Nothin’ but Net: LeBron’s mission took flight

Philadelphia, PA ( – All of that hype and for what? Nothing.

All of the hoopla and what did he get? A loss.

With all of the media scrutiny, and all of the stories written about him,
Thursday was a tough night for one of the biggest superstars in the world.

Yes, Thursday was a difficult night for Justin Beiber, but he left Quicken
Loans Arena with his head held high and supported by an overly large Pilgrim

It was a rough night for LeBron James, too.

The four-time MVP scored 17 points on 5-for-15 shooting and committed a
whopping eight turnovers. It was not a characteristic night from the greatest
professional athlete in the world, and James’ Cleveland Cavaliers fell to the
New York Knicks, 95-90.

The outcome matters. The Cavs are favored to win the Eastern Conference. The
Knicks will be lucky to make the postseason. It illustrated, especially early
on, the Cavs can’t roll the ball out and rely solely on talent.

However, it’s one of 82 and the Cavaliers weren’t going to win them all. They
aren’t perfect. They aren’t God, or Salma Hayek. They have warts and those
warts get exacerbated when the reality of newness sets in. James said some of
his turnovers were directly related to the fact he and his new mates haven’t
been together very long.

“I’m throwing passes where I was hoping some of my teammates would be,” James
said after the loss.

All of that can be remedied and it will. Talent reigns in the NBA and the Cavs
possess more of it than almost any other team. James will figure out when
Kyrie Irving cuts instead of stays. He’ll determine when Kevin Love is going
to roll or pop after a screen.

Familiarity will help the best player in the league. James might have been a
little too amped up for his return. But who cares? LeBron already took
gigantic strides toward his main goal and Thursday night was living, breathing

James told us in his essay his quest is to bring the city of Cleveland a
championship. One game starts the odyssey, but in the bigger picture, James
accomplished so much in just one night.

James, by his mere presence, brought a passion to a fan base robbed of it.
When James left town, the Cavs were awful, despite winning the lottery three
of the four years he was playing for a ring in Miami.

On Thursday night, the anticipation was fevered. The crowd responded
immediately, starting with the national anthem. Usher performed. Usher! With
all due respect to the middle-school contest winners, or local “American Idol”
rejects, the Cavs went large with one of the biggest recording artists in the

How did the crowd respond? They cheered throughout before eventually joining
Usher in his rendition.

“That was amazing. That was some college stuff there,” said James.

The player introductions were breathtaking. The Cavs announced the Knicks to
NWO theme music, which was brilliant. (NWO were bad-guy wrestlers back in the
day, Mom.)

The Cavs video presentation was epic. It showed highlights of prominent
Cavaliers playing high-school ball to drive home the theme, highlighted by
James closing the presentation saying, “there’s no place like home.” The
video elicited the exact reaction intended – frenzy and excitement. If I was
ever to dunk a basketball, Thursday night was the time, even being 38 and
slightly plumper than a mumps patient.

He even brought back the chalk toss thing! The chalk toss!

Kevin Hart didn’t come to watch Tristan Thompson last season. Getting Beiber
was a major coup, and one that didn’t come about because of Matthew

It’s all because of James. His plan, in a roundabout way, was to rejuvenate a
city. He did that already based on what we witnessed in Cleveland on Thursday

And Cleveland needed rejuvenation, at least in sports.

The Indians missed the playoffs this season. The Browns looked great early,
but have tailed a bit. The town needed stars. Johnny Manziel is more likely to
marry a descendant of the Kardashian family, than excel at the NFL level.

James was the answer for the city.

“It was a huge night. It was exciting for the fans, exciting for the city,”
James said. “Everyone was excited for this game. I just tried to stay focused.
It was a special night for everybody. I’m glad it was great, I’m also glad
it’s over.”

His mission is partly accomplished already. James has gotten a city back to
believing and it responded. The ultimate goal is a championship. That will
make James a hero.

On Thursday night, the trek began. LeBron James’ plan for his hometown got off
to a poor start in the standings, but in the bigger picture, he’s already
become a savior for Cleveland.


– The Russell Westbrook hand injury puts him virtually on the same timetable
as Kevin Durant for a return to the Oklahoma City Thunder. In the Western
Conference, the Thunder will need close to 50 wins just to make the
postseason. They should still be able to do that in that amount of time
available, but it will be close. This OKC group needs to win probably seven
games to make it as easy as possible when the pair returns. Could be tough
sledding, especially offensively. It’s unimaginable for the Thunder not to be
in the playoffs.

– Friday night is the deadline for the draft class of 2011 to sign extensions.
To date, only six members of the class have signed extensions – Kyrie Irving,
Kemba Walker, Markieff and Marcus Morris, Nikola Vucevic and Kenneth Faried.
Reports suggest Jimmy Butler, Reggie Jackson and Kawhi Leonard are far apart
with their teams. Klay Thompson is the biggest prize and is seeking a max
contract extension. By the time the candy is counted, next summer’s free-agent
class will be better defined. Teams beware – what you think are lofty prices
now, only get loftier on the open market. They can match, but you’ll pay more

– Game ball to the Knicks. After the horrendous outing against the Chicago
Bulls on Wednesday, they went into Cleveland and emerged victorious with all
that went on at the Q. That was a tough, well-earned victory.

– Movie moment – You’d think, after so much time away from this portion of my
column, I’d have watched several films, but that would be untrue. I did re-
watch “The Lion King.” It’s amazing how quickly the story moved. We meet the
family, dead lion, boy meets two new animals, they return, he wins the

– TV moment – If I had to pick a reality show that would have gotten canceled
because one of the principals dated a registered sex offender, it would have
been “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.”