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David Aldridge

Jamario Moon
Jamario Moon is part of the platoon of players the Cavs will use as LeBron James' replacement.
Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

Moon, Cavs aim to rise to challenge of replacing LeBron


Posted Oct 18 2010 10:20AM

I tell Jamario Moon that I'll see him sometime during the season.

"You should wait until December 2nd," he said Sunday afternoon. "That'll be the one to come to."

The NBA world will certainly be paying attention that day, when the Miami Heat come to Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland and play the Cavaliers. It will be LeBron James' first visit back to the city that he left so famously this summer, creating a firestorm that is, only now, beginning to cool. And when James comes out to the crescendo of boos that will no doubt follow his every move that night, he may well find that Moon, the 30-year-old former journeyman forward, is the person who has been tapped to take his place. It would seem to be an unenviable job to have.

"You wouldn't be competitive as a basketball player if you weren't excited about the opportunity," Moon said during a break from playing NCAA '10 (the Rockford, Ala., native was, of course, the Crimson Tide). "Everyone in that locker room is excited to show that they can play this game and show people that think we can't do it."

Moon is not written in ink as the Cavaliers' starting three, though he's done so the last few games in the preseason. Cavs coach Byron Scott hasn't decided yet who'll take the job, and won't decide until after Cleveland concludes the preseason on Thursday. Part of the reason is that Antawn Jamison, one of the candidates, will likely miss the rest of the exhibition season after tweaking his knee late last week. And Scott has four players from whom to choose: Moon, Jamison, Jawad Williams and Joey Graham.

But whoever he picks, Scott has tried to assure each that no one is counting on them to replace the former franchise player.

"I've told everyone that no one expects them to do what LeBron did," Scott said Sunday. "Nobody is going to average 30, 8 and 8. It's going to have to be by committee."

Scott wants a defensive presence at the three, which would leave Williams and Moon ahead of the rest. If he opts for one of them, he'll likely bring Jamison off the bench as a sixth man, a role Scott's been contemplating for Jamison all summer. Jamison could play some power forward, too, in a smaller lineup, but the Cavaliers are committed to getting minutes for J.J. Hickson at that spot.

Moon says he has no hard feelings toward James for leaving.

"I played flag football with him this summer," Moon said. "I played softball with him. Me and LeBron are still cool. I sent him a text saying 'Hey, man, I appreciate the opportunity you gave me'...he had to do what he had to do. He has his family and his own situation."

Moon's journey to the NBA is one of the league's all-time stories of perseverance. He played with a dozen minor league teams, the Globetrotters, a handful of summer league teams and darn near anyone else who'd pay him to play over the span of six years until the Raptors gave him a contract in 2007. He was involved in the Jermaine O'Neal-Shawn Marion deal, going to the Heat in 2009. Cleveland gave him a home in the summer of '09, signing him to a three-year deal. (Ironically, the Heat really wanted to re-sign Moon that summer, but he chose stability.)

"I just want to prove a lot of people wrong," he said.

The Cavaliers have had a good preseason, going 4-2 through Sunday's games. They're buying into Scott's sales pitch and they've won games despite injuries and the loss of Anderson Varejao for several games to mourn the death of his grandfather. Yet no one expects anything but a precipitous fall from grace for the team that won 61 and 66 games the previous two seasons. Expectations are basement level.

"I think they're going to enjoy the new kind of basketball we're going to play this year," Moon said. "The offense that Coach has put in, everybody gets an opportunity to show what they can do."

Scott, who has never wavered in his declaration that he's thrilled to be coaching in Cleveland -- LeBron or no -- says the Cavaliers have been "first class" in what they've provided, and that the city has embraced the newest version of the franchise, even without a franchise player. But he's fine with no one outside of the city believing anything but a lottery trip is Cleveland's fate this season.

"They've had so many high expectations for most of these guys since they've been here, it's kind of cool for them to have low expectations," he said. "It takes a lot of pressure off of them. Me, I have my own expectations. I'm not going to tell them what they are. But you know me. I plan on winning."

Dribbles

The Bucks aren't yet worried about Andrew Bogut's return, but it seems like it's always something.

Bogut's return to the court after suffering that gruesome elbow, finger and arm fracture last April was delayed Saturday when Bogut came down with a migraine just before tipoff. The Bucks kept him out of Thursday's preseason game in Washington after he got hit on the left hand during a workout.

Milwaukee's star center has been taking part in fullcourt practices and scrimmages for a month, but hadn't played in a preseason game until Sunday. He made his debut against the Timberwolves in Sioux Falls, S.D., scoring 11 points and grabbing five rebounds in about 14 minutes of work.

