Saturday, December 29, 2007
I haven’t blogged in a while, and I wanted to remind you that if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to drop me a line and I’ll get back to your questions in a few days on cavs.com.
Even in Saturday’s loss in New Orleans, it’s still good to see that the Cavaliers, defensively, are getting back to who they are.
The last three games – and even the fourth quarter of the Lakers game last week – they looked more like the Cavaliers from a year ago. And I think they understand that if they want to run, they’re going to have to run off turnovers and rebounds – not just have a “running mentality.” At times, the Cavaliers have had a tendency to slack off on the defensive end, but when they focus on truly stopping a team, that seems to be really when they are at their best.
Larry Hughes has been an enigma all year for the Cavaliers. We know he wants to be the two-guard, but it seems that he functions better for this team as the point guard.
And I think what Larry is going to realize – after what I’ve seen over the last couple games – is that there’s more opportunity to score when you have the ball in your hands. His biggest dilemma is when to set a teammate up or when to look for his own opportunity – because he’s used to looking for his own opportunity. But as he goes through learning how to play the point, he’ll be OK.
Between Larry and Sasha, the Cavaliers are struggling in their backcourt. Sasha hasn’t seemed to really get untracked since he rejoined the team. Right now, it just seems like he’s not focused, game-in and game-out. He’s almost to the point where if he misses a couple shots early, he gets frustrated and the rest of his game suffers.
Even if one part of your game isn’t working, you still play defense. But one thing is starting to effect everything else for Sasha. And he has to figure things out for himself. When you’re in a funk like he’s in, there’s nobody who can do that but yourself. He has to step across that line with total focus and realize that there are other things he can do if he’s not hitting his shot right away.
And what I’d really like to see out of Sasha is to focus on the finish. He does not finish well because he loses his focus. He’s talented enough to get the rim, but he needs to focus on the finish. And I think once he starts concentrating on focusing right through to the end of the shot, he’ll be OK. Because if you notice, he looks great right up until he gets to the rim and it seems like he’s thinking the “job is done.” And that’s when he starts getting frustrated – when those shots don’t go in.
Anderson Varejao ended his hold-out and has looked really good. Of course, unlike Sasha, Anderson has a different kind of game. Anderson plays a hustle game, so the only thing he needs to do is get into shape so he can “hustle longer.” He was a step or two off, at first. But now he’s got that step back and he’s ready to roll.
Right now, the Cavaliers problem continues to be their identity crisis. What happens – and has been happening – is that they lose their identity. They forget who they are. And now they realize, if they want to win, knuckling down defensively is how they’re going to have to play. And I’m expecting the Cavaliers to play much better on that side of the ball from here on out, because they understand that now.
In order to get back to their success from a year ago, they need to make it a possession game and run off rebounds and turnovers. I realize it sounds very simple, but really, that is the Cavaliers formula for winning.
Monday, December 10, 2007
I’ll check in with my regular blog later in the week, but today I wanted to answer some questions from my mailbag. If you have a question you’d like to ask, click HERE and send it in. I’ll try to answer the best ones at least once a week …
Comments: What do you feel is the "missing piece" for the Cavaliers? I know as I write this, they are decimated by injuries, but with a healthy line-up what do you feel would take them to that next level, as in, a player/position they could bring in OR improvements to current players (by "next level" I mean return to and WIN the Finals).
Also, just wanted to note that you are my favorite announcer in all of sports broadcasting; you call it like it is and I appreciate it! I am disappointed whenever I watch a Cavs game and you are not behind the microphone.
First Name: Steve
Austin Carr: Thank you. I appreciate the kind words and I’ll keep trying to do my best.
I think two positions would help us out: One, is the point guard position – specifically a guy who understands how to be a point guard, not a guy learning to be a point guard. And they could use a backup center, so Anderson could back up Drew and we could get someone to back up Z.
I think those two players – or positions – could really solidify the team and take it to the next level.
Comments: Austin Carr...I simply adore you! I can't wait to watch the pre- and post-game shows just to see you and hear you! Have you ever thought of coaching? I think you would make an awesome coach ... just wanted you to know.
First Name: Peggy
City: Newton Falls
A.C.: Peggy, first of all thanks for watching the telecasts. I appreciate it. But I’ve never really thought about coaching. If I was to do it, it would be on a collegiate level. Because I’m more of a teacher and it’s tough to be a teacher in the pros.
I have other aspirations, but not on the coaching end. Too frustrating!
Comments: I know a lot of fans have been very critical of Larry Hughes’ performance early this season. My question is this: How critical do you think Larry is to our team's success?
First Name: Joseph
City: Mayfield Heights
A.C.: Larry is very critical to the team because he’s LeBron’s “running mate.” And now that he’s back and healthy and spent some time in the weight room, he looked like his old self in the last game.
He was really the difference in us trying to win it down the stretch. If he plays like that when LeBron comes back, we’re going to be very successful.
Comments: AC - Love hearing your voice on the TV. What is your favorite arena to broadcast a game in and why? Which is your least favorite?
First Name: Erik
A.C.: My least favorite is Utah, because there’s no room to move – it’s like we’re boxed in. If I have to do an interview at halftime or after the game, I have to jump over eight people and it’s just ridiculous. All the other arenas are pretty good and I enjoy doing games there because there’s space, there’s room to maneuver. Utah’s arena is ridiculously tight; I don’t know why they do it that way.
I like New York and I like L.A. because of the theatrical lighting around the court. The rest of the arena is dark and the focus is on the court and it just adds a dramatic feeling to it. I like doing games in those two buildings – Staples and Madison Square Garden – for that reason.
Comments: Do you think it’s good for the Cavs to play without LeBron for a few games, so that they won't have to rely on him so much and learn to make plays without him?
First Name: Dolon
A.C.: It’s very important. Even though we’ve lost six games in a row, the experience that those other players received is invaluable because now they’re more familiar with the offense. They better understand what LeBron goes through, because they’ve been the ones who’ve had to stand up and answer the call of duty.
It means a whole lot as far as the overall maturity of the team is concerned. It’s huge – you can’t put a price tag on it.
Comments: Austin, how much input are you able to give to the players on what you see them doing in games? Or is that not allowed coming from a media person? You seem to have a lot of opinions on how players can better themselves.
First Name: Gregg
A.C.: It’s tough. There’s a fine line between me getting involved and not getting involved, mostly because I don’t know what the coaches are telling the players, or not telling them. I try not to stick my nose in there too often.
Every now and then, I’ll give a hint to a guy here or there, and I hope he’ll listen to it. But I try not to get too involved in it because sometimes coaching staffs frown on that, because I might tell a player to do something differently than the way they’re telling him to do it. So I try to stay away from that.
But if I get a chance to really see something that could help, I don’t think they’d mind me saying something.
Monday, December 3, 2007
I wanted to write about the Cavaliers last three games away from The Q, but first I wanted to introduce a new "Ask A.C. Mailbox" where you can send any questions you have to me, and I’ll try to answer as many as I can in my next blog. Just click and submit!
Being without LeBron lately has been difficult. But by not having him this early in the year, you can look at the glass as half-full instead of half-empty. In other words, you have guys who have a chance to step up and play some heavier minutes and the coaches have had a chance to evaluate their contribution.
I think our team should be stronger – in the long run – when LeBron comes back because of this situation. Guys will have to play more minutes that count and they have to be the ones helping out the team – not LeBron. And I think that’s going to bode well for the team later on down the line.
On the other hand, it showed how much LeBron means to us. He is the MVP of the league.
There were some bright spots, despite the record. I thought Boobie played pretty decent for being under the gun. He’s the guy who had to distribute the ball and I think he learned a lot about using his dribble to help his teammates out, instead of using it to score himself. Naturally, Gooden and Z continue to be one of the best front courts in the league. They’ve been stellar all season.
But the three-game streak did show that in our backcourt, we don’t have a lot of guys who can get their own shot. We have guys who need to help them get a shot. We have to find ways to use the pick-and-roll to force penetration. We have to get more dribble-penetration in order to set up better shots for our guys – and we don’t have a lot of that when LeBron’s off the floor.
I thought the Cavs played pretty well, defensively. Toronto’s a little different than Boston, and they’re difficult to defend because they have big guys who can shoot outside. The Pistons are tough because they invert their offense – they have their big guys outside where they can shoot it, and they also have guards who can post you up.
Daniel has been one of the team’s focal points with LeBron out of the lineup. And I think over this whole stretch that Boobie realizes that teams are going to go after him. He fights back. He’s not just going to let teams beat him up.
I had to go through that same situation, where they came at me because I was an offensive-minded player. But you have to learn to play the other end of the floor. He’ll learn how to stay out of early foul trouble. Sometimes when you find yourself in a compromising defensive position, you have to just back off and say, ‘So be it.’ You can’t get in foul trouble that early in the game because of what you mean to the team.
And Boobie will understand that as he goes through his career.
For three games, teams tried doing that to him – either trying to isolate him and take him one-on-one down low, trying to get him in early foul trouble. Especially with LeBron not in the game. Boobie’s the next guy that they feel they have to stop. It’s hard for them to focus on Z and Gooden because they’re already at the basket and once they receive the ball, you can double them. But dribble-penetration is what teams try to stop, and that’s why they’re trying to get Gibson off the floor.
But overall, I think the Cavaliers have actually had a super month.
I didn’t think they would be 9-9 – because of the China trip, coming back to the West Coast. And if you think about it, our record on the road early last year was not good. But we’re finding a way to fight back on the road now.
Road games are almost like home games for us now, except without our crowd. The Cavaliers’ quality of play doesn’t change a lot, and I think they learned that in the Playoffs – that you always have to bring the same effort whether you’re on the road or home.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
This is easily the best I’ve ever seen LeBron. At times in the past, he’s been at this level sporadically, but you knew that eventually, this was consistently going to come. But this is the first time I’ve seen him be this consistently great for this long a stretch. And he’s doing it against all sorts of opponents.
I have to look out there sometimes to see if he has a St. Vincent-St. Mary’s jersey on. Because he’s playing just like he did in high school – orchestrating the whole game and getting his teammates involved. And he knows where to interject himself. It’s really beautiful when you watch it. Now his teammates are starting to understand what he’s doing.
The way LeBron has improved, other than on his shooting, is that he’s playing more around the basket now. Everything he does now is directly related to PRODUCTION.
He makes a pass – it’s a shot. Everything is right at “production time.” When he goes inside and makes a pass – it’s an assist. When he goes inside and attacks the basket, it’s two points. When he gets a rebound, he’s looking to put it back. Everything is focused under the free throw line now. He gets some bangs and some bruises, but he’s a pretty tough guy and he doesn’t mind that.
Right now, the Cavaliers seem to have a good mix going. The chemistry is good. The spacing is good.
But really, the big difference with this team – at least offensively – is that they’re getting the ball up the floor. They want to get the ball to the furthest man up the floor and then attack from that point. What they’re doing as well is centering the ball on the fast break. That’s really been a healthy situation.
They look more fluid, offensively. And I realize that they’ve lost a little on the defensive end of the floor. But at the same time, now that I’ve been around Coach Brown and see how he coaches – Coach Brown is working towards a crescendo.
He wants the Cavaliers to be at their best when the Playoffs start – the same way San Antonio does it, and the way great teams do it. All the new things that they put in that take time to develop under game conditions. That’s why they don’t panic when things get a little negative. Because they know what their ultimate goal is: to build the team that it’s operating at maximum strength at Playoff time.
The Cavaliers are not going to be impatient, even when it comes to making a move.
They see what they have and what the situation is. The front office sees what we see. They may be working on something, but they’re not going to do anything stupid. That’s not the way Danny’s made. They’re not going to make a deal just to make a deal, especially when you know what kind of possibilities after next season. If you can’t get something that’s going to help you in the present and the future, then why make a deal?
You have to get along with what you have to eventually get what you want.
Monday, November 12, 2007
I really think that when we left town, nobody thought the team would gel like they have, especially with the question marks hanging over the team when we left town. There were people who were thinking that this trip could be disastrous. But it seems like the team has learned a lot from what they went through last season. Actually, over the last two years.
They’ve started to develop some toughness. And it seems like – taking as an example, Sunday night in L.A. – right when they needed it, they were able to turn it up a notch defensively and get the job done. They’re almost starting to play like they expect to win and when you get that feeling, man, that’s the kind of feeling you want. Because you always feel like you have control of the court.
And granted, you’re not going to win all the games. Monday night in Denver was a rough one, but that’s going to happen, especially on the tail end of a long trip. But if you have that toughness, you’ll be in all the games. And you’re starting to get the sense that the team is getting that feeling.
I think the surprise of the trip was that the Cavaliers are starting to get contributions from players that they maybe didn’t think they were going to get contributions from when we left home. And when you get performances from – like what Ira has done over the past two games – that’s just outstanding. He came in and didn’t miss a beat – got some key rebounds, scored some good baskets and played some good defense. When you start getting that, it tells me that the team is focused.
And again, a lot of this comes from their experiences over the last two years. They know, now, when to get it going because of what they’ve experienced going through the Playoffs. It’s a good sign that the coaches don’t always have to crack the whip for the team to get after it.
What a successful West Coast trip has done for them – (and you have to consider a 3-3 trip successful) – is give them a sense for what they have to do as they are currently constructed, and what they have to do to win. And the key to any season is for the players to understand what each player has to contribute to win ballgames. And I think they’re starting to find that formula here on the road – which is a really good sign.
Some of the veterans like Eric and Donyell are starting to get healthy and they should be coming back after the Cavaliers return home. It’ll be interesting to see what this does to the mix. Right now, it’s hard to say.
Those guys are going to have to practice their way back into the system. Right now, the system is starting to work without them. So in order for them to be incorporated back into the system, they have to get into practice and get into the flow – you can’t just throw them out there. When they get back, then the coaching staff is going to have to make some decisions.
One player who is already part of the system – (at times, he is the system) – is LeBron.
He is playing so confidently and relaxed right now. He knows his teammates and he knows what he has to do to make them successful. And he seems to have an uncanny ability to know when he needs to be aggressive offensively and when he needs to be aggressive defensively.
But more than anything, right now he always wants to guard the hot man at the end of the game. That’s starting to really be a pleasure to watch. And when you’re leader is playing that way – everybody follows.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
I really thing the team has showed a lot of resiliency out here on this West Coast trip.
When we left town, there was a very big question mark as to how the Cavaliers would perform out here – being undermanned and having the youth that we have. I think they’ve weathered the storm, pretty much. Friday night’s win over the Kings was huge – I call it a “bridge” game, because it sets up the opportunity for us to split the last two games and go .500 on the West Coast trip. And that’s something we haven’t done in a long time.
The team is adjusting well to the new offensive changes. They had 30 assists on 41 shots the other day, and they’re starting to make that extra pass. And that’s the key – it breeds unselfishness. Once you start breeding unselfishness, it makes it real tough on the defensive team. The only thing that they have to do now is get back to their defensive principles. The Cavaliers hang their hat on the defensive end of the floor.
Right now, defensively, they’re still thinking. And it needs to be second nature. Their defense last year was reactionary. Now this year, their offense is slowly becoming reactionary. And when they both become reactionary, then you have a solid team.
And that’s why I think it’s not really fair for people to get upset that moves haven’t been made. You can’t have a system on both ends of the floor that you can get players to believe in without having guys who have been there for a while.
