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  Thu, October 30, 2003


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Delicious in defeat
LeBron impresses in Cavs' loss

By BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

SACRAMENTO -- It wasn't so long ago that LeBron James was trick or treating.

"I'm a horror guy," James said. "I love horror movies. Halloween is probably my favourite holiday."

Well, Halloween isn't officially till tomorrow, but James' performance in his NBA debut last night was pretty scary. For the rest of the league, that is.

James' adolescent Cleveland Cavaliers lost 106-92 to the powerful Sacramento Kings in a surprisingly close game at Arco Arena, but the 18-year-old phenom was the most exciting player on the court. It was like a public-service announcement against staying in school.

James wound up with 25 points on 12-for-20 shooting, nine assists, six rebounds and four steals in 42 minutes. He started quickly, tired in the second quarter (although he claimed he wasn't fatigued), then found his legs again in the second half, but the overall review was indisputably positive.

"A basketball player," James said when asked what his best childhood Halloween costume was. "So I didn't really dress up at all." James didn't have to dress up to be regarded as a basketball player last night.

One could argue the last time James went door to door with an open bag, he came back with a Hummer, some expensive replica jerseys and a $90-million US shoe contract from Nike. That must have been some costume.

Many of the other Cavs had stretches last night when it looked as if they were wearing low-visibility masks. The notion that this collection somehow could challenge for a playoff spot probably still is folly, but it says something that the Cavs could stay in the game on the road against one of the best teams in the NBA.

In any event, despite suggestions to the contrary from Cleveland coach Paul Silas and James himself, last night was not about the Cavs collectively, but about LeBron.

A Nike commercial that has been playing for the past few weeks features James freezing up during his first game, holding the ball and not moving at all for several seconds before laughing and dribbling out of the frame. According to Kings point guard Mike Bibby, who is the man guarding James in the ad, the original script had a different ending.

"I don't know if he was supposed to dunk on me, but he was going to go by me and dunk," Bibby said. "So I told them, 'No.' I wasn't going for that."

That actually explains a lot, because the edited, less-humiliating-for-Bibby version of the commercial feels unfinished, like a pick without a roll.

James -- who started at point guard last night but did not play there exclusively -- did not freeze up when the ball tipped off for real. The 6-foot-8, 240-pound hoops prodigy provided the TV people with at least a half-dozen Grade 'A' highlights, which in a lot of ways is what this league is all about.

A few personal favourites:

* James grabbed his first rebound, dribbled up the court and threw up a perfect alley-oop pass to Ricky Davis.

* After a steal that resulted in a two-on-one break, James unselfishly gave up the ball to Davis for a big slam.

* James improvised an up-and-under move for a bucket that befuddled the Kings' Brad Miller, who earlier had promised to welcome James to the league with a hard foul.

"I tried not to think about (his individual performance) with a loss," James said. "I could have been more aggressive down the stretch."

Even though the Cavs succumbed, Silas could not help but be elated with James' play. Silas appears to be handling James the right way, although it was hard not to laugh when James described Silas as "probably the best coach I've ever had." That's not a real deep pool, is it LeBron?

What is deep is LeBron James' talent pool. We got our first real glimpse last night and it was easy to tell why he has been described as having the confidence of Superman, the athleticism of Spiderman and the intensity of Batman.

Hmmm ... that has the makings of a pretty good Halloween costume right there, doesn't it?









Do you like the new-look Raptors heading into the 2013-14 NBA season?
  Yes, new GM made great moves
  No, they will still be a terrible team
  Unsure what to make of it


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