Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Blog Has Moved

Hello Everyone,

Just wanted to let everyone know that my blog has moved to CavFanatic.com and the new address is http://www.cavfanatic.com/austincarr/blog/.


Friday, May 9, 2008

Homeward Bound

Hey, everyone! It’s AC, checking in. What’s happening?

The Celtics have definitely done their job in frustrating the Cavaliers and LeBron James. Now, Cleveland finds themselves down 0-2, heading home.

What Boston is doing to LeBron, they’re building the wall – like most teams do. Their wall, though, includes an extra guy from the weakside. So, it winds up being four defenders instead of three. Most teams don’t like to expose or give up that extra guy.

The Cavaliers want to move the ball to the weakside, where that type of defense is exposed. But with a big guy in his face, LeBron is having a hard time throwing the pass back to the weakside over the top of the defense.

Thursday, we got off to a great start, but we let their defensive pressure take us out of our offensive sets. And we never recovered from that.

Right now, some of LeBron’s normal shots just aren’t going in. And that’s frustrating him as a shooter. But he has to continue to shoot the ball – he can’t stop shooting it – and hope that he comes out of this. The key is, Boston is doing exactly what they want to do: force the other guys to produce, which is putting a ton of pressure on LeBron, because he knows that – other than Z – the other guys are spotty.

He’ll never admit it, but this does produce a certain amount of pressure.

The Cavaliers need their other guys to step up. You see what happened in the first quarter when they went to Z.

Ilgauskas – and the team – need to realize that once he starts to make a few shots, he becomes the focal point of Boston’s defense. And Z needs to become a passer as well as a scorer, and move the ball. What’s happening is, once he starts scoring, he won’t give it up. By that time, they swarm him – and it’s becoming a problem.

But these are all simple adjustments. And the Cavaliers have been in this situation before, so they know how to deal with it. It’s not like the Cavs are going to panic. They just need to find a way to get more space for LeBron.

For starters, the first pass has to be quicker. Once LeBron sees that the Celtics defenders are coming to him – get rid of it – and get it back. Once he gets rid of it, he needs to cut to the weakside and get it back.

Keep the defense moving. You have to make the defense move.

As bad as it’s been in the first two games of the series, I expect them to come out ready to play. The homecourt crowd will get them amped up and they’ll come out knowing what they have to do. Because again – the Celtics haven’t won on the road in the playoffs, yet.

That’s an advantage for the Cavaliers, but the key is to come out and jump on them – and stay on them.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Short Memory

Hey everyone! It’s AC, checking in. What’s happening?

Well, we’re heading back to my hometown – Washington, D.C. – for Game 6. Wednesday night, the Wine and Gold couldn’t quite close it out.

When we went up five, I really thought we had enough to win the ballgame. But then we went back into giving the ball to LeBron and standing around to watch him. Consequently, Washington had set their defense, they were ready to stop him and LeBron had nowhere to go.

LeBron had a couple of turnovers where he tried to force his way through the double-team and everyone was so busy trying to spread the floor that nobody moved. But you have to cut through that defense to get the defense to move. They couldn’t get that to happen and it’s almost like once we got into that offensive set, we really had nowhere to go with the ball.

It was basically LeBron or nothing at that point – and that’s when we have our troubles.

We have to find ways to get other people involved in the offense, late. The other night in D.C., it was a similar situation, but it was on a transition play where LeBron came across halfcourt with motion. That way, he was able to get inside and find Delonte in the corner. But in a halfcourt situation, it’s been tough.

The Wizards are obviously a much different – and some might say better – team without Gilbert Arenas. They’re a better defensive team without Gilbert, and I just think that they played so long without Arenas that they’re just more focused without him.

It’s going to be tough for the Cavaliers now, because Washington is going to force us to be the aggressor on the offensive end of the floor. And I don’t know if the Cavaliers are used to having to score a lot of points.

On Wednesday night, they just didn’t come out with the right attitude. It didn’t look like they were aggressive enough or focused enough to get the job done. They tried to play themselves into the game last night and found out that it doesn’t work that way.

At this point, every game it’s going to be whoever produces is who’s on the court. Because you can’t afford to play guys and wait. Wally’s got to play better. He got off to a horrible start – two quick turnovers and he shot poorly for the rest of the night. Those kinds of situations have to be diminished if we’re going win one on the road. Because this Wizards team is going to be jacked up on Friday night – the crowd will have them pumped up, they’ll make shots and the Cavaliers will have to weather the storm in Washington.

I know it sounds like a broken record, but the Cavaliers succeed when Delonte West is aggressive at the point. It looked like Delonte was more concerned with handing LeBron the ball, instead of looking for opportunities off the high pick. He got 12 points, but he didn’t get enough penetration to force the defense to react to him to make things happen.

On Friday night, Cleveland can’t come out and play the way they did on Wednesday – waiting until the fourth quarter. They’ve had a propensity for that all season. They have to come out and make it happen in the first quarter, second quarter, third quarter. They can’t play themselves into an opportunity to win the game. That is not working for them. And that doesn’t work during the playoffs.

The Cavaliers have to have a short memory. They went through the same thing last year with New Jersey in the Second Round, so they’re familiar with the situation. So, it’s not like they don’t understand what they have to do.

Now they just have to go out and do it.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

West Delivers

Hey, everyone! It’s AC, checking in from the road – what’s happening?

Sunday’s game was outstanding and the Cavaliers now have a golden opportunity to wrap this series up on Wednesday. LeBron James was the hero, but it was really an outstanding game for Delonte West.

Delonte hit the big shots and he was much more poised in Game 4 than in Game 3. He competed, and I think in Game 3 he just didn’t compete. He just sort of let the atmosphere of the arena overtake him. On Sunday, he kept his head in the game and he stepped up and hit some big shots. Both he and Boobie changed the complexion of the game.

The shots that they both hit came at crucial times of the game; times that either fed the momentum or changed the momentum.

The way Delonte played on Sunday is the way I’ve wanted to see him play. I’ve wanted to see Delonte be more assertive, more aggressive. And there were a couple times in the second half – (he didn’t do it the first half) – where he came down in the transition game, he saw an opportunity and he took it. Once he made the shot and was fouled, the other he got a layup.

He’s got to do a lot of that. He’s capable of it.

