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David DuPree, USA TODAY says the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Clippers, tied for the fourth-best record in the NBA at 9-4 going into Monday’s games, are the league’s biggest surprises. But readers responding to this week’s question as to which team has more staying power picked Cleveland, mainly because of LeBron James.
“With all due respect to (Corey) Maggette, (Elton) Brand, (Cuttino) Mobley and (Sam) Cassell, none of these guys is a megastar,” said Derrie Ross of Cleveland. “LeBron is God-given extraordinary talent that can’t be taught or coached. He is like M.J., Bird or Magic – a leader, coach, player – all in one on the floor. He is the difference in the two teams.”
Jeffrey Wright of South Orleans, Mass., says the fact the Clippers play in what he considers a much weaker division than the Cavaliers gives Los Angeles the advantage. He also says that Brand-Cassell tandem will keep the Clippers going.
“The Cavs play in the best division in basketball, top to bottom,” he said. “This should enable L.A. to get a better playoff seed in a conference with less dominant teams. While the Cavs have some shooters, the Clippers have certified scorers everywhere, the excellent low post presence that Cleveland does not have in Brand and, of course, Sam Cassell providing the leadership and clutch shots. Cassell may have a big mouth sometimes, but he’s a proven winner.”
Tyrone Terry of Dallas feels James and Larry Hughes give the Cavaliers the best perimeter duo in the league and he isn’t sure Cassell can stay healthy all season. He also thinks James’ improvement and maturity will carry the Cavaliers. “LeBron has improved every year he has been in the league, and I expect him to improve to a winner this year,” he said.
Both teams will be bolstered by the return of injured players. In the Clippers’ case, that’s 6-7 guard Shaun Livingston. The Cavaliers will get a huge lift when Ira Newble, a starter last season, and Anderson Varejao, a Marcus Camby-type big man, return. When you can send out a second unit of those two along with Donyell Marshall and Damon Jones, the tempo and defense can be sustained when the Cavaliers go to their bench