Karl, Cassell disagree on guard's contributions
Updated: Tuesday May 08, 2001 3:35 AM
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- George Karl says he wants better balance from Sam Cassell.
But the point guard who had 20 points and four assists in Milwaukee's 104-92 victory over Charlotte in the opener of their Eastern Conference semifinals feels his equilibrium is just fine.
"We won Round 1. We're up 1-0 right now, so I think it is," Cassell said Monday. "Every time I got 15 assists last year, we'd always lose. So, this team needs me to score and be aggressive out there, and I'm going to do that."
Cassell averaged 18.2 points and 7.6 assists in the regular season. In five playoff games, his scoring is up (21.6) and his assists are down (5.4).
In the aftermath of Cassell's inside-out performance in Game 1, Karl wondered what his team could do in Game 2 on Tuesday night if Cassell played more like a point guard than a shooting guard.
"Sam can be a pivotal part of this series, and it doesn't have to be scoring all the time," Karl said. "I'd like to see Sam have a 12-assist game along the way. That would be the best game he could play. If Sam could get 15 [points] and 12 passists], you'll see an offensive flow that will be very difficult to handle."
Cassell said he wasn't going to go into any game thinking about passing more and shooting less.
"I'm just playing basketball," he said. "So be it. One night I might get 25, 30 points, and one night I might get 15 assists. But I'm not going to go out there and say I've got to get this many assists to satisfy George Karl."
After practice on Monday, Karl said he didn't mean to disrespect Cassell.
"I've never told Sam to tone down his scoring," Karl said. "I've told him to pass the ball a little bit more. I've never told him not to shoot. He doesn't listen, so why would I tell him?"
"Some nights it's Sam, some nights it's Ray, some nights it's Glenn, depending on who the ball flows to," Karl said. "But I wasn't picking on Sam."
Cassell's varying play is what makes him so effective, Hornets point guard Baron Davis said.
"He's probably the most unpredictable guard to play against in the league. He's so deceptive," Davis said. "He's not explosive. He's not super fast, but he shoots the ball well and he knows how to get to certain spots on the floor."
Davis, who sustained a deep bruise to his left thigh at Monday's practice, said he's going to have to curb Cassell's entire repertoire for the Hornets to have a shot in this series.
"He's the key. I don't want to say he's their team, but he's the guy who makes them go," Davis said. "Without him, they'd really be in trouble because he initiates it. He makes a lot of those guys better."
Karl praised Cassell during the season, saying there couldn't be a better fit for this team "unless you want to bring Magic Johnson back or John Stockton when he was 28."
Karl said Cassell's ability to adapt to his 26 different starting lineups was crucial to the Bucks' breakout season.
And Karl knows he can't change Cassell if he wanted to.
"I think we believe in the same things, but he's like a rebel who never wants to be totally committed," Karl said recently. "He's never going to say he's a coachable, directable point guard. He's going to always want to have his personality of free and loose.
"But Sam is a very smart basketball player. If you watch his game, he's an old-time player. He plays on angles. He doesn't have a lot of quickness or speed for a point guard. He plays on his brain and his knowledge of plays and how to get open and quick release."
The Orlando Magic tried to curtail Cassell in the opening round by putting Mike Miller on him. At 6-foot-7, Miller is four inches taller, but he expended so much energy trying to keep up with Cassell that his own shooting suffered.
"Sam's clever," Robinson said. "He's going to get his shot off no matter who's guarding him. You can put a 7-footer on him, and he's going to do something to get his shots off."