Notes from NBA TV’s Fan Night – Tuesday, December 29, 2009 Cleveland Cavaliers (95) @ Atlanta Hawks (84)

The same two teams go at it tonight. This time in Cleveland. Voting is open on for next week’s Fan Night match-up that will air on Tuesday, Jan. 5. Fans can select between the following games:

Orlando Magic @ Indiana Pacers, Washington Wizards @ Philadelphia 76ers, Chicago Bulls @ Charlotte Bobcats, Milwaukee Bucks @ New Jersey Nets, Detroit Pistons @ Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors @ Denver Nuggets, Memphis Grizzlies @ Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns @ Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets @ Los Angeles Lakers.

****    ****    ****    **** Pre-Game Show

Rick Kamla and Steve Smith

Smith on the Cavaliers playing well defensively during their win streak: “What they are doing during this (five game) win streak is they are playing how they were playing last year defensively.  They are getting (defensive) stops, getting out on the break and having fun.  They are running and sharing the basketball.  At the beginning of the year they were kind of stagnant and there was a lot of LeBron-watching.  Now, the offense is flowing and there’s not a lot of standing (still).  They are rotating a lot of guys (around) and everyone seems happy with their role right now.”

Smith on the Hawks being considered one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference: “Everybody talked about the (Eastern Conference) ‘Big Three’ (Boston, Cleveland and Orlando) last year.  Nobody wanted to put the Atlanta Hawks up to that elite level.  This year, (the Hawks) are (changing) that.”

Pete Smith, father of Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith joined NBA TV on Arena Link

Smith on which side of the family his son Josh gets his athletic ability: “I’m not going to cut my wife out of anything or not give her any praise (because) she has a lot to do with his character.  But as far as his athletic ability, it came from my side of the family.”

Smith on if his family knew that Josh would be able to succeed in the NBA after entering the draft out of high school:  “We knew that if he played the game the way it’s supposed to be played and with the ability that God blessed him with, we felt that he would be a great asset to the NBA.  He has shown that he’s ready to take on that task.”

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Cleveland Cavaliers (95) @ Atlanta Hawks (84)

Announcers: Ernie Johnson, Kevin McHale and Chris Webber with Craig Sager reporting

Webber on a player getting hot from the field early in the game: “When a guy makes his first (few) shots, the basket is like an ocean in the second half.”

Webber on the Cavaliers defensive strategy against Josh Smith: “(The Cavaliers) want (Josh Smith) to shoot jump shots because you cannot meet him at the rim.  He’ll put you through the rim with the basketball.”

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T-Mobile Halftime Report

Kamla and Smith

Smith on Hawks guard Jamal Crawford: “One thing you can’t do is have a scouting report for him because if you take away one thing he has so many different options.  You can’t do a behind the screen because he can shoot it. You can’t play up close because he can drive it in. He is one of those guys that has a knack for so many things.”

Smith on Cavaliers guard Mo Williams: “This year the basketball is in his hands. Right now he is getting his own shots even though they are threes the basketball is in his hands more.”

Kamla on Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas: “When Gilbert is driving, you know he is on his game.”

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Johnson on NBA TV reporter Craig Sager’s New Year’s Eve suit: “I’ve heard it’s made totally of confetti.”

McHale on the referees calling hand check fouls more now than when he played: “I would’ve fouled out in about three minutes the way they call (hand checks) now.  The hand check was a great equalizer if you had long, strong hands.  You could grab the guy by the hip and he couldn’t go anywhere.”

McHale on the lost art of pull-up shots in the NBA: “The ability to shoot the ball off the dribble is really a lost art in the NBA.  Everybody shoots three’s or tries to dunk it.  Guys like Jamal Crawford prove that if you can make that shot (off the dribble), you’ll have a home in this league for a long time.”

McHale on Cavaliers forward LeBron James’ ability as a passer: “(Defending James) would be different if he wasn’t such a willing passer all the time.  If you ran up on him and he took bad shots.  But he plays the game the right way so if you run up on him, he passes the ball.  If you don’t run up on him, he drives on you.  He just has a complete game.  His willingness as a passer sets him apart from a lot of other great scorers.”

Webber on the pace of LeBron James’ game: “He has to be a guy that everybody wants to play with because you know that you can have a fun time playing with him.  He works very hard and it doesn’t even look like he’s sweating.  His pace is very good for the game.  He doesn’t let you frustrate him.  He’s a tough guy to check.”

