|Finals rookies, Cavaliers primed for shot at Spurs|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 04 June 2007 13:56|
CLEVELAND (AP) -Above the Cavaliers' training room door on the wall adjacent to LeBron James' locker hangs a photograph of one of his signature dunks - one of his nastiest, wake-up-the-kids slams.|
The one over Tim Duncan.
Someone placed it there a few days after Cleveland's 88-81 win in San Antonio on Nov. 3, the Cavaliers' first victory in the Alamo City since 1988 and one that set the tone for a special season.
So far, the most special.
Seven months after James posterized Duncan, the Cavaliers were at home Monday getting ready to go to an unfamiliar place: the NBA finals.
The finals can be a scary place for first-timers who might be intimidated by the global spotlight. Not James. Although he's a finals rookie, the 22-year-old star isn't nervous about taking his show onto the grandest stage yet.
``I'm very excited to be a part of it,'' said James, wearing a New York Yankees cap and ``King of Akron'' T-shirt. ``As far as me being in awe, I don't know. I'm not that type of guy.
``There's not too many things that awe me.''
James and the newly crowned Eastern Conference champions began preparing for Thursday's series opener against the Spurs with a workout at Quicken Loans Arena. It was quiet in the building, a stark contrast from 48 hours earlier, when the one of the biggest parties in Cleveland history cranked into the wee hours of Sunday following the Cavs' Game 6 over Detroit in the conference semis.
Other than a massive media presence and having to get their pictures taken in warmups now bearing the official finals patch for TV, there were no other signs around the Q to indicate the finals had arrived.
The first two games are in San Antonio. T, and the Cavaliers, who aren't being given much of a shot to win the series by oddsmakers, won't get their first true taste of the finals' carnival-like atmosphere until they get to Texas, where everything is bigger anyway.
Cavs guard Eric Snow remembers being overwhelmed by his first trip to the finals as a Seattle rookie in 1996.
``I was in awe. I didn't know what to expect,'' said Snow.
He was devoured by all of it. The international media. The ticket requests. The family issues. What was supposed to be fun became a distraction, and Snow expects some of his teammates to be stunned by their first exposure to the extraordinary setting.
``They all will (be awed) because they haven't experienced it,'' he said. ``The best teacher in this league is experience. The only way you're going to understand it is to go through it. I've tried to instill in them that we still have to realize why we're there.''
On his second trip to the finals, with Philadelphia in 2001, Snow was better prepared to handle the off-court matters.
``The second time I kind of knew the magnitude,'' he said. ``There's a lot of different things and they're good things. People are excited for you, but at the same time you still have to play the game so you still have to find a way to focus, stay in tune to the game plan.''
For Cavaliers coach Mike Brown, this trip to San Antonio is about more than business. It's a return to his favorite coaching stop, a city where he still keeps a home and where he won an NBA title as an assistant on Gregg Popovich's staff in 2003.
``I've had a lot of great memories with him,'' said Brown, who speaks regularly to one of his mentors on the phone. ``There are a lot of things that I've learned from him that really make this a special time for me. I've looked up to him as a coach, and as a man.''
Now in his second season with Cleveland, the 37-year-old Brown, along with general manager Danny Ferry (San Antonio's former director of basketball operations), have changed the culture of the Cavaliers, using the Spurs' model to do it.
Their mission since Day 1 has been to bring a championship to Cleveland, and that goal is four wins from reality. And although the Cavaliers are neophytes in the finals, Brown isn't worried about them either being scared or satisfied with just making them.
``This team has been focused the entire year and they've really taken to heart the one-day-one-game-at-a-time theory,'' he said. ``And I believe if they understand that each game is its own separate entity, it doesn't matter what people are saying or doing, we've got a chance to win.
``We're in it to win a championship, and everybody understands that.''
James took some lumps early in the Detroit series, and then delivered late. He scored 48 points in Game 5 and finished the six-game series averaging 25.7 points, 9.2 rebounds and 8.5 assists - numbers only matched in a conference finals by Oscar Robertson (1963), John Havlicek (1968) and Larry Bird (1986).
Beating Detroit was monumental. Beating San Antonio would surpass it.
``That's a very great team, they're very experienced, they've been to the finals before and they know how to handle adversity,'' James said. ``We have to just attack, attack, attack. That has to be our mind-set and we give ourselves a chance to win.''
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