In other words, the first thing a team has to have is a “vision.” The next thing you have to do is to get the players that fit your vision. Then you have to get those players to buy into that vision. And you have to eliminate players that don’t. And bring in players that do. Only then can you move forward. You can’t do that by changing personnel every year. It just doesn’t happen.
Take the Pistons. Even though some of their players are starting to get a little long in the tooth, they continue to function because these guys know the philosophy and the system. Now all you need to do is find younger guys to give those starters a breather, and you can move ahead as a franchise. And that’s what the Cavaliers are working towards. You have to build it that way.
Our young guys are buying into the vision. The young guys are meshing.
Right now the team is understanding how to play with LeBron, and LeBron is understanding how to play with them. He knows where Boobie’s going to be when he penetrates – in that deep corner. He knows where Sasha’s going to be.
As a distributor, that makes it a lot easier, knowing there’s someone on the other end that’s capable of making the shot.
And with Larry out, tt’s a young backcourt right now – with Boobie and Sasha – and naturally they’re going to have some problems. But the key for them is to keep the turnovers down. If they keep the turnovers down, there won’t be any problems.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Right now, the Cavaliers are a different team than the one that went to the Finals last spring.
With Andy and Sasha not being part of the mix, I feel like our starting five will be OK. The bench, on the other hand – trying to either take a lead or sustain a lead – that’s going to be a tough road to hoe, at least right now. At least until they get their feet underneath themselves. Hopefully, in these next two exhibition games, the reserves will get themselves squared away because that’s where I see the biggest problem.
I feel very confident in our skill guys. I like Boobie and Larry together in the backcourt together – especially if Boobie can use his penetrating ability to make things happen. I’d like to see him go out there and be a point guard that people are afraid to guard. Like Tony Parker – make people guard you, break down the defense. If he does that, then the first unit is going to be fine.
The second unit, though, is going to be tough – especially with the bigs. Dwayne Jones is going to find out that the regular season is nothing like the preseason. And Donyell is going to have to step up and play more minutes, and I’m not totally sure he’s capable of extended minutes at this stage of his career. He’ll have to be more of a 4 and less of a 3, which somewhat changes the dynamic of his game, because he’s a good three-point shooter. He’ll have to stick closer to the boards, and he’ll have to rely more on the 15-foot shot and less on the three-point shot.
As far as Anderson and Sasha not being here and the team’s mentality – I think at first they were concerned with the situation. But the closer it gets to the exhibition season, they’re starting to realize that they have to go to war with what they have. You have to forget about them now. If they don’t make it by the next two exhibition games, they won’t start the season. And I think the starters are going to have to be ready to log more minutes early in the season.
Hopefully, going what the Cavs went through to get to the Finals – knowing that at certain points of the season, you have to have a sharper focus than others – they have to come out of the blocks with that sharp focus immediately. They’re going to want to be somewhere around .500 when they get back from the long West Coast trip. It has to be a mentality of what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. It has to be. They’ll have a lot of adversity to deal with right off the bat. There’s not going to be any cakewalks. Teams know that we’re the Eastern Conference Champions.
The starters seem to be a lot more sure of themselves now that they’ve incorporated some of their new offense. They want to do the new drive-and-kick. San Antonio is so good at it, and when I watched films of the playoffs, I was really impressed. They bait you in with that first drive and kick it over to the open man. They dare the defense that if you’re going to rush at him, we’re going to break the defense down even more and get a layup or an easy shot. If you don’t rush at him, he can shoot it from right there. They are very good at having patience and waiting. And I’m starting to see that happen with the Cavaliers, but they don’t quite feel comfortable with it yet.
Boobie can really excel in the new offense. He’s got to use his penetration. He proved that he can go to the basket during the playoffs. And he can take a bump, too. He’s got to start looking for penetration first, jump shot second. Like Coach Fitch used to tell us: If you can break your man down every time and play basketball the right way, you don’t have to run a play. If I break this man down and someone comes to help, we could just play until we found the open make to take the shot. Boom! I think that’s what they’re looking for: more fluidity to the offense.
I said earlier that the second unit is going to have a tough road, but it’s not that some of the reserves haven’t been impressive. They have.
Dwayne Jones has surprised me. He goes after it and tries to be a physical presence on the floor. That’s something I really think this team can use. His inexperience will hurt him, but hopefully by the time we go through half the season, he’ll be ready and more comfortable with what’s going on around the basket. But it’s good to have a guy in there that wants to get physical. I’m impressed with him.
Shannon Brown is obviously starting to contribute. The only thing I was a little disappointed with as far as Shannon goes was that his shooting percentage was kind of low. He scored, but he took a ton of shots, and a lot of them were not on balance. It was almost like he was trying to get himself back into the flow of playing again. I know he comes from a very solid background – with Coach Izzo – so he understands good shots from bad shots. He just has to get back into the flow. And I think, with extended minutes, that he’ll do that. Now he can concentrate on taking good shots. Because everything else he pretty much has down. As long as he has the same desire on the defensive end as he does on the offensive end, he’ll be fine.
Now they just have to put all the pieces together. And it’s not going to be easy.
It’s not going to be easy walking into team’s arenas as Eastern Conference Champions. Everyone will be gunning for us. The Cavaliers will have to come out with a focus – they need to have the mentality: We are who we are, and we plan on staying there. We’re here stay. We’re not going anywhere. Can you beat us?
Friday, October 12, 2007
Devin Brown looked good, Shannon Brown was very instrumental and I thought Dwayne Jones did some real nice boardwork. And LeBron looked like he had some pep in his step. He was ready and he came out with a purpose. And the team followed that whole concept. You can see them starting to get revved up.
It’s a matter of pride now. After that lackluster outing against Washington, you could see that this team has pride. They’re the Eastern Conference Champions and you could see – after that scuffle in the third quarter with Rasheed – that they were saying, “OK, you want to play now?” And it was really good to see that fire in the belly.
I know it’s early, but a few guys have looked good to me. I’ve always liked Devin (Brown). He’s a little undersized for the three, but he can play there because he’s a strong individual and he plays well around the basket. Shannon has impressed me. And Boobie is starting to understand how to play the point guard – when to use his penetration.
And I also like the fact that they’re taking the ball out of LeBron’s hands and allowing him to play the game. Use that ability that he has to run plays during the game – when you need it. This way teams can’t sit on LeBron the entire time. And that’s a big plus. The more we can do that – again, I go back to what I saw this summer at the FIBA Tournament in Vegas – the better off the entire team will be. The young man will be unstoppable if he can just play the game.
As far as the last roster spot for a big man, it seemed like Dwayne Jones got the upper hand with his 13-rebound game on Thursday night. His offensive game needs a lot of work, but as far as everything else, he’s on it. Some of the other guys show flashes, but we haven’t seen them enough to really know what they do.
It’s tough when you’re fighting for a roster spot and every minute on the floor. I didn’t experience that at first – because of the way I came into the league. But when I went to Dallas in the later part of my career, every dribble, every shot had to be perfect. And that’s real tough.
The Cavaliers have a brutal road schedule to start the season – especially considering that they’ll be gone for eight days in China. A tough road schedule can solidify a team. I think it will, because you kind of get into a group setting, and you focus that way. But you have to fight off becoming travel-weary. They’re going to have to get as much rest as they can. Every chance you get, you have to get off your feet. You have to be smart about the situation.
It’s tough on a coaching staff, because so many of your days are cut off – and these are days that you need to spend implementing things into the offense and defense. In China, you’re going to have media around you all the time, you’re going to have practices cut short. You’re going to have all types of things that interfere with the teaching process and what you want to put in. And sometimes, you might have to say, “We can’t make it – we have this to do.” Because the most important thing is to get all of your offensive and defensive schemes in. It’s as simple as that.
