Thu, Oct 02, 2003 - Page 20 News List

LeBron James stirs up excitement

AP , CLEVELAND, OHIO

Cavaliers rookie LeBron James shoots the ball during the opening day of training camp at Gund Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, Tuesday.

PHOTO: EPA

On his first official day as an NBA player, LeBron James did all he could to blend in with the Cleveland Cavaliers' other rookies.

Impossible.

Cleveland opened training camp Tuesday at Gund Arena, and as expected, all eyes were on James, the 18-year-old local kid who has already made the Cavaliers one of the league's hottest tickets before playing his first game.

Following the morning practice session, Cavs coach Paul Silas was asked how "he" did?

"Who?" Silas asked, winking.

"LeBron."

"Oh," a smiling Silas said.

The Cavaliers began preparing for a season that promises to be unlike any in their history. They've already had one abnormal practice.

Several dozen media members were on hand to watch James work out with his new team.

The throng of reporters was larger than any to attend one of Cleveland's home games in recent memory. No surprise, really.

The Cavaliers won just 17 games last season, and haven't exactly been fighting the Los Angeles Lakers for national attention lately.

"We were a little giddy before practice," said second-year forward Carlos Boozer. "We're excited because we know we're better."

Indeed, times have changed in Cleveland, which has had all summer to prepare for LeBronmania. Now, it's here.

"I'm just glad it has started and he's on the floor," general manager Jim Paxson said. "It's been a long summer. It's time, and we're glad to be back at work."

So was James, whose childhood dream of playing in the NBA is finally becoming a reality.

"This is another beginning for me," he said.

Being a rookie has rekindled memories of being a wet-behind-the ears high school freshman, before he became a consensus national player of the year and A-list celebrity.

"In high school I was up here," he said, holding his hand just above his head. "But now I'm back down here. When I was a freshman in high school, I had leaders. When the team comes to me and tells me to be a leader vocally, I can do that because I've done it so much. Right now, I'm just trying to keep my mouth closed and take on my role. I'm back to being a role player."

During the portion of practice open to reporters, James gave some glimpses of why he has Cleveland fans talking about the Cavaliers and not laughing them off.

"He has a chance to be a special player," Silas said. "He has that something that you can't teach, something the really good players have. But it's going to take him some time."

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