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Fitting in nicely
by Bruce Meyer / November 12, 2003

Even with his mega endorsement deals from Nike and Coca-Cola, LeBron James is like a typical rookie in many ways.

He and teammate Darius Miles like to joke around and keep their corner of the team's locker room fun. But more importantly, he and fellow rookie Jason Kapono have to bring doughnuts to every shootaround. "Everybody's got to do that. Everybody," said third-year Cav DeSagana Diop. "It doesn't matter who you are."

Other than that, everyone from coach Paul Silas on down seem to agree that King James is fitting in nicely with the Cavs -- bringing a winning attitude, a great feel for the game and an ability to pass that keeps raising eyebrows.

"He kind of has an infectious smile; not really baby-faced, but he's still a young kid," Silas said. "You like him because of his personality. He's got a great personality."

Silas, though, says he treats his young phenom just like any other member of the team -- albeit a very talented member of the team, the coach acknowledged. "I get on his butt just like anybody else. He gets chewed out when he does something wrong and he gets a pat on the back when he does something great."

LeBron slowly is taking more of a leadership role, but that's something that will come with time. "Once they see him prove himself over a long period of time, then they get more trust and confidence in him and they will be more willing to do what he says out there," Silas said.

LeBron himself is having a lot of fun. "My teammates have accepted me as a player and as a person, so it's been pretty easy," James said. The game's most famous rookie also said the games are fun, but he has even more fun competing hard with his teammates at practice.

As almost always happens when the media watches a star's every move, controversy did crop up after the Cavs started 0-4 and looked particularly bad in their home opener before finally breaking through and winning in impressive fashion at home against the Wizards and Knicks. Word had it that LeBron and Ricky Davis were having trouble co-existing.

According to Davis and several other teammates, though, there's nothing to the talk. "You know how they speculate," Davis said. "It's nothing. We work hard everyday, trying to make each other better. It's kind of funny that they bring up something like that and it never really happened. It's nothing at all. We're kind of wondering ourselves where they got it from. They've got to write about something. We were 0-4, so we can expect that. We've got a good understanding between me and LeBron, so that's all that matters."

Davis, in fact, sees himself and LeBron evolving as co-leaders of the Cavs at some point. "I think we can just be the one-two punch, like a Shaq and Kobe thing. Get us going and score a majority of the points, so I think we'll be all right."

Davis, who has in the past been criticized as a ballhog, thinks LeBron has fit in well with the team, besides being a "rook." He said James adjusts to the floor well and to the guys and to the vets, and likes to be "cheerful, energetic and just have fun."

Miles, a friend of LeBron's dating back to James' senior year in high school, calls his new teammate cool. "He's just like one of us."

To Miles there's nothing to the rumors that LeBron and Davis were feuding, saying that both he and Davis are teaching LeBron a lot.

"Our leader is Rick. Zydrunas is one of the captains, but I think Rick is mostly our leader because when stuff goes bad, he'll bring us all together and get us right. So Rick is teaching LeBron a whole lot of stuff. A lot of people really think like Rick and LeBron is really beefing, but it's not like that. Rick has really taken LeBron under his wing."

In Chris Mihm's opinion, the supposed rift was blown out of proportion. "We're all on the same page here," Mihm said. "We want to win. I don't think egos are gonna get in the way of this team. So I really think more was made of that than it really was."

One thing that hasn't surprised Mihm is LeBron's play on the floor. "I really think he has a complete game," Mihm said. "I think what impressed me most was his passing ability. He's got a knack for reading the floor, seeing open guys, and he enjoys passing. He enjoys finding guys in open spots and getting the whole team involved as much as he likes scoring."

In the locker room, Mihm tells you can still see LeBron's just an 18-year-old. "He has fun, he jokes around and laughs a lot. He and D. Miles kid around there in the corner quite a bit. He's a good kid. He's got his head where it needs to be, and he's really come in here and done a helluva job early."

Kevin Ollie, a newcomer to the Cavs, also thinks King James has fit in well. "He's just a born leader, a competitor, a winner on every level he's been at, and he's going to be a winner here in Cleveland."

Ollie added that the rookie's presence was important during the Cavs slow start. "He's a jokester, him and Darius. The young guys get together and joke around and stuff. It just brings a little edge off us, especially when we were losing earlier. They just kept a positive outlook and he was one of the guys who kept us positive."

Bruce Meyer is a regular contributor to HoopsHype.com

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