It's clear, though, that Fratello's current approach isn't a good long-term fit for Price. And it's also worth noting that the Cavs gave 24-year-old backup point guard Terrell Brandon a one-year, $7 million contract extension before the Nov. 8 league negotiation deadline—but they decided against doing the same for the 30-year-old Price, whose contract expires at the end of next season. Price does wonder enough about his future with the Cavaliers to have told the Chicago Tribune last month, "You do look around at other teams and say to yourself, That team sure can use a point guard who can shoot."
The only Cav with impressive individual statistics is Hill. At week's end he was third in the league with a rebounding average of 11.8, which placed him ahead of such better-known names as Olajuwon, O'Neal, Ewing and Mourning. But Hill not only doesn't care about getting attention, he consciously avoids it, as he did during the preseason when he declined Fratello's offer to push him for a spot on the All-Star ballot. "I don't need that stuff," he says. "We have All-Star caliber players like Mark and Hot Rod who are at their peak. Let them have it."
"He's like a silent storm trooper," says Fratello. "He comes in, goes after every ball relentlessly, then goes home." In last week's victory over Atlanta, Hill had 10 rebounds in the third quarter. At one point Cavalier forward Chris Mills lost position for a rebound when he took a forearm in the small of the back. When he whirled to glare at the culprit, he found it was Hill.
On the court Hill is known for his menacing scowl, but that look melts into a self-deprecating smile away from the floor. He may be the best example of the Cavaliers' ability to acknowledge their shortcomings and work around them. Hill is not a leaper or a ball handler, and he doesn't try to be. " James Worthy was my idol growing up," he says of the recently retired Los Angeles Laker forward. "I wanted to do everything just like him, drive to the basket the way he did. Unfortunately, I can't dribble." In college at Xavier, where he finished as the sixth-leading rebounder in NCAA history, Hill kept three pet piranhas, which he named Rebound 1, Rebound 2 and Rebound 3. The fish earned their names when Hill watched how hungrily they fought for the goldfish he would drop into their tank. "It kind of reminded me of the way I felt going for a ball off the rim," he says.
But long before college Hill developed his ability to battle for possession in a crowd. Growing up in Cincinnati as the third youngest of 13 children, he learned about boxing out and throwing elbows at dinnertime. "If you didn't make your move as soon as the food was on the table," he says, "you might find yourself having to wait until the next meal."
The Cavs have made their move early this season, but they realize that their style leaves them little margin for error. "We can't afford to coast for one minute," says Price. There seems little chance of that. In order to coast, the Cavs would need to catch a ride, and they've already shown that, all things considered, they would rather walk.