INDEPENDENCE — The NBA’s version of The Beatles started its 2009-10 tour Monday afternoon at Cleveland Clinic Courts.
The revamped, star-powered Cavaliers, featuring lead singers LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal, assembled for the first time and were all smiles a day before their first practice of training camp.
There was a ton of electricity in the air — until a lengthy power outage struck Independence around 3:40 p.m.
“This is Day 1 of the madness,” veteran point guard Mo Williams said.
There’s Delonte West’s Nov. 20 court date for carrying weapons in Maryland, Williams’ All-Star season but playoff struggles and the championship expectations surrounding this team.
Mix that and everything else with a big dose of the 6-foot-8, 250-pound James and 7-1, 325-pound O’Neal and the atmosphere around the Cavaliers this season will be part rock concert, part traveling circus, part political convention.
That was the case even before the first practice, let alone the first preseason game, first regular-season game or probable playoff journey.
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“The attention before we get there (at opposing arenas) is going to be high because of me and Shaq and the supporting cast,” James said. “We’re looking forward to going into other people’s buildings and getting wins.
“If you’re not competing for a championship, if you’re not competing for that golden trophy, what are you really doing?”
Approximately 100 media members — that term is used loosely in a number of instances — were on hand for the annual Media Day event, which the players smilingly endure as one of the necessary evils of their profession.
This is a day where seldom-seen radio types show up and cajole lesser players into reading a promo for their 30-watt station, even though that player may have never gone to that spot on the dial in his life.
It’s a day that features bloggers, small Web site operators and weekly or monthly magazine owners whose products really have nothing to do with sports.
Adding to the festivities this year, there was a lengthy power outage that temporarily halted the proceedings and left everyone in the dark.
“Media Day’s over,” a laughing James said as he came barreling through the press room in total darkness. “The whole neighborhood’s out.”
It was that kind of day.
Guys like camp invitee Rob Kurz, a sharpshooting 6-9 forward, and local product Jawad Williams sat patiently at a table and talked to anyone and everyone, often in very small, intimate groups.
James did his session in one large group, which resulted in media members clucking around like a bunch of chickens at feeding time, all jockeying for position near the feeding trough in the hope a few tasteful nuggets would fall into their lap.
James, who handles the media as well as any athlete, was asked about his relationship with O’Neal, on and off the court, over and over until he finally smiled and said, “He’s my teammate. It’s not like I’m adopting a kid.”
The atmosphere will be different at practice today and almost every day after, as only the team’s regular beat writers and a handful of radio and television types show up on a daily basis.
However, the rock star treatment will resume every time the Cavaliers take to the road this season. It will be particularly wild in New York, where questions about James’ impending free agency are asked every time he comes to town, and Western Conference cities, which Cleveland visits just once per season.
In each town, James will face the same tired questions, but the 24-year-old is savvy enough to realize this will be the first time those reporters have had the chance to ask them.
O’Neal, too, usually goes out of his way to entertain the media — and sometimes criticize other players, coaches or teams around the league — so he’ll have his routine ready when he’s asked how he and James are coexisting in Cleveland.
Both superstars have a knack for entertaining, and their teammates already know it.
“After five minutes of watching those guys play around like big kids in the locker room, if that’s a glimpse of how things are going to be this year, I’m happy to be here,” West said.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.