PROJECTED STARTINGFIVE with 2006-07 statistics
PF DREW GOODEN
KEY BENCH PLAYERS:F Donyell Marshall, G Damon Jones, G Devin Brown*, F Cedric Simmons*, C-FDwayne Jones *New acquisition
Record: 50-32 (2ndin East) Points scored: 96.8 (19th in NBA) Points allowed: 92.9 (5th) Coach:Mike Brown (third season with Cavaliers)
Going into the2007 playoffs, Daniel Gibson was a nondescript rookie hoping to stay in therotation, having quietly averaged 4.6 points during the season and remainedfairly anonymous off the court. But now? "Pretty much everywhere I go,people recognize me," he says with a laugh. That's because Gibson, onceknown as Boobie only to his mother, endeared himself to LeBron James-obsessedCleveland fans with his 21- and 31-point performances off the bench inGames¬†4 and¬†6 of the Eastern Conference finals against thePistons.
His ability tomake Detroit pay for sagging off him gave the Cavs, who relied heavily on Jamesin the postseason, another offensive weapon and a way to confounddouble-teaming defenses. "If he's open when he shoots the ball," coachMike Brown says of Gibson, "I believe it's going in every singletime."
During the summerthe 6' 2" Gibson worked mostly on what to do when he's not open, trainingin Houston with former NBA coach John Lucas and focusing on improving hisrunner in the lane and his shot-clock management. Every time Gibson, wearing a20-pound weight vest, didn't feed the post properly or settled for a jump shot,he owed Lucas one lap around an outdoor track after practice. He ran five onhis worst day.
Brown was pleasedwith Gibson's fearlessness on defense ("He just stuck his nose inthere") and his maturity ("He never panics") last season, but thecoach wants him to take more command of the offense. That will come with time,says Lucas, who has known Gibson for 10 years.
Gibson's onerookie regret? Letting slip his childhood nickname to teammate Eric Snow earlyin the season. But now he doesn't mind so much being called Boobie, especiallyafter hearing 20,000 Cavs fans chanting it over and over. "That," saysGibson, "is what you work for."
An opposing team'sscout sizes up the Cavs
I'm not a big fanof this team, and I think you'll find a lot of people in the league who feelthe same way. The Cavs have a sense of entitlement because they have LeBronJames, but I don't see how they can get back to the Finals, because theyhaven't done anything to improve the team--and they still haven't resolvedcontract issues with Anderson Varej√£o and Sasha Pavlovic. . . . We'll have abetter feel in a few more years, but I have a suspicion that LeBron is going toturn out to have more in common with Carmelo Anthony than he does with DwyaneWade. Wade has a better chance to be like Michael Jordan, because he looks morewilling to play hard all of the time than LeBron does. . . . Larry Hughesteases you so much with his talent, but he's a fragile guy physically and interms of confidence. He'd be a lot better as a third guard than as a starter. .. . Coach Mike Brown got his players to buy into the idea that they need tomake stops to win by saying that if you make stops, you can do whatever youwant on offense.
LeBron James ledall forwards in total assists for the fourth straight season. The lastfrontcourt player with as long a streak was Larry Bird, who was the league'stop passing forward from 1980-81 through '87-88.
STARTING LINEUP: GREG NELSON; JOHN W. MCDONOUGH; JOHN BIEVER; BILL FRAKES; GREGORY SHAMUS/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH
COMING OF AGE Gibson's emergence gives the Cavs another offensive threat.