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.