HORNETS VS. CAVALIERS
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
November 19, 2010
After superstar forward LeBron James announced that he was signing with the Miami Heat during his highly-rated but controversial TV special known as The Decision, many NBA analysts predicted a fall to the bottom of the standings for his former team, Cleveland. In fact, one national preseason NBA preview magazine went as far as projecting an abysmal 12-70 record for the Cavaliers. With former local hero James in the fold, Cleveland had combined to go 127-37 over the previous two regular seasons, the only NBA team to register 60-plus victories both years.
Three weeks into its first post-LeBron season, its too early to tell whether Cleveland and former New Orleans head coach Byron Scott will be able to contend for a 2011 Eastern Conference playoff berth, but the Cavs havent looked like one of the NBAs worst teams. Behind proven veterans such as point guard Mo Williams, forward Antawn Jamison, center Anderson Varejao and shooting guard Anthony Parker, Cleveland has hovered around the .500 mark in the early going. The 5-5 Cavs will be trying to extend their current winning streak in road games to four by posting a victory over the Hornets. Over a recent five-day span, Cleveland won on the home floors of Philadelphia, Washington and New Jersey.
Cleveland and New Orleans will square off once more during the 2010-11 regular season, on Sunday, March 6 in Cleveland. That March 6 game is scheduled to be televised by ESPN, the only national TV game the Hornets received when the 2010-11 docket was announced in August. However, if New Orleans continues to build on its franchise-record start to the campaign, its likely that a few Hornets games will be added by ESPN and the leagues other national TV partners soon.
Power forward, David West vs. J.J. Hickson
West and Hickson are focal points in the offensive attacks for each team. Through Mondays NBA games, West was the Hornets second-leading scorer, behind only Chris Paul, while Hickson topped the Cavaliers in scoring average. The 22-year-old Hickson can be a difficult matchup for opposing power forwards, based on his athleticism and quickness around the basket. The promising third-year pro averaged 7.1 points per game last season, but has emerged as one of the NBAs most improved players early in 2010-11. The N.C. State product tallied double-digit points in each of the first six games of November, highlighted by 31 points vs. Atlanta on Nov. 2.
HORNETS.COM SCOUTING REPORT - Cleveland
A closer look at the Cleveland Cavaliers:
Mississippi native and former University of Alabama standout Mo Williams will be one of the biggest keys this season for the Cavaliers in their pursuit of a playoff berth. A steady and reliable floor leader since making his NBA debut, Williams has become a well-known player as a member of the Cavs. In 2008-09, Williams was named an All-Star for the first time, after becoming an effective sidekick to LeBron James. The personable 6-foot-2, 195-pounder is an excellent spot-up shooter who has connected on over 150 three-pointers in each of the past two regular seasons. Having spent his formative years as a resident of the Gulf Coast region, Williams began his own foundation in 2005, in order to benefit underprivileged children in the state of Mississippi and to assist Hurricane Katrina victims. Williams was named the 2001 Mississippi Player of the Year as a senior in high school. At press time, Williams status for Fridays game was uncertain, due to a hip injury that had caused him to miss several recent games.
Point guard Ramon Sessions, a former teammate of Williams when both were with the Milwaukee Bucks, was acquired in an offseason trade by the Cavs from the Minnesota Timberwolves. Sessions is an effective penetrator who was expected to come off the bench this season for Cleveland, but has been a fill-in starter when Williams was sidelined with injury.
When James took his talents to South Beach and the Miami Heat this summer, the departure opened up a void in the offense that was certain to create additional opportunities for the remaining Cavalier players. Combo guard Daniel Gibson is one player who has taken full advantage of extra chances to touch the ball. After averaging 6.3 points per game in 2009-10, the University of Texas product has doubled his offensive production early this season. Gibson is a career 42 percent shooter from three-point range, one of the highest rates among active NBA players. During the 2008 All-Star weekend in New Orleans, Gibson was a finalist in the three-point shootout, falling to event winner Jason Kapono.
As the older brother of WNBA superstar Candace Parker, Cavaliers shooting guard Anthony Parker has joked that hes the least-talented of the two professional basketball players in his family. Parker is actually in his second stint as an NBA player. He struggled to find a niche in the league from 1997-2000, before going on to an ultra-successful career overseas. Parker returned to the NBA in 06 and has been a quality role player ever since.
Few players with a resume as lengthy as Antawn Jamisons would quickly accept a move to the bench, but when Cleveland head coach Byron Scott made the decision to make Jamison a reserve in 2010-11, the two-time All-Star fully supported it. Jamison is a potent scorer with a wide range of offensive talents. Hes able to score close to the basket by relying on an array of unorthodox scoop and flip shots, but opponents also cant leave him open from the perimeter. Jamison has made over 800 three-pointers in his 13-year NBA career.
A native of Goodwater, Ala., and a former player for Meridian Community College in Mississippi, Cavs starting forward Jamario Moons career has included many interesting stops. Moon once played for the Harlem Globetrotters in 2004; hes also played for teams in minor leagues including the D-League, USBL, ABA and CBA. The Globetrotters were interested in signing Moon to a contract after watching his impressive athleticism and dunking ability during a workout for an NBA team.
One of the early leaders in the NBAs Most Improved Player race, power forward J.J. Hickson appears to be on the verge of blossoming into a high-caliber starting player. The athletic, 6-foot-9 third-year pro has been waiting for extended opportunities to play, something that wasnt always possible on previous Cavaliers teams that were chalk full of experienced players. Hicksons favorite NBA player as a youngster was Amare Stoudemire, who has a somewhat similarly aggressive style of play on the offensive end.
Jawad Williams is an Ohio native who appeared in each of the Cavs first nine games this season. He started for the North Carolina Tar Heels team that won the 2005 NCAA championship. Small forward Joey Graham is in his sixth NBA season, having played previously for Toronto and Denver. He has a twin brother, Stephen Graham, who plays for the New Jersey Nets.
Rugged power forward Leon Powe was an integral member of the 2008 NBA champion Boston Celtics, delivering a 21-point Game 2 of the NBA Finals against the Lakers that year. Unfortunately for Powe, he suffered an ACL injury during the 2009 playoffs, leading to a lengthy rehabilitation process.
Beloved in Cleveland due to his all-out hustling style of play, personality and creative hairstyle, Anderson Varejao has been with the Cavaliers longer than any of their current players. In appreciation for Varejaos locks, some Cavs fans wear wigs to games in the players Sideshow Bob hairstyle. The PA system at Quicken Loans Arena often plays the classic 1965 song Wild Thing when the energetic and active native of Brazil scores a basket or makes a valuable hustle play. Varejao has played for Brazil at numerous international competitions in recent years, including the last three World Championships. At press time, Varejaos status for Friday was uncertain due to a rib injury.
Like Varejao, backup center Ryan Hollins game is based on energy and hustle. Hollins is a high-flying 7-footer who sporadically produces highlight-reel dunks on alley oops and putbacks. Hollins scores the vast majority of his baskets from point-blank range he was shooting 74 percent from the field through nine games.
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