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13 Cleveland Cavaliers A franchise that has been continually hobbled by bad feet needs, more than anything, to keep its big men vertical

Oct. 29, 2001
Oct. 29, 2001

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Oct. 29, 2001

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13 Cleveland Cavaliers A franchise that has been continually hobbled by bad feet needs, more than anything, to keep its big men vertical

When they acquired 6'11" Michael Doleac on draft day for the
rights to North Carolina center Brendan Haywood, the Cavaliers
may have gotten more than a quick fix for their frontcourt--they
may have found a remedy to what really ails them. Since leaving
Utah in 1998, Doleac has taken courses online during the season
and in Salt Lake City over the summer, leaving him a few credits
shy of his undergraduate degree in biology. He's considering
becoming an orthopedist, which would make him doubly valuable to
the Cavs: They need a good foot man as much as they need a backup
center. DeSagana Diop of Senegal, whom Cleveland took with the
No. 8 pick in June, is already hobbling with a broken foot,
following in the ginger footsteps of fellow big men Zydrunas
Ilgauskas and Chris Mihm. "Last summer I had a sprained ankle,
and the team treated me like I was dying, sending me to the
doctor every day," says Doleac. "People here are definitely
paranoid about foot problems, and rightfully so."

This is an article from the Oct. 29, 2001 issue Original Layout

No player inspires that paranoia more than the 7'3", 260-pound
Ilgauskas, who has missed all but 29 games over the last three
seasons because of a fractured bone in his left foot. Before
Ilgauskas, 26, went on the injured list last December, Cleveland
was 15-9 and in first place in the Central Division. The Cavs
wound up 30-52, and for the third straight year their winning
percentage declined. Ilgauskas, who had surgery to repair the
bone last February, was healthy in training camp; how long he
stays that way is anybody's guess.

"If Z plays, great, but we can't hide behind his foot any
longer," says coach John Lucas, who replaces the fired Randy
Wittman. "We've got to uproot the ghosts of bad luck and bad feet
and start winning." Adds point guard Andre Miller, "My mind-set
is, What if Z's not out there? What can we do? I look at the
worst circumstances first."

Cleveland's bad fortunes have made a fatalist of Miller, who,
aside from a spotty jumper and a reluctance to call his own
number, has an All-Star-caliber game. The club picked up the
option for the fourth year of his contract this month, and he
seems content to cast his lot with the Cavs. "I don't want to be
a traveling player," he says. "I want to be a guy who fights
through the tough times with his team."

That should provide some solace for Lucas and G.M. Jim Paxson,
who in the off-season did little more than shuffle the role
players around Miller. In addition to the sharp-shooting Doleac,
the Cavaliers obtained forwards Tyrone Hill and Jumaine Jones in
an August deal with the 76ers for Matt Harpring, Cedric Henderson
and Robert (Tractor) Traylor. "Tyrone brings us toughness,
rebounding and veteran leadership inside," Lucas says. "Jumaine
makes us much more athletic. With him, [Lamond] Murray and
[Wesley] Person, I think we've got the shooting to beat zones."

In health, Cleveland's mix of youngsters and well-worn veterans
could reach .500; in sickness, the Cavs will languish around 30
victories again. The latter scenario appears more likely. Mihm
was productive for stretches as a rookie last season, but he also
missed 23 games due to ankle, lower-leg and knee injuries. The
7-foot, 315-pound Diop, an 18-year-old project from Oak Hill
(Va.) Academy, has a stress fracture in his left foot, an injury
unrelated to the broken bone in the same foot that required the
insertion of a screw last February. He's expected to return
sometime in November.

"There's not a number of wins that would make this a successful
season," says Lucas. "A successful season would be continued
improvement." Such modest expectations may be reasonable, but in
the long run Cleveland will need more than a budding orthopedist
to put this team on solid footing.

--D.G.H.

COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO HANGING IN THERE Miller's game is All-Star caliber, and most important for the Cavs, he's committed to staying in Cleveland.

enemy lines
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Cavaliers

"This is one of the few teams in the Eastern Conference that
didn't get better.... If Zydrunas Ilgauskas had stayed healthy
last season, the Cavaliers would have been a playoff team and
Randy Wittman wouldn't have been fired. With good feet Ilgauskas
would be one of the top five centers, easy. Unless he has some
kind of miraculous recovery, it's going to be a long year in
Cleveland.... When Ilgauskas went down, Lamond Murray tried to
take over. You can tell Murray is a bad teammate--he just wants
you to get him the ball so he can score.... The Cavs have
unloaded a lot of their one-dimensional or problem guys--Shawn
Kemp, Tractor Traylor, Cedric Henderson, Jimmy Jackson, Chris
Gatling--but they haven't gotten the talent in return to make
them better. At least they added some toughness in Jumaine
Jones, Bryant Stith, and Michael Doleac, who can hold his ground
inside.... Andre Miller is a tough kid, but even he seems
weighed down by the losing. He's very good at getting to the
basket, but he has limited range and he could be a better passer
when he drives.... I had my doubts about whether Chris Mihm
could cut it at the four or the five. But he's gotten better. It
looks like they're going to try to run and get the ball to him
before the defense can set up.... The guys like playing for John
Lucas. He brings excitement and fun to the franchise, but that's
just a short-term fix if they don't win.... I think Tyrone
Hill's back was hurting last year, but he played because the
76ers were a good team. Is he going to want to play through the
pain for a bad team?"

projected lineup
2000-01 record: 30-52 (sixth in Central)
Coach: John Lucas (first season with Cavaliers)

STARTERS
PVR* 2000-01 KEY STATS

SF Lamond Murray 12.8 ppg 4.4 rpg 1.06 spg 42.3 FG% 37.0 3FG%
124
PF Tyrone Hill[1] 9.6 ppg 9.0 rpg 0.49 spg 0.36 bpg 47.4 FG%
175
C Zydrunas Ilgauskas 11.7 ppg 6.7 rpg 1.54 bpg 48.7 FG% 67.9 FT%
147
SG Bryant Stith[1] 9.7 ppg 3.6 rpg 1.19 spg 40.1 FG% 37.6 3FG%
186
PG Andre Miller 15.8 ppg 8.0 apg 4.4 rpg 1.45 spg 45.2 FG%
35

BENCH
PVR* 2000-01 KEY STATS

G-F Wesley Person 7.1 ppg 3.0 rpg 0.61 spg 43.8 FG% 40.5 3FG%
164
F Jumaine Jones[1] 4.7 ppg 2.9 rpg 0.46 spg 44.4 FG% 33.3 3FG%
184
C-F Chris Mihm 7.6 ppg 4.7 rpg 0.90 bpg 44.2 FG% 79.4 FT%
211
C Michael Doleac[1] 6.4 ppg 3.5 rpg 0.53 bpg 41.7 FG% 84.7 FT%
251
G Jeff Trepagnier(R) 9.0 ppg 5.1 rpg 1.6 apg 1.52 spg 45.3 FG%
264[1]

[1]New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college season)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 117)

"Miller is tough, but even he seems to be weighed down by the
losing."