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Cleveland Cavaliers

On a team of explosive young talent, an old standby is the fuse

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By Jack McCallum

Team Page | Conference ranking: 11 | Overall ranking: 23

Kevin Ollie
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Kevin Ollie
Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images
Fast Fact
Ricky Davis's jump in points per game -- from 11.7 to 20.6 -- was the best among players with at least 40 games in each of the last two seasons.

So who will mediate the madness in Gund Arena this season? Who will negotiate the shot opportunities among the eager young guns LeBron James, Ricky Davis, Dajuan Wagner and Darius Miles?

Kevin Ollie hopes it's him.

It probably will be. Or at least he'll be part of a point-guard-by-committee scheme, as coach Paul Silas endeavors to pinpoint just what role each member of his callow quartet will play, each having been an occasional playmaker but none a true point. If nothing else, Ollie, who is playing for his 10th team in seven seasons, will provide leadership and defense. "They [Silas and G.M. Jim Paxson] want me to give advice, talk about the things I've gone through," says the 30-year-old Ollie, "because I know those guys haven't been through what I've been through." Indeed not. Ollie spent four years at Connecticut, then parts of another four in the CBA. By contrast, the 67 combined games played by Davis at Iowa and Wagner at Memphis represent the collective college experience of Cleveland's Fab Four.

It will probably take a while to straighten out the quarterback position. Silas would love to have the 6'8" James at the helm eventually, but that might be a couple of years away. While the coach spent much of the preseason grooming the 6'9" Miles for that spot, the best solution might be a rotation of Ollie and J.R. Bremer.

"The hardest thing about the position is that you have to be an extension of the coach on the court," says Ollie. "When everybody else is in disarray, you have to be in control." That style generally goes unnoticed, so don't expect shouts of OL-LEE! OL-LEE! to be reverberating through Gund this season. But if the Cavs are to improve, this journeyman may have to take charge.

Enemy Lines

An opposing team's scout sizes up the Cavaliers

"With such a young team, I'm surprised they didn't hire a recent NBA player for their coaching staff. Paul Silas is a terrific coach who won three championships as a player in the 1970s, but even if he can relate to what these young guys are going through, he's still the head coach, making hard decisions that wound their egos on a daily basis. That's why you need someone like a Patrick Ewing as an assistant to step in and say, 'The same thing happened to me when I was young. I didn't like it at the time, but looking back it all makes sense now.' ... I doubt that Ricky Davis and Darius Miles will be able to co-exist with LeBron James. They both have issues. Davis can put up numbers and he's tough to guard, but he demands the ball too much. For Miles, it's time to put up or shut up. His failure to develop a go-to move after three years in the NBA makes me wonder how hard he works on his game.... Coming straight out of high school, James already shows more composure and maturity than Davis or Miles. Right away James can average double-digit points, five to seven rebounds and five assists. But he is not yet a go-to guy because good defenders will be able to stop him. I'm surprised that I don't see blow-by speed in him, though that may be because he's often matched up against the quickest guys in the league at the guard spot.... Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Kevin Ollie are the only players in the rotation with a feel for the game, and they need to be the guys in charge. If Ollie isn't playing 30 minutes a game, they're going to struggle.... The go-to guy has to be Ilgauskas because he's tough enough to force himself into good position on the floor, he understands the game like a point guard, and if you double him he'll pick you apart."

Issue date: October 27, 2003

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