The King came calling at the Izod Center yesterday, and a great many of his loyal subjects followed.
The usually empty Nets home was awfully full for LeBron James' afternoon visit, with hundreds of No. 23 Cavaliers jerseys far outnumbering any of the home team's jerseys in the stands. The attendance was listed at 17,569.
"I like a lot of stages," James said after the Cavs beat the Nets, 94-86, behind their star's 28 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and two highlight-reel blocks.
"I perform well on the road, I love being on the road," James said. "The fans get an opportunity to see our team, an opportunity to see me. It's fun."
James can become a free agent this summer, and teams such as the Nets (3-30) - who will have a mountain of space under the NBA's salary cap in the offseason - are always hoping that he will look kindly on them when he drops in.
The Knicks - who are owned by Cablevision, which also owns Newsday - have been his assumed destination by some because of what New York has to offer. The Nets, who likely will move to Newark's Prudential Center for next season and ideally to Brooklyn after that, don't have much that's attractive now.
"I think their record could definitely be better," James said of the Nets, who led by nine points in the first half before James and the Cavs (27-8) took over. "They have some talented guys, like Devin Harris, [Brook] Lopez, CDR [Chris Douglas-Roberts]. We'll see what happens."
What happened Saturday was typical James: From his pregame fun, which included taking an impromptu team photo right before tipoff, to a couple of thunderous first-half dunks that got the crowd out of its seats, to a pair of blocks in the second half. Both came on plays in which James hustled back to break up seemingly easy transition baskets for Harris and Douglas-Roberts.
"There's a lot of stuff," Lopez said of James' many talents. "I could stand here all day [and talk about them]."
James said after the game that he's grown into being a better leader in his seventh season, just a few days past his 25th birthday. One young teammate, Long Island product Danny Green, can attest to that.
"He's like a big kid, just like the rest of us," said Green, who was inactive yesterday. "He's just real humble, which is pretty amazing for a guy in his position. I'm just trying to be a sponge right now and learn all I can."
Not that it's necessarily going to end at the end of the season. James still could stay with the Cavs, who won 66 games last season and are right behind that pace now.
"Last year's team had a lot of momentum, a lot of swag to our game," James said. "We clicked right from the beginning. In the long run, I think this team can be better, especially late in the playoffs. We have some really good pieces. The coaching staff has another year under its belt. I have another year under my belt.''
James said he isn't focused on the upcoming summer right now "because I'm too focused with what's going on here, trying to win a championship. I really just try to go to every city, on the road or at home, and just maintain my focus and try to win basketball games."