May 31, 2016


New kids on the block: Cavs lose rock-star status

A year ago, the Cavaliers’ annual media day resembled a rock concert or movie premiere. With larger-than-life per­sonalities LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal in town and title aspirations in the air, more than 100 media mem­bers — we use that term very loosely to describe some of the radio types who make their once-a-year appearance — turned out at Cleveland Clinic Courts in Independence.

Here’s guessing attendance is down just a wee bit when the festivities begin today at 2 p.m. James has taken his talents to South Beach, where he will be joined by longtime Cavs center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, while a largely washed-up O’Neal is now trying to piggyback his way to a title with the Boston Celtics. Smiley Mike Brown’s cliche­ridden answers will be replaced by those of a very frank Byron Scott, and first­year GM Chris Grant is calling the shots — we know this for sure, because owner Dan Gilbert said so — instead of Danny Ferry, who resigned.

To say things are different is a huge understatement.

A year ago, the electricity in Independence went out mid­way through the afternoon, causing a giddy James to streak through the facility screaming, “Media day’s over. The whole neighborhood’s out.”

This year, the question is whether the lights will ever come on, because there’s sim­ply not a ton of electricity in the air at the moment.

The Cavs aren’t terrible — and they won’t be terrible — but aside from seeing how every­thing shakes out, there isn’t a whole lot for the average fan to get excited about, especially given the lofty expectations that preceded the past two seasons.

That’s not really the Cavs’ fault — they did everything they could to keep James happy — but it’s still a fact.

Unless a monster trade is made, it will probably con­tinue to be a fact.

After all, Cleveland’s best player right now is, um, uh, well, probably Mo Williams, by default.

That’s the same Williams who flamed out in the playoffs two years in a row, though it wouldn’t be shocking if the point guard put up monster numbers with James and O’Neal gone.

Williams is at his best when he’s playing free and easy and doesn’t feel guilty about taking a few bad shots or making a couple of mistakes. When he was deferring to James and trying to fit in, Williams often lost his aggressiveness and, though he’ll probably never admit it, his confidence.

Now he’s on a mediocre team again, so expect a return to his free-wheeling, numbers­producing days with the Mil­waukee Bucks.

Combo guard Ramon Sessions will be fun to watch, whether he starts at shooting guard or backs up Williams and Anthony Parker — starting seems to make the most sense, because Parker isn’t in the Cavs’ long-term plans. He’ll take a lot of shots and, on some nights, put up a lot of points.

Third-year man J.J. Hickson should continue to bloom, but he’ll no longer have James around to set him up.

Anderson Varejao is going to continue to do what he’s always done, which is create havoc on defense, hustle all over the court and get some buckets on cuts to the basket.

Of course, like Hickson, he’ll also clang a lot of jumpers.

Exactly who will start on the front line is uncertain. The center and power forward spots will likely be filled by some combination of Hickson, Varejao and Antawn Jamison, who might also end up being in the mix at small forward.

That spot is wide open, with Jamario Moon, Joey Graham and Jawad Williams also in the mix. The only thing we know for sure is the starter won’t be James.

Those days are over.

And so are the days when the team’s media day resembled a rock concert or movie premiere.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or

About Rick Noland

Rick Noland is the Cavs beat writer for the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram, and the author of "Over Time," a compilation of stories he's written in more than 30 years as a journalist. He can be reached at 330-721-4061 or Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.