James Happy That Cavs Got Williams
The Morning Journal | Sports

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The newest member of the Cavs said that was a good thing.

"If he would have said no," Williams joked on a conference call with the Cleveland media on Thursday, "I think I'd (still) be in Milwaukee."

By BOB FINNAN

INDEPENDENCE - The Cavaliers received word from Beijing that All-Star forward LeBron James is excited about the Mo Williams trade.

The newest member of the Cavs said that was a good thing.

"If he would have said no," Williams joked on a conference call with the Cleveland media on Thursday, "I think I'd (still) be in Milwaukee."

He's probably right, too. James now has a high-scoring running mate in Williams, who can also relieve some of the former's playmaking duties.

"It was a Christmas present in August for LeBron," agent Mark Bartelstein said.

Williams, 25, was surprised when he was informed of the three-team, six-player deal that sent guard Damon Jones to Milwaukee and forward/center Joe Smith to Oklahoma City.

The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder is looking forward to playing with James.

"Change is good sometimes," Williams said. "You're going to play with arguably the best player in America. You really can't be disappointed about it. Life goes on. It's a new chapter in your life. I'm prepared to take full advantage of it.

"I'll fit in. We know who the leader of our team is as far as 'The Man.' We're all going to roll with him."

After the initial shock wore off, it was refreshing for Williams to be headed to an Eastern Conference playoff contender.

"I'm a firm believer in God," he said. "I feel like everything happens for a reason. They weren't talking about me getting traded to one of the worst places in the world. So there wasn't too much to get upset or mad about."

A notorious Cavs' killer over the years, Williams will now take over the starting job at point guard. The lowly Bucks won three of four games against the Cavs last year, as Williams averaged 26 points, 9.0 assists and 6.3 rebounds. He shot 50 percent from the field (34 of 68).

"Now you can quit torching us and torch someone else," Cavs coach Mike Brown said.

He'll always have a soft spot in his heart for Milwaukee.

"You can't take away my 16 years in Milwaukee," he said. "Wait, that was Brett Favre.

"You can't take my four years away. I really enjoyed it. I wish them all the luck in the world. I have no bad feelings toward Milwaukee. I enjoyed my time there."

Williams was very active in the Milwaukee community. He also purchased Brewers' season tickets this year.

"I was really settled in," he said.

The Cavs hope he gets settled in on the defensive end. He's been a prolific scorer at every level he's played. NBA scouts, though, have questioned his defensive prowess.

Brown said he has no misgivings about Williams' defense.

"He has the ability to impact the game on the defensive end of the floor," he said.

Williams tiptoed around his role with the Bucks last year.

"This is a different team," he said. "It was a different culture (in Milwaukee). I know what it takes to win. It's no secret that it takes defense to win."

He bristled at the media's depiction of him not being a good defender.

"The media has talked enough," he said. "Actions speak louder than words. It has been kind of different the last few years for me in terms of defense. I have the gifts to do it. You've got to want to do it. You've got to have the mentality to do it. I think you have to be focused. I got away from that the last few years, for whatever reasons."

If he doesn't show effort on the defensive end, he'll soon find out that his minutes will be cut. One thing that has helped Brown nurture his defensive culture is that James has bought into it.

The Cavs have been searching for a small, quick guard to defend other diminutive guards in the league. Williams might fit the bill there.

"This is something that we haven't had here," Brown said. "Mo is extremely quick. He brings another dimension to us. It will only help our defense."

Bartelstein, Williams' Chicago-based agent, said defense wasn't emphasized in Milwaukee.

"Mo had a lot of responsibility offensively on him in Milwaukee," he said. "It's hard to have the energy level. He can be a terrific defender. That's how he got into this league. You don't play if don't defend in Utah under coach Jerry Sloan.

"The Cavs make it a point of emphasis. He'll put pressure on the ball as well as anybody."
The University of Alabama product might have a slightly different role with the Cavs.

"The way I play, and the gifts that I have, it's better suited to Cleveland," he said. "Playing with a facilitator (like James) will (help) my game. In Milwaukee, they were looking for a distributor. That didn't play to my strength."

Bartelstein said he sees nothing but positives with the deal. The Cavs didn't blink at taking on the five years and $44 million remaining on his contract.

"I think it's going to be terrific for everybody," he said. "It was a big decision for the Cavs. Mo has a big contract.

"He adds a whole new dimension to the Cavs. Many of their games are grind-it-out affairs. He'll make the game easier for LeBron and the Cavs. He'll help them get a lot of easy baskets in transition. He'll push the heck out of ball."

His offensive skills will be on full display with the Cavs where he might be asked to catch-and-shoot more than he did in Milwaukee.

His ability to shoot the ball shouldn't be affected by the surgery he had performed on his right thumb in New York in May. Bartelstein said Williams also had sports hernia surgery this summer.

"The Cavs did their due diligence to make sure he was healthy," he said.

Williams has been working out in Vancouver, B.C., with noted trainer Alex McKechnie, one of the world's utmost authorities on core training and movement integration. Williams said Cavs center Zydrunas Ilgauskas is also working out in British Columbia.

"It's great," Williams said. "I've been cleared. I got (the thumb surgery) done at the beginning of summer to make sure I was more than healed before training camp. I'm 100 percent healed."

The Cavs appear to have the makings of another 50-win team. Nevertheless, Williams said they have only one goal.

"We have an ultimate goal and that's to win a championship," he said.

rfinnan@News-Herald.com


 

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