LeBron James seemed determined not to blame—or maybe, not to acknowledge—that nervousness played any role in his uncannily rough game in what he had called earlier in the day "probably one of the biggest sporting events ever."
It was not, despite the crowd and the pregame scene that felt more like a championship celebration than a season opener. It was just a regular season NBA game, and the Knicks knocked off the new-look Cavaliers 95-90, and all the focus was on James, who swore that he "didn't press."
Still, it doesn't seem like a reach to take his comments as those of a player who understandably got caught up in the hype. "The crowd was excited, we were excited, everyone was excited," he said. "I tried to focus." And later: "Who wouldn't peak emotionally with a night like this?"
James couldn't shoot and he couldn't pass. He finished the night with 17 points on 5-for-15 from the floor, with a glaring eight turnovers. The other members of his new Big Three, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, looked better in their individual roles, but the whole thing never quite meshed, especially on defense. In the 34 minutes James, Irving, and Love were on the court together, according to ESPN Stats & Info, Cleveland's FG% was seven points better, and its offensive efficiency five points better than when at least one was on the bench. But in both cases, the Cavs were outscored.
Add to that new coach David Blatt's admission that he failed to give his bench players adequate minutes—Shawn Marion played 10 and Mike Miller just three—and you've got a whole bunch of people learning their jobs on the fly. Which is fine! But if there's anything to pay attention to in the early going, it's whether the coach or the floor general is going to be the one calling the plays.
"For us, it's just a better communication between me and Coach Blatt," Kyrie Irving said. "That's basically what it boils down to. I'm his point guard out there, and some things that I see, you know, he has plays in his mind and I have plays in my mind as well.
"We're just going to continue to grow. It's a process. Within practice, we kind of switch on and off [calling the plays], but for us it's about what's going on out there on the court and what he sees and what I see, and hopefully we can get on the same page pretty soon."
Four years ago, the James-Wade-Bosh Miami Heat lost their first game together, and that seemed to work out OK in the end. (Of course, they lost on the road to a Celtics team that had a starting five of Rajon Rondo and three future Hall-of-Famers, and this was a Knicks team that got booed out of its own building the night before. But—it's still just one game.)
"It was a special night," James said of the pomp and the homecoming. "I'm also glad it's over."