Cavaliers: Questions and answers
By Zac Jackson
FOX Sports Ohio
November 28, 2010
With the Cavaliers coming off a win Saturday night and preparing for their most important week of the season -- home games vs. Boston Tuesday and Miami Thursday -- let's look back at five burning questions entering the season and what the early answers might be...
With That One Guy gone, who gets the ball in a tight game in the final seconds?
By now, the clear answer is Mo Williams. It wasn't clear early in the season for a variety of reasons; Williams being hobbled by a groin injury was certainly among them. But Williams put the team on his back in both wins this week, nailing the buzzer-beating jumper to beat Milwaukee Wednesday and adding 18 second-half points and the dagger over Memphis. Williams is healthy, confident and fully aware of what's immediately ahead for the Cavaliers -- and his experience and leadership are shining through. He hasn't been great all the time, and the injury is probably more than partly to blame, but it's no coincidence that both second-half rallies against the Grizz came when Williams was ball-dominant, clearly in charge and making plays to bring his teammates and the crowd alive.
Is J.J. Hickson ready to make a significant leap?
Byron Scott wishes he knew. We've seen Hickson have a 31-point game...and we've seen him go six straight without cracking double figures. Hickson's flashes of athletic brilliance are still mixed with too much inconsistency and immaturity, Hickson worked tirelessly over the summer to improve his jump shot, and he's been anxious to show off his newfound range. When they fall, it's great. When they don't, people scream for him to attack the basket and rebound. And by people, I mean 20,562 in The Q but more importantly his head coach and several assistants. It's clear he's taken the staff's rebounding mandate to heart, and Saturday night it was clear that Hickson realized attacking the basket gives him better looks and a chance to really impact the game. Scott has made sure he's praised Hickson's effort and defense when praise is warranted and been critical when needed, too. The coach is determined to help the team's most physically-gifted player reach his full potential.
Given all that's happened, are the core players happy and healthy and ready to produce?
All things considered, this may have been the most important preseason question. And it's one that was hard to answer when Williams and Anderson Varejao missed almost the whole preseason due to injury and off-court matters. The Cavaliers played well and got contributions from different guys in their absence, but the preseason means little in the big picture. And an early rough patch with Williams and Antawn Jamison battling injuries provided a new test. Now that the season is in full motion and the Cavaliers are finding some flow, the read is that they're handling things pretty well. Does the long-term uncertainty weigh on players' minds? Sure. And not everybody is thrilled about being on a team that's been clearly overmatched on a couple of occasions. But the chemistry seems to be good and getting better, 9 or 10 guys are playing almost nightly and the recent wins have shown this team is capable of building some momentum. It's no coincidence that things go well when Williams and Hickson score and Varejao is a monster on the glass, and Jamison's off night Saturday was more an exception as he's been shooting well. The players can't control what decisions are eventually made in the front office, but the effort has been outstanding for much of the time thus far.
Who's the breakout player of the new season?
It's probably Daniel Gibson -- and probably has been since Day One of training camp -- but he's not the only candidate. Ramon Sessions has been up and down. He gets to the basket, plays with poise and starts the Cavaliers running, but his lack of outside shooting limits him right now. And Joey Graham's insertion into the rotation and, now, the starting lineup has given the team at least a little boost. But Gibson has embraced his opportunity and Scott's challenges after being a fringe player the last couple of years. He's been on the court in crunch time in almost every game and has delivered on several opportunities. Having Williams, Sessions and Gibson playing well gives the Cavaliers a chance to play fast for 48 minutes, and it's clear they're at their best when their defense presents opportunities to get out and go.
What in the world is going on with Hickson's shoes?
OK, so that wasn't a question heading into the season. And even after Hickson busted out some all-gold Nikes Saturday night that Scott called "the ugliest shoes I've seen in a while," it's still not a burning question in regards to the team. But there's a definite correlation between Hickson's progression and that of the team, and his choice to stand out by wearing those shoes could be a sign that he's willing to shoulder the load and responsibility of being a leader, not just another player. The team as a whole is in the spotlight this week and has to embrace it. It's Moving Week -- moving forward, moving on, moving back toward relevance? We'll see, but I think Scott is pleased with most of what he's seen thus far.