LeBron is Gone, so Mo Williams is The Man in Cleveland

By: 08.31.10  •  24 Comments

As the saying goes, one door closing means another door is opening somewhere. Or something like that.

While the immediate future looks bleak for the Cleveland Cavaliers without LeBron James, one of the few people set to benefit in the new era is All-Star point guard Mo Williams, who becomes the go-to guy on a team that’s used to being in the playoff mix. Like Homer Simpson, Mo (who got his first chance to shine in the pros when T.J. Ford got hurt in Milwaukee) is again realizing the greatness of the word “default.”

In an article from today’s Akron Beacon Journal, Williams talks about a recent unplanned meeting with LeBron in Cleveland’s airport, the first time the two had met since LeBron decided to leave the Cavs.

Back in July, soon after LeBron told the world he was going to Miami, Mo tweeted that their relationship had taken “leaps and bounds backwards.”

Today, after a “clear-the-air” discussion with LeBron that Mo told the paper was “much needed,” he said he’s supportive of his ex-teammate.

With that out of the way, attention now turns to Mo — who rejected a big contract offer from Miami when he was a free agent in ’07 and opted to re-sign with Milwaukee — is going to lead this Cavaliers team.

Verbally he’s embraced the role of leader and de facto star, and has said all the right things about wanting to finish his career in Cleveland and keep the team in championship contention. But is that possible for a 6-foot-1, shoot-first point guard who doesn’t have a history of leading successful NBA teams? From the Beacon Journal:

Cavs coach Byron Scott watched Williams’ game change playing alongside James for two years and now wants Williams to revert back to the player he used to be with the Milwaukee Bucks.

”Sometimes a star like [James] is so talented and can do so many things with the ball, sometimes you get lost because you don’t have the ball in your hands like you’re used to,” Scott said. ”[James] can get you a better shot than you can get yourself. A guy like Mo who can break people down and run the pick and roll, all of a sudden you find yourself as more of a spot-up shooter. You can get lost sometimes like that.”

Like he did in Milwaukee, Mo again has the green light. More than that, he’ll be expected to get his without the distraction of LeBron drawing the defense, or Shaq commanding attention on the block. And this time he doesn’t even have a Michael Redd to turn to in the backcourt. Mo will not only have to get his buckets, but oversee the development of youngsters like J.J. Hickson and create looks for limited offensive players like Jamario Moon, Anthony Parker and Anderson Varejao. The only other threat to score close to 20 points a night on Cleveland’s roster is Antawn Jamison.

But maybe this is a good thing. Contrary to what you’d believe, while Mo’s scoring dipped in the time he played with LeBron after coming over from Milwaukee, some of his shooting percentages actually dropped as well. In his last year with the Bucks he shot 48 percent from the field, compared to last season when he made 44 percent. His three-point percentages did rise from playing with LeBron, though, from 38 percent in ’08 to 42 percent in ’10.

Mo Williams has the ability to drop 20 a night sans-LeBron, and he’ll probably have to if the Cavs have even a chance of making it back to the playoffs. He’ll also have to maintain the short memory preferred by NFL quarterbacks and cornerbacks, and forget about the inevitable bad shooting nights and shooting slumps that will come. Because even if he’s hitting closer to 40 percent from the field than 50 percent, Mo just has to keep shooting.

The wide-open looks LeBron provided won’t be there anymore, and defenses will now key in on No. 2, who is no longer a No. 2 in the offense.

How do you think the Cavs will fare with Mo Williams leading the way?

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