Thursday , Aug , 05 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Cavs have had a tough offseason

By Warren Blatt, Sports Network NBA Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – The Cleveland Cavaliers have not had the
type of offseason that they were hoping for after showing signs of a bright
future during the 2003-04 regular season.

The Cavs allowed power forward Carlos Boozer to become an unrestricted free
agent with the thought that they would be able to sign the Duke product to a
long-term deal. When Boozer signed a lucrative, multi-year offer sheet with
Utah it created a lot of controversy, as he was rumored to have made a
commitment to Cleveland to sign a contract with the Cavaliers if they allowed
him to become an unrestricted free agent. The Cavs declined to match the offer
and Boozer is now a member of the Jazz.

“There was no commitment, it’s unfortunate how it went through the media but
I’m really excited to be in the situation I’m in,” said Boozer. “They
(Cleveland) moved forward, I moved forward and I’m looking forward to the
season with the Jazz. It’s against the rules first of all to have (an
agreement). I’m not a guy that gives my word and then takes it away, I think I
made that clear.”

The 22-year-old Boozer, who will be playing for the United States in the 2004
Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, averaged 15.5 points and 11.4 rebounds in 75
games for the Cavaliers in 2003-04. Originally selected by Cleveland in the
second round (35th overall) of the 2002 NBA Draft, Boozer also had a solid
rookie campaign as he averaged 10 points and 7.5 boards in 81 contests.

Cleveland thought that Boozer and 19-year-old phenom LeBron James, who was
named NBA Rookie of the Year for this past season, were going to be the
cornerstones of the franchise. Boozer and James were going to help lead the
Cavaliers to elite status in the league. Dreams of Boozer and James enjoying
All-Star type careers, playoff success and forming a potent one-two
combination together for years to come are gone. Cleveland will miss the
inside presence of Boozer and can only dream of what could have been if they
would have been able to keep him in the fold.

The loss of the 6-9 Boozer hurts the Cavaliers a great deal. However,
Cleveland has tried to rebound from the disappointment and add some pieces
to the puzzle that could help them reach the playoffs next season for the
first time since 1998.

Point guard Eric Snow was acquired in a trade from the Philadelphia 76ers,
while forward Drew Gooden was obtained by Cleveland from the Orlando Magic in
another trade. Snow gives the Cavs veteran leadership, strong defensive play
and playoff experience. Gooden will be expected to try and fill the void at
power forward.

The 31-year-old Snow, who had spent the previous six-plus seasons with
Philadelphia, has not missed a regular season contests the past two seasons.
He averaged 10.3 points and 6.9 assists in 36 minutes per game for the Sixers
in 2003-04. Snow, who spent the first two-plus seasons of his career as Gary
Payton’s backup in Seattle, has also participated in 71 playoff games during
his nine-year career.

Snow will compete for minutes with Jeff McInnis, who started 31 games at the
point for the Cavs after being acquired from Portland in January 2004, and 21-
year-old Dajuan Wagner. Cleveland coach Paul Silas will probably also use Snow
and McInnis at the same time to help Cleveland on the defensive end of the
floor. The former Sonic and Sixer knows that he will have a specific role with
the Cavaliers.

“(Cleveland) has me. They (Cleveland) know what I did in Philadelphia,” said
Snow. I’m going to come here and be a leader, on the court, off the court.
I’ll try to get better and help everyone else get better. More importantly,
just being a basketball player. I don’t come here bringing any particular
thing, except leadership, direction, and guidance. I’ve been through the long-
haul of the season, been to the playoffs, and to help this team get to the
playoffs.”

James should benefit a great deal from Snow’s experience.

“I played with Allen [Iverson] the last six and a half years and I like to
think I helped him become who he is, so I think I can do the same thing for
LeBron,” said Snow. “He’s a truly talented player, so he doesn’t need too much
help. I can basically tell him more than I can show him.

The 22-year-old Gooden, who was originally selected out of Kansas by the
Memphis Grizzlies in the first round (fourth pick overall) of the 2002 NBA
Draft, will be entering his fourth season in the league. He averaged 11.6
points and 6.5 boards in 79 games for Orlando last season. The 6-10 Gooden has
played in 149 regular season games during his time in the league and owns
career averages of 12 points and 6.5 rebounds.

“I’m anxious,” said Gooden. “I just want the opportunity to start and I think
this is the place. In my rookie year, right after I got drafted, I played a
lot. Then there was a coaching change and I switched positions. Then I got
traded and I came in the same situation I’m in right now – playing the four.
And I got the opportunity to play and I played well. My second year in
Orlando, they signed Juwan Howard, a veteran, and I don’t think that helped me
exceed in my skills or get better. I think it held me back a little. But I did
learn a lot from Juwan Howard, who was very professional.”

Gooden will try and take advantage of the opportunity that will come his way
in Cleveland. Replacing Boozer will be tough, but Gooden seems to think that
he is up to the challenge.

“No, there’s no pressure at all,” said Gooden. “I’ve known Booz for a long
time. There’s no pressure. It’s just a matter of me being a basketball player
and being a professional and having confidence. Booz is a great guy;
unfortunately, he couldn’t be here this year. But I think it opens the door
for me. And I think I’m going to take advantage of this opportunity.”

With James and center Zydrunas Ilgauskas on the roster, Cleveland still has a
solid squad. James averaged a team-high 20.9 points per game to go along with
5.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists in his rookie campaign, while Ilgauskas finished
last season averaging 15.3 points and 8.1 boards in 81 contests.

Gooden is excited to have the chance to play with the high-flying James.

“I’m excited,” said Gooden. “I’ve known LeBron since he was a sophomore in
high school. He used to come out to California for tournaments, so I’ve kind
of followed LeBron’s career since he was 15. To know what he’s done in this
league in such a short time is amazing and I’m very excited and look forward
to playing with him.”

Even though Gooden and Snow are solid acquisitions, make no mistake that
Cleveland is reeling from the loss of Boozer. Not being able to re-sign
their former starting power forward has made this offseason a very tough one
for the Cavaliers and their fans.