Webber on LeBron James’ unselfish play: “I hope that LeBron’s style of play is the template for the new players because he’s not even scoring but he’s keeping other guys involved.  Other scorers have to score or they don’t make an impact on the game.  He makes an impact even when he doesn’t take a shot.”

NBA TV’s Craig Sager interviews Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James

James on the Cavaliers defense holding the Hawks to 10 points in the fourth quarter: “That is what we are about; we are about covering for each other. If one guy gets beat, the next man comes over and we just talk it out.  It was a great defensive performance on a night we just didn’t shoot the ball extremely well.”

James on the plan to defend Hawks guard Joe Johnson: “We know Joe (Johnson) is their centerpiece and where Joe (Johnson) goes that team goes so we stepped it up on the aggression as far as him coming off pick and rolls and coming off pin downs. We made him work for everything he was getting in the second half; great scheme by the coaching staff and great execution by the players.”

James on the Cavaliers turning their season around: “I think right now we are in a position where we know how we want to play every night. Some of those early losses came from us figuring how to play this year. I think we figured it out and we have been looking good as of late.”

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NBA GameTime presented by Hyundai

Kamla and Smith

Smith on Cavaliers win over the Hawks: “I think with the Cleveland Cavaliers it has been their defensive presence right now. I love how Shaquille O’Neal, (Zydrunas) Ilgauskas and (Anderson) Varejao are not complaining about minutes which is allowing for JJ Hickson to help this team because you are playing four bigs and that is hard. Those guys being able to sacrifice those minutes and let others play has been a big key for me.”

Smith on Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant: “If you look at his game, what’s left for him to do? Get stronger or maybe not when you score the basketball like that. He is handling the basketball very well like a 2-guard. He can get into the lane and shoot floaters. Then he is athletic enough to get into the paint and what I like is that he is staring to rebound the basketball and get four or five assists which is not bad. And then his age, he is still a young guy.”

Smith on the Washington  Wizards: “As far as scoring, Antawn Jamison had a good game. (Gilbert) Arenas had a good game and Brendan Haywood played well. What’s wrong with the Wizards is defense and bench play. They are not getting anything from the bench.  Where is Nick Young, JaVale McGee and those guys?  You have to get more bench play. Flip Sanders you have to play these guys more.”

Smith on Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph and Thunder forward Kevin Durant:  “You look at these guys because you can double-team them or even have a game plan on not letting them score but these guys do other things besides score. Zach Randolph obviously can rebound the ball and Kevin Durant does a little bit of everything. I love guys that can still get their average against any game plan.”

Smith on Wizards guard Earl Boykins: “We all love Earl Boykins, it is a great story and I think they had a chance to pick him up because everyone was injured. But now all these guys are back.  He is a combo guard. He can do whatever you want. He is the up and coming. Offensive – yes Earl can score but the Wizards don’t need any more offensive players.”

Cleveland Cavaliers center Shaquille O’Neal joined the studio team on Arena Link

O’Neal on Cavaliers’ defense:  “Either we played good defense or they weren’t hitting their shots. The good thing about this team is we have excellent resiliency. We never panic during certain situations. LeBron and Mo (Williams) do a good job of keeping us under composure. Whatever happens we will be well prepared for it.”

O’Neal on what the Cavaliers need to improve:  “We need to become more consistent. You have to have a lot of luck and we just have to believe. It starts right there with the belief. I’m always talking to the guys giving them certain stories, certain circumstances, certain situations and we know we match up well with anyone so it is all about us.”

O’Neal on meshing with teammates: “It is going pretty good. I call it the Alonzo Mourning factor. The last year we played together, he came to me and said I’ll do whatever it takes and I want to win. That is the same attitude I came in with this year. I’m only averaging 8-10 shots a game and which is fine with me. We all know LeBron is going to have the ball most of the time and when he gets off the ball it is our time to make him look good.”

O’Neal on teammate Delonte West: “He is very important to the Cavaliers team. He comes off the bench and gives most 2-guards fits. He can post up and shoot the jumper, he is ready to play.”

O’Neal on playing the Hawks: “We have a certain philosophy on our team:  beat the team you are supposed to beat, stay above .500 on the road and stay almost unbeatable at home.  We knew that these next two games are very important. We know that this is a young energetic team and we just want to come out and play our game. We felt we played our C+ game tonight but we were able to keep our composure and maintain. Tomorrow we will be looking to step it up.”

Smith on LeBron James: “The only thing left is starting to get those rings. At this age, arguable I think he is the best player that I have seen at 24. What he is doing at 24 is absolutely amazing.”

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