Andrew Bogut
Andrew Bogut will likely play his usual minutes once the season begins.
Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

Scott Skiles would like to limit Bogut's minutes during the preseason, but there will be no limits on Bogut's minutes when the games start for real.

"In my opinion, he's no more likely to get hurt than anyone else on our team," Skiles said last week. "He did have, obviously, the worst fall I've ever seen in a basketball game. You knew the very second he went down, he was done, he was out, there was no way around that. I'm not trying to minimize it. But he's been very diligent this summer, with his rehabs. He played the whole month of September. When we scrimmaged he played five on five, basically every day. He took a little bit of a hit on the hand and we just want to err on the side of being really cautious."

Skiles doesn't think Bogut is injury-prone, but he also knows that the Bucks won't go far in the playoffs without him. Bogut will have to play with pain throughout the season, but the Bucks trust he'll be honest with them when he hurts too much to play on a given night.

"Look, both of the last two years, last year was a freak accident, and the year before, he had the back issue, but he's missed critical moments for us in both of the last two years," Skiles said. "We want him, we need him to play for us, hopefully, in every game. That would be something that would be huge for us. So I'll watch him. But I've seen with my own eyes him do so much already. If this was a regular-season game tonight and you came up to me beforehand and said, 'Are you going to play him 38 minutes tonight?,' I would say, 'I might.' "

Extension talks unlikely for '07 draftees

With two weeks to go before the deadline for contract extensions for the Draft class of 2007, the landscape looks bleak. After talking with a lot of agents and GMs in the last few days, unless there's a major change of heart by teams, the downward trend of Draft classes getting new deals that keep them from restricted free agency will continue. Right now, only three players from that high-profile class -- Kevin Durant, Joakim Noah and, maybe, Al Horford -- are likely to get extensions by the Nov. 1 deadline.

Durant, the second pick overall in 2007, got his five-year, $85 million deal done in the summer; Noah, who went ninth in '07, and the Bulls Video agreed to a five-year, $60 million deal earlier this month, and it's expected that the Hawks and Horford, who went third overall in '07, will get a new deal done by the deadline.

That leaves several big names, including the first overall pick, Greg Oden; picks No. 4-8 (Memphis' Mike Conley, Jr.; Oklahoma City's Jeff Green; Washington's Yi Jianlian; Minnesota's Corey Brewer and Golden State's Brandan Wright), and everyone after Noah -- including the Sixers' Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young, the Wizards' Al Thornton and Nick Young, the Pistons' Rodney Stuckey, the Suns' Jared Dudley, Portland's Rudy Fernandez and Houston's Aaron Brooks -- looking at an uncertain future. If deals aren't done, they'll all become restricted free agents after this season, but there's no telling what that means until there's a new collective bargaining agreement.

It's not a shock that the Blazers aren't willing to do something with Oden, who has missed two full seasons because of separate knee injuries. Of the others, Brooks (26th overall) is a surprise, after blossoming the last two years into a top-shelf point guard. But the Rockets are adamant that they won't be doing any extensions this year with the negotiations on a new CBA continuing.

Al Horford
Al Horford's chances of landing a contract extension are about 50-50.
Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

Horford and the Hawks have been talking for weeks, but the odds are just about 50-50, from what I'm told, that something gets done in the next two weeks. Atlanta has a delicate game to play with Horford; Jamal Crawford has made his desire for a new deal quite clear, but after giving Joe Johnson $124 million this summer there's only so much money to go around.

Last year, the class of '06 wound up with just six extensions -- Andrea Bargnani, the top pick (Toronto), Blazers guard Brandon Roy and forward LaMarcus Aldridge, Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha, Nuggets forward Renaldo Balkman and Celtics guard Rajon Rondo, who got a five-year, $55 million deal just before the deadline. Other players from the '06 class, including Rudy Gay, Luis Scola, Ronnie Brewer and Tyrus Thomas, got new contracts this summer as restricted free agents.

The six from '06 followed eight contract extensions for the 2005 class (Bogut, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Andrew Bynum, Danny Granger, Jason Maxiell, Francisco Garcia and Martell Webster), six from the '04 Draft (Dwight Howard, Devin Harris, Al Jefferson, Kris Humphries, Jameer Nelson, Kevin Martin) and 15 from the historic Class of '03 (LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Chris Kaman, Kirk Hinrich, T.J. Ford, Nick Collison, Luke Ridnour, David West, Boris Diaw, Brian Cook, Leandro Barbosa, Kendrick Perkins and Josh Howard)

Green could certainly argue he deserves a new deal after averaging 15.1 points and six rebounds a game last season for the emerging Thunder. And Green's agent, David Falk, has a way of persuading teams to see things his client's way, so Green's status may change by the deadline. Oklahoma City's plan has been to keep its powder dry until its young core group came on line for new deals.

