Cavs Seem Lost At Season's Midway Point

By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - Coach John Lucas and the Cleveland Cavaliers reached the NBA season's midway point at their low point.

They hope it's not their breaking point, too.

The Cavs, whose only breaks the past two years have seemingly been to limbs, feet and noses, dropped their 10th straight game Monday night, a 95-93 overtime loss to the Miami Heat.

After a somewhat promising start to the season, Cleveland hit the 41-game halfway mark at 13-28 - and in desperate need of a win.

"We're trying not to look at it as a losing streak," said point guard Andre Miller, the league's assist leader and one of the few things to feel good about if you're a Cavs' fan these days. "But we just got to find a way to win."

They'd better in a hurry. Following a road game in Washington on Thursday, the Cavs, fresh off an 0-6 West Coast trip and 4-18 outside of Gund Arena, will finish the month by playing host to Boston, Minnesota and the improved Wizards.

Cleveland hasn't had an 11-game losing skid since 1990-91, and Lucas knows his club needs to end this current one soon.

"We've got to get our staff and organization feeling good again," said the always upbeat Lucas, who is in his first year with Cleveland. "We've got to win games."

Lucas knew exactly what he was getting himself into when he accepted the Cavs' job last summer, replacing Randy Wittman.

Wittman, now an assistant in Minnesota, was fired after leading the Cavs to just 30 wins last year and 32 in 1999-00.

Lucas may not get that many over the next 41 games this season, but he says the victories aren't important just yet. The former NBA point guard is more interested in seeing improvement.

Lucas' agenda doesn't include the playoffs.

He wants Miller to become a better scorer and a more vocal leader. He's praying center Zydrunas Ilgauskas can make it through the season on his surgically rebuilt feet. He's bringing rookie DeSagana Diop along slowly.

Mostly, though, Lucas wants to find out who's worth keeping in Cleveland. Who can he win with?

"At the end of the year, I want to know exactly what I have (players) 1 through 12," he said before Monday's loss. "I can't tell you that today. That core could be very small. That core doesn't have to turn out to be six or seven guys. It could be one or two guys.

"Maybe none."

A little good luck wouldn't hurt the Cavs, either.

Ilgauskas, who has been limited to 29 games the past two seasons because of fractures in his feet, returned earlier than predicted and is getting stronger and more confident. He had 13 points and nine rebounds in a season-high 31 minutes against the Heat.

He has been so fragile that it was a relief to the Cavs when he only broke his nose on the recent road trip.

But for every positive, there have been a handful of negatives.

Tyrone Hill, who was supposed to give the Cavs some inside muscle, has yet to play because of a bad back. Michael Doleac is also out injured. Diop, the No. 8 overall pick, may be a longer-term project than the Cavs expected, and Chris Mihm is having a tough second season as a pro.

On top of those, Lamond Murray, the club's leading scorer, broke his nose in the finale of the road trip. He'll be on the injured list for at least two weeks while recovering from surgery.

"Just what we needed," Lucas said. "Everytime I see some growth, it seemed like something else happens to us. ... This is the NBA, though. The No Boys Allowed league. No one is going to feel sorry for you.

"No one is going to help you get out of this. We have to get out of it ourselves."

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)