His hands feel like worn leather.
His handshake is weak.
Then again, any stronger and he’d probably crush mine.
Cleveland Cavaliers guard LeBron James sits on a metal folding chair inside the Izod Center’s visiting locker room, back wrapped in ice and a towel around his neck. It’s a corner spot, close to new forward Wally Szczerbiak.
Kids his age are ballin’ in college, many hoping for a shot to ride the bench in the NBA. On this night, this 23-year-old just dropped 42 points on his way to another triple-double against the New Jersey Nets. He doesn’t look defeated after the 103-99 loss, just tired. That’s what playing 46 minutes will do to you.
This the first game the NBA’s premier superstar has played against the Nets since Jason Kidd was traded to the Dallas Mavericks. LeBron notices something immediately.
“With Jason on the court, the game’s definitely faster. He’s just such a quick player,” James tells me.
Kidd’s replacement, 25-year-old Devin Harris, didn’t do so bad himself. LeBron even calls the former first-round draft pick, “one of the best young point guards in the league.”
Harris dropped 19 points, most coming in a crucial fourth quarter when the Nets were able to hold off the surging Cavs. With strong defense, the Nets handed the Cavs their third loss in three meetings between the two squads.
“We can’t wait until the fourth quarter to say, okay, let’s go, let’s turn it on,” Cavs coach Mike Brown told me outside the locker room. “We got to go out with a sense of urgency from the beginning of the game. It doesn’t mean put teams away, but at least make somebody feel you.”
“The Nets are a good team, they played well tonight and they just have beaten up on us all season long. We play them again, one more time, and so we’ll have to come up with a game plan to get them next time,” James said.
Five games left in the season is the next time the two teams meet up. The playoffs are within striking distance and the Nets — not the Cavs, they’re already in — will be fighting for that eighth and final spot.
You can bet the next time the two teams meet up, James will be ready.
I’d shake his hand on that one.