Andre Miller took one look at all the new faces assembled at the
Cavaliers' first day of practice and declared, "It's like being
back in college. Every year they'd bring in all the freshmen--only
these guys are older."
With seven new players on their opening night roster, the
Cavaliers will indeed have a new look in 2000-01. And with center
Zydrunas Ilgauskas back from the broken left foot that sidelined
him for much of the past two seasons, they will be improved as
well. Though not enough to make the playoffs.
The biggest difference for Cleveland this year, however, is who's
not there: power forward Shawn Kemp, who was traded to Portland
on Aug. 30 in a three-team deal that brought forwards Chris
Gatling and Clarence Weatherspoon from the Heat. The Cavaliers
will miss Kemp's 18 points and nine rebounds a night, but not his
chronic battles with weight and tardiness that often became a
bigger story than his game. "At times it was a distraction,"
second-year coach Randy Wittman says, in a gross understatement.
With Kemp gone, Cleveland is counting on Miller to inherit the
role as franchise player. As a rookie last year, the 6'2" Miller
established himself as one of the best young point guards in the
game, averaging 12.8 points, 7.8 assists and 4.4 rebounds as a
starter in 36 of Cleveland's final 37 games. His steady, mature
play and quiet aggressiveness at both ends drew comparisons with
John Stockton and Jason Kidd.
Not that Miller believes the hype. The former University of Utah
star, perhaps best known among NBA fans for taking a layup
instead of a dunk at last year's All-Star Rookie Game, is so
quiet that his teammates sometimes have trouble hearing him call
plays. "He's got to speak up out there," forward Mark Bryant
says. "I'm always telling him to put some bass in his voice."
Short of swallowing one of Bill Wyman's guitars from Cleveland's
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Miller promises to do whatever it
takes to be heard. He also intends to knock down more open
jumpers, improving on the most visible weakness in his otherwise
complete game. During the summer he hoisted 250 to 300 shots a
day in Salt Lake City, concentrating on getting his legs under
him and putting more arc on his shot. "Teams know I like to play
aggressive and go to the basket, so they're going to play off
me," Miller says. "I've got a lot of open jumpers coming. I've
got to be ready to knock them down."
With Ilgauskas around to draw double teams in the low post, there
will also be more open looks for shooting guard Wesley Person, a
three-point specialist who brings little else to the game. On the
other end Ilgauskas's rebounding and shot blocking will enable
Cleveland to extend its defense and take more chances, as well as
kick-start the break.
Rookie Chris Mihm, a 7-footer out of Texas with a tantalizing
repertoire of offensive skills, provides insurance in case
Ilgauskas goes down again. Mihm could also see time at power
forward, where former Buck Robert Traylor will start, with
Gatling, Weatherspoon, Bryant and J.R. Reid in the reserve. "Last
year, if one of our big guys got in foul trouble, we had no
firepower," small forward Lamond Murray says. "Now we've got the
The feeling around Cleveland is that better times are ahead,
whether or not Miller can raise his voice to match his game.
"It's not always spoken--Jason Kidd will do it with his eyes,"
notes Murray, who teamed with Kidd at Cal. "He'll give you a wink
of the eye or a nod of the head, and you'll know to go backdoor.
That's what Andre is learning to do."
If so, the Cavaliers can make some noise in the East, even if
their point guard doesn't.
COLOR PHOTO: DAVID LIAM KYLE/NBA ENTERTAINMENT PUMP UP THE VOLUME Miller is already an ace in assists, but he has to improve his shooting--and his shouting.
Cleveland held a halftime lead in 45 of its 82 games last year,
but lost a league-high 21 of those. The Cavs weren't any better
when trailing at the half, coming back only six times (in 34
chances), third worst in the NBA.
STARTERS 1999-2000 KEY STATS
SF Lamond Murray 15.9 ppg 5.7 rpg 1.8 apg 1.42 spg 45.1 FG%
PF Robert Traylor 3.6 ppg 2.6 rpg 0.57 bpg 47.5 FG% 60.3 FT%
C Zydrunas Ilgauskas13.9 ppg 8.8 rpg 1.65 bpg 51.8 FG% 76.2FT%
SG Wesley Person 9.2 ppg 1.8 apg 3.4 rpg 42.8 FG% 42.4 3FG%
PG Andre Miller 11.1 ppg 5.8 apg 3.4 rpg 1.02 spg 44.9 FG%
BENCH 1999-2000 KEY STATS
F Chris Gatling 11.9 ppg 5.9 rpg 0.8 apg 0.96 spg 45.5 FG%
F Clarence Weatherspoon 7.2 ppg 5.8 rpg 1.2 apg 0.65 spg 51.3 FG%
C Chris Mihm (R) 17.7 ppg 10.5 rpg 2.73 bpg 52.3 FG% 46.7 3FG%
G Bimbo Coles 8.1 ppg 3.6 apg 2.2 rpg 45.5 FG% 20.5 3FG%
F Matt Harpring 8.2 ppg 4.3 rpg 0.9 apg 46.3 FG% 40.0 3FG%
New acquisition (R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 113)
 1997-98 statistics  1998-99 statistics
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Cavaliers
"General Manager Jim Paxson did the right thing by unloading
Shawn Kemp. Last year the Cavs were trying to rebuild and be a
playoff contender. It's difficult to do both. Now they have a
better salary cap situation, and their younger players can be
more enthusiastic because the star player isn't sitting around
70 or 80 pounds overweight.... Not having Kemp is going to make
it easier for Randy Wittman to practice this team hard. The
run-and-gun style ought to fit his team better this year.... The
Cavs have a chance to develop something if Zydrunas Ilgauskas
stays healthy and Chris Mihm can play alongside him. The
question is whether one of them can be more of a power guy.
Ilgauskas has a great feel for the game, he can shoot from the
outside and he has soft hands, but he really is a finesse
guy.... Lamond Murray has the ability to be an excellent player.
When you get a guy from the Clippers, it takes about a year to
desensitize him, or resensitize him, to play defense, develop
good practice habits and lots of other winning-type things."