His Cleveland Cavaliers showed New York they might be one right now.
James scored 26 points before sitting out the fourth quarter, and the Cavaliers quickly took a charged-up New York crowd out of the game in a 119-101 victory Tuesday night.
The buzz was about James' future. His teammates have big goals for the present.
"They don't get caught up in that, man, and I don't either," James said. "We hear it every day, we see it every day on TV about 2010 all the time, we still go out and take care of business. We don't worry about what's going on. Me the leader, I can't let that faze me because I'm leading these guys onto something that we want to accomplish, and that's win an NBA championship."
Delonte West added 16 points and Wally Szczerbiak had 15 for the Cavaliers, who led by as many as 34. They rang up their highest point total of the season and put seven players in double figures, showing they may have more help than ever for James, the NBA's leading scorer.
Fans hoping someday to see James play in New York got to learn how good his Cleveland team is right now. The Cavaliers turned it into a blowout while James was enjoying his first rest to start the second quarter, and improved the NBA's third-best record to 11-3.
"It seems like they want him, but right now we're excited that he's a Cavalier," guard Daniel Gibson said.
James' first visit to Madison Square Garden this season came just days after the Knicks made a pair of trades that cleared enough salary cap space for a potential run at him in free agency in the summer of 2010.
After starting the night by saying he was flattered by the attention but focused on trying to win a title this season with the Cavs, James witnessed how far the Knicks have to go before they can convince James he'd have a chance to win a championship here.
"It's way too early," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We hate it for tonight, but it's only tonight."
Unlike his previous visit, when the Cavaliers needed nearly all of his 50 points to beat the Knicks last March, an ordinary effort was good enough from James, who laughed and smiled throughout the easy victory.
The Knicks are a team in transition after trading Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford, their two leading scorers, last Friday. Making matters worse, they lost Nate Robinson, who became their leading scorer, after he strained his groin in the second quarter. He is doubtful for Wednesday at Detroit.
"I'll be back in no time," Robinson said. "I'm not the kind of guy who wants to sit here and be hurt. I hate it."
Al Harrington, acquired from Golden State for Crawford, had only one full practice. Thomas and Cuttino Mobley, who came over from the Clippers, haven't had any practice time yet, and Mobley still isn't available while undergoing further tests for a medical condition that turned up on his physical.
James was cheered loudly during pregame introductions by a crowd that included his buddy, rapper Jay-Z -- who might prefer James goes to New Jersey, the team he partly owns -- and every time he touched the ball in the early minutes. James then scored 11 points in the first quarter, leading Cleveland to a 34-22 lead.
James could only chuckle and shake his head when a fan yelled "Two more years!" as he was putting on his warmup shirt before heading to the bench for the start of the second quarter.
Then the Cavs really turned it on.
Cleveland scored the first eight points of the period, and after Thomas made two free throws, the Cavs followed with a 13-2 spurt to make it 55-26 on Szczerbiak's 3-pointer with 7:20 left in the period. Fans started booing the Knicks after consecutive turnovers during that stretch, and by the time James re-entered his team was ahead by 24.
The Cavs led 67-38 at the break, their highest-scoring first half of the season.
James drew a big cheer for a powerful, fast-break dunk with 4:10 left in the third and scored 13 points in the quarter, but by then the fans were mostly disinterested as Cleveland's lead ballooned to 34. He nailed a 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds left in the period, and his hardest work the rest of the night was dancing during a fourth-quarter timeout.
- James averaged 42.3 points in three games against the Knicks last season.
- Producer and Knicks fan Spike Lee was wearing a pair of the red "Big Apple" sneakers that James debuted for the game.
- Harrington scored 13 points but shot 5-of-16.