July 25, 2016

Partly sunny

All-Star Game sore subject for Williams

CLEVELAND —Cavaliers point guard Mo Williams will be hoping for the best when All-Star reserves are announced tonight at 7 on TNT, but he’s expecting the worst.

Though Cleveland entered Wednesday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves with a league-best 35-11 record, there’s a good chance LeBron James will be the team’s lone participant in the Feb. 14 NBA All-Star Game in Dallas.

“To be honest, I’m expecting not to make it,” Williams said.

Though Williams missed his fourth straight game with a sprained left shoulder that could sideline him for all of February, Cavaliers coach Mike Brown has openly campaigned for his point guard to make the All-Star team.

“It would be a tough deal if we were represented by only one guy,” said Brown, who is ineligible to coach the East because he led the team last year.

Williams, who is averaging 16.9 points, 3.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists while shooting .429 from beyond the arc and .897 at the line, won’t be able to play in the game due to his injury, but the 27-year-old made no secret he’d be elated if he was selected. At the same time, he refuses to get his hopes up.

“I’ve learned to expect the worst,” Williams said. “If my name is not called, or whoever, and LeBron is the only representative of the Cavs, I’ve been there before.”

Williams was referring to last year, when he was not among the seven reserves originally chosen by East coaches, who vote for two guards, two forwards, one center and two at-large picks.

Williams wasn’t even the first alternate last year, as Boston’s Ray Allen was chosen to replace Orlando’s injured Jameer Nelson. Williams was finally added to the East team when Toronto’s Chris Bosh had to withdraw due to injury.

“It’s a sensitive topic for me, obviously,” Williams said. “What can you do? Do you want to be honest or do you want to say the right thing? I’m hurt, so I can talk.”

Williams smiled when he said that, but he’s not optimistic about his chances of making the team.

“With us being there (on top of the East) two years in a row, you would think it would be something that would be acknowledged,” he said. “Well see.”

Cavaliers center Shaquille O’Neal, a 15-time All-Star selection, has an outside chance of making the team, but he’s probably a longshot because his statistics (11.2 points, 6.7 rebounds in 23.1 minutes a night) are pedestrian.

New York’s David Lee is the odds-on favorite to be the East’s backup center —New Jersey’s Brook Lopez might also get some consideration —but last year the league bent the rules and selected Bosh, who plays primarily power forward for the Raptors.

In addition to Williams, the top guard candidates are Atlanta’s Joe Johnson, Chicago’s Derrick Rose and Boston’s Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce.

“It would be unfortunate (if James was the only honoree) because we have more guys that are deserving,” Brown said. “Mo Williams, in my mind, is an All-Star. Shaq is, too, but his deal is a little different because we’ve kind of held him back a little bit.”

That said, Brown quickly reiterated his belief that the Cavaliers are deserving of more than one All-Star.

“We lead the league in wins,” he said. “You’d think there would be a few guys representing our team down there.”
More star gazing

Brown said O’Neal’s larger-than-life presence will be felt at the All-Star Game one way or the other.

“He’ll be in the mix,” the coach said. “You’ll know he’s there whether he’s playing or not.”

Brown also expressed disappointment that second-year power forward J.J. Hickson, who is starting and averaging 6.5 points and 4.2 rebounds, was not selected for the Rookie Challenge, which pits a team of first-year players against a team of second-year players. It would be virtually impossible, however, to pick Hickson over any of the second-year big men — Miami’s Michael Beasley, Minnesota’s Kevin Love, New Jersey’s Lopez and Memphis’ Marc Gasol — chosen by the league.

Participants for the Long Distance Shootout have not been announced, but Cleveland has an excellent chance of landing at least one selection.

Daniel “Boobie” Gibson began the night shooting a league-best .485 from beyond the arc, while Anthony Parker was fourth at .453 and Williams was 11th.

Injury update

Delonte West missed his third straight game with a dislocated ring finger on his left (shooting) hand, but he could be back soon. Gibson, who had one assist in 75 minutes in his first two starts at the point, was in the lineup for the third straight game.

The Cavaliers are calling Williams’ injury a sprained shoulder, but the point guard said it is separated.

“(It’s) separated, but not dislocated,” he emphasized. “The ‘D’ word is a bad thing.”

Williams is doing a lot of work with exercise bands, but he and the Cavaliers are going to great lengths to make sure he doesn’t try to come back too soon.
A new level

Over his last nine games prior to Wednesday, James was averaging 35.0 points on .513 shooting, 7.6 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 1.3 blocks and 1.8 steals. Defensively, he made a key block against Kevin Durant in the closing seconds to preserve a win over Oklahoma City, then stole an attempted wrap-around pass by Miami’s Dwyane Wade and hit two free throws in the final seconds to down the Heat.

“He’s not even close to peaking,” Brown said. “It’s scary how good he can get, and he’s already one of the best.”
Stealing the show

James’ steal of Dwyane Wade’s attempted wrap-around pass was the 900th of his career. No one in the NBA has more steals since James entered the league in 2003.

By the numbers

Prior to Wednesday, the Cavaliers had won 20 of their last 24 games overall. Cleveland also had recorded eight straight wins over Minnesota.

Remember him?

Sasha Pavlovic, traded to Phoenix as part of the O’Neal deal and then bought out of his contract, is coming off the bench for the T-Wolves. He had 16 points Tuesday night, but is averaging just 4.0 points while playing 13.6 minutes a game. Pavlovic had scored a total of eight points in his last four games prior to Tuesday.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rickn@ohio.net.

Rick Noland About Rick Noland

Rick Noland is the Cavs beat writer for The Gazette and the author of "Over Time," a compilation of stories he's written in more than 30 years as a journalist. He can be reached at 330-721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.