December 20, 2014

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Mo expecting more: Cavs’ Williams says struggles will help him

INDEPENDENCE — Mo Williams thought he was ready for the playoffs.

Now that he’s had time to think again, the Cavaliers point guard realizes he can only be better for having gone through what he did last season.

“I know what to expect now,” Williams said following a recent practice at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “I know the game will slow down for me. It’s different than the regular season. In the regular season, the game seems like it’s in slow motion, I’ve played so many games.

“The playoffs is a different speed. It’s just another level. I’ve experienced that now. I know how to react to it. I can react quicker. In this game, if you think one or two times on the floor, you’re kind of doomed. This is a read-and-react game.”

Williams wasn’t terrible in the playoffs, but he did not read and react at the All-Star level the Cavaliers had grown accustomed to in the regular season.

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound point guard, whose previous playoff experience consisted of five games off the bench for Milwaukee in 2006, averaged 16.3 points and 4.1 assists in Cleveland’s 14 postseason games.

It was his shooting, particularly in an Eastern Conference finals loss to Orlando, that was not up to par. Williams hit just .408 from the field and .767 at the line in the postseason, down from .467 and .912, respectively, in the regular season.

In Game 1 against Orlando, he was 6-of-19 from the field, including 2-of-8 from beyond the arc.

In Game 2 of that series, he was 7-of-21 overall and 1-of-6 on 3-pointers.

In Game 3, he was 5-of-16, with 10 of those attempts – but just three makes – coming from long range.

In Game 4, he was 5-of-15 overall and missed all three of his 3-point attempts.

“It’s obvious he can shoot the ball better than he did in that series,” Cleveland coach Mike Brown said.

Williams’ performance was slightly better in the last two games, but by then the Cavaliers were down 3-1 in the best-of-seven series and the damage had been done.

And even though Williams’ shooting improved in the final two games, he still appeared to be thinking and playing tentatively instead of displaying the confidence and swagger he showed throughout the regular season.

“Obviously, he wants to play better, but it was a great experience for him to go that deep in the playoffs for the first time,” Brown said. “Not only is it a faster game, it’s a more physical game. On top of that, it’s a well thought-out game. Everybody knows what’s coming.

“You’ve just got to go out and make plays. It was a good thing for him to go through. The next time, he’ll definitely be ready.”

At the time of his struggles, Williams did what almost every professional athlete would have done: He downplayed them, insisting he wasn’t nervous or feeling the pressure but rather just going through a slump at the wrong time.

There’s no way an offseason is going to change a professional athlete’s tune when it comes to feeling pressure or not delivering in the clutch, but Williams has found a way to put a positive spin on his playoff travails.

“To go that deep in the playoffs is very intense,” he said. “To be able to be involved in it and have that experience, that’s all I was missing.”

Williams, who has been nursing a slight groin injury in training camp, vows to be a much-improved playoff performer in 2010, when the Cavaliers will once again be out to win the first title in franchise history.

“We have a nucleus of guys back, but at the same time we’ve got some guys who are new, who can do some things we didn’t have last year,” he said.

“When the owner spends a lot of money, it’ just not to make the playoffs. It’s just not to be mediocre. Our goal is high. We want to win a championship.”

Watch it, Sam!

Asked if he survived the flu epidemic that hit the team last week, 37-year-old center Shaquille O’Neal said, “I don’t get sick. The last time I got sick was when a dog bit my (butt) and I got rabies. It was a long time ago. Damn Rottweiler. His name was Sam. I’m gonna get you, Sam, if I see you. Sam bit me right in my right (butt) cheek. I went ‘Aghhh’ and got rabies.”

Go West

Brown said guard Delonte West, who has yet to play in an exhibition game, will see action when general manager Danny Ferry gives “the green light.” Brown did not know if that would be in time for tonight’s preseason game against Dallas at Pittsburgh’s Petersen Events Center, Wednesday in the team’s preseason finale against Boston at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus or somewhere down the road.

Even if West doesn’t see any action in the preseason, Brown will “try like the dickens” to get the guard minutes in the Oct. 27 season opener against Boston if he is cleared to play.

West, who has bipolar disorder, has left training camp twice this year, one a two-day unexcused absence that resulted in a fine and the other a one-week absence with the team’s permission. He faces a Nov. 20 court date in Maryland on weapons charges and will almost certainly be suspended by the NBA when his legal matters are concluded.

Medical matters

James, who had surgery in June to remove a benign growth near his jaw, said he had a nervous few days while awaiting the results of a biopsy done in January.

“Anything like that should be a concern, but the doctors gave me some pretty good assurance they didn’t think it was (cancerous),” he said.

On a related note, the Cavaliers have not yet received results of tests their players took for the H1N1 string of Influenza A. Should anyone have tested positive for H1N1, the team would need permission from that player (or players) before information could be released to the media.

Tip-ins

  • The Cavaliers reduced their roster to 18 by waiving forward Rob Kurz and center Luke Nevill. Cleveland must get down to the league maximum of 15 players by Thursday evening. Center Darryl Watkins and guard Russell Robinson are almost sure to go, meaning the final spot, assuming the Cavaliers keep 15 players, will go to point guard Andre Barrett or combination guard Coby Karl.
  • With the possible exception of West, Brown said his starters and top rotational players will play “into the fourth quarter” tonight against Dallas. He hasn’t decided how much action top players will see in the preseason finale Wednesday against Boston.
  • The Cavaliers will hold their shootaround this morning at Cleveland Clinic Courts, then bus to Pittsburgh for tonight’s game. Immediately after that game, they will fly to Columbus for their game against Boston the next night.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rickn@ohio.net.

Tonight

  • Who: Cleveland vs. Dallas (preseason)
  • When: 7:30 p.m.
  • Where: Petersen Events Center, University of Pittsburgh
  • TV/radio: NO TV; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM