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Expectations for James more than met

10/30/2003

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- LeBrilliant -- except for the result.

LeBron James more than lived up to his hype in the first
regular-season game of his NBA career, playing like no other
18-year-old ever had in his professional debut as the Cleveland
Cavaliers lost 106-92 Wednesday night to the Sacramento Kings.

James had 25 points, nine assists, six rebounds and four steals,
mesmerizing one of the league's loudest crowds with skills no
teenager had ever displayed at this level.

"I think that was LeBron's statement to the league that he's
here. He's for real," said James' agent, Aaron Goodwin.

James' point total was by far the most by any prep-to-pro rookie
since Kobe Bryant made the jump in 1996, eclipsing the 10 points
scored by both Jonathan Bender of Indiana in his 1999 debut and
Amare Stoudemire of Phoenix last year.

In fact, James' 25 eclipsed the combined totals of Bryant (no
points), Jermaine O'Neal (two), Kwame Brown (two), Eddy Curry
(two), Tyson Chandler (one), Kevin Garnett (eight) and Tracy
McGrady (none) in their professional debuts.

"They've had great careers already," James said. "I'm just
going to try to do the best I can."

That he did, leading the Cavaliers back from an early 19-point
deficit and giving Cleveland its first lead by feeding J.R. Bremer
for a 3-pointer that made it 85-83 with 10:05 left in the fourth.
That, however, would be James' last assist, and Sacramento regained
control with a 6-0 run.

The Cavaliers never made a game of it down the stretch, and
James capped his night by shooting an airball from 3-point range
just before the final buzzer, drawing taunts from the fans.

Those taunts, however, were only halfhearted. James had
entertained the fans too much to be treated too shabbily.

"It was the first I've seen of him, and I was real impressed.
He's the real deal," Sacramento center Vlade Divac said.

"He's a talent. Look at how he plays. The best thing about him
is how he distributes the ball. He does it extremely well," Kings
guard Bobby Jackson said.

Though the Cavaliers often were uncreative running their
halfcourt offense, James made things happen whenever he was moving
with the ball -- using his first step to get around defenders and
initiate action.

He momentarily lost control of his dribble in the third quarter,
causing Doug Christie to lunge at him in an attempt for a steal.
James deftly recovered and moved quickly into the lane, finding
Darius Miles along the baseline for an alley-oop dunk.

James' best stretch of the third quarter included a high-arcing
bank over Divac on a 1-on-3 break, followed by a left handed
finger-roll from 5 feet away in the lane.

As impressive as that stretch was, it was equaled by what James
did right from the get-go.

Just 88 seconds into the game, James earned his first
professional assist on an alley-oop pass to Ricky Davis for a dunk.
His first shot was a 12-footer from the right corner that swished
and was followed by an identical shot from the opposite corner.

Next came the jumper of the night, James twisting and releasing
a shot simultaneously from a tough angle in the right corner over
the outstretched arm of 7-footer Brad Miller. Swish again.

"He obviously was good tonight. He's got a lot of talent. He
gets to the basket, he sees the floor. For the first game, you had
to be impressed," Kings coach Rick Adelman said.

James finished the first quarter with a lookaway pass on the
fast break for a dunk by Carlos Boozer, along with a dunk of his
own following a steal. James had a chance moments later for another
breakaway dunk, but he unselfishly underhanded the ball to Davis
and let someone else throw down something for the highlight reel.

James ended the quarter 6-for-10 from the field with three
assists and two rebounds. He was 12-for-20 from the field for the
game following a preseason in which he struggled with his shooting
touch.

"Coach Silas told me not to start too early. I like criticism.
It makes you strong," James said.

Though James did not attempt a shot in the second quarter, there
was a buzz in Arco Arena at halftime -- and it had almost nothing to
do with the Kings' exceptional play.

"That was Mike-like," one fan said of James' third jumper.

"That steal and dunk, I can't believe I had my head down and
missed it," one Kings employee bemoaned.

There would be more in store for them and for everyone else who
watched the second half, and there's no doubt that James will be
doing this again in the future. He was worthy of the hype, no
question, and the hype won't stop if James plays this way every
night.

Game notes
Peja Stojakovic led Sacramento with 22 points, Mike Bibby
had 19, Divac 18 and Miller and Bobby Jackson each added 16. ...
Bremer came off the bench to add 20 for Cleveland. ... The Kings
went 15-0 last season at home against Eastern Conference opponents.