IT WAS pouring rain in Key West on Aug. 30, but Mo Williams didn't mind. "They say it's good luck when it storms on your wedding day," says the 25-year-old point guard, who tied the knot with the former Kesha Thompson 17 days after the Bucks traded him to the Cavaliers in a three-team, six-player deal.
The Cleveland front office is confident that Williams won't need luck to succeed at his new address. He averaged more than 17 points and six assists in each of the last two seasons, and his ability to run an offense is expected to alleviate some of the ball-handling pressure on LeBron James. "[Mo] gives us a true position of strength," says general manager Danny Ferry. "Now we have a group that can push the tempo and play a little faster. I don't think that's always been a strength of ours." Adds coach Mike Brown, "Mo's ability to play pick-and-roll basketball, and get downhill or turn a corner with the ball, forcing the defense to help, is uncanny."
Williams's challenge will come on D because, as he says, "I've been in a situation where there wasn't much emphasis put on it." That won't be the case with the Cavs. Says Brown, "He has to make sure that he understands that he's the head of the snake when it comes to our defense."
With Williams, Cleveland has a chance to unseat the Celtics. His arrival may also make James think twice about leaving town when his contract expires after 2009--10. "The great thing about Mo is that he's an established player but he's also 25 years old," says Ferry. "Hopefully his best years are ahead of him."
A rival scout on the CAVALIERS: I cringe when people criticize LeBron James for being too unselfish, as if he has lacked the guts to do it all by himself. I'd rather have my star trust his teammates.... What LeBron needs is guys to make shots off his penetration and creativity. Mo Williams is a shooter. You make him and Delonte West your two point guards, and you're much better there than you were a year ago.... They've been guilty in recent years of going away from Zydrunas Ilgauskas in the low post. Late last season they rediscovered the importance of establishing him early in games. They can't rely on LeBron to be the end-all.... They're going to miss what Joe Smith gave them, as a veteran with toughness and as a big guy who could score when Ilgauskas was out of the game. Defenses don't have to worry about Ben Wallace or Anderson Varej√£o hurting them.... Even if Boston were to stumble and the Cavs reached the Finals, I don't see how they could win it with this group. They're at a level just below what it takes.
The Cavaliers pulled down a league-high 13.3 offensive boards per game last season and turned those rebounds into 15.3 second-chance points, the highest average in the NBA in three years.
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE with 2007--08 statistics
KEY BENCH PLAYERS: G Delonte West, F Anderson Varej√£o, G-F Sasha Pavlovic, G Daniel Gibson, F J.J. Hickson (R)
Record: 45--37 (4th in East)
Points scored: 96.4 (24th in NBA)
Points allowed: 96.7 (9th)
Coach: Mike Brown (fourth season with Cavaliers)
GREG NELSON; MANNY MILLAN (OPPOSITE)
THAT'S MO LIKE IT The arrival of Williams (above) at the point allows the do-it-all James (opposite) to play off the ball more and save his energy for attacking the basket.
DAVID LIAM KYLE/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
NATHANIEL S. BUTLER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES