In on on-going effort to bring you the best Cleveland sports coverage on the web, we were able to score a sitdown with Cavaliers TV play by play man Fred McLeod to get insight into all things Cavaliers. Fred chats with us about the first round sweep of Detroit, previews the Atlanta Hawks, and gives us insight into what its like to be a part of the world of the newly crowned MVP Lebron James. We’d like to thank Fred for giving us the time, we really enjoyed it. We know you all will too. Without further ado, the WFNY interview with Fred McLeod.
TD: First off, give us your final thoughts on the Cavs/Pistons first round series. Is is what you expected to happen?
Fred McLeod: I was not shocked by the sweep, but figured the Pistons were dangerous enough to win a game…but the Cavs never let them off the mat…LeBron almost seemed to toy with them, he was that good in the series…Joe Dumars even said after the series was underway that he knew his team was not good enough to beat the Cavs..
TD: You were the voice of the Pistons before coming back home to Cleveland, give us your final look back on what went wrong with this team and where you think they will go from here.
FM: They knew that keeping Chauncey Billups with a long term deal was not going to be good enough to win a title, and probably not good enough to stay with the Cavs, so they rolled the dice on Iverson…that was a disaster because of how AI handled playing time originally and eventually coming off the bench…it because ripped this season a part for them…now, they are building for the future, and the assessment has already begun..Trade rumors will run rampant regarding Prince and Hamilton, probably their two most tradeable assets..
TD: Moving on to the second round opponent, the Atlanta Hawks. Where do you sit on the “rest vs rust” debate in regards to this particular Cavaliers team. They will have gone nine days between games.
FM: I’ll always take the rest, and more so, than that, the less “wear and tear” the better…Boston disproved that theory last year, but nine days off is a small price to pay vs getting your business out of the way and moving on…the Hawks have a very, very difficult task of this quick turnaround, traveling and diving into the very next series…now, the Cavs need to take advantage, just as the Pistons did to the Cavs in ’06 Game-1, when the Cavs had very little time following the closeout in Washington and then on to the Palace..
TD: You’ve called all four games between the two teams (Cavs won three of them) and with the time off I assume you have watched the Miami/Atlanta series, other than Joe Johnson, what potential problems can the Hawks present the Wine and Gold?
FM: The Hawks are very athletic as we know and rugged on the glass…Marvin Williams’ wrist and Al Horford’s ankle may come in to play…I like the fact that the Cavs have a defender in Delonte West, who will stick his nose in their against Johnson, who is coming off a great long distance shooting game..The Hawks were inconsistent defensively against the Heat, and the Cavs will hopefully be able to take advantage…Josh Smith, in my mind is the x-factor in the series because he is so talented…I’ll bet he doesn’t try and go through his legs for a dunk..
TD: No kidding…The first round Eastern Series (other than Pistons/Cavs) were mired by physical play (i.e. the Dwight Howard elbow, the Rajon Rondo whack of Brad Miller’s face, the punishment laid out between both the Hawks and Heat with Dwyane Wade). What was your take on the hard foul controversies, especially considering the beatings Lebron usually takes?
FM: I think this is playoff basketball….I think the officials missed some contact (Howard’s ejection) and Rondo’s rake across the face…but I think they handled Rondo’s throwing Hinrich into the scorer’s table as a Flag-1…these are always memorable plays…and I’m sure this will be a physical series as well….it’s May, they have to be…
TD: Thoughts on that epic Bulls/Celtics series?
FM: I think it was a classic…not the “best of all time” as some wonder, but very compelling….I think it was a case of the Celtics falling to the Bulls level, as opposed to Chicago becoming an elite team…that said, the Bulls showed tons of heart and resolve…but I think it means his year’s version of the Celtics is in trouble against Orlando…
TD: I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves here, but who worries you more, Orlando or Boston?
FM: I would say Orlando because they are healthier than Boston…but for that reason only…the Celtics have the heart of a champion, but are obviously shorthanded…that being said, this will be a long series with the Magic…The Celtics just don’t have that inside depth right now without Garnett and Powe out of there…they’re trying to do it with small lineups, and that will eventually take it’s toll…and with no KG, some of their defensive swagger is gone, so they are trying to outscore opponents more…not the blueprint they followed to win their title last year… (Note – Fred answered this question before game one last night, won by Orlando 95-90.)
TD: Back to the Cavs – have you ever seen a team with this kind of chemistry?
FM: This is the tightest team I’ve been around…1-15 they are always looking out for each other, and truly enjoy being a family…as LeBron said at his press conference, they spend more time with each other than they do their own families right now, as they go down this championship road..
TD: Speaking of said Chemistry, how influential do you think that chemistry is in regards to Anderson Varejao re-signing this offseason or testing the open market for a big payday?
FM: Anderson knows this is a great fit, in all ways, from teammates to fitting with LeBron and Z on the floor..In fact, I think Wild thing and LBJ are one of the best pick and roll combos in the league…
TD: What player on this team has shown the most growth from the beginning of the season until now?
FM: The Cavalier who has shown the biggest growth may be Darnell Jackson…being a rookie, he had the farthest to go, but has learned a lot, and is a guy Mike Brown has a lot of confidence in…the rest of the growth has come from a team concept, especially at the offensive end, where ball movement has continued to grow..
TD: What is it like to be a part of the Lebron James circus day in and day out?
FM: The LeBron rock star show is amazing, and growing ever larger by the day…he handles it so well by acknowledging fans wherever he goes, and respectful of their adulation.. While he can’t sign every autograph, or stop for every picture, he does appreciate the love he gets from coast to coast…he’s impossible not to like (unless you’re a Wizards fan) Sort of like MJ was here…
TD: Yesterday, Lebron was presented with his first NBA MVP award, what jumped out at you at the press conference?
FM: I loved LeBron saying his hobby is basketball, but what he does best is talk!!! I wish I could say my hobby was talking and what I do best is play basketball, because I’d have no bills to pay…The King was so smooth and eloquent, and also so forthcoming on all aspects…every time I think I’ve seen him at his best, he goes out and tops it…what a package of skills!!!
TD: Some Final Quick Hits: Favorite NBA Road City?
FM: Has to be San Francisco, even though we play in Oakland….teams almost always stay in the City by the Bay.
TD: Favorite Cleveland restaurant?
FM: La Dolce Vita in Little Italy.
TD: Classiest athlete you have covered?
FM: A three-way tie: Austin Carr/Buddy Bell/Rick Manning
TD: Biggest broadcasting influences?
FM: Joe Tait, Bob Prince (late Pirates announcer) Jim Mueller
TD: And last, but not least, your favorite Austin Carr catch phrase?
FM: It has to be “Get that weak stuff outta here” because I always think it, as he is saying it…(as we all do!!)
We want to thank Fred again for taking the time to talk to our little ole’ blog. You can see Fred and his partner Austin Carr tonight for postgame coverage right after game one of Cavaliers/Hawks on “Cavaliers Live” on FSN Ohio.