It wasn’t just the point guard play on Sunday. The Cavaliers frontline completely controlled the middle. And when you control the middle – in any sport – you have a chance of winning most ballgames. The only variable you’re fighting is the perimeter game. And that’s why teams like Orlando are tough. Because you can slow them down in the middle, but they still have the perimeter game to fall back on.

But on Sunday, once the Cavaliers began controlling the middle, you could see that Washington was starting to crumble. They started taking bad shots, they started rushing things. You could see it was starting to happen because they couldn’t get anything going inside.

Defensively, Ben Wallace played a great game on Sunday. He didn’t score any points, but he did everything else well. He defended well, he played Jamison well – (which is a tough guard for him for as much as Antawn plays away from the basket) – he got his hands on a lot of balls and saved a lot of baskets.

The team on Sunday was the Cavaliers team that we’ve been looking for. There was a big difference between the team that showed up Sunday and the one that did last Thursday night. We went to do our pre-game prep for FSN, and in the Cavaliers locker room, nobody was smiling. Everyone had their game face on on Sunday afternoon and I think all of them were focused.

The Cavaliers – as far as I can tell – aren’t bothered or distracted by all that Jay-Z, DeShawn Stevenson stuff. All that stuff doesn’t have much to do with the game itself. It’s a media-hype thing. It creates an ambience around the game that sells more tickets and gets more people involved. But as far as the players are concerned, I don’t think it adds a lot to the series.

One thing I’ve learned in sports: if you have to resort to what Washington has had to resort to, there’s a weakness somewhere. And their weakness is they don’t think they can beat us. In the end, that’s what it turns out to be; they don’t really believe they can beat us. So they’re going to resort to other things to pump them up and get them going. And it’s not working.

On Wednesday, I’m expecting our crowd to be in it right from the beginning and give the Cavaliers the same kind of boost that Washington’s crowd gave them on Thursday. After that, it’s essential that Cleveland just goes right at them. And I’m expecting us to come out fired up and ready to go.

The Cavs are still honing their style in this series; to get it to a point where we can rely on it through the rest of the playoffs. Our style is rough-and-tumble; we’re an ugly, defensive, down and dirty team – knees scarred up, elbows scraped with some bumps and bruises. That’s how we play.

And you can see that aspect of the team starting to come out. This is obviously a different team than the one we saw in the last month of the regular season.

I think they’re tougher mentally. You could start to see it late in the season, but what the playoffs have done for the Cavaliers is focus more for a longer period of time. Whereas before, they couldn’t seem to stay focused for any amount of time.

At the same time, Coach Brown is learning his matchups and his rotation – who to put in when he wants points, who to put in when he wants some stops. He’s learning all that on the job, but the playoffs will make you focus better and longer.

So now the Cavaliers are closing in on beating Washington for the third straight season. It’s not going to be easy, but I think the Cavs are definitely feeling good about their chances.

Gilbert Arenas said before the series started that the Wizards wanted the Cavaliers. But I think it’s a case of the old saying: Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Blue Collar Club

Hey, everyone! AC, checking in from Chicago! What’s happening?

It was another tough one for the Cavaliers on the road on Friday night. It hurts even more coming on the heels of Wednesday’s win over New Jersey, when they looked so good in the third and fourth quarters.

That was the best they’ve played since they’ve gotten everyone back. But if they don’t understand what kind of team they are now, then they are really missing the boat. The Cavaliers are a blue collar team; they’re not a fancy-dan team – shooting long jumpers and so forth. They’re a hard-working team and they have to understand that and come out and give that kind of effort every night in order to win.

We cannot play the other way and win.

Sometimes, it looks like they didn’t want to get down and dirty for four quarters. They want to do it for two quarters. And that’s not enough to win at this time of year. You have to get down and dirty for four quarters now because that’s what it’s going to take to win.

To me, it’s about understanding who you are for the Cavaliers. They have to understand they’re not a glamour team. They are a blue collar team. That means when you get in that locker room and put your uniform on, and when you walk out on that floor – you are double-teaming hard, you’re defending hard, you’re not giving up dribble-penetration and you’re playing all-out on the defensive end of the floor.

On offense, you’re setting good picks, you’re not floating through picks, you’re concentrating on making shots and hitting your free throws. And that’s the way you live – you live and die that way. And that’s what they have to understand.

Right now, hopefully, they’ll start to understand that because they need to come out of the funk that they’ve been in – especially on the road. Friday night’s game was big because if they came out – after the first quarter – very lacksadasical. And I’m afraid it shows that they don’t know who they are.

This time of year, you can’t turn it on and off. It has to be part of your makeup. The Cavaliers don’t play a pretty game. When they play an ugly game, they usually win. That’s what it is – scrapping, fighting, getting over the top of picks, getting second-chance points. That’s who they are.

They even seem to play better offensively when they get ugly on the defensive end. They’re a down and dirty team. Simple as that.

The First Round is still shaping up, but it’s looking like it’ll be the Wizards.

I believe if we play the Wizards, we’ll need homecourt advantage. The Wizards have an incentive to beat us. And that means they’re going to play a little above their heads. So we have to have homecourt advantage to take that edge out of the equation. But I think we match up well with them.

I don’t believe that the Wizards can put Arenas into a full-tilt to situation right now. And I think LeBron has something he wants to prove to DeShawn Stevenson. (He really doesn’t need to prove anything to him, because there’s nothing to prove – Stevenson is nowhere near LeBron’s class.)

But the L-Train’s going to want to show something to that young man, and I’ll love watching every minute of it.

Coach Brown is going to have to crunch some numbers when the postseason rolls around. And I think it’s going to come down to playing more than eight guys. Traditional wisdom says that come playoff time, you play your top eight. But if you play eight guys, they’re going to be on a string because you’re going to have at least two more guys who deserve time if they’re able to produce.

It’s a healthy situation because it’s about competition. You go out there and play well – you play. You go out there and play poorly – you sit.

“Good guys” don’t win championships. And by that I don’t mean you want a bunch of “bad guys.” But you have to produce in order to compete for a Championship. That’s just the way it is in life. You don’t deserve anything just because of the name on the back of your jersey.

In playoff time, that means nothing.