You can tell right now that the Cavaliers are learning the new offense because they’re just a little bit robotic. But that’s how it happens.
But the most important thing – and change that I’m seeing in the offense – is that they’re pushing the ball up the floor to the first man. What I think they understand, is that when you push the ball up, it makes the defense have to get back and get to the level of the ball. And that flattens them out. The defense that doesn’t get all the way back is chasing – and you have control of them. And a lot guys will get caught out of position. Once you have defenders chasing like this, all you have to do is move the ball.
The good running teams like Phoenix, that’s where they really take advantage of you. They get big fours guarding guards. They get centers guarding small forwards because they push it up the floor so much that all you do is wind up chasing them the whole time. And that’s what Mike is trying to incorporate into the offense: Let’s get more aggressive; let’s force teams to chase us.
Like Coach Fitch used to tell us: If you rebound and play defense and push the ball down the floor, I don’t care if you run a play. Because all the plays are going to be right in front of you. Just play basketball. Because guys are going to be out of position and a guard could wind up one-one-one with a center. And those are easy baskets.
The most important thing that comes out of this new philosophy is that guys will not be able to set up on LeBron. He is probably the fastest guy in the league in terms of covering ground from one end of the floor to the other. So why not take advantage of that? Get the ball out there and push it up the floor. Don’t hold it, don’t dribble it up the floor – get it up the floor. The ball moves up the floor much faster passing it up the floor than dribbling it up.
When I was in high school and the Celtics used to invite me to play with them in the summer, we’d play 40 minute scrimmages where the only turnover was dribbling the ball.
You don’t have to have quick people if you move the ball with the pass, because all you’re doing is passing to a “position.” But when you’re dribbling the ball up, you’d better have guys who can handle the ball quickly, because if not, you don’t have a fast break.
I’m hoping the guys catch on to this, because it could be a huge plus for us.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Hey everyone! This is A.C. -- what is happening?
The Cavaliers come to Training Camp with a couple of missing pieces. And that can be difficult to deal with.
As a player, you want to try and stay focused, but you feel like you have pieces missing. You don’t feel whole. And you make due with what you have. But in the back of your mind, you wonder what it would be like with them. You deal with what you have – sometimes that’s good. Sometimes that’s bad.
We had the same situation after our big year. The next season, free agency hit us and we lost some guys and it just seemed like we were in limbo. It was almost like, “We’ll get started after they get here.” And that’s probably what’s going on a little bit with the guys now.
They’ve been together long enough now that they’re used to the styles of Anderson and Sasha.
Now, if these new guys – Devin Brown and Cedric Simmons – can bring something positive to the table, maybe even something better that Anderson and Sasha, it’s still a tough change. But it’s a positive change.
Devin Brown is a very solid player. He’s not great at anything, but he’s good at everything. And he will defend you. He’ll hit the mid-range shot, he’ll occasionally stroke the three. He’s a physical, aggressive player and that’s what I like about him. And he can fill in at three positions.
Cedric Simmons, I don’t know as much about him. I know he’s a raw talent – very rangy. He can cover a lot of ground and likes to be very physical with the ball and will dunk on you. He’s a good shot-blocker and I think the coaching staff is very excited about that. The key for him is how quickly he can learn the pro game and grow in the system. He’s from a small town in North Carolina so he has to learn to deal with “the big city.”
The Cavaliers will also have to replace some the intangibles that Eric Snow brings to the lineup. The leadership and the calming effect he has on the offense is going to take a hit without Eric.
Somebody else is going to have to step up and be the calming effect. Larry’s going to have to be there, Damon’s going to have to be there. And they’re going to have to help Boobie along as well. Hopefully Shannon will play a bigger role this year, too.
But Larry and Damon are going to have to replace that calming effect that E-Snow brings to the team.
It’s not going to be easy this year. The Cavaliers will go into the season with a bull’s-eye on their backs now – especially when they go on the road where they’ll be the marquee matchup.
And I think it can affect them in two ways: Either you’re going to let the pressure get to you, or you’re going to walk into the arena with your chest stuck out and say, “We’re the Champs. Can you beat us?”
If they bring that attitude to the table, they’re going to have another successful year.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
The Cavaliers have been a little quiet this off-season. I wouldn’t say that I’m too worried because we did get to the NBA Finals last year. And we’re a year older now and I hope that year of experience will pay off.
A lot is going to be put on Boobie Gibson this year if we don’t make a move to bring in someone. A lot will depend on Boobie’s development into the point guard we’re looking for.
If I had any concerns, they came out during the FIBA Americas Championship this year. When you see how LeBron plays the game when he does not have to orchestrate the entire game – when he can just play the game – the other team is pretty much at his mercy. Whatever he wants to do, he can do it.
But you have to have someone else who can orchestrate the game. And I think it’ll help everyone involved if we can get that – whether it’s someone on our roster or someone we have to go out and get. That type of player frees up everybody and gives us another dimension that I think we’ll need to get over the hump. And it’ll relieve the physical pressure, the beating that LeBron will take.
There are players out there and management is aware of them. But you don’t want to make just any deal just to make a deal. So you have to be prudent about what you do. Especially the way the salary cap is set up right now. You don’t want to make a deal now that’s going to hurt you five years from now just so you can say you made one.
I have confidence in our management that they’ll do whatever’s possible to get us over the top.
But one thing our front office has fallen prey to – and a lot of front offices throughout the league have – is the talent level is just not what it used to be. I don’t know if it’s that there’s too many teams now or what. But it’s just not there. So you almost have to go after unproven people, and hope that that works. It’s tough to find proven guys because – let’s face it – teams don’t give up on proven guys.
At the same time, if you look at the other side of the ledger, people talk about how things fell into place for us last year – getting the second seed in the East – but we also had to execute. We had to take advantage of that situation and I think all the players now have the bit in their mouth – they understand now that they’re right there. All they need is enough to push them over the hump.
The one thing I know they’re going to find out – which I found out when we got to the Eastern Conference Finals, even though we didn’t make it to the Finals – was that the next year is tough. It’s harder because everyone is gunning for you now. The Cavs have got to be ready to accept the challenge from day one.
That’s why the year the Pistons had after they won the Championship was so amazing. To start the next year, they went through the league like a hot knife through butter, and that was so unbelievable. The Cavaliers need to find the type of toughness and mental preparation to get back to that level and I’m hoping we’re up to the task.
There were about 14 of 15 games against lesser opponents that I feel the Cavs kind of gave away last year. But I think that they’re going to be more focused and understand that if you want to win an NBA Championship, there’s a certain mental approach that you have to have regardless of what’s going on.
I think they understand that now because if San Antonio had to come to US first, it would have been a totally different situation in the Finals. After winning the Pistons series and then staying at home to play San Antonio – it was only a difference of only a few games in our records – would have changed everything. If we would have taken care of our business during the season and won half of those 14 or 15 games that we could have won, we would have had home court advantage during the Finals.
I had to learn that and I think they’ve learned that. You have to take care of your business during the regular season. Each game has its own merit. I learned that years ago from playing against the Boston Celtics. They’d come out and fight you tooth-and-nail from the opening game of the season – they’d play like it was the last game. Because they knew that game would help them at the end of the year, as far as positioning was concerned. And that’s something I hope our players understand.
In the Eastern Conference, there’s going to be five or six teams fighting for those top four spots. And I think our guys understand now, right from day one, as soon as Dallas comes in here, they’ll be ready to go for it. You have to. If you just want to get into the Playoffs, you can ease your way into the season. But if you’re going after the Championship, you start from day one and you take it all the way.
One player that I see stepping up his contribution to the team this year is Shannon Brown. I hope he’s worked on his ball-handling. He’s sat on the bench for a whole year and this year I think he sees his opportunity, where he can fit in.
