Cavs rookie displays NBA savvy

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- LeBron James' second assist was more impressive than his first basket.

Making his professional debut in the Cleveland Cavaliers' first exhibition game, James was a better passer than scorer in a 100-96
victory over the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday night.

James shot 4-for-12 while scoring eight points with three rebounds and seven assists -- the prettiest of which came as he was cutting across the lane midway through the first quarter. As a second defender came over, James quickly delivered a no-look, behind-the-back bounce pass to Zydrunas Ilgauskas for a dunk.

It was the play of the night from the 18-year-old phenom on an evening when he struggled with his outside shot but would have had more assists if his teammates had converted his other nifty passes.

James' only basket of the first half was a breakaway dunk off a steal by Ricky Davis. Knowing he was all alone, James fully extended his right arm and flushed home a one-handed jam. The dunk
was replayed twice on the main scoreboard.

The pass to Ilgauskas came less than two minutes later -- one of James' four assists in the quarter -- and thrilled a near-sellout crowd of 20,862 that booed him during introductions and after his
first basket.

One heckler made James laugh by telling him his car was ugly, but James had little other interaction with a crowd sprinkled with fans wearing replicas of James' wine-and-gold Cavaliers jersey. Many more No. 23 jerseys will be bought and worn this season as most fans get their first look at the most hyped prep player ever to make the jump directly to the NBA. James was the No. 1 pick in
last June's draft.

"The biggest difference between this and high school is that I don't have to go to class anymore," James said. "The level of play is so much higher here. In high school, you could take a few
minutes off and coast a little. You can't take a second off in the NBA."

James was under the watchful eye of veteran referee Joey Crawford as the players came out for the opening tip.

James, unadorned by the headband and arm sleeves he wore in high school, walked over toward the Detroit bench and greeted each starter individually, calling several Pistons by name while exchanging hugs and pounding fists as Crawford watched bemusedly from the center circle.

Crawford later made sure James tucked in his shirt, then called the rookie for the type of ticky-tack hand-checking foul that referees use in the preseason to test a young player's response.

James shrugged off the call, similar to his non-response in the fourth quarter when he tried to draw a charge against rookie Ronald Dupree but Crawford whistled a blocking foul instead.

"I just want to see what he's going to bring to the table. There's a lot of hype around him," said Detroit's Ben Wallace,
whose curiosity mirrors that of many who have not yet seen James play.

The Pistons credentialed more than 100 media for a game in which the enduring image of James was his passing. He had assists off two other no-look passes, although he also had a drive swatted away by Wallace and shot an airball on one of his first attempts from the outside.

James spend only a few moments on the court together with Serbian teenager Darko Milicic, who was taken second overall in the draft by Detroit. Milicic was only 2-of-8 from the field and 1-for-4 from the line for five points.