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LeBron wants action

Posted: Sunday, June 29, 2003

CLEVELAND As he shot jumpers, LeBron James wore a dazzling $500,000 watch on his wrist, diamonds in his ears, a cell phone on his belt and a big smile.

Some things about him may never change.

James returned home Friday, less than 24 hours after being chosen No. 1 overall in the NBA draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

And after a ceremonial news conference where he was welcomed to the team and presented with a No. 23 jersey, James grabbed a ball and began to play.

''I haven't played in a game in 3 1/2 months,'' said James, who was joined on the floor by Cavs forward Darius Miles. ''It's killing me.''

Following a whirlwind week in New York, James was glad to be home and the Cavaliers couldn't wait to see the player who has already changed their image.

''He's very, very special,'' said team owner Gordon Gund, who placed James' arrival in Cleveland on par with anything he has experienced since taking over the Cavaliers in 1983.

''We've had great first picks, but this one is something else. We haven't won an NBA title yet, so this is right up there. It was just our time, I think.''

An exhausted James flew to Cleveland late Friday morning following an emotional night at Madison Square Garden when the 18-year-old lived out a boyhood dream.

''I guess I had some sleep, if that's what you want to call it,'' James said. ''But I'm young. I don't need sleep.''

James said he was overwhelmed when his named was called by NBA commissioner David Stern.

''That was a dream come true,'' he said. ''I had known I was going to be the first pick. But to shake David Stern's hand was what I always dreamed about. It didn't really matter what team I rooted for when I was little. I just wanted to be up there (on stage). It was like a final step, and a new beginning.''

As he did during an action-packed week of photo shoots and appearances in New York, James flawlessly handled questions during his first interviews since returning to Cleveland.

He laughed when asked if he was sick of answering the same kind of questions.

''I just said that before I got up here,'' said James, joined on the podium by Gund, Cleveland coach Paul Silas and general manager Jim Paxson. ''But it's cool, y'all are my friends.''

Silas, who was hired shortly after the Cavaliers won the NBA lottery and the rights to James, had only met the most hyped high school player one other time.

Silas has never seen a player James' age who is as talented, mature or confident.

''I have not, especially with the poise he has,'' Silas said. ''There has been so much thrown at him, so fast. It's amazing how he handles it. He says the right things and he doesn't get into confrontations with other guys.''

Silas, though, knows James is an unfinished product. There will be some rough days ahead.

''He's still got a lot of growing to do,'' Silas said. ''He'll have his ups and downs but the cream rises, and I think he's got quite a lot of that.''

James is already the center of attention in Cleveland, and the city has been buzzing since May 22 when the Cavaliers won the draft lottery.

Following the news conference, James went across the street to Jacobs Field where he took some pregame batting practice and threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Indians played the Cincinnati Reds.

He spent a few minutes chatting in the dugout with Ken Griffey Jr. and was introduced to Sean Casey before James went to Cleveland's clubhouse, met some more players and exchanged phone numbers with Indians pitcher C.C. Sabathia.

James should have asked for some hitting tips.

The 6-foot-8 forward flailed awkwardly at pitches being lobbed at him by Cincinnati coach Tom Hume, who thinks James should stick to hoops.

''Whew,'' Hume said when asked about James' baseball prowess. ''He needs some work.''



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