NEWS

Around the NBA: Cavs refocus on defense

Chris Beaven

Any Cavaliers thinking about taking plays off regularly on the defensive end do so at their own risk. The head coach is watching, and he’s keeping a list and checking it twice.

“We don’t take plays off,” coach Mike Brown said. “... They’ll get that understanding because they’ll be sitting next to me (on the bench).”

A strong defense -- as well as that guy named LeBron James -- are the foundations of success for the Cavs.

The addition of Mo Williams and the development of other players have the Cavs feeling like they could be a significantly better offensive team. They’re looking to run more, and do it smarter and more efficiently.

“Watching this team, we have the ability to score,” Brown said. “Getting stops ... that takes effort. You got to want to be able to do that. You got to want to be able to do that every possession for 24 seconds. That’s something we all have to get ingrained.”

It took the Cavs until the final stages of the regular season to get to that point consistently last season. Brown wants to see that focus from the start this season.

“My job is to continue to push and push and push,” he said. “I’m going to push to the point where they’ll get irritated with me.”

Motivated Bron

The Cavs will open their regular season in Boston on Oct. 28 -- the same night the Celtics will get their championship rings from last season. That pregame ceremony, which James doesn’t plan to be a spectator for, provides no further motivation for James this season.

What does, though, is his belief “this is the best chance we’ve had since I’ve been here” to win a title.

Mo talk

The addition of Williams not only means an added offensive weapon for the Cavs, but he’s also bringing leadership and a swagger. Prior to Friday’s preseason game against the Celtics, he let it be known the Cavs are locked in on dethroning Boston.

“That’s all we talk about,” Williams told the Boston Globe. “You got to knock the king off the throne. And I’m playing with the king, so you can take that how you want.”

Lucky at last?

When it comes to staying healthy, the Wizards have been one NBA team that can’t catch a break. That appeared to be changing last week after Antawn Jamison bruised his right knee. Initial fears were he could miss the early part of the season, but now it looks as if he’ll be ready to go by the end of preseason.

But before the Wizards could exhale, they found out center Brendan Haywood could miss significant time because he needs surgery on his right wrist.

Guard Antonio Daniels called the injury “a huge blow.”

Unfortunately for the Wizards, it’s nothing new. The Wizards feel they can compete with anyone -- when healthy. That disclaimer, though, never goes away.

All-Star guard Gilbert Arenas was limited to 13 games last regular season. He was then was unable to finish out the first-round playoff loss to the Cavs. He’s expected to miss at least the first month of this season as he recovers from knee surgery.

All-Star forward Caron Butler played in just 58 games last year. The previous season, Butler missed 19 games, Jamison sat out 12 and Arenas missed eight. But what made the injuries even worse was when they happened.

Butler and Arenas were both out by the end of the season, when the Cavs swept the Wizards out of the playoffs in the first round.

24-second clock

- You know it’s the preseason when Shavlik Randolph goes 9-for-9 from the floor. He did that Friday against Atlanta. Only die-hard Dukies probably even knew Randolph was playing for the Blazers this season

- Evidence of how much that Cavs have changed in the last year is this: Only three players in training camp this season -- LeBron James, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Daniel Gibson -- were also in camp last season. Two other veteran Cavs, Sasha Pavlovic and Anderson Varejao, missed camp last year because of contract disputes. Every other player on the roster has joined the team since February.

- New Bobcats coach Larry Brown isn’t thrilled with his team’s love of the 3-point shot. Charlotte hit 3-of-16 3-pointers in its second preseason game.

“We have to teach these jump shooters to dribble-drive and get to the rim,” Brown said.

- Dwight Howard scored 28 points on 10-of-12 shooting and made five steals in just 28 minutes of Orlando’s exhibition 94-66 win over CSKA Moscow.

“I don’t think they have anybody like him in the Euroleague,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said.

Reach Repository sports writer Chris Beaven at (330) 580-8345 or e-mail chris.beaven@cantonrep.com