Indeed, from his ostrich-skin boots to his warbling rendition of Mirror Minor by the group Diamond Rio, country is king for Daugherty. Having grown up on a farm in Black Mountain, N.C. (pop: 5,418), with a father who was a retired Army staff sergeant, a working mother and two older brothers whose combined weight is more than 500 pounds, Brad developed discipline and learned the value of hard work. "I've always known I was tough—I grew up getting stepped on by bulls and had my fingers broken messing with horses," he says. "And I've always known I'm as strong as any player in the league. I know I'm a bright-faced guy, a light-skinned guy and people have always mistaken my kindness for weakness. But I'm not going to take anything off anybody. You come to play me, I'm going to try to kick your butt. I may not do it, but I'm going to try."
In other words, Daugherty plays the way his hero, stock car legend Richard Petty, drives—all out. In fact, as a tribute to Petty, Daugherty wears the same number, 43, that Petty has on his car. "He's been my idol since I was a knot on a log," says Daugherty.
It was while sponsoring a car at a Grand National race in Daytona Beach four years ago that Daugherty met his wife-to-be, Heidi Rost, who at the time was a waitress at Friendly's. She thought he was adorable in spite of his grease-monkey attire and Copenhagen dip. He noted that she was as cute as a "speckled pup." By steering Brad's diet away from steer and other livestock, Heidi has helped lower his body fat to 10%. When she recently greeted him with the news that a 300-pound pig had been slaughtered on their farm in Fletcher, N.C., Brad was proud and pleased, but he didn't plan to partake of the pork.
On a front line with two leapers, Williams and Larry Nance, Daugherty once looked like a van sandwiched between two dragsters. Now the ripples in his arms outnumber the folds in his stomach, and he dunks on the break with grace and power. He is also coming into his own in the locker room. "Who is our leader?" says Wilkens. "Who is emerging? Brad is. I see him."
Nance, known as Pops because, at 32, he's Cleveland's oldest player, tends to work behind the scenes, while Price admits he is not "the rah-rah type." Says Daugherty, "We've never really had a vocal leader, so this year I've elected to take on that role myself."
Given the nature of this team, Daugherty's assertiveness has been doubly valuable. "We aren't a really hyper, big-city, playground type of team," says assistant coach Dick Helm. "There's a certain small-town reservedness about us at times. We need to work to stay away from being too laid-back."
When the Cavs traded guard Ron Harper to the Los Angeles Clippers for Ferry in November 1989, they lost a good deal of audacity on offense. They got some of it back last summer when they acquired Battle, a 6'2", seventh-year shooting guard who is capable of piling up points with microwave speed. He is a fearless penetrator whose self-described range is "right in the guts of the big men." Raised in Washington, D.C., Battle also has emotional fire, which was apparent when he hopped nearly to midcourt after missing a free throw in a 113-98 win over Minnesota last week.
The Cavs, who were above the league salary cap of $12.5 million, signed Battle, a free agent from the Atlanta Hawks, by using half the salary of Price, who was injured at the time. Battle also is rounding back into shape after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his knee in October. "I'm pretty sure I could have gone somewhere else and got more money," he says, "but I thought about the peace of mind, the opportunities I'd have here."
During Cleveland's 11-game winning streak, Battle averaged in double figures while shooting 58%. He and rookie point guard Terrell Brandon, one of the team's few big-city players—he's from Portland by way of the University of Oregon—give the Cavaliers a more explosive backup backcourt than starters Price and Craig Ehlo do.
Battle and his wife, R&B singer Regina Belle—"Brad keeps saying that he and Regina are going to going to do a duet together," says Battle—are still getting a feel for the Cleveland style. So is Brandon. At 5'11", he is trying to mesh his own R&B virtuosity with the Cavaliers' C&W folksiness. Daugherty must occasionally coax him into running the offense, but he believes Brandon has star potential. "There's a lot of flash in my game," says Brandon. "I look at this ball club, and there's not a lot going on. We keep it simple. But I can do some things that are going to surprise people."