I think he can go ten-deep. But those ten will have to realize that minutes are cut down – and you have to produce. That’s the way I see it. And that’s the way I’ve always been taught.

When you get on the floor, you bring it. It’s not time to fool around; it’s time to win a Championship.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Jockeying for Position

Hey, Cavs fans! It’s AC – what’s happening?

The Cavaliers definitely struggled through the month of March, and frankly, I’m glad it’s over.

I think basically, it’s been the change of personnel. Our system is set up where you have to not just know the system, but have a good feel for the system. And it’s taken a while for that to happen.

And when you look at the injuries – if you’re going to be together for a while and be a good team, you have to play around 30 games before you have a feel for what’s going on. And that’s basically the situation: we just haven’t had enough continuity to make it work. You see spurts of it, but then somebody gets injured and it slips away.

But time’s running out. So you almost have to force it now; and let’s hope we can get the job done by doing it that way.

Can the Cavaliers still get it done in the postseason? Of course they can. But I think the key is going to be having home court advantage in the First Round. That’s going to be the key to getting us over that hump. I think if we can get past that first series, we’ll be ready to roll. (I should say, if we get through that first series healthy, then we’ll be ready to roll.)

Coach Brown had to make a change after that Detroit game on Saturday, and so far, it’s worked out well. Our problem, I think, is that we come out too player-friendly in the first quarter and we just kind of go through the motions – you can tell by the body language.

I think by inserting Devin Brown into the starting lineup, he changes that dynamic a little. Devin’s the kind of guy who only knows how to play one way – 100 percent. And I think that’s going to create that attitude early in the game, which we need.

Sasha can get his minutes back, but he’s got to earn them, simple as that. That’s what all coaches want. You have to earn your minutes. He’ll just have to focus better, moving forward.

One guy who definitely seems to be picking up his game is Delonte West, who is finally getting back to the aggressive play that I love seeing out of him.

Think about it: what have the Cavaliers been looking for ever since they got LeBron? The “Robin” to go with the “Batman.” We’ve needed someone who can give some balance to LeBron. The other day against Philly, he gave LeBron four or five assists and he scored on four or five shots that LeBron assisted on – and they were key baskets at the right time.

But what I like about Delonte is when he pushes the ball and flattens the defense out. When the defense is flat and you have LeBron or Ben or Z coming in behind that, there’s not much a team can do about it – because now you have some major horses coming at you full-steam.

I would tell Delonte: ‘If you can get to the hoop, get to the hoop and don’t worry about mistakes. He cannot worry about mistakes. This is not a perfect game. Go out and play the game. The more you relax, the better you’ll play. The tighter you are, the worse you’ll play. It’s as simple as that.

And you can see that when he plays like that, he’s so much better. You can see that his defense is already pretty strong, and he gets off his shot very quickly. He’s a solid point guard, but he’s got to be the point guard. He’s got to be the facilitator. He gave LeBron some key baskets; LeBron gave him some key baskets. It’s a good mixture, and the rest of the guys can play off of that.

That’s a nice one-two punch and we’ll need those kinds of combinations down the stretch.

There are seven games left and I think if we win our next two or three, we can lock up the fourth seed. I think if we lose two of these next three, it’s going to be a fight to the finish. The all-important thing at this point in the season is the loss column. And I think we’re up three games on both teams trying to get at us.

But I think with the amount of games we have left, if we win the next three right now, we should be able to close it out.

Actually, I think having to fight for it will re-energize the team. They understand how important it is to have that homecourt advantage. They have to understand how important it is, especially with all the injuries and new players. They’ll need that in the First Round – to get their feet under them and be ready to come out and play in the Second Round.

If any team in the entire NBA understands the importance of seeding, the Cavaliers would be that team. After what happened last year, how that last game changed their fortunes. They got a good seed and by playing well, they were able to run their way to the NBA Finals.

And that should definitely be enough motivation to get them through the final seven games.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Home Stretch

Hey, everyone! It’s A.C., checking in. What’s happening?

Before we get going, I wanted to congratulate LeBron James on passing Brad Daugherty – (and me) – and breaking the franchise scoring record last Friday night.

Records are made to be broken, and if there was anybody I’d want to break my record, it would be LeBron James. What he brings to the game is what I hoped to be and strived for when I played. But the sky is the limit for this young man and there’s no end in sight. This is an incredible milestone for LeBron to accomplish, especially how quickly he achieved it.

But in my opinion, the L-Train starts counting points at 30,000.

I know he’ll be glad to get Boobie back into the lineup and that should be relatively soon. Daniel Gibson adds an outside presence that will open up the floor more, and teams will have to gameplan for him. With Boobie out there, the floor becomes open for LeBron, Sasha and Delonte – (if he stays aggressive) – to have driving lanes. And that’s a huge advantage.

On top of his other great attributes, Boobie creates floor-spacing.

Really, it’s just going to make a difference to have all our people healthy, finally. I’m looking forward to it. We’ve had everyone healthy for only 20 games this whole season – and we were 14-6.

I mention Delonte staying aggressive, and I think that’s a big key for his success and the team’s success. And I really do think Boobie and Delonte can co-exist on the floor together because Delonte is a pure point guard and Daniel is a two-guard in a point guard’s body.

Delonte came in here aggressive, and he’s since backed off. But I just think he’s going through another adjustment period.

Delonte’s game will continue to grow, and a lot of that will come with feeling comfortable and familiar with what’s going on. He’ll return to his aggressive style, because I know LeBron will tell him to go ahead and play your game. And as he continues to understand the offense – who to get the ball to, what plays to call – I think all that will come.

Of course, with only 10 games left the team’s goal is going to be try to get healthy and to become a unit. Understand what the rotation is going to be, with everyone getting focused and ready to play. That’s what you’re striving for these next 10 games – just getting ready to tackle the playoffs.

As far as who we play in the first round, right now, I really don’t care – as long as we have homecourt advantage.

Obviously, the one team that’s hot right now is Philadelphia. They’re young, hungry and they don’t know what they’re doing – they’re just playing. And that’s dangerous. I think Toronto doesn’t want us. I think Washington wants us, but they really don’t know what they’re in for. But Philadelphia has no clue. So they’re just playing.

I don’t fear anybody. I feel we have enough to beat anyone. But as far as looking at that fifth spot, Philly is the hottest – and maybe the most dangerous team.

