June 30, 2016

Mostly clear

Williams is trying to find his spot with Cavs

INDEPENDENCE —Mo Williams is in a bit of a shooting slump, but the Cavaliers point guard is also in a non-shooting slump.

Williams has averaged just 6.3 points over Cleveland’s last three games. In that span, he’s 7-of-24 from the field (.292), including 1-of-10 on 3-pointers.

Perhaps more telling, though, is that the 27-year-old has averaged only eight shots a game in that stretch.

Coach Mike Brown, whose team hosts the Mil-waukee Bucks tonight at Quicken Loans Arena, is not concerned, saying his point guard has made it a priority to get the ball to superstar LeBron James and new addition Antawn Jamison, who combined for 60 points Sunday in a win over Sac-ramento.

“He’s a terrific scorer,” Brown said of Williams, who is averaging 15.3 points on .432 shooting from the field (.420 on 3-pointers) and .898 at the line. “He’s shown he can score the basketball in a lot of different ways and he’s done that in the past.

“With all those different types of options we have, Mo’s just trying to find his spot within the team. He’s been trying to run the team a lot more from a (true) point guard standpoint instead of a scoring point guard standpoint as of late.

“We know he’s capable of hitting big shots. We know he’s capable of running off eight or 10 points in a row. It’s good to have that luxury sitting right there in case you need it or in case it happens on its own.”

There is some truth to Brown’s comments, as Wil-liams, who is averaging 11.8 shots per game for the sea-son, has deferred to James and Jamison in recent games.

But the theory that Wil-liams is playing more as a true point guard is not really reflected in his assist totals. Williams has aver-aged 6.0 assists over the last three games, not a hefty increase from the 5.2 he’s averaging for the season.

In the same three-game stretch, James, who still runs the offense the major-ity of the time in half-court sets, has averaged 9.0 assists. Taking that into consideration, Williams’ own lack of aggressiveness has probably been the single biggest factor in his declin-ing scoring totals.

The Alabama product has also fallen back into some bad defensive habits, but Williams still has eight regular-season games left to get things together for the playoffs.

One of those games is tonight against his former team, so it wouldn’t be shocking if Williams came out much more aggres-sively.

“At times, he’s searching a little bit,” Brown said. “But he’s been doing what he’s doing for a lot of years. I don’t know if you could lose that in a matter of a couple of weeks or a month.

“Do I think he’s search-ing at times? Yeah. Do I think he probably wants to get other guys involved and run the team first instead of being the aggressor he was before? Yes. He’s that way because he looks at our team and sees there are guys who are capable scor-ers.”

One positive for the Cavaliers is that Williams went through a similar adjustment at the beginning of the season while learning to play with Shaquille O’Neal in the low post. He started slowly, but it didn’t take long for the 6-foot-1, 195-pounder to hit his stride.

“He was kind of search-ing and trying to find his niche,” Brown said. “Once he found it, he kind of took off for us. I don’t see it being any different (this time).”

Shaq attack

Brown raved about the work O’Neal has been putting in as the center waits for his injured right thumb to heal, but stopped short of saying the 7-1, 325-pounder would return to action before the end of the regular season.

“You hope it happens, but you definitely don’t want to bring anybody back too soon,” Brown said. “Something like that could last a lot longer if it’s not healed right and it gets hurt again.”

At the time of the injury, the Cavaliers said O’Neal would miss eight weeks, which would put him back on the court sometime late in the first round or near the beginning of the second round of the playoffs.

O’Neal has not yet had any contact, but has been in town working out with team trainers and appears to be in excellent shape. Brown said he talked with former pro Brad Sellers, currently an announcer, and Sellers told him he saw O’Neal working out in a gym at 11 p.m.

Mama Shaq

O’Neal’s mother, Lucille O’Neal, will sign copies of her new book, “Walk Like You Have Somewhere to Go,” from 5:45 to 7 tonight at Quicken Loans Arena. Shaq is expected to stop by for a brief visit and books will be available in the Cavaliers Team Shop.

“From being an unwed teen mother and creating a stable home for her children, at times with the help of public assistance; to coping with her unexpected feelings of anger and resentment towards her son’s blinding success; to battling alcohol addiction; to making the painful decision to end a marriage of nearly 30 years, Lucille opens up about the behind-the-scenes personal dramas and triumphs which have made her the determined, compassionate and resil-ient woman she is today,” a press release stated.


Anderson Varejao, who missed Sunday’s win over Sacramento, did not practice Tuesday. Brown wouldn’t say if the power forward would play tonight, but the Cavaliers will likely use extra caution with very little to play for this late in the regular season.

Former Cavalier Darnell Jackson was picked up off waivers by Milwaukee. He was inactive in his first two games with the Bucks, who had gone 20-7 since Feb. 1 heading into a home game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday.

Milwaukee is currently the No. 5 seed in the East and would play No. 4 Boston in the first round of the playoffs if the season ended today. The winner of that series would play the winner of No. 1 Cleveland against No. 8 Toronto.

The Bucks’ Michael Redd is out with injuries to his anterior cruciate and medial col-lateral ligaments.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com.

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.