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News » Preparing for Shaq a formidable task

Preparing for Shaq a formidable task

Preparing for Shaq a formidable task Cavaliers INSIDER

For the Cavaliers , it takes a village to manage a Shaq.

In the wake of making the huge trade for Shaquille O'Neal over the summer, the team began a campaign to collect as much information as possible on their new center, which is now being employed in training camp. It was a multilayered effort that included many conversations, hours in the film room, and plenty of paperwork.

"We feel like we've done our homework and information gathering," Cavs coach Mike Brown said. "Now we're working on seeing what fits with him."

The first bits of evidence will be on display today at the University of Akron, where the Cavs will hold their annual Wine & Gold Scrimmage .

Brown talked to several coaches who worked with O'Neal over the years, including friend Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat. Spoelstra, now the Heat's head coach, was an assistant when the Heat won the 2006 NBA championship with O'Neal in the middle.

Assistant Hank Egan, one of the most experienced coaches in the NBA, also spent time drawing on his contacts for tips on handling and coaching O'Neal.

Mike Malone, who Brown has made the de facto offensive coordinator this season, spent time pouring over old game film. That included O'Neal's days with the Lakers 10 years ago up until last season with the Suns.

Malone had perhaps the toughest job, working on getting O'Neal to fit into the Cavs' offensive schemes and creating new ones for him.

"I watched a lot of him when he was in Miami just to see what he did well offensively," Malone said. "We've never had a player like him here and you want to do everything that you can to put him in a position to succeed."

Some of the tips were basic, like which side of the floor O'Neal likes to start post moves from. Others were more complex, such how spacing affects O'Neal's options when double-teams come. Or how teams reacted when O'Neal and Dwyane Wade, who plays like LeBron James, went into pick-and-rolls during pressure situations.

Then there were subtle things only a professional coach would notice, such as how O'Neal is more effective when he goes to the end of the court and waits to play defense when his team is on the foul line.

"We're not going to rewrite our offense for him but we feel we do need to make some changes," Malone said. "He's a Hall of Famer, so let's get him where he's most comfortable."

That is the visible strategy but there's plenty more. The Cavs' trainers met with the Phoenix Suns' trainers to discuss treatment methods. The team's equipment managers had to prepare for him, it takes some adjustments to store and transport size 22 shoes. The Cavs' locker room was even shuffled to be able to give O'Neal and James, who get a great deal of media attention, enough space without bothering teammates.

Not everyone follows this philosophy. Since he first entered the NBA, James was never big on asking others about their experiences and preferred to learn on his own. So he didn't call friend Wade or any of O'Neal's former teammates and instead will do it personally.

"He's going to be a teammate," James said. "It's not like I'm adopting a child."

New replay rules: Friday the NBA announced two rule changes in regard to the use of instant replay. Officials will now be able to check the video on shot-clock violations to determine if a shot was released or a foul was committed in time. In the bigger change, in the final two minutes of regulation and overtime referees will be permitted to consult video to see "which player last touched the ball prior to it going out-of-bounds or whether the ball was last touched simultaneously by two opponents."

The NBA also established a seven-man committee of executives and coaches to examine replay rules. Cavs General Manager Danny Ferry is on the committee.

Williams impressing: Brown is generally vague with his assessments of players this early in camp, but according to multiple sources Jawad Williams has been impressive in the first few days of camp. The 6-9 forward barely played as a rookie last year and has a nonguaranteed contract. But he played well in summer league and seemingly has carried it back home to Cleveland.

Dribbles: Ferry stepped into practice Friday to tell Anderson Varejao that Rio de Janeiro had been selected to host the 2016 Summer Olympics. Varejao is from Santa Teresa, Brazil, a few hundred miles north of Rio. "That is huge for my country, I'm very happy," Varejao said. "I hope I can still play in seven years." . . . O'Neal and Jamario Moon were playfully boxing after practice Friday and O'Neal showed off the skills he learned to fight Oscar De La Hoya for his television show over the summer. It was rather scary, especially O'Neal's jab. Had it been a real match Moon probably would not have made it to the second round. . . . Mo Williams the All-Star is big-time now. After having his own Nike commercial during the summer, he's now got his own Nike shoes with his nickname, "Mo Gotti" on the tongue.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:, 216-999-5166

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: October 6, 2009


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