By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com
Posted Oct 15 2010 6:21PM
There are plenty of days ahead to memorize the Xs and Os, run the drills and churn their legs to the point where they feel like they just might fall off.
But before they could even think about picking up the broken pieces of the championship dreams left behind by LeBron James' departure, the Cavaliers themselves had to first acknowledge the hurt.
That was merely a step in the healing process that point guard Mo Williams was trying to express with some comments he made on Twitter that created a stir during the offseason.
"One of the messages I got was, 'Mo, you've made too much to be worrying about a situation like this,' " Williams said.
"I don't usually reply to messages on Twitter, because I get so many. But this time my reply was: 'You can't control where your heart is.' It's not about how much I get paid in a situation. Just like an average fan goes to work every day, I felt same the same pain that they felt.
"So did I let emotions go the same as they did? Yes, I did. They're voicing the same frustration at work every day, just like I am. Mine is just going to be out more than theirs. I felt same as that fan."
Williams' point is that it his reaction was not cause for alarm or despondency, as it's been interpreted in some corners, but simply a natural part of the grieving process resulting from what was essentially a loss in the Cavs' professional family.
The 27-year-old came to town two years ago as a key piece in the puzzle that was supposed to break the city of Cleveland's title drought that dates to 1964. He was a starter for a team that had back-to-back seasons of 66 and 61 wins. He ranked second among Eastern Conference point guards in scoring in the 2008-09 season and was named an All-Star in 2009. He was a part of playoff games that mattered into late May and early June.
Now Williams understands that most of that special feeling that came with showing up at the arena every night will be missing this season along with LeBron. However he can see new and different possibilities ahead with the Cavs under the first-year leadership of veteran coach Byron Scott. The club kept veterans Antawn Jamison and Anderson Varejao to form a nucleus with Williams.
"Yes, there was a time that I felt that same pain," Williams said. "But at same time you get here around this organization, this new team with new coaches and you get excited. You get to turn things around and start something new.
"I'm excited about what we have here. I think us bringing in Byron and bringing back players like Antawn and Andy, who've played in playoff games and been through the battles that we've been through the last couple of years, myself included, we're excited about all the things we can do."
The changes along with the huge hole in the middle of the lineup left by James' departure will mean changes in roles for the core veterans. Jamison will have to go back to being the leading scorer-type that he was in Washington. Varejao will probably move in as a starter center instead of being the bolt of electricity off the bench. And Williams will have to provide even more steady leadership and scoring at the point.
Williams says he's ready to embrace all of the changes and challenges and new emotions for the Cavs. But he doesn't want the Cavs to be either pitied or ignored.
"Overall, I'm sure everybody has something in their heart and feels sorry for the city of Cleveland, just like I do," he said. "With that being said, a lot of naysayers have kind of drawn a circle around our city and they won't care about us anymore.
"We've got to come together as one. That's not just the 15 players and the coaches and the organization, but every fan who was here when we were selling out every night, when we knew gonna beat teams by 20, when knew had a chance to be playing for a championship from day one. We're gonna need them more than ever to carry us over those humps when we're down and need that extra motivation."
Still, he doesn't believe it's any kind of weakness to admit what got away.
"It goes back to feeling like the average fan," Williams said. "Obviously when something happens to you and you're going somewhere and you can feel like you're right there. Like when you're at the beach when you're a kid and walking to the water and you can feel the water between your toes and your mama grabs you and says, 'Nope, you're not going in ocean today.' She takes you away and you look back and say, 'Wow, I was almost there!'
"You know it be a while might take me a while to get back there. You never know. We've got enough doubters around us."
The next step, says Mo Williams, is having belief.
Never mind Byron Scott. It would likely take H.G. Wells to turn back the clock to July 8 and a different decision by LeBron James.
Maybe it's not a complete impossibility for a hole in the Earth to open and swallow up every other team in the Eastern Conference.
A genie gives Cavs three wishes: Jamario Moon turns into LeBron James, Antawn Jamison into Michael Jordan or Mo Williams into Magic Johnson.
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LAST YEAR: 61-21, 1st in Central
FINISH: Lost in Eastern Conference semifinals
2009-10 TEAM LEADERS
|Complete 2009-10 Stats|
ANTAWN JAMISON, FORWARD
15.8 PPG | 7.7 RPG | 1.3 APG
Came to be small part with LeBron James and again a big gun on a team with little pop, so he'll have to score.
J.J. HICKSON, FORWARD
8.5 PPG | 4.9 RPG | 55.4 FG%
The athletic big man will now have plenty opportunity to expand his role on a Cavs team that will need all he can deliver.
ANDERSON VAREJAO, CENTER
8.6 PPG | 7.6 RPG | 57.2 FG%
With the void left by Shaquille O'Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, he'll take his hustle and enthusiasm into the starting lineup.
MO WILLIAMS, GUARD
15.8 PPG | 5.3 APG | 3 RPG
After being dissed by Shaq on way out the door, now there's pressure on Williams to step up and carry big part of the offense.
DANIEL GIBSON, GUARD
6.3 PPG | 1.3 APG | 47.7 3-PT%
A designated 3-pointer shooter throughout his career, he's impressed with all around play in camp and could move in as a starter.
|Jamario Moon||6-8||205||F||Athletic wingman can slash and defend.|
|Anthony Parker||6-6||215||G||Veteran defender can knock down 3s.|
|Leon Powe||6-8||240||F||Rugged big man returning from new injury|
ADDED: Joey Graham, Jawad Williams, Ramon Sessions, Ryan Hollins
LOST: Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Shaquille O'Neal, LeBron James, Delonte West, Sebastian Telfair
BYRON SCOTT, COACH
He knows how to win after capturing three titles with the Lakers as a player and taking New Jersey to the Finals twice as a coach. This is his third job as the man in charge and definitely the most challenging as he'll try to nurse the Cavs through the post-LeBron period and keep them looking forward.
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