Darius Miles's summer sounds like the treatment for the
basketball version of Major League. One day he's a hip, exciting
player on a hip, exciting team who lives near the beach and, in
between games, plays cameos in Hollywood flicks. The next day he
gets a call that he's been traded from the Clippers to the
basketball necropolis that is Cleveland.
But if Miles is supposed to be despondent, he's departing from
the script. "I'm liking it here," he says. "It reminds me of the
Clippers when I first got there." If his delivery is not
completely convincing, the sentiment is at least admirable. The
woebegone Cavs haven't won a playoff series in a decade, draw
some of the league's sparsest crowds (average attendance: 14,539)
and in the off-season unloaded their top three scorers--Wes
Person, Lamond Murray and Andre Miller, who also led the league
in assists. The company line is that the team is trying to go
with a more athletic look and that Miller, for all his savvy
playmaking, didn't fit the bill.
Still, the summer retrenchment left many scratching their heads.
Before being dealt to the Raptors at his request, Murray wrote a
letter to the editor of local newspapers--not your average method
of protest for an NBA player--calling the Cavaliers "a house on no
foundation." He also theorized to the Cleveland Plain Dealer that
the team is throwing the '02-03 season in hopes of landing Ohio
high school senior LeBron James in the lottery next June. (Cavs
coach John Lucas was suspended for two games last spring after
conducting an unauthorized workout with James.)
Whereas Person and Murray were unloaded for spare parts (Person
to the Grizzlies for since-waived swingman Nick Anderson; Murray
for center Michael Stewart and a draft pick), at least the Cavs
got Miles for Miller. Miles still has rough edges, but he turned
21 just this month and his upside is tremendous. He has the
athleticism to play every position except center--in early
practices he brought the ball upcourt--and his shooting should be
less erratic after a summer regimen of 1,000 jumpers a day. "The
third year has been a breakout year for a lot of guys," Miles
says. "I want to have one too."
The play of Miles, 6'7" slasher Ricky Davis and rookie guard
Dajuan Wagner, the No. 6 pick out of Memphis, promises to be both
exceptional and, at times, exceptionally bad. All are quick,
open-court players; none are older than 23. "They're good
marketingwise, but they're not good basketball players yet," says
Lucas. "I do like their youth and energy."
If nothing else, the kiddie corps is in good hands with Lucas, a
patient teacher and serial optimist. Lucas doesn't see the glass
as half full; he sees it as overflowing--with Cristal. To hear him
tell it, center Zydrunas Ilgauskas could "score 20 points a
night" and Miles "could be a Jordan-type player." Yet even he is
Lukewarm on the upcoming season. "We have a chance to be good
down the road," he says. "You just hope management is
COLOR PHOTO: NATHANIEL S. BUTLER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES HOT AIR Miles brings tremendous versatility and potential, but Lucas's comparisons to Jordan are premature.
The Cavaliers haven't deployed the same opening day lineup
for two consecutive seasons since 1977-78 and '78-79.
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Cavaliers
"They have big trouble at point guard. I don't love Andre Miller
as much as some people do, but he's one of the best. You pair him
with Zydrunas Ilgauskas and you've got a strong combination that
shouldn't have been broken up. They ought to make Ilgauskas the
focal point and feed him until he drops from exhaustion....
There's been talk of trying Darius Miles at the point, but he
doesn't have the right frame of mind. Name the last player who
successfully switched to point guard from another position....
Miles looks a lot more powerful this year. He was always wiry
strong anyway, going up for rebounds in a crowd or shedding guys
when he drove the lane.... Miles is the go-to guy here, and that
might be a shame. It wasn't that way with the Clippers; he knew
he could be yanked if he didn't do the right things. Now that
he's being expected to score, he might get distracted from
developing the little parts of his game that would make him a
complete player and a superstar.... There's a ton of talent on
this team, but it's really raw. Jumaine Jones is their only
player who made more than 13 threes last year. It's going to put
a lot of pressure on John Lucas, who I think is a great coach....
Is Ricky Davis worthy of the mid-level exception [$4.5 million]?
I don't think he's proved he is after just a half-season's work
last year.... If Ilgauskas goes down, DeSagana Diop is years away
from being ready, if ever. It doesn't make sense that Diop was
the No. 8 pick in 2001 and Carlos Boozer was No. 35 last June.
Boozer is so much better. He can knock down a jump shot, and he's
strong enough to eventually become a low-post scorer.... The Cavs
are only at home once in their first six games, and that's
against the Lakers. They could start 0-6, which would be a killer
for a young team like this."
2001-02 record: 29-53 (seventh in Central)
Points scored: 95.3 (16th) Points allowed: 98.6 (26th)
Coach: John Lucas (second season with Cavaliers)
STARTERS PVR* 2001-02 KEY STATS
SF Darius Miles39 9.5 ppg 5.5 rpg 2.2 apg 1.26 bpg 48.1 FG%
PF Tyrone Hill 173 8.0 ppg 10.5 rpg 0.9 apg 0.50 bpg 39.0 FG%
Ilgauskas 95 11.1 ppg 5.4 rpg 1.1 apg 1.35 bpg 42.5 FG%
SG Ricky Davis 107 11.7 ppg 3.0 rpg 2.2 apg 0.84 spg 48.1 FG%
Palacio 205 3.3 ppg 1.1 rpg 1.2 apg 0.43 spg 38.3 FG%
BENCH PVR* 2001-02 KEY STATS
Wagner (R) 121 21.2 ppg 2.5 rpg 3.6 apg 1.19 spg 41.0 FG%
Boozer (R) 147 18.2 ppg 8.7 rpg 1.1 apg 0.89 spg 66.5 FG%
F Jumaine Jones 184 8.3 ppg 6.0 rpg 0.93 spg 44.8 FG% 31.0 3FG%
C Chris Mihm 239 7.7 ppg 5.3 rpg 0.3 apg 1.20 bpg 42.0 FG%
G Bimbo Coles 267 3.2 ppg 1.2 rpg 2.3 apg 38.4 FG% 20.0 3FG%
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college season)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 92)
THERE'S BEEN TALK OF TRYING MILES AT THE POINT, BUT HE DOESN'T
HAVE THE FRAME OF MIND.