MACCABI TEL AVIV used to ask Anthony Parker to do everything—score, rebound, defend, create for others. He was essentially the LeBron James of the Euroleague years before James became known for his comprehensive contributions in the NBA. "I was given an opportunity to show what I can do," says the 6'6" Parker, who left Israel in 2006 to sign with the Raptors. "I'm just fortunate a lot of [NBA] teams observed that."
After four years at Bradley, Parker rarely played during his first three pro seasons with the 76ers and the Magic, prompting his move overseas. Now his versatility is valued so highly that a title contender is counting on him to fill several needs. Coming off their upset loss to the Magic in the conference finals, the Cavaliers signed Parker, 34, to a two-year, $6 million deal. He'll provide length and shooting from both wing positions as well as filling in for point guard Mo Williams. Cleveland may also need Parker to go extra minutes should shooting guard Delonte West be sidelined for long; in addition to being treated for bipolar disorder, West is scheduled to appear in court on Nov. 20 on two counts of weapons possession. "Anthony is the best guy we've had shooting the ball coming off screens since I've been here," says coach Mike Brown. "I haven't been around anybody like that except when I was in Indiana with Reggie Miller."
Miller, though, never had the pleasure of running the floor with James or shooting behind a Shaquille O'Neal screen. Will Parker be able to make those jumpers in the crunch of a late-round playoff game? While he developed a reputation as a big-time shooter in his three seasons in Toronto, he traces his cold-bloodedness back to his years with Maccabi, which he led to three Euroleague championships. "It gives you confidence that you've done this before in do-or-die situations," says Parker. "But this is on a different level." As he and LeBron know, there are all kinds of ways to help win a game.
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE with 2008--09 statistics
KEY BENCH PLAYERS: C Zydrunas Ilgauskas, 7.5 RPG; F Jamario Moon, 7.2 PPG; G Daniel Gibson, 7.8 PPG; F J.J. Hickson, 2.7 RPG • New acquisition
COACH: Mike Brown (fifth season with Cavaliers) • 2008--09 RECORD: 66--16 (first in Central)
POINTS SCORED: 100.3 (13th in NBA) • POINTS ALLOWED: 91.4 (first in NBA)
Times that Shaquille O'Neal has led the NBA in field goal percentage; he broke Wilt Chamberlain's record in 2008--09, when he shot 60.9%. Shaq's career mark (58.2%) is second to Artis Gilmore's (59.9%).
ENEMY LINES | A RIVAL SCOUT ON THE CAVALIERS
They can throw it in to Shaquille O'Neal from time to time, but they can't slow it down and wait for him to get down in the post and then play through him. The worry is that Shaq will clog the middle and cut off LeBron James's lanes to the basket. On the other hand, if Shaq gets in deep position, there ain't nothing you can do to stop him.... LeBron's passing is very good—you really see it when he throws a bounce pass off the dribble, a play that separates good point guards from great ones, because they don't have to stop and look to make the pass. He has a size advantage on almost everyone, but he doesn't post up; he believes he can drive to score and get the and-one. I don't think he has faith in his back-to-the-basket game yet, and I wonder why.... Mo Williams's shooting went sour during the playoffs; maybe that will help him get his act together. Still, he's a good fit for this team because he's not a prototype point guard, which they don't need because LeBron handles the ball so much.... Anderson Varej√£o will benefit from the attention Shaq draws. The defenders will have to come off Varej√£o—they can't come off Williams or LeBron—so when teams double, he'll be standing alone under the rim, getting easy baskets.
BOB ROSATO (JAMES)
LEBRON JAMES Can the King and his new subjects rise to the occasion and put together a title run?
DAVID LIAM KYLE/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (PARKER)
ANTHONY PARKER The 34-year-old provides Jamesian versatility.
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH (VAREJ√ÉO)