But the next extension in OKC will certainly go to guard Russell Westbrook, not Green. And the Thunder is not likely to break the bank for many others on owner Clay Bennett's watch, which means hard choices on the rest of the roster.

"As we have said before, we appreciate Jeff as a player and as a person," geneal manager Sam Presti texted Friday. "We have had positive discussions, however, it would be inappropriate to comment further out of respect for the team and player."

Top O' the World, Ma!

(Last week's rankings in brackets)

1) Orlando [3]: Magic have won 19 straight preseason games over the last three seasons.

2) Boston [5]: Celtics still searching for glue guy with Perkins on the shelf.

Shaquille O'Neal
The Celtics are still looking for the anchor in the middle of their defense.
Steve Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

3) L.A. Lakers [1]: Artest looked really good moving the ball around in exhibition win Saturday against Denver.

4) Utah [11]: Kind of like Jazz's new road unis. Better than that green mess they wore last year.

5) Miami [4]: LeBron returns to practice after missing time with a cramp/hamstring; ESPN can continue.

6) Memphis [NR]: Grizzlies looking much more active and improved on defense

7) Oklahoma City [6]: Thunder still deciding between Thabo Sefolosha and James Harden at shooting guard.

8) Houston [15]: Rockets finally get Brad Miller on the court this week; they'll need him to limit Yao's minutes.

9) Minnesota [NR]: More two guard battles: Corey Brewer fighting Wes Johnson for starting spot.

10) Milwaukee [14]: Skiles looking for Brandon Jennings to be a better finisher around the basket this season, a la Tony Parker.

11) New Jersey [NR]: 'Melo talks on slow boil for now.

12) Cleveland [NR]: Not to read too much into the preseason, but the Cavaliers are second in the league in fewest points (85.2) allowed.

13) Dallas [7]: Roddy Buckets still not back on the court after his foot became sore after running. Not a good sign.

14) San Antonio [8]: Tony Parker in great shape and healthy, which bodes well for the Spurs.

15) Golden State [NR]: Monta Ellis has impressed all preseason with an improved attitude toward teammates and better decision making. Quite the backcourt potentially with Stephen Curry.

Team of the Week

Now that we have some -- admittedly, exhibition -- games under our belt, we can re-start this weekly tribute to the week's best performing team, and its worst ...

Memphis (3-0): The Grizz are undefeated in six preseason games, and beat playoff teams Oklahoma City and Milwaukee this week. And Memphis is winning despite no one averaging more than 13 points a game. Liked the Tony Allen add, liked the Draft (Xavier Henry, Greivis Vasquez), liked the Rudy Gay re-signing. Keep an eye on this group, which finished just out of the playoff money last season.

Team of the Weak

L.A. Clippers (0-3): A lot of moving parts trying to become a cohesive unit. It will take time -- if it is going to happen at all.

Nobody Asked Me, But ...

Isn't it time for the Wizards to separate themselves from Gilbert Arenas?

Any hopes the Wizards had that Arenas had emerged from his 50-game suspension last season a changed person evaporated in the first two weeks of the preseason. By lying to Flip Saunders about his knee before last week's preseason game with the Hawks -- no matter his rationale -- Arenas has shown he hasn't learned anything from last December's gun incident.

Now, as then, he doesn't seem to understand why what he did was wrong.

He said he was just trying to help Nick Young get playing time -- seemingly oblivious to the trust problem that not being honest with his coach presents. Then he blamed the media for reporting what he said.

I hope I'm proven wrong, that the lie about the knee was one last spasm of immaturity, followed by a new focus and understanding about his role on the Wizards, that he needn't be Surly Gil or Agent Zero or Hibachi or any other creation -- just himself. The guy who is, by all accounts, a terrific father to his kids. You'd like to think Arenas would realize there is a middle ground somewhere, where he doesn't have to be the center of attention all the time.

Not holding my breath.

Gilbert Arenas
Would the Wizards be best served to just give up on Gilbert Arenas?
Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

D.C. remains divided about Arenas, with his supporters pointing out that he's shown signs he's fully recovered from the multiple knee surgeries of the last three years in vibrant workouts and in practices. Saunders maintains that Arenas has done everything he's asked of him; John Wall has not indicated anything other than a solid working relationship with Arenas. But his detractors now have fresh arguments. When Arenas checked in Thursday night at home against the Bucks, one fan held up a sign all night that read:

"GILBERT: MY "KNEE" HURTS
CAN U FILL IN @ WORK 4 ME?"