I had to do it – come in as a two-guard and learn to play some point. I had to learn how to handle the ball, how to make decisions, how to get other the ball in a position where they can do something with it.
So if I were Shannon, I would have worked on my ball-handling all summer. Learn how to read plays and understand how to set up people, because that’s what we need. Shannon’s always going to be a good athlete and scorer and run the floor well. If he adds ball-handling and that part of the game to his repertoire, he could really be a plus for the Cavaliers this year.
As for me this upcoming season, along with Fred McCleod, I’ll be broadcasting all 70 games on FSN this year.
I’ve been doing some extra training and I’m ready for the rigors of the NBA. I’m going to be out of town quite a bit, but I’m looking forward to it. Because I love the game. I love the way our team is performing.
And it’ll nice to walk into the NBA arenas this year with my chest stuck out … you know: “We bad!”
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
And what a great year!
If you had told me at the beginning of the season that we’d have reached the NBA Finals, I’d have said, No way. To do what we did, I think, in one year really is phenomenal...We matured as a team, as a coaching staff, and as an organization and everybody played a role in it. Now we know what it takes to win a championship. I think before we were just guessing, but after experiencing it, we know now the energy level and concentration level it takes from game 1 through game 82 on through the postseason…
To get to the well and not be able to drink the water is frustrating. Still, it’ll be nice to hear when they introduce the Cavaliers as Eastern Conference Champions. That sounds good, doesn’t it?
And we need to stay hungry. When you have a team beat at the end of the third quarter, you’ve got to finish. The small games aren’t nitpicking. The key is, the right scenario has to happen for you to get deep into the playoffs. Winning those small games during the season - against Charlotte, against Atlanta, against the Knicks - helps you get the home court advantage which helps create the right scenario. If we had won half of those games we gave away early in the season, we could conceivably have had home court advantage throughout the postseason and the psychological edge that would have given us would have been big...
As for the offseason, you’d like to keep the core of the team solid, but free agency has its impact. Right after the Miracle year, we started losing our guys. The key is defining how we’re gonna play LeBron and set the offense up so that it goes through him or the small forward position; take the ball out of his hands as far as bringing it up the floor and instead get it and him down near the basket...
We need to make it so LeBron plays the game instead of having to orchestrate the game.
He needs to get his mid-range game going, the 15- to 20-foot jumpers that would let him get all the shots he wants without getting beat up. As we got deeper into the playoffs, it became harder for him to score easy. Michael Jordan became a master of the mid-range game after he came back from his first retirement...
We also have to move Z around a little bit more, keep Drew playing his mid-range game, set up the offense where all the big people can play all the big positions and can rotate without a problem. In the same way, Larry, LeBron, Boobie, all those guys have to be able to play the one, two or the three so that we give different looks and make it so the defense can’t key in on one thing. Play against the match-ups the defense provides. I think, naturally, we need to figure out what we’re gonna do at the point guard position, whether we keep Larry there or move Larry back to the two guard, and if Sasha goes back to the bench, which might strengthen our bench, like Manu does with the Spurs...
But for now, it’s been a great year. We've accomplished a lot, we’ve learned a lot - we even learned how to approach the regular season now – and the key will be not to get complacent and that will be crucial - how hungry are we gonna be?
We haven’t got the ring yet. And now we’re marked. Everybody’s gonna bring their A-game at us every night. So we’ll now have to play A-game basketball as the norm. A-game basketball all the time. Because we’re that close now. We're that close...
We're that close...
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
...This is A.C.
The Spurs have sort of taken us out of our comfort zone these first two games. They’re defense and their style of play, as far as their intensity level is concerned, has taken us out of our comfort zone. They play at a harder pace, a more intense pace. We seem to accept mistakes, but when they throw the ball away, or miss shots they should make, you can see the anguish on their faces. I’m hoping by coming back home that we develop that same attitude.
This is a different animal we’re dealing with here, different than Detroit or New Jersey. Spotting those guys two games...Once they go up by ten, man, they’re next step is to go up 20. They’re objective is to put you away and we haven’t dealt with a team like that in quite a while. They're a very smart basketball team. They wait on picks and don’t rush their picks. They make foul shots. They execute their defense perfectly. And every time they get to the Finals they complete the deal.
It’s something we can learn from.
They also have three guys who we really have not shown an answer for right now in Duncan, Parker and Ginobili. They isolate Duncan at the right times, something that we could learn to use in our own arsenal. And even though we are a good help-defensive team, individually we’re breaking down quite a bit, especially with Parker and Ginobili.
We have to hold our serve. Can we win three games at home is what it’s gonna come down to. We’ve done it so far, so I don’t have any doubts that we can do it. Our offense has to have a little more variety to it and our individual defense has to get better. We need to do a better job on their three guys - None of the other guys have scored more than six points a game.
We are still a work-in-progress, though also a team ahead of the curve and each playoff game we have gone to a new level. And to make it to the finals as a work-in-progress to me bodes well for our future. But the future is now and we have to win the next two games, three games. We’ve done it before.
Now let's go out there and do it again.
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
After being with the organization since 1971 - and getting close as a player, but not quite making it - and then now pushing over the hump - and because I’ve been with these guys every dribble, every pass, every mistake - it almost feels like I was there with them.
But we still have unfinished business.
Still, I really feel for guys like Donyell, Damon, David Wesley, guys who’ve been in the league a long time and are now experiencing their first Finals. I’m so happy for those guys. At the same time, I’m awfully proud of people like LeBron, Drew, Eric, Larry, and Z- Z has been a trooper because he was chastised for a lot of things, but he stayed true to himself and made sure he picked up his game this postseason and it's made a difference. To see LeBron embrace him like that - man, it was something. Then, to top it all off, we get a diamond in the rough in Boobie Gibson – in two weeks he’s become a household name, not only in Cleveland, but around the country. It’s ironic that he’s going back to his home state to play in the finals. It’s just a great situation all the way around.
Larry Hughes to me has to share some of the MVP ranking. To take what he did pain-wise, it really galvanized the team. He made them realize it was about the team, not about individuals. And he gave them some great minutes, even under adverse conditions. I think what he went through this series pretty much dispels the criticism he's endured. He showed big heart. I took those same cortisone shots and when they wear off it hurts, man. And to have to recover in one day and go out and to do it again – I really take my hat off to Larry Hughes, because he deserves a lot of credit.
LeBron showed me and everybody in the world how astute a basketball player he is. He understands the game so well, and as I told him in the locker room after the game, it seemed like he empowered his teammates to step up, like he did in high school. And he's matured so fast - not even just one year to the next, but from Game 1 to Game 6, he matured so quick.
The coaching staff has also stayed true to itself while adjusting when necessary. They actually took the team they finished games with and made them the starting team. Plus, again, they got the team to believe in their philosophy. Of course, you have to win games to get a team to believe in your philosophy and they won those games with the defense-first approach.
And then there's Coach Brown: two years in the league, 50 wins each year, brings this team to the Finals, and still doesn't get the credit he deserves. And he himself tweaked his own philosophies during the playoffs, developing a shooting lineup, learning when to call timeouts.
Even Danny Ferry and Lance Blanks reinforcing that we're a no-excuses team after Game 2 - what that did, it made the team forget about the calls that were going against them and focus more on winning the game. That was a major turning point in the series and Danny and Lance knew that they had to interject themselves into the equation to keep everything stable. That was a huge.
On this team right now, everybody knows their sweet spots. And once you learn that, you can start to develop a solid unit where everybody knows where they fit in and it all works together. Z's got his pick and pop. Drew and LBJ are the post-up guys down low. Larry’s a slasher, Sasha’s a slasher and a shooter. Eric's our defensive specialist.
