Saturday, December 29, 2007

Identity Crisis

Hey everyone – what’s happening? This is A.C., checking in. I hope you all had a safe and happy holiday season and let me be the first to wish you a Happy New Year!

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

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

Dipping Into the Mailbag

Hey, everybody! A.C. here – what’s happening?

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
City: Youngstown
State: Ohio

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
State: Ohio

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
State: Ohio

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
City: Athens
State: OH

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
City: Roselle
State: NJ

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
City: Akron
State: OH

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

Northern Exposure

Hey everyone! A.C. here – what’s happening?

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.