Around the NBA: Mo Williams gets his groove back

Chris Beaven

A comfort zone still is developing for Shaquille O’Neal with the Cavs. But while so much attention gets focused on O’Neal fitting in with LeBron James, an equally important piece of the puzzle is settling into his comfort zone.

Point guard Mo Williams busted out in a big way during the Cavs’ two-day trip to Florida, picking the Heat and Magic apart with his 3-point shots and floaters. Williams ran the offense with the authority and swagger that the Cavs love to see.

“We want Mo to always be aggressive,” Head Coach Mike Brown said.

That’s what Williams did much of last season when he became an All-Star and helped the Cavs to 66 wins. But early on this season, he looked like the Cavalier most caught in between as he figured out his place in the LeBron-Shaq equation.

During the last few games, though, Williams has gone back to the role he does well, and that’s attacking a defense. He scored 53 points in Florida, hitting 9-of-12 3-pointers. Whether using the dribble, coming off screens or just spotting up, the Cavs want Williams looking to make things happen.

“When he’s aggressive, we play good basketball,” Brown said. “All he needs is just a sliver of a look, and you can count it as either a two or a three.”

The big uneasy

Three weeks into the season, the New Orleans Hornets provided the first firing and could be headed for disarray. They cut loose Byron Scott, the NBA Coach of the Year two seasons ago, a move that left All-Star Chris Paul and some other players unhappy.

General Manager Jeff Bower replaced Scott, and his debut as coach was a disaster. The Hornets scored just 78 points in a loss to Portland, but more importantly, might’ve lost Paul for a while. He needed to be carried off the floor late in the third with a sprained left ankle. He left the locker room on crutches and with his foot in a boot.

The Hornets already are well into the demolition of a team thought to be on the rise a year ago. Don’t count them out to really blow things up if things deteriorate further.

Not so golden

Another version of Team Turmoil — the Golden State Warriors — arrives in Cleveland on Tuesday. Both of their best players — Stephen Jackson and Monta Ellis — are unhappy, which makes for a volatile mix with Head Coach Don Nelson. Jackson wants out, and Ellis apparently wants answers.

Ellis and Nelson engaged in a heated public exchange after practice last week. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Ellis’ gripe is he gets “blamed for everything.” Nelson disagreed with Ellis, and waved off Ellis with two hands before leaving the gym. Ellis shouted after him, “That’s why I won’t do it. I just won’t do it.”

As for Jackson, he still wants to be traded and his relationship with Nelson looks to be beyond repair. Nelson played Jackson only 18 minutes in a loss to the Pacers at midweek. Nelson said Jackson had a “sore back ... or something” and wouldn’t be able to give much. Jackson said he was fine and wanted to play. He said he’s willing to play “in Africa or wherever.”

24-second clock

  •  The Warriors aren’t the only ones on the fast track to the draft lottery. New Jersey is in a winless free fall, and the Knicks, Wolves and Grizzlies are rapidly sliding not too far behind with one win apiece coming into Saturday. Minnesota’s only win came over New Jersey on opening night, and the Wolves have dropped nine straight since, including a 41-point loss to the Warriors.
  •  New York’s 1-9 start is its worst in franchise history. Head Coach Mike D’Antoni was disappointed by his team’s “lack of fight” in Friday’s loss to the Warriors, never a good thing to hear just 10 games into a season.
  •  A delegation from the Afghan women’s national youth development team attended Friday’s Knicks-Warriors game at Madison Square Garden. Probably not the best example of pro basketball for the group. At least the group didn’t head to Memphis the next night for the Wolves and Grizz.
  •  If any of those teams need hope, they can look to the Oklahoma City Thunder. They were a respectable 4-4 heading into Saturday after last season’s disastrous 3-29 start.
  •  Another developing turnaround could be in Milwaukee, where the Bucks entered Saturday on a three-game winning streak, highlighted by Wednesday’s win over Denver. Rookie point guard Brandon Jennings is exceeding expectations, averaging team bests of 20.7 points and 5.2 assists per game. The 20-year-old went for 32 and nine in the upset over Denver.

Canton Repository