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Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Updated: December 5, 5:34 PM ET
LeBron looks at home at MSG

By Chris Sheridan
ESPN.com

NEW YORK -- His first attempt was a set shot from the 3-point line, and naturally, he drilled it.

His toes never completely left the floor on his second shot either, this one another 3-pointer that drained through the bottom of the net.

So, it was immediately clear Tuesday night that LeBron James was quite comfortable with his feet planted squarely on the ground in this, his favorite city, and the King barely had to break a sweat as the Cleveland Cavaliers romped past New York 119-101 in James' first game at the Garden since he dropped 50 on the Knicks late last season.

This, however, was the first time that James had entered the building with the locals having legitimate reason to believe their future savior was setting foot in his future home. The game came four nights after the Knicks made two major trades that set the course for the future direction of their franchise, clearing $27 million of salary cap room for 2010-11 when they traded away Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford.

"July 1, 2010 is probably going to be one of the biggest days in free agent history in the NBA, a lot of teams are putting themselves in position to get one of those guys, they're gearing up for that date," James said before spewing the requisite background quasi-disclaimer on how having the opportunity to win the most championships will ultimately be one of the major deciding factors when he chooses to move on with his life or stick with Cleveland as the center of his universe.

James even brought up Tim Duncan and the small-market San Antonio Spurs, saying he was in awe of how Duncan had settled for less than max contracts to allow the team to retain key players Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.

"It's not the market you're in, it's all about winning with me, and that's what this league has always been about," James said.

The New York media, never shy about calling out on athlete on something he just said, asked if James was implying that he'd take less than the maximum amount to help ensure how much quality he'll be surrounded with two years from now.

"Oh, I didn't say that. I like the talent part, bringing the talent in, but I didn't say I'd take less," James said.

He won't have to take less, but he'll need to be spurred by something such as excitement and/or hope. But there wasn't quite the buzz in the building that many had expected, and those in attendance didn't even have the creativity to put together even a single "We want LeBron" chant to help kill the time after the Cavs went up by 29 before halftime.

James was asked flat-out before the game whether he'd like to play for the Knicks some day, and he avoided a direct answer.

"To bring that type of a distraction to our team right now would be unfair to my team, my teammates, the coaching staff and the rest of the organization," he said.

If Cleveland was coming off on or two titles, would that make the decision easier or harder?

"I don't know. We'll do our best to win it this and next year. Like I said, July 1 is a big day. I know that. I can't sit here and say I don't know how big July 1 of 2010 is, it's going to be a big day, but for me to give to an answer of whether I'm staying or not, or where I'm going or playing, I don't know."

And that's really the bottom line here over the next two seasons as the fans in Cleveland watch their team win 75 percent of their games and the folks in New York witness the opposite. The trades of Crawford and Randolph took away the Knicks' two leading scorers, they lost Nate Robinson to a groin injury Tuesday night, and they were so vertically challenged underneath that Cleveland had no problem turning this one into a rout early by exploiting every mismatch they could find down low.

That, plus LeBron's set-shot 3s, was more than enough to put the Cavs in charge early, where they remained.

"I work at it, so I'm able to change different shots out there on the perimeter. It's something I don't do much, but it's something I work at -- and if I need to resort to going to that, I can," he said.

James has also worked hard at making sure everyone will be walking on eggshells when it comes to impacting his future, and it has become clear he will not tip his hand too far in the direction of the Knicks or the Cavs -- or the Nets or anyone else, for that matter -- until the time is right.

"You have to stay open-minded if you're a Knicks fan," James said before delivering his parting words. "If you guys want to sleep right now and don't wake up until July 1, 2010, then go ahead. It's going to be a big day."