Finally, you have to give the ownership group credit. To be able to reach their goal in two years is amazing. They empower their people to make decisions and make things work and all of that takes the franchise to another level off the court. That massive power of everyone making decisions is really a massive powerful flow of energy that rises to the top...He definitely keeps you on your toes, too.
This team knows they’re going up against a dragon in the Spurs - as LeBron says, the Big Bad Wolf - but they’ll be ready because they match up well with San Antonio. It’s gonna be interesting because San Antonio defends the same way, and it’s gonna come down to individual efforts. We were fortunate enough to beat them twice in the season because of matchups, but they play totally different in the playoffs. They were able to slow down Utah, slow down Phoenix; on the other hand, we were able to slow down New Jersey and we were able to go toe-to-toe and bang it with the Pistons.
It'll come down to which team can impose its will on the other team, which is gonna be some battle. And that’s gonna be a beautiful thing to watch.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
What a good feeling this is...
I think the Pistons know we can beat them now. I saw the cockiness and swagger in them before the series, but I think the games in Detroit and now with what’s happened here, the Pistons know we can beat them...
For the Cavs to win 50 games back-to-back and each year progress in the playoffs, really is a testament to the system they’ve put in place. Coach Brown’s focus on the one-day, one-game-at-a-time concept has really prepared this team for the playoffs...
Larry was a hero last night, regardless of his production. What he did is something you don’t see in this day with professional athletes in sports. He sacrificed for the team. What he did made them become a team last night...And then you had Z hitting a big shot, getting some big rebounds...Drew’s starting to shoot the ball and play well on the offensive end. The bench has come to life. Donyell had a good game and had a definite effect on the game. Boobie is starting to attack the rim - and he explodes to the basket! Fouling him is the only thing they can do and he’s deadly because he knocks his free throws down. Again, if Z is hitting that 15 footer, Drew's hitting 15 footers, and Donyell and Boobie are doing their thing, it really opens up the floor...
Then that steal Eric had at the end of the game was the key to the win. Rip and Chauncey were right on it and Eric exploded through both of them and got it...
Getting solid minutes from everybody - I think they can smell it now...
The only negative again is the third quarter. I don’t know what it is, but the third quarter malaise is something that needs to be addressed. But it’s the only thing I can see that needs to be focused on as we go forward. But again, our defense has kept us from falling prey to that third quarter malaise. They’ll eventually figure it out...
It’s amazing how all these games have come down to the final quarter. The only difference is, we didn’t execute well in Detroit in the last five minutes. But we’re learning on the job real quick. And now we're starting to be the aggressor and the executor at the end of the games. And you see where LeBron is not only scoring baskets, but his teammates are starting to deliver, too. That’s when the Cavaliers operate at their best, when the other guys are able to knock down the shots off of LeBron’s passes...Boy, you could tell LeBron wanted to win that game...
The Pistons have to come hard Thursday because they have a little fear now. They didn’t have fear until now. They're frustrated and you're also starting to see them squabbling among themselves. Which means, as a team, we should feel very comfortable being up there...
Last night’s win was a big, big win and I’m looking to have a Game 6 here Saturday for an Eastern Conference Championship. With the Tigers in town for the weekend against the Indians and summertime in Cleveland and a chance to clinch...
Man, you couldn’t ask for a better scenario...
Friday, May 25, 2007
I kind of have mixed emotions about this series. I feel on one hand that we can beat this team and beat them handily because of the way we’ve played them on their home floor. On the other hand, I’m concerned because we played the same type of game twice in a row and we lost. Which tells me that they are better at a close game than we are, because they execute down the stretch. But we still stay with them...
But that third quarter, man. We seem to feel we can coast to the finish line. It’s frustrating to play such a great first half – our guys played a great first half – and to come out and give it all back in the first seven minutes is frustrating.
It’s true that we’re not getting any breaks, any calls, and maybe that’s a rite of passage; maybe we’re paying the price for being an inexperienced team in the playoffs. It’s tough. You expect to be treated fairly, but then when the tables are turned on you like that, it makes it tough. I remember when we played in Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals and we were down 3-2. I was driving to the basket and the referee, Earl Strom, was looking at me right in my face and Jo-Jo White grabs my arm and Earl Strom had a look that said, You better make it because I’m not gonna call it. And sure enough, I was able to get the ball up into the basket, but we didn't get the call; it would’ve made a difference…
The Cavaliers maturation period is in full-bloom now. Not just playoff basketball, but championship basketball. You keep your focus. You pay attention to the details. And you make shots. You have to have guys who’ll put the ball in the basket. The Pistons have enough talented guys, one through eight, who can carry it.
I’ll say it again, the Pistons have patience. Playoff patience. They take their time. Boom-boom-boom. They don’t rush anything. Not just running the shot clock down, but getting the shot they want. We end up taking a shot we don’t want. But they run the shot clock down and get the shot they want. Experience and execution. That’s what it’s all about. We brush a pick. They set a pick. If they’re gonna slip a pick, they at least make contact when they set it. We’ll anticipate slipping a pick and we’re gone before the defender gets there.
Our defense is just as good as theirs, but their offense is better than ours. It’s silly to think we can win grind-out games with them. We’ve got to score 90 or more points consistently to beat them convincingly. We have to open up the floor, force them to have to score. We can’t just eek out a game. We need the game up around 90 to force them to open up the floor on both ends.
When you look at the series as a whole, though, all they’ve done is hold serve. When you look at it that way, we just need to win our two games here, hold our serve now, and with our crowd behind us, we need to play it tough. We play them tough on their floor and it’ll be like last year. We have to win four straight. We can do it.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
The only thing I didn’t like about Monday night is that we once again lost a game at the beginning of the third quarter. It’s happened all season. It happened in the Jersey series. We come out flat and that problem needs to be addressed. It doesn’t make sense for this team to play as well as they did in that first half and then come out and let the Pistons go on a 17-6 run, and basically that was the game right there…
What I learned when I got into the playoffs at this level, it’s not good enough to say that you had a ‘chance to win.’ Because a chance is nothing but a loss. You’ve gotta win. You have to get the job done if you’re gonna win. If you don’t get it done, a pat on the back means nothing because you lose. And that’s a hurt feeling, man. I hated that feeling. Getting that close, playing six, seven months of basketball and missing one shot to lose, that’s a bad feeling…Moral victories do not get it at this round of the playoffs. In the playoffs, moral victories get you nothing but a loss. It may sound hard, but that’s reality. It’s painful…
I also hated to waste a great game by Z like that. When Z plays like that, we have to win those games. And like I told everybody from the beginning of the season, if Z can hit that 15-foot shot, that’s gonna give us a huge advantage in the playoffs. Especially against the Pistons because they’ll give him that shot. Now he’s knocking ‘em down and it’s changing the whole complexion of the series because they have to game-plan for him now. Which will take another guy out of the middle. C-Web can’t move anymore, especially laterally - he can’t move at all laterally - so they don’t want to run him out there. Plus, Z can shoot over the top of him anyway. So, to me, that should be a focal point of everything. We should start with Z right away. Make their defense react to that, then we play off of their reaction…
The Pistons are forcing us to be a better half-court executing team on offense. If you watch the Pistons run their offense, they wait. They wait for plays to develop. They wait before they set picks. They wait for the pick to get set before you move off of it. They wait for the guy to get open before they make the pass…
If you look at our offense, we’re running too quick. We go too fast. We don’t give the defense a chance to make a mistake. We make the mistake because we go too fast and – boom! When you get to this level, the little things count. Little things like timing on offense. Letting things develop. Having patience. All of that counts now and that’s the difference in the two teams right now…
It has to be a five-on-five game. They have five guys who can make plays. We need five guys who can likewise step-up and make plays. You look at their balanced scoring; they don’t have any 30-point guys. But they all can do what they have to do when it’s needed, when it’s necessary…
We have to win tonight in order to change the complexion of this series. If we don’t win, then we’re going to have to pull off a miracle like we did last year…The Pistons know we can compete with them. We match-up well with them, so every game’s gonna be like the last one. I don’t see anybody getting blown out. Unless they just shoot the ball horribly. But how much worse can we shoot? We shot 38% from the field; 10% from 3-point land; and 65% from the foul line. It doesn’t get much worse than that. We should shoot the ball better, which I think will give us a win Thursday…
Monday, May 21, 2007
What a feeling – playing basketball this late in the spring!
