With free agency awaiting him in 2010, LeBron James put on a show for the New York metropolitan area and its deep-pocket teams highlighted by length-of-the court sprint to block a dunk by Devin Harris.
James had 31 points, eight rebounds and four assists in another dominating performance and the Cleveland Cavaliers rolled to their eighth straight win with a 106-82 decision over the New Jersey Nets on Tuesday night.
The play that everyone will remember is the block. The 23-year-old James came from 20 feet behind the track down the Nets point guard, forcing him to rush a dunk that the high-flying James touched.
“I just never gave up on the play,” James said. “That’s how we all are. You never give up on plays no matter if a guy is in front of you or what.”
Harris laughed when asked if he saw James coming at full throttle.
“He’s 6-9 and 260,” Harris said. “You try to quick dunk him if you can. If not, hey, he got a piece of it. He came back and he played it. If I had a good ankle, now that would be something to think about. You got to go for it. I had my shot at it and I missed it, you move on.”
The question of moving on is a big part of James’ life. The 23-year-old can become a free agent in 2010, and there already has been speculation that the Nets and the New York Knicks are already clearing salary cap room to make a run at the superstar who on Tuesday became the youngest NBA player to reach the 11,000-point plateau.
Before the game, James said he would not hesitate to leave Cleveland if another franchise offers him a better chance to win multiple NBA titles.
“I think you do what is best for you and you do what is best for your career,” James said when asked about his sense of loyalty to the Cavaliers before they played the Nets in New Jersey.
After the game, he focused on his team, which is off to a 9-2 start.
“A-plus,” he said of the second-half effort. “The thing we did was we stopped turning the ball over. We had only one turnover in the second half.”
They also got big efforts from Mo Williams and Delonte West.
Williams had 8 of 16 points and five of his six assists in the final 24 minutes, while West scored 14 of his 16 points, hitting all four of his 3-pointers in the decisive third quarter when Cleveland broke the game open.
“Mo and Delonte did a great job coming into the third quarter and shooting lights out,” said James, who was 9 of 20 from the field in posting his fourth 30-plus point game in five contests. “We took that momentum and just ran.”
Harris, who was looking for his fourth straight 30-point game, had 23 points to lead New Jersey. Vince Carter added 12, shooting 3-of-12 from the field as the Nets’ two-game winning streak was snapped.
“It was a rough night and I wasn’t hitting my shots,” Carter said.
James put on a show for the less than capacity crowd at the Izod Center against a team partially owned by his friend, rapper Jay-Z. He dunked, hit layups and faked Jarvis Hayes out of his socks on a great cross-over dribble move that got him his 11,000th point, and finally entertained the crowd with a late tap-in on an alley-oop from Zydrunas Ilgauskas in the closing minutes.
“His strength and his quickness, at his size, is pretty unheard of,” said Nets rookie forward Ryan Anderson, who got a chance to face James. “The things he can do is pretty amazing. He is so athletic, and he’s 6-9. He is an incredibly talented guy.”
Trailing most of the first half, Cleveland got within three points at the half and then blew things open in the third quarter, outscoring New Jersey 28-13.
Williams tied the game with a 3-pointer off an assist by James. West put Cleveland ahead with a 3-pointer from Williams and Williams nailed a 3-pointer off another James assist. West, who scored 12 of his 16 points in the quarter, then capped the 12-0 spurt, hitting another 3-pointer off a Williams’ assist.
Cleveland led 77-65 at the end of the third quarter and Daniel Gibson iced the game, converting a four-point play to open the final quarter.
Notes: James (23 years, 323 days) replaced Kobe Bryant as the youngest player to score 11,000 points when he hit a jump shot late in the first quarter. Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers was 25 years, 99 days when he got 11,000. … Cavs coach Mike Brown seemed to pull a hamstring retrieving a loose ball in the game … Cleveland outrebounded New Jersey 50-39 and blocked eight shots.