Hinrich real star of show

LeBron James' performance has more than matched his hype, which is why a Rookie of the Year award could be in his immediate future.

But on Monday night at the United Center, James wasn't even the best rookie on the court.

One game after posting his first professional triple-double, Kirk Hinrich finished with 22 points, eight rebounds and seven assists as the Bulls downed Cleveland 92-81 for their second straight victory.

Hinrich even gave James a run for his money for highlight-reel plays.

He jazzed his teammates and the crowd of 19,203 with a drive past James and his first dunk of the season in the second quarter and then fed Jerome Williams while lying on his back in a third-quarter sequence that led to free throws.

"LeBron's a great player and you want to play well against the great players," Hinrich said.

James scored on a pretty finger roll 17 seconds after tipoff and evoked memories of another No. 23 when he split two defenders and elevated as if shot out of a cannon on a fast-break dunk in the second quarter.

But James' line showed no rebounds or assists after one half—an oddity for him—and his 18-point night was extremely quiet.

"I know Kirk can play," James said. "I played with him in the rookie-sophomore game during the All-Star break, and I also watched him all through college."

The Bulls also got nice games from Eddy Curry and Antonio Davis, who each scored 18, and Tyson Chandler, who had 10 rebounds and four blocks. Davis left briefly for X-rays on his right middle finger but returned after learning he had suffered a sprain.

"That's the most active I've seen Tyson since I've been here," coach Scott Skiles said. "He was a big factor."

One game after getting benched, Eddie Robinson didn't play until the final 34.9 seconds, even though Kendall Gill sat with a recurrence of tendinitis in his right Achilles' tendon. Both Ronald Dupree and Linton Johnson played ahead of Robinson, with Dupree contributing 11 points.

Robinson disputed Skiles' consistent claim that he doesn't have a doghouse.

"There's one for 'E-Rob,'" Robinson said.

Robinson said he would continue to follow his same pregame and post-practice routines. Robinson claims the approach works for him.

"What do you mean, extra work?" he said. "I shoot. I do all of that."

Said Skiles: "I think his comment speaks for itself."

Skiles then elaborated on the situation.

"Couldn't anyone say that I want to do something because this works for me?" he said. "That doesn't work in a team environment. People have to make personal sacrifices for the well being of the team. And I think for the most part our guys are beginning to understand that.

"This is not a unique team. Guys are expected to get their lifts in, play team basketball, play hard—just the basics of the game. It's not some crazy standard some lunatic coach is setting. We're trying to set a program in place that's going to last over time, no matter who plays for the Bulls. I'm going to see to it that it gets done."

Bits: Believing that Lonny Baxter won't clear waivers, the Bulls are expected to bring in 6-foot-10-inch forward Paul Shirley for a tryout. Shirley, who played with Marcus Fizer for three seasons at Iowa State, is averaging 15.5 points and 9.5 rebounds for Kansas City in the American Basketball Association. "He's deceptive and has a lot of will," Fizer said. Shirley played on a 10-day contract with Atlanta last season. Fizer's locker is next to that of Chris Jefferies, and when Fizer asked how there is room for Shirley—the Bulls have 15 contracts—Jefferies interjected. "Cut me," he said, only half-jokingly. The possibility is a distinct one, even though Jefferies' small salary is guaranteed through next season at $899,000. ... Williams returned after missing one game with a strained tendon in his left knee. ... General manager John Paxson returned from his European scouting trip.