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  Thu, January 8, 2004


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No crowning debut in T.O. for King James

By BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

LeBron James was asked which of his many TV commercials is his favourite.

"The newest one," James said. "The Nike commercial with Bernie Mac is my favourite."

In case you haven't seen the ad, Mac is a preacher in a church-like setting on a basketball court, extolling the virtues of the saviour James. At least according to the guys who wrote the commercial, James' most special gift is his ability to pass the basketball.

Now, when James fired up three consecutive air-balls in the third quarter at the Air Canada Centre last night -- he got bailed out with a goaltending call on one of them -- the cynics were whispering that if James is going to shoot the ball like that, he had better be able to pass. But while James ended up with a pedestrian but game-high 21 points and five assists in a truly ugly affair, it wasn't enough as his Cleveland Cavaliers fell 75-69 to the Raptors.

"I wasn't too upset with (James') point total," Cavs coach Paul Silas said. "But he only had two rebounds in 38 minutes, and that's unacceptable."

There was plenty of "unacceptable" to go around, on both sides.

Predictably, there was a sellout crowd to see the 19-year-old James, who arguably is the most hyped rookie in the history of the NBA. But even though the seats were full, there wasn't much of a buzz in the building until the Raptors' Vince Carter awoke from a deep slumber to score 11 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter.

James heard a few cheers when he was introduced with the Cleveland starters, but nothing out of the ordinary. The game wasn't exactly a barn-burner, either, with Carter misfiring like a drunken sniper and Raptors rookie Chris Bosh going down in the third quarter with a right knee injury, so the atmosphere never really got electrified.

Despite a pre-season pledge that he wouldn't do so, Silas has James playing point guard almost exclusively. While that may be the best thing for the Cavs right now, it isn't the best thing for fans in rival cities. No matter what Bernie Mac says, for the average guy sitting in the seats it would be more exciting to see James slash to the hoop rather than feeding Zydrunas Ilgauskas for a 15-foot jumper.

When fans hear so much about a player, they want him to be Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson or Larry Bird, or maybe all three rolled into one. James didn't quite reach that level last night.

Coincidentally, when Silas was asked yesterday if he is reminded of any player from the past when he looks at James, the name that came up probably is not familiar to many fans of the modern-day NBA.

Gus Johnson, a 6-foot-6, 230-pounder nicknamed Honeycomb, played professionally from 1963 to 1973. In a little more than nine NBA seasons, he averaged 17.1 points, 12.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists.

The NBA's bean-counters probably will have heart attacks at the thought of James being marketed as the next Gus Johnson. But James probably wouldn't care one way or the other. What's done is done.

When asked if he could recall the last time he was able to walk around unrecognized, he replied, "I can't remember. Maybe when I'm home, by myself."

Is James finding it hard to meet expectations?

"I don't live up to hype," he said. "I go out and play my game."

James may have played a scaled-down version of his game last night, but it wasn't close to the one that created all that hype in the first place.

Sadly, King James' first visit to Hogtown produced nothing memorable. Maybe he'll be more spectacular when he's back in Toronto on March 10, so Raptors fans can see first-hand what all the fuss is about.









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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