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L. Jon Wertheim
October 28, 2002
An off-season makeover brought in a potential breakout player, but playoff contention remains Miles away
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October 28, 2002

15 Cleveland Cavaliers

An off-season makeover brought in a potential breakout player, but playoff contention remains Miles away

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2001-02 record: 30-52 (seventh in Atlantic)
Points scored: 91-6 (24th)
Points allowed: 95.6 (14th)
Coach: Don Chaney (second season with Knicks)



2001-02 KEY STATS


Darius Miles#


9.5 ppg

5.5 rpg

2.2 apg

1.26 bpg

48.1 FG%


Tyrone Hill


8.0 ppg

10.5 rpg

0.9 apg

0.50 bpg

39.0 FG%


Zydrunas Ilgauskas



5.4 rpg

1.1 apg

1.35 bpg

42.5 FG%


Ricky Davis


11.7 ppg

3.0 rpg

2.2 apg

0.84 spg

48.1 FG%


Milt Palacio#


3.3 ppg

I.I rpg

1.2 apg

0.43 spg

38.3 FG%



2001-02 KEY STATS


Dajuan Wagner (R)#


21.2 ppg

2.5 rpg

3.6 apg

1.19 spg

41.0 FG%


Carlos Boozer (R)#


18.2 ppg

8.7 rpg

1.1 apg

0.89 spg

66.5 FG%


Jumaine Jones


8.3 ppg

6.0 rpg

0.93 spg

44.8 FG%

31.0 3FG%


Chris Mihm


7.7 ppg

5.3 rpg

0.3 apg

1.20 bpg

42.0 FG%


Bimbo Coles


3.2 ppg

1.2 rpg

2.3 apg

38.4 FG%

20.0 3FG%

#New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college season)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 92)

Darius Miles's summer sounds like the treatment for the basketball version of Major League. One day he's a hip, exciting player on a hip, exciting team who lives near the beach and, in between games, plays cameos in Hollywood flicks. The next day he gets a call that he's been traded from the Clippers to the basketball necropolis that is Cleveland.

But if Miles is supposed to be despondent, he's departing from the script. "I'm liking it here," he says. "It reminds me of the Clippers when I first got there." If his delivery is not completely convincing, the sentiment is at least admirable. The woebegone Cavs haven't won a playoff series in a decade, draw some of the league's sparsest crowds (average attendance: 14,539) and in the off-season unloaded their top three scorers—Wes Person, Lamond Murray and Andre Miller, who also led the league in assists. The company line is that the team is trying to go with a more athletic look and that Miller, for all his savvy playmaking, didn't fit the bill.

Still, the summer retrenchment left many scratching their heads. Before being dealt to the Raptors at his request, Murray wrote a letter to the editor of local newspapers—not your average method of protest for an NBA player-calling the Cavaliers "a house on no foundation." He also theorized to the Cleveland Plain Dealer that the team is throwing the '02-03 season in hopes of landing Ohio high school senior LeBron James in the lottery next June. (Cavs coach John Lucas was suspended for two games last spring after conducting an unauthorized workout with James.)

Whereas Person and Murray were unloaded for spare parts (Person to the Grizzlies for since-waived swingman Nick Anderson; Murray for center Michael Stewart and a draft pick), at least the Cavs got Miles for Miller. Miles still has rough edges, but he turned 21 just this month and his upside is tremendous. He has the athleticism to play every position except center—in early practices he brought the ball upcourt—and his shooting should be less erratic after a summer regimen of 1,000 jumpers a day. "The third year has been a breakout year for a lot of guys," Miles says. "I want to have one too."

The play of Miles, 6'7" slasher Ricky Davis and rookie guard Dajuan Wagner, the No. 6 pick out of Memphis, promises to be both exceptional and, at times, exceptionally bad. All are quick, open-court players; none are older than 23. "They're good marketingwise, but they're not good basketball players yet," says Lucas. "I do like their youth and energy."

If nothing else, the kiddie corps is in good hands with Lucas, a patient teacher and serial optimist. Lucas doesn't see the glass as half full; he sees it as overflowing—with Cristal. To hear him tell it, center Zydrunas Ilgauskas could "score 20 points a night" and Miles "could be a Jordan-type player." Yet even he is Lukewarm on the upcoming season. "We have a chance to be good down the road," he says. "You just hope management is patient."

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]