November 28, 2014

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Life without LeBron proving painful for Cavaliers

INDEPENDENCE – Folks who were wondering how the Cavaliers might look without LeBron James have gotten a glimpse the last 2½ games.
It has not been pretty.
While playing the last 10 quarters without its superstar, Cleveland has dropped three straight games and sits at 9-9 overall heading into tonight`s meeting against the New Jersey Nets (8-9) at Quicken Loans Arena.
“When you have LeBron, you have a lot of swagger,” Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said Monday following a light workout at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “He brings swagger to everyone.
“I believe our guys are confident guys, but there`s no way I even want to try to find out how we`d do having LeBron miss a ton of ballgames.”
James, who did not talk to the media after going through shooting drills, is still listed as “day-to-day” due to a sprained left index finger. He will be a game-time decision for tonight`s game.
“Obviously, we`re going to ask him how he feels,” Brown said. “At the end of the day, it`s up to myself, the medical staff and him, too. — I`m sure it`s getting better slowly but surely, but it`s still quite bothersome.”
The Cavaliers, who were 9-3 without the 6-foot-8, 250-pounder over his first four years in the league, dropped the last two games while playing minus their multitalented small forward.
Cleveland not only lost, it averaged a paltry 76.0 points and shot a miserable 35.9 percent from the field (55-of-153).
Prorate Cleveland`s 31-point second half against Detroit over an entire game and the Cavaliers have averaged 71.3 points over their last three games.
With a healthy James, who is averaging a robust 30.7 points, 7.6 rebounds and 8.1 assists, the Cavaliers had won four straight and five of their last six heading into the Pistons game.
“He gives guys easy looks,” Brown said. “They`re looks where they`re able to take a second or two to lock in and set their feet.”
Center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who has averaged 9.0 points on 6-of-19 shooting over the last two games, has missed James the most. Without the 22-year-old to draw double teams and kick the ball out to him for open jumpers, Ilgauskas has become almost an afterthought in Cleveland`s haphazard offense.
“(With James), you get shots you get playing horse with your buddies,” Brown said. “When he`s not out there, you don`t have as much time.
“(Ilgauskas) plays off LeBron very well. Teams are in a predicament when it comes to LeBron and ‘Z` playing pick-and-roll. You`ve got a 7-2 guy who can knock down jump shots and a 6-8 guy – or whatever he is – who can shoot it or dunk on you in a heartbeat.”
Though the Cavaliers` pulse has dropped a bit, the always optimistic Brown is looking at any time off James gets as a blessing in disguise. The fifth-year pro is averaging 39.8 minutes a game, a figure that`s below 40 only because he sat out the entire second half against the Pistons.
“That`s a positive,” Brown said of James getting some rest. “That`s how I look at it. You`ve got a guy who plays a ton of minutes and we ask him to do a lot of things. That`s part of my reasoning for erring on the side of caution. To put a positive spin on it, he is getting a chance to rest.”
And folks who were wondering how the Cavaliers would look without James are getting an answer.

TIP-INS
Despite his lofty numbers, James did not win Eastern Conference Player of the Month. The honor went to Dwight Howard, who averaged 23.8 points and 15.5 rebounds while leading Orlando to a 14-4 record. Utah`s Carlos Boozer was chosen in the Western Conference.
* James and New Jersey point guard Jason Kidd are tied for the NBA lead in triple-doubles with four. James has averaged 34.5 points, 12.8 rebounds and 12.3 assists in his; Kidd has averaged 12.8 points, 14.8 rebounds and 11.3 assists.
* Richard Jefferson leads the Nets in scoring at 24.8 a game. The small forward is also averaging 5.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists. Shooting guard Vince Carter, who has missed five games and come off the bench in four others, is averaging 18.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists. Kidd is putting up 11.6 points, 8.6 rebounds and 10.7 assists, but shooting his customary .376 from the field.
Contact Rick Noland may be reached at (330) 721-4061 at rickn@ohio.net.