LeBron James watched a group of reporters converge on Antawn Jamison in the locker room and yelled to his new teammate.
"Don’t worry about that," a smiling James said, mixing in a few expletives. "You’re home. They still love you."
Jamison burst out laughing. What else could he do? Jamison had just gone 0-for-12 from the field in his debut with Cleveland in his hometown Friday night in the Cavaliers’ 110-93 loss to their surprising nemesis, the Charlotte Bobcats.
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"It was just one of those nights," Jamison said before turning more serious. "It won’t happen again. I promise you that."
Two days after Cleveland acquired what it believes may be the key piece to winning a championship, Jamison had five shots blocked and threw up two airballs. The Cavaliers couldn’t defend, either, and their 13-game winning streak at the All-Star break has suddenly turned into a two-game losing streak.
This new James-Jamison-Shaquille O’Neal front line isn’t dominating just yet.
"I told him, ‘I don’t care how many shots you miss, we’re going to continue to give you the ball,"’ James said. "’Those are shots we need you to make, and we know you can make them."’
Stephen Jackson and the Bobcats had no trouble on offense, shooting 55 percent and looking far more cohesive a day after they made two trades.
Jackson scored 29 points, Tyrus Thomas grabbed 12 rebounds in his Charlotte debut, and three days after losing to the NBA-worst New Jersey Nets for the second time, the Bobcats won their third straight game against the league-leading Cavaliers in a possible first-round playoff preview.
"We didn’t show any intensity, offensively or defensively, and they’re just a tough team for us to cover in this regular season thus far, four games," James said. "They’ve played well against us. They have our number this year."
James had 22 points and nine assists for Cleveland a night after being the first player in NBA history with at least 43 points, 13 rebounds, 15 assists, two steals and four blocks.
Jamison didn’t play in that loss to Denver, and coach Mike Brown announced before the game that he’d at least temporarily come off the bench. J.J. Hickson kept his starting job at power forward, and Jamison checked in with 5:09 left in the first quarter.
Looking out of sync, a step slow and way off with his shot, Jamison was 0-for-8 with four of his shots blocked in the first half while his parents watched from the stands a few miles from where he went to high school. Jamison’s three-point attempt at the buzzer to end the first half was an airball.
"I just couldn’t really get into a rhythm," he said.
The Bobcats pulled away from a halftime tie in the third quarter. Thomas, picked up from Chicago a day earlier, got a crash course on the plays a few hours before the game, but said he "kind of forgot all of them."
He depended on hustle, getting a thunderous dunk and blocking Anderson Varejao in a 17-4 run to end the third quarter to give Charlotte an 82-68 lead.
"It was like, ‘Joe, you go to the fire hydrant and turn left,"’ Bobcats coach Larry Brown said of the play-calling.
Thomas, who had nine points on 3-of-9 shooting, said: "Coach Brown made it a lot easier for me when he told me to just go play and have fun and not worry about anything else but playing hard."
Boris Diaw had 18 points and nine assists, Gerald Wallace had 17 points and eight rebounds and Charlotte moved a game above .500.
Delonte West scored 13 points for Cleveland. Mo Williams added 12 in his return to the starting lineup after being out with a shoulder injury, but he had only one assist. O’Neal had 10 points and seven rebounds.
Jackson made sure Cleveland wouldn’t come back with strong drives to the basket. His three-point play with 5:16 left put Charlotte ahead 100-85 and marked the fourth time in five games Cleveland had allowed 100 points or more.
The only drama late was whether Jamison would go scoreless. After Mike Brown had pulled James and O’Neal, Jamison hit two free throws with 41 seconds left for his only points.
"I know these guys aren’t going to let me forget about it, but other than that it’s behind me," Jamison said. "Just getting ready for Orlando on Sunday."
NOTES: Bobcats owner Bob Johnson sat courtside, but continued to avoid reporters. NBA commissioner David Stern said last week he expected the team to be sold in 60 days, perhaps to co-owner Michael Jordan, who wasn’t courtside. … Bobcats C Tyson Chandler (ankle) didn’t dress. … Theo Ratliff grabbed five rebounds in his Charlotte debut. … Cavaliers G Sebastian Telfair, acquired in the Jamison deal, didn’t make the trip. Mike Brown said he’s "weeks" away from returning from a groin injury.