#6 Cleveland Cavaliers Having failed to land a marquee scorer, the Cavs count on Derek Anderson to grow into the role

February 08, 1999

During the lockout Cavaliers guard Derek Anderson and Celtics
forward Ron Mercer played small parts in a movie called No
Tomorrow. This bullet-riddled action flick, starring rap artist
Master P (who also happens to be Anderson's and Mercer's agent),
Gary Busey and Pam Greer, is about a group of evil Russians who
try to blow up the world. "I play one of Master P's bodyguards,"
says Anderson. "It's great. Mercer gets [killed] in the first
five minutes!"

Anderson might not want to show No Tomorrow on Cleveland's next
charter flight. For one reason, the screenwriter's choice of bad
guys might hit too close to home for centers Zydrunas Ilgauskas,
a citizen of Lithuania, and Vitaly Potapenko, who's from
Ukraine. For another, the Cavs don't want to see Anderson
settling for any more supporting parts.

He played that role last year to rave reviews. A 6'5" penetrator
with dazzling open-court skills, Anderson averaged 11.7 points
as a rookie backup to both point guard Brevin Knight and
shooting guard Wesley Person, helping the surprising Cavs roll
to a playoff berth. But in a first-round series against Indiana,
none of the Cavs, except Ilgauskas and power forward Shawn Kemp,
could find the basket, and Cleveland was bumped off in four games.

With little salary-cap room, team president Wayne Embry and
coach Mike Fratello couldn't land a marquee free agent to
lighten Kemp's scoring load. (The best they could do was
35-year-old journeyman small forward Johnny Newman.) The
Cavaliers are hoping for more production from the agile
Ilgauskas, who has a Rik Smits-like touch from outside, and from
6'7" forward Cedric Henderson, a slasher who can knock down the
short jumper. Anderson's emergence is more crucial. Unless he
scores 15 to 20 points consistently, the Cavs won't have enough
ammo to make a playoff run. "Derek's versatile and athletic,"
Fratello says. "He can get you 18 points a night."

Anderson realizes this is his chance to shine. He worked hard on
his jumper over the summer, vowing to improve on his 40.8%
shooting, and he has his eye on Person's starting job. "We need
another go-to guy besides Shawn," Anderson says. "I'm ready to
assert myself."

Anderson already has many of the trappings of an NBA star. In
addition to his budding movie career, he has appeared in two
Master P music videos (Thug Girl and I'm a Soldier) and has his
own line of black sneakers (Da Soldier). He also has a tattoo
with his nickname (DA PROSECUTER) on his right biceps. But he
insists his first priority is basketball. "The movies and rap
can wait," he says. "This is my job now."

Good thing. Because if Anderson isn't ready to pull the trigger,
the Cavs will have less chance of world domination than those
evil Russians.


COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER Action hero The Cavs want budding actor Anderson to shoot 'em up on the court, too.

Starters PVR* 1997-98 Key Stats

SF Cedric Henderson 145 10.1 ppg 4.0 rpg 2.0 apg 48.0 FG%
PF Shawn Kemp 14 18.0 ppg 9.3 rpg 2.5 apg 1.13 bpg
C Zydrunas Ilgauskas 43 13.9 ppg 8.8 rpg 1.65 bpg 51.8 FG%
SG Wesley Person 67 14.7 ppg 4.4 rpg 46.0 FG% 43.0 3FG%
PG Brevin Knight 76 9.0 ppg 8.2 apg 2.45 spg 44.1 FG%

Top Reserves Bench Ranking (out of 29 teams): 8

G Derek Anderson 85 11.7 ppg 3.4 apg 2.8 rpg 1.30 spg
F Johnny Newman[+] 195 14.7 ppg 1.04 spg 43.1 FG% 34.3 3FG%
C-F Vitaly Potapenko 226 7.1 ppg 3.9 rpg 48.0 FG% 70.8 FT%

1997-98 Record: 47-35 (fifth in Central)
Coach: Mike Fratello (sixth season with Cavaliers)

[+]New acquisition
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 68)

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)