Before I go, I wanted to talk really quickly about the NCAA Tournament. Around this time of year, a lot of people ask me if I’m thinking about my record of 61 points in a game.

I don’t really sweat the record because when I broke the record, I went 30 and 31. And it’s tough to do that the way they play now. They don’t run up and down the floor – you just don’t get that many possessions anymore. But Del Curry’s son – Stephen – (now that guy can shoot the basketball.) And if there’s anybody in this Tournament who can do it, he’s the one.

That’s if he got enough attempts. But really from here on out – Sweet 16 – the defense will dictate that you won’t get enough attempts to make that happen. It would probably have to be a blowout game, and there won’t be many blowouts from this point, forward.

So I think I might be safe for one more Tournament.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Pieces of the Puzzle Coming Together

Hey, Cavs fans! It’s AC – what’s happening?

Slowly but surely, all the pieces are coming back together. This week, it was Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ turn to come back to the fold after he missed seven games with the bad back.

As far as the team is concerned, the Cavaliers are constructed like a unit – like my team was back in the day. We had ten deep, and each guy played his role. This team is built that way, especially their roles on the defensive end. So what Z’s return does is put everything back in order – because you start in the middle and work your way out. The frontline now fits together.

The right order of things is coming back at the right time. Sasha’s back. Boobie’s coming back. Now you have your outside game, your inside game. And the team is whole again.

No player on the team is affected as much by Z coming back as Ben Wallace. They complement one another.

When Ben needs height, Z is there to back him up. When Z needs quickness, Ben’s there to back him up. That really is a good complement between the two. And it’s been something this team has been missing for some time. Now, you can pretty much cover any situation down low.

Z allows Ben to play ‘off the center.’ And when other teams double Ilgauskas – because you have to be careful with Z – that means Ben is working with one man. And he’s a tough guy to handle by himself. What I look for in him, ideally, is double-figure rebounds and eight points. But really, it’s all the intangibles that he brings – steals and blocked shots off the ball – that will complete the entire package.

Now Boobie is coming back and we’ll have our outside game complete. Everything is falling into place. And right now, the best thing is we’re doing it under the radar. Everyone’s talking about Boston and Detroit, and I think both of those teams know that if we get healthy, they’re going to have to deal with us.

The national media might not be talking about us, but every time you hear Doc Rivers, he talks about having to deal with Cleveland. And after what happened to the Pistons last year – they know what the deal is.

We face Detroit three more times the rest of the season, including Wednesday’s game in Cleveland. We’re going to bring a better inside game when we face Detroit now. We have better balance. In other words, you can take Z and let him do what he likes to do – facing the basket – and let Ben patrol under the basket. That’s big when you play the Pistons.

Right now, of all the new guys that come over in the big trade, Wally seems to be struggling the most.

He just has to get used to where his shots are coming from. As a shooter, you always feel comfortable when you know where your shots are coming from. And you can tell, he’s not quite there yet – he’s kind of running all over the place. Wally’s not making his move and – boom! – flowing right into the shot. He’s just not quite familiar with the offense yet and he’s pressing as far as making shots.

And I think the problem is coming in his upper body. The couple of shots that he made on Sunday night, you could see that he had good flex in his knees and he went up through his shoulders. He can sometimes get in the habit of shooting flat-footed. But all that comes with getting familiar with the surroundings and getting familiar with the plays. And understanding how Delonte or Boobie or LeBron delivers the ball.

When the playoffs roll around, the Cavaliers will have one of the deepest teams in the East – if not the deepest.

Of course, the Pistons are deep, too. They’re smaller than we are, but they’re deep because their rookies are coming through for them as well as guys like Maxiell and Jarvis Hayes. The beauty of their team is – and they’re such a veteran team – is that you never know who the hot man is going to be. But they will find him and they don’t care if he’s an All-Star or the last guy on the bench.
It doesn’t matter because they play winning team basketball.

I think we’re just as strong as the Pistons and I think we’re actually deeper than the Celtics. I think we’re as strong as any team in the East – we’re just not a seasoned team yet. But I don’t mind flying under the radar.

Unless something drastic happens, we should be locked into the fourth-seed with 15 games to play. Once your spot is locked up and you know it’s locked up, you have to continue to go hard because we’re trying to mesh guys into our system. And nobody wants to go into the playoffs on a losing note.

The beauty of our situation is we have to keep going because we have to get guys healthy and we have to see what we’ve got when we are healthy. And obviously, the rotation is going to change one more time when Boobie comes back.

There’s a lot of things we have to discover about this team between now and the end of the regular season.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Heading for the Homestretch

Hey everyone, it’s A.C. here! What’s happening?

I like making the trip to New York and Chicago. As far as New York, for me, it’s like coming back home because I played in Madison Square Garden back in high school. I played against Kareem here and it’s always great to come back. People here in New York love the game.

I’ve always liked the way they have the lighting at the Garden. It’s dark in the bowl and it puts emphasis on the court and it’s more of a theatrical effect.

And, of course, Chicago, there’s so much history there. Back when we finally turned it around in Cleveland and, of course, in the Lenny Wilkens Era and with Jordan – these two teams were always battling for Divisional and Conference supremacy.

These are two legendary franchises and it’s always good to come in here and play because the fans understand the game. They know a good pass or defensive play and they cheer it. Regardless of whether LeBron is playing against the Knicks, when he went off for 50, they ate it up.

That’s what a good crowd is all about.

After LeBron’s 50-point performance on Wednesday night, the MVP argument is really starting to heat up. It’s boiling down to a two-man race between him and Kobe, and in my mind, I think LeBron has the inside track.

First of all, his statistics are better than Kobe’s, but that’s not the entire story.

I think it comes into focus when you look at LeBron’s body of work this year – with the injuries we’ve had and the lack of continuity. We haven’t had our starting lineup from last year’s Finals team together but for only around 20 games – and he’s managed to keep the Cavaliers afloat. And now we’ve made major changes to our lineup and he still hasn’t missed a beat.

It all points to LeBron as being the Most Valuable Player.

Granted, Kobe’s had a great year and his team is leading the Western Conference. But, again, I think when you look at the entire body of work and look at the injury situation that we’ve had – LeBron has to be MVP.

