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Sunday, July 20, 2003

The LeBron Show

I just returned from Umass-Boston, site of the Boston summer league, where I saw LeBron James and the Cavs lose to the Wizards, 80-76. LeBron had nine points, two rebounds and one assist in 24 minutes, shooting just 2-for-14 (full box score here). He was 5-of-8 on free throws, including two big misses with 15.6 seconds left and Washington leading 77-75. Then with 8 seconds to go and down 79-75, he hit one of two. Some in the crowd were yelling "overrated" and other unkind things by the end. I did not see any evidence that the thigh injury James sustained in yesterday's game was hobbling him, but I do wonder because he missed a bunch of makeable shots.

James did not score until about a minute into the second period (the quarters were 10 minutes long). When he went to the free throw line moments later, lots of flash bulbs were popping. When James entered the gym for the first time, coming through a narrow path between fans lining the way in, he alone had police officers both in front of and behind him. Then he started playing and people wondered what all the fuss was about. The one real highlight for him was a breakaway dunk in the 3rd that he got off the backboard from Darius Miles. James and Miles also played "can you top this" with some fancy dunks in warm-ups, eliciting ooohhhs from the crowd.

Juan Dixon, who despite a significant size disadvantage was guarding James much of the game, stole the show with a game-high 24 points. Dixon was clearly the best player on the floor. Miles was good too, though quiet in the second half until he made an unbelievable flying-dunk putback on the second free throw miss by James, only to have it not counted because he was pushing off a guy beneath him. Just the athleticism he showed to do that deserved a point at least. Carlos Boozer was solid for the Cavs too, with 16 points and 18 boards. No one from Washington could keep him off the backboard. The Wiz won without having first-round pick Jarvis Hayes and Kwame Brown available. Steve Blake looked like a legit NBA point with 10 assists. DeSagana Diop is way too slow ever to be any good--he had zero points.

In the first game, the Nets beat the Celtics; even in summer league New Jersey has Boston's number. The C's top pick, Marcus Banks, is quick as hell, and surprisingly he nailed some jumpers too, but he wasn't assertive enough on offense, I felt. The stat page shows he had 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting, and he should've shot more. Lenny Cooke was extremely active on the boards and athletic around the rim finishing. He ended up with 14 points, 13 rebounds and some in the crowd chanting "Lenny!" The Nets, though, looked more comfortable playing with another. As in the regular season and playoffs, they had good passing and got lots of layups against the porous Celtics D. Jim O'Brien, sitting courtside, must have had flashbacks.