Jim Paxson: "Silas changed the culture here"
Jim Paxson: I think it's still early where this group of players and the coaching staff are trying to get a feel for each other. Paul's trying to get a feel for rotations and who he wants to put on the floor with each other. So I thought our opening home game was not a good one and we bounced back and played well enough to win Friday (at Indiana), and then we won Saturday (against the Wizards), so hopefully we'll build from that.
Do you like what Paul Silas is doing with the team thus far?
JP: I think the main thing is he's come in from day one and kind of changed the environment and culture here, and it's tough to do when you've lost games and through a period like last year to go through a season like that. We had a tough West Coast trip, and there's been a number of examples where he's just not going to let them accept feeling good about playing close and losing, that we've got to get this turned around. That experience has been something that we've needed.
Early returns on LeBron. Is it as expected?
JP: You know, really my expectations, you know, the talent is there and the other night he had an unspectacular game and he still almost had a triple-double. So I think you'll see his game evolve. He's gonna have his ups and downs. I think he'll continue to learn a little bit of where he can score from. I'd like to see him and all our guys be a little more aggressive at getting to the hoop to try to get to the foul line more. I think we haven't done that as much. The other night we did it and it helped us win the game.
How nice is it to see some excitement about the franchise as compared to the last year or two?
JP: It feels great to see it. I'm happy for our players and for the fans coming in. It's like after being responsible as the one putting us through this process to get to this point and build it back up, you're more concerned about trying to find ways to compete and hopefully win. So, you know, it's exciting and you hope the people enjoy it and we hope we put a good product on the floor that gets better and wins. But the bottom line in this business is, if you haven't won, eventually you do. Not that we're gonna win every game the rest of the year but we've got to start getting better as we go along.
How good has it been to see some positive development in the last games from DeSagana Diop?
JP: DeSagana came in in good shape. He's been working all summer. I think he can come in and be a presence at the defensive end like he was in the Indiana game against Jermaine O'Neal and certain matchups. He had five blocks the other night but he got two big offensive rebounds and we were on a run to keep some possessions alive. But we know Zydrunas has got to be the guy to come in and be the focal point at the center. It's just nice to see him get some time and producing.
Carlos Boozer just seems like he keeps getting better and better.
JP: Carlos is kind of like our real steady rock for us, and he is gonna get better. I think as this team evolves, he'll become more and more of a leader along with some of our other young players that we feel good about.
JP: I think JR had a good preseason and early regular season. I think that's where Paul's been committed to playing Darius, Ricky and LeBron. Those guys played 45, 45 and 41 minutes the other night, and those are the positions that Bremer and Ollie and even Newble play. I think as the season goes along, you're gonna have injuries -- hopefully not devastating injuries -- and so you're hoping that these guys will be able to provide more on the floor. But they've done everything we've asked and have all contributed in other ways. And eventually I think all three of them will continue to contribute on the floor.
Can you see the combination of LeBron, Darius and Ricky working?
JP: Obviously, we felt we have overall athleticism and depth with this team. And Paul feels that we've got the best chance of getting better sooner rather than later if those three can figure it out to play together at both ends of the floor. And I think they've had some growing pains, but that's up to the coach to make the decision of what he feels is best to give us the best chance to win.
When is it a fair time of the season to grade the progress of this team?
JP: Every night you go out and play you're graded by your won and loss. Our schedule was tough coming out of the gate. My only real disappointment so far was that opening night at home. I think the game itself and the matchup was so overhyped that the game was gonna be a letdown. But at the same time, I don't think that we stepped up and competed the way we needed to compete -- like the way we did in some of the games on the West Coast. The reality in this league is you win when you have veterans and we are young still, so this group's got to figure it out. But I think you can break the season down into a number of different factors -- you know, every 20 games. But let's give us at least the first 20 to 40 to see what kind team we are and whether we can develop an identity of who we're going to become and start to play well, win or lose, every night.
Have you and Paul come up with a figure in terms of wins and losses?
JP: I don't think specifically. What I look at is, I looked at last year and there were seven or eight teams in the Eastern Conference -- now we only won 17 games -- that we lost to all four times, and Washington was one of those teams. So if you just chip away and you look around and you hope that the teams that are out there, you hope you can get your share of wins. If you're able to get some of those wins from teams you didn't beat at all last year, you're obviously going to be improved. I'd be disappointed if the second half of the year that we're not consistently winning at home against anybody, and that we're not finishing the season -- if we're not fighting for a playoff spot and we have to wait for next year -- that you can see the promise in this team really starting to figure it out.
Bruce Meyer is a regular contributor to HoopsHype.com
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