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!