There are two schools of thought in Washington about Arenas, equally wrong. One is that Arenas is just "misunderstood," and that all of these incidents are the product of a playful personality that occasionally strays into foolishness -- in the way that your philandering ex-husband who is four years behind on the child support payments and runs a moonshine operation out of his basement is just "misunderstood." This school maintains that the gun incident, while troubling, was not indicative of a lack of judgment, but merely a prank gone wrong.

The second school believes Arenas to be, if not the Antichrist, a reasonable facsimile thereof. These folks think Arenas a virus, capable of contaminating Wall within an inch of his life and turning Wall into a coach-defying, team-killing anchor. (This assumes Wall to be a cipher, incapable of resisting the scourge like he's missing a key chromosome, and neglects that Wall was the Alpha Male on a team full of first-round Draft picks at Kentucky.) They believe Arenas is wholly, irretrievably corrupted, and seeks only to create a room full of like-minded parasites.

If we can escape the black-white world of pro wrestling for a second, Arenas is neither saint nor sinner.

He's what he's always been, what he was when he came to Washington (and made up a story about how he chose the Wizards over the Clippers by flipping a coin, not because the Wizards offered him $65 million): immensely talented, incredibly charismatic, wildly immature.

"Our kids are great," a Wiz source said last week. "It's our veterans that we have to worry about. They're supposed to be leading. But the kids are the leaders."

But why should Arenas change, when he's made $176 million in the pros behaving like he always has? That's the problem.

Washington tried to ratchet up the penalties with a $50,000 fine on Arenas, but that's throwing good money after bad. The only solution is to sit Arenas down, Jamaal Tinsley-style, and keep him away from the team until it can either work out a trade or a buyout. Both are problematic; not many teams were interested in Arenas before the latest incident, and Arenas certainly has no motivation to give any money back.

But this relationship has run its course. Arenas became a star in Washington; the Wizards got to the playoffs a few times. Both sides benefitted. It's time, though, to turn the page, so that Arenas can continue his career without the baggage of what's happened in D.C., and the Wizards can do what they want to do: rebuild around Wall.

... And Nobody Asked You, Either

I hope you brought enough for everybody. From Syed F. Akbar:

Re: 96.4 -- Percentage of GMs who said that Miami had made the best offseason moves this summer. Which begs the question: what the heck were the other 3.6 percent (Lakers) drinking, and can I have some?

With all due respect sir, I don't think Miami made any moves that a half-dozen other teams did not -- create a large cap-room. What Miami ended up with, was more a 'move' of the trio than Miami's. Seen in that perspective, what the other 3.6 percent were drinking should surely be passed around, and not just to you. Then again, nobody asked me.

Maybe, Syed, but that trio is still playing on South Beach exclusively for the next several years, nowhere else. And when you have to sell tickets, it's a little easier to peddle LeBron and Bosh and Wade than, say, Jordan Farmar and Travis Outlaw, not that there's anything wrong with Jordan Farmar or Travis Outlaw.

It was my understanding that there would be no math in this column. From Raveen Mathew:

I'm an avid reader (no, a religious one actually) of your Morning Tip -- I look forward to it every week actually, so I thank you for doing such a great job. I'm just writing to point out one possible mistake: I too was puzzled when I saw one GM thought the Lakers had a better offseason than the Heat. However, I then saw that a GM cannot vote for his own team, so it's likely that Pat Riley voted for the Lakers (though I'm inclined to think my Celtics had the second-best offseason!).

That's a perfectly reasonable explanation, but if Riles couldn't vote for the Heat and had to go elsewhere, that would mean Miami should have gotten 96.6666667 percent (29 out of 30 votes), not 96.4. Who made off with those other two-tenths?

It was my understanding that there would be no geography in this column. From Hamish Alexander:

Sorry but according to WIkipedia (so I may be slightly misinformed) Pat Mills is of mixed Torres Strait Island and Aborigine heritage, i.e Australian. The Maori are the native people of New Zealand. Mistaking an Australian for a New Zealander is a most heinous crime akin to asking an American what part of Canada he is from.

You can make amends to the good people of New Zealand by giving a plug for Kirk Penney to get picked up by an NBA team. He had a try out with the Spurs (surely a good spotter of foreign talent) and a solid tournament for NZ at the worlds. Surely there is a team out there that has space for an experienced hard working shooter off the bench.

I goofed. I talked with Patty earlier this year (check Mr. Fifteen here about what pioneer Aborigine athletes like Evonne Goolagong and Cathy Freeman meant to him as a kid growing up), and how he is desperate to be the first Aborigine player in the NBA. I had "Aborigine" in my head and typed "Maori" on the computer. My mistake. I really can distinguish Australia from NZ on a map. And would someone please pick up Kirk Penney? Thank you.

mailto:daldridge@gmail.com. No guarantees, but if your note is sufficiently brainy, quirky or snarky we just might publish it!

By The Numbers

50,000 -- Fine by the league on Portland guard Rudy Fernandez after his agent publicly requested that the Blazers let him out of his contract so he can play this season in Europe.

54 -- Margin of defeat last Sunday by the Hornets in a 135-81 beatdown by the Magic.

45 -- Percentage of the Oregon vote for former NBA player Chris Dudley in the Oregon gubernatorial race in a Survey USA poll this week, putting Dudley, a Republican, down by just one point -- within the poll's margin of error -- in his battle with Democratic candidate John Kitzhaber. The race, close for weeks, will be decided Nov. 2.

I'm Feelin' ...

1) You should remember this now that Blake Griffin is back on the court : He is still considered a rookie by the NBA, and thus eligible to win the Rookie of the Year award. Don't just assume it's John Wall's.

2) This was a tribute to man's better angels. This was a tribute to man's better angles.

Blake Griffin
Blake Griffin shoud ensure that John Wall doesn't just run away with the ROY this season.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

3 Video The Nashty One, with Landon Donovan, hyping FIFA '11. Hilarious.

4) An argument, with math that's way above what I learned in high school, that preseason games mean more than you think.

5) I think the Palace of Auburn Hills is still one of the best arenas in the league after 20 years. But if MIke Ilitch's soon-to-be purchase of the Pistons means Detroit would soon play in an arena downtown, next to the Tigers' ballpark, count me in. I would not miss the 40-mile drive from the airport.

6) Stan Van Gundy doesn't suffer fools, but he also is secure enough in his own skin to acknowledge when he made a mistake, which puts him light years ahead of a lot of NBA coaches.

7) I think Gary Neal's going to make the Spurs, and help them win a game or two during the regular season.

Not Feelin' ...

1) Point made. It was a stupid, ridiculous point, but it was made. Just can't buy that there was a hue and cry from fans about player gestures and/or whining about calls. Why on earth the league steps on the mostly positive press from the rise of the Super Friends in Miami, the Lakers' attempt at a ThreePeat, Oklahoma City's emergence, etc., is beyond me.

2) LB, you're exactly right. Allen Iverson shouldn't be ending his career this way. Funny that you could have done something about that over the past three seasons, but have not brought him to your Knicks/Bobcats squads. And please don't tell me Michael Jordan is keeping you from signing him. When have you ever been denied a player you really wanted?

Larry Brown
Coach Larry Brown could have kept Allen Iverson from turning to a career in Turkey.
Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

3) The Suns say they're fine, and are going to be fine without Amar'e Stoudemire. I'm not sure. They're not going to fall off the face of the Western Conference, but I'm just not sure how far they can go.

4) Losing Jonas Jerebko for the year is going to hurt the Pistons. Really hurt.

5) RIP, Mrs. Cleaver . May you always speak jive.

Tweet of the Week

"@KingJames raise some money 4 the boys and girls club again and play kobe one on one dawg. He's throwing jabs at you. King needs to respond"
-- Someone pretending to be Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (@MVick7), Thursday, 6:37 p.m., to LeBron James, supposedly referring to Kobe Bryant's contention when asked over in Europe that he would easily beat James in a one-on-one game. James did respond via Tweet to the ersatz Vick: "i love the boys and girls club of America man!! Yeah he has been taking some shots on the low right! It's all good though" The actual, verified Vick on Twitter is here.

They Said It

"He really is, outside of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, the most patient person I've read about or been around."
--Rockets forward Shane Battier, not spreading the hyperbole too much about teammate Yao Ming to the Houston Chronicle.

"It's obvious what we need."
-- Blazers coach Nate MacMillan, to the Oregonian, on Portland's continuing dearth of healthy centers. Joel Przybilla returned to practice this week after suffering a ruptured patella tendon last season, and Greg Oden is making slow progress from his fractured kneecap, but has yet to be cleared for practices. Marcus Camby will likely be the starter in two weeks when the regular season begins, but Portland has almost no depth behind him.

"He needs some work, but he's going to get there. In 10 games, he'll be in Pop shape."
-- Spurs guard Manu Ginobili, to the San Antonio News Express, on Gregg Popovich's first-quarter tirade against the team during Saturday's exhibition with Spanish team Caja Laboral

Longtime NBA reporter and columnist David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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