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LeBron James dazzles in NBA debut

SACRAMENTO — The NBA got its first official dose of LeBron-mania Wednesday night. And the early prognosis is that it could be fatal for opponents of the Cleveland Cavaliers even though they lost to the Sacramento Kings 106-92 in LeBron James' regular-season debut.

SACRAMENTO — The NBA got its first official dose of LeBron-mania Wednesday night. And the early prognosis is that it could be fatal for opponents of the Cleveland Cavaliers even though they lost to the Sacramento Kings 106-92 in LeBron James' regular-season debut.James, the No. 1 pick in the June draft, served notice that there is more to his game than hype as he scored 25 points and had six rebounds and nine assists.The victory was the 18th in a row for the Kings at Arco Arena against Eastern Conference teams. "I think I could've helped my team a little bit more down the stretch," James said. "Once they started making their run, I could've been a little more aggressive. Just trying to pull out a victory and steal one on the West Coast."James' presence helped create an atmosphere more akin to the playoffs than a season opener. The Kings issued 350 media credentials, twice the usual number for a regular-season game, and the sellout crowd — the 180th in a row for the Kings — included baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, basketball Hall of Famer Moses Malone and Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker. "We've got to be thankful to the NBA for giving us this," Kings co-owner Joe Maloof said. "This is the biggest thing ever for Sacramento. I'm pulling for him. It's not often a guy like him comes around."James acknowledged having butterflies before tip-off, but they soon disappeared as he scored 12 first-quarter points while displaying a variety of skills.Before the start of the second half, James got a peck on the cheek from his mother, Gloria James, who was seated at courtside, for a job well done. But there was more to come. James began the third period by scoring three consecutive buckets and drawing fans to the edge of their seats each time he touched the ball.After James' third basket, and 18th point, a left-handed scoop shot on Peja Stojakovic on a fast break, one Kings fan had seen enough. "Come on, Peja, don't let the rookie school you," the fan yelled.However, James' individual brilliance was no match for the Kings' overall balance, which makes them one of the favorites in the Western Conference. "We're not worried about that (James' hype)," Mike Bibby said. "Our main goal is to win. This is the first step."In fact, James' 25 eclipsed the combined totals of Bryant (no points), Jermaine O'Neal (two), Kwame Brown (two), Eddy Curry (two), Tyson Chandler (one), Kevin Garnett (eight) and Tracy McGrady (none) in their professional debuts. James led the Cavaliers back from an early 19-point deficit, giving Cleveland its first lead by feeding J.R. Bremer for a 3-pointer that made it 85-83 with 10:05 left in the fourth. Sacramento regained control with a 6-0 run, and the Cavaliers never made a game of it down the stretch. James capped his night by shooting an airball from 3-point range just before the final buzzer, drawing taunts from the fans. Those taunts, however, were only half-hearted. James entertained the fans too much to be treated too shabbily. Though the Cavaliers often were uncreative running their halfcourt offense, James made things happen whenever he was moving with the ball — using his first step to get around defenders and initiate action. He momentarily lost control of his dribble in the third quarter, causing Doug Christie to lunge at him in an attempt for a steal. James deftly recovered and moved quickly into the lane, finding Darius Miles along the baseline for an alley-oop dunk. James' best stretch of the third quarter included a high-arcing bank over Vlade Divac on a 1-on-3 break, followed by a left handed finger-roll from 5 feet away in the lane. As impressive as that stretch was, it was equaled by what James did right from the get-go. Just 88 seconds into the game, James earned his first professional assist on an alley-oop pass to Ricky Davis for a dunk. His first shot was a 12-footer from the right corner that swished and was followed by an identical shot from the opposite corner. Next came the jumper of the night, James twisting and releasing a shot simultaneously from a tough angle in the right corner over the outstretched arm of 7-footer Brad Miller. Swish again. James finished the first quarter with a lookaway pass on the fast break for a dunk by Carlos Boozer, along with a dunk of his own following a steal. James had a chance moments later for another breakaway dunk, but he unselfishly underhanded the ball to Davis and let someone else throw down something for the highlight reel. James ended the quarter 6-for-10 from the field with three assists and two rebounds. He was 12-for-20 from the field for the game. Though James did not attempt a shot in the second quarter, there was a buzz in Arco Arena at halftime — and it had almost nothing to do with the Kings' exceptional play. "That was Mike-like," one fan said of James' third jumper. "That steal and dunk, I can't believe I had my head down and missed it," one Kings employee bemoaned. There would be more in store for them and for everyone else who watched the second half, and there's no doubt that James will be doing this again in the future. He was worthy of the hype, no question, and the hype won't stop if James plays this way every night.Notes: Peja Stojakovic led Sacramento with 22 points, Mike Bibby had 19, Divac 18 and Miller and Bobby Jackson each added 16. ... Bremer came off the bench to add 20 for Cleveland. ... The Kings went 15-0 last season at home against Eastern Conference opponents. ... Divac showed he has not lost his penchant for whining, frequently complaining and gesturing when several calls didn't go his way.

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