October 21, 2014

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LeBron-less Cavs ready for test run tonight

INDEPENDENCE — Tracy Hutson and a crew from ABC’s “Extreme Makeover” were at practice Monday at Cleveland Clinic Courts to tape a segment for an upcoming show about the building of a house in Maple Heights.

The Cavaliers will unveil their own extreme makeover to the public tonight at 7 when they host the Charlotte Bob­cats in their exhibition opener at Quicken Loans Arena.

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LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Danny Ferry and Mike Brown are gone, but the Cavs are con­fident they have a lot more fans than the 13-year-old boy whose bedroom Hutson is designing with a Cleveland pro sports theme.

“We’ll get the fans back,” third-year big man J.J.Hickson said. “We have a lot of doubters out there, but it’s a long season.” That season — or at least the exhibition part of it — begins tonight.

Instead of James, Cleveland fans will get their first glimpse of Joey Graham, Jawad Williams, Jamario Moon and Antawn Jamison at small forward.

Instead of O’Neal and Ilgauskas, someone like Ryan Hollins, Loren Woods or Samardo Samuels could be patrolling the middle, as Anderson Varejao is expected to return from his grandfather’s funeral in Brazil sometime later this week.

Instead of Mo Williams, who is not going through full practices due to a groin injury, Ramon Sessions and Daniel Gibson will get the bulk of the time at point guard.

And instead of Brown, Byron Scott, who declined to name a starting lineup for tonight’s game for an obvious reason, will be roaming the sideline.

“I would if I really knew,” Scott said when asked to reveal his starters. “We have some guys who are a little banged up right now.”

The Cavs are also attempting to learn Scott’s Princeton offense and running style, so some growing pains could crop up against the Bobcats.

They were certainly evident during the team’s intrasquad scrimmage Friday at the University of Akron, where a game that consisted of four 10minute quarters, with a running clock for all but the final two minutes of each period, wound up with the robust final score of 47-41.

“I wasn’t real happy with Friday,” Scott said. “I thought at the offensive end we weren’t really getting up and down the floor the way I wanted to. I thought guys were in that jogging pattern. A lot of it was because they were tired (from training camp), but that’s an excuse, to me.”

For the time being, Scott has lessened some of the freedoms he originally gave his players and attempted to simplify a few things.

Instead of being interchangeable parts like they will be in the regular season, players are now being streamlined into specific positions. Scott has even demanded that his small forward run down a certain side of the court on fast breaks and his shooting guard the other in an attempt to eliminate confusion.

“In the Wine & Gold scrimmage, it looked kind of sloppy out there,” Hickson said. “We all got our legs back and had a good weekend (of practice).”

Scott hasn’t given his players a day off since camp opened a week ago — “One of these days (I will). I just can’t tell you when yet,” he said — but he’s anxious to see how the Cavs perform against someone other than themselves.

“I’m just looking forward to playing somebody else (instead of having) guys out here beating each other up,” he said. “It’s a chance to go against some different colored jerseys, which is pretty exciting.”

Hickson, now one of the team’s main cogs instead of a role player, knows the makeover isn’t complete, but he likes the way things look so far.

“We make our statements in practice amongst ourselves,” he said when asked if it was important to impress the fans tonight. “We’ve all been playing basketball all our lives. (Losing) one or two players doesn’t change anything.”

Tip-ins

  • With Williams and Varejao out, the Cavs should have 17 players in uniform against the Bobcats. Scott said he planned to use five or six guys off the bench, then look at a different set of players when Cleveland hosts Washington on Thursday.
  • Scott’s son, Thomas, is working as one of the Cavs’ developmental coaches. He’s expected to stay with the team all season.

Quote of the day

  • “It’s going in.” — Hickson, when asked what he likes best about his supposedly new-and-improved jump shot.

Contact Rick Noland at rnoland@medina-gazette.com.