I remember the despair, anger and disappointment that was shown on national TV this summer when LeBron James made the decision to go to Miami this off-season. Many thought Cleveland would be a basketball wasteland, but little did we know that the Cleveland Cavaliers would be better than we thought.
Cleveland is sitting at 4-4 to start the season. They lead the Central Division by 1/2 a game and are playing with passion and poise. This team is trying to prove that minus their superstar, they are still a team to be reckoned with.
The Cavaliers have plenty of reason why they have gotten off to a surprising start. The first reason is the play of four returning guys who not a lot was expected from. JJ Hickson, Daniel Gibson, Anderson Verajao and Mo Williams have been playing great basketball. With the exception of Williams, each guy is averaging a career high in points( Daniel Gibson-13.6 ppg, Anderson Verajao-9.6 ppg and JJ Hickson 16.5 ppg).
Another reason for their success so far is their bench. The Cavs have been getting 40 points a game from a bench that includes guys like Antawn Jamison, Gibson, Ryan Hollins and Ramon Sessions. This collection of guys gives Head Coach Byron Scott the flexibility to go big and put Jamison at the small forward position or go small and put Gibson and Sessions at the PG and SG positions.
Perhaps the most critical reason for the early success of this team is their change of style. Last year, the Cavs were more of a half-court team that would run selectively and grind out the game. This year, the Cavs are more of an up-tempo team that likes to get out and run. This allows the team to use their athleticism to their advantage. The Cavs must continue to use this style to be successful.
I will be the first to say that I underestimated what Cleveland had left after the summer. I didn't think that they would respond, but this is a lesson to all that you must not ever underestimate guys who are winners. They always find a way to succeed.