Coach’s Corner: Larry Brown on Cavs-Blazers
By Larry Brown
SEVEN THINGS TO WATCH
1. The Ability of Brandon Roy to Create for Himself and His Teammates
When the game is on the line you have to have somebody that can get a shot for himself, get a shot for his teammate or get a free throw even though your opponent might be in a position to try to stop you from accomplishing those things. I think Brandon has that unique ability. Years ago it used to be post players. You’d throw it inside to Kareem, Malone, Shaq or somebody like that and they could get a free throw, get a basket, create a double team and get somebody else a shot. Now it’s changing somewhat because we have guys out on the perimeter that have to do that like LeBron or Kobe or Dwyane Wade. Brandon is one of those unique kids. He’s strong enough to take it inside, he can keep you honest because he can make an outside shot and he’s a very unselfish player. He can get other people a shot and I think he trusts his teammates in that regard. I look at Joe Johnson a lot like him. Brandon has a little bit more ability as a playmaker, but Joe certainly is in that category. They both can post up, they both can shoot the three and they both can put the ball on the floor. I am a fan of both of them.
2. The Depth of the Blazers
The Blazers have great depth. You’ve got two emerging stars in Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. They have three kids that they play at point – sometimes they even play Roy there – with Steve Blake, Jarrett Jack and Sergio Rodriguez. Then you’ve got James Jones and Martell Webster. You’ve got Outlaw, one of these 6-9 power forwards that is really long and athletic, who can create a mismatch and who they’ve gone to late in games. Joel Przybilla is very underrated and unselfish. He comes in and rebounds and defends every night and doesn’t need the ball to be effective. And I think Channing Frye is in a terrific situation. He’s getting more and more confidence and he can make a shot, rebound the ball and he is another young kid who is developing. Don’t forget, too, that waiting in the wings is maybe one of the most dominant big kids we’ve had cme into our league in a long time in Greg Oden. They’ve done a marvelous job of building this team. They have chemistry, a great coach and it seems like they have followed Brandon’s lead. He’s a great kid and a terrific leader and they’ve recognized that.
3. The Blazers Ability to Rally From Behind
This team has shown an ability to come back late in games and I think it starts with Nate McMillan. He doesn’t allow them to give up. They think they’re in every game. They’re phenomenal at home where they rarely get beat. Young teams have a tendency to play well at home and not on the road, but they’ve gotten better and better on the road, winning some really tough games. But it starts at the top. When you’ve got a coach who is very competitive, who is a terrific teacher, he instills in them that if they keep doing what they’re supposed to do, they are going to figure out a way to win and they’ve done that.
4. Momentum for the Cavs From Sunday’s Win Over the Lakers
When you start out on a road trip and you have a big game like that, especially an Eastern team coming out west for a marquee game with Kobe versus LeBron, you’ll take any win you can get. To get a win without Varejao and Pavlovic on the road against the Lakers when they are playing well was huge. That is a great way to start a trip. LeBron is playing at such an unbelievably high level but I think since they put Larry back at point I notice he seems to be getting better by the game and that is such a key factor for them. LeBron can only do so much but when your point guard can score the ball, can defend and get other people involved like Larry seems to be doing it, it really takes a lot of pressure off LeBron.
5. Contributions from Ira Newble and Devin Brown
With Pavlovic being out, Newble and Brown have to be contributors. They both are above average defenders and night in and night out they have really difficult matchups. Because you don’t want to get LeBron in foul trouble, they generally have to take a guy that can score the ball. In that regard, those two guys are critical. For instance, I would imagine Newble and Brown will have to guard Brandon Roy, at least at the beginning of the game. You’re not going to stop Brandon Roy, but those two guys have the ability to make him earn his points which is something Cleveland desperately needs.
6. Battle of the Bigs
Drew Gooden on Aldridge is going to be a key matchup. When Aldridge has a big game, Portland almost always wins and Drew is a big part of Cleveland’s game, especially with Varejao being out. Also, it is important that Ilgauskas stay out of foul trouble because he is the x-factor whenever Cleveland plays. If he can get quality shots and quality touches that is when they are most dangerous.
7. A treat for fans of the Pacific Northwest
I think it is neat for the people on the West Coast, specifically the Pacific Northwest, to get to see LeBron in action. I get a little bit upset at the fact that they only get to see him and great players from the East only once a year. The same goes for us fans on the East Coast. We don’t get to see a lot of the great young players in the West. There will certainly be a lot of hype for this game.