LeBron James led an overachieving Cleveland Cavaliers team to the NBA Finals last season, but the Cavaliers remained a few key role players shy of capturing their first championship. Devin Brown could prove to be one of those players.
James and Brown look to help the reigning Eastern Conference champions to their first back-to-back wins of the season when the Cavaliers visit the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday.
Brown, who played for four teams in his first five seasons, joined his fifth team when he signed with the Cavaliers about a month before the season opener. He wasn't productive in the first five games, but contributed 20 points and a career-high 11 rebounds off the bench as Cleveland (3-3) beat Sacramento 93-91 on Friday.
"I wasn't playing hard, and wasn't doing anything to help the team," said Brown, who averaged a career-high 11.6 points in 58 games with New Orleans in 2006-07. "I worked tonight and kept working to get shots, just letting my teammates know I'm ready.
"I'll do whatever it takes to help this team win. I let (coach) Mike Brown know, when you call on me, I'll be ready."
Coach Brown recognized his new reserve's efforts Friday after his club narrowly avoided a loss in the fourth game of a six-game road trip against Western Conference teams.
"The guy that stands out to me was Devin Brown," he told the Cavaliers' official Web site. "I thought his gritty play was terrific."
While Brown's performance was a pleasant surprise, James delivered another solid line with 26 points, four rebounds and four assists. He had eight points in the final three minutes to help the Cavs secure the victory.
"You've just got to seize the moment," James said. "For the first three quarters, I didn't force anything. I like to just take what the offense gives me, and I make plays happen. In the fourth, I was able to get some rebounds and force the issue more, and it turned into good things. The team did a great job feeding off me."
On Sunday, the Cavaliers face tougher competition in the Clippers (4-1), who are coming off a blowout loss after putting together their first 4-0 start since 1985-86.
Los Angeles was outplayed in nearly every facet of the game Friday and fell 103-79 at Detroit. The Clippers shot 35.1 percent to the Pistons' 48.3, had 12 assists to the Pistons' 27 and were outrebounded 53-33.
"They controlled the glass and the tempo of the game and shot the ball really well," Los Angeles coach Mike Dunleavy said. "We didn't have guys make shots."
Despite the Clippers' overall poor game, center Chris Kaman had another strong effort as he continued to pick up the slack in the absence of injured forward Elton Brand. Kaman led the Clippers with 25 points and seven rebounds, and is averaging 18.4 points and 14.6 boards while shooting 52.9 percent -- all career highs.
Brand, the team's leading scorer in each of the last three seasons, will miss the first several months after undergoing surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles' tendon.
The Clippers had won their previous three home games against the Cavaliers, but were swept in the two-game season series in 2006-07, which included a 104-92 defeat at Staples Center on Jan. 13. Cleveland pulled the sweep even though James averaged just 19.5 points on 38.9 percent shooting in those games.