (and its complex, fascinating relationship with sports teams and stars), it’ll be interesting to see just how the Cavs players handle the atmosphere. A win would do wonders for the team’s and city’s collective psyche.

This might as well be Cleveland’s version of Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

James’ former teammates have been guarded with their comments about him, but reading between the lines, it’s easy to tell they’re still hurting from his departure. Not the ridiculous way he announced his decision, but the actual decision itself.

From ESPN:

While many Cavs fans may have been celebrating some of the Heat’s early season struggles, it hasn’t been seen that way in the Cavs’ locker room. To a man, none faults James for exercising his free agent rights. But as basketball players they’re having some problems coming to grips with it. That’s especially true as they experience their own struggles and see the Heat having issues fitting in with James after they’d nearly perfected it. “The situation he had here was great,” said Cavs guard Daniel Gibson, who has been a friend of James the past four years. We were the best team in the regular season for the last couple of years. He was the league MVP. It was past a good fit. It was a great fit. That’s why it caught us by surprise. I didn’t think he would leave.”

Some of James’ friends on the Cavs keep in touch with him. But there seems to be a discomfort about the message James sent them with his decision to sign in Miami: that they weren’t good enough for him. “He knows he had a good supporting cast last year,” said Mo Williams, whose once strong personal relationship with James has eroded since July. “At least I hope that didn’t have anything to do with his decision. Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t. Everybody knows we were good.” But not good enough apparently. The Cavs have problems — they’re 7-10 — but seeing James struggle to find his footing with the Heat has given some in Cleveland some private reassurance.

Despite some plane trouble, the Heat made it to Cleveland. The most anticipated game of the regular season is here, at last. And both teams say they’re ready.

We’ll find out very quickly tonight for whom this game matters to the most.