Cavaliers begin life after LeBron
By Jeff Zillgitt
The anger and disappointment has dissipated, for the most part. The healing will take time.
A.L. -- After LeBron -- begins for the Cleveland Cavaliers today when they open the season at home against the Boston Celtics.
With a new coach (Bryon Scott), a new general manager (Chris Grant, formerly Cleveland's assistant GM to Danny Ferry) and a new philosophy, the Cavaliers embrace a new start.
It's just a breath of fresh air, with everybody feeling like everything is new, and there's excitement when things are brand new," guard Daniel Gibson says.
Pieces are in place that give the Cavs optimism. The camaraderie from last season remains.
It's just a great group of guys to be in the locker room with," veteran forward Antawn Jamison says. I've been in a lot of locker rooms, and these guys really do pull for one another.
Stout defense was part of former coach Mike Brown's philosophy, and it will be again with Scott, who has taken two teams (New Jersey Nets and New Orleans Hornets) to the playoffs.
We're going to be in-your-face on the defensive end of the floor," Gibson says. Coach Scott wants us to be one of the toughest teams in the league.
Losing a player such as LeBron James, who averaged 29.7 points, 8.6 assists and 7.3 rebounds, is never part of the plan to improve. But, Scott says, "I don't think you necessarily need a superstar to be successful. I think you just need good basketball players who know how to play.
The new offense has invigorated players who were not as involved previously. We are committed to doing it by committee and have different guys be the man on any given night ... and guys have been thriving in that kind of position," Gibson says.
Forwards Anderson Varejao and J.J. Hickson will have more chances to score. So will Gibson. In 2007, he scored 31 points against the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference finals. He seemed to figure prominently in Cleveland's quest for a title. But his minutes dropped in each of the last two seasons.
I can't even begin to talk about how much trust Coach Scott has in me as a basketball player," Gibson says. He doesn't give me any restrictions. When you get that kind of a green light from the coach and he has that confidence in you, it makes playing the game that much easier.
Contributing: J. Michael Falgoust