LeBron James makes home debut with Cavs

Posted: Tuesday, October 14, 2003

CLEVELAND - Sitting in a locker room recliner, LeBron James peeked over his shoulder at the white No. 23 Cavaliers jersey he'll wear in the NBA.

"It's like a dream come true," he said.

James has another vision.

"One day," he said eyeing his new jersey, "I hope it hangs from the rafters, too."

That ceremony is an entire career away, but things are looking up at Gund Arena for the Cavaliers.

Cleveland lost for the first time in three exhibition games, 87-81 Monday night to the Milwaukee Bucks, who spoiled James' preseason debut at home.

James gave a few glimpses of his promising future, scoring 10 points with six rebounds and three assists while playing a team-high 29 minutes.

However, for the third straight game, James struggled with his shot, going just 4-for-14 from the field. He also seemed hesitant to drive to the basket or try to take over as he usually did in high school.

It was another learning experience for James, who knows there are many highs and lows ahead for him and the Cavaliers.

"I got 40-some games here," James said. "One game is not going to bother me. Every night, you're not going to have it. In a couple weeks, we'll be clicking."

James knows he can do better.

"I need to be a little bit more aggressive," said James, who is now 11-for-33 from the floor in three games. "But at the same time, I have to think about my teammates."

A crowd of 16,354 - about 4,000 shy of a sellout - came to see James, who is expected to lift the Cavaliers from NBA dregs to title contenders.

There was a seldom felt buzz in the air in the normally serene building as the Cavaliers shot pregame warmups with flashbulbs going off whenever James touched the ball.

But many fans seemed disappointed when the Bucks, playing against Cleveland's backups, blew the game open by outscoring the Cavaliers 29-15 in the third period.

Some fans packed up and left, while others booed.

"I thought they were saying, 'Booze,"' James quipped, referring to teammate Carlos Boozer.

Boozer, a graduate of Juneau-Douglas High School, started and grabbed 13 rebounds in 27 minutes of play. He scored six points.

James did have his moments.

Just 12 seconds after the opening tip, he picked up a loose ball and made a long pass to Ricky Davis, who went in for an uncontested dunk. As Davis slammed it through, James raised both arms and index fingers over his head in celebration.

Later, James made a nice pass to Boozer in the lane, but the second-year forward didn't seem to expect it and lost control.

James, who played at the Gund while in high school and occasionally visited the Cavaliers in their locker room following games, scored his first basket at home with 2:53 left in the first quarter on a 5-foot bank shot.

He also fired one air ball and was way off on a couple other shots that barely grazed the rim.

"LeBron is coming along," coach Paul Silas said. "He's just a young player who has potential greatness but that will take awhile. As he plays the game, he'll figure things out."

Bucks guard Michael Redd was impressed with James, but he urged caution to Cavs fans who are expecting too much.

"He has all the potential in the world," he said. "It's going to take time. People have to understand that. But you can see there's game there."

Silas isn't worried about James beginning to doubt his ability while he learns the NBA's ropes.

"He won't do that," he said. "He's not that type of kid. Normally, it takes three years to find your niche. It won't take that long with him. The expectations, though, are way too high."

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