Cavaliers look to run past LeBron hangover, still have success

By Zac Jackson
Fox Sports Ohio
September 27, 2010

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio

— With the way the NBA’s gone Twitter-crazy, perhaps the best way to

sum up the Cavaliers media day Monday is this: Nobody is LOL’ing about

LAL.

Life

After LeBron. There’s no abbreviating, ignoring or getting around it.

New head coach Byron Scott’s job is to make sure there’s no pouting

about it, either.

The

moving forward officially begins Tuesday morning as Scott oversees the

Cavaliers’ first LeBron-less training camp practice since 2002. The

two-time MVP and one-time hometown favorite is gone, as are the old

coach and general manager, rent-a-center and future Hall of Famer

Shaquille O’Neal and the franchise’s all-time leader in games played,

rebounds and blocked shots, Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

There

are new faces, but no one nearly as recognizable or impactful as

LeBron. That includes Scott, a third-time head coach who won in both

of his previous stops and won three NBA titles in his 14 years as a

player. Scott’s plan for his new team is to hit the floor running,

literally and figuratively. He smiled when he said he’ll have trash cans strategically

placed around the court during camp in case anyone gets sick, but he

won’t tolerate a team feeling sorry for itself.

There’s no

looking back, and Scott wants his team to embrace that the fact that

James’ departure has most pundits pegging the team that won more

regular-season games than anybody else the last two years as lottery

bound this time around.

“I

kind of love that,” Scott said. “I’ve been an underdog all my life. My

conversations with players this summer tells me they feel the same way.

“I hope our guys are pissed off about it.”

They’re certainly tired of talking about it.

“There’s

no LeBron in this building,” Mo Williams said, extending in his arms in

a sign of enormity — and finality. “Whether we believe it or not, he’s

not coming back. This is what we got.”

This

— this roster, this new hierarchy, this attempt to outrun any LeBron

hangover — comes with more than a bit of uncertainty. Scott said he has

a starting lineup in mind but is leaving all five spots open to battle.

New GM Chris Grant, an NBA front-office lifer who worked under former

GM Danny Ferry the last five years, holds a $14.5 million trade

exception he can eventually use to add a top-shelf player currently on

someone else’s roster. Williams and Antawn Jamison provide scoring and

veteran presence, but the Cavaliers decision-makers must find guys who

fit Scott’s up-tempo system and fit into a long-term plan.

Scott

likes that he inherits a team that’s used to winning, but it’s one

that’s also used to following LeBron’s lead. With Williams sitting out

the start of camp with a groin injury, only J.J. Hickson and Anthony

Parker return from the starting group that was on the court for such

practices 12 months ago. In addition to new evaluators and new

expectations, Scott said this summer that Jamison, who’s now far and

away the team’s most experienced player, might start as the team’s sixth

man. Anderson Varejao figures to be an every-night starting center for

the first time and Hickson — a freshly 22-year old third-year man with

top-shelf athleticism — gets his first shot at being a leader rather

than a learning-on-the-job luxury.

“We’re looking forward to moving forward,” Grant said.

“It’s uncharted waters for the organization,” Jamison said. “But guys have a chip on their shoulders.”

The

“new” Cavaliers are saying the right things, but they know they have

plenty to prove. The door is open for Daniel Gibson, Jamario Moon and

Jawad Williams to earn bigger roles, for new faces like Ramon Sessions,

Ryan Hollins, Joey Graham and Samardo Samuels to succeed. Gone are the

twice-weekly national TV dates and huge expectations, and Scott admitted

a need for patience while the Cavaliers carve out a new identity.

“I

never had any emotional attachment to LeBron because I never coached

him, so it’s easy for me,” Scott said. “It has to be business as usual

as we try to improve this basketball team.”

Williams certainly had an emotional attachment to LeBron, though he said a Yahoo Sports report

that said he was so distraught after James’ departure that he

considered retirement was “blown out of proportion.” Though he said he

feels “the same pain” as Cleveland fans and can’t be the type of leader

“who gets 30, 10 and 8” every night, he thinks the locker-room mindset

is right for the Cavaliers to be better than a lot of people think.

“We

have enough doubters around us,” he said. “We get to turn things around

and start something new. We have guys who have played in big games.

“At

some point you just have to turn the corner. This is the hand we’re

dealt. It’s reality that we lost a big key to our success…but you

don’t get seeded on what people think.”

It’s

a new reality and a new path, and it seems like it can go in many

different directions. We’ll have to wait and see if this new-look team

can work its way back towards the top.

Follow Zac Jackson on Twitter @FSOhioZJackson