You knew New Jersey was going to make a run, but I didn’t think it was going to be that strong of a run. Then our bench, which had been sputtering for a while - really since Sasha was put in the starting line-up - came alive. Coach Brown went with his shooting unit, and it helped spread the floor with Donyell, Daniel and Damon - the Nets couldn’t sag in the middle - and it paid off..
Daniel really matured and Donyell gave himself a great birthday present. And Damon did a good job with Jason Kidd, fighting through the picks, and he kept Kidd’s penetration down in the paint. He only took one shot, but the Nets still had to run across the floor to cover him. It really showed me who the Cavaliers are. We need shooters around LeBron so we can see what he really is – a 20-10-10 guy. He’s a facilitator and to be a facilitator, you have to have someone to pass to. We need those guys to be offensive-minded but defensive-oriented, able to hit the shots and get back on D...
We made the Nets change their character. We outrebounded so they had to stay home, stay around the basket. We made them play out of character and in that fourth quarter of Game 6, it caught up with them...
Can you imagine? Four games away from the finals…
We basically play the same style as Detroit, so it’s going to be a battle of wills now. We know what they do, they know what we do. You might see a different type of defense, a zone press or a trapping zone; you may tweak your plays a little differently, let someone different initiate the offense…But mostly, you can’t do what Dallas did, and that’s change what you’ve done all season...
I think the Pistons are close to their peak, if not a little beyond it. With Chris Webber in the middle, they are older. But he wants a ring and wanting a ring is a way to motivate themselves...I would attack Billups and Rasheed, attack those guys, put them in pick-and-rolls where they’ll have to guard our guys, make them play defense...
The Pistons are confident, but they have doubt. We are the underdogs so we can go in and have fun and thus we should be a dangerous team. If our shooters are shooting, we should have no problem with opening the floor for LeBron. We are the one team who has a reason to beat them. We should’ve beat them in four straight games last year. They know that we have the incentive...No one has respected us all year, so now is the time to prove them all wrong…But in the end, you have to do it. You have to win the games...
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
I feel confident about Wednesday night. With a big win Monday, with coming home, with this team playing with confidence, we should be able to take care of business. We play better at home, we have more players who get involved in scoring at home than on the road, and that’s gonna cause a problem for New Jersey. Our home court’s been our sanctuary. And you know the crowd’s gonna be into it...
You have to have confidence in the playoffs, but you temper that with the fear of defeat and that keeps you sharp and makes it so you don’t get complacent. Because that’s the worst enemy you can have in the playoffs is complacency. As a player, I always wanted to feel the butterflies, feel the nerves, and fear defeat. That way I knew I was going to be on top of my game. I used to almost panic before a game if I didn’t feel the butterflies nor feel the fear...
But Coach Brown's been grooming these guys for this moment all season. He coaches one game at a time, one day at a time, building toward the playoffs. He sets his team up for this time of year. It’s the lineage he’s come from, from Popovich on down, that you’re offense comes from your defense, and the only thing that the Cavaliers need now is to get their half-court execution a little better. Otherwise, they’re a well-rounded team and everything else is falling into place...
New Jersey still has life, but they realize that they have to beat us three straight times, twice here, once there. Plus, there’s only one day rest; Carter’s banged-up, Kidd’s banged-up, Jefferson’s still coming off an ankle situation. They may see a light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s a blurry light. Still, you have to beat them; they’re not gonna give it to you...
I definitely look for New Jersey to come out swinging. They're gonna come out strong. Sasha and LeBron both are taking the challenge of a physical game. Driving to the basket, anticipating the contact, inviting the contact, then adjusting to the contact and getting the and-one opportunity. But that’s what you want. I always wanted to be in a physical game because then you focus better. I always focused better when it’s a grind-out-type game. And to me, the playoffs are all about grinding it out...
We don’t want to get over energized and get too speeded up. It comes back to letting our defense do the talking and dominating the boards. When we beat them on the boards, we win. It also helps us loosen up the game. We want to have two or three minutes each quarter where we’re foot-loose and fancy-free and get some separation from them. When we run off of turnovers and good rebounding that’s when we’re at our best...
If we win tomorrow, the playoffs actually will begin for us with the next series. We’ll have done what we’re expected to do. Now it’ll be time to take it to the next level in the next series...
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
All three of their guys had good games last night, and the Nets still lost. So they must be scratching their heads now. What do we have to do? Do all three guys have to get 30 for us to win?
I was really encouraged to see how we executed when we had to down the stretch. I mean, we just kind of slowly got stops and just kind of took over the game once we figured out how they were defending us. You could see in the second half when we made the run…
We’re more suited to a playoff half-court possession game, run when we get the opportunity, whereas the Nets kind of look at it as, they’re always a running team. But I think we’re controlling the pace of the game so well basically because if you give up as many offensive rebounds as the Nets gave up – I think 20 in the first game, 19 last night – it’s hard to be a running team. You can’t run…
If you noticed last night, Jason Kidd was trying to run off of made baskets. He was trying to push the ball up the floor, but his teammates were behind him so there’s not much he can do up there by himself…
I was really surprised by Jason Kidd’s 8 turnovers. He was anticipating where his teammates should be and they weren’t there. That’s basically what it was. Also, that steal that LeBron made shows you how well LeBron is on what’s going on out there.
Jason Kidd had been making that pass the last two games where he would be on one side of the floor and he’d flip it all the way back to the other side of the floor and catch the guy coming down in transition. And LeBron had noticed that and all of a sudden he waited on it – I saw him out of the corner of my eye. He saw that guy coming and you could see LeBron was retreating, then all of a sudden when he saw Kidd, he stopped. And then he started coming back to the passing lane and – boom – he got the steal and was gone. That tells me how aware he is of what’s going on out there…
Our crowd has really become a basketball crowd now. They’re learning how to incorporate themselves into the game. It’s becoming close to the Miracle year as far as the volume of noise and how long the noise lasts...
In our Miracle year and the year after, it would start an hour before the game and you can almost see now, once that game starts, once that introduction starts – and our introduction is one of the best in the league – it just seems like it never stops now. And that’s when the crowd is starting to understand how to interject themselves. The crowd is starting to understand that together they’re becoming like a sixth man out there. When you can’t hear anything, when you make the other team communicate by signals, man, that’s when you really have an advantage out there on that floor…
They knew we needed defense in that fourth quarter, and they started defensive chants and it never stopped – it just kept going, kept going. And when you don’t have to be prodded to do something and you do it automatic, that’s when you’re starting to become a real fan base…
This weekend, New Jersey’s gonna shoot better. They're at home. Now the key is, if we continue to rebound the ball the way we are, especially on the offensive boards, I don’t see how they can run the basketball against us. You can’t run without the ball. And if we keep getting it and putting it back in the basket or getting extra possessions, now the Nets are focused on something they’re not used to doing.
Our front court has been dominating most of the NBA all year as far as rebounding’s concerned. And the Nets front court is not a good rebounding front court, so they have to get their rebounds from Kidd, Carter and Jefferson. That, to me, takes a lot of energy out of the offensive end of the floor. So now they’re fighting themselves.
