INDEPENDENCE — Day by day, Cavaliers coach Byron Scott has revealed who he plans to start in the Oct. 27 season opener against the Boston Celtics.
Connect all the dots and that lineup now appears to be set: Mo Williams — if he’s healthy — and Anthony Parker at guard, Anderson Varejao in the middle and J.J. Hickson and Jamario Moon at forward.
If Williams isn’t fully recovered from a groin injury — Scott thinks he will be — Ramon Sessions will start at the point, the coach said. If Williams is ready to go, Sessions, Daniel Gibson, Antawn Jamison and Ryan Hollins figure to begin the season as Cleveland’s primary players off the bench. If Jamison’s knee continues to bother him and he’s unable to go, Jawad Williams or Leon Powe could get some minutes.
Scott confirmed Monday at Cleveland Clinic Courts that he’s settled on the 35-year-old Parker as his starting shooting guard and reiterated Moon will get the nod at small forward “unless something crazy happens.”
That means the 34-year-old Jamison, who is 5-of-26 from the field in the preseason and never really got a shot to compete for the starting small forward spot because of his knee issues, will come off the bench, a role he prospered in early in his career before settling in as a starter.
“He’ll be fine either way,” Scott said when asked about Jamison. “He’s a professional.”
Because they want to play at a fast pace, there was some thought the Cavs might go with a smaller, younger, more explosive starting backcourt of Mo Williams and Sessions, but Parker will get the nod to begin the season.
“No. 1, he’s a pretty competitive guy,” Scott said of Parker. “He’s much better than I thought on the offensive end as far as creating shots for himself and playing off the pick-androll. A lot of things I didn’t have the chance to see him do over the years, I’m pretty happy with.”
Parker, who started all 81 games in which he appeared last season, almost never makes a play that shows up on SportsCenter, but his 6-foot-6 frame and intelligence still make him a valuable player. Not only that, how much he would impact a game or change its flow off the bench is uncertain.
“I think he’ll be a very good two-guard for us,” Scott said. “He knows what we’re doing extremely well. He has a high basketball IQ.”
While Parker will start, it would not be surprising at all if he played fewer minutes than Sessions and Gibson, who are having very good training camps.
Cleveland needs to recoup some of the offense that left with LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal, Delonte West and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, so Parker will likely play the first six minutes or so of the first and third periods, with his minutes after that being dictated by the pace and flow of the game.
Assuming Williams (15.8) is ready to go, the Cavs’ openingnight starting lineup of him, Parker (7.3), Varejao (8.6), Hickson (8.5) and Moon (4.9) combined to average 45.1 points a year ago. Substitute Sessions (8.2) for Williams and that drops to 37.5.
However, Hickson’s scoring average figures to go up substantially, as he’s shown in averaging 13.7 points while playing just 24.0 minutes a game in the preseason.
Sessions, who is averaging 12.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists in 26.0 minutes a night in the preseason, and Gibson, who averaged 6.3 points last year but is putting up a team-leading 14.3 in 25.3 minutes a game in exhibition play, also figure to get a lot more scoring opportunities.
Jamison, who averaged 15.8 points with the Cavs a year ago, is also capable of putting up numbers, but it’s no secret Cleveland is going to have to get offensive contributions from a lot of people this season.
“This is an equal-opportunity offense,” Hickson said. “We’re all going to get the ball.”
Scott said he’ll use the final two preseason games — tonight in Cincinnati against Philadelphia and Thursday in Columbus vs.
Milwaukee — as dress rehearsals for the regular season. Sessions, Parker, Moon, Hickson and Varejao will start tonight, with the latter making his preseason debut. Scott also plans to shorten his rotation and stick mainly with guys who will play in the regular season.
◾ Jamison and Williams will not play tonight. Williams has been going through full practices and could see action Thursday against Milwaukee.
◾ Ohio State product Evan Turner, the No. 2 pick in the draft, has started three of the Sixers’ five preseason games and is averaging 10.0 points on .308 shooting in 32.8 minutes a night. Turner is also averaging 10.0 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 2.63 steals, 3.8 turnovers and 5.6 fouls.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.