LeBron kicks off new NBA season with a triple-double as Rose urges Knicks to get ugly – and Golden State flop
Superstar on fire as Cleveland launch defence of their title with 117-88 thrashing of the Knicks
LeBron James notched a triple-double as the Cleveland Cavaliers launched the defence of their National Basketball Association crown with a 117-88 blowout of the New York Knicks on Tuesday.
Kyrie Irving topscored with 29 points but NBA Finals MVP James stole the show with 19 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists on a night when the Cavs were formally presented with their 2015-2016 championship rings.
James was de facto master of ceremonies before the tip-off as the Cavs hoisted the championship banner from their epic 2015-2016 season, which culminated in the historic comeback victory over Golden State in the finals in June.
A packed house at the Quicken Loans Arena roared their appreciation on a night when Cleveland became the epicentre of the US sporting universe – the city’s Indians baseball team were hosting the Chicago Cubs in Game One of the World Series at the same time.
News of the Indians’ opening runs against the Cubs was greeted with deafening cheers and chants of “Let’s Go Tribe!” throughout the game.
James, who returned to the Cavaliers in 2014 on a mission to lead his hometown team to NBA glory, addressed the home crowd in the pre-match ceremonies.
“If you’re not from here, live here, play here, or get yourself to Cleveland, then it makes no sense for you to live at this point,” James said.
“Cleveland against the world!”
James, who finished with 19 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists, later spoke of his pride at being able to celebrate the Cavs crown with the city’s fans.
“It was a great moment, to be able to relive our accomplishment from last year one more time, something that’s always going to be with us. It was an unbelievable atmosphere tonight,” he said.
“We want to keep our fans on cloud 20. If we can do that we’ve done our job.”
But while the Cavs reflected on a solid night’s work, the Knicks were sent back to the drawing board. Having invested heavily in bringing 2011 NBA MVP Derrick Rose and Chicago teammate Joakim Noah to the club in the close season, the Knicks are hoping to mount a serious challenge in the Eastern Conference this season.
Rose however lamented the New Yorkers’ lack of a mean streak after the blowout.
“Tonight left a bad taste in everybody’s mouth,” Rose said, saying the team needed to learn to foul tactically.
“We’ve got to put people down. We’ve got to foul. Not put them down, but for sure we have to foul them in the open court to make sure [James] doesn’t get the crowd into the game.”
In Oakland, Golden State’s hopes of embarking on another record-breaking start to the season – following their 24-0 run last year – came to an abrupt end when they were dismantled 129-100 by Western Conference rivals San Antonio.
A night expected to be dominated by Golden State’s new signing Kevin Durant ended with the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard stealing the show in a crushing rout of last year’s NBA Finals runners-up.
Durant enjoyed a solid enough scoring debut – weighing in with 27 points – but the Warriors were run ragged by Leonard, who posted a career-high 35 points and LaMarcus Aldridge (26 points).
Leonard, 25, indicated he is ready to step into the leadership vacuum created by the retirement of Spurs legend Tim Duncan earlier this year.
“Tim was a great basketball player, led this team to five championships and I just want to do the same, to get close to that,” Leonard said.
“Just keep having a winning culture and keep moving forward from there.”
The loss was a chastening defeat for the Warriors and coach Steve Kerr after a close-season dominated by talk of his team’s fearsome attacking arsenal.
“I’m sure we’ll be motivated for our next game,” Kerr said. “I think our guys were embarrassed tonight. I know I was.”
Warriors star and reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry described the loss as a “nice little slap in the face.”
Durant meanwhile said the Warriors should not panic after only one game of the season.
“We can’t overreact but we can’t let these games pile up,” Durant said.