The Cavaliers have to continue to make them fight themselves, because the Nets are gonna shoot better. They will shoot better and have a little bit more energy at home. That first half – if we don’t get ourselves in trouble in that first half of game three, I think we have a good chance of winning game three.
And that’s the game I want. Then we got them where we want them.
Tuesday, May 8, 2007
…The team seems to me, since those last four games they had to win at the end of the season, that they’ve been all-business, almost as if they were waiting for this. I didn’t think they could turn it on the way they’ve been turning it on…You just can see it in all of them, from the one man down to 15, they all have a different swagger about them now and a different mindset. Their game faces are different…The experience factor has really been a big help to these guys because they have a different demeanor now; they just seem to be more calm about what’s going on and what they have to do and in understanding the playoffs. That each game has its own identity...
Sunday, they weren’t sharp, as far as executing was concerned. But I think Larry is doing a great job at understanding how to be the point guard even when his offensive game is not going well. In the third quarter, he could see that we needed Drew going and he purposely brought the ball to Drew, to his side of the floor, cleared everybody else out, and he tried to get Drew going because he knew we needed Drew and then all of a sudden Drew started coming around and that opened up everything for everybody else. Larry does a masterful job of understanding how to get the right people the ball to get them going. And then he always has the ability to do his own thing – and he started picking his spots to do that, too...
Sasha hadn’t played but 28 seconds in the playoffs in his whole career. Then all of a sudden you get thrown into the middle of it and everybody’s expecting big things. The two glamour positions in the NBA are the 2 and the 3 and all of a sudden you get thrown into a situation to where you have to defend a guy like Carter, when you get stuck with a guy like Carter, man, and everybody’s expecting you to stop him and you’ve watched him score 40 or 50 - it does have a tendency to tighten you up. But what Sasha understood is that offensively is where you attack Carter, make him play D. The more you score against him, the less he’s gonna score. And I thought he did a super defensive job and he did look like himself. That play he made against Kidd was great. It was incredible. Most people would have given up on the play. Also, he watches what’s going on and who’s doing what around the league. He’s played long enough now that you know guys, you know their tendencies. So he knew Jason Kidd’s tendency is to lay the ball up in those situations, not dunk it. He knew he had a chance with Kidd. That tells me he’s starting to get very aware of what’s going on around him and that definitely will make him a better basketball player. But he kept going and you can see, when Sasha’s out there just playing the game and not worrying about every step he takes, he’s a pretty good basketball player...
Lenny Wilkens and Nate Thurmond were the ones who gave me a little bit of playoff preparation, but you cannot really prepare for it, even though they tell you. You cannot prepare for it until you get out there. And what I found out was that the intensity level is much different. Guys that I would just – chooo – beat with no problem all of a sudden now that guy’s two steps closer to me and he’s right on me. He’s scratching and clawing, he’s doing everything to stop me from doing what I have to do. Whereas during the regular season, he’s up on me, but you don’t feel the intensity pressure. In the playoffs, you feel the intensity pressure. And big people, the big men, they don’t let you just make layups anymore. All of a sudden, you pay for a layup. So what you do is you have to look for the contact, you want the contact because you know it’s gonna come, and once you get the contact, you try to make the three-point play. That to me was the biggest difference, the intensity level – plus defensively, I had to be more aware of my helping responsibilities because you get so caught up as a 2 guard in trying to stop a Phil Chenier or a Jo-Jo White, you’re trying to stop these guys so much that you get blinders on and then you forget about your helping responsibilities, too. So you have to kind of focus and kind of prepare yourself for that, too.
When you think about it, being off that long – and I remember when we were off six days and the Celtics blew us out that first game and we got blown out because the difference in waiting that long is you lose game speed. You practice, practice, practice – we even had game-time scrimmages and all that, but it does not relate to the game speed. Because you also have the adrenaline rush that you don’t have during practices because of the 20,000 people in there, screaming and hollering, and so that just sucks all the energy out of you and you have a tendency to get fatigued quicker. And that’s one of the things I was worried about, playing against a team like New Jersey...
New Jersey is gonna try and shoot more, shoot better. They may try to attack inside more, but at the same time, they’re gonna isolate Carter a lot, try to get Sasha in foul trouble early. Jason Kidd’s gonna try and penetrate more. I mean, personally, the way Jason Kidd’s going, you almost want him to do it himself. Because when he starts penetrating and dishing the ball off is when they’re tough. But when he has the ball and he’s penetrating and you stay one-on-one with him, that takes Richard Jefferson out. And see, when you let Jefferson play off of kid, that’s when you really have trouble. You gotta keep Jefferson from playing off of Kidd some kind of way. Because Carter’s gonna get his and Jason’s gonna get his 10 rebounds, 10 assists – it’s the scoring level, you don’t want to him to get up around 15 points because it’s tough then. And Jefferson, keep him out of the 20s. If you keep him out of the 20s, then you’re all right...But rebounding-wise, if New Jersey doesn’t rebound well, they’re not going to run. That’s why they didn’t run; their big men got something like nine rebounds between the three of them while their guards got like 30. So when you look at that, how can you run when your big men aren’t rebounding. So hopefully we can keep that trend up...
Friday, April 27, 2007
The second broadcast on FSN was much better than the first for me because they gave me some headphones. With just the ear piece, I couldn’t hear anything in that first game at all. There was so much crowd noise, I couldn’t hear what Fred and Scott were talking about. And I would panic because Fred would go, “A.C.” and I would go, “What? I can’t hear ya.” So they’d cut to me and I’d just start talking about whatever was on my mind. Sometimes I just kind of ad-libbed…I had to do a lot of improvising. So they gave me the headphones and now I can hear everything…
I think LeBron’s doing a great job of assessing his ankle situation. He’s not shooting a lot of jump shots now. Everything’s about going to the basket and being around that basket and that’s making a huge difference. Like I’ve said before, to me, the injury possibility cuts way down when he’s attacking around that basket. When he’s out front, and he gets up that head of steam, the momentum can cause a lot of injuries. Whereas, when he’s around that basket, it’s just a bump-a boomp-boomp-boomp-boomp and a shot. It’s not a “fly in there situation,” you know, so, I think injury-wise he has less chance of getting injured by playing around the free-throw line and in…
I think a lot of things stem back to Larry’s running of the point, as well. He makes sure that the right guys get the ball at the right times. And he’ll back off his game to, like, keep Drew going. You’ll notice they kept going to Drew, he and LeBron, kept going to Drew, going to Drew – then it was Z’s turn and boom, boom…
That 15-footer by Z, I’m telling you, that’s gonna be a huge shot for us going down the stretch. Because, whoever we may play in the next round, if we get through this round – or once we get through this round – will have to game plan for Z now AND Gooden AND LeBron AND Larry, then you’ve got Sasha slipping in the back door. So, I mean, there’s a lot of different avenues and the key for us is to figure out who they’re game-planning for and who’ll be the open guys. And if those guys are hitting, it’s gonna be tough to stop us…
I think this team will rise to the occasion in D.C. because I think they understand the importance of getting this series over with as quick as possible. The Wizards are going to play the same because they know the slow-down game is the only way they can beat us and then maybe take us over in the fourth quarter like they tried to do last game. So you know that’s what they’re gonna try and do…
And you know I think at home one or two of those guys’ll shoot a little bit better. Their best line-up, I think, is a small one; when they go small that’s when they seem to make their runs on us. But we rebounded great Wednesday night. They didn’t get hardly any second shots for a long time. So we gotta keep that edge, that rebounding edge, and use that to get out on the open floor as well as from defensive turnovers…
What we have to do is continue our focus on defense and make sure that when we get out on the open floor that we get some easy baskets. You know, five or six, seven easy baskets, five or six easy points in a quarter, that adds up to about 20 points, man, and that’s a good way of winning the game.