- The Washington Times - Monday, February 2, 2004

Cleveland Cavaliers 19-year-old phenom LeBron James showed his age maybe once yesterday at MCI Center.

He lost his cool after a call didn’t go his way, threw his headband into the seats and was whistled for a technical foul late in the fourth quarter.

By that time it really didn’t matter.

The fan who caught that headband walked away with a nice souvenir, but the rest of the 15,541 fans at MCI left with plenty of memories of a rookie who looked nothing like one. James scored a career-high 38 points to lead the Cavaliers past the Washington Wizards 104-100.

“I wear No.23 for a reason, so I guess that’s what he felt like when he used to heat up,” James said.

James certainly looked like Michael Jordan in the third quarter, scoring 19 points on 7-for-10 shooting from the field and making all five of his free throws. He didn’t score in the game’s final nine minutes — mostly because he didn’t have to — as the Cavaliers sent the Wizards (14-32) to their third loss in four games.

“[James] carried them,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “He got tougher at the time when you have to get tough. He carried them. We don’t have anybody to do that. We don’t have anybody to do it right now.”

James added six rebounds and four assists and was 14-for-27 from the floor en route to his career high, which he no doubt will break repeatedly over the course of his career. His performance, particularly in the third quarter, was so impressive that the surprise return of the Wizards’ Jerry Stackhouse became an afterthought.

Stackhouse had knee surgery during the preseason and had not played a game this season. He started yesterday and was 5-for-14 from the floor for 13 points in 27 minutes. As expected, Stackhouse looked rusty.

“I haven’t played in three months, so you know I was thinking about my knee,” Stackhouse said. “But I’m getting better and better at trusting it.

“There are still some instances where I don’t want to take that step because I think that it might hurt it, and actually, if I take it, it might not hurt. But I think I’m over the physical hurdle of the surgery, and now it’s just a mental thing of getting back into a rhythm of playing basketball and being the player that I am as opposed to just floating and just being on the floor. That’s what I’m doing right now.”

James wasn’t the only Cleveland player who was hot in the third period. The Cavaliers, who shot 51.4 percent for the game, made almost 60 percent of their shots in the third when they turned a 47-42 halftime deficit into a 78-64 advantage after three quarters.

James’ day also overshadowed rapidly improving power forward Carlos Boozer. Boozer finished with 21 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and four steals as the Cavaliers (18-29) won for the fourth time in their last five games.

Jarvis Hayes, who went to the bench for Stackhouse, led five Wizards in double figures with 20 points.

Despite Stackhouse’s return, Jordan was upset by his team’s lack of physical play and its poor defensive effort against James. As the losses continue to pile up, the coach’s patience seems to be running out.

“We’re trying to change the culture, and the people have to change or you have to change the people,” Jordan said. “Coming in here tonight against a hard-working, tough Cleveland team that’s changing a culture of losing, we said, ‘Let’s show them that we’re on our way to changing it, too. Let’s be tough.’ But we weren’t.”

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