If its true that losing builds character, its also true that manhandling the best team in the NBA, on Christmas day, at their place, with the NBA-world watching, builds confidence. Sunday night in Cleveland that confidence was on display by way of a 108-83 beat down of the Houston Rockets, and it appears the floodgates are officially open. You might have worried about a let-down after traveling home from a west coast trip punctuated by the win against the Lakers, but if you did, you should have stopped worrying after Mo Williams ended the first half with a three that put the Cavs up 51-48, because they wouldn’t look back. Defense was the order of the day in the second half, as the Cavaliers held Houston to 35 points in the second half, and you gotta think the new Cavaliers have adjusted completely to the way Mike Brown wants to play on that end of the floor at this point. LeBron only needed 30 minutes of action to post a line that read 29-5-6, and Mo Williams – who should be an All Star again - added 20-6-5. What you also had to like on Sunday was Shaq’s ability to find people out of the double team. He left a sweet bounce pass in the middle of the lane for LeBron to finish on one series, and found Mo Williams for a jumper the time before. If he can continue to be effective passing out of the double team, look out. Additionally, if Z can continue to stretch the defense with these jump shots he got for Christmas, he can not only extend his career maybe five more years – a la Danny Ferry with the Spurs – but he can add a potent dimension to this offense by forcing the opposing big people to step out and respect that shot going forward. Z went for 12 points and 5 rebounds on the game, and to go along with 4 assists, Shaquille added 13 points, 11 rebounds, and a breakaway dunk that had me hoping he go back down the floor like he did for the Lakers in that one Finals game. But he played it cool, respect. Aaron Brooks was the only factor for the Rockets tonight, going for 23 points, but the PG only had 3 assists as none of his teammates really got involved (the next highest Houston scorers were Ariza and Landry with 11). Next up for the Cavaliers (23-9) is a trip to Atlanta (21-8) to take on a very solid Hawks’ squad on Tuesday, should be a good test. Here’s hoping they can keep this momentum moving.
And lastly, after the jump, a quick follow up on the first preseason game Delonte West story by way of an article Scene Magazine’s Vince Grzegorek ran in early November, as well as a piece Brian Windhorst wrote yesterday in the Plain Delear.
How the Media Struggles to Cover Delonte West – 11-4-09 - ’64 and Counting, Vince:
[Take an incident that happened October 6, before the Cavs squared off against the Bobcats in a preseason matchup. Reporters were in the locker room waiting to talk to LeBron. According to multiple sources who were in the room, a reporter said hello to West, and West responded angrily with expletives. West had dressed for the game and warmed up with teammates earlier in the day, but after the outburst, he did not join the Cavs on the floor for the game and shortly thereafter took an excused absence from the team. After the outburst, the 10 or so reporters present discussed what had occurred and agreed not to write about it, and to date nothing has been reported by local dailies or TV or radio stations...StepienRules.com, a Cavaliers blog, went the furthest. “According to sources, media covering the game were in the Cavaliers locker room. As players were getting ready for the game, one unnamed national [Associated Press] writer said hello to West. West allegedly replied with an expletive. West was then pulled from the room by players and coaches. This incident led to West being pulled from playing and being excused from practice the next day. West has yet to return to practice and the Cavaliers are saying he still needs more time and space.”]
And Sunday, a local daily reported on this incident, when Brian Windhorst made mention of it in his A Season of XL expectations: Cleveland Cavaliers Diary: