|It's a miracle! King James does it all|
By Graham Hays
Page 2 staff
The revolution will be televised, but not until late-night. Following baseball's lead in the promotion of sleep deprivation, the NBA schedules LeBron James' debut for Sacramento at 10:30 ET on a Wednesday night. Maybe it's the late hour or maybe it's the caffeine in my system, but there's something magic in the air at Arco Arena.
I have to watch. Don't you? Big things are about to happen. Really Big Things.
But first ...
It's 10:32 p.m. on the East Coast, and the Knicks and Magic are still playing. ESPN just cut away from that so-called action to show LeBron stretching before his game, surrounded by more cameras than the red carpet at the Golden Globes. Meanwhile, Dasagna Diop has just arrived on the court, greeted only by the sound of one hand clapping.
The Knicks game is winding to a close -- St. John's and Hofstra give the MSG scoreboard more of a workout than this slugfest. Watching Dikembe Mutombo creak across the lane, you can't help but wonder what life would be like if the Knicks had won the lottery. Instead of LeBron in Manhattan, Knicks fans get Methuselah Mutombo and Keith Van Horn. Spike Lee just looks depressed.
Apparently, there is no such thing as too much of a bad thing. We've got overtime between the Knicks and Magic. But that's OK. The Keith Bogans updates should provide some compelling reading ... luckily, ESPN bows to reality and soon switches to the Cavs-Kings, skipping overtime at Madison Square Garden.
And there he is. There's LeBron putting some kind of powder on his hands at the scorer's table, possibly to keep them dry up against all the nerves he must be feeling. Or possibly, he's preparing for the healing they've scheduled for him during the first TV timeout. Lots of sick people in need out there in California.
There's no sign of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the crowd -- he's busy panhandling in Washington -- but there are no shortage of familiar faces in Arco's expensive seats. Fresh off his near miss in the recall election, Gary Coleman is sitting in the front row. Or, at least, he's kneeling by the front row and pouring a beer for someone.
And it's good to see Jesus, Mohammed and Buddha make an appearance. Three of the most revered figures of organized religion are seated right behind Cleveland's bench, apparently here to scout the competition. I knew it was going to be big.
Now LeBron greets the Kings before the opening tip, hugging Doug Christie. The exchange sends Christie's wife into a fit of jealous rage. Unable to convince police officers to arrest King James, she settles for getting the Kings to fire the nearest usher. Hey, he looked at her husband for too long.
The First Quarter
Zydrunas Ilgauskas backs down Vlad Divac on the first play, but is called for traveling and bearing false witness against LeBron. The heathen! On the Cavs next possession, Ilgauskas seems intent on proving that Cleveland's offense run through him, missing a jumper from the baseline. David Stern is already on the phone with the INS, preparing deportation papers.
Meanwhile, Sean Elliott just said James has the best body on the court. He's obviously not looking at the cheerleaders.
ESPN switches back to overtime in New York City. Will this be the Heidi game in reverse? I try to call my friend, an ardent Cleveland fan, but my cell phone is still experiencing problems from today's solar flare. Officials at NASA believe the Sun is miffed that it was being eclipsed by LeBron.
Studio host Kevin Frazier tells me I've missed James' first assist, as Cleveland trails 9-8 in the early going. He doesn't say we've also missed James' first three missed field goals, but I'm willing to give good odds on it.
The Magic are up five with 38.9 seconds left. Listening to the Cavs' game on a portable radio with his cap pulled low over his eyes, Spike doesn't notice Charlie Ward racing towards him for a loose ball as Kurt Thomas stands wide open under the basket. Reaching for the bounding ball, Lee tips it away from Ward, depriving the Knicks of an opportunity to win the game. Nobody in the crowd seems to care.
Now John Saunders tells us that James has six points in the early going. Apparently, LeBron also has cured an old lady's blindness, solved California's budget crisis, mounted a recall election to get Governor-elect Schwarzenegger out of office and grilled up some salmon for the fans in the front row.
ESPN finally shows a highlight of James scoring his first bucket. You know, if the game in New York goes to a second overtime, I'm going to wonder about conspiracy theories. Whatever happened to that soundstage the government used to stage the moon landing?
I swear one of the girls in the front row at Madison Square Garden was on the "Real World London." Apparently, Rocco DiSpirito and Enrique Wilson were too busy to attend tonight's game. Spike is so despondent, he's listening to someone pitch him on "Dickie Roberts 2."
We're finally back to the Cleveland game, with 2:31 left in the first quarter and the Kings up, 31-25. James has scored 10 points, including a tomahawk dunk and a gratuitous assist where he stopped on a breakaway and flipped the ball to Ricky Davis for a dunk. I'm starting to get the feeling I missed the boat on this one.
Brad Nessler, Elliott and Dan Majerle can't stop talking about the maturity and leadership James showed by passing on his own dunk and giving Davis the finish. They announce that he's meeting with Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat at halftime.
Now James misses a short jumper but grabs the rebound and puts it back in. Fantasy owners are going to love this guy. That's as many rebounds as Reggie Miller gets in a month.
Doug Christie comes out of the game. Confused, Christie asks Rick Adelman what he did wrong. The coach just points to Christie's wife and tells him he missed the sign. Christie hurries off to get her a diet coke and a pretzel -- salt on half.
With a second left, James misses a half-court heave as the period ends. The scouting report on this guy: His half-court runners look a little flat. He needs to get his elbow in and work on a quicker release.
See? He isn't perfect.
James sits down for the first time. Guest analyst Grady Little disagrees with the decision, saying he would have won or lost with James playing all 48 minutes. Fans suddenly realize they paid $300 to watch J.R. Bremer, Kevin Ollie, Desagana Diop and Chris Mihm and are considering alternate uses for their cowbells.
Sitting on the bench, LeBron puts his Advanced Placement Chemistry to use as he works on a cure for cancer. The guy really can do it all, ladies and gentlemen.
Halfway through the quarter, LeBron is back in the game following a commercial break, while lawyers scramble for a patent on his cancer cure. Meanwhile, the Cavs trail by 13 points.
He fails to score in the second quarter, and the Cavs go to the half trailing. The NBA immediately expunges the period from the official record book, lest LeBron's image be tarnished. Soon, even these few sentences will be erased from the written record. So much for the cancer cure. If only he'd scored ...
Jim Gray shows off LeBron's shoes, which Nike will have in stores in time for Christmas for the reasonable price of $110. Under Gray's intense interrogation, the shoes admit to betting on baseball.
As this is happening, Bremer and Carlos Boozer are playing two-man isolation on the right side. The other Cavs stand around on the left side of the court and swap LeBron stories.
Heeding the sign from his wife, Christie fouls James on a 3-point attempt as the shot clock expires. In a nod toward the fallibility of his followers, LeBron misses the first two free throws. He hits the third attempt, as a symbol of the ultimate redemption available to the faithful.
The King pulls off possibly the move of the night, pulling the Cavs to within one with a driving layup where he shifts the ball in the air from right hand by hip to left-hand layup. If you watch in slow motion, James actually pauses in mid-air, pulls a Sharpie out of his sock and signs the ball while switching hands. Let's see Carmelo Anthony do that!
If that isn't the definition of greatness, this is: enabling J.R. Bremer to score 20 points. James just hit Bremer with another cross-court pass for an open three-pointer, and the Cavs have the lead.
Later, on an ugly runner, James misses everything but the glass. He suddenly looks tired. The Kings score on the ensuing possession, pushing their lead to four.
Moments after hitting a jumper that gives him 23 points, James draws an offensive foul with a partial flop on Divac. The Serbian center begins to complain about the call, saying that LeBron was acting. But then he is hit by a bolt of lightning, followed by a shower of black pots and kettles. The action continues.
On the bench for another breather, James appears to choke while taking a swig from a water bottle. Later, he says he hadn't expected the water to turn into a nice '54 merlot.
With 5 1/2 minutes left, James comes off the bench. Instant polling from Zogby shows he's currently running 12 points ahead of Howard Dean in New Hampshire and four points ahead of George Bush on the national level.
Standing outside the 3-point line, LeBron takes one dribble and glides down the center of the lane before throwing in a finger roll. For the first time in the history of this move in the NBA, it doesn't appear as if he traveled.
But it's not enough. As the clock expires, James airballs a 3-pointer, and the Sacramento crowd jeers the rookie. This is exactly the kind of grasp of the moment that earned these people their new governor.
LeBron finishes with 25 points, nine assists, six rebounds and four steals in 42 minutes. Despite being burdened by, arguably, more hype than any athlete in history -- not to mention Diop -- James has put on a show for the ages. His poise and grace are as dazzling as his moves, offering up far more substance than style.
I'm just glad the Cavs play most of their games in the Eastern time zone. We really need his help back here.
Graham Hays writes "Out of the Box" five days a week in-between moonlighting for Page 2. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.