Those major changes – the four guys Cleveland got in the blockbuster trade – are still fitting in and it’s still a work in progress. But I think that they’ve started to change the culture of the team a little bit, as far as the Cavaliers are becoming a no-nonsense type of team.

On defense, I think Cleveland has really ratcheted up the defensive efforts, because right now, offensively, we’re not clicking. But we’re still winning and over .500 with the new guys because we are playing defense. And I really believe that once Ben gets acclimated to the team and everybody’s personality, he’ll be more vocal.

Naturally, I think Joe Smith is already been one of the keys to the deal, and he’s proving it night-in and night-out. Delonte is a “push” guard who – once he and LeBron get on the same page – it’s going to be nice. Wally is still trying to get his jumper going consistently. But it’s coming along now, you can see it.

The thing is: all these guys are trying to re-establish themselves in the league. Once they ship you to Seattle or do what they did to Ben in Chicago, you start to lose your edge. These guys are trying to regain their status in the league. And they’ll do that. When I say a player is “hungry” – look at these four guys, and that’s what I mean.

The Cavaliers will have to fit some of their guys back in when they return from injury, but of course, that’s a great problem to have.

Sasha will take over at two-guard when he comes back and that’ll strengthen us off the bench. You’ll have Devin coming into the game to replace him. It’s all going to fit.

Boobie will come off the bench behind Delonte, which is great because Boobie gives us a great punch off the bench. (You win in this league by having a bench that can produce.) And when you look at what we have coming off the bench – Anderson, Devin, Wally, Damon, Joe Smith and Boobie – that’s as good as a team that could pretty much start in this league. And that’s how we’re going to win.

That’s why I’m excited to get back to 100 percent. And that gives me all the ammo I need to argue LeBron for MVP. We not only stayed afloat, but are still well in line for one of the top four spots in the East with all these variables that have affected us all season. That’s proof of what LeBron is.

And I’m not just excited for the Cavaliers at this time of year. You know I get fired up when the NCAA Tournament rolls around in college hoops. Tournament time is on us and I’m starting to percolate a little bit.

Friday is the anniversary of when I scored 61 in the Tourney. It’s a good feeling this time of year. I’ll be hanging out with some of my buddies and that first Thursday, and we might watch every game through the weekend.

There’s nothing like the NCAA Tournament – I love it!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

In the Mix

Hey, everyone! AC, checking in from Boston! What’s happening?

Tough loss last night, but what can you do about a guy hitting a 30-footer at the buzzer. You tip your hat to the Bucks and move on, especially with such a critical game against Boston.

Well, like most of you, I really like the big trade. Granted, you become attached to guys like Larry and Drew because you spend so much time with them and you’re in the trenches and the wars with them. But I like the trade because it brings us guys who have a little more focus on the day-to-day reality of getting the job done.

You can go down the list …

Ben Wallace being here puts him back at his normal position. Playing power forward away from the center position is where he had all his success years ago. So I think that’s going to be a big plus. On top of that, he’s a no-nonsense kind of guy and that will carry over to our other bigs as far as how they prepare for games.

And I really believe that once Ben gets familiar with what the team is like – everybody’s personality, and so forth – that he will pretty much become the team’s leader, along with LeBron.

Ben will play the role of enforcer, but it’s not like it used to be. When I played, you had to have a guy was a true enforcer. Now, you just need a guy who looks like it and acts like it. Because you’re not going to get kicked out of the game. And Ben has that aura about him. So that’s a good thing for teams to see; those who are intending to beat LeBron up, anyway.

That toughness is going to permeate through the whole team, because everybody’s going to follow his lead. We NEEDED somebody that was going to bring that type of attitude to the game, because everybody else is going to follow behind him.

LeBron was starting to bring it on, but LeBron is like the “glamour guy.” We needed somebody who was in the trenches. And now we have it.

Ben’s presence will free Z up most of the time, because you don’t have to worry about Ben covering up the backside. So now Z can take a few more chances and get involved in plays because he’ll have somebody on the backside defense who is going to be there, and excels in that respect.

And on offense, Z will get more shots facing the basket because Ben is a post-up guy – jump-shooting is where he struggles. He won’t have to worry about that too much here.

Joe Smith is just a quality big man who plays hard every night – and he brings it. He’s the type of guy who every team wants. I don’t really understand how he’s been on so many teams throughout his career.

He’s a solid player, a solid person. And he’s the kind of guy who has your back when you’re out there. He loves that baseline and elbow shot and with LeBron, he’s going to get a lot of them.

Now, as far as the frontline, Coach Brown has to figure some things out.

You’re not going to make everybody happy, but that’s a good thing, because it’s positive competition. That’s how you get your team better. But initially, he’s going to have a tough time figuring out how to play these guys. The best thing about all this, is that we should be able to still win ballgames while we figure this out.

With guys competing for minutes, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get a quality effort every night. Mike Brown can easily say: ‘If you’re not going to give me big effort, come next to me and I’ll find somebody who will.’

Wally had a rough shooting night in Milwaukee, but he brings us consistent shooting from the outside, especially on the opposite side of LeBron.

And because Coach Brown stresses defense, his work on the defensive end should get better, because the only thing he has to worry about is getting beat off the dribble. Most of the defensive stuff we do is not one-on-one. So, if he could just shore up his one-on-one defense – even though he’s not going to be asked to do it a lot – then he’ll be able to fit in on the defensive end.

On the offensive end, he should have a ball. Because, again, they all want shots with just one man to beat. He’ll be getting open looks he hasn’t gotten in five years. He’s going to have a good time.

And of course, I really like Delonte West. He makes quick decisions. And what I like about him – he wants to penetrate. He wants to get into the teeth of the defense and he’s looking to pass first. He can shoot it. He’s not a bad shooter, although he struggled on Sunday.

Delonte played well when he started with the Celtics, but he got lost out in Seattle. I really think he’s going to be a solid player in this league for a long time. And I think he’ll be our point guard of the future.

A lot of the pundits do not believe that the trade is going to help us. I personally think it will. Those writers and so-called experts are not with us every day and they don’t see what’s going on.

This is going to make us a much tougher team – a team that’s going to give you a certain type of effort every night. And if you do that, you have a great chance of winning in this league. We have skilled guys. Some may be one-dimensional, but they have skills that we need. We’re a better perimeter team right away, for example. And those are the types of things that you have to have.

