By: T.J. Zuppe
The Cleveland Cavaliers have spent the early part of their 2010-2011 season trying to develop an identity.
Most of all, they have tried to find out exactly what type of basketball team they intend to be, either starting with the highs of playing opening night against Boston or struggling through some of the poor third quarter stretches that have plagued this team, for the last couple of seasons.
Having to embrace the words team and hustle has been the Cavs game-plan, as they continue to evolve and grow into head coach Byron Scott’s new system.
Now the 5-5 Cavaliers face one of their toughest tests to date, when they take to the road to square off with the New Orleans Hornets (9-1), San Antonio Spurs (9-1) and a team they lost to at home, the Indiana Pacers (4-5).
Though playing two of the best teams in the NBA would normally look like an unfortunate occurrence, the exact opposite is on the minds of the Cavs players and coach Scott.
“We’re playing two of the best teams in the league right now,” Scott said. “It’s a great test for us. We feel in the last week or so we’ve gotten better on both ends of the floor, so this is a measuring stick.”
Coach Scott was absolutely right in that assessment. The next three games will teach us a great deal about this basketball team.
It is often when teams are faced with this adversity, you learn the most about your squad. It is for that reasons, Scott is greatly looking forward to New Orleans and San Antonio, as he should be.
It is then we will learn what this team is made of and what types of strides they have truly made.
“I think it is a measuring stick, as far as mentally can we handle the crowd (or) what happens if they go on a 7-0 run,” Jamison said. “Do we stop the bleeding early or do we let it drag on? We played some tough road games this season but this is by far our toughest challenge.”
“It’s us against not only the other team, (but) playing in some great arenas that pose a threat as far as crowd noise,” Jamison added.
However, seemingly playing on the road has not been a problem for Cleveland this season, at the outset. The transitional Cavs have been an impressive 3-1 on the road, as opposed to an underachieving 2-4 record at home.
Scott said earlier in the campaign, he believes the team is pressing at home, however on the road they are able to tune all of the pressures out. They seem to take more of a bunker mentality, them against the world.
Jamison agreed with Scott on the topic.
“We know that we have the 12 guys out there on the court,” Jamison said. “We don’t care about who leads the team in scoring. We are just trying to win basketball games. We are just trying to prove this is a playoff caliber team.”
“We haven’t been playing well of late but we did play a pretty good game (against Philadelphia). Now we have to carry that over, as far as doing the same things we did at home, on the road, against two teams that are on fire.”
And based on how the Cavs handled the early season match-up with Boston, there is no question the team will be motivated and ready to play. You can tell based on how members of the team speaks about their upcoming opponents.
“We know we have to go there and try to (out) work them, forward Anderson Varejao said. “They have a very good team. They have a great record but all we can do is just be focused, play hard on defense, play with a lot of energy and try to win those games.”
Through all the talk of how well the Hornets are playing, it is encouraging to see the players embrace playing the better teams in the league. It speaks to the character of the organization, that they are welcoming such a tough contest.
“I like the challenge,” Jamison concluded. “I think my teammates are up to it as well. It’s going to be some fun games.”
Those games begin when the Cavs battle the Hornets Friday night, with tip scheduled for 8:00pm in New Orleans.