|Cavaliers relish underdog role|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 07 June 2007 16:07|
By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer
SAN ANTONIO (AP) -They're underdogs, sizable ones in the NBA finals. That's just fine with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Unlike their first-round meeting with Washington, the Cavs weren't favored against New Jersey in the semifinals or Detroit in the Eastern Conference finals.
So with most experts picking the San Antonio Spurs to win their fourth championship, the Cavs are in a familiar place.
``We haven't been on the everyone-picks-the-Cleveland-Cavaliers side yet,'' LeBron James said. ``So this is nothing new to us.''
Cavaliers coach Mike Brown doesn't mind hearing that his team is being given little chance to upset the Western Conference champions.
``In the Detroit series we were a big underdog, and I know some people questioned us in the New Jersey series,'' he said. ``It is what it is. People get paid to make those predictions so we're OK with it.''
Whatever criticism they're getting doesn't seem to be bothering the Cavaliers, who joked around during Thursday's shootaround and have been in a fun-loving mood since the postseason began.
Wearing his headphones, James loudly belted out rap lyrics to the amusement of some of his teammates.
``We are loose,'' Brown said. ``I don't know if it will help us or hurt us. We've been like this the whole playoffs. If I had some hair, I'd be pulling it out at times. But sometimes you have a team that has its own personality and you just have to try to get the most out of them.''
NO WINE GUY: Cavaliers coach Mike Brown can break down a 2-3 zone defense or design a full-court trap with the best of them.
But he can hardly tell the difference between a full-bodied California cabernet and a flavorful chardonnay.
When he was a San Antonio assistant, Brown tried to learn all he could about wines from Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, an avid wine collector with a cellar containing thousands of bottles.
Brown wasn't much of a student.
``Even though I was here with him three years, I still don't know anything about wine,'' Brown said Thursday. ``I know there's a red wine and a white wine, but beyond that I couldn't tell you what else.''
Popovich, the connoisseur, couldn't coach Brown on the finer points of sniffing, tasting or drinking.
``He tried his behind off, to teach me how to be one of those proper young men that can sit at the dinner table and decide which wine I need with this food or that food and what year and all that,'' Brown said. ``I just say, 'Whatever you're drinking, Pop, I'll drink it with you.'''
Although he left the Spurs after the 2003 season for Indiana, Brown has maintained a house in San Antonio. His parents live there now.
``This is a nice city, a nice town,'' he said. ``People are friendly here. My kids have great friends here. As soon as my son got off the plane, the only time I'm going to see him is at the game because he's going to stay with his buddy the whole week.
``So it's a nice town, we really enjoy it.''
BIG BUSINESS: The NBA set two records in Game 1 of the NBA finals.
For the fourth straight year, the league set a total attendance record, with 23,362,721 fans attending regular season and playoff games. Last year, it was 23,347,135.
The current postseason attendance average of 20,016 would be the second largest ever. The NBA averaged 20,565 fans in 2001, when seven games were played at the much larger Alamodome.
The numbers made David Stern smile.
``You're looking at a pretty happy commissioner,'' he said before Game 1.
There were to be 128 television broadcasters, breaking the finals record of 112. The series was drawing plenty of overseas interest with both teams having a strong international presence.
The Spurs have Tony Parker (France), Manu Ginobili and Fabricio Oberto (Argentina), Francisco Elson (Netherlands), and Beno Udrih (Slovenia). Zydrunas Ilgauskas (Lithuania), Anderson Varejao (Brazil) and Sasha Pavlovic (Montenegro) play for the Cavaliers.
There is TV coverage in all those players' home countries. In all, the finals were being shown in 205 countries and territories and 46 languages.
SHAVE AND A HAIRCUT: Spurs star Tim Duncan shaved his head and nicely trimmed his beard, which had been growing shaggy, before Game 1 of the finals. Perhaps it means it's ``go time'' for San Antonio in their best-of-seven series with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Or perhaps it's just a stab at garnering some good luck.
As Duncan shot around before the game, sweat beaded on his head and a larger-than-life Larry O'Brien championship trophy replica gleamed in the background, it's golden basketball shining.
Maybe Duncan's hoping the resemblance will mean good fortune for the Spurs?
Lucky for Duncan that if it doesn't, he's got a stellar game as a backup plan.
GET YOUR GLASSES: For Sunday's Game 2, Cavaliers fans will see LeBron James like never before.
The NBA is staging a live 3-D HD viewing of the game at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, which will be open for Cavaliers fans to see for free. It's the first time the new technology has been used in the finals.
The NBA first used the 3-D imaging in Las Vegas at the All-Star game.
``We're taking another step now,'' commissioner David Stern said, ``and that's a very exciting technology that we think will ultimately have a place in the NBA.''
The league plans to erect four 40-foot-by-23-foot screens in the arena to show the enhanced picture and fans will be required to wear special viewing glasses.
AP Basketball writer Brian Mahoney and Associated Press writer Elizabeth White contributed to this report.