Our interior is going to get better once these guys understand how to play together. We didn’t have anybody of Joe Smith’s ability coming off the bench. Now we have a guy coming off the bench who could actually be a starter, and he’s having one of his best years in a pretty good 12-year career.

I think with this move that we’re in the mix with Detroit and Boston now. They may not think so, but they’ll find out when we get our whole team healthy on the floor. With these guys in the lineup – not even considering Boobie and Sasha – any combination of these guys on the floor with LeBron, will be extremely tough.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Dealing with the Deadline

Hey Cavs fans! It’s A.C. here – what’s happening?

The Cavaliers have been a little inconsistent in February after a red-hot January. It’s a little bit of losing momentum with the All-Star Break and the injury bug beginning to catch up with them.

Actually I think it’s more the injuries. In the short term, you can make up for having a few guys down. But long term, it catches up with you. And it’s coming down now to where we have to get healthy and be at full-strength in order to finish the season on a strong note.

Because again, the schedule is starting to favor us, with nine of the next ten against teams with sub-.500 records. The big question is: are we mentally tough enough to take advantage of that stretch.

Another big distraction for the Cavaliers – and every other team in the league – is dealing with is the Trade Deadline. As a player, this can be a strange time for you. You hear things, your agent is telling you things. There’s a lot of stuff going on. And if a player has a weak personality or a weak constitution, it can bother him and it’ll affect his play.

All players are in-tune to the rumors. It’s just that part of the season. The strong survive and that’s just the way it is. It’s part of the business.

I remember when I was starting to have major injury problems and the Cavs were starting to talk about trading me. It would be on my mind a lot. ‘I have a home here, I have friends here, I have my family here.’ And the upheaval, when it happened to me in the Expansion Draft, it took me a while to recover from it. I just got so comfortable being in Cleveland.

Most players in this day and age, once you get to one or two years left on your contract, you need to understand that if you’re not a frontline guy, there’s a good possibility of you getting traded. That’s the nature of the business. You have a little more preparation because you know what’s going on.

Back when I played, it could just happen out of the clear blue sky because it was easier to move people. Coach would get mad at you and he’d say, ‘I’m trading you tomorrow’ – and BANG, that was it. You can’t do that anymore because of the way things are set up.

After the Deadline passes, you tend to relax a little bit. You look around the locker room and it’s like: ‘This is who we brought to the dance, and this is who we’re gonna dance with.’ Again, it might not be as big now as it was when I was in the league, because it was so easy to trade guys then. But it’s definitely something that’s on guys’ minds who are tradeable.

Right now, with the injuries and the Deadline looming, it’s hard to get a good gauge on the team. We have a big stretch coming up – most of the games are in our Division. So if we compete well against our Division, we can climb up the ladder. Things are aligned for us, but again, are we mentally tough enough to take advantage of the opportunity?

The Central is down this year. That’s why it’s so important for us to get healthy as soon as possible. With injuries, you’re susceptible to a role player or a lesser guy going off on you. You lend yourself to those types of situations, because of the injury situation, you don’t have your full complement of players to defend or shoot or get the job done.

And that’s what people don’t understand. The Cavaliers haven’t given the team that went to the Finals last year a chance to have a long run, and when we did, we ran off 11 of 13. So I’m not sure why fans are panicking and thinking there has to be a move made before Thursday.

As far as the Cavaliers are concerned – more than the schedule, more than trades, more than anything – HEALTH is the most important factor.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Injury Bug Bites; Cavs Bite Back

Hey, Cavs fans! It’s AC – what’s happening?

Before I get going, don’t forget to drop me a line in my MAILBOX. Send in your question or comment and I’ll respond to some of the best ones in my next blog.

The Cavaliers have been surprising a lot of teams with how they’ve brought on the road – especially in their shorthanded state with all the injuries.

When you’re a club that’s battling injuries, you almost have to have an “us-against-the-world” mentality. Of course, the Cavaliers still have their No. 1 guy. If he was out, it would be different, but you still have your horse.

Still, you have to go into an arena knowing you’re going to have to put in a little more effort to get the job done, because you’re undermanned. That’s the basic mindset. That’s all you can do. You can feel sorry for yourself, but in this league nobody feels sorry for you. There’s no crying in basketball.

So you have to go out there and find a way to win. And the only way to do that is to get involved in the gameplan and focus on the gameplan and try to execute it to the letter. If you’re not supposed to let a guy go right, you don’t let him go right. If you have a guy like Dwight Howard, you keep a body on him regardless – even if you have to give yourself up in the play. You have to really pay attention to the little things when you’re undermanned. And that’s what the Cavaliers have been doing.

The Cavaliers are at the stage of the season, where every game has to have a meaning, because we started out slow. And a lot of the teams we’re playing now are teams we might be seeing in the Playoffs. You don’t want to leave a bad taste in your mouth now or in April and May.

If we play Denver or San Antonio again, it won’t be until the Finals. But – like Monday’s game in Orlando – people try to downplay the fact about sending messages and all that, but at this time of year, every game that you play against Eastern Conference teams – especially the top ones – you’re sending a message. That’s the way it is. If you think it’s not and you’re that na├»ve about competition, you shouldn’t be in the game.

One of the biggest keys to the Cavaliers getting through this recent stretch in as good a shape as they have, has been the play of Ira Newble. He brings so much to the table, but versatility is the main thing.

He plays three or four positions. (He would play center if they let him, and earlier this season he did.) He brings toughness and, maybe most importantly, he understands the game on both ends of the floor. He gives you great hustle and he’s a perfect size at 6-7.

Ira’s a pretty good athlete who can grab a rebound and run the floor with it. He might not be the best jump-shooter, but he moves well without the ball and finds his points in other ways. Ira’s not flashy. A lot of people think you have to be flashy to last in this league. But he just does his job, day-in and day-out, doesn’t complain and, to me, that’s why he’s been in the league as long as he has.

He’s a valuable commodity. He’s a professional. Every team needs a guy like Ira Newble.

I know his name gets thrown out in a lot of trade rumors. But, actually the trade rumors in the East have been pretty quiet. It’s not like in the West, where several teams are making deals to get up into the top three or four spots with the Playoffs approaching.

When Tony Parker comes back healthy, I see the Spurs as No. 1 and the Lakers as No. 1A. I don’t think Shaq is going to give Phoenix what they think he’s going to on a consistent basis – unless the Suns are going to play 4-on-5 fastbreak ball. I know they got him for a little defense around the basket and to strengthen their halfcourt offense.

Dallas almost seems like they’re fading. They’re just too beatable and they’ve been losing to weaker teams. If Golden State can come with the same energy they brought last year, they’re going to surprise a lot of people.

After those teams get into the mix, anything can happen. But those are the three teams that are going to be fighting for the West – Los Angeles, San Antonio and Phoenix – with Golden State being the wildcard team.

Nobody wants to fool with that team – Golden State – just like no one wants to fool with Denver. Personally, I hope those two clubs face off in the Playoffs. Now that would be the series to watch.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Wine and Gold in the Wild, Wild West

Hey everyone, it’s A.C. here! What’s happening?

That was one nice win for the Cavaliers on Sunday over the Lakers. The L-Train was incredible and Cleveland’s fourth-quarter defense was outstanding. Ira came in and did an excellent job. He started at guard and finished at forward.

As far as Ira replacing Sahsa in the starting lineup, it’s definitely going to be an adjustment period. It may not be a big adjustment period, but it will be an adjustment because the Cavaliers are a TEAM, and not a bunch of individuals – just like my Cavaliers were when I played.

And you take a guy out of that rotation, it is an adjustment period. Because what Sasha would do very well is, on the opposite side of the double-team of LeBron, Sasha was able to penetrate to the basket and get inside. But Ira’s a different kind of player – he’s not looking to get inside and he doesn’t finish like Sasha. So the biggest difference is that they’re going to have to adjust to a different kind of player on the weak side.

But Ira’s definitely going to bring a defensive presence. There’s not going to be a lot of people penetrating on Ira, or going by him. I think the biggest difference is going to be that Sasha is a better outside shooter than Ira, but everything else should pretty much stay the same. Ira’s going to bring some positive minutes to the floor for the Cavaliers. There’s no doubt about that.

The Cavaliers are a much better road team than they have been in any year of the LeBron Era, and some of these huge wins out West – against Dallas, San Antonio and now Los Angeles – prove it every time. If you look at the Finals experience, it teaches you to play tough games on the road. And it’s carrying over into the regular season now.

And that’s basically what I see: They have experience playing tough games on the road – games that you have to win. They know the mindset they have to bring to the floor on the road, so it’s a comfortable feeling they have now instead of a question mark.

Winning on the road is the key to the playoffs. And the playoff picture is starting to shape up in the Eastern Conference. It’s pretty much the same as it was last year – minus the Bulls and Heat – except Boston is going to push somebody out, because they weren’t in it last year.

As far as the Cavaliers are concerned, they need to go one more 7-of-10 or 8-out-of-10 stretch to really solidify themselves into that upper echelon of the Eastern Conference. They needed that run to get themselves back in the race, and now they need to solidify their standing by going on one more run.

I know the players are starting to look at the All-Star Break right now. Not so much for the “break” but just that it’s the unofficial half way point. I feel that the Cavaliers could have three guys at All-Star Weekend.

Obviously, LeBron was voted in, which is a no-brainer. But right now, Boobie should have an opportunity to be in the Three-Point ShootOut. He’s one of the best three-point shooters in the league. And Z, I think, deserves a shot. I would say the East could use three centers, because there really isn’t a true center in front of him. I think Z should be an All-Star this year. He’s having that type of year – he’s running the floor, he’s rebounding, he’s scoring consistently. The coaches are the ones who pick now, so hopefully they’ll give him the nod.

The schedule is set up for us to have a good finish. We don’t have any strenuous trips left. They have time to get practices in now; they have time for rest. So the schedule is set up to where if we can whether the storm out West right here, we can take advantage of that schedule. We seem to have our confidence back and we’re ready to roll. So I’m looking for a good finish.

During my days with the Cavaliers, a trip out West could be really good or really bad.

Once we started winning, it was great. At first we didn’t want to go out West at all because we’d come out here and get our butts kicked. Once we started winning, it was really a pleasure to not only come out here, but to compete because the fans treated us so bad before, that when we started competing, it was a good thing to walk out of a place – like the Forum – with a win.

Everybody played hard once we figured it out. Guys turned up their game for the Lakers and the Blazers and Sonics. It was something that we looked forward to.

The West Coast trip is a way to get a little break from the weather and eventually it turned out to be a good situation for us – once we started winning, of course. At first, it was not pleasurable because we would get just beat up. But when we got it together, you walk out of a win in L.A., you walk out with your chest out.

And that’s an excellent feeling.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Road Warriors

Hey, everyone! It’s AC, checking in from the road – what’s happening?

The Cavaliers have gotten back to their winning ways, but this week they face maybe their toughest test of the season when they meet the Spurs in San Antonio. I think it’s going to be a game where the team finds out where they are at this point in the season. It’s a gauge to find out: Are we ready? Are we back to where we think we should be? Or do we still have more work to do?

I think that’s the type of situation it’s going to be. And that means they should be hungry and they should play with a lot of enthusiasm.

Right now, I see the team being very comfortable out there because they know the rotations. There is something to the fact that they have been looking for the right rotation. This is bigger than fans think, because – as a player – you need to know when the Coach is looking for you, and what he’s looking for when he makes the call.

A lot of guys put pressure on themselves to perform because they’re outside the rotation. Now that they know what the situation is – and they know when they’re coming in the game – they can get their mind focused on what they have to do. When I had my injuries and I started coming off the bench, that was my toughest thing – knowing when I was coming in. And once I had that understood, I seemed to play a lot better.

Coming off the bench and being part of a rotation can be more difficult than it seems. First of all, you get your mind set on what you have to do. You’re able to figure out the guy you’re going to guard – and what he’s doing. You need to get your mind ready for action. You don’t have time to come in and ease into the game. You have to come right in and be ready to go.

When you come off the bench, you see how the game plan is working. You get a chance to watch it. You see how it’s going and there are some things you can tweak. But the most important thing is that you have the energy level where it should be. Because you know you have to come in and either maintain the lead, or get the lead back. So it’s a whole different mindset.

But it’s much easier on you when you understand when you’re coming in and when you’re going out. And you also know: you can let it all hang out when you know the timespan you’re going to play. You don’t have to hold anything back – you go in 100 percent ready to play because you have only X amount of minutes before you’re back out again.

When a team is on the road like the Cavaliers will be over the next couple weeks, the bench becomes extremely important.

The road’s been tough, but really, the schedule is set up now where the Cavaliers shouldn’t have too many more problems. We only have four or five road back-to-backs left for the whole rest of the season. From now on, there’s mostly a day in-between where you can get your rest and get your focus on who you’re playing.

So the schedule was set up for us – if we were able to weather the first part of the season – to make a run in the second half. The key is we’ve put ourselves in a situation where we have to start winning on the road to get back up into the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference. Each road game is very important now.

Without getting too nostalgic, the road is much, much different now than when I played. First of all, we traveled commercial. That was totally different. We had to catch the first flight out of town the next day after every game. You’d play one night in Golden State, stay over and the next day you’d leave for L.A. – getting on a 5 a.m. flight. You’d play in L.A. that night and man, that just wore you down. And I think a lot of players back then had injury problems because of that.

Back then, they didn’t feed you, either. You had to fend for yourself. Now, players have good nutrition around all the time, so they can eat properly. Now, guys have the right types of food around all the time – they have people who set up a schedule for them. They eat properly; they know what to eat now.

I didn’t know what to eat. I was washing down a bag of Dorito’s with orange pop when I first came into the league. McDonald’s was just getting going, so we thought fast food was great. There weren’t any warning signs on fast food back then. As far as we were concerned, that was all good stuff.

The road was such a different animal back then than it is now. Back in those days, I’d tape myself sometimes. That’s just the way it was when I came into the league. And that’s just unheard of now.

We were responsible for our equipment, our uniform, everything. In my first two years, I washed my own uniform! And believe me, there were some funky guys out there – guys who didn’t smell good at all because they didn’t want to, or didn’t know how, to wash their stuff. But that was something you had to do. I’d get into town and instead of going out to get a bite to eat – like players do now – I’d go straight to the laundromat.

Nightlife was different, too.

Coach always had “spies” on the road. It would be the trainer or someone like that. But we always had a spy to figure out what the guys were doing, or what they weren’t doing. One way or another Coach Fitch always found out, and he had ways of making you pay for it. So you’d learn real quick. If Fitch knew that you were out carousing the night before … Oh man!

I’d be out there, I’d be playing 40 minutes or the entire first two quarters and you’d look over there to the bench wanting to come out and if Coach knew you were out the night before, he would just look away as if to say: “Keep going.” You’d learn your lesson right away that you didn’t want to do this too often.

And back then – something I don’t think they do a lot of now – the players policed themselves. After a while, when we started winning, players would keep one another in line. Because winning is what you’re there for. We were losing so much at first and winning was such a good feeling that we wanted to keep it going.

So you’d stop all that carousing, and the guys that were carousing a lot all of sudden were in bed. And Coach made sure you were in bed. That was the way life was on the road back in my early days in the league.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Crossing the Line

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

The Cavaliers have now won five of their last six. And it’s been more than just LeBron – although his performance on Sunday afternoon in Toronto was absolutely spectacular.

One big reason the Cavaliers are starting to get back on track is that they’ve returned to the rotation that they were in before heading into the postseason last year. I wouldn’t say everything is back to normal, but it’s what they’re familiar with. Consequently, the rotations are familiar – everything that they’re doing offensively and defensively, they’ve done it for a while and they’ve been successful doing it. So that’s why I think things are moving in the right direction now.

The key now is: can they sustain it and get better at what they’re doing? Because when I watched Saturday night’s Detroit-Boston game, that’s a different level of intensity in those games. And can the Cavaliers get to that level of intensity and maintain it before they get to the playoffs?

Right now, we have to generate our own level of intensity – game to game – whereas in the Playoffs, it’s there automatically. And we have to get our emotions right for each game. Because it’s time to stop talking about how much time we have. If you’re trying to win a Championship and get one of those top four spots in the East – which I feel you have to have – the time is now.

You can’t wait much longer; you have to start getting in stride now.

At this point, I don’t see the intensity – night-in and night-out – like it was, say, the first time they played Boston or when they went to Dallas. The intensity level is a little off-and-on right now. The way they’re playing right now is consistent, but the intensity level is not quite there yet. I don’t see it like I saw it in the Pistons-Celtics game. Those two are playing for keeps already, because they understand that every game you play now – games in November and December – those games can come back to haunt you in April, as far as your positioning is concerned.

You look at what the Cavaliers went through last year. Everything fell into place – except that we gave up about 15 games where we had the lead in the fourth quarter to teams that we should normally beat. If we had taken care of business in that respect, we could have had homecourt advantage over San Antonio in the Finals. I think they all understand what these games mean, so hopefully now that the injured players are getting healthy, they can get on a nice roll and get things going.

Getting to .500 is bigger than people think. When you look at the Eastern Conference, .500 is a big mark, because there’s only three other teams that are above .500. So what you’re looking at now – the quicker you can get to .500 and get your team built from that point on, and can get, say, 10 games above .500, you’re among the elite teams in the Conference. You’ve got to get over that Mason-Dixon line. You can’t be below that line. You’ve got to get over that and start building on .500 instead of trying to get to .500.

Right now, the Cavaliers are playing pretty well, even though Larry Hughes is still struggling a bit shooting the ball.

The main thing is to shoot, shoot, shoot. When I would get into slumps, I would practice and get up a lot of shots and try to get into a rhythm – watch tape of how you’re shooting the ball. When Larry first came back, he was going straight up, through the shoulders and into the shot. Now he’s starting to lean left or right, instead of planting, going straight up and – boom! – lacing the shot.

He does a lot better coming off the pick and hitting the jump shot because he has a chance to square himself and go straight up. But when he’s on the move, he has a tendency to float instead of going straight up.

It’s one of the reasons I think point guard is better for him, because he can do other things to help the team when his shot is off. He can direct the show, he can slash to the basket, he can get out on the break, he can do a lot of good things and hopefully the jumper will come back.

It’s all there for Larry